Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Medicine Wheel

For the third part in this series I promised to go into the concept of the Medicine Wheel. A Medicine Wheel, or a Sacred Hoop, is first and foremost a physical circle, usually made from rocks, that is used to represent the directions, both cardinal and spiritual, in many Native traditions. But the wheel also exists in the air, and in the mind.

The wheel generally had certain colors, animals and directions associated with it, but which ones go where can very from culture to culture. I will share what I remember from my own experiences, but please don't assume that this information will be the same in every instance.

The Wheel is always divided into four main parts (five if you count the center as separate). Each section is associated with a cardinal direction. North is usually associated with elders, wisdom and introspection. North is represented by Brother Bear, Cedar, the wind and winter. It is most often drawn in black or white.

South is associated with youth, with young people in the twilight of their adolesence, along with passion, fertility, and energy. The South is represented by Sister Wolf, Sweetgrass, Earth and summer. Its color can vary but is often shown as red or yellow.

The East is associated with children, the dawn, and change. The East is represented by Eagle, Tobacco, fire and spring. The color also varies, but is sometimes green or yellow.

The West is associated with adulthood, responsibility, reflection. The West is represented by Buffalo, Sage, water and autumn. Its color is usually blue.

My understanding is that each Totem Animal falls into one of these categories, but I honestly can't remember (except for the main four listed here) which ones go where. You should be able to find this kind of information in some of the books I listed yesterday.

Now I will try to continue where we left off yesterday, and share some details of the less common Spirit Animals.

Dolphin: Dolphin symbolizes kindness and play energy. Dolphin has also always been seen as a messenger by many different cultures. Although it is a mammal, it lives in the sea, and has mastered the art of breath control, sometimes spending impossible amounts of time deep underwater without breathing. Since water is the symbol of life Dolphin brings us teachings from the water of life. Dolphin reminds us that time to play and relax is a crucial element to walking in balance throughout life’s journey. He tells us to move with the ebb and flow of life, and not against it.

Dolphin Medicine includes change, balance, harmony, communication, freedom, trust, understanding, the power of rhythm in life, the use of breath to release emotion and significant water power.

Cat: Native American tradition only refers to American cats like cougar, puma, and jaguar, but it should be safe to assume that the power behind all great cats is similar. Cat's are known for their fierce independence as well as their artful mystique. People with cats for Spirit Guides are usually wise leaders who teach others through example and without ego.

Cat's Medicine is independence, curiosity, many lives, cleverness, unpredictability, healing, the ability to defend oneself fiercely when backed into a corner, and seeing the unseen.

Turtle: Turtle has always been seen as patient and tenacious. Turtles are known for making long, slow journey without ever deviating from the path.

Turtle's Medicine includes being a symbol for the Earth, connection with the center, navigation, patience, femininity, self-reliance, commitment, and non-violent defense.

Monkey: Monkey is not commonly referred to in Native culture, because they are not common in North America, but Monkey is generally known for cleverness and mischief.

Monkey's Medicine includes movement through ego, ability to change their environment, family, understanding excess, health, and understanding success.

Now I will try to break down two very specific examples, just for fun, and because two of my friends apparently really want to know what they mean.

Wolverine: Wolverine is thought of by many Native tribes, interestingly enough, as the Hyena of the North. Wolverines are very clever, and so are associated with the Trickster. A Wolverine also controls an extremely large territory in the wild, usually with no others of their species living within several miles, so they are often considered loners.

Wolverine's Medicine is made up of being considered the "last phantom of the wilderness." They are also associated with revenge, craftiness, resistance to cold, aggression, standing up for yourself and standing your ground, fierceness, elusiveness, strength, endurance, and courage.

Giant Sloth: A Sloth is like what? Part ant-eater and part bear? Sloths are generally folivores, but some have been known to eat insects and small birds to supplement their diets. I'm not sure how they catch them though, because Sloths are mainly known for being slow and plodding, and are certainly not known as great predators.

Sloth's Medicine includes persistence, rest, reflection, and balance. Sloth is known for being patient, friendly and adorable, or at least the ones we have left here on Earth are.

Space Monkey: Space Monkeys are mainly known for not actually existing, but hey, some people think Zombies don't exist either. Of course there are the actual primates that were sent into space by the government, to test for the safety of going into orbit, before sending humans, and I would imagine that those adorable little fellows would have to be known for their courage and their curiosity.

Space Monkey's Medicine includes droppin mischief on substitute teachers, overstating the value of corndogs to strangers, dealing with stinky burp breath, and breaking the universe with a cosmic space kapow!

So that's it folks. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The blog should go back into action on Monday, January 3rd, and will hopefully be able to get back to some slightly more serious business.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spirit Animals

So now that you all know a little bit about my limited history with Vision Quests, I want to tell you some more about Spirit Animals, also known as Totem Animals, or Spirit Guides. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert, so if you really are interested, please find a true Native American shaman or Medicine Man (or woman) that you can talk to about the subject. You might be surprised how willing they are to share about their culture. You can also do some research on your own.

Two good articles I know of online are at the Manataka American Indian Council, and AnimalSpirits.com. There are also several books. Two decent examples are ANIMAL-SPEAK: The Spiritual and magical powers of creatures great and small by Ted Andrews, and POWER ANIMAL MEDITATIONS: Shamanic Journeys with Your Spirit Allies by Nicki Scully. There is a fun quiz, that can tell you a little more about Spirit Animals, but is also meant to promote a book and should not be taken wholly seriously, here at Jeri Smith-Ready.com.

So, now that we've gotten past all that I'm going to go over some of the details about some of the most common Spirit Animals. All of these are examples that exist currently in my WIP. I'm hoping it's a scene I don't have to cut during the re-write. I will go over some more obscure examples (as well as I can) for you guys tomorrow.


Dog: Among many tribes Dog was the sentinel who guarded the tribe’s home and protected them from attack and warned them of coming danger. He helped during the hunt and gave them warmth when it was cold. Dog is a symbol of loyalty, unconditional love, and protection, so if Dog is your Spirit Guide I would guess that you are a good, fast friend when you grow close to someone.

Dog’s Medicine incorporates the loving kindness of the best friend and the protective energy of the guardian. If Dog is your Spirit Animal then you’re a very kind and giving person whose devotion to their family and friends is unwavering. However, you must be careful not to be too trusting or be taken in by those who would take advantage of you. Make sure you always give your loyalty to those who are right and true.

Snake: Snake is a symbol of cunning and ingenuity, but also of rebirth. If Snake is your Spirit Guide it is possible that you are an old soul and this is not your first time in the world.

Snake's Medicine includes elusiveness, transmutation, goddess energy, exploration of the mysteries of life and connection to the magic cord by which the shaman travels to the spirit world.

Horse: Horse has shown up in almost every single mythological tale. From Pegasus, to Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse of Odin; from the stallions of Surya the Hindu sun god to the stallions of Apollo. No single creature has provided man with the freedom of movement and the ability to travel over long distances as has the horse. If you are drawn to Horse, you may feel a power in your spirit that is sometimes difficult to reign in, but remember, not all who wander are lost.

Horse's Medicine is made up of power, stamina and endurance. He is also known for faithfulness, freedom, awareness of the power achieved through cooperation, communication between the species (and between cultures), and the ability to overcome obstacles.

Rabbit: Rabbit may be stereotyped as being a fearful, simple animal, but in fact they are quite ingenious, especially when it comes to working together. Among Native Americans they symbolize humility.

Rabbit's Medicine includes moving through fear, living by your wits, and receiving hidden teachings and intuitive messages, as well as quick thinking and relying on your instincts. Rabbit reminds us not to be afraid and that we cannot allow our fearful thoughts to reproduce (especially not like rabbits) for they will overcome us if we let them.

Fox: Fox symbolizes cunning, agility, and being quick witted and thinking on your feet.

Fox's Medicine is very interesting and is associated with the Trickster, almost as much as Coyote. Fox stands for shape-shifting, cleverness, unseen observation, stealth, feminine courage, persistence and gentleness.

Owl: Owl stands for deception, clairvoyance and insight, but in this context deception does not carry with it a negative connotation. Deception is often necessary for one’s survival and can be a very valuable tool. The Great Horned Owl is the only bird that can out fly the Golden Eagle so stamina probably ought to go along with those other things as well. Owl is a bird of prey so it can also stand for a person who is a great warrior, especially if that which is dear to its heart is threatened. Owl is also known for his great awareness and his ability to see everything around him, having vision that reaches for almost three hundred and sixty degrees.

Owl’s Medicine consists of seeing through masks and disguises, silent and swift movement, keen sight, messenger of secrets and omens, shape-shifting, link between the dark, unseen world and the world of light, comfort with the shadow self, moon power, and overall freedom and independence.

Bear: Bear has always stood for wisdom, power, and healing and has been associated with the North. Bears spend the winter months in hibernation and among Native people the symbolism of the Bear’s cave reflects returning to the womb of Mother Earth. People with Bear Medicine are considered by many as self-sufficient and would rather stand on their own two feet than rely on others.

Bear’s Medicine includes introspection, healing, solitude, wisdom, change, communication with Spirit, the cycle of death and rebirth, transformation, and being the creature of dreams, shamans and mystics.

This post is going on a little too long, but I promise not to stop here. I'll just have to break it up a little and pick up tomorrow where we left off today. Before we're done though I briefly want to introduce the idea of the Medicine Wheel. The Medicine Wheel is a little like a compass, and is associated with the cardinal directions. I'll go into it more tomorrow, but if you're curious you can read some more here, at SpiritualNetwork.net.

Thanks everybody, and please be sure to come back tomorrow!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Vision Quests

So I Friday I asked you guys what you thought your Patronus would be, and we discussed Spirit Animals a little bit. I know I promised to break down the little that I know about them, but before I can even do that I have to talk about the Vision Quest.

The Vision Quest is a somewhat nebulous thing, and the traditions can vary a great deal from culture to culture, but I think it is summarized well at the Crystal Links article here, which I will borrow from:

A vision quest is a rite of passage, similiar to an initiation, in some Native American cultures. It is a turning point in life taken before puberty to find oneself and the intended spiritual and life direction. When an older child is ready, he or she will go on a personal, spiritual quest alone in the wilderness, often in conjunction with a period of fasting. This usually lasts for a number of days while the child is tuned into the spirit world. Usually, a Guardian animal will come in a vision or dream, and the child's life direction will appear at some point. The child returns to the tribe, and once the child has grown, will pursue that direction in life. After a vision quest, the child may apprentice an adult in the tribe of the shown direction (Medicine Man, boatmaker, etc).


I don't want to disrespect the tradition or culture behind these ideas in any way, so I'm not going to pretend that what I experienced should be considered as powerful as a true Vision Quest, but it was important experience for me as a young man, so I will share some of it with you.

When I was 16 I was sent away to reform school in northern Idaho. My mom had died when I was 11 and my dad was out of the picture. I had been living with my aunt and uncle and had become quite a troublemaker, so they sent me away to school. The place I went had some really horrible aspects, but it also had some really amazing ones.

One of the things I loved the most was all the wilderness survival skills they taught us, and how they incorporated lots of Native American traditions into the lessons. We had a sweat lodge on campus, also known as a Medicine Lodge, which is essentially just a natural sauna. There were a lot of funs nights getting really hot in the sweat, and then jumping in the lake. We also had some Totem Poles around a giant fire pit, where we sometimes conducted ceremonies like the Sage Rub.

At one point in my stay there, I spent 6 weeks living out of a backpack and a tent in the Cabinet Mountains in western Montana. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. While on that journey we took part in our own version of a Vision Quest. Traditionally, a Vision Quest is carried out by a young person, usually around puberty, when it is time for them to find their place in the tribe. They will usually go out on their own into the wilderness, and either travel or camp on their own, often fasting and going without sleep for days. It is during this period in which the young person is usually visited by visions, often including the appearance of a Spirit Guide, also known as a Spirit Animal, or Totem Animal. Hence the term Vision Quest.

Of course Modern Medicine knows that the stress caused by sleep deprivation and hunger can often be enough to trigger hallucinations, depending on the length and severity of the stress. In many Meso-American tribal cultures these hallucinations are considered holy, which is why certain tribes take peyote, or hallucinogenic mushrooms.

We didn't do any of that, obviously, but we did all go onto what they called "solos" where each student set up their own camp, and lived by themselves for several days. We had to build our own lean-tos, and we were issued a big bag of trail mix, so we didn't actually fast completely, but we did go without regular meals. They didn't tell us to go without sleep, but the counselor who set me up did share with me about his knowledge of traditional Vision Quests, and he explained that if I chose to stay up and meditate, or go walking around, or write in my journal, I might have a more spiritual awakening than if I didn't. It was not required, but it was encouraged.

I'm not going to go into a whole lot of detail here, because this was a really personal experience for me, but it should suffice to say that I did not stay up or fast long enough to hallucinate, walk on water, or have an out of body experience, but I did eventually pass out in my sleeping bag, where I dreamed about being visited by a Cougar-ess who could talk, and sounded like my mom.

I'm sure the power of suggestion was heavily at work here, and I'm not going to speculate about the psychological aspects of this kind of thing, but it was all pretty cool for me, and makes for a great story.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for more on Spirit Animals, and some of the symbolism behind them!

Friday, December 17, 2010

What is your Patronus?

First of all I owe any and all credit for this post to my buddy Lydia K, from The Word is my Oyster. She came up with this awesome question and posted about it yesterday (this post, my post, was supposed to go up on Thursday, but I got sick). If you haven't been there, please stop by to read her super fun post, comment on it, and follow her blog. She also has an awesome feature, Medical Mondays, which is not only really entertaining, but extremely useful for writers.

So anyway, hopefully you've all read the Harry Potter novels, more specifically Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where the Patronus Charm first appears. For those of you who haven't, here is the description from the Harry Potter Wiki:

A Patronus Charm is an insubstantial animal protector created by the advanced Patronus Charm spell, and one way to defend against Dementors and certain other Dark creatures. The spell requires the use of a wand, concentration on a powerfully happy memory, and the incantation "Expecto Patronum".


A Patronus that is fully formed, or corporeal, takes the shape of fairly solid-looking animal; a non-corporeal Patronus appears only as wisps of silvery mist. It is a very complex charm and many qualified wizards and witches have trouble with it. Harry Potter is one of the youngest known wizards to cast a Patronus. The Patronus Charm, like Animagus forms, has been said to reflect the personality or feelings of the witch or wizard. They are, however, subject to change if the caster goes through an emotional upheaval of some sort.


Anyway, before I go on any longer about the awesomeness that is All Things Harry Potter the point of this post is: what kind of animal do you think your patronus (assuming it manifested itself as fully corporeal) would show up as?

Lydia, being both a doctor and a clever writer, argued first that hers would be a Paramecium, then she selected a Kiwi (the bird, not the fruit) for a moment before finally settling on a Platypus.

My own Patronus would manifest itself as a Mountain Lion, also known as a Cougar, I'm quite confident. How do I know this, you ask? Because as a teenager I went on a Vision Quest, and discovered that the Mountain Lion is my Spirit-Animal.

I fully realize that may sound crazy, but I'm not joking.

More on Vision Quests and Spirit-Animals next week (although if you name your Patronus Animal in the comments, I promise to break down what that would mean as your Spirit Animal, in another post).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm an Idiot

Leave it to me to sing the praises of cold weather one day and end up sick with a thick old head cold the next.

I feel like my head is full of cotton candy that's sat rotting in the mud for days after the carnival closed and all the freaky carnies have long since gone bumping down the road in their garish wagons. I feel like my nose is stuffed with that quick dry spray foam that they use to make fake rocks on stage in the theater. I feel like I can't come up with one more silly simile without my skull crashing down against the hard, uncaring surface of my desk.

Snore. Sorry guys, I've got nothing for you today, but I still love you all (no energy for exclamation points though).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter Weather

I'm certainly not going to write about football again, not after last night's fantasy loss and Vikings loss, I just can't do it. Plus it would probably put you all to ... zzzzzz

So instead I'm going to talk about Winter Weather (yes that deserves capitalization, but probably not capitolization). I was born in Seattle, and while it rains a lot it never really gets cold or snows unless you go up into the mountains. But, when I was 11, I moved to White Bear Lake Minnesota, and you can believe it gets very cold AND snows there, all the time (there is a reason it's not called Brown Bear Lake). Now I live in Georgia (don't ask me why), and I almost never get to enjoy cold weather.

This morning I took our dog outside to pee at 5:15. Yes, 5:15. It's just not right, I know, don't get me started. Anyway either a pipe had burst or a neighbor across the street had left their hose on, because our street was full of ice all the way down to the sewer grate. I suppose I could have gotten irritated by this, but instead I chose to relish all the things I love about cold weather:
  • I love the way your breath steams up the instant it leaves your mouth and you can play choo-choo train, even as a fully responsible, if slightly insane adult.
  • I love the way my shoes crunch against the frosted ground and the way that sound echoes in the still morning.
  • I love the way my nostrils freeze together when I breathe through my nose and despite the minor pain it makes the air feel fresh and clean and pure.
  • I love that every snowflake is utterly unique, just like the soul of every person, and when you catch one on your tongue it melts into warm comfort just like holding the hand of someone you love.
  • I love how when the winds whips uninhibited across a frozen lake it can sound like spirits wailing at the living.
  • I love how Nesta (our puppy) doesn't take 15 minutes to handle her business when she is freezing her @$$ off!
  • I love how all these southern drivers are so terrified of non-existent but highly touted black ice that they all get into the right lane, cringing in fear as I pass them in my front wheel drive Honda Civic.
  • I love how a fresh snowfall can make even the most dilapidated urban ghetto look full of innocence, peace and purity, even if only for a moment.
  • I love rockin jeans and a hoody, and how they camouflage my ample middle.
  • I love all the activities that only snow and ice can provide: Skiing, Ice-Skating, Snow-Boarding, Hockey, Sledding, Snow Ball Fights, Broom-Ball, Snow-Men, Snow-Angels, Instant Slurpies ....
  • But most of all ... I love the Silence.


Am I a sentimental fool? Sure, probably, but I'm not the least bit ashamed of who I am. Have a great Tuesday readers!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why Am I Not Surprised?

Before I throw my (far less than) two cents in, watch this video:



In case you hadn't already heard or you had no idea what it meant, the roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis Minnesota collapsed on Sunday. It had been leaking since two feet of snow were dumped over the area on Friday. I lived in Minnesota for years, and am a huge fan of the Minnesota Vikings, the principal professional sports team that uses the facilities at the Dome (the Minnesota Twins played there until Target Field was built last year).

I'm not shocked in the least bit. Why? You might ask. Because, I would tell you, whatever engineer designed that building was a moron. The roof is made of Teflon cloth, which is space age enough, I suppose, but what supports it? What keeps it from sagging in the middle? You would think steel girders of some kind would provide the structural integrity to hold the roof up in adverse conditions, or at least some kind of flying butress system that would support the weight from outside, using steel cabling to connect to the panels. But no. The roof of the Metrodome is supported by air pressure. This brilliant idea means that the roof has collapsed no less than 5 times since the Dome was built.

I could go on about this a lot longer, because there are many implications behind this newest occurrence, some good, some bad. Hopefully it means the Vikings will get a new stadium with a retractable roof that can support its own weight. The terrible thing, for now, is that the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants that was supposed to be played at the Metrodome on Sunday will now be played tonight, in Detroit. Anyone who knows anything about football knows what a huge unfair advantage that is for the Giants. And how badly it screws other teams over. The Vikings don't really matter because they are essentially mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but what about NFC East teams like Philadelphia and Dallas? Or teams with better records than the Giants, like New Orleans and Atlanta? Suddenly the Giants have to play one less away game than everybody else.

Not fair. Anyway, here endeth the rant. Enjoy this aerial photo of the Dome's collapsed roof for a moment before you head to the next blog:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Facebook Scam

Morning all. So I've been having a good week, especially when it comes to blogging, and I was looking for a nice easy lazy post for today that would still be entertaining, and then yesterday I got this chat sent to me on FB. I'm not going to give out the name of the account they hacked, but needless to say it is someone I barely know. Luckily I had heard of this scam, so I decided to eff with this monkey.

So anyway, peep this craziness, and let my random helpfulness and innocent confusion be a lesson to all scam artists!

Today
3:57pm
Scammy McFullOfCrappyPants
"HI
how are you doing
?"

3:57pm
Author Matthew Rush
"I'm good, you?"

3:58pm
"Am not too good"

3:58pm
Author Matthew Rush
"oh no, why's that?"

3:58pm
SM
"i'm in kind of terrible problem at the moment
just that i have a big problem regarding my travel
are you aware that am in Scotland"

3:59pm
Me
"No I wasn't what's going on?"

3:59pm
It
"i had to visit a resort on a short vacation but got mugged at a gun point
it was a brutal experience"

Interjection: this is (obvisouly) where I knew exactly what was up. I wanted to see how much fun I could have before they mentioned Western Union. I mean who in the hell "has to" visit a resort. Like what, your company said they'd fire you if you wouldn't go? Yeah right.

3:59pm
Me
"Okay?"

4:00pm
It
"all cash credit card cell phone and my wallet were stolen off me by the muggers"

But clearly not your laptop, right?

4:00pm
Me
"my goodness, what are you going to do?"

4:00pm
Poor Scammy
"really need your help
am freaked out here"

4:01pm
Author Me!
"So you're stuck in Scotland? Where?"

4:01pm
Full of Crappy
"am left with just my life and my passport
yes"

4:02pm
Me
"Did you go to the police?"

4:02pm
They
"i have been to the consulate but they are not helping issue"

What consulate? What American would use that term anyway? Technically a Consulate is like an embassy, except not in a Capitol city, right Ted? I mean come on Scammy, you need to up your game, woman!

4:02pm
Inquisitive Me
"What part of Scotland are you in?"

4:03pm
Full of it It
"Location: 30 Oban Drive, North Kelvinside,
Scotland (United Kingdom)"

4:04pm
Hilarious Me (sometimes I kill myself)
"Did you visit Hogwart's?"

He/she/it ignored that one. Or didn't get it.

4:04pm
It
"the problem is our return flight leaves in few hours time, but am having problem sulting my hotel bills"

4:05pm
Me (a writer)
"Sulting?"

4:06pm
Liar
"pay my bills"

Yeah, right.

4:06pm
Me
"The hotel Bill? But you've got you're plane ticket?"

4:06pm
They
"wondering if i can get a quick loan from you ....
would def refund it to you once we arrive! Hopefully tomorrow"

We? Who the eff is we? You have a mouse in your pocket? I thought you said Steve had rowed to Fiji? Which, BTW, happens to be in the South Pacific, on the opposite side of the world from the Highland Moors of upper Scotland. I'm just sayin.

4:07pm
Pragmatic Me
"So you need money for your hotel bill and a plane ticket?"

4:07pm
Getting a little desperate they
"yes"

4:08pm
Me (a writer can still make typos)
"Pounds Sterlin?
Sterling?"

4:08pm
Shim
"yes"

4:08pm
Me (I looked up the name of my friend's Significant Other)
"Is Steve there?"

4:08pm
Sheet
"am all alone
400 pounds"

Sorry. My previous interjection was premature. Hard to keep track of all these lies.

4:09pm
Me
"what happened to Steve? Is he OK?"

4:09pm
It
"he travel to fijil island"

Okay, I must admit, I didn't see THAT coming.

4:09pm
Me (testing her texting skillz)
"WTH?"

4:11pm
Her, not giving up
"should i give you the info you need when you get t
western union
?"

4:13pm
Me, getting bored, want to push the envelope a little
"Wait. Why did Steve go to Fiji? And what is Western Union?"

4:16pm
Her
"Western union is were you
can wire or send me the money i need to sort my bill"

4:18pm
Me, trying to get creative here
"What will you do while they send money? How will you eat? How many weeks does it take them to send money across the ocean?"

4:20pm
Her
"just a 5 minit"

4:20pm
Me, running out of cleverness
"You'll be back in 5? Okay, I'll be here."

4:22pm
It
"i mean you can search for
western union now and send me the money it will be available in 5 minute
time"

4:22pm
Ready to push "her" over the edge
"Oh. Wow! That's amazing!"

4:26pm
"..........................."

4:28pm
"Don't you think? I mean where do they get the money from?"

4:28pm
"IYA EE"

4:29pm
"What does that mean?"

4:29pm
"I NEED YOUR HELP .......CANT YOU LOAN ME?"

4:30pm
And then I was done. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE ALL CAPS, but I can't stand when the verb doesn't match the subject.
"How do I know you again?"

4:31pm
"YOU POOR THING"

4:32pm
"What do you mean? Am I in trouble too?"

4:33pm
"SO WHY WASTING OUR TIME THEN ..........YOU ANIMAL"

After your incredibly poor attempt, using horrible grammar and English, at scamming some chump change out of me ... I'm the animal? If you spent this much time and effort getting a damn job, you wouldn't need these scams, my man.

4:33pm
WHAT?!?!?
"You crazy!"

4:34pm
"UR FATHERE
UR MAMA CRAZY.............YOU POOR LITTLE BOY
GO TO BED DEAD"

I had no idea what that meant. My Author profile does not talk about kids or family or anything.

And that was where the scammer could take no more. I should have wrote back "here endeth the lesson."

Thanks for playing everyone, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Three Announcements

So today I have another short and beautifully sweet post. Or was that sweet and beautifully short? Probably neither. Anyway, these points will be sorted by order of importance, but there's no telling whether that's sorted ascending, descending, or randomly. So ...
  • I've added comments to the pages on my blog that are in addition to the current post/main page. They are my writing, and my query. I've only written the one novel, so the one query is all I have. Please feel free to visit those pages if you like, but there is no obligation whatsoever. However, the query did win a contest at WriteOnCon (I guess for being somewhat good) and the three flash fiction pieces will all be published next year (so they are hopefully not shite). I would love to hear what all of you think.
  • My wonderful daughter Kylie, who is one of the two best kids who have even been born as humans, and dreams of one day being an author, will be doing a Guestanista/Bookanista Junior post over at Lisa and Laura Roecker's blog today. She's reviewing Personal Demons. These are three of my very favorite women in the world, plus this is an ACTUAL real life YA, reviewing a YA novel in her own words, so please check it out and throw your thoughts into the mamma jammin mix.
  • Finally, my good bud Shannon McMahon has recently started one of the coolest blogging ideas I have ever heard of. Today is the third installment of her anonymous critique posts, so be there. All the cool kids will.
Word.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The League of Ordinarily Surly Men

That's the name of my critique group. Actually it's not. We don't have an official name, or a group blog or anything like that. We're pretty informal about the whole thing actually. Plus, we're not even very surly. Most of us are really nice. Simon is probably the only one who is so mean it's scary sometimes.

Just kidding. Anyway, I've got a lot of reading that I owe my crit group, and I'm really behind on it. So I won't be doing a real post or reading many blogs today. Instead you should visit the blogs of the other members of my crit group.


Ted Cross is the original member. Ted and I met, where else, on Nathan's forums and have been friends and writing buddies ever since. We connected as soon as I found out that not only does Ted love Fantasy as much as I do, but unlike me, has the courage to write it.

Simon C. Larter was a silent partner for a long time, then he got more involved, and now he's back to less again. We're not mad at him at all though, because even when he doesn't have pages to share with us he still critiques our work. Can you imagine a nicer thing to do? Plus he's hilarious, even if a little surly when he's out of vodka.

Ryan Z. Nock is the newest member, and the youngest, but he's a damn fine writer and came highly recommended by my mentor, Bryan Russell. Ryan actually lives in Atlanta, well just outside, but a lot closer than me, and we still haven't actually met yet. We need to get on that.

Anyway, please go visit their blogs and follow them, you won't regret it!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bouquinistes

Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

I heard a really interesting story on NPR this morning about the book sellers who ply their wares on the banks of the Seine in Paris. These people are known as bouquinistes, which I guess means booksellers? I don't really know because I don't speak French. Anyway, rather than steal the story and represent it as my own, I will just point you to the article on the NPR website, here. The audio for the produced for radio version of the story will be available around 9 AM EST.

Anyway, the whole thing also reminded me of an awesome group of bloggers I know. The Bookanistas. Well, I don't actually know all of them, but I do know some of them. Here is a list of links to their blogs in case somehow, for some crazy unknown reason, you haven't heard of them:

Myra McEntire
Michelle Hodkin
Lisa and Laura Roecker

So there you go. Enjoy the article, check out the Bookanistas and have a great day! I'm off to work on something for my crit group.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ship Breaker

Today I will be discussing this wonderful new novel I just recently finished reading, Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi. First, I need to thank Karen Amanda Hooper, whose blog I won my copy on. Thanks Karen!

Anyway, this is the author's first young adult novel, but Paolo's writing has appeared in High Country News, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Salon.com, and Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. He is a Hugo and Nebula Award winner, and a National Book Award finalist.

From Booklist: This YA debut by Bacigalupi, a rising star in adult science fiction, presents a dystopian future like so many YA sf novels. What is uncommon, though, is that although Bacigalupi's future earth is brilliantly imagined and its genesis anchored in contemporary issues, it is secondary to the memorable characters. In a world in which society has stratified, fossil fuels have been consumed, and the seas have risen and drowned coastal cities, Nailer, 17, scavenges beached tankers for scrap metals on the Gulf Coast. Every day, he tries to “make quota” and avoid his violent, drug-addicted father. After he discovers a modern clipper ship washed up on the beach, Nailer thinks his fortune is made, but then he discovers a survivor trapped in the wreckage—the “swank” daughter of a shipping-company owner. Should he slit the girl's throat and sell her for parts or take a chance and help her? Clearly respecting his audience, Bacigalupi skillfully integrates his world building into the compelling narrative, threading the backstory into the pulsing action. The characters are layered and complex, and their almost unthinkable actions and choices seem totally credible. Vivid, brutal, and thematically rich, this captivating title is sure to win teen fans for the award-winning Bacigalupi. Grades 8-12.

Book Details
Title: Ship Breaker
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 326
Year: 2010
Language: English
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-316-05621-2
First published: 2010

The QQQE take: I certainly won't disagree with any of that, and the characters are in fact very compelling, but the thing that really drew me into this tale was the voice of the narrator, and the language of the world in which Nailer lived. Instead of injecting these very real characters full of foul language that honestly would have been perfectly believable, Bacigalupi gives them their own unique slang. Phrases like "grind that," "blood and rust," "sliding high," and "crew up" replace contemporary oaths and exclamations.

The writing is pretty straight forward, not too literary, but the description does have a few very lovely moments. Just the kind of stuff I like to read. Here is a passage that was selected for the inside jacket flap:

Even at night, the wrecks glowed with work. The torch lights flickered, bobbing and moving. Sledge noise rang across the water. Comforting sounds of work and activity, the air tanged with the coal reek of smelters and the salft fresh breeze coming off the water. It was beautiful.

There are also some underlying themes about the environment, socio-economic issues, human rights and other things, which although I found them very interesting, I won't have time to go into here. I did find an excellent review on another blog if you are interested in reading more: Val's Random Comments.

Anyway I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA, and even many who don't. Let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, December 3, 2010

G.O.T.

I'm not sure what's wrong with me this week but I have no inspiration to come up with my standard clever, educational, hilarious and inspiring blog posts, so instead I'm going to leave you with this video. Get excited, get very excited biatches (assuming you have HBO).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Shannon's Anonymous Critique

I don't have anything today. Instead I'll ask all of you to please head over to Shannon's Anonymous Critique, here. I'll be taking part and this is really a cool and unique service, so let's give it, and her, some support!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lovin' the Hate

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.


Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/hNBkJk

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/hX2ieD


No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.


Coming soon in paperback.


Keep up with the latest at www.talliroland.com.


About THE HATING GAME:


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Best and Worst Film Adaptations

I can't believe I'm already back at work and back to the daily grind. I had five days off in a row, and while it was wonderful, it was far too short. Poop.

I didn't get as much writing done as I would have liked, but I did get some done, so I'll take it for what it is. One thing we did do over the weekend was have a Harry Potter marathon. My little nephew came over on Saturday, and both he and my kids (and I) love Harry Potter, and we saw the new one last weekend, so we spent Saturday watching several of them in a row.

Now, I love them all, but I will say that they very a lot in the quality of adaption from the books. There is a different director for almost every single film, and while the style stays somewhat similar, there are differences. Anyway, point is it got me thinking about adaptations of books I loved into films. It is a deep and complex topic, which is a lot of fun to think about. Too bad I have only a few minutes here.

So I'm going to talk briefly about some of the best and worst adaptations of all time, IMHO. For best, there are several options, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris was an excellent book and an amazing film, and the adaptation was pretty accurate. I would probably rate it higher if the other films in the series were not so terrible. Contact by Carl Sagan is another good example. The book was amazing, and the film was very good, though probably not 100% accurate.

That being said my favorite adaptation of all time is the Peter Jackson/New Line production of the Lord of the Rings. All three films were incredible, and excellently adapted, but I think that the Fellowship of the Ring is the best of the three. I realize it takes a hit in accuracy for skipping the entire Tom Bombadil and River Daughter section, but I actually think that worked quite well in the film. Nearly everything else was pretty close to the novel, and they included so much, which is rather difficult considering the sheer volume of the tale.

This was probably the most anticipated adaptation ever, and with the amount of hype that went along with the production, it's essentially nothing short of amazing that it turned out as well as it did. I remember having a picture book with a read along cassette of LOTR as a kid, so I had been waiting for this FOREVER, and apart from a couple of cheesy Legolas hollywood shield and trunk surfing moments, it did not fail to please.

(this is not the right product, but it's the closest picture I could find)

Moving on before I go on forever I should cover some bad adaptations. I'm not exactly sure what went wrong with The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. The books are very good, and I actually thought the film wasn't bad, but for some reason it seems to have flopped because I have not heard a thing about any sequels (the books are a trilogy).

I tried to look up some other examples but they're either books and movies that I loved (some people online apparently think Kubrick's version of Stephen King's The Shining was terrible) or I haven't read the book. So rather than spending any more time on this than it deserves I'll just tell you what I think was the worst film adaptation in recent history: Eragon.

I know some of you thought the book was completely derivative, which I'll admit it was, but I still loved it. And the film? Jeremy Irons? John Malkovich? Djimon Hounsou? It should have been outstanding. Instead it was terrible, nothing like the book, flopped at the box office, and ruined any chances of the sequels ever being made. Thankfully the books are doing fine and the video game was okay.

So that's it for today. What are the best and worst adaptions ever in your opinion? I'm especially curious to hear from film buffs like Alex and Dezmond.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

AMC's The Walking Dead

It's Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This will be my last post for several days. I should return to blogging on Tuesday, November 30th. It's going to be nice to have 5 days outside this hell hole office for once. I plan on getting a lot of writing and critiquing done.

I would like to take a moment to thank each and every person who has ever visited my blog. Whether you follow, comment, read, lurk or try your very best to hock viagra I love you all. Seriously. Okay maybe not the spammers so much, but they need love too. Mostly I love you writers. You people are so giving, so kind, so helpful and so supportive. When I first set out to write a novel I knew not a single other serious writer. Now I know, literally, hundreds.

You people RAWK!


Ahem. Anyway, back to the topic at hand: my favorite new TV Show! What better topic for the "Friday" before the holidays, right?

So, my favorite new show is The Walking Dead, on AMC. I believe it comes on at 10PM on Sundays, but ever since we got a DVR I'm completely spoiled and out of touch about actual air times. Americans and our luxuries, no?


The Walking Dead is a show about a Zombie Apocalypse. It's set in Atlanta, where I live, and actually filmed on location. I'll go over my complaints first, since there are very few.
  • For whatever reason AMC does not offer an HD signal, not in my area and not on my provider (AT&T U-Verse). Considering how many HD channels I have to pay for that I never watch, this is a bit of a bitch.
  • Occasionally the acting and or writing comes across as a little stilted. None of the lead actors on this show have a lot of experience or are well known, but I suspect this feeling is more based on occaional poor writing. Most of the writing like the plot and character develepmont, as well as pacing and tension is excellent, but every so often the dialogue comes across as a little forced.
  • Commercials. I know, it's not fair. This isn't HBO, but I think I've gotten spoiled by shows like Boardwalk Empire, True Blood, and Entourage. I know they have to pay the bills but I HATE friggin' commercials. Yes I have it recorded and I can skip them but it's a pain. There is a reason I am willing to pay for HBO.
Now, on to what I love about this show. There are many things, so ... screw it, I'm still going with a bullet point list because I love bullet point lists.
  • It's a Zombie Apocalypse! I mean come on, who doesn't love Zombies? They're awesome, but this show also takes the whole thing quite seriously, which is really cool (not that there is anything wrong with taking a humorous approach to the shambling masses). And nothing against Twilight, but it's great to see horror go scary again.
  • The setting and cinematography. It's filmed on location in Atlanta, which is near to home, but I also love that they use no CGI (as far as I can tell) and the angles and shots they have featuring the city (and from the skyline) are gorgeous.
  • The makeup. As I said there is no CGI. Every Zombie hoard is made up of real extras (that means actors) who are costumed and made up beautifully. You can also win a chance to be a Zombie on the show on the AMC website (I think).
  • The characters. There's a bit of an ensemble cast, which as my crit group knows, is something I love. Obviously some characters play a much larger role than others, but they're all compelling so far.
  • The network. Okay, I'll admit that I've only watched Mad Men a few times, but AMC seems to be a network on the rise to me. And, although it's not premium, they somehow get away with more violence, more swearing, and more adult content than broadcast networks.
  • Based on a comic book series. 'Nuff said.
Ah well, I could probably go on, but it's Friday, or something like that.

Have a wonderful holiday everyone, even if you live in France, or Greece (you two know who you are), and make sure you get enough BRAAAAAAAAAIIIINSSSS!!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

JD's Query for LOST AND FOUND Critiqued

Before we get started I just want to say thanks to Justine for being the first person to ever reach out to me in the forums. She was the first person to ever critique my query way back when and it's been a pleasure to be her friend ever since and watch her skill at crafting queries grow immensely.

In fact I think this query here, that we're looking at this week, is an excellent example. The query is already very good, and along with an awesome premise and some great writing would probably earn her several requests. But we're here today to try to make it the very best it can be, so I'll try to nit-pick it apart a little.

Here goes:


Twelve-year-old Kelly Moore is determined to do something someone her age has never done before: win a National Barrel Racing Championship. All she has to do is win the State Finals and she’ll be on her way. When her beloved horse, Rocket, and seven other horses are stolen right after she competes at the finals, Kelly freaks.

This opening paragraph is really good. I do think there are a couple of things missing though. I think the second half of your first sentence makes for a strong hook. What would make it even better is just a little more of Kelly's character, and maybe a teeny bit of backstory. Is she a good kid? Straight A student? A loner? Is her family life happy? Mom and dad divorced? I think from the info you give that we can probably infer that this a good girl from a decent home, but it would be great to know a little more about her ASAP.

Otherwise your setup of the conflict and the stakes is excellent. Well done.

Kelly’s biggest fear is that her horse is on its way to the slaughterhouse. She hangs missing horse flyers everywhere and questions everyone. No luck. When she accuses a barn manager of theft and breaks in to his office in an attempt to prove his guilt, Kelly’s gets a dose of parental retribution. But she won’t give up.

This is also good. You're expanding on the conflict and the players without going overboard. One thing I think you should consider here is injecting a little more voice. Kelly may be a good kid but she might refer to being "freaked" about her poor house and the slaughterhouse, and she might have a flashy adjective for the barn manager. Is he "nasty", "smelly", "mean old"? I know those are all kind of lame, but I bet you can come up with something better. Ask Em!

Kelly’s nemesis, Missy, had her horse stolen too. And Missy’s bound and determined to not let Kelly leave her out of the chase. Kelly finally catches a hot lead and does the unthinkable: hides in the horse thief’s trailer with Missy at her side. They find the horses but get caught by the bad guys in the process. No one’s future is looking bright when a fire engulfs the barn they’re in.

Just a couple things here. I actually think this is pretty darn good too. I like how the stakes get raised here and how the old nemesis gets involved but I got a little confused when you jumped from hiding out in the trailer to getting caught inside a burning barn. Obviously it makes perfect sense in the story, but it felt too quick for me in the query. You might be able to leave the burning barn out, after all you don't want to give away everything. Or you can keep it in. This query is certainly short enough to leave you room, maybe just transition into that climax a little differently if you keep it.

Kelly must put her dislike of Missy aside while they work together. If she doesn’t, the girls won’t be able to save themselves—or their beloved horses—before it’s too late for them all.

I actually love this. This is one of the best summarys, clarifying the choice that Kelly must make, that I've seen in a while. I would keep this.

LOST AND FOUND, a middle grade novel, is complete at 31,000 words.

Obviously you've got more room for housekeeping and personalization if needed, but this critique is about the meat anyway.

So. Well done Justine! It's so cool to see how far your query skills have come. I wish you the best of luck in submitting this fun little tale.

What do you guys think? Any suggestions for adding more character to her hook and making that first sentence pitch pop a little more?

Dear Justine

Hey JD! So sorry but I have to take my daughter to the doctor this morning. I'm still doing your post and I still want to help but I just had to put this up to let you know my critique should be up soon. Hopefully before noon, eastern.

Have a great morning until then! Thanks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Justine Dell's Query for LOST AND FOUND

This week we're going to be doing another query workshop here on the QQQE. We're going to be breaking down Justine Dell's query for her MG novel, LOST AND FOUND. If you don't know Justine, you should definitely visit her blog and become a follower. She's been on hiatus lately, but once she comes back her Grammar Police posts are really useful.

Anyway, today I'm just going to be sharing her query, saving the feedback until tomorrow. Feel free to say hello, or ask any questions you might have, but please also save your own feedback for tomorrow as well. Thanks!

Now, Justine's query:


Twelve-year-old Kelly Moore is determined to do something someone her age has never done before: win a National Barrel Racing Championship. All she has to do is win the State Finals and she’ll be on her way. When her beloved horse, Rocket, and seven other horses are stolen right after she competes at the finals, Kelly freaks.

Kelly’s biggest fear is that her horse is on its way to the slaughterhouse. She hangs missing horse flyers everywhere and questions everyone. No luck. When she accuses a barn manager of theft and breaks in to his office in an attempt to prove his guilt, Kelly’s gets a dose of parental retribution. But she won’t give up.

Kelly’s nemesis, Missy, had her horse stolen too. And Missy’s bound and determined to not let Kelly leave her out of the chase. Kelly finally catches a hot lead and does the unthinkable: hides in the horse thief’s trailer with Missy at her side. They find the horses but get caught by the bad guys in the process. No one’s future is looking bright when a fire engulfs the barn they’re in.

Kelly must put her dislike of Missy aside while they work together. If she doesn’t, the girls won’t be able to save themselves—or their beloved horses—before it’s too late for them all.

LOST AND FOUND, a middle grade novel, is complete at 31,000 words.

Please don't forget to come back tomorrow to see what I think about this query, and to give some of your own feedback. I realize it's a holiday week, and blogging should be slow, but let's give Justine all the help we can - tomorrow.

Thanks!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Morning Darks

That's supposed to be a play on words. Like the opposite of Friday Night Lights, but what's the opposite of Friday? Monday? I'm sure as hell not talking about Monday, not on a Friday. Er - wait, a, second ... I just did, didn't I?

Damn. Sorry about that. Never mind anyway. The title of the post means nothing. This is just a random stream on unconsciousness because it's still dark outside and no self respecting person in this timezone should be awake just yet.

Welcome to all the new followers and commenters, especially those of you from yesterday. That was an amazing post and I'm really glad to see how well it worked out. Jessica is awesome and it's so nice to be able to call her a friend. It's funny how followers and comments go sometimes. I was stuck at 398 for like two weeks, and now I've gained almost 20 more in just a couple days. Welcome one and all, I truly do love your visits.

So, back to Jessica for a moment. Obviously her novel STRING BRIDGE, which comes out next year on Lucky Press, in November, is very exciting, but I completely forgot to mention (no idea why), that Jessica Bell, Nicole Ducleroir, and myself will all be having our short stories published in the Static Movement Press anthology Literary Foray. There is no date set yet because the editor, Chris Bartholomew is still collecting short stories. If you're interested in submitting, please visit Static Movement's website. Still though, isn't that exciting? It's almost as cool as being agent mates, or it might be even cooler, I'm not sure yet.

You can read my two short stories, and one other that is going into a different anthology, on the My Writing page at the top of this blog. I can't believe I'm being this unprofessional about it, but I don't have links to Jess and Nicole's stories. I can link you to more info about Nicole's short stories in general, here, but Jess doesn't have hers on hers blog. I'll add them to this post if they want me to, but it also may be better for sales if they're kept secret. Mwah hah hah ... yeah.

So the only other thing I want to cover this morning is my buddy T. R. Konrad. TR is a guy I know in real life. He's a lot like me in that he's always loved to read, and often thought about writing, but only recently decided to start taking it seriously. He's not sure about novels, but he loves to write short stories and has decided to seek publication of some kind. Those of you who know me know that I'm all about the writing community, and when it comes to writers helping writers there is nothing I find more satisfying.

So please visit the blog of T. R. Konrad, and read some of his creative writing. His blog is brand new, so it's a little sparse, and his writing still has that raw edge to it that can be so exciting in a new writer. Also be sure to follow his blog and comment, because I have explained to him that this whole blogging thing is all about give and take, so if you visit him, follow and comment, you will gain a loyal reader of your blog as well.

And what's the point of writing on the internet if no one sees it? If you don't share your work with others you're not writing, you're just writing stuff down.

Have a great day. Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Interview with Author Jessica Bell

I don't know if the rest of you feel this way, but I consider an author to be something a little different than a writer. An author is published. And author is a professional writer. I don't consider myself an author, yet, but Facebook made me put "author" in front of my name because they wouldn't accept "writer".


Jessica Bell doesn't have to worry about stuff like that anymore.

Her debut novel STRING BRIDGE, is going to be published by Lucky Press, next year. Crap, I can't remember if she knows the release date yet. Jess? Please put that in a comment if you have that info.

Jessica is also really awesome. There is a funny little story about our friendship too. When we "met" I was a complete blogging noob. I had maybe 10 followers and probably only 3 people who actually read my blog. One of them was Jessica. And she has the coolest screen name too, as I'm sure you know "The Alliterative Allomorph". She commented on my blog for like two weeks in a row. I loved her comments and thought she was awesome, but for some unknown reason, had never visited her blog. I tell myself it was because I just didn't get it yet, but really I think I was just an idiot at the time. So long story short, Jessica had the balls to email me and ask me WTF?

We've been good friends ever since.

So, this interview is long. Good, but long, so we might as well get to it. Here goes:


When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?


I played with the idea when I was about fifteen, when I started getting into literature at school. I was already writing a lot of lyrics and poetry then. When I started university I thought about it more seriously, but lacked the talent because I was too used to writing lyrics and having the emotion of those lyrics embellished with music. I just couldn’t make my words sing without the music. Then I moved overseas, was isolated on a small island for two years (story too long to go into), and began hammering away at my first novel. Which I eventually erased, never to be retrieved again. I hated it. Don’t regret deleting it at all. When I finally got off the island in 2005, I started another novel – the one that’s finally getting published. Yay!


How long have you been writing seriously?


I guess since 2005.


What is your favorite thing about writing?


Being alone. And not being judged for my weird thoughts, because for some reason society allows us to be weird in writing and art. Don’t you think?


I do!


What is the most difficult part?


Being true to myself. I doubt myself all the time. You know, I think, ‘yeah, sure, I feel this way, and I can probably find the words to express it, but will anyone understand?’


What kind of band were you in, and did you play lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, or something else?


It was like a rock band, except not the usual set-up. I played guitar, lead and rhythm, what ever was right for the song, as I was the only guitar. There were drums/congas (again depending on song), and violin and cello. The cello always played the bass lines. It was one of the best periods of my life having that band.


Did you ever release any albums?


We made a lot of demo CDs, but never released any. We did play a lot of gigs though, and also won a few band competitions.


If you had to meet one of your characters in a dark alley who would you last want to meet, and why?


Er, I dunno. I like all my characters. Even the majorly flawed ones can be easily persuaded to calm down if they decided to psychologically flip out. Wait … there is one character(s) that gets mentioned very briefly who we never meet, in String Bridge. The rock-venue mafia that slashed Melody’s husband’s chest. But that happened in the past and is not a part of the plot.


And which character would you want there with you for protection?


Melody’s mother. She’s got a mean slap and yelling voice.


Can you tell us a little more about STRING BRIDGE than what is revealed in your query (when you shared it on my blog as DEAD IN THE CORNER OF MY BEDROOM)? For example, a little about your characters, where the idea of them came from, what sparked your initial idea, and how you decided what genre it would be?


Woah! That’s a huge question. Ok. This means I have to let you in on some personal stuff …


My life sparked the idea, however, the situation eventually turned into something completely different from my life. Yes, it’s located in Athens and I’m a musician, but these are the differences: One: I may have a passion for music, but I don’t dream to be a rock star – I dream to be an author. Two: I’m not married with a four year old daughter. – I have a fiancĂ© and a dog. Three: I’ve never had to choose between a corporate career and following a dream, because I’ve always been certain that following my dream will come first (after loved-ones of course).


I didn’t decide the genre until I’d written it and had to analyze what it was. I still can’t pigeon-hole it. The best description is literary women’s fiction.


Main characters of String Bridge:


Melody: A thirty year old wife and mother who lost sight of her dream to become a professional musician amidst a mountain of domesticity, motherhood and corporate ladder-climbing. A life she never asked for but somehow let herself fall into. She’s tries to find herself again, but becomes neglectful of her family. By the time she realizes they are more important to her than music, it might be too late.


Alex: Melody’s husband. A music events manager who convinced Melody to give up playing gigs after their daughter was born. Melody resents him for it – for obvious reasons. He resents Melody for putting up a wall. She used to tell him everything. Now she hides everything and their love is disintegrating. But instead of telling her how he feels, he goes and does something to make it worse. Which in turn causes a chain of events that could have been avoided had they communicated properly in the first place.


Tessa: The daughter. Four years old. The only person in Melody’s world she would do anything for. She likes to cut off her Barbies’ hair, and lick her dog’s face. Melody/Tessa encounters in the novel show a totally different side of Melody.


Betty: Melody’s mother. Suffers from bipolar disorder. Affects Melody’s existence in ways I can’t describe in a few sentences.


James: Melody’s father. Timid. Afraid to speak his thoughts. Does everything Betty tells him to. Kind-hearted. Gentle. But very passive, and easily walked all over.


Are you working on any other projects right now? If so, could you tell us a little about them? If not, have you got any ideas marinating?


Yes. A novel called BITTER LIKE ORANGE PEEL, about a woman in search for a father she has never met. Her search reveals secrets which threaten the solid family relationships she already has. You can read about it HERE.


I've read excepts of both these novels and just want to interject for a sec to say that Jessica's writing is ... incredible.


Tell us a little bit about what it’s like to work with a small independent publisher like Lucky Press, and what it’s like to work with an editor without an agent. I know you’ve written about this some on your blog, but is there anything new you can add here?


I’ve never had an agent so I can’t really compare. I’ve just this week signed the contract so I can’t add anything more than what I’ve written on my blog. Sorry!


No problem!


Is there anything else you’d like to add?


Just that I love to explore relationships. My stories are more about emotions, and dealing with the mundane of the every day than exciting plot lines. That might sound boring on the surface, but I’ve really tried to write ‘the everyday’ in a way that readers can experience it on a deeper, more psychoanalytical level. I hope I achieve this. I can’t wait to get feedback on what people think of my writing when my debut is published. This makes it hard to summarize my work, too. Summaries of my work are BORING. The events, plot points, really mean nothing. What is exciting is in ‘the how’. And this is impossible to explain in a couple of paragraphs. Which peeves me to no end because I can’t find a way to pull people into my work without going into a lot detail. Thankfully, Lucky Press asked for the detail!


Fun Random Questions for The End (I stole this interview idea from Jen at Unedited, though I made my own questions up). Which would you rather be?


Joan Jett or JK Rowling? Joan Jett!


Eating chocolate or drinking wine? Wine.


Sunning yourself on an island in the Mediterranean or sailing near the Great Barrier Reef? Well, I’ve done plenty of the sunning in the Med in my lifetime, so sailing near the Reef it is for sure!


Writing poetry or singing music? You have GOT to be kidding me!?! This is near impossible!!! Ack … writing poetry if the singing you’re talking about is live in front of an audience. I hate performing live. And singing music, if it’s my own (so I get to sing my own lyrics – ha!) alone in my bedroom.


A Wallaby or a Platypus? Wallaby.


Eating a vegemite sandwich or shrimp on the barbie?

LOL! My answer is in this link:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aix0cEp0N_0


Wow, hilarious!


Thanks so much Jess! I really appreciate you coming by and answering my questions. It's been so fun to know you these last several months and I'm so excited to see you getting your debut novel published!


Please say hi in the comments and let Jessica know if you all have any other questions.


P.S. My daughter Kylie is playing Bookanista Junior today over at Lisa and Laura's blog, and reviewing The Replacement from an actual YA perspective. Please stop by and say hi, and then visit all the Bookanista's!