Green's Hill-Amy Lane's Home - News

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Funny Little Things

Just bizarre little stuff going on right now. I'm trying to finish a story by tomorrow--it was supposed to be a little novella, but weird stuff got in the way:

*Took the kids to see The Smurfs on Friday--it was fun, but I invited the neighbor's kids too. Fun, but nuts. On a good note, apparently Goddess approves of fun but nuts--twenty years I've gone to that theatre, and I've NEVER gotten the parking spot close to the front next to the tree. It was a hundred and two on Friday--that tree was AWESOME!

* Mate went out last night with his friends. I was invited (if I wanted to drive) but, well, I thought I had too much work to do. (Spent the entire evening as a barcalounger while the little kids got in snuggles. Go figure.) Anyway, our conversation went like this:

Mate: It's okay if you don't want to go. I WILL be okay without you.

Me: *chin quiver* Okay. *lip wobble* If THAT'S how you feel... *checks self in the reality mirror* Nope. Nope--you know what--I'm not going to do that. This is fine. You'll be fine, you'll sleep it off at your friend's hotel, and I'll get some other stuff done.

Mate: Good, because I was wondering how I could cheat on that Kobiyashi Maru.

(This is a Star Trek joke--Trekkies, please check with non-Trekkies to make sure they get the many layers of irony that this reference gives us.)

* Got some fan-knitting from a VERY nice man named John. His husband spins, John knits, and this scarf is two different skeins kettle dyed. I'm tickled to death--I've already posted it on Facebook and I'm not joking when I say it's as soft as a kitten's ass, or that John set out to (in his words) knit the gayest scarf known to man. I love it. I'm going to wear it from November to April nonstop.

* Am currently designing a pair of socks to go with the Super Sock Man story posted on If they don't suck and I can get a test knitter to help with the directions, it may get posted with the finished novella. Wow. I very well could become the Debbie Macomber of m/m romance. Wouldn't that be fucking BIZARRE?

* Will be getting ready to go on a semi-vacation with mate next week. He'll be attending a conference (on his own dime--he REALLY wanted to go!) and I will be hanging out in Vancouver, visiting yarn shops, walking around and generally doing the Yarn Harlot goes traveling thing. I'm looking forward to it. That, and he and his buddies are planning to hit the pubs after hours, and they're fun people.

*Mate was grooming this morning and he came out of the bathroom going, "What the hell is this?" He had a giant eyebrow hair going in exactly the opposite direction than the rest of them. When I was done shrieking with laughter like a five-year-old I told him that it hadn't looked like that when I picked him up that morning--odds were pretty good he hadn't gone out with friends wearing what looked like a deranged caterpillar's erection over his left eye.

* I was trying SO hard to work last night. It didn't work, but I did get proof that our cat is possessed by demons. You always knew this was true, but proof is nice.

Anyway, that's about all. Except for the worry doll-- Chicken has been making them for Squish with some yarn I gave her. Those things turn out soooo much better with fine wool than they do with acrylic. Or I could be biased. Sometime next week, I'm going to talk the HELL out of Alpha--because it really needs it's own post:-)

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Okay-- forgive me-- I've got my cheezy metaphor of the day, and I'm going to run with it.

When I was in high school/junior high, we lived in the same place my parents live now--it's semi-rural, and my closest friends lived 4 and 4 1/2 miles away, respectively. My best friend was my bike--first a three speed girl's bike, that got me a lot of grief even though it was my first brand new bike EVER, and later, a hand-made bike that looked like a ten-speed but was really just salvaged parts my dad put together and then pinstriped with a flame motif. (I am not shitting about the pinstriping. As a kid, I was not impressed. As an adult, I'm wondering how my head got so far up my ass to not be impressed.)

Anyway, these bikes were my FRIENDS, and in the summer, the only way I could visit my FRIENDS--I even had babysitting jobs that I rode to on my FRIEND the bike, in the blistering, sometimes muggy, heat of the summer.

Now heat is an interesting perception. There was no such thing as a spare-the-air day, or an air-quality index. My parents thought (still think) air conditioners were for sissies, and there was no gym coach telling you to hydrate, goddammit, or your spleen would fall out. Your SPF was the shirt you chose to wear, and if you were smart you ripped the sleeves and the neck out of an old t-shirt so you didn't sweat as much. A sunburn was the mark of a summer well spent. Nobody gave a shit about the actual temperature-- fucking hot was fucking hot--or, thanks to the Samurai, it was ALL hotter than Satan's taint on a barbecue... ride your bike and get the hell over it, right?

I just knew sometimes it was more fucking miserable on the dusty backroads than others--and sometimes that seemed to get worse in different places.

You'd be riding along, and WHOOMP! A big vacuum would replace your oxygen for a steaming wet rag, and breathing would become a challenge you hadn't imagined when you woke up sweating that morning.

And explaining this to people just made you feel like a big fat goober. "It's hotter in that one place in the road, you know?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about--are you making up another story? Maybe there's a rip in the space time continuum there, you think?" *insert disbelieving laughter here*

Anyway--it didn't leave scars and it didn't bother me forever, but about ten years ago, we got the crapmobile, and it's got this nifty little gadget up above the dashboard. In addition to telling you "Hey, dumbass, you've got two miles left before your car sputters and dies because you didn't put gas in the tank!" it also tells you what temperature it is.

Now I've put some mileage on that thing--and I've put a lot of it on the same city streets throughout the last ten years, and I can tell you something weird.

You know those hot spots I used to imagine on my bike as a kid?

They really fucking exist.

No lie. I'll be driving along, and on one specific hill, (the corner of Madison and Manzanita, for anyone local) the temperature is damned near five degrees hotter than anywhere else in the area. And there are other hot spots, and some that are cooler, and my neighborhood is about five degrees cooler than the nearby Greenback and San Juan/Sylvan intersection--but that's no consolation to anyone walking from, say, our house to the Safeway on that corner.

So what's my point?

I don't know what causes them--sometimes I think it's that they're a little higher with a little less foliage to cool them down, or sometimes, I think there's a stream or a wet field nearby to up the humidity and make the thermometer go a little higher. I don't know what causes them, I don't have an actual map to them--but now, I have PROOF THAT THEY EXIST.

So, you know those times when you're feeling just grump-funky, and you snarl at everyone and you're totally pissed off and you don't know why? Well, think about it. There are probably perfectly reasonable, rational explanations for how pissed off you are--you just don't know what they are yet. Thinking back on some past moments in my work history, I have specific memories of being SUPREMELY unhappy with the people I worked with--I mean, not once but TWICE I had my schedule completely reworked to my inconvenience because I had maternity leave coming and SOMEONE was unhappy to be taking orders from my uterus. And no matter how much people tried to convince me that there was no way around this, I would be SERIOUSLY pissed off for a while. Now that I've got some space from that situation, I realize that I SHOULD HAVE BEEN pissed off. In fact, I should have been A LOT MORE pissed off than I was--I just kept telling myself that it was my imagination.

Like a hotspot in the road.

That I just proved really exists.

So I'm going to keep that in mind. Telling myself a hotspot doesn't exist just makes me madder. Acknowledging that it DOES exist even if I don't understand the causes of it at least assures me that I'm not crazy.

And it's VERY VERY VERY possible that I just may be right.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Annnnd... they're home.

Yeah, I know-- seems quick, doesn't it?

Me too. Didn't stop me from worrying a little every day, and being REALLY grateful nothing major went down, but my mom says they had a blast--and I'm pleased.

And what did I do with my time off?

Mate and I saw two movies-- Larry Crowne (it was sweet) and Captain America (awesome--it probably won't get enough attention this summer, but I really loved it.) We watched about seven hours of dvr'd True Blood and In Plain Sight. And we went to a steakhouse and ate big slabs of tasty cow.

And we REALLY enjoyed each other's company--including uninterrupted conversations that we giggled at like second graders and that only we would get.

And the best part? The children are expected to sleep for two days after all of that exhausting fun.

Did I mention it was a win/win situation?

*happy sigh*

Really. There's so few of those.

And on the writing front? Well, I got nearly 5K done on Ryan and Scott's little Christmas adventure, and I started... well, I can't really tell you what it is, and I can't even promise that it will be published--but it obviously meant something to me, or I wouldn't have broken paper, right?

And I'm DYING to write Quickening. I will work on it for a week when I'm done w/Ryan and Scott--I truly will. And my big goal tonight? Visiting blogs. My favorite time of the week!

Oh wait-- I've got two funnies:

Funny the first-- my husband (who is, we all admit, a wonderful man) was having a traffic tantrum which makes him (he admits it) a bit of a dick. As he was swearing at the person in front of us, I made the time honored gesture of jacking off.

"Oh honey, are you having a bad day? Would you like me to rub your back for you?"

He looked at me and grimaced. "I'm being a dick, aren't I?"

"How else would this rub your back?"

We snickered, but I have to admit--he stopped yelling at the people in front of us!

Funny the second--

After picking the kids off, I dropped my nephew off at his house. I had only JUST learned of a back way to his house, and I was a little uncertain as to the finer points of it--but I had a general idea where I was going.

"Okay,," I muttered to myself, "Do I take Lost street or Winding?"

"You take Lost. Where the hell are you going?"

"To your house!"

"This doesn't lead to my house!"

"The hell it doesn't!"

"Okay--ALL roads lead to my house. But they're not always quick."

"Are you walking?"


"Then this is the best way to your house!"

We got to his house (and yes, I took the long way) and I said "Chicken and T will help you take stuff up to your porch."

"It's twenty feet away! I don't need help."

"Okay, so get back in the car."


"So I can open the door and push you out of a moving vehicle."

"That's okay, I'll just take my stuff and go inside now!"

Me and the teenagers were all giggling by the time we got out of his driveway--and my daughter told me I'd done an excellent job of giving him shit. She said my sister would be proud.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Alas, No Vampire Bears

So my stepmom and my dad took the kids up to Camp Grandma's this week (it's what we call it--swear!) and Chicken couldn't leave on Thursday with everyone else. She had referee class, and Mate and I told her we'd take her up Friday morning and stay and play with everyone.

And we did.

Now those of you who've read Rampant will remember Sugarpine. It's where the vampire bear came from, and Gretchen the freaky-creepy little vampire girl-zombie, and a lovely sex scene and talks around the campfire and... well, it was fun to write. And obviously, I wrote from experience.

What I didn't write about (but I added it to the part about Lake Shasta, because I've been there too) was the part about how cool it was to swim across the lake--and how frightening. This lake doesn't have the red silt that Shasta does, or at least not the intensity of it in the water, but it IS a dark, impenetrable green. Mate and I swam across, and I thought I was being foolish and freaked out, until Mate admitted that it sort of creeped him out too. No, there is no fabled "Lake Sugarpine" monster or anything--but... *shudder* You can't see what's swimming under your feet. Trust me. It's skeery. Really.

But it's also exhilarating, and Mate and I enjoyed our swim--and then came back and were starving. My mom fed us (eventually) and we left--but not before mom obsessed about her babies running off with strangers in the woods or going down to play in the water without an adult or not calling for help (as Zoomboy proved he would not do when he sat in a kayak and zoomed off stage right when the adults were talking) when they needed it. I looked at Chicken as I was telling the little kids goodbye, and she nodded encouragingly. She knows I trust her with them--but still. It was hard to go.

But you've got to trust the universe sometime, right?

And this morning, Mate is off fixing the soccer field for the beginning of the year, and I'm alone in the house.

It is SOOO quiet.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Some Things You May Want To Know

OKay-- we'll get to Modesto, but I'm gonna start w/book news. Those in it for the knitting and family, feel free to skim.

* Let's start with Alpha.

Warning: This book is really fucking dark.

I'm not a big fan of warnings--you see them all the time in my genre, a result of it's roots in fanfiction. For those who have never written or read fanfiction, warnings are part of the game--you warn people if anything remotely objectionable is in what you've posted, so that people can skip the shit they don't like. This has carried over into m/m and gay romance--a lot of publishers post the EXACT nature of the sexual congress on the back of the books, under the blurb. Dreamspinner doesn't do this--and I love them for it, although yes, in some cases it has hurt my ratings on Goodreads.

Hammer & Air, for instance, does not mention that there is another person for a little while in Hammer & Eirn's bed, and it doesn't mention that Eirn is, at first, uncertain what to think of this development. (It's called dub-con--dubious consent.) Some people just RAGE against this development--they claim to feel cheated because of the lack of warning--but for me, the story was all about finding the language of love through experiences, both of love and of lust, and even though there's that third character, the book, in the end, was ALL about Hammer & Eirn. Putting a warning there would have completely negated that idea. Putting a warning there would have meant a lot of people NEVER would have read Vulnerable--I know, because they told me. Putting a warning on ANY book makes the book a bunch of pigeonholed plot references, and not a real story. Literature does not have warnings. No one told me Tess of d'Urbervilles was gonna end in a spectacular personal flameout that made me want to beat the holy fuck out of someone. I certainly was not warned that To Kill a Mockingbird contained references to rape, incest, and pedophilia or that The Great Gatsby dealt in adultery in a shockingly cavalier manner. I'm not claiming I write literature--but every drop of literary knowledge I have, I put into my writing, and this genre will never be elevated if we insist on limiting it with "Warning" boxes every time we push an envelope. I believe that sincerely.

That being said, Alpha would be the one thing I've written that I'd put a warning label on. This book goes into some dark, twisted, evil fucking places--there is some portrayal of 'non-con' (rape) and some violence, and some gritty, painful shit going on in Anderson's head, and he drags C.J. right into that gritty, painful world with him. So, I guess for those who have been overdosing on my angst lately, I'd warn this one "Gritty, painful, and fucking dark and twisted. Put this one in the freezer until after you've read It's Not Shakespeare (out in October) and Clear Water (out Sept. 16th!)" Probably not your standard warning--but I don't want anyone accusing me of not being clear.

And moving on to

*** Clear Water-- It's out on September 16th.

And moving on to

***Talker's Redemption--It's also out in September.

And moving on to

***Living Promises. Some people want to know if there's a fourth one planned. Hell to the yes. There has been pretty much from the beginning--I ain't stopping now!

And now we're gonna talk about

***Shopping at Target with two small children. It's bad. Bad. Nth level bad. Bad for the pocket book. Bad for morale. Bad for their diet, because I'll buy them ANYTHING to make them give me enough headspace to remember whether I needed to buy maxi pads or laxatives in the pharmacy. (Both, actually--which could explain why I'm so cranky.) Just plain old bad. Mate will probably complain about how much money I spent today. He's lucky. With those two in tow, I could have come back with three alpaca and claimed it was a legitimate purchase. (I had a friend do that. She went to a farm to buy three alpaca and came back with seven. She claimed something about the other four being on sale, but I was like, "Whatever. Seven alpaca--you don't spin you don't knit, and you don't sell ANY animal that's either been spawned on your property or invited to live. You're going to have to invite them into your home to keep you warm. Buy me a spinning wheel and I MIGHT buy a fleece and make you a sweater.") So, anyway. No alpaca. Children not residing in my spleen after being eaten. Remembered a swim suit because mine DISINTEGRATED. Remembered toilet paper, maxi pads and laxatives. And dish soap. It was a success, I tell you--a balls out success!

And finally

***Modesto. I had a blast. My friend made me a bizarre drink featuring cucumber juice, pineapple juice, cayenne pepper, Desarano, and vodka. Our children ran around in a tight little pack and raised hell. My children slept all the way home. AWesome. Just frickin' awesome. Visiting friends can never be overrated. I mean that sincerely! Someday, I WILL visit many of you!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Trip to Modesto

Okay, I often complain that all of my friends are online--and it's true. I do tend to live a lot of my life on the little glowing box in the kitchen, or, now, in the smaller red glowing box in my purse. (Mate bought me a new one before I went to Florida--it's an evil, addictive thing, being able to check your e-mail on the go. If you can at all avoid the smartphone, do. Yes, it makes your life easier, but no, you don't respect yourself in the morning.) Anyway, Lonelyfish is not one of the online variety friends; although she lives two hours away now, we started out as coworkers, and continued on as friends, and even though she moved away, we still make an effort to visit once a year.

Recently, she published her first e-book. Year of the Dog and I'm proud to say I'm in the dedication. That's exciting--she's one of the few people (besides Mate, of course) I know RL who thinks my writing is a good thing, and not just a huge fucking detour from what my life SHOULD have been. (Seriously--my parents started out supportive, but when they realized how big it was getting, they became more and more unimpressed. I'm like, "But I was filling up story notebooks since I was in the fourth grade! I almost didn't get my credential because I was going to take a year off and write before getting my MA in WRITING! How is it a surprise when, now that I have the chance, I embrace it in both hands? And how am I supposed to clean the house when I'm home if I'm WRITING AS A CAREER?" Parents are strange people. I'm almost embarrassed to be one.)

Anyway-- we were also pregnant together-- twice! So, once a year, we've gotten together at Fairy Tale town to let our kids play, but, well, she lives in Modesto, and Fairy Tale town is like a half an hour from my house and an hour and a half from hers. She has a backyard and a wading pool and two kids who would love to play with mine--I owe her a trip to Modesto, and I'm glad about it.

But explaining that to Zoomboy and Squish is not so easy, especially because Modesto is sort of a flat stretch of farmland between Sacramento and L.A.. They DO remember Fairy Tale town and their once-a-year friends, but they did NOT get the significance of "Hey, we're going to Modesto!"

"Okay, we're going to meet Flynn and Selima--why do they live in Modesto?"

*mom draws a big blank* "Uhm, because that's the town where Monsters Vs. Aliens happened?"

*great joy* "Yay! We're going to Modesto!"

So Goddess bless Pixar, Monster's vs. Aliens, and Modesto. And friends who don't let you forget that they're real and little kids in wading pools and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It's going to be a lovely day.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Took a little nappy pooh...

Woke up and it was Friday!

Seriously-- I was WIPED OUT. But I'm back again, and feeling almost human. Let's see... has anything REALLY big happened in the last four days?

*** This came out. It's free, it's short, and it's definitely NOT SAFE FOR WORK. But did I mention the free?

Anyway--what else?

*** Chicken commented on how much time I'd been spending at my computer, writing and tending to social media and general business. I told her she was lucky. "Given the circumstances, I could have spent from October to right now sleeping like I was training for an Olympic Sport."

She sniffed disdainfully. "Oh please. Everyone knows that if that was an actual event, I'd win the gold."

Can't argue with her there!

*** The short people have been a combination of annoying and cute. They're especially proud of themselves right now because Zoomboy has carved a hole in the laundry monster in which to play. I'm not sure if that's something *I* should be proud of, but, well, he thinks it's awesomesauce!

***To cement MY gold medal as the worst. housekeeper. ever., I'm proud to announce that we finally threw the dyed Easter Eggs out of the refrigerator. HEY! Don't judge me. They're supposed to last for sixty days. OKay, fine. Don't bring up the math thing either!

***And we took down the 4th of July decorations, too! (Did I mention the don't judge me thing?)

***I got my contract for Clear Water--and I'm gonna put that cover up again, just because it gives me a happy! And I love Patrick and Whiskey SOOOOO much! They are SO anti--angst. I REALLY needed some anti-angst. And Clear Water seems like it could be the start of a series--it was very 'Southern Cozy' except set in NOr Cal.

***Squish is an artist in all mediums-- I was seriously impressed by that leaf and stone thing she did at my mom's house:-)

***Zoomboy is more of a performance artist. Witness ZB as Statue of Liberty;-)

*** And I made some fingerless mitts w/flower embellishments for some friends (waves at E & L:-) and, I'm afraid, one of the mitts is no longer quite as pure as snow. I'm afraid Chicken's cat MOLESTED IT as it blocked. Fucking cat! (You may recall he did this to some lovely Hermione wool one Christmas Eve. He's not only a yarn-molester, he's a REPEAT OFFENDER!)

***And water aerobics continue apace, and so does my conscious effort to become a better me. Or at least the same me, but less of me. Or something:-)

***And Steve has continued her campaign of knocking over any full container on the kitchen table to get attention. I continue my covert plan of fattening her up for Thanksgiving.

***And tomorrow, me, Mate, and the teenagers are going to go see someone perform... I'll leave you with a hint:

I can't frickin' wait! (I'm going to see Harry Potter with Mate on Sunday-- that's sounding like fun too! NO SPOILERS! LALALALALALALALALA!)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cover Art and Some Good Advice

I'm short three, and two of them don't have the title artwork done yet--but pretty much, I think I've got an embarrassment of riches here.

What's up here is the collective cover art of the work that I've released from January on until October and probably (the beach cover, which is the one I was writing to when I finished the novel this afternoon) November. The only thing missing is the Talker's Graduation cover, Becoming, and Being--but that's okay. I'm willing to wait for those three, because one's going to be saying goodbye, and the other two... well, it's Jack & Teague, and I love them.

Now, the Green's Hill Werewolves stories were written over a period of time, so it's not like I just produced all this work right now, and it's certainly not like I'm going to stop writing, and I'm certainly not going to relax TOO much, but I've got to tell you...

Since I wrote the Locker Room last November, I've been pretty fucking driven. Some of you have known I have had something serious to prove. I'm not going to go into what that is--believe me, someday I will, but not today--but as I wrapped up Clear Water and revisited the picture that had prompted the story in the first place, it occurred to me that I had an embarrassment of riches in my cover art alone. I've been really blessed this year--truly, truly gifted.

When I was whining about my crashing deadlines in my last post, a beloved friend, who has been very patient with my absentee blogism, reminded me that I had two options. I could either sit at my computer and type like a woman possessed with an impatient, snarling dragon, pee in a cup and have the family throw my food, or I could take a deep breath, be late with my deadlines, and confess that I quite simply overestimated the amount of time there was in the day, or a week, or a month.

Or a year.

Looking at this collection of what I have done and what I have proven, I think I can slow down--just a smidge, mind you, because most of my writing really is dragon ridden--but I can, maybe, stop trying to put out enough for three people. I can only work so hard and be the mom and the wife I want to be. And in the meantime, to those who needed proof?

Well, two of my covers (one of them from last year so it's not up here) ended up on this list right here. Now, they could slide off at any time, but at the moment, these two books are ranked not just with other GLBT books, but with contemporary romantic fiction of pretty much every type. I've seen a couple of those books on the list at Wal Mart, and a couple of those books in the grocery store, and there's my shit, right up there, with everyone else.

So, for that devil driving his pointy heels into my sides, I've got one thing to say:


For my dragon, I've got something a little different:

Hang out, baby. We'll do great things together. We just need a little bit of a rest.

For my readers:

Goddess thank you all. I've been REALLY blessed by the people who love my work. I'm so fortunate to share the things in my head with people who have such amazing hearts.

And for my family:

Thanks guys for throwing food at me when I needed it and for dragging me out into the living room to watch television and for giving me hugs at my writing chair and for generally being the people I love even more than I love my dragon.

And for my friends who probably feel a little neglected?

I'm so fortunate that I found the cyberpeeps I have. I'll be around shortly--don't give up on me, guys. I'm taking a breather, and the computer will be my friend again.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Crashing Deadlines! DUCK!

Yup. I know. I haven't been around a lot this last week.

Oi! You would not BELIEVE the deadline crash in my head and on my computer!

I used to think "Oh, hey, you can juggle anything as long as you can do it at home!"

Oh gees--the hubris!

Seriously--man, the hubris! For one thing, I've been editing Alpha, and my old Nemesis, Plot Math, has been sitting on my head with big, fleshy ass cheeks. GEAWD that edit took forever. For another, I've been trying to finish up with Clear Water, and yes, Plot Math is sitting in THAT manuscript, laughing his fat ass off. Fucker. In my next life I'm going to be Virginia Woolf or James Joyce or some shit like that so I can poke him with a big stick and scream "Stream of consciousness! Unpredictable narrator! Collapsed time and postmodernist perspective! Fuck off and DIE ya big-balled-bastard! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" Or, you know, something like that. Seriously--I used to listen to people tell me that sci-fi fantasy must be SOOO easy to write since you "made it all up yourself!" Well YEAH--that means it all has to be consistent or it all falls down the fucking toilet like a swooning cricket!

Seriously--I've done contemporary and I've done urban fantasy and regular fantasy and science fiction--they all have their challenges. With contemporary it's checking your facts. With everything else, it's keeping them straight. The differences are negligible and it's all harder for the linearly challenged than we like to admit.

So, I'm lost in deadline deadline land, but I can share a few moments with you:

This is the face of evil. You think I'm joking? I was sending one of those deadlines in last night when two kids came up to me. I looked at one kid, I looked at the other, and then I looked at my computer where the cat had just sat down and ASS-DIALED my computer, sending the damned e-mail before it's ready. Evil, I'm telling you. Concentrated evil.

Look mom! I can do something new with my feet!

C. Our LYS got yarnbombed again. May I present to you, the Thinker, the Flirt, and the 4th of July pole!

(And by the way, can I just say that the trip to the LYS worked wonders as therapy--I felt like my head might no longer pop off and I could MANAGE not to kill something. Ahhhh... yarn fumes.)

And now, I must run away to take kids to gymnastics, and after that? Yeah. You guessed it. More deadlines. DUCK!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Prodigal Returns

So he's home, and he's happy, and here's a picture of him in our crappy kitchen.

I'm so proud.

Apparently he was the chaperone's dream-- he was the kid that got stuck with the nightmare roommate (the one whose conditions were all medicated acronyms, and who had to be looked for at three in the morning when they had to leave at seven a.m.) and he was the kid that A. the chaperones could see and call to him B. would stop and listen, and C. paid attention to the other people around him and helped keep the party together. It occurred to me as they were saying all these nice things about him that parents don't get too many opportunities after high school graduation to hear their spawn praised like this, and so I savored it.

The thing he was pressured into buying for nearly a quarter of his Euros was actually a table cloth-- factory made, ivory faux damask--and a part of me wants to keep it and a part of me really thinks my stepmom will use it better. Mostly, my reward was having my boy back safe and happy and full of stories. He sat across from me this morning and told me Europe stories for a good hour this morning. It was nice--and he seems so confident and so self-assured. *sigh* That's my baby. I'm so glad he got to do this. It was worth it... (or it will be if we can pay off the traffic ticket of Damocles with the next royalty check!)

In fact, this blog posting was just interrupted by Mate, who wanted to show me Big T's pictures... *sigh* I tried to get him to wait until Big T was AWAKE and could walk us through himself, but Mate was too excited. Mate likes going places-- me too, but Mate keenly feels the travel restrictions brought on by a four child budget. He was proud of our boy too--for one thing, T took A LOT of pictures--and some of them were really great. It's such a trip to see your kid in pictures of someplace far away, when you weren't there to hold his hand.

And in other news?

Living Promises might not (don't quote me on this) but it MIGHT NOT suck. *whew* I was seriously worried-- but a couple of people have e-mailed me with feedback, and a few nice folks have gone on goodreads and said it doesn't suck-- I might be able to relax just a smidge. Uhm... yeah... not happening. I've got a clash of deadlines right now-- book due on the 11th (and that's extended) edit due on Friday and a little bit of admin homework due tomorrow. I spent all day playing with the kids trying to earn my three or four hours to work... it didn't work so much. I'll try again tomorrow--but, if nothing else, trying to keep them busy is making sure I can sleep through the heat! (Well, so does the AC.)

So I'm staying up late tonight--I'll try to check blogs tomorrow... *sigh* I miss the old blogging days-- I really loved it when I checked everybody's blog every day... *whine*

But I'm pleased so far by the feedback-- it's lovely to get. I'm so grateful that I was able to do justice to a story that so many of you loved--thanks for letting me know that it didn't suck!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Living Promises

Is out.

Of course, my timing is impeccable--without meaning to, I've probably just insulted the entire reviewing community. For those of you who have reviewed work in the past, just from the heart-- I wasn't talking to you! Swear! But I don't want to talk about yesterday's post-- I had my Les Mis at the Barricade's moment--it's over.

Mostly what I want to do is offer up my usual prayer. A lot of people have been waiting for this one, and I don't want to let them down.

Holy Goddess, Merciful God... LET IT NOT SUCK.

Happy Fourth of July everyone... I'm going to go clean my craptastic house and play with my wonderful kids... and hide under the kitchen table whenever the word 'review' is so much as mentioned!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Showing Not Telling

Okay-- once again I have seen something that has ticked me off, not in and of itself, but as the final moment of text on top of the pile that sends the whole thing cascading down like a slippery, irritating mountain of old typewriter ribbon, showering down in a vitriolic rain.

I'll admit it-- the review was less than flattering. It was a piece, wherein the author (by her own admission) unloaded on me, making me the personal objectification of all she felt bad writers did wrong. In her opinion, I was guilty of "telling, instead of showing."

Now, I've been someone's personal objectification before--that's not what made my hackles rise. It was the phrase "Showing Not Telling" that got my panties in a twist. She used it wrong.

I went to my peeps (or, at this stage in the game, my tweeps, Goddess love the social media) and whined, and I was a little surprised at the number and the passion of the replies. "Everybody uses that when they want to sound smarter than they are!" one person Tweeted. "Nobody uses that right--it's the last refuge of the armchair critic," someone else complained. And, given that the reviewer in question finished up with, (and this is paraphrased) "I guess this kind of thing is okay for the *average* reviewer but it's not good enough for me," I think they could have been right. Like I said, in and of itself, this review didn't do anything that hasn't been done quite a few times before: It criticized my work. So what? Lots of people--and lots of critics--have trod that clearly un-virgin territory before.

So what got me wasn't the criticism--I'm developing a thicker skin to that--what got me was this particular phrase. She used this buzzword in the wrong context, and it's unfortunate, because whether she liked MY work or not, she was obviously very serious about making her point. EVERYBODY who uses this phrase wrong is serious about making their point, and that part of me that taught pubic school for damned near eighteen years really wants to help them--whether they're eviscerating me in prose or not. It just seems like someone needs to set the record straight.

"Showing not telling" is a phrase coined by an educator named Rebekah Kaplan to help high school writers find their voice. If she was anything like me, her teaching technique came after reading the umpteenth frickin' paper that stated something like "I love basketball. I mean, like really really love it."

The enterprising Ms. Kaplan started to teach writing by STARTING with that phrase-- and then having the student writers SHOW someone loving basketball. They would do it by all of the things that writers do--details, word choice, simile, metaphor, connotation, and poetic diction, so that "They really loved basketball. I mean, like, really really LOVED it." Becomes...

Xander Karcek pounded down the glossy wood of the court, thigh muscles straining, huge biceps pumping, and sweat dripping into his eyes from his black bangs. The ball sang against the boards in front of him and popped back into the palm of his wide-fingered hand as he dribbled furiously, strides ahead of the enemy, in perfect position to score.

He didn’t.

Instead, he popped the ball behind him with the next dribble, and Christian Edwards caught it one-handed and continued the dribble down the center of the court. He didn’t have to look behind him to know Chris was right on his heels—he never had to look behind him. Chris would be there. Chris didn’t know how to fail. And this way, when the opposition came up behind Xander, arms spread, legs wide, ready to block the shot, Xander was there with surprisingly wide shoulders for a guy who stood six feet, nine inches tall in his size eighteen bare feet.

And Chris, the center, leapt into the air, twisted his body, and made the shot with a chest-high dunk, and the fifteen thousand fierce voices, echoing around their bodies until the sound was so thick you could cut it with the slice of a sweating hand, exploded into shrieks of unholy, furious joy, singing Chris’s praises.

Just the way it should be. The whole world should sing Chris’s praises.

Xander and Chris passed each other as Chris recovered his running stride from the dunk, and as they got into position to intercept the other team, they faced the opposite direction. That’s when their arms swung down from the elbows in a smooth low five, and they snarled at each other in triumph.

God, they loved this fucking game.

The Locker Room
Amy Lane

Now, that's a rather complex piece of prose there--because it could also be a "showing" paragraph for a couple of other "telling" sentences, such as, "They played well together," or "It was a good moment," or even "Xander loved playing with Chris."
But it is, as I said and Rebekah Kaplan meant, a series of details, word choices, connotation and poetic diction that creates the image of two men loving a game together. It's, uhm, the way I write actually. I mean, that's the first paragraph of the book--it's not like I STOP doing it anytime after that, right?

Now in a longer piece, this technique can be used to demonstrate all sorts of things--and I was fond of telling my students that the best use of poetic techniques was to evoke strong emotion. When used on a larger scale, it can set the tone for an entire book--or even just a chapter. To go back to The Locker Room, there is a chapter in which Xander repeatedly tells people, "I'm fine!" while tripping, breaking his toe, throwing a basketball at his coach's head, and playing basketball until exhaustion. The chapter is pretty much a "showing not telling" example of a man who is NOT fine, and it makes us feel bad for Xander, without him ever once saying, "I miss my lover so badly I want to die."

If you do this with an accretion of details--Chris's choice of dressing up, the way he showboats at games, his difficulty with algebra in high school, his refusal to take the lead in the relationship--and you have depth to a character, and a deeper portrait of a man who is comfortable in the spotlight but who acknowledges his own flaws, even if his lover doesn't see them.

If you do it consistently throughout a work, you have used the details to establish tone, motif, and theme.

So, if that's "Showing not telling", and it's something that I do and that I understand, what is it exactly that this reviewer was objecting to?

If I had to take a stab at it, I'd guess that it was use of third person limited omniscient narrative voice.

Now some people are going to read what I'm about to say and take it as proof that I am pretentious beyond all belief, but you'll have to forgive me. I spent twenty-three years learning how to or teaching others how to analyze the literary canon. When I write myself, those are the examples I go to for literary voice, simply because I haven't spent that much time analyzing the stuff I read for fun. Yeah, I know this is somewhat of a dichotomy, but, well, it's what I do. It's how I enjoy writing. It's an inoperable part of my literary voice.

One of the interesting parts of the third person limited omniscient voice is that you can, as the narrator, make observations of indirect characterization masked as direct characterization. An example of this, from Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities can be seen here:

Sydney Carton, idlest and most unpromising of men, was Stryver's great ally. What the two drank together, between Hilary Term and Michaelmas, might have floated a king's ship. Stryver never had a case in hand, anywhere, but Carton was there, with his hands in his pockets, staring at the ceiling of the court; they went the same Circuit, and even there they prolonged their usual orgies late into the night, and Carton was rumoured to be seen at broad day, going home stealthily and unsteadily to his lodgings, like a dissipated cat. At last, it began to get about, among such as were interested in the matter, that although Sydney Carton would never be a lion, he was an amazingly good jackal, and that he rendered suit and service to Stryver in that humble capacity.

In this case, Dickens TELLS us that Sydney Carton 'idlest and most unpromising of men' in the same paragraph as he SHOWS us that the men who possess only superficial talent have begun to depend on Carton to do their dirty work for them.

I like the irony that this approach gives us. As I was fond of saying when I taught, if there is a difference between what the narrator indicates in direct characterization--"Sydney Carton was the idlest and most unpromising of men," and what he demonstrates for us in his indirect characterization--"Stryver never had a case in hand, anywhere, but Carton was there, with his hands in his pockets, staring at the ceiling of the court;" (for those of you who don't remember or haven't read the book, this was the same attitude Carton displayed when he saved Charles Darnay's life in court--this is a very subtle way of telling us that Carton did all the work and Stryver took all the credit.) Anyway, differences in layers--direct characterization and indirect characterization, or among any of the five layers of indirect characterization--these things give us friction, friction gives us irony, and irony gives us more to think about when we read a book. For me, it gave me Xander having the shittiest day of all time while telling people he was fine. That right there is irony--and not once did I, as the third person omniscient narrator, have to step in and tell people that the guy was hurting. Although one of his indirect characterizations (speech) told us he was fine, the other indirect characterizations--his appearance, behavior, and what the other characters thought about him told us he was not. These are the things that third person limited omniscient narrative can give us with a little bit of sly commentary thrown in (witness Dickens) and this is the reason I like this approach sometimes. God, sometimes it's just hella frickin' fun.

So, at a guess, I'm going to say that this faintly archaic narrative technique is what drove this particular reviewer batshit. And I'm sorry she didn't like my work. I've said it before--many times before--but I'll say it again. I write what moves me. I write to move other people. When other people love that, I am SCARY appreciative--I'm kiss-the-ground-in-the-rain grateful, but in order to write at all, I've had to get past the point where I try to please all comers. So, for those of you who don't like my narrative voice--I'm sorry. Seriously--I apologize. I know what it's like to pick up something that people keep telling me I'll like only to find that it's not to my taste at all--I'm sorry for the disappointment. But I'm not going to try to write any differently--I like what I've got going. It works for me.

So, you all may be asking, why did I bother to post this at all?

Well, the thing is, armchair criticism is becoming a bigger and bigger spectator sport. Hell, if you look at Smart Bitches/Trashy Books, it's even getting to be lucrative, and when done right, it can help moderate an industry in which the most iconic contributors (big presses, press reviews, brick and mortar stores) have become lumbering, clumsy Goliaths, and in which the the new, spryer Davids (e-pubs, book blogs, e-book readers) are without discipline or regulation. The social media has made it possible for the little guy and even the little genre to have support, guidance, and legitimacy in the big indifferent world--and not just for the bigger 'legit' sites.

Armchair criticism (criticism via the social media) is important because if the publishing world is going to reform itself around reader expectations, reader/critics have got to be clear about what their expectations are. Now some armchair critics (and this is the category I fall into personally) simply say "I liked it. It moved me," or, "It wasn't my cuppa, but I'm not going to sound off because I'm not going to go to all that trouble for something someone else might have loved." Those armchair critics are fine-- seriously--in a way, they're the people writers are writing for, and we love them to death!

But if the armchair critic does more than simply say "I liked it" or "It wasn't for me", and she sounds off with passion but with no information, then the armchair critic can be blown off--and that's not fair. People who go to the trouble to put their studied opinion into writing for the benefit of other readers deserve to be taken seriously. However, if armchair criticism is to gain any credibility, it has to be ready to play with the big boys. All of that bullshit that our English teachers taught us in ADDITION to "Showing Not Telling" MUST come into play. If you are an armchair critic who wants to be taken seriously, and you were lost when I was talking about direct and indirect characterization, word choice, irony, poetic diction, connotation, third person limited omniscient narrative voice, tone, motif, and theme, then you need to get your game on. Any genre that wants to be taken seriously is going to have writers who use all of these items and more, and who know how to use them in context, and who, in fact, have mastery over them. If these writers (Josh Lanyon, Marie Sexton, Z.A. Maxfield, I'm looking at you!) are going to get their due, then the people who are reviewing them and commenting on them in public and for real are going to have to know and use the same things they do.

And, just like high school students mature into post graduate and even professional writers, if e-publishing media is going to mature, we all have to get past the point where Showing Not Telling is the be all and end all of our critical repertoire.