Friday, December 28, 2007

Thunder is Rumbling Again

Once again, the family has a health crisis. My father-in-law is having triple bypass surgery today. It seems like we get past one hurdle only to find another one right on the horizon. I'm the central communication hub, excused from hospital duty because my back is in particularly nasty shape. Shannon is there with his mom and I'm keeping the other, widespread offspring up to date.

Right now all the up to date is: still in surgery. Try back at 5.

It's strange how the wheels of life turn sometimes. It actually can work like some of the plots I concoct with hills and plateaus--and cliffs-- in the action topography. Sometimes, as in the Summers' households this year, it's all cliffs. We've been rock climbing and rappelling like crazy this year just trying to keep one turn ahead of the twist in the road.

Four sixteen.

I start a submission orgy on January 2nd. I'll be querying two different novels (Requiem and Terella) to as many agents as possible. I've been polishing the hell out of them for a month and I finally wrote the last chapter of Terella this week. I'd been putting it off because I knew how I wanted it to end but couldn't quite wrap my fingers around how to portray it. Sort of a Jesus meets Carrie (Stephen King) image had wandered around my mind and I finally figured out how to create that feel. I am eerily optimistic about it. Requiem is paranormal romance, pure and simple. It will be nice to see what it can do.

Four twenty one. Time sure is moving slowly. I think I'll let the dogs out, smoke a cigarette while sheltering from the rain on the deck, and think about maybe taking a long, hot bath. Then I'll go back to the computer and pound my query letters into shape. Four twenty two.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Gift for Christmas

We went home to Tennessee for Christmas. This year was different from so many others because on the 23rd, I had a reunion with my Latin class. I’ve spoken before of my teacher, Grady Warren. This year, the students that he and his wonderful wife Kaye taught over the course of 3 decades came together to honor them. It was fabulous: we had pictures from old Junior Classical League conventions and got to try and figure out who was who. Great fun.

And, it leads me to a story…

Once upon a time, I was a toddler who lived in a tiny house on old highway 79 in Oakwood, Tennessee. Because it was a highway, the only little girl I was allowed to play with was the one who lived three houses up: Tammy Milliken. She was smaller than me, a tiny little thing with a mop of brown curls and big, sweet eyes. She was the only child that came to the Millikens, who were a hard-working farm family. My mom would take me over to her house and we were allowed to play sedately in her fenced-in back yard. Eventually, we moved. I didn’t run into Tammy again until high school.

When we met up again, we were rivals. In Latin, we both studied mythology; I beat her at all the conventions. In forensics, we both competed in extemporaneous speaking; she beat me soundly for four years. We hung out together at conventions, where we became great friends. I hooked her up with her boyfriend, who went to my school. When she turned 16, she bought a car with money she’d saved for years—picking tobacco for her father. In every way, Tammy was a model student, daughter, and friend. Except for the fact that she beat the tar out of me at every debate tournament, she and I grew closer every year.

Our senior year, we’d decided to both go to Austin Peay State University. We had agreed to be debate partners—after all, how could anyone beat us? It was going to be fabulous.
We had it all planned out.

Two weeks before we started school, Tammy was killed by a drunk driver. What makes her case so different(odd? horrible? sad?) is that the man who killed her was driving a dump truck at 7 a.m. while still inebriated. He crossed the median and hit her head-on. She was one mile from her house, on her way to see her grandmother. Her funeral was the last time I had seen most of the people I saw last Sunday. We’d huddled together in great clumps at the funeral home, shocked, dazed and angry. Long lines of adolescents filed in front of her coffin, to take one last look at Tammy, whose face was miraculously intact, and to hold the hands of her stunned parents. I remember leaning over to kiss her and then saying to her mother, “You know Tammy was like a sister to me, Mrs. Milliken…” before choking up and moving on.

So on Sunday, as a group of Latin geeks from the 80s found themseleves in the same place at the same time, we all took a moment to remember Tammy and to honor her place among us. She was the first, and the hardest, loss to our number. For a little while, it was like she was there with us, laughing and falling back into the old jokes.

Strangely, I didn’t see a picture of her. I don’t know if I just missed it or if there really wasn’t one. It didn’t matter; her face has swum before my eyes pretty consistently over the last few days.

Yesterday, I went with my father to visit my grandparents’ grave. While I watched my aunt adjust flowers on their headstone, I looked around. Fifteen rows from my grandparents, I saw two headstones that read “Milliken.” One was a dual stone, only one side filled for Mr. Milliken. Mrs. Milliken lives alone now, on a farm not far from the cemetery. But next to him was Tammy’s grave. I hadn’t been there since she’d been interred. There were fresh flowers there, and it was there that I saw her picture. She smiled out at me from the headstone, the braces she’d been buried in glinting slightly from the flash. I smiled back, and laid a single flower on her grave.

There really isn’t a point to this story, unless it's that I’ve noticed lately that graves have become associated with holidays. I paid my pilgrimage to my mother’s grave this morning as we were leaving town. Tammy's was the first grave to bring pain and confusion to my life; it was fitting that I should remember her along with this last, more vicious pain. Perhaps you, who are my friends and peers and audience, would like to know that once upon a time in a tiny hamlet buried in Tennessee, there was a girl named Tammy Milliken who was everything that I am not. And twenty three years after her death, a group of 30- and 40- and even a few 50- and 60- somethings that gathered together in a church hall in Tennessee who remembered, and missed, her still.

In this season of resolutions and gift exchanges, it may help to know that you don’t have to be great, or successful, to make an impact on this world. Consider that my gift to you.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Upsizing and Downgrading--or Why The Holidays Suck

Wow, have I been busy. Not only have I been too busy to blog, but I juswt checked my email accounts and had ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY TWO new emails.

Of which 90 were spam.

So, I've been getting the antique shop through the holidays (traffic is up, business is down--go figure), rapping out a mess of rewrites, bartending for special holiday parties *rolls eyes* and doing sporadic Christmas shopping (I'm still planning my annual December 23 2 a.m. trip to get it all done) and...not content with my normal chaos...have decided to upgrade and move to a bigger house.

Yeah, I know. The last chick is flown from the nest and now I want a bigger house? Go figure. So in the midst of holiday madness and still under a work restriction from my latest back fiasco (did NOT go well, but thanks for asking!) I am now packing up my house.

What an idiot.

So anyway, here's what I figure: if I can make it past January 7th (Ohio State in the national championship game playing against LSU in what is essentially a home game for the SEC champ---have to love the 'fairness' of a system like the BCS) then I can get back some semblance of my normal compartmentalized life. Won't that be nice?


*thinks for a minute*

Yeah. I agree. Bah humbug.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Keeping the Flame Hot

No, this isn't a post about erotica.

Thanks to real life (evil bastard) I haven't been on track with TGTD. Oh, sure, I'm sitting over 60k now, but that's more to do with tuning out my relatives than any real intensity on my part. Today, however, the wheels are turning. I rediscovered my drive for the story and I think it's coming along fine.

Did I mention that I managed over 50k in 11 days? I'm a little smug, yes, but there are others who wrote more than I did.

I've noticed that my writing is a lot sharper these days. I eliminate most of my grammatical penchants before I make them. Even the comma count is down, which is a good thing. (don't crit my blog, damnit--it's where commas are allowed to roam freely without fear of molestation--and adverbs too so nyaaaaaaah.)

At any rate, it is hard sometimes to get past the first few chapters when you start a new project. I am not a compulsive planner when I write; I have an idea of where the story will end, but how I get there and most of the plot turns are accidental. Usually I stall and sputter (remember Requiem?) until I figure out how best to get the story moving along. Terella has a fairly straightforward plot intention, but the road is twisted and gnarly and oh so deliciously indecent! My heroine begins as fairly sweet and naive and morphs through the story until she takes over the page and stomps all over it.

Killing superfluous dialogue tags as she goes.

For example, this is how we meet Aleira:

Aleira liked the rain. It slanted from the thickening sky as slashes of lavender. Overall it was, particularly at this time of year, a beautiful and relaxing thing to watch. She had heard rumors that in places across the great Mneosta Sea the rain was as silvery as the clouds that brought it. She didn’t necessarily believe it. For her, it was incomprehensible that rain could be anything other than the watery purple-hued streaks she loved. She let the hood fall back from her face, glorying in the feel of the water against her skin. For a girl with many problems, the rain was a wonderful thing.

Aleira was alone. She liked being alone. For as long as she could remember,it had always been thus. No matter what town she walked through, or what inn she entered in search of food and drink, she was the lone person in her life. It wasn’t very bad; it gave her time to think. Most of that thinking time she spent asking herself the selfsame question repeatedly.

Who am I?

She knew her name. She retained that one thing from ‘before.’ “Before’ referred to the time of darkness. ‘After’ referred to now. ‘After’ began when Aleira opened her eyes a month ago and found herself standing alone in the middle of a large field. She knew absolutely nothing about her origins: where she’d come from, who her family was, what she was doing or where she was going. The only clues she had were her name and the few possessions she owned.

Later on, she's more like this:

“Tell me, Rudianos,” she began softly, as the king stiffened into renewed fury at her use of his name. “Do you think I can’t see that makings of your past? Your father was a cruel man too, was he not? Didn’t he torture you and your younger sister, to mould you into what he thought royalty should be? Wasn’t it difficult for you as a child? All you wanted to do was run to your mother and weep, but you couldn’t because then he’d beat her too.”

The words came faster now, brought up from some well of information that she’d never known she possessed. “I always wonder what the product of emotional cruelty was. I see it now, enthroned and enriched by the suffering of those who don’t even know they are your victims. Your son stands behind me. He is a good man, a patient and gentle man who you ignored when he was growing. You had two older sons; he was unimportant. This son you left alone, spared the incessant brutality you spent upon his brothers as you tried to make them in your image. When they died, you
were left with him. He’d grown up in a different fashion, left to his tutors and beneath your notice. Now you’re frustrated because he isn’t as easy to shape as your other, maltreated, bestial offspring. He has a mind of his own, and prowess that you fear. Tell me, Rudianos: when you lie in your cold bed at night, whose face do you see before you go to sleep? Is it your own face, wreathed in glory and might? Or, is it the face of your son, above a sword that whistles for your throat?”

She smiled again, a sweet, innocent smile that belied the harsh impact of her words. “I know what it is you see. I know what it is that you fear. It is the usual thing for mortals to fear their own mortality. I will say this and no more: the death you receive, King of Vegoia, will be the death you have earned.”

It took her about 75 pages to reach that point. And just afterwards, she finds herself caught up in a war that she cannot stop. It's then that her atheism is confirmed; nothing quite like a moral crisis to give a girl doubts about the gods whoever they are. Oh, yes. And Ugarit? Poor fellow. I torture him in my inimitable mean fashion, but he keeps coming up the stronger for it.


I may have to kill him to prove a point. Wouldn't that be a nice twist?

That's one of the great things about keeping the flame of your story hot--taking out your frustrations (or your joys) upon a helpless character who lives and dies by the power of your pen. Wow. What a feeling! It gives me the goosebumps just thinking about it.

I think a nice, prolonged, lovely death scene is just the ticket. Excuse me while I run to the thesaurus to find more synonyms for blood, guts, and disembowelment. This may be more fun than torturing Elves.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Goshdarn Scam Agency Rant Alert

Get ready. This is going to be evil. mother-in-law informed me yesterday that she had an agent.

After picking my jaw up from the desk, where it lay for some time in utter disbelief after hearing that she had queried one (1) agent and had been offered a contract, I started to think about it. Now, I've read some of her work and while it is good, I thought it was a bit of a stretch to find the perfect agent that quickly after one try. So I started asking questions.

Who was her agency? Although I thought she said Rider, it turns out she said Writer. Writers Literary Agency, to be precise, which has been discussed on numerous well-respected writers' sites: Absolute Write, Writers Beware, Preditors & Editors, and Making Light--among others. Although I didn't initially recognize the name, it did set off alarm bells. So, when I got home I googled it.

You've all heard me talk about the fine art of googling before. Use it. Embrace it. Revel in it. Because when you google Writer's Literary Agency, the very first thing that pops up is NOT their website. Oh no. It would be the sites listed above.

Never a good sign. More not good signs:

--Click here for a sampling of the positive emails that we receive on a regular basis. That's it? Emails? No, I want to see sales--whose books you sold, to which publisher, for how much. So let's go look there next.

--Ooooooooookay. Not a single NAME listed. Fair enough.

--Why don't we check out their marketing plan for their authors.

And that's where I get mad, because that's where my mother-in-law got snagged. What a lovely photograph of a green WL Literary sign at the 2007 Book Expo in New York. It's rather interesting though that all of the other signs are purple. And in not a single picture, which could have been taken by any casual visitor to an open event, was there ONE INSTANCE where you could see a WL Literary rep with an editor from any of the big houses....or an author....or even at the dinner...

So, she signed. She then paid sixty bucks for a 'critique' of her novel. Amazingly, in a 118k manuscript of a first-time, never previously published writer, there was only ONE misspelled word. The 'critique' was a rave, detailing how saleable the book was with a few cut and paste snippets from the manuscript.

So now I'm seeing red. I put all the pieces together and found myself in the unenviable position of informing my mother-in-law, business partner, and friend that she had been the victim of a well-tried and more successful than it should be scam. Let me just state for the record that this is NOT a comfortable place to be.

The public record on this company is long and it's discouraging. If you follow the links I've posted in this article, you'll be able to untangle it for yourself. I am posting this from Ann Crispin of Writers Beware--she added her full permission to copy and paste the alert wherever writers gather:

NEW ALERT FROM WRITER BEWARE: Writers’ Literary Agency & Marketing
Company (formerly The Literary Agency Group) The Literary Agency Group, a
business owned or controlled by Robert M. Fletcher of Boca Raton, Florida,
changed its name in February 2007 to Writers’ Literary Agency & Marketing
Company (a.k.a. WL Writers’ Literary Agency).
This umbrella group includes or has included the following agencies:
* Christian Literary Agency* New York Literary Agency* Stylus Literary Agency (formerly ST Literary Agency, formerly Sydra-Techniques)* WL Children’s Agency (a.k.a. Children’s Literary Agency)* WL Poet’s Agency (a.k.a. Poet’s Literary Agency)* WL Screenplay Agency (a.k.a. The Screenplay Agency)* Writers’ Literary & Publishing Services Company (the editing arm of the above-mentioned agencies)
Since this company began operating in 2001 under the name Sydra-Techniques, Writer Beware has received hundreds of complaints and advisories of fee-charging, editing referrals, and other questionable practices. We’re not aware that the company has a significant track record of commercial book sales under any of its names, despite its claims to the contrary. Writers who have had trouble with Robert
M. Fletcher or any of the above-named companies, and who are or were residents
of the state of Florida, please get in touch with Ann Crispin at (or , if the AOL address bounces), even if you have previously contacted her. Please provide complete contact information.

And so now you know. I cannot stress enough how important it is to thoroughly research ANY agent or publishing company before you submit. Love your Google button and use it. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to compose a lovely registered letter on behalf of my mother-in-law. It is a painful lesson for anyone to learn. Try not to let this happen to you.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Insomnia and Market Research

So, it was a bad day yesterday. Family situations abounded...never a good thing...and I'll be away from my computer pretty consistently over the next couple of weeks. *sigh* Unfortunately, whenever crap happens to me or mine, I stay awake and stew about it.

And stew.

Unless I distract myself. I made some LOLCatz earlier; that was fun. I also started doing market research. It's been a while since I have done so, and I thought I'd see what's up.

What's up is I found a whole slew of new places to think about sending my stuff to so that it can be rejected. I also found some great blog posts, new information, and a growing certainty within the market that 'things they are a changin' ...

My question is simple: where?

Where is the market changing? What is the next big trend? Who knows what it is, and how much do I have to pay them to get in on the secret?

Okay, let's say that it's a minimum of two years from contract signing to pulbication with a major house. That means that to be the 'next big thing' you have to be TWO YEARS beyond the other people writing in your genre. Otherwise, if it's too similar, you might be pegged as derivative.

The world might be different today if Harry Potter had come out six months after a wizards' school book from another author. Think about it. Remember the post-DaVinci Code swarm of lookalikes? What if...and it's a big what if...a publisher thinks Darkshifters is the next big thing? Unbeknowst to them, or me, another writer publishes something similar a few months before. Does that negate Darkshifters' chances? Perhaps not entirely, but still.

Speculating on the nature of public taste is hard. When you write stories that are out-of-date does that make them any less viable? And who decides that? Publishers? Editors? Agents? Or is it the intern stuck on slush pile detail....a scary thought indeed.

Unfortunately, I have no answers. I only have questions. And even after a long night of LOLCatz and NaNo writing and market research, I can't find the place TO get the answers. So for the time being, I'll just have to assume that what I'm doing can be the next big thing.

And hope for the best.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Making a word

Okay--as requested by Pete at CarrPeeDiem:

Jeanne, Ava, Celina: As the highest-number rollers this week, I’d love it
if — either here, or on your blogs — you took a few minutes to talk about how
you write, what you do, what produces the high numbers. You don’t HAVE to,
but I know I’d find it interesting, even if no one else does…

I'm an odd bird. For one thing, I can sit down and read Gone With The Wind in an afternoon. I've always been able to read quickly and to comprehend what I read. And, to answer the inevitable next question: NO, I do NOT speed read. I've been reading since before the age of two, and my parents used to invite people over so that I'd read the TV Guide to them. I actually hurt myself crawling out of my crib in the middle of the night trying to get a book.

That translated fairly quickly into writing. I've mentioned on here before that I wrote my first novel-length story in my late teens. I got out of the daily writing grind when I left college, and only got back into it when a car wreck left me unable to work and with very few sources of entertainment. Try affording my book habit--I dare you.

So when I DID start writing, I was writing in order to be entertained. As an impatient person, I learned to type quickly. I always wanted to know what happened next. Every morning, I got up and armed with heating pads and medication, settled myself in the recliner in front of the very very old Dell desktop with no internet connection and sank myself into my story. Asphodel took me three months to write, Gift of Redemption about two. Tempation and Apostolate took about a month each. Darkshifters and Coils took about the same. Each book was over 100k, the largest hitting at 165 in its first draft mode.

Terella is on pace at the moment to be a five or six week project. I expect it to top out at about 135k, mostly because I've allowed myself to get sidetracked on a subplot. Once edited, it will be right at 105-110k.

So how do I do it? My recipe is simple. I have a room where I can shut the door. That's vital. I have music playlists created by me for specific types of scenes: fight music, love music, grief music, fun music--and none of those songs have words. I'm a huge classical music fan and I don't think I can write a war without Star Wars music. Period. On average, I write about 2000 words an hour. Sometimes, I can hit closer to three. Usually, I work for five hours a day on writing, while spending another two or three on rewrites or (God forbid they show up now) edits. By the way, I hard edit: red pencil on paper. It takes longer, I have to actually read what I've written, and I get a better feel for the flow of the piece.

In other words, writing is my full time job. It doesn't pay much yet, but I have hopes that it will. I write something every day, even if it's just in my journal because I'm too tired to sit up with my laptop. If I'm on pace, and the house stays relatively clean and there is no teenaged angst screeching up and down the stairs, I can write up to about 12k a day. I average between 7 and 9k, at least until after November 17th. My internal editor tends to catch most of my errors, although some of the typos I catch when I reread are amusing. And, unless something in 'real' life interferes, I stick to that schedule like glue. I tend to work on only one writing project at a time, using my rewrite time for whatever project is next up for release or submission. That allows me to concentrate solely on one plot, one set of characters, one world.

I immerse myself in it. I breathe it. Sometimes I dream plot resolutions. Sometimes, I dream scenes and have to get up and write them THEN. I just let it take over, and when it does lots and lots of words result. I'm not special; I'm just obsessed. If you factor in a few stops to blog, or to make a few posts, or to answer emails (I'm an addict!) or even just to stretch or fire up the heating pad again, I get rejuvenated and go right back to work. I stop and worry about the finer aspects of writing once the story is on the page.

In the end, it doesn't matter if I get the tea. In the end, it matters that I have a story I can work with. Once Terella reaches the horror which is the first rewrite, I may feel differently about the project. But, for right now, I can just let the story explode and hope that I type quickly enough to keep up with it.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Thanks A Lot, NaNo Gods

So here was my plan--and it was brilliant. I purposely went short of sleep last night. I worked until 7:30 a.m. this morning, then got up at noon and worked all day. My reasoning: Since i have to work all day tomorrow at the bar, I wanted to have a nice comfy cushion on my word count. So tonight I knocked off early and went to bed.

Apparently some divine being NOT from Terella decided that wasn't good enough. So, they arranged a small disruption of my well-laid plans.

Picture this: I'm in bed, dozing off, preparing for a good seven hours of sleep before the Ohio State football game frenzy tomorrow. When all of a sudden--

Let me back up. I live on a fairly well-traveled street on the outskirts of town. About a mile from my house, my street turns into highway. It's the last gasp of civilization before endless stretches of Ohio farmlands. Back to the story.

----screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech! Pow! Boom! Crash!

In that order.

As best as I can figure, an SUV was traveling at a reasonably high rate of speed up the hill I live on. Somehow (and I hesitate to mention the word drunk) she slammed on her brakes, did a 180, knocked a telephone pole over, and crashed into the front porch of the house across the street. In the process of which, she managed to miss ALL three of our cars parked like dominoes at the end of our walk.

I do not like being awakened by crashes. I equally despise having to call 911 at two a.m. After placing the call, which seemed important since no people emerged from said vehicle although lots of smoke was, we went to check if the passengers were okay. Before we could get there, the guy who lives in the crashed-into house came out and yelled, "Thanks a fucking lot for crashing into my porch!* then went back inside and shut the door.


Needless to say, I am now wide-awake. With the five police cars, two ambulances, two fire trucks, and the rescue squad parked right outside my house *oh the lights! it hurts us!* sleep is an unlikely commodity for quite some time. Before long, the glorious sounds of chain saws and wreckers will add to the noise. Lovely.

Everyone in the car appears to be okay. More than I can say for the car, the pole, and the house.

Which brings me back to the purpose of my post. For some reason, the NaNo gods apparently want me to keep writing. They don't seem to think that I might need some sleep. I just wanted to take this opportunity to offer up my gratitude for making me stick to my guns and keep on writing--real life be damned!

Thanks a lot. You bastards.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Break time

Wow, have I written a lot in the last twenty-eight hours or so. My word count for TGTD is standing a little over 12k at the moment. Granted, I'm hyper-writing because I know that my word count of Saturday will be....drumroll please! Football, you know. *sigh*

So anyway, at the moment I'm switching gears from work to work. Booze to tea, as it were. I'm flexing my mental muscles before I try to squeeze in another few hundred words.

Or maybe I'll just go to sleep and wake up early.

At any rate, the whole concept behind Terella is pretty intense. I've brainstormed it with a few friends of mine at the bar. In a nutshell, the concept is this: What would happen if God were an atheist?

Yeah. Gave me pause too.

Basically, Terella was created by a goddess in her infancy. She played with it like a girl with dolls and a dollhouse. She created her own little dreamworld, populated it, gave each little doll a history...and then, she was 'born.' She ends up on her own dreamworld without any recollection of who she is. She travels through Terella and as she interacts with the people, she develops a dislike for the organized religion of the world--a religion that worships her. She becomes an atheist, gathering followers to her as she goes, and before long--

Yeah. That's where I get stuck too. I'll figure it out eventually. *grin* If nothing else, it should be an interesting trip.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Get ready...get set....GO!

The time is almost near.

The study is stocked, fully ready. Soda pop, coffee, granola, chips, nuts, and cookies all within easy reach. The heating pad is draped over the chair for the times when sitting up is an option; the day bed has all of my favorite back supporting pillows with clean, crisp pillowcases. The kitten's cat bed is tucked under the desk. My mythological source material is lined up on it. Freshly sharpened pencils--number twos both red and black--fill the old ceramic beer stein I use as a pencil holder. Five reams of new paper, six new computer cartridges and a nice whiny new empty file folder on my desktop that is titled simply "Terella."

I'm ready for NaNoWriMo.

My fellow competitors in The Great Tea Debacle are probably ready too. It's actually kind of funny; I'll be following down my normal path of fantasy hackdom and one of them will probably write something that will win a Pulitzer. But, that is the challenge we genre writers face; I'd rather have a Nebula.

Terella is an interesting world. I wrote a backstory for it last night during the FNW at the Dragon's Den. Over 2k in an hour, so I'm up to speed. I wrote a tasty little creation myth that may end up as the prologue to the novel. We shall see. I'll spend some time tomorrow looking for a nifty little word counter for the blog so everyone will know how I'm progressing.

Although NaNo sets a 50k word limit in order to 'win', my personal goal is a bit higher. I want to hit 120k by the first of December. It would be cool if I managed it; I'm going to post the chapters at the Dragon's Den as I go and maybe, just maybe, I'll have a manuscript that I can edit and polish and zip out to be rejected within a couple of months.

Eight more minutes. Wow, am I ready. I've not been this excited to write in a long time. Despite the fun and games involved with the Tea Debacle, it's a privilege to be writing alongside some individuals that I really respect. I'm going to enjoy it.

*evil grin* No, I didn't buy into that either. Let the games begin.

Holy Grammar Nazi, Batman!

All righty then. I have just read the WORST critique EVER. Not worst as in 'bad.' A bad critique is the one that reads as follows:

Wow. This was good. I have nothing else to say.

I mean, unless you're Homer or Dante that sort of critique is pretty much useless. No, I'm talking about a great critique on a bad piece of writing. First off, any time the critique is longer than the story it's not a good sign. Second, if the critique is the only thing written with things like proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation it's REALLY not a good sign.

But what if the critique is so entertaining in its badness that you forget what the story is about? That can't be good, can it?

I pride myself on giving good, solid story critiques. I usually leave the technical aspects to someone more qualified than I to give it, for example someone with a degree in English. Nothing wrong with a good grammar nazi; every writer should endeavor to have at least one friend who qualifies for grammar nazidom. I focus on character development, pertinency of plot devices, the fine art of substituting words in well-know cliches...that sort of thing. I will, if pressured, point out a stray comma or superfluous adverb but that's very rare. Unlike the grammar nazi, I'm reasonably fond of commas and adverbs.

What made this particular crit so funny was how long it took for the grammar nazi to degenerate from detailed, nicely written explanations to "OMG WILL YOU FUCKING FIX THAT?" (paraphrased, of course) I have to admit, I was laughing helplessly by the end of it. I printed it off after I was done and am now commissioning a lithograph from the critique. I want it silkscreened onto 3 x 5 panels to hang along the stairway in my foyer. Kind of like Andy Warhol meets Miss Snark. It could be fun.

There is a down side to this story however, and it is this. The person who received the critique is unlikely to actually benefit from it at all. This writer has never, to my knowledge, taken a crit and implemented it into any of his further rewrites. The grammar nazi has expended so much time and effort, effort that could have been better used on someone who was willing to pick up the red pen themselves and improve their work.

My writing is not perfect. Far from it. I am in no position to really sit back and slice up another writer's work with grammatical precision. But then again, I can't begin to calculate the number of hours that I've sat, Chicago Manual of Style in hand, and gone through my stories line by line to ensure that I've given my absolute best to a piece of work. Even then, I miss a lot. But, at least I made the effort.

So here's to the grammar nazis of the world. My hat's off to you. And to this particular grammar nazi (and you know who you are) a special salute. Although your intended recipient will never ever appreciate what you've done, I certainly do. It's the best damn critique I've ever--EVER--seen.

By the way, my manuscript is in the mail. Be gentle with it. And when you win your Pullitzer, I'll be able to say I knew you when.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Getting Ready

I'm still learning so much. I'm trying to get all of my techno geek stuff out of the way before NaNoWriMo. One of those things is the Technorati Profile
Technorati link that I'm posting. I want to see if this actually works. I think I have lots of interesting things to say, despite the carnie derailments of last month.

My writing cave is ready to go: fully stocked with all of the implements I need to win the Great Tea Debacle. Don't forget to check out the other participants' (subtext--losers') blogs if you want to keep up with progress.

*starts the Celina Wins gregorian chant mantra in the background*

Tonight will be yet another all nighter I fear. I have less than 24 hours to complete my rewrites and get them in. Should be interesting. Bring on the coffee! I have no fear!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Yep...those are my guts up on the table

Gee whiz. This whole review process is nerve-wracking. It's entirely too stressful to think that out there somewhere in the cyberworld, people are reading The Reckoning of Asphodel and judging it.

How do you judge someone else's work? I can crit with the best of them, leaving the grammar to someone else of course. I can critique storyline, character development, plotting or lack thereof without problem. But am I qualified to judge someone else's work and publish my opinion for anyone to read?

*shudders* Good God, no. I know what I like but I'd be afraid to toss out my tastes and back them up. You have got to respect reviewers. Even if you don't agree with what they say, you have to listen to what they say.

Granted, I've seen some gratuitous novel-shredding reviews in my time. Some reviews have made me blink. Some have made me cringe. My pseudonym received a review that had her throwing things at the wall. But this is different. This story is my baby. This story is the one that stewed for almost two decades. This story is the one that taught me how to be a writer as opposed to a tinkerer.

As far as I can tell, Asphodel is currently in the hands of at least ten review sites. It's garnering favorable reader reviews on Fictionwise, overwhelmingly receiving "great" or "good" ratings. (There's only 1 'ok' rating and no 'poor' ratings.) The final rewrite of Asphodel 2 is almost done and it'll be off to Aspen Mountain so the editor can make all my pretty white pages red with comments inserted.

*bites fingernails*

Wow. I hope I survive.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A day made for plotting

The house is quiet. All of the cats are napping, save for the kitten. She's trying her darnedest to find a way up. Her favorite pastime is sitting in an open window and yelling at birds.

Usually, when I settle in like this it's with a pot of coffee (I keep the coffee maker on my desk) and whatever survival supplies I think I might need. But today is special. Today I have the house all to myself. No one will be here to bother me. I can luxuriate in the calming environment of my study, smelling the season's first gurgles of heat as they rise from the just-lit-today furnace, and I can plot.

Plotting is what I do best. It is my passion. Sometimes I think the only reason I write is to find out how the plot is going to work out. Some of my plots are so convoluted I have to track the plots twists on butcher paper on my walls. (One of my editors last year sent me a frustrated email: "Celina, for Christ's sake this is supposed to be a NOVELLA. You don't NEED five plot twists in a NOVELLA. The only reason you need two characters is because it's erotica. Stop trying to be literary and just write the goddamned thing.") I have at this moment 12 completely distinct world already built--historied, peopled, with religions and maps and characters who live there. Every once in a while, a day comes like today. Then I take out my world building files and I ponder.

And plot.

Today, I kept hot water in my coffee maker so that I could make tea. My semi-annual allergy hell has struck again and those of us in The Great Tea Debacle have been talking so much about tea that I now have a taste for it. So, teacup in hand, I opened the folder and this fell into my lap.

A whole new world. No Darkshifters (who are about to wend their merry way through the Big Apple) and no Elves (I think I killed them all)--it's different from the other long fiction that I've written. I got the idea when I read TH White's Bestiary--a sourcebook that still remains on my desk--about two years ago and haven't thought about it for a while. It's White's translation of a 12th century bestiary written in Latin. As a sort of preface, he quoted Paradise Lost by Milton:

The Earth obey'd and straight
op'ning her fertile womb teem'd at a birth
Innumerous living creatures, perfect forms,
Limb'd and full-grown...
The grassy clods now calv'd; now half appear'd
The tawny lion, pawing to get free
His hinder parts, then springs as broke from bonds
And rampant shades his brindled mane; the ounce
The libbard and the tiger...
Paradise Lost,vii, 453

That particular section started me. I actually took PL back and reread it. I must admit to a passing fondness for old Milton. I always enjoyed being the only kid in the class who 'got it'. So when I began building this particular world, it was with the thoughts of creation foremost in my mind. After all, what could be more fun than building a world for a world that hasn't been created yet?

Then again, I could go with something easier. Something along the lines of this. But for some reason this particular world has gotten the wheels a'turning again. My muse and I are having a long heart-to-heart chat. I've already ripped down all of the Darkshifters plot charts that are resolved and have started to pin up the ones for Terella.

*sigh* Usually when I get this excited about a project it turns out badly for my word count. *evil grin* You believe that right? Right?

Terella--dark fantasy--projected word count 150k before I weep and wail and cut it. Oh, and the first sentence? That much I've already written and I'm just going to stew on it until midnight on Halloween.

"The Void was a pleasant place to be as long as your expectations weren't high..."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Battle Scenes

So, I'm sitting cross-legged ont he day bed in my study working on the very tail end of the Asphodel 2 rewrites. I pulled an all-nighter last night and as I write this it's already almost tomorrow. And you guys don't think I sacrifice for my art...

You're right. Ain't no art when there's Elf-killin' involved and at the moment I'm up to my non-pointed ears in Elf gore. I love writing battle scenes. The only reason I know anything at all about how to orchestrate a battle scene is because of Julius Caesar. Sound odd? It shouldn't be. Try reading his Gallic Commentaries sometime. Roman strategy from a man who wept because Alexander the Great had accomplished more at a younger age.

Fortunately, I do have distractions. If the kitten doesn'tstop chewing on my removable hard drive cord sometime soon I'm going to have a fluffy white throw rug for a dollhouse.

Anyway, I'm off from work this week until Saturday night and the football game. I'm actually very glad of that because I haven't recovered from the horrors of fair week and birthday week back-to-back yet. On top of that, I have a doctor's appointment on Thursday and he's going to yell at me. It won't be pleasant, probably because his definition of 'light duty' is far, far different from mine. Oh well.

So, the writer's life resumes while the carnie slave dwindles into the background. Sometimes there's a lot to be said for the continuity of life. And, for an eerie coincidence, while I was working on these assorted battle scenes I was privy to one in real life. Nothing serious: just more family squabbles but in everyday life, just as in war there are strategies and counter-strategies one must employ in order to win the day.

Another battle scene? How about the latest from Harry Potter land?

I'm inclined to think that this is a great thing. Dumbledore, already beloved by so many, is now a positive role model for youngsters regarding homosexuality. But, on message boards all over the world, controversy is flaring into bitterness. I can't even begin to tell you how many threads I've seen locked because some yaboo decides to get offended at what was nothing more than a character note an author made to herself. Does it affect the story? No. Then why the big deal? I foresee many battle scenes deriving from this, and some of them won't be pretty. They'll probably force some segments of society to take a good, hard look at themselves and their prejudices.

Boy I sure do hope so anyway. Way to go, Jo!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Scary Story for Young Writers...Gather 'Round

Lemme tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, there was a very ignerrent newbie writer. We'll just call At any rate, Celina had written the NGGN (next great genre novel, duh) and was just starting to poke around the internet looking for what she should do next.

(Did I add that she was pain-pill befuddled after two years of excruciating back pain? No? Well I digress. To continue...)

Just because it SEEMED SO EASY, she contacted a few agents via their online information. You know, sent out a couple of query letters and synopses (which were faithfully reproduced from sample ones online at great places like Absolute Write and Editors and Preditors) just to see what would happen.

Imagine her shock when, a few weeks later, she was contacted for a partial. Now, although most places stipulated first three chapters, this place was different. They only wanted part of one. Celina shrugged, sent it out, popped another Percocet and went back to playing Snood. I have this right? FIVE days she was contacted by an agent offering her a contract.

Oh the joy. A real, live contract. How wonderful. But....wait. She has to PAY this agent four grand? For what? Oh, it was explained to Celina meticulously.

But something didn't seem quite right.

Armed with more Percocet, Celina staggered back to the computer. While swilling a glass (okay--a bottle, damnit) of wine, she proceeded to do a very simple thing. She googled cris+robins+agency.

Let me repeat that. Doped up on Percocet, drunk off of wine, completely in agony (this was before my back surgery) I spent five minutes of time and googled someone--and LO AND BEHOLD-- I managed NOT to get scammed.

Now, those of you who know me are reasonably well-aware that I would NEVER send money out for any reason usually, but it was particularly true at that time. I was unable to work, we were surviving off one income, and 4 grand??? HA. But, by the same token if it would get me published...

It was tempting, Gods know it was tempting. It's equally tempting for every newly learning writer to take the easiest road and get published as quickly as possible. (Like that ever happens) And that's how the preditors find their prey--the young, the uneducated, the newbies. The ones who even, Lord help them, may be a little too disabled to make such decisions for themselves. I've been following a certain plagiarism incident which you can find out more about here.

Allow me to state for the record that someone somewhere needs to give Victoria Strauss and her compadres medals for all that they do. But I must admit--I don't get it. How could anyone possibly be that dense after all the help they received from viable and respected sources across the world???? I just don't get it. At any rate, back to the story...

So the moral of this story is, children, RESEARCH. Always research ANY move you make in regards to your intellectual property, even when (as is becoming apparent in this particular case) it's only partially your own. Because you know, hidden out there in the world of cyberpigs there's always someone who wants to take your money. What happened to Celina, you ask? Don't worry about her. She did just fine. Trust me. Just fine.

And some more not-quite-so-nice thoughts about entitlement

Okay. Rant alert.

It takes a hell of a lot to really piss me off. Yeah, I know you don't believe that but it's true. I managed to get pissed off today several times. Why, you ask?

First: if you're on a message forum don't argue with the mods. Jesus Christ -- how stupid can you be. Just DON'T. You don't prove a damn thing except how stupid you are. Why? Because you can't win. This is directly related to a situation that blew up on Absolute Write today and I have to say: it wasn't the mods' fault. None of them. They were in the right. It doesn't take the brains the gods gave a rock to know that bellowing out bullshit about how 'persecuted' you are on a website is just plain dumb. Period. End of story. But the flouncer felt entitled to speak his piece, to his own detriment. He felt entitled to special treatment because of his special position in the universe.

Now don't get me wrong: not all mods are fair. Not all message boards are equal. You all know of the boards of which I speak *wink*. But you know what? My spectacular exit from the board-who-shall-not-be-named was planned. It was an intentional throwing of myself on the proverbial grenade to prove a point--a point, I might add, which came across in spades. I took a gamble, I lost, and I was banned. *shrug* Rightly banned. I deserved it. Hell, I courted it!

And I loved every minute of it.


I didn't scream about how 'persecuted' I was. I didn't whine and moan about how the mods were out to get me. I didn't even flame out with a curse-filled flounce. I made my point, wickedly, and got bounced. Fair enough.

See, I didn't feel entitled to remain. Much the same way that I don't feel entitled to call someone names or dismiss their intellect just because they disagree with me.

Even if they are stupid.

*sigh* It's so damn annoying. I wasn't even involved in this controversy but I got sucked right in because I absolutely cannot stand it when someone just doesn't get the point, doesn't take responsibility for the own actions and suck it up.

Then of course there's work. I'm quickly getting to the point where I hate to walk into the place. Here again, I'm dealing with a sense of entitlement--my boss feels entitled to dictate my schedule even though I've made it clear that I need specific days and a set routine. Saturday night, I told him "My birthday is this week and I need to go home to Tennessee." He says, "No problem."


For pete's sake---was it that hard to remember? But then again, I did get lots of sympathy tips tonight so it made it worthwhile. And a night that I thought would be dead dead dead because the fair is over was actually a fairly good shift.

But wow am I tired.

Here's the way I see it: no one is entitled to anything.

I wonder, how much easier would life be if everyone felt that way? What if, for one glorious day, the human beings on this planet woke up and didn't think about what everyone else owed them...or what they were cheated out of...or how someone was out to get them? What if everyone woke up and thought, "Wow. I'm here because of my own actions. No one else is responsible; it's all on me."

Would that be scary? Exhilarating? Liberating? Would people be able to go through their daily routines without acting like asshats? Is it possible that for twenty-four hours we could manage to scrape through our lives without feeling entitled to something we think we deserve to possess?

No. It's impossible. Unfortunately, human beings as a whole find it much easier to blame someone else for their problems. We think that people owe us. We feel that our peers are required to provide that which we need, simply because we exist.

Existence is NOT entitlement. Get over yourselves and I'll try to get over myself. You don't owe me and I don't owe you. We'll call it even and try to exist without stomping all over toes. Because I have to tell you, I've had enough of this entitlement bullshit.

And if you don't cut it out, I'm going to call my lawyer.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Birthday Reflections

A stream of consciousness ...

Why is it that my mother in law think I like glittery things? Do I sound like the kind of person who appreciates the fashion value of lame'?

Why is it easier to finish a story than to start it?

Why is it that no matter how much you think you're ahead, something always happens to put you behind again?

Carnies. 'Nuff said.

So, in the long run, is it better to be 'published' or is it better to avoid the pressure and just write for fun?

How is it possible that when I offer up my pearls of wisdom on a writer's forum, some people just don't think it's enough? Is it necessary for me to do the work for OTHER people who are too lazy?ineffectual?stupid? to do it for themselves? (and NO this isn't directed at DD)

Just someone explain how it is that I told my boss today was my birthday and he still scheduled me to work.

Presidential politics...bogus or criminally bogus--and WAY too early.

When do parents stop being parents? Will I be 70 before I stop quaking in my boots when my dad calls?

When do kids stop being kids?

I don't wanna grow up, I'm a Toys'R'us kid....with a laptop.

When is a surgery judged a success? Is it somewhere between "You survived it." and "These complications were to be expected."????

The anonymity of the web is great--for plagiarists and shit-stiring trlols.

And no, life isn't fair. Even good people get stomped on by meanies on the path of success.

Wow. They found Blackbeard's ship! Time to go snorkeling.

How long before I can get back to writing?????

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Yeah, that's a little tongue in cheek.

Fair week is finally over! Hurray! And, while I soak my poor mutilated feet in salt water and try to reconcile myself to the fact that my boss scheduled me to work on my birthday so I can't take my annual trip to the mountains, it's time to recap.

First off, here's a shot of the Fairview I took the other day. The older gentleman is one of our bar regulars, who told me quite frankly that in his obituary he wanted a picture of himself drinking at the Fairview. So, I took a picture. You can see the fair going on behind him and the other good-looking fellow is my husband. You can tell he's not a carnie and I shouldn't have to explain why.

Second, for some reason the carnies love me. Many of them have followed the blog over the past couple of weeks and I have to say that as a whole, they are cheerful, funny people with a good sense of humor. I'll actually miss a way. My feet won't.

Third, the weekend was beyond heinous. I personally hope that I never live through such a weekend again. Although I enjoy bartending a lot, I'm no longer quite as enamored of getting my ass kicked as I once was. The money is just not worth it. I have a feeling that this was my last fair week, and as a result I'm looking back on it with a hint of nostalgia but overall a feeling of relief. I'm glad it's over; I'm ready to move on with my life.

Having said that, it's time for one last carnie story. Last night, the carnies drifted into the bar in pairs and trios to say goodbye. Most of them said, "We'll look forward to seeing you next year, Celina." or something along those lines. Several of them simply wanted to order wings. (Which, I might add, I absolutely loathe making so SCREW YOU GUYS--EAT FAIR FOOD!) But, the most interesting farewell came from the carnie czar. I was sitting down watching the end of the Kentucky-LSU game, and he came up to our table. He put one hand on my shoulder, said, "You're really a good person. Quit trying to fool people." Then he gave me a hug, pushed something into my hand, and walked away.

It was a hundred dollar bill.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Attack of the Carnies--Part Three


That's really all I have to say.


Okay, so last night was torturous. The regulars were whooping it up because they had trucks in the truck demolition derby. The Fairview had a truck--a Rolling Rock truck! Gee, wonder why they picked Rolling Rock..

At any rate, they lost.

I don't think that Fair week was quite what my doctor had in mind when he said 'light duty.' By the time we closed last night, I could barely walk. Even now, I'm still lying in bed and have no intention of moving from it for any reason today--save perhaps for a long, hot mineral salted bath.

Apparently the carnies were tired too (or hungover from Monday) because they all left by a quarter of two. We actually managed to get all of our bar work done early. Although the night felt slower, it was characterized by a brutal hit at about 10:30. I mean brutal. I slammed my finger in the cooler door (it's now black--maybe that's not a good thing?) and banged my head on the edge of the bar while stocking beer. Yeah, yeah...go ahead and say it.

So, the story of the night. One of the head carnies (right below the carnie czar) got in trouble with his wife for not coming back to the camper instead of going out drinking. He was on his FIFTEENTH shot of Jager in an HOUR, and his reply was: "I spent sixty bucks for you to get your hair done and it still looks like shit. I have to drink! It's a better waste of my money!"

Yeah. I did a spit-take of fresh-squeezed lemonade that one of the carnies brought me. It spewed all over the bar and I mopped it up and tried to look innocent.

In the end, though, the regulars ran the carnies out. I think I have to give the point to them.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Carniwars--(n) The act of baiting or instigating trouble with carnies.

Oh, the stupidity.

You know, despite my tongue-in-cheek contest with the carnies, I actually like them. They come into the bar, spend scads of money on food and drink, tip well, and have a good time. Sure, you get the odd butthole in the bunch, but for the most part they are well-behaved and fun to watch.

Not so the locals. Nope. Now we're seeing the beginnings of the young, dumb element of southern Ohio who show up at the bar looking to cause trouble. I actually had a guy (who's old enough to know better) tell me last night that he was hanging out at the Fairview so he 'could piss off the carnies when they come in.'

Okay, first off: not in my bar, pal. I don't tolerate assholishness when the carnies AREN'T here. I'm certainly not going to tolerate it now. Second off: why bother? What's the point? Is there any logical reason to do such a thing?

Nope. It's just idiocy--and I told him that after I took his beer away and showed him the door.

At any rate, last night was the first night that most of the carnies had money. They spent it too. I was tending bar with josh, the newest bartender, and we ran our asses off. It was a looooooooooooong night and tonight promises to be longer. The truck demolition derby is tonight *rolls eyes* which means that the farmers AND the carnies will be in. Oh yippee. More David Allen Coe. I just can't wait.

The high point of the evening? The carnie who looked at me and said "You can't call me a carnie; I have all my teeth."

Whatever. He's still a carnie, but he's a nice one with good dental hygiene--always a plus.

The low point of the evening? The carnie who tried to start a fight with my husband. Apparently, the husband is some sort of cat because he doesn't have tattoos. Further investigation revealed that he's the same one who said I should be fired. I think that tonight he may find his drinking time limited in the Fairview.

Let's call Monday a draw.

Celina --- 4

Monday, October 08, 2007

And it begins...

Last week was just the beginning. This week is the week of hell. This is fair week---and now everything is ranged against us...the poor bartenders at the Fairview. We start our shifts with locals who've dropped their kids off at the fair. We end our nights with carnies. Somewhere in between are the regulars, who either come in to watch the carnies or stay at home to avoid them. Then there are the 'others' who come in to pick fights with the carnies.

Either way, hell week is here.

I work the night of the demolition derby, the concert, the tractor pull..... you get the picture. I will be tortured with endless repetitions of David Allen Coe and Travis Tritt on the jukebox, while serving bottomless pitchers of Purrburr. Trust me--my mood will deteriorate from this point.


But I'll get lots of great character studies too.

Normally at this time of year, it's 70 degrees in Ohio. Today, it's 92. Normally, at this time of year, I'd be wearing sweaters. Last night, I went and bought summer clothes on clearance so I could be a tad more comfortable behind the bar this week.

But the good news? *grin* The carnies love me. I've already got hookups for fair food. I can't wait! Fresh squeezed lemonade, elephant ears, funnel cakes, deep-fried snickers, italian sausages, corn dogs....

Thank god I'll be working hard enough to work all that off.

And since they love me that much, I guess I'll have to score this in my favor....


Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Carnieczar

Every socio-political entity has a leader. Last night, I discovered that even the carnies have one. The carnie-czar, if you will, establishes himself upon a barstool in the precise center of the bar at 7 p.m. every evening. From there, he sips on double Crown and coke, occasionally switching to Corona, and disperses wisdom to the other carnies when they approach him. After a little discreet questioning, I discovered that the carnie-czar owns five of the game trailers. It is to him that the young carnies come when they're out of money.

I've been watching the carnie-czar all week. I have to say that this isn't the sort of man you'd see in the Wal-mart parking lot and think, "Aha! A carnie!" He's wrapped in some sort of strange dignity, and has avoided all of the huge carnie stereotypes: he has all of his teeth, he dresses well, he doesn't smell of cabbage...

At any rate...

Last night the regulars managed to jockey for some positions in the beer garden. So on one side, sat the regulars and on the other were the carnies. We were inside, playing our Friday night euchre game. Everything was peaceful, until...


The unmistakable sound of a beer bottle flying from the patio to land on the street caused us all to look up. I went out the front door. The beer garden is just to the right of the front door facing Fair Avenue. I immediately found the shattered remains of a purrburr bottle and turned to glare at the group of snickering carnies. And at the moment, the door to the bar opened. Out sailed the carnie czar. He bit off the end of a cigar and spit it precisely into the ash bucket. He nodded at me, and lit his cigar. The carnies fell into silence.

"You have one minute to clean up the glass, tip the bartender ten bucks each, and get back to the trailers," he growled. A ring of smoke rose around his head as he ostentatiously clicked the button on his watch. "Don't forget to clean up after yourselves."

It was less than a minute before the group of carnies were weaving back across the street, grumbling. The carnie czar nodded at me again and said, "Any of them give you any trouble, Celina, you just let me know."

Hmmm....oh, the power...


Friday, October 05, 2007

A Carnie-vore Pit

At last!

After months and months of referring to the 'mythical beer garden' that is the bar's response to the anti-smoking laws in Ohio, we finally have it! Yay! A place to serve alcohol--legally--where people can sit and smoke and drink. Our regulars were all so excited--

--and never got to sit on it.

The carnies immediately took it over. Now think about it: for MONTHS our regulars have whined and moaned and griped because they had to go stand outside (fifteen feet from the door no less) in all kinds of weather just to have a cigarette. And then, today, on the first day of having the mythical beer garden turn into reality, it's inundated with carnies.

I immediately started calling it the Carnie Pit. While the regulars stared glumly out the window, the carnies laughed, drank, and smoked to their hearts' content. Large tractor-trailers drove slowly by the front of the bar, taking the rides loaded on them to the fairgrounds, and honked at the cheerful morass of purrburr-swilling humanity whooping it up in the Carnie Pit. All that the long-awaited beer garden needed was a spittoon to make the picture complete.

Many grumbling plans were laid by the regulars, hoping to determine a way to claim the Carnie Pit for themselves tomorrow. I have a feeling, however, that their plans will be in vain.

So how do I score this? It's really not a loss for me, but it's definitely a carnie win.

Carnies -- 3
Celina -- 2
Regulars -- 0

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Chilly con carnie

So it's hot here. Despicably hot. The forecast calls for high 80s and low 90s for the next couple of days. I am personally not fond of hot weather--and particularly not fond of sweating while at work. So, despite the fact that it is not October, I turned on the air conditioning at the bar. It didn't take long for the bar to cool off.

It also didn't take long for the carnies to cool off. Within ten minutes, all of the carnies in the bar were shivering in the frigid 78 degree air of the bar, whereas I became quite comfortable. Now, the way that I look at it is that since I'm the one working, the temperature should be at a level that I am comfortable with. That's not too much to ask, right?


Apparently, most of the carnies hail from Florida. They LIKE the heat. They do NOT like any temperature under 85 degrees. Oh the bitching!

"Ain't you a little cold, ma'am?"

"No," I replied, restocking yet more purrburr in the cooler.

A few minutes later, a different carnie: "You got an extra coat back there?"

A coat? A COAT? Are you kidding me?

The only carnie that didn't seem to care was this one girl woh at first glance seemed very out of place. She was young and pretty, slender with all of her teeth--in other words, she didn't look like a carnie at all. Once she started trying to talk to me, however, I figured out fairly quickly why she was a carnie. She absolutely could not string two consecutive thoughts together. If we were talking about football, she started talking about her period. When we switched topics to baseball, she butted in with an observation about video games. Eventually, she went outside to smoke and another carnie beckoned me over. This lady was very nice, probably a little older than me, and I really liked her since she and her husband had run up a hundred-dollar bar tab in less than 2 hours.

"That girl's not all there," she confided, snickering.

"Oh, really?"

She laughed. "I hired and fired her last week. The very next day, she came and asked for a job." She killed off her double jack and coke. "She didn't even realize I was the same person. I hired her three times and fired her twice in the space of a week, and as far as she knows she worked for three different people."

"Holy shit." I really couldn't think of anything else to say.

"Yeah," the lady agreed. "I don't think I've ever met anyone stupider than this chick."

Just at the moment, the girl came back to the bar. Her boss took one look at her and commented, "If she ever has a kid, it'll probably have two heads."

The girl's vacant eyes fell on me. She said, "I think I want to wear my pink shorts tomorrow."

From behind, one of the old, toothless carnies yelled, "Do you think it could get any colder in here?"

And the girl said, "Some people eat dogs, you know."

I had to walk away. I hid in the corner and laughed helplessly. Then, I walked straight to the thermostat and turned the temperature down.

Carnies -- 2
Celina -- 2

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


So this blog entry I'm doing from the bar. It is reasonably tranquil--considering. Earlier this evening, however, it was not.

A lot of these carnies come back year after year. Tonight, I ran into one that gave me fits last year. You've heard me talk about zero to sixty drunks--the kind that go from sober to blotto in sixty seconds, right? Well this guy cracks into hyperspace. When he gets drunk, the entire state of Ohio is treated to a sonic boom.

So he's sitting at the bar, twirling an unlit cigarette between his fingers over and over like a baton of frustration. His eyes were narrowed meanly, staring at his Bud Light bottle. I was washing dishes when all of a sudden, he asked, "Are you the owner of this bar?"

"No," I replied.

"You just work here?"


"You should be fired."

At this, I looked up. "Oh really? Why is that?"

"You're not a people person."

I stared at him. Surely he wasn't serious.

"Oh, okay."

"Yeah, you're really a bitch."

Okay, that did it. I leaned over the bar and said confidentially, "Fortunately, I don't require your approval for anything I do."

Maybe I used too many big words. He appeared to be confused. "Whatever."

I went along my merry way, snickering. Less than thirty seconds later, he banged his beer bottle on the bar. "Your attitude really sucks! Who is your boss? I'm going to call him."

"Go ahead," was my tranquil reply.

"It's not like you can stop me."

"True point. But you should probably avoid pissing off the person who controls the beer. You're going to get very thirsty."

He threw out his hands and knocked his beer over. "Oh, so now you're mad at me because I told you like it is!"

"Nope," I replied. "I don't get mad. I don't have to. The beer is mine. You get no beer. Have I made myself clear? Now, have a nice evening. Why don't you run along and pour salt on some slugs you pusillanimous cretin."

A word of wisdom: carnies cannot decipher words like 'pusillanimous' or 'cretin'. Apparently their heads explode. My erstwhile opponent's reaction to my insults was to fall off his barstool while other carnies pointed and laughed.

Carnies -- 1
Celina -- 2

Carniecopia or Attack of the Carnies Part Two

Surprise, surprise, surprise. The bulk of the carnies are already here. Traditionally, business at the bar doesn't pick up until late this week. The fair doesn't start until Sunday, after all, and how long does it really take to set up a caramel corn trailer? So usually, it's only a trickle of carnies until Thursday or so--but not this year. Nope, this year we are blessed with a plethora of un-tardy carnies and they're already taking over the bar.

I didn't have to work yesterday, but a friend of ours was just hired as the new bartender so we decided to go keep him company on a slow Monday night . We figured we could watch football (wow the Bengals suck), have a few beers, and I could give him pointers over the bar as questions came up.

Imagine my surprise to find carnies three deep at the bar.

Not only were they drinking, but they were eating. A lot. Poor Josh was running his ass off cooking for a group of the unwashed masses from the RV camp across the street. I recognized a few of them from previous years. Some of them even remembered my name--or some form of it--and I guess I distracted them from their primary goal for the evening which was (in a nutshell) to get blasted.

There was a carnie lovers' spat at the end of the bar and an intervention in the middle of it. (You haven't seen funny until you see three drunk carnies trying to convince a more sober carnie that he has an alcohol problem.) Budweiser and Crown Royal flowed freely and through it all I sat back in a booth with a bottle of Rolling Rock and laughed. Every once in a while, Josh would glare at me (like when I started chantiong FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL! when he had the tvs on the tiebreaker MLB game) and I would just laugh harder.

But, karma always finds a way to kick you in the teeth. Tonight is my night to work at the bar...and there will be MORE of them. So, I've decided to take a collection of carnie videos over the next week so that I can share them with you.


Carnies - 1
Celina - 1

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Attack of the Carnies, part 1 or Purrburrs and Tooth Decay

So there are two rides set up already for the county fair.

I work at a little neighborhood bar called the Fairview Inn. There's a lot of tradition involved in the place--it was established the day Prohibition ended, before that it was an old-fashioned mom and pop grocery store, the coolers behind the bar are the original mahogany glass-front cabinets that held the perishables and 'the stick' that we bartenders use as a weapon of last (or in my case first) resort came from the cop who walked the beat on this street on the first legal drinking day. He'd used the billy club numerous times when busting the illegal still in the cellar, and thought that it would be an appropriate gift to the no-longer-in-danger-of-being-arrested-owner.

Yep. Decades of DNA.

At any rate, one of the charms of the Fairview Inn is the view of the fair. (Sorry--just had to do it) The fairgrounds are across the street. It's a meticulously preserved turn-of-the-century fairgrounds, complete with grandstands and livestock barns and fabulous little green cupolas atop whitewashed wooden buildings. Just behind the fairgrounds is 'Mount Pleasant.' Coming from a state with REAL mountains, this particular hunk of rock seems more like a hill to me than a mountain. But, *shrug* that's what the locals call it.

So work last night was very busy. Not only was there an Ohio State football game on TV but the carnies are starting to trickle in for this, their last scheduled stop of the season.

Now I can spot a carnie from a mile away. It's almost like the childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. A whole group of them came in at around 1 a.m.

How do I know they are carnies you ask?


First, the mullet. Not just guy mullets, mind you, but girl mullets.

Second, they always enter the bar like they're sneaking into a private club.

Third, I had to remind them ad nauseam that Ohio has banned smoking in all public places.

Fourth, significant dental issues en masse.

And fifth, they were wearing shirts with their company logo.

Let me recreate the scene for you:

The group stood in a huddle near the door, looking around with trepidation at the drunken Ohio State fans lurching about the room. After a moment's conference, they designated one poor soul to approach the bartender (who was cranky.)

"Miss, have you already called last call?"

*my internal dialogue---what an idiot! who in their right mind would call me a miss???*

"No, sir. We're open until 2:30. What can I get for you?"

"I need three purrburrs and a jack."

"Three what?" *my internal dialogue--I must not have heard that right.*


Now, as a cat lover I get a strange mental picture when confronted by the term 'purrburr.' What is a purrburr? How does one find a purrburr? Does a purrburr hurt? And, even beyond that, is it possible for a bar to provide a purrburr? I was mightily confused.

"Um...a purrburr? Is that a shot?" *my internal dialogue--I'll just make something up. They'll never know*

The carnie laughed at me. I noticed when he did so that he was missing a significant number of teeth. "A purrburr is a beer."

A beer. I pride myself on being fairly up-to-date on the latest ale trends. This was totally new to me. So, I made a judgement call.

"Sir, I don't think we have Purrburr beer." *my internal dialogue--is it still a freaking full moon or something?*

The carnie lifted one long arm and pointed at the antique glass-front coolers with a grease-stained finger. "What are you talking about? There's a whole row of them right there."

When I turned to see what he was staring at, I nearly lost it. A 'purrbuur' is a Pabst Blue Ribbon, or, as people with full sets of teeth pronounce it--pee bee are. I pulled out the three beers meekly and then nearly ran for the bottle of Jack Daniels. If I were incorrect and the 'jack' he wanted wasn't whiskey, I'd have to run out to the car and get the tire jack out of the trunk.

*my internal dialogue--damn all carnies!*

Carnies 1, Celina 0.

But it ain't over yet. I'll win this war--I swear it!

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Oh my gosh! It's THAT time of year again.

Yep. The carnies are coming.

Last year, you guys got to hear a lot about the carnies. Carnies are probably the only fringe benefit involved at the bar where I work, which is conveniently located across the street from the city Fairgrounds. (hence the name--the Fairview) Last year, the onslaught of the carnies was chronicled in detail by me and if you look at the post for October, 2006 you can see how the battles went.

The fair in Lancaster is the last fair of the year. Most of the carnies leave here and go off to their winter bases in Florida, their campers bouncing behind their trunks. But since this IS the last county fair we get the creme de la creme of the carnies. It's a very busy week.

The fair starts October 7. Last night I ran by the bar to drop a few things off and noticed THAT THE FIRST CARNIES ARE ALREADY HERE.

What is this? Some sort of insidious sneak attack? I have the feeling that the carnies are plotting against me. The necklace of garlic cloves seemed to work last year; maybe this year I should try something stronger. Oh, well. The busiest week of the year at the Fairview is a week away. Monday and Tuesday of this week will see most of the carnies showing up. And in the end, I'm not sure which is scarier: the carnies or the people of the area who come to the Fairview to WATCH the carnies like they're in some sort of zoo.

I think I like the carnies better.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mscelina's Lexicon of Rules For Young Writers

I've been running into a lot of young writers on the web lately and I've noticed an interesting trend. Back when I was a kid...

okay. shut up. Quit snickering.

... I didn't know of ANY people my age who locked themselves in their rooms to write. My writing was always kind of hush-hush (unless it was a contest) because the 'weird' label is one a high school girl doesn't want to attract. While all of the other kids were running the streets and wreaking havoc, I was pounding away on an old manual typewriter churning out horrible stories and dreaming of becoming a 'real' author.

Now it's not so unusual to find kids who are already published before they even go to college. What in the heck happened? Neither of my girls are huge on writing, although they both are voracious readers so I can't attribute this trend to some sort of strange contagion. I personally know of a fourteen year old who is giving out grammar advice on a major writers' forum.

So when did writing become cool?

Once upon a time, the only kids that wrote poetry with Goth kids who transcribed their social alienation into escapist art. I was an oddity for producing a full-length manuscript at 17 and a full-length play at 22. I mean, sure--I can see getting a short story or a poem published in a literary magazine run by an educational organization but these kids are ambitious and driven and are pushing themselves to succeed despite all of the conventional wisdom that tells them they are too young.

So, in honor of that, welcome to mscelina's lexicon of rules for young writers.

(1) Those people that tell you you're too young are WRONG. You're not too young.

(2) However, there is a lot of truth to the concept that you need life experiences in order to write compelling, realistic fiction. Live a lot. By that, I mean that a good writer is a good observer. You may not have experienced enough in your day-to-day life to write about a realistic situation BUT if you are a good observer you can learn a lot. For example: the cafeteria lady is obviously having a bad day. How do you know? Her eyes are red-rimmed, she's slamming food onto the tray, she's not maintaining eye contact with anyone. What else do you see about her? What other clues can you find to let you know how she's feeling?

(3) You can never read too much. And you know all those classics of literature they force you to read in English class? DO NOT get the Cliff's notes. READ them. Regardless of how boring they are (and I believe you they are--I still can't abide Hemingway) they will teach you as much or more about the inner workings of a story, about how to develop a character, and how to resolve conflicts. Reading good books--and lots of them--is your training ground.

(4) Grammar is your friend. Yep, all those pesky dangling participles and split infinitives are a pain in the wazoo, but do you want to end up like me? I'm still fighting my comma addiction. Don't let grammar slip through your fingertips. JUST SAY NO.

(5) Read your stories aloud. You'd be surprized how much you can find out about your writing just by HEARING it.

(6) So your friends think you're weird for writing? Screw 'em.

(7) Learn to take criticism. One of the natures of this beastly business is that everyone is a critic--and everyone gets criticized. Accept the fact that there are people who know a hell of a lot more than you and consider what they tell you. And yes...I have to remind myself of this one every day. This piece of advice works for adult writers as well as it does for young ones.

(8) Get used to rejection. We ALL get rejected. Some of us get rejected more than others. It's not get you. Every rejection, however, is a stepping stone on the path to acceptance. Once you start getting personalized rejection letters you'll know you're getting close.

(9) There's no such thing as a perfect first draft. It doesn't matter who are you, you have to rewrite. This is the one that stalled me out for over a decade. And your primary editor is YOU. Don't rely on other people to do that for you. Critique boards are nice, but you should already have rewritten anything you submit to a crit board once or twice before you allow anyone else to look at it.

(10) Omniscience is boring--and irritating. Especially self-proclaimed omniscience. Writing is a business as much as it is a craft. You DON'T know everything. You actually don't know anything. Accept that and move on. Research everything. Ask questions. Learn--as all writers learn--and store that knowledge to help you along the path.

(11) And finally, a writer's life is a lonely life. For a portion of each day, you must immerse yourself in a world that no one else can share. Solitude is your friend. Make it your ally as well.

Personally, I'm very encouraged by the sheer volume of young writers I'm running into. I think it's a great trend, particularly in a world where the arts are being downplayed in favor of the sciences. Keep writing--write something every day--and keep dreaming those great dreams. Young writers now have tools available to them that a generation earlier would have killed for. It's a world where reading is once again fashionable for our adolescents (oh thankyouthankyouthankyou JK Rowling!) and as a result writing is as well. Don't get discouraged.

Oh, and go out and buy my book. Just kidding. It was the only way I could think of to insert another shameless plug for The Reckoning of Asphodel (available now at without looking like an idiot. *grin*


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Another Day of Internet Activity

Back on the promo bandwagon again! It's not as if I have anything else to do, save for lying here and staring at the ceiling or watching REALLY bad TV. The husband is out of town on a business trip, the brat is 'at work'...or whatever qualifies as that in this day and age...and it's just me, the cats, and Google search.

If I make it through all this and actually gain some measure of success, I'm going to write a book for the rest of you debut writers and make my fortune. Then I can buy a house in the woods and kill some more Elves.

That is the goal, after all.

I did start a new story last night. Originally, I thought it was going to be a short story but now it's starting to look like *SHOCK!* another novel. *sigh* Why can't I write SHORT for god's sake? Is it because as I go along, I keep jotting down more plot information and then realize I can't possibly implement all of it under 90K words? And I'll thank you all not to mention the words 'verbose', 'windy', or 'idiot' thank you very much.

What makes this new story interesting is that it has all the hallmarks of dark urban fantasy which is normally NOT my forte. We shall see if I can get rolling on it.

Asphodel 2 rewrites are over halfway done. I expect to have them finished within two weeks, which will help me reach my self-proclaimed deadline. Darkshifters is stalled--I have to decide the final culmination of the plot. My original intention won't work.


Oh well! Back to the grind! If you get a minute, go check out Fantasy Book Spot. The owner Damon left a very nice comment on my previous post and his website is kick-ass. There are a lot of great reviews and the site is well-organized and fun to cruise around. Good forums too.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Trolling, trolling, trolling...

Okay, since my latest little procedure on my back will keep me prone for three days, I've been spending my time scouring the web for fantasy novel review sites.

Do you know how annoying that is?

Any time I find one, I have to research it. Is it a scam site? How are their reviews? Are they are FABULOUS books or all they all HORRIBLE books? Which ones carry crediblity? Which ones are a front for people looking to resell ARCs or e-books after they 'review' your novel?

How irritating! I've probably looked at well over two hundred sites and have only submitted Asphodel to fifteen of them. Granted, some of them don't accept e-pubs or small press. Almost all of them have expressed a serioius disdain for vanity published or PODs. And a few don't even have guidelines for submission.

Anyone out there have any ideas? Suggestions? Valium? *anybody want to write me a nice raving little plug that I can use instead?*

I'm hoping that eventually this will all pay off. I already received one review request and my fingers are getting crossed. Now I'll see if I can get ANY of my medicine to work so I can get some sleep.

Another odd note: I was so distracted (euphemism for drugged with anesthesia) that I watched Manchester United play Chelsea in soccer (sorry, Brits--football) this afternoon. Interesting game.

But I still like American football better. Oh well! Back to trolling.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wow, I missed you guys!

So, my laptop blew up.

This is the second one in a year that bit the big one on me, but THIS one was under warranty. So I take it and its blue crash screen that read "IRQL not equal" to the nearest service provider. He kept it a week and returned it 'running just fine.'

Until I was on the internet for ten minutes and it crashed again. With the same IRQL message. So, back it went.

I think Toshiba will be buying my a new laptop. *sigh*

At any rate, Asphodel was doing great in sales for a while. It did hit number one at Fictionwise, and how cool is it to be able to say "number one bestseller in Fantasy at!"

You're right, way cool. My second wave of promotion starts this week so we'll see how that goes.

Tomorrow I'm chatting all day at LoveRomances E-Cafe. The owner, Dawn Roberto, is a great friend of mine and a fabulous writer in her own right. It should be fun, and I should be giving some stuff away....hmmm.....

I'll blog more later. You guys have fun.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Annoyance reigns in Celinaland...tempered with a little joyous shock

Okay, so my darn laptop bit it. I have a feeling that the brat got ahold of it and downloaded something and gave it a naaaaaaaasty trojan or something, because I've had to remove everything from the hard drive and reinstall Windows. Actually, I've had to TRY to reinstall Windows. It hasn't been overly successful yet.

I may just ground her until she's thirty.

I've just come off a stretch where I worked 9 of 11 days at the bar. My feet look like pork roasts with sausages stuck on the end. Normally, I'd be lying on the couch and blogging from my laptop but not today--oh no. Today I'm sitting upright and scowling at the desktop. Nice. It's like I have a migraine in my feet. My pain management specialist (high-falutin' talk for the dude who prescribes me medication for my back) is annoyed with me for working period. Of course, he's never annoyed when said job pays his bill. *grin* Oh well, more percocet for me.

In other news, Asphodel has hit number two on the bestseller list at Fictionwise in fantasy. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I'm just a leetle stunned. I hope it keeps rolling along. Now that I have more time, I'll be able to pop out some more publicity *groan* and hopefully crank it up a bit.

And I have a single reader rating to date. Said anonymous reader rated Asphodel as *great*.


Just wow.

Off to work on the laptop some more. I'll post again later.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Reckoning of Asphodel is Out!!!


I am now a published novelist. My debut novel, The Reckoning of Asphodel is available now at n Mountain Press.

Breathe, Celina...breathe.


I'm not even certain what to do. Since I just got off work at the bar, I'm certain that one of the things I'll be doing very soon is sleeping. But, I was so excited to get home and find out that my book was available now that I just had to blog about it..and update my website...and email all my friends...and well, just bask in it.

It's a culmination for me, a justification that I've found my niche in the world. I will never be a Stephen King or JK Rowling, but just the fact that a story I created is being shared by people I will never meet is an exhilarating rush.

I love it. *grin* Hopefully, some of you will love it too.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Don't Forget the Contest!

There's only a couple more days to enter my contest for The Reckoning of Asphodel! Details are to the side. And, if you like, you can catch the prologue and first chapter LIVE on my website Shoot The Muse!

The Counter Keeps Moving...

Four days, one hour, ten minutes and twenty seconds.




Wow. My little counter buzzes merrily away and I'm left to wonder: have I done all that I need to? Somehow I think I forgot something important. If I could figure out what it is, I could get that done and go back to my compulsive counter watching.

Four days, one hour, eight minutes and forty-two seconds.



Maybe I should check the manuscript again? Make sure there are no stupid typos? No, it's probably too late for that. I think I'll go back to rewrites on book two...maybe that will settle me.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Fate Worse Than Death

So I had to make an emergency trip home to Tennessee. Long story, not worth getting into here, but let's just say that I was NOT looking forward to it. I got off work at the bar at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and immediately hopped into the car with my two teenaged daughters for a quick trip across three states.

You know, after a ten hour bar shift, seven hours in the car is torture on a woman with a bad back. Let's just say that the Elves had their revenge. I can never go to sleep immediately after I get off work, and by the time I could have dozed off I was too worried about the teenager driving the car to even consider anything other than staying awake. Bad music aside (I was allowed no input... *pout*) there's nothing worse than driving through Kentucky as the sun comes up. First off, it's so BRIGHT. Ick. Being a nocturnal beast, the initial glare of sunlight bouncing over the horizon made me feel like Dracula in a tanning bed.

Second off, truckers are assholes. Particularly at 5 in the morning.

Third off, sleep deprivation and chain smoking combi to make someone on medication extremely queasy.

At any rate, we arrived in my hometown at about 9:30. I had an appointment at 11, and after that I figured that we would relax for the rest of the day, get a good night's sleep, and drive back on Wednesday.

Until the phone call, that is. All of a sudden, we had to be back in Ohio TODAY at noon. When did we discover this? Ten p.m. last night. So we grabbed a few hours of sleep and got back on the road at 3 a.m. this morning.

ARE YOU SERIOUS? Jesus H. Christ! Two overnight trips on consecutive nights without the benefit of a day of recovery? MORE 98 Degrees blasting over the speakers? Even MORE truckers switching lanes without looking for the car?


I'm tired. I'm not leaving the house for two days at least. Period.