Saturday, November 19, 2011

My world just changed again.

For the better.

(and for those of you who followed my whole miscarriage saga... we saw (and heard!) the heartbeat at the ultrasound. Which, besides making me cry in relief, means that my chance of miscarriage is now down to 1%.  I'm leaning on the statistics for my peace of mind).

Hang in there, sweetheart. We can't wait to meet you.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My current foster cat looks like a bit of a tough tomcat (but it's a lie -- he's a playful, purring sweetheart). He survived on the streets of D.C. for a long time. He used to beg at back doors to come inside where he belonged.

Now he's inside.
 Waiting on his forever home.

Looking handsome while he waits..

He was a little bit wild at first.
But not anymore.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One of my stories was recently published in Daily Science Fiction (a fantastic sci-fi flash fiction magazine delivered to your e-mail inbox each morning -- I highly recommend subscribing if you like sci-fi). There's a funny phenomenon that I have realized occurs for me, at least, when your story is delivered to its public forum.

Suddenly any flaw in the writing stands in stark relief, to an exent it didn't on the computer monitor or even printed on the page and being red-penned. No matter how critical I can be of my own work in creation, it has nothing on how critical I feel of it when there's no more opportunity to alter it.

Don't get me wrong; I believe in that story, and I believe it had to be good for DSF to publish it. I love the stories they select, and therefore have a lot of faith in the editors - and their decisions. When my insecurities set in I took a deep breath and told myself to stop being a nutcase. I always feel this way about my work in print, which is pretty terrifying when I think about these entire novels I write and hope to publish (and also, reason no. 1 why self-publishing doesn't seem like a good option for me, personally).

We writers are funny people. Self-confident enough to create and share our own worlds, but sometimes with our own hang-ups along the way.

(And, if you're curious, you can read my short story, Ten Speeds at the End of the World, here)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Like everything else in my life, my blog is a work in progress. I'm in the middle of a redesign. So please forgive my blog for being monumentally ugly and frequently illogical while we transition. :)
My best friend visited me this past weekend.  We've been friends since college, and she's one of the few people I feel totally comfortable with. I know I can share any random thought with her, without being judged (she's like a cat that way, but a much more satisfying conversationalist). We watched trashy TV, drank lots of lattes and raspberry wine, and talked about our lives.

The ways our husbands piss us off. The ways they make us melt.
Our jobs and our schedules and our co-workers. Our medical issues. Our parents.  She let me go through the story of my miscarriage again, in grisly detail (though we were in a booth at Panera at the time and I had the car keys, so I guess she didn't really have a choice on that one...). We talked about Cam, how he died, the funeral.

We reminisced about the past -- the time my car died in an intersection and we hung out with a cop in his patrol car until AAA came two hours later, the parties, the boy-troubles, the psycho roommate who stole our stuff when she moved out. We still both really hate her, by the way. We talked about where we'll be in ten years and where we'll be next summer. We made plans to see each other in Boston and to visit Indonesia and to road-trip through the Midwest neither of us have ever seen.

And somewhere along the way, between talking about all the good times in the past, venting about the hell life's been lately, and planning the good times for the future, I really started to believe I'm going to be happy again soon. The power of a best friend is an amazing thing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This question's for all of us who are trying to make it as writers.  What's okay for us to say on our blogs and Twitters?  I'm not talking about bashing other writers, or publishers, or even the ZOMG-Let's-Not-Go-There-Again book review debacle that washed over blogs & Twitter a while ago.

I've been pretty open about my recent life issues on this blog, though I haven't posted half the posts I've written.  I worry that an agent won't want to sign someone who sounds, well, miserable (For the record, I am still really normal in person. Well, my version of normal. I will never call you up and cry wordlessly into the phone, even if you send me a rejection letter, promise).

We always try to be so happy and upbeat about writing and publishing, even though sometimes the industry drives us nuts, doesn't it? So does that just apply to when we talk about writing and publishing specifically, or should we keep relationship woes, illnesses and general suckage out of our blogs -- even though those are the very things that can inform our writing?

I have no idea. I'd love to hear what you guys think.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years ago, something terrible happened that changed the world we live in forever.  Today, I think we're all hurting for the families that lost loved ones.  Our country was changed, and with it the course of many of our lives.

But people also came together, on that day. There was some beauty amidst all the horror, selflessness and concern for others and love for our fellow Americans. In the aftermath, we've pulled apart again, divided by political lines, war, security measures versus civil liberties, religious prejudice, different concepts of patriotism and nationalism.

But let's remember when we came together. We can disagree, but we're still Americans together, still stuck facing the same challenges. We can never have our country back the way it was ten years ago, but we can try to come together and keep rebuilding the one we have now.

Friday, August 26, 2011

These guys.

They're not mine.

They think they're mine. Pepper - the little white one on the right - follows me around the house and cries most piteously when he loses me. Most of the time, he's on my lap or laying draped over my shoulders like the most alarming fur stole. Nacho, the handsome boy on the left, likes to grab my hand with his paws when I pet his head and will show no signs of ever wanting to let go. Channeling the Beatles, that kitten is.

And it sure feels like they're mine. No matter how much I tell myself I'm just holding on to them until they find their forever home,  I'm so in love with my SPCA foster cats. I'm going to have a broken heart when it's time to bring them to their new home.

But I believe in animal rescue and fostering most passionately, and if there's one thing I've gotten out of this awful summer?

A broken heart's almost always worth it, for the love that came before the breaking.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I spent this past weekend at the funeral of one of my best friends.

Cam was incredibly smart. There was nothing he couldn't figure out how to fix. He had a dry, wicked sense of humor.  We teased him about looking like a young Wesley Snipes (or maybe Welsey Snipes looks like HIM). When I went to Iraq, he sent me a Blade DVD because he knew I'd miss him.

And now I always will.

We trained for and ran a marathon together -- 26.2 miles. You have to like someone a lot to talk through seventeen-mile training runs on the beach and a marathon itself, but we never ran out of things to talk about. He was my adopted big brother. He called me kiddo. Even though we'd moved to live far apart, we still tried to find times to talk and to get together. He was one of the first people I told that I was pregnant, and when I lost the baby.

He was the first person to read GODDESS. He gave me great feedback even though he wasn't a writer himself -- but then, there really wasn't anything he couldn't do. Except maybe teach me how to make an ethernet cable. I never quite got the hang of that.

And he was an incredibly loyal, dependable, thoughtful friend. Kind and giving, underneath his tough exterior.  He had a great heart. There's a poem by E. E. Cummings that I love, and it ends--

and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

It just seems so crazy that he's gone -- at only thirty - and that the world is going on without him. A world that's a little sadder, a little lonelier, a little worse, because he isn't in it. I hate that I have to go on without him, that his family, his wife, his other friends have to go on without him. But I'm going to try and carry his heart, to be a better person for having know and loved him, and been loved in turn.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I can't believe what a slacker I've been on this blog. Sorry! Truth be told, I felt a bit antisocial after the miscarriage (and exhausted - a natural miscarriage is not a quick or easy process).

But.  I'm now back to normal (my version of normal, anyway). I'm done with the revisions of The Goddess of Vengeance Wore Pink Galoshes, which is now absolutely the best book I can make it. I know in two or three years I'll re-read it and there will probably be things that make me groan, because I'm not done growing as a writer yet, but it's so much better than the earlier drafts. It's so much better than my writing used to be.

Honestly, I'm starting to learn to love editing. It's neat to see how much my writing's improved from just a year ago when I wrote the rough draft of Goddess. It's exciting to work my way that much closer to the story I set out to write and to telling it effectively.

So now it's time to sub Goddess, and really focus on the next things -- editing my YA novel, Recovering Sara, and rough drafting the next novel (Too. Many. Shiny. Projects).

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenI've been reading some fantastic books, too. I just finished Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which is not just a beautifully written modern fantasy, but an adult picture book. The author, Ransom Riggs, collected weird vintage photographs of children that form the basis for his characters. The photos and text work together beautifully, and there's something about the novelty of pictures (especially these intriguing, sometimes unsettling photographs) that I found very winning. But only because the story itself is so well told. Now I'm reading The Left Hand of God, by Paul Hoffman. I have mixed feelings about it in some ways --the religious aspects of it, the omniscient point-of-view that I sometimes find intrusive, personally -- but I'm so invested in the characters, the pacing is so quick and the story so interesting that I can't put it down. Though parts of it may not suit my personal preferences, I think it's a terrific book so far. (And I'm also reading the Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend, but that's not really so much for fun...)

What've you all been up to while I was gone?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I self-medicate with cute and furry.
Meet Nacho. Nacho is a four-month old kitten rescued by the SPCA, waiting with us for his forever home.

And, in case you couldn't tell, Nacho is adorable.  We picked him up last night and he's super friendly, the only cat I've ever seen go immediately to sleep in his carrier. Which is the only time I've seen him sleep. He is a go-go-go cat, and with all the playing we did last night I still couldn't wear him out.

I've been at a little bit of a loss for what to do with myself lately. Nacho is helping. He knows exactly what I should do - I should throw his ball again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

I lost the baby.

The almost eight hours in the E.R. seemed interminable until I found out, but really, it’s nothing when you consider what was undone when I finally left. 

Seven weeks of dreaming about the baby because even when I was asleep, he or she was on my mind. Seven weeks of telling him or her to hang in there with my hand on my tummy. Eleven weeks with this child nestled in my belly. Or the seven years now MJ and I have talked about someday, when we’re ready, when we have a baby.

The midwife who came in after the ultrasound told me, “You’re only twenty-seven. You’re young, you’re healthy, there’s no reason you can’t be pregnant again in a few months.”

Maybe in a few months, that’ll seem like something worth saying.

Right now, I want my January baby.

My walked-in-commencement-with-me baby.

My we’re-not-ready-but-we’re-ready baby.

My calling from the top of the stairs, “Um, babe” with an edge of panic in my voice and a pregnancy test in my hand baby.

I want that baby.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I still think 'pantser' sounds like a dirty word. But for writers it means someone who writes by the seat-of-their-pants. I'm a reformed pantser; not that there's anything wrong with it, but it's not the best method for me personally. Like most of us, I learned that from trial and error.

But. If you're an outliner, there's so much more to figure out after that. So far I've found a combination works best for me - I do a rough outline, then a detailed outline as I go, a few chapters ahead. I just can't plan everything at the start. At least, not yet. I'm still learning!

So I was looking at different outlining methods. Just like with writing as a whole, I don't think there's a good or bad process, just what works best for you.
  • For a very high-level outline (that even Pantsers may find helpful), there's the 9-box or Rubik's Cube outline
  • Justine Larbalestier talks about spreadsheets (though she actually uses Scrivener now, which I'm curious about). I am a finance dork and love Excel. Spreadsheets tempt me.
  • There's the Snowflake method, which seems... exhaustive... but I'm interested to experiment with.
  • Or you can outline primary plot points and characterization in half an hour.
I've mentioned, of course, that I already have a method that seems to work for me. At least, it's getting me to the finish line of a rough draft - a few of them, now. But I'm still curious to try these other methods.  Maybe something will make my life easier. Maybe something will make my life easier in revisions. If anyone can make revisions easier for me, I will bake you cupcakes. I'm pretty good at cupcakes. I promise.

But if that doesn't happen, well, I'm sure by the time I've ten or twelve drafts done I'll have found the perfect method. For me. This is an every-man-for-himself sort of thing.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rage (Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Book 2)So I'm sure you guys didn't miss the hoopla about YA; the WSJ posted yet another ill-advised and under-reserched piece about young adult novels this past weekend. To summarize: books for teenagers are too dark nowdays! Also, there was an appropriate reading list divided into "boy books" and "girl books", which I have to admit I was stuck on myself...

Anyway, there was an appropriately irritated response from the kid lit community which included a Twitter trend of #yasaves - some of the responses are here as well as on Twitter.

Are You in the House Alone?There's no need for another outrage filled post, so I'm just going to say... I'm so glad we're even having conversations like these.  When I was still searching the YA section for books to read in the '90s, there was so little there. Too old for Babysitters Club and Nancy Drew? Well, there was a handful of issues books like Are You In the House Alone?, A Wrinkle in Time (which I loved) as well as L'Engle's other books, V.C. Andrew's bizarro world and... well, I remember a bunch of romances about terminally ill girls featuring prominently in the tiny YA department of the local bookstore. Slim pickings, and the reason why most of us moved straight on to reading adult fantasy or horror or whatever.

Teens today don't have to skip straight to King and Heinlein right away, though, the way I did (a point which I think the original WSJ article missed -- kids aren't stuck in the YA section, which encompasses such a wide range, from fluffy romance to violent dystopian to gritty issues, that it can now compete with the adult shelves, at least for a while).  There are YA books to hook every reader, including the ones who might not make the jump to adult fiction otherwise.

And while that might be causing some unrest in various parental camps, that's also pretty awesome.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Having a baby is making me feel rebellious.

Let me just say up front, a healthy baby is the most important thing to me. I'll do whatever I have to do for that. But some of the things pregnant women are supposed to abstain from aren't backed up by scientific research - there's a lot of fear-mongering.

So here's a list of things you are not allowed if you are a Good Mother, which may or may not be valid:
  • No hot tubs or hot baths
  • No sunbathing
  • No fake tanner, either, if you're feeling pale
  • No hair dye or highlights
  • No nail polish and certainly no going in the salon with all the fumes!
  • No alcohol
  • No sushi
  • No deli meat
  • No soft ice cream
  • No hot dogs                                                   
  • No soft cheeses                                              
  • No roller coasters
  • No rafting or tubing
  • No caffeine
I'd heard of the sushi restriction and who, of course, hasn't seen the "No preggers" warning on a bottle of booze?  But others have caught me off-guard, like when I read the no-caffeine thing while sucking down my usual caramel frappucino (for the record, while "no caffeine" is often batted about and lots of pregnant women pass it up completely, there's no reason not to drink it in moderation; too much can just be hard for the fetus to metabolize and can lead to premature uterine contractions. Fun fact!).

The perfectionism of the whole thing bugs me - the idea of trying to do everything right so Nothing Will Go Wrong. There are a lot of things that can go wrong during a pregnancy, and I think that's why we tend to resort to perfectionism. It reminds me of being a college athlete and being superstitious, knowing it was irrational but not wanting to entertain that niggling doubt if something went wrong.

And if you're really worried? Well, then you can buy belly armor to shield your unborn child from the radiation of your cell phone and laptop. Just to be safe.

I'm not sure I'm going to make it through the next 7 months with my sanity intact, y'all. And once they're born, there's so much more to worry about.

Monday, May 16, 2011

This weekend was grad school commencement. 

I gave some of my Starbucks frappucino to the University of Maryland College Park turtle. I'm so grateful the whole thing is over. No more late nights doing stats & spreadsheets. No more trying to read a textbook as I bounce around in turbulence on yet another airplane for yet another work trip. No more excruciating Sunday night group meetings. 

And, most of all, another nice thing to put on my resume: M.S., Finance.

But the craziest part of the whole thing?

I didn't walk in commence by myself.

It's really too early to tell anyone (but here I am). I found out, amazingly enough, on Mother's Day. I'm going to be a mom. And I have no idea what I'm doing. We started "trying", sure, but I thought it would take time. Time to get used to the idea and come up with a new plan to replace my infamous Three Year Plan.

Maybe that's why I'm telling you, blog friends. But I'm excited. I'm hoping I can figure it out. And you know I'll blog about it all along the way.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Now that grad school is over, my life is so much more... orderly.

I ran this morning. I shaved my legs. I packed a healthy lunch to work. I wrote today. I talked to my husband.  My house is (relatively) clean. We made dinner together instead of running to the gyro place around the corner.  Maybe for you guys that's just another day as a real grown-up, but for me, it's a gold-sticker sort of day.

Of course, I can't help but immediately spin out with new plans now that grad school is over, though I'm trying to keep in to a minimum. The only thing I'm letting myself add into my life now is... volunteer work.

Pre-grad-school, some type of volunteer work was almost always a part of my world. I tried a lot of things: soup kitchen, first response medical team, pet rescue, homeless transitional house, scouting, outreach program for homeless teens, SPCA.  Some weren't a good fit for me and some were fun and inspiring, but I learned something everywhere.

I know there are people who think some causes are more important than others. It's a case I've heard made more than once. Breast cancer trumps animal rescue, because people matter more than animals, for instance. Or conservation doesn't matter when there are children starving to death. Or building homes isn't important when the whole planet is going to hell.  And I really don't get it.

There's lots of bad in the world. Lots of work to do. So who cares what "cause" is most important? Let's just get to work doing something, whatever we're most passionate about. It's not like we're all going to unite tomorrow and decide that, hey, today is the day we're going to cure homelessness (though that would be super).  Maybe it's a good thing we all have different passions and gifts to put to work so we can do different things to lessen the suck in the world.

That's what I believe, anyway. And I'm looking forward to transforming that belief back into action.

Photo from the awesome free stock photo site, Many thanks to the photog!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Well. I've disappeared for a while, which obviously hasn't been good for the daily blogging and the A to Z challenge.

On the plus side, my (current) time period of biting off more than I can chew has come to an end. I finished my last grad school class on WEDNESDAY! So no more of this:
Which is how I've felt lately.  Like I just can't get my arms around things (though I have to say, grad school was not so much with the cute and cuddly).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I posted last month about how bad things tend to come in threes, and that was true for us (Recap here). First our car died, and it was going to cost as much to (maybe) fix it as it was worth. Our dishwasher died (in the middle of a big home reno project, too, which was a nice touch). And then, the third thing that I didn't want to post about, was that MJ lost his job.

But he got a new job! Yay! Knowing what so many are going through in this economy and job market, I recognize we are so, so blessed. And I'm really not complaining.

But that things about threes?

Yeah, my washing machine just broke.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Once, when a friend and I were planning a trip into D.C., she said, "But seriously, I'm only going in without you if you promise not to talk to the homeless people."

I don't remember what I'd done before to bring that on. I have an admittedly low capacity for resistance to people asking me for food, though, which may make me a sucker. I've volunteered with homeless teenagers before, so I know sometimes people are trying to get money for things that are... not food. But still.

Yesterday I was in Baltimore by myself. I parked my car in a lot and as I walked out,  there was no one around except a young man with a beard and worn-looking clothes. He came over to me, said, "I don't know if you can help me..."

"I'll try," I said, thinking he was going to ask me for directions, which was just going to be bad for both of us. I can barely give directions to my house, forget a city I don't live in.

"I'm trying to buy some food," he said.

"Oh, sure." I pulled my wallet out of my purse and opened it, and then realized - and I'm sure he saw too - that I had around a dozen $20's. I'd just picked up cash the day before to pay a friend for a piece of exercise equipment for our home gym.

I couldn't help but think... man, this guy is probably a nice guy who's down on his luck, but the nicest guy in the world who's hungry has got to be thinking he could punch me in the face and walk off with my wallet right now, even if he never would.

That didn't happen. But I thought two things, afterwards. One, maybe I'm dumb for stopping and opening up my wallet when I'm alone and there's no one else around.  Two, I wish I'd walked around the corner with him to the Subway and bought him lunch instead of giving him a few bucks and hurrying off to my meeting. It would have been a bit more meaningful of a gesture. So what if I'd been two minutes late?

And those two thoughts are completely contradictory.

I know we all have our own philosophies - some people give to panhandlers, some only give to charities that help the homeless. I don't think there's anything wrong with any of those different perspectives.

But personally, when someone asks me for food, I don't see any reason not to give. I guess I'd rather be a little dumb sometimes.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

When my parents were choosing names, they debated between Cassiopia (for the space-prostitute-turned-nurse from Battlestar Galactica) and Guinevere, of Arthurian legend.

Neither of these are popular baby names in the U.S.

Mythologically speaking, Cassiopia was the braggart queen that claimed to be prettier than Posiedon's sea nymphs. Because Poseidon was, apparently, a psycho, this resulted in him unleashing a monster on the coast of her country. Cassiopia and her husband chained their daughter Andromeda to a rock as an offering to quell the beast. Luckily, Andromeda was rescued by a convenient hero, Perseus.  Happy ending! Your parents didn't get you killed!

So that story sort of sucks. However, according to the baby name sites, the name means "She whose words excel" (judging from the story, her words excel at starting trouble), so I do like that.

Guinevere, of course, was a great queen in Arthurian legend right up until she cheated on Arthur with Lancelot and caused the downfall of Camelot (Of course - woman-blaming is fun!). The name is translated alternately as meaning "White spirit" or "White wave" or a combination of white and smooth. I was fated by my name to be this damn pale.

The name's generally considered to be rooted in Welsh, but I've also read some argument that Guinevere historically speaking was likely French.

In the end, my parents went with Guinevere.  When I was a kid, I was the only Guinevere I knew. I was obsessed with Arthurian legend (yes, along with the forensic pathology. I was... well-rounded?). I didn't like my name as a child, though. It was so weird, and seriously, I was already weird enough.  I didn't mind when people butchered it and called me "Jen" instead (which is derived from Guinevere).

I grew into my name, though. It helped that I got to leave my childhood home, where it seemed everyone was named Crystal or Jessica. And I married a man with a very English last name which sounds lovely with Guinevere, than my rather ethnic maiden name (which was something akin to Polishlongnameoffski). And that I just plain grew up, and being different - in any way - no longer seems like the little disaster it is at eleven.

In other words, good news, Mom: I've abandoned my childhood plans to change my name to Jane!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

When I was trying to come up with a topic for E, I brainstormed words that start with E and I just kept coming up with eels. Why yes, Brain, eels starts with no one but TWO E's, but that alone doesn't make eels a great blog post topic.

Today with F I'm stuck on fish. There's a whole under-the-sea theme going on in my subconscious.

But let's move on to F for forensic pathology.  As a kid, I was obsessed with forensic pathology.  I watched "X-Files" and "Silence of the Lambs" at an embarrassingly tender age.  I read forensic science textbooks and pathology case studies.

I planned to become a forensic pathologist right up until I realized it was thirteen years of further education post-high school and that I just could. not. commit.  And then I studied history in college, which was every bit of gruesome as forensic pathology, and went off into the Marines and generally forgot about the entire subject. I don't even watch C.S.I.

Recently, though, I started writing mysteries, often mysteries in historic settings, and I remember bits of case studies I read fifteen years ago. I've been surprised to realize that it's true nothing you ever learn is ever really lost (details, yes, general concepts, no), and I'm not sure any interest ever fades away completely. 

So now, instead of that weird kid reading true crime, I'm that weird adult reading articles from the International Journal of Forensic Science. Booya.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

As a kid, I watched a lot of R-rated films and TV shows without any apparent harm. I loved "Silence of the Lambs" and "Pippi Longstocking" equally.

What did mess me up, though, was the evening news.

I particularly remember being very little - three or four - and playing in our living room while my dad watched the news.  They ran a news story about a woman involved in an escalator accident when her shoe got stuck in the escalator.  Of course, in my childish imagination she was dragged into the depths of the escalator and never seen again.

The next time my mom and I went to Woolworth's, I stared at the escalator, trying to figure out how a whole person could be sucked into an escalator. I wondered what was in the body of the escalator, underneath the treads. Probably trolls.

And, to my mom's bafflement, I'm sure, I refused to get on the escalator. I would spend the next eight years or so of my life taking stairs or elevators until the pressure of being an adolescent mall rat forced me to confront my fears and save face in front of my friends.

But now I'm an adult. I've researched escalator accidents and being aware of how to prevent them (a handy tip: don't wear Crocs on escalators. Actually, to be safe, you might want to never wear Crocs). I realize no one is getting sucked into the escalator mechanism and that, worse case scenario, you're probably just going to mangle a toe or too -- I'm a marathon runner, we mangle our own toes, that's no big deal.  I understand there are no trolls.

I still hesitate, do a little stutter-step, every time I get onto an escalator, though. I just want to be careful. Old fears die hard.

Anyone else have any irrational perfectly logical childhood fears?

Monday, April 4, 2011

This weekend MJ and I went car shopping. We test drove a few cars, poked around the used cars, and were having a pretty good experience until that terrible moment at the end of visiting a car dealership where they bring out the big guns.

Do they do this everywhere or just in Virginia? You look at some cars, you talk to a salesperson, you take a test drive, and then they're like "Oh, real quick, let me grab my sales manager to give you the hard sell until you wish you'd never thought of buying a new car."

This sales manager was a particularly interesting case. He talked loudly and excitedly without making eye contact.  He flipped a pen between his hands as he talked at us, asking how aggressive a deal he'd need to make for us to buy a car today, and asking the same questions repeatedly.

At a key moment in his spiel, he told us, "Look, I will give you twenty percent off a car today. That's unheard of. That's such a good deal, it's an investment. Tell me that's not an investment."
I tried to stop myself, but...well... he asked. I said, "Well, it's not an investment. By definition, an investment is something that appreciates in value. This car is going to depreciate. I'm not trying to be difficult, but I'm getting my Master's in Finance and - that's just not an investment."

"Okay, okay," he said. He repeated his spiel over again, and then finished with, "Tell me that's not an investment!"

You know what happened next.

I'd feel badly for this dude, who is just trying to do his job, right? And here I am, unable to resist the impulse to define key financial terms for him.  But when we were test driving the car, the dealer told us about how many young kids from the nearby base come in and buy sports cars. He didn't know how they could afford them.  And, having spent lots of time with young Marines and their financial troubles, I'd have to say they can't.

But maybe someone convinces them it's an investment!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I'm a planner by nature. There are a few things that are tough to plan -- writing and publishing, for instance, refuse so far to submit to a calendar -- but I plan everything I possibly can. I used to have a career flowchart hanging on the wall of my bedroom, with various divergences planned for in multi-color Sharpie.

I've grown out of that, a little, but not much.

When MJ and I first married, we said it was nice we were marrying a little younger than most of our family and friends did. We'd have a few years together to just enjoy being, and then we could start a family while we were younger, too. We thought we'd have our first baby at 27 or so, which happens to be the age I am now (with 28 rapidly approaching).

But then the career plans and the budget plans and the travel plans overtook the early baby thoughts.  I want to run just one more marathon before I settle into the walking-and-yoga routine typical of pregnant ladies. I'd like to have X dollars in the bank. I want to go to England, Ireland, France and Japan before we give up traveling for a season. I had to finish grad school pre-baby. I must finish up 3 years at my present assignment and settle into a new job before we have a baby. I should sell a book first, maybe two, because who knows what the baby will do to my writing equilibrium.

That's a lot of To Do pre-baby. It pushed the baby schedule out into my early 30's.

And lately? I'm not sure I care about any of it.  I just want to have a baby, and let the plans work themselves out. No Sharpies or schedules.

That feels a little scary.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Alright, I dithered on whether or not to do the A to Z blogging challenge like last year, since I'm in the last month of grad school (YAY!), but it was just so much fun last year I had to.

My post for A is on the Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine Pre-Slushing Workshop (man, say that three times fast). ASIM is one of the pro-paying sci-fi markets. They ran a workshop where authors posted the first 300 words of their short stories, and then editors commented on what they liked, didn't like, and whether they'd read on.

Since we so rarely get substantive feedback from editors, this was a great chance to see what works for them and what doesn't.  If you write sci-fi  or just want a look at how editors read, you might want to go over to Patty Jansen's blog, Must Use Bigger Elephants, and check out the slush.

If you're curious, too, one of my short stories is in there as slush too - the first 300 words of ALL WE KNOW OF HEAVEN AND HELL is posted here with editorial comments.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I've always thought of myself as a good writer. As a kid, I hated grammar and paid as little attention to English class as possible, but I also read voraciously and wrote for fun. I wrote everything - short stories, poetry, abortive attempts at novels, essays. I wrote essays for fun. I studied vocabulary for fun. I'd usually go through my vocabulary workbook by the end of September and then spend the rest of the year making up my own vocabulary lessons that no one ever wanted to do.

Basically, I was a little geek until you planted me in front of an English workbook and told me to diagram sentences, at which point my Love of Learning evaporated in a sad little puff of smoke.

Also, I don't do things I don't want to do, as a general rule, unless you offer me money. And no one did that in fifth grade. So I never really diagrammed any sentences. I did develop what I believe is a decent ear for English and a very natural, thoughtless approach to writing. That approach served me well enough throughout my school career and into work -- despite the fact that I struggle to recall what the difference is between an adjective and an adverb.

But I've been realizing lately that's not enough. Two people recently critiqued two different pieces of my writing where I used 'laid' when I should have written 'lay'. Reading 'Reasoning with Vampires' (which, besides being snarky as hell, is also pretty educational) has made me wonder about my indiscriminate use of commas (the comma is never wrong!) and perhaps excessively enthusiastic love of the em-dash. And, well, the parentheses. If you read my blog, you probably know how I feel about parentheses (LOVE! I'd make sweet love resulting in baby (parentheses) if I weren't already married). 

I want to be more than a good writer. I want to be a great writer. That might mean breaking rules of English composition on occasion, but it should be deliberate, not because I write the way I talk.

So I have some studying to do. But seriously?

I'm still not diagramming any sentences.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This weekend I saw Limitless at the theater. It was my reward to myself for a) writing a ten page paper about Adidas' acquisitions (not exciting) and b) adding ten thousand words to my novel (exciting!).

And it was a perfect reward. Limitless was an amazing movie - one of the best I've seen in a while.

Limitless is a sci-fi flick about a down-on-his-luck writer who gets the chance to try out a miracle drug that allows the user to access every part of their brain, every memory of everything they've seen and read, every bit of analytical power.

Too bad it has some side effects. And that everyone wants a piece of the guy with the drug...

I loved that the main character is a writer (watch the trailer!), although I must admit they didn't exactly write publishing exactly (an advance on his novel before it's written? um, about that...).  I love the voice in this movie - the humor, the narrative was a little reminiscent of what I liked about fight club.  It had a great concept, and a plot that made the ending as perfect as the beginning.  It's just a fun sci-fi action flick.

Also, the lead Bradley Cooper is wicked hot.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Brenda Drake is holding this very cool blogfest/contest where you post the first 250 words of your story for the chance to win a crit from agent Natalie Fischer! Get all the details here to check out all the participants and/or sign up yourself! The idea is that we crit each other's first 250 words and then send the polished versions in for judging.

Here are my first 250 words for the current YA mystery WIP, RECOVERING SARA:

I would never have been at a support group, on a precious Saturday no less, if my mother hadn’t pulled out every maternal threat that still worked at sixteen. Mostly, that if I did not stop sulking and get in the goddamn car so she could drive me to the Y, she would not drive me anywhere I actually wanted to go. I swear the only reason people move out to suburbs when they have children is so that they can hold them in thrall.
 “Okay guys,” Reggie said, swiping at her fangs of chin-length black hair. Reggie led the Young Adults With Ulcerative Colitis Support Group. So far, she wasn’t what I expected from a support group leader. I thought she’d be more bouncy and enthusiastic. She smiled a lot, but beneath the false cheer she seemed irritated.  Ulcerative colitis does that to us all.  “Let’s go around and do introductions. I see some new faces here tonight.”
 I gnawed on one shiny pink fingernail while I waited for the introductions to come around to me.  There was a small girl with dark hair and glasses sitting across from me. She looked like she should be across the hall at a support group for Second Graders With Ulcerative Colitis. 

I stole a glance at the boy on my right, not wanting him to catch me looking. He was red haired, the kind of tall and gawky that doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with hands and knees. He crossed his legs at the knee and then uncrossed them yet again. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

I joked on Twitter the other day, after the sad early deaths of our dishwasher and car, that bad things always seem to come in threes and that was giving me a sort of dread.

Apparently merited. Because something else moderately horrible happened this week. Unfortunately it's not my story alone, so it's not being posted on the blog (at least not yet) - but yeah, serious bad luck and general yuckiness in my life right now.

Also, I got four rejection letters this week. Right when I needed them. Thanks, universe!

However, I'm still pretty happy - now that I believe fate is finished having its twisted way with me for the moment. I still have MJ and Starbucks frappucinos and good books and writing to do and long runs to take, all of which cheer me. 

So in that vein, I thought I'd share a bit of the WIP. It's a YA mystery about a girl, Dia, trying to figure out why her best friend Sara tried to kill herself. Sara's currently in the hospital with drug-related amnesia. Dia's just returned from a fact-finding mission, trying to fill in the blanks of Sara's memory. Dia and her mom have a loving, but strained, relationship.

After Danny and I said goodbye, I wanted to head up to my room to think in private. But Mom intercepted me before I even made it to the stairs.
“How was it?” she asked, smiling.
“Fine.” I said, in that tone of voice that’s meant to indicate a stupid question.
“So,” she said. “He looks cute.”
I turned and glanced out the windows. The Mustang was pulling away from the curb. “His car is cute. You couldn’t really see him from here.”
“He’s cute,” Mom said. “I saw enough.”
“He’s not boyfriend material." I headed for the stairs.  "Not that I’m girlfriend material.”
 “You are. Any guy would be lucky to have you.”
“Really?” I asked. The incredulity in my voice was genuine for once. “You say that even though I must annoy the shit out of you too?”
“Oh, Dia.” Mom’s expression was sad, a little shocked. She didn’t even scold me about language.
“Danny’s just a… friend,” I said. The last word stuck on my lips a little. Danny and I barely knew each other.  But he was trying to be a friend, and that was nice. I managed a smile at Mom and went up the stairs.
“You don’t annoy me, sweetie,” she said to my back. “I love you.”
“Not exclusive!” I called back, before I went into my room and shut the door.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Last weekend, MJ and I started a big home reno project. Right now we had a mud room between our garage and family room that's pretty, well, sad looking.

Standing open on the right is the door from the garage; this is the view standing in the doorway to the living room. The green carpet from when we moved in, despite numerous vacuumings and deep cleanings, still feels squicky to me to walk across with my bare feet.  It's a great space, but we're making a bunch of changes to it. Beginning this past weekend, when we ripped out all those built-ins and shelves you see in there now and started tearing up the carpet.

Then Sunday night, we loaded the dishwasher and it made the most horrible noises. There was a distinct smell of burning.

Monday morning, MJ texted me to let me know the car had died on the way to work.

By Wednesday, we had a quote on the car that was equal to the actual value of the car.

By Thursday, we'd been to Home Depot twice. New dishwashers are expensive.

So.  Now my house is a mess, with the canned goods and extra toilet paper and coats that live in the mud room ordinary piled up in the family room. I have no dishwasher until we buy and install the new one. We have to shop for and buy a new car, which is pretty much hell for me.  We still have the non-minor home reno project in the mud room (ripping up carpet, installing a wall and door, painting, tiling). 

And, of course, there's still work and grad school.  We don't want to talk about how grad school is going - my manta is "Six more weeks" right now. I've postponed my planned vacation to Europe because there's no time in my work schedule for me to take two weeks off, so I'm vaguely hoping things open up in the fall, maybe?

I'll be a happy Guin when this particular season of my life is over.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chanelle Gray of Beyond Words is hosting a very neat Twitter pitch contest with agent Michael Carr. You provide your 140 character pitch and the first 3 sentences, and not only will there be a winner, but there might be some manuscript requests! All genres.

You can check out the contest, if you'd like to enter, and the contenders here:
If you're entering, you have until there are 75 entries OR March 7th, whichever comes first. There's still time, so go check it out!

Here's my pitch:

After the Goddess of Vengeance co-opts Lauren's body to punish wrongdoers, Lauren fights to bring justice, not vengeance, to the suffering.

That's 139 characters, so I have a whole character left over to spare, too (If you think of a good use for it, let me know).

Even if you're not entering, it's a brutal interesting exercise. :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I know, I'm crap at posting lately. I'm writing and revising frantically, but I don't have much to say about writing. I can't really base entire posts around SO REVISIONS ARE HARD WORK and OMG WHY DID I WRITE THIS IN PRESENT TENSE NOW I HAVE TO FIX IT. :)


So I'm officially taking my blog in a bit of a different direction.  I'll still post about writing, publishing, and books when I have something to say. But there are other things I'd like to talk about - yet I don't really have the content (or time) to support a whole 'nother blog. Plus, I love this one. And I love you guys who read me!  :)

I'd like to post more about the other things that are also Not My Day Job but still my passions: animal rescue, running, cooking. Movies. Travel. MJ. Life. Art. General geekery.

I hope you guys will bear with me as I figure out what I'm doing here and try to make my blog into something shinier and funnier! It's about to get a little random... but really, I'm a little random too.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

ShineI read Shine by Lauren Myracle on the bus to New York City for SCBWI. Which, really, if you're reading on a bus and totally into the novel, no longer noticing that you are ON A BUS,  you know it's a good book.

Shine is a very good book.

When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

The plot is actually a lot more complex than that - while Cat is trying to solve the crime as her childhood friend fights for life in the hospital, she also has her own dark secrets to face as she learns to shine again. She hasn't been a very good friend to Patrick, something that haunts her after he is viciously attacked. We slowly learn the reasons why Cat has tried to become invisible, even though that's meant abandoning Patrick. The mystery in Shine is very well-done (by which I mean, I didn't see it coming ;)), but I think the characterization and the complexity of those characters was what I really loved.  The bad guys aren't all bad and the good guys aren't all good - I really appreciated that ambiguity.

I don't want to tell you too much about the book because I don't want to give anything away!  It releases May 1st and is available for pre-order now; I recommend you don't miss this one!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Here Lies Bridget (Harlequin Teen)I had the chance to read Here Lies Bridget on my Kindle, which was convenient, but I missed out on that gorgeous cover. I'm a sucker for a pretty cover, and I really love this one!

Here's what this YA paranormal is about (from Amazon):
Bridget Duke is the uncontested ruler of her school. The meanest girl with the biggest secret insecurities. And when new girl Anna Judge arrives, things start to fall apart for Bridget: friends don't worship as attentively, teachers don't fall for her wide-eyed "who me?" look, expulsion looms ahead and the one boy she's always loved—Liam Ward—can barely even look at her anymore.

When a desperate Bridget drives too fast and crashes her car, she ends up in limbo, facing everyone she's wronged and walking a few uncomfortable miles in their shoes. Now she has only one chance to make a last impression. Though she might end up dead, she has one last shot at redemption and the chance to right the wrongs she's inflicted on the people who mean the most to her.

And Bridget's about to learn that, sometimes, saying you're sorry just isn't enough…. 

This was a fun, fast read. Given that it's miraculously in, like, the 70's right now here in February, I'm thinking it'd be a great book to read while laying out in the sun.

Bridget's not a very nice person - she lies constantly, she gets other students into trouble, she plays on others' insecurities. But more than anything, she's endlessly self-absorbed and chooses to overlook others' problems so she can continue focusing on herself. I thought Paige Harbison did a nice job of making Bridget an understandable bully, even though sometimes it became frustrating to read page after page of Bridget being an obtuse witch.

I liked the secondary characters and her interactions with them. Her friends are nicely drawn and so is the love interest, Liam - it helps that when Bridget walks in their shoes, we get to know these characters from the inside out, too.

At times I felt like watching Bridget be mean dragged a little - perhaps because it's just frustrating as a reader. One wants to grab Bridget and shake her.  But, once Bridget crashes her car, the story picks up and the second half of the book is well-paced and hard to put down. I liked that Bridget's redemption isn't entirely easy and it's bittersweet -- not everyone is willing to forgive her the damage she's done.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Stephanie over at The Writer's Cocoon is hosting the Show Me The Love blogfest.

This is a fun one where we're just sharing the answers to a few questions with each other... I'd love to know what your answers are!

1- What is the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for you?  

MJ moved across the country for me. We dated in college and planned to break up when I joined the Marines, but we failed at breaking up! So we were in a long-distance relationship, until he followed me out to California - sent his stuff out in boxes, sold his old car, and jumped on a plane to be with me.

2- What is your favorite love song?
Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are".  It was the first dance song at our wedding, and I think the lyrics capture what love truly is. Don't go changing, to try and please me, you've never let me down so far. I take the good times, I take the bad times, I take you just the way you are.

3- Do you have a favorite romantic movie or book? 
My favorite romantic movie is Ever After. Best take-off on the Cinderella story ever. My favorite romantic book is probably Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford - a believable story about love's trials, eventually conquering all.

4- Do you have any romantic plans for Valentine's Day this year?

I know this is a little off-beat, but I'd like to go snowboarding after work! We both love to board & I love that we have this shared hobby. The drive to the mountain is a long one, but we always pick up Starbucks at the beginning of the journey and spend the drive talking, which makes it fun too.

5- What's your favorite romantic treat? 
A long massage or flowers. I love having flowers in the house - it makes me happy every time I see them - so they're always much appreciated.

I hope you all have a fantastic Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Living Dead GirlBy now you’ve probably seen the controversy over Bitch magazine’s list of 100 YA Books for the Feminist Reader. Basically, Bitch magazine put out a list of 100 books, a few readers complained about some of them, and they removed three from the list and replaced them with other books. Which made many more readers angry.

This blog post is not about that, because frankly, I’d be about two weeks late covering the topic and many other bloggers have already done a great job discussing it. I'm going to write about something positive I saw in it, personally.

One thing that fascinated me about the topic was that some commenters were shocked that readers were so worked up about the books being removed from the list. So emotionally invested. Reeling with perceived unfairness.

But isn’t that exactly the sort of passion that literature should evoke, ideally?  I understand when someone doesn’t like the same books that I do. I love the idea that there’s no one Universal Reader, that different stories and techniques work for different people. But when someone bashes a book I love?  It hurts my feelings.

When you find a story that moved me small, it rather implies the things I care about in real life are small, too.

Someone called Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl, which I blogged about last year, ‘torture porn’, to justify its removal from the list. Now, that book was very hard to read, due to the subject matter. But I found it worthwhile. I consider to be an incredible piece of fiction about the triumph of a girl’s spirit over terrible suffering and depravity. It’s a feminist work, but it’s also a powerful, relevant piece of literature. We force ourselves to read about suffering, unpleasant as it is, to better understand the human spirit, and perhaps to recognize the plight of our fellow humans. To me, that's true whether we're talking about a heartbreaking work of non-fiction like Elie Wiesel's Night or a work of (all too realistic) fiction like Living Dead Girl.

When you suggest people read that sort of thing because they like to read about the torture and sexual abuse of a young girl, though, that becomes just a might offensive to me.  And that, I think, is the sort of thing at the heart of why readers became so inflamed about books being removed from the list once they’d been so honored. Don’t tell me the books that moved me, that I love, aren’t worthy after all. 

To me, wherever you fall in the Bitch magazine debate -- even if you find the debate itself silly, as some do -- you can’t deny that passion about books is a beautiful thing. It means people are engaged with their literature. That these authors wrote stories that touched people deeply, enough to be personally angered on their behalf, protective of these stories.

Personally, I think that's pretty cool.

Friday, February 4, 2011

 So far the year has been full of writing adventure - from the fantastic SCBWI conference held in NYC last weekend to the focused insanity that is Write 1 Sub 1. This month was the first month of Write 1 Sub 1, a year-long project to write (and submit!) a short story every week.

I wrote five short stories in January:
  1. Pomegranate Soda, about the challenges coming home from Iraq;
  2. All We Know of Heaven and Hell, a sci-fi story about a woman who joins a dangerous space mission to earn the money to save her young daughter's life from leukemia;
  3. Why Peter Came, a horror piece of flash-fiction where there's trouble at the Darling residence (I love this story but feel guilty turning my beloved Peter Pan stories into something darker);
  4. Alien Lands, another realistic contemp story about life in Iraq;
  5. Every Other Sunday, about family and grief.
I subbed out seven stories altogether to fourteen different markets.  Which allowed me to garner my first three rejections of the year (well, from that batch; there was another that came in on the 1st of the year, which was an especially nice touch).  I'm not too bothered by those numbers, though. Like many short story writers I sub to the top journals that seem appropriate and then work my way down the list.

I made my way about 1/3 of the way through this round of revisions on my novel The Goddess of Vengeance Wore Pink Galoshes. Sometimes I'm overcome by despair of the revision process, but usually I'm full of excitement about this story and the process of making it even better.

Aaand my YA mystery work-in-progress now has a working title: Recovering Sara. Love love love this thing, even in rough draft. I'm at about 13k and taking a break from writing to go through revisions - I was experimenting with first person present tense and I've decided first person past fits the tale a bit better. It was fun for me as a writer to do first person present, but I think it reads more accessibly this way.

So yeah. That's January. What are you guys up to this month? What's coming up in February?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I just typed that title and then realized that LOLcats has had a serious impact on my quality of life. Anyway.

I have no photos to show you, because my camera charger is missing in action. However, you can check out lots of awesome photos and commentary of the conference at the official SCBWI conference blog. I think all the writers on the blog did an impressive job of conveying the fun and excitement of the conference!

Here were some favorite parts on the conference for me:
  • Running into other folks from the D.C. area! I got all excited like we were long-lost cousins or something, and I'm looking forward to meeting up with them now that we're home.
  • Lois Lowry's keynote, which brought tears to my eyes when she spoke about her sister dying and inspired me when told us to "Give sorrow words". And which made me laugh many, many more times.
  • Sprawling an idea in my notebook every 10 minutes while also trying to take notes on all the great advice we were hearing. I don't think you can go to a conference and not be inspired.
  • Breakout with Jim McCarthy, agent at Dystel & Goderich. He just let us ask any questions we had about the industry or trends or how we works as an agent - it was so helpful and awesome.
  • The 35 book recommendations I came home with. You know what's cool, too? Hearing how excited agents are about the books they represent. It just never really hit home for me before how much they LOVE these books, and it made me happy.
  • Sarah Zarr's powerful, powerful speech on developing a sustainable, joyous creative life. Honestly, everything she said was exactly what I needed to hear that morning.
  • Giant, fantastic cupcakes around the corner at Crumbs. Because you can't write without cupcakes.
I really want to attend the LA SCBWI conference this summer. I came home and told MJ how much I wanted to go, but added, "I don't think it's reasonable for me to spend that much money on a second conference in one year, though." And he said I should go.  Which made me wish I'd brought him home a cupcake instead of eating it.

It was just such a fun, inspiring weekend, which went by much too quickly. I came home so excited to write - and even excited to query.  Which is why I'm signing off now to continue revising The Goddess of Vengeance Wore Pink Galoshes so I can query the damn thing when it's finally As Awesome As I Can Be.

Sooo... anyone else want to do the LA SCBWI conference?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Have you guys seen Heinlein's Rules?

Robert A. Heinlein had these five simple rules for making it as a writer, originally appearing in his essay "On the Writing of Speculative Fiction", but some people believe they're as true now, and for any genre, as they were then for speculative fiction:

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Robert J. Sawyer has a great blog post that goes into a bit more depth on these classic rules. Rule number 3 is sometimes maligned, but he interpets it as "No tweaking" not "No polishing".

I've mentioned before that I'm doing Write 1, Sub 1, and in a way that's forcing me to follow Heinlein's rules whether I agree with them or not.  I have a story to write every week and I have to sub a story every week, so... I guess I'm doing things Heinlein's way. And as long as I'm doing that anyway, I guess I might as well follow these rules purposefully and see what happens. That means over the course of this year, I'll write over 50 stories (4 down so far) and submit at least as many times.  I'm curious to see where I end up in 2011 - publication credits or no, that's a lot of writing practice!

What do you think of Heinlein's rules?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Full Dark, No StarsFirst of all, I love the title of Stephen King's latest, and that's the primary reason I picked it up.  The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is one of my favorite novels ever, but I'm not usually a big horror reader. Okay, I admit Apt Pupil seemed like a pretty good story, but I put that one down once I caught a hint of tortured cats. There are some things I just can't handle in my horror.

But I saw the title, Full Dark, No Stars, and I saw the gorgeous-disturbing-stark cover, and fine. I'll give it a shot. After all,  there's no denying King is one hell of a storyteller.

Full Dark, No Stars contains four long stories. In "1922", there's a man who kills his wife, convincing his young son to help with the murder and disposal of her body, only to find themselves "hainted". That story was disturbing, but effective. Even though the protag in 1922 is unsympathetic, it's still heartbreaking to see the damage unfold around him.

"Big Driver" was a hard story for me to read, about a woman who is brutally raped and left for dead - and then seeks revenge on her own. Brilliant characterization and pacing. The only fault I found was a few instances of word choice that pulled me out of the story thinking, "Okay, definitely a man writing from a woman's perspective." But even though I looked up numerous times during this story to ask MJ why I was reading about people being hurt - like the news isn't depressing enough - I thought this was a fantastic story. My favorite of the four.

"Fair Extension", the third and shortest story in the book, didn't work all that well for me. It's about a man who makes a deal with the devil, saving his own life - and allowing him to watch his best friend suffer instead.  I had a hard time accepting the characterization in this one - the guy who seems like a sort-of OK type at the beginning gets far too much enjoyment out of the unrelenting misery of others.

On the other hand, "A Good Marriage" was very, very good indeed, even if the marriage itself wasn't. What would you do if one day you discovered your spouse of twenty-odd years was, in fact, a notorious serial killer? That's the question Darcy faces... along with the serious face of her husband, promising he'll never, ever do it again. Really.

The stories are interconnected in that they explore the darkest side of human nature - the "stranger within us all", and I think perhaps that's part of why "Big Driver" and "A Good Marriage" resonated most with me - the two protags in those stories were the most sympathetic and relatable to me. I could put myself in their shoes, making their same choices.

Recommend for the horror fan, but also for the writing student - I think it's interesting to see how Stephen King does what he does, what makes him so effective as a writer even when he's breaking the rules - whether horror is your bag or not.