Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nightshade Winner!

Here in Myrtle Beach for the South Carolina Writers Workshop, Mer Bear and I finally got a chance to read entries for the Nightshade contest!

They were fantastic - and some put quite a clever twist on the words, especially the Krokolian Rage.

Best Werewolf-y Entry:
Marianna 3:16 pm

Best Justification of How Much Money I Spent on My Last Haircut:
Melissa Peagler 8:54 pm

Best Quotes:
"A delusional Twilight-fan stabbed her with a wooden stake because of her body glitter and red hair. She screamed, “I did it for Edward!” when they arrested her." BPatterson 3:40 pm
"Even as her traitorous blood raced deafeningly in her veins..." Leigh 11:45 pm
"While he waxed zoologically, I finished my pastry." Mesmerix 4:23 pm

Best Rhymes:
Erin B 6:24 pm

Best "Hick" Voice:
taratyler 10:23 am

Best Use of "..."
Kulsuma 2:44 pm

Runner Up (Loved the ending imagery):
ShelleyB 11:53 pm

Which brings us down to the final three...


3rd Place - Best Trigger for the Krokolian Rage:
"Who ate all the Häagen-Dazs?!"
Sarah W 5:21 pm

2nd Place - Best YA Voice:
My supplier, Sylvia, melted into the cold cement wall of our school. Except for her nails purposely filed to look like dragon claws -long and sharp-she could have been anyone’s sister.
“A little something new to make your hormones hum,” she said, discreetly shoving a small vile of thick blood into my locker. “Just in. It’s called Krokolian Rage. Guaranteed to make you sing to the moon.”
I smelled her curse of brotherly love. “Family first?”
“Always, mon frère, always,” she said, blowing me a kiss and drifting into the crowded hallway.
Bettelynn 10:40 am

1st Place and WINNER of Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Germaine (who had two great entries) 2:40 am

Norma slouched low in her seat. “God, they’re just so awful.”

“You want another drink?” Peggy asked.

“No.” Norma massaged her temples. “My head hurts.”

“You’re dripping on the table.”

“What?”

Peggy pointed to the blood. “Here,” she said, handing Norma a cocktail napkin.

Norma cursed, and started dabbing at her ears. “Sometimes they bleed.”

“Bobby’s here. He took me to see Moonraker at the—hey! ” Peggy grabbed Norma’s hand. “Take it easy. Don’t claw at them.”

“They hurt. What’s this band called anyway?”

“Krokolian Rage.”

“Like ‘raging hormones?’”

“No, like ‘they’re all the rage.’”

“I’ll have that drink now.”

***

Congrats to everyone.  I loved reading these!  Germaine, send me an email with your address and I'll happily send you a copy of Nightshade.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Operation: Vampire in the Sun

Southerners are viscious. There is an entire culture dedicated to disguising this and if you live in the South, you learn to navigate. But it’s been a long time since I had to do so…and there are things you forget. Which is unfortunate, because I am in SOUTH Carolina. Attending the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop, watching Suzie Townsend rock the world. It is very different from living in New York City. As Diana Fox so elequently put it, it's like a vampire walking into the sun and starting to sizzle. It's just clear you're out of your element. I’d forgotten so much, but it’s coming back rapidly and I would be remiss if I didn’t pass this along. I can’t have any more blood on my hands. The below are some guidelines for surviving.

1. Move slowly.

  • You’re going to feel exposed and vulnerable. All that flat, “open” space. No skyscrapers. Your weak spots are visible from effing Russia without some skyscrapers running interference. Ignore that. Don’t run. No sudden movements. The Russians are not your concern right now, and southerners, your current risk, consider economy of movement an insult of the highest order. Languish. Walk slowly. Speak slowly. Pretend you’re some sort of royalty; lord knows everyone else does.

2. Make Eye Contact

  • I know. This sounds like a recipe for death. In the natural world, making eye contact is a sign of aggression. In New York, this sort of crazy never happens. It’s code for “Hey, let’s rumble.” But that’s because New York is a part of the natural world. You’re in the south, my friend. I tried to ignore the eye-contact-making tendencies for as long as possible, but after the tenth person looked me in the eye and smiled (read: bared her teeth), I snapped. I bared mine right back and did her one better: I snarled. It was only after the woman burst into tears for the rest of the elevator ride that I realized I may have miscalculated. She shouldn’t have cornered me like that.

3. Be friendly

  • Come to find out, smiling is different than baring one’s teeth. It’s important not to confuse the two and to realize that, in fact, people in the south consider it threatening if you don’t smile at them. My recommendation, one I’m still experimenting with to figure out all the angles, is just to go with it. Better not to draw attention to yourself when in hostile territory. The risk, however, is that you may end up in the terrifying situation where you can’t extricate yourself. Once a southerner gets their hooks into you, you’re essentially in the grips of a boa constrictor. It could be a slow, crushing death or you could play dead and escape.
  • Should it come to that, your “play dead” option is to make “small talk.” Stall. Keep talking. It’s like a trance they go into, and it’s the only way to buy time before their blood lust surfaces.
  • Suggested small talk topics:
    1. Food allergies
    2. Weather
    3. Politics*
  • 4. Religion*
    5. Family scandals*

*These have particularly high time-purchasing power.

4. When going through a door, let the southerner get behind you.

  • Again, it sounds like a recipe for death. Who would willingly let an opponent out of their sight? Who would give an enemy a clear tackle? But go with me on this. If you argue this point, you will literally die before you emerge from the conflict. If a southerner says “Go ahead,” you better go. Any other response will trigger a long string of “No, I insist.” and “No, YOU go ahead, really.” Years later, you will starve to death.

5. Foster malice in your heart.

  • Even as you’re smiling, greeting people, and sauntering along, know that everyone is judging you. Your makeup, clothes, haircut, diction, and lineage. This is their secret, my friends. Southern gentility seems forced because it is. It’s just there to hide an insatiable bloodlust that, as soon as you forget it’s there, will have your throat on the floor.

Fear not. You know the truth, and information is the most powerful weapon you could possibly possess. I have every confidence. Go with God.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nightshade Writing Contest

A couple months ago, I read Nightshade by Andrea Cremer.  And I'd heard good things.  She and the amazingly talented author of Personal Demons, the one and only Lisa Desrochers, are critique partners.  My intention when I opened Nightshade was to read a chapter before bed.

Three hours later, I finished the book (with a gasp!) and felt addicted.

While other teenage girls daydream about boys, Calla Tor imagines ripping out her enemies’ throats. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. Calla was born a warrior and on her eighteenth-birthday she’ll become the alpha female of the next generation of Guardian wolves. But Calla’s predestined path veers off course the moment she saves the life of a wayward hiker, a boy her own age. This human boy’s secret will turn the young pack's world upside down and forever alter the outcome of the centuries-old Witches' War that surrounds them all.

Now, how can you get your hands on a copy? You must win a writing contest! (hey, these are fun).

Here's what you've have to do.

Write a story, one hundred words or fewer, using these words:

Moon
Hormones
Claws
Blood
Curse

Bonus points if you can include this phrase: "Krokolian Rage."

Contest opens NOW, and runs through midnight Wednesday, October 20th. Post your entry in the comments section.

Enter as many times as you want.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Writing No Nos

Check out Georgia McBride's post on common mistakes Newbie Writers should watch out for. 

Thanks to Carey for the link!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Comedy and Errors


The 2010 Man Booker awards were announced yesterday! The winner was THE FINKLER QUESTION, by Howard Jacobson (braVO!). I haven’t read Mr. Jacobson, but I assure you his books are already ordered.

One repeated note in the reports on Mr. Jacobson’s win was that his novel is “the first unashamedly comic novel to win the Man Booker prize in its 42-year history.” The statement makes an interesting point: there is an impulse to delineate between the comic and the literary. As if something’s being comedic precludes it from also having literary merit. Well, poo-poo, misguided literary snobs. Comedic just won the Booker.

Mr. Jacobson discussed this compulsive distinction much more eloquently in the Guardian last Saturday. One of the effects of this article was to make me feel terribly illiterate (consider yourself warned). But it also got me thinking. In the article, Mr. Jacobson argues that all novels are comic. That, in fact, a novel without comedy is “not doing its job.”

There, Mr. Jacobson lost me. I don’t think that the modifier “comedic” in front of “novel” is always misplaced. The novel is a wonderfully, deeply complex art form, and descriptors like “comedic” and “literary,” while reductive, are the only way we can communicate about them to people who haven’t read them.

But more than that, there are a huge number of novels that contain comedic moments but are not comedic novels. As in, they’re not characterized by the comedy. Room, another Booker short-lister and one of my favorites, is one of these. Anytime you’re stuck in a small space with a 5-year-old, there’s bound to be some humor. But I wouldn’t call a novel about a woman kidnapped and held against her will with her son comedic. And it was just as I was about to start pontificating to poor Suzie that I came across this in Mr. Jacobson’s article:

“…the comic novel is a brief licence for…abandon – deadly serious at the last because we are a frightening species when we are released into our own custody. And because the truth hurts.” (sic)

Aaaannnd we reconverge (phew). I think the virtue of the comic in a novel is somewhere in the above statement rather than being some intrinsic piece of everything that’s not a full-on Greek tragedy. “Comic relief” is different than “comedy.” It’s a much-needed break in the unbearable sadness of watching someone suffer to whom, if the novel is doing its job, you’re very, very close. But it’s hard to justify characterizing the novel by what it does in the breaks, the exceptions to the rule. Books are not always doing comedy. Not even most of the time.

One of the books Mr. Jacobson refers to as comedic is the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom (a book, incidentally, that I read on recommendation from a professor whom I subsequently decided required medication in the worst way). Mr. Jacobson says that “someone” is laughing at the end of that book. I disagree. Marquis de Sade is not comedy. It’s absurd, terrifying, and it’s outrageous.

Mr. Jacobson points out that, historically, the novel is outrageous-- he calls it "hyperbolic"--as is comedy. And if “hyperbole is the soul of comedy,” then Sodom is comedic. I’d say, though, that a 120-day murderous rampage is hyperbolic without being comedic. Hyperbole may be the soul of comedy, but that’s only a piece of a whole. If there’s comedy in Sodom, it’s most certainly an (incredibly dim and obscure) exception to the rule.

Comedic elements are a tool. They are used to direct the reader because comedy, even more so when juxtaposed against tragedy, is attractive. A character can be despicable but, give him a couple jokes and, dadgummit, we sort of like him despite ourselves. And an author that knows how to use comedic signposts is leading us somewhere that will reveal something. In the midst of tragedy, throwing in a joke is a life preserver. It gives us a break so that we have the endurance to move deeper into the story, into the characters.

But books can also challenge us and speak eloquently without comedy. Without pulling punches, without the juxtaposition. For me, comedy is always a welcome element if used well (let’s not forget it’s reputed to be most difficult to execute), and I’m glad that comedy is everywhere, in life and in books. But I am surprised and touched by the other tools used by the writers I love, too.





Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Flood Relief Part 2

Regie Cruz contacted me recently about The Pakistan Flood Relief Fund auction.  Here are the details!

Most of you have heard that over 10 million children have been affected by the flood and that over one fifth of the country (the size of Italy), was submerged in water. So far, they are still in need of help. If we don't help those in Pakistan, they will have to turn to terrorist groups (under the facade of charity organizations) such as the one that lead the Mumbai 2008 attack. So many lives have already been negatively affected or lost, so let's try to do our part as GLOBAL citizens and try to help them. By bidding in an auction, you are not only getting something great, but you're also helping out the Pakistanis in need. So let's help out!

The Pakistan Flood Relief Fund auction will be held from October 10 onwards. There are loads of amazing auctions that have been (and will be) posted! There are going to be ARCs, autographed books, critiques, etc.! So come join in the fun! Everything will be donated in a LUMP SUM here. 

You can see the full list of auctions here which will be updated regularly as more posts go up! 

If you need a laugh

Check out these romance covers with re-imagined titles.

This one's my favorite.


And thanks to Sara for the link!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Comic Con!



This weekend was NY Comic Con.  Which means it was fabulous.


Publishers were set up at their booths, most of them advertising upcoming and current titles.  Like this one:


Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers

People played video games.


The Ugly Dolls were there.


And I was seduced by the Ugly Corn.


This guy was there too.


The Mer Bear was sitting in her chair in the shark's lair, but I brought her back a souvenir.



Sunday, October 10, 2010

Confession: Gettin my Geek on

This post is late. In fact, all of us Suite 500 gals had one of those weeks that was Just. Crazy.
But in a good way. Especially good for one of us ;-)


Wow.

We attended last year as well for The Fellowship of the Ring. And we'll definitely be there next year for Return of the King. Because one thing all of us gals (plus a few other pub friends) have in common is TOTAL nerdaliciousness when it comes to Tolkien.

I can't even begin to explain how cool it is to be in an audience of over 5000 peoples all laughing at the same parts, cheering together, and quoting the same lines. Much love for elves, dwarves, hobbits and man everywhere.

Confession: Faramir is my favorite Tolkien character ever created.

So the show was so good that I had to go home and pop in Return of the King anyway. Just. Couldn't. Wait.

Suzie will be posting about another Geeky Love we all share tomorrow: Comic Con!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Joanna hearts Shel Silverstein 4Eva!

I'm jumping in on the banned books discussion to bring up one of my favorite authors of all time...Mr. Mug Shot himself (have you ever SEEN his author photo? ::shivers::)...Mr. Shel Silverstein.

Everyone has brought up a LOT of great books to discuss during Banned Books Week, but I haven't seen much on A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC. I think it's easy to forget the controversy here because it doesn't contain the obvious: sex, drugs, cursing, etc.

Well my friends...even Shel couldn't avoid the Stamp of Disapproval.

Apparently the poem "How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes" encouraged bad behavior according to parents and teachers. And "Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony"...well, Shel even has a note to parents at the end here:

"This is a good story
To read to your folks
When they won't buy
You something you want."

Just so you know, it's about a little girl named Abigail who wanted a pony. When her parents refused her the pony, she swore that if she didn't get that pony, she'd die. Her parents scoffed at that. And then she died.

....

.......

..........

Hahahahaha! Go on, admit it. That's funny! It's so ridiculous and morbid but mostly ridiculous that it's really, really funny! And I remember loving this stuff when I was a kid. I *knew* it wasn't truly possible, but it didn't stop me from laughing.

And let's not forget the ever-controversial rear-end illustration in his poem "Spelling Bee." Go on. Pick up your copy and flip to page 81. Hilarious, right?

The point is that Shel Silverstein made learning FUN. He wrote in a way that made kids want to read on their own, to pronounce the big words he used, to laugh. I, for one, would be a very different person than I am today without author's like Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl (whose James and the Giant Peach was also banned).

Thank you, Mr. Silverstein.
For everything you've written.
If it weren't for you,
in books, I'd not be smitten.

Hey...that's GOLD there people. GOLD.

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?