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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Summer's Over, Fall TV, Time to Rock the Vote

Blink. Where did the summer go? I mean, yeah, it's warm enough this weekend. Beautiful, actually. And if this pattern continues, we're going to have a stellar September in New England. Considering how much of the summer it rained, that'll be a nice switch. But...damn...where did it go?

At the risk of sounding like an old man (cue "frail old man voice")...When I was a kid, which in my mind doesn't seem like all that long ago, summer LASTED. Sure, we played video games and watched tons of TV, just like my own kids do now...but we spent as much time outside as possible. We wandered neighborhoods and purposely got lost in the woods, walked miles to meet up with other friends for pizza or at the movie theatre. We hung out. We took the long days of summer and we wrang every last second out of them.

Now, it seems like most of the kids I know, my own included, take John Mayer's advice from a few years ago, and spend their time wandering "the great indoors." My middle child starts school on Tuesday, and I'm sure he's looking up from World of Warcrack and going "wait, what? School just ended." Whoops. Sorry buddy, the summer went right by when you weren't paying attention.

So there you go...words to the wise. Next summer, milk it for all its worth. Hell, don't even wait. Get out there now. The days are still long enough. Enjoy the fall. Carpe Diem and all that.

One thing that has never changed for me...When summer ends, I get all excited that the new TV season is about to start. I'm always hoping for a new show that will totally blow me away. I'm a TV junkie, I guess...although also a book junkie and a movie junkie. But as the days get shorter and the cool weather comes in, and school and work schedules take away some of the freedom of summer, I love me some good TV. And we are fortunate to be living in an era when there is more great television around than ever before. If you're getting the idea that I watch WAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY too much TV, you're absolutely correct.

Kind of ironic, right? Even a little hypocritical? I'm telling you to go and milk your summer days for all they're worth, but looking forward to immersing myself in the fall TV season. But, see, if I could've, I would've taken the whole summer off and spent it meeting friends for pizza, going to the beach, riding my bike, and reading, just like I did when I was 14. Fall is different. It has my favorite holiday--Halloween--and it has all kinds of new TV, most of which will be crappy, and of which I'll watch one episode, but some of which will be brilliant. (Personally, I'm hoping the American version of LIFE ON MARS will be as good as the UK original, but what are the odds?)

Plus, the DVR is the greatest invention ever.

Finally...this fall, it's time to Rock the Vote. If you're old enough to vote, then educate yourself. Watch this fall's debates. Watch the speeches at the party conventions. Pay attention. If you're not old enough to vote, do the same, but make sure that your parents and voting-age friends and relatives do it too. Anyone visiting my Facebook page will know who I'm voting for, but I'm not telling YOU who to vote for. What I'm saying is...VOTE. Make sure others do. The USA is in crisis. This fall's election is the most important in my lifetime, and will have massive impact on the future of this nation. You get to have a say in that decision. You have a vote. USE IT.

Next month, I'll be gearing up for the release of SOULLESS, so it'll be back to talking about zombies. Until then...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Ice Cream Sundae List

What about putting together a list of things you want to accomplish during your lifetime? Think Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson in the Bucket List. Well, my list is called the ice cream sundae list and it’s things that would make my life sweeter. So here are ten things I’d like to do during my lifetime, in no particular order.

1. Take a glass blowing class.
2. Learn how to make sushi.
3. Go white water rafting.
4. Have a walk on role in a movie (almost accomplished this when I was fourteen but 5. unfortunately my scene was cut from the final).
5. Visit the stunning Madeira Island off of Portugal.
6. Volunteer in a third world orphanage.
7. Make wine at a real vineyard.
8. Meet the amazing actor Sidney Poitier.
9. Have a picnic and play Scrabble again in Tanglewood, Mass. while listening to the symphony play live.
10. Be a guest judge on a cheesy reality TV show.

So what are some things that you’d like to tackle during your lifetime? Big or small? And remember to have fun!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Smart Girls Wear Glasses But...

I’ve never worn glasses before except for sunglasses which happen to be my favorite fashion accessory besides shoes. Everyone in my immediate family wears glasses. My mom has bifocals and my brother needed eye surgery when he was born. I had 20-20 vision. It was the only time in my life that I felt like something about me was actually perfect. I’ve had a chronic case of low self-esteem since I was a kid, but my eyes have always been the one feature that I’ve loved about myself. They are a unique shade of hazel with cool orange rings around the iris that I’ve always gotten compliments on, I’m pretty good at jazzing them up with eye makeup and big sunglasses, and since I’m a bit of perfectionist, knowing that I had that 20-20 vision meant a lot to me.

Except then I started noticing it wasn’t quite so perfect anymore. My boyfriend (who also wears glasses) and mother would be able to read signs of in the distance faster than I could. Mom had never been able to do that when I was a kid! And when I saw Juno last year, that note that Jennifer Garner has framed on her wall at the end, I had to seriously squint to read that on the big screen.

Okay, I rationalized, so maybe my perfect vision isn’t perfect anymore, but I'm sure it's still good enough. My mom was not so sure. “I’m sorry, but you just have really bad genes when it comes to vision.” (And acne, thanks Dad, and annoyingly wavy hair, thanks Mom.) Since I’m quitting my full-time job with the swanky state benefits including free vision insurance (my last day is tomorrow! You can read about all my angsty decision-making process on my blog here), she convinced me to go to the eye doctor while I could still do it for a mere 10 bucks. So last Saturday I went to my local Pearle Vision.

They sent me in with this doctor who, before he did anything, asked me if my last name was German and what it meant. I didn’t know what it meant, so he proceeded to get a German dictionary and look it up. No surprise, it wasn't in there. I mean is Smith in the English dictionary? It doesn’t mean anything, why would Kuehnert? As my mom would say he was a bit of a kook.

So he flashed lights in my eyes and everything was great except when I got to the very last line of the eye chart. Do it without squinting? Umm, no I can’t do that. Suddenly a thing is down in front of my face and he’s flipping little glasses lenses around. “Can you see better now? How about now? Say one or two.” With each “one” or “two,” my voice got a little bit more high-pitched. This guy was going to try to say I needed glasses just ‘cause I couldn’t read that freakin’ last line without, wasn’t he? I’ve never seen letters so small out in the real world. I shouldn’t need glasses just for that! But I had a horrible sick feeling that much like I’d been forced to learn useless forms of math that would never help me do real world things like taxes, I’d be forced into glasses.

Sure enough at the end, Dr. German Obsession declared that I was slightly near-sighted, but with no other problems, so I should go pick out some glasses.

“Uh, but I have no problem seeing things up close so I only need them when I’m driving or at the movies or something, right?”

He sighed with irritation, “Why does everyone always ask me that? These will only effect your vision when you’re viewing things a few meters away. I don’t know if that answers your question, but it’s technically correct.”

I want to scream at him, “No it doesn’t answer my goddamn question. I'm 29 years old, I've never had glasses and never wanted them. This is a dramatic change for me and I want to cry.” Instead I just eeked out, “What?”

He proceeded to define “technically correct,” but I cut him off and repeated my question. “Do I have to wear them all the time or only when I’m driving.”

“You should wear them when you’re driving, but of course I’d like it if you wore them all the time. I don't know why nobody ever wants to wear them.” he said with irritation.

I wandered out of his office in a daze and immediately the salesgirls descended. “Do you need frames?”

“I guess.” I explained the situation to her and said, “So I only need them for driving right?”

“Sure,” she agreed and then herded me over to the frame selection. I’m hardly able to focus on them, I’m trying so hard not to cry. I know it sounds silly. I know they say “Smart girls wear glasses,” and I know many smart girls who do and I kept trying to focus on that, but I'd finally become mostly comfortable with the way I looked and I didn't want to adjust to this. I didn't want people to notice my glasses, I want people to notice my eyes and my makeup and my hair and my smile . Basically I felt the way I assume most kids do when they are told they need glasses.

The salesgirl worked really hard to try to encourage me. "What sorts of styles do you like?"

"I don't know. I never considered this." I looked helplessly at the glasses. None of them were fun big sunglasses, those are the only glasses I like. If I wear glasses all the time, I can't wear them. It's only for driving and things at a distance, I reminded myself, but still I was basically sucking back tears the entire time. Even after the salesgirl told me I reminded her of her sister's roller derby girl friends (I wish I was roller derby girl cool!). She helped me narrow it down to two pairs that she felt suited my personality. A pair of Candies' cat eye glasses and a pair of Lulu Guinness glasses that looked like sparkly fishnets along the sides. I leaned toward the cat-eye because that is a sunglass style I like, but I was unsure. The salesgirl got a colleague. They both thought I should go with the Lulu Guinness because there was less unnecessary frame hiding my face. They also said they were envious of me being able to pull off black frames. I didn't think I could pull them off or any other glasses for that matter, but I handed over my credit card (my stupid state insurance didn't cover that much so I still paid 250$ and that's why I didn't get a contacts exam because it didn't cover that at all). These are the glasses, but in black.

When I went outside I called my mom and cried. Yeah, I know pathetic, but there it is. Mom reassured me that I really do only have to wear them when driving, it won't hurt my eyes or anything (and she's a nurse so I trust her). The next day my co-worker Kathy was actually excited for me. She said, "I love getting glasses! It's a new accessory!" She also reassured me that she had the exact same condition as me only used them for driving, when she even remembered to do that.

I'm still up and down about it. But here I am in my new frames, expressing my initial feelings with a pout:

My boyfriend says I'm cuter when I'm not pouting though, so here I am not pouting, but I gotta say I don't feel like I look like myself in this pic at all:

I'm sure I'll get used to it and come to think of it how Kathy does. What about you guys, do you wear glasses or contacts? And did you react like I did when I first got them? (though probably most of you were kids, so the childishness was more acceptable. My poor boyfriend probably wanted to strangle me for whining so much the first couple days) If you don't have glasses, did you ever have to go back to school sporting a new look you weren't so sure about?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

'Tis the season...

No, no... I haven't lost that much track of time. The season I'm referring to is autumn and of course, with it, Back to School. Rumor has it that much of the country still adheres to the old schedule of "first Tuesday after Labor Day" is the first day of school. Which makes perfect sense, really, unless you live in Florida. It's never been a matter of course for us down here. In fact, the last time I remember school starting the Tuesday after Labor Day was maybe when I was in first grade, a... erm, long time ago. As a general rule, school went back sometime during the last week of August, sometime after my birthday. (The 25th for those of you playing along with the home game.) Then, for a while, many school districts in Florida were even starting earlier, in some cases, as early as the first week of August. Can you imagine? In Florida, even with air conditioning, this sucks. A lot. Luckily, reason has begun prevailing again and most kids will be going back to school starting this coming week.

The lead up for all this? The transition from summer to fall, and back to school affects me too. Not just because I get to go shopping for school supplies and clothes and become The Enforcer where earlier bedtimes and homework is concerned, but because it's sort of the signal for me to buckle down and get back to work. Now, mind you, I'm an incurable workaholic, so I never really stop working throughout the year, but there's just something about seeing all the clean backpacks and stacks of fresh notebooks and bins of pens with ink in every color known to man (my own personal weakness), that brings to mind new beginnings and projects and schedules and really juices me up. And football-- college, preferably. (Go Noles!) And comfort foods. There's just so much to love about autumn, not the least of which is that part where I get the house back to myself. That totally rocks.

The one thing that I really miss, being back down in Florida, is the knowledge that the temperatures will soon start to cool down and the leaves will change. Temps in North Florida won't really drop until, oh... late November. Maybe. Which kind of rots, because I live for cooler temperatures. I'm one of those whackjobs whose energy levels rise in proportion to the temperatures dropping. Eh-- so I'll just put a nice changing leaves screensaver on the monitor, turn the air-conditioner down a degree or two, and buy a nice fresh notebook and pack of pens.

School's in session and I'm ready to get back to work. What about you guys? Any particular season do it for you?

Friday, August 15, 2008

I get by with a little help from my friends...

If you don't know a writer, you may think of a novelist slaving away in isolation, chained to her desk, going half-insane until she produces her new masterpiece.

Well, yeah. I did get up at 4:30 a.m., I've been working since then, it's now 1:13 p.m., it has just occurred to me that I should take a shower before I pick up my son from school, and I spent only 5 minutes on lunch (raisin bran).

But I don't feel like I'm in isolation. I have writer friends across the country who are doing the same thing and probably haven't bathed today either (speak up, dirty writers!).

It hasn't always been this way. For many years and many unpublished manuscripts I struggled alone until one day I said to myself, "This is not working." (I never claimed to be quick on the uptake, people.) I decided that I would try this "critique partner" thing in which you trade novels with other novelists to make sure your manuscripts are not offensive/squicky/full of bad jokes before you send them off to an editor. I also gave in and tried this "networking" thing in which you make friends with people and help them and they help you in return. Lo and behold, I was published soon after. I would never crawl back in my hole now, because I can't imagine doing this without my peeps. Who knows? I might have been published by now if I were still working in isolation. But I do know for certain the journey wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without them.

I've been thinking about this today because my friend Marley is kindly taking a look at a novel for me as we speak. I've traded novels with MTV Books author Barbara too. My long-time critique partners are Catherine Chant and Victoria Dahl.

Cathy: When I decided I needed some peeps, I posted a want-ad on a critique partner listserve, and Cathy answered. I was immediately taken with Cathy's beautiful, crystal-clear writing. Cathy gets my manuscripts last because she is a stickler. She goes over them with a fine-tooth comb, not only for grammar and clarity, but also for that button missing from the heroine's shirt back in chapter 2 that I completely forgot about by chapter 17. Cathy remembers EVERYTHING, and when editors tell me they appreciate me so much because my manuscripts are always so clean, I just smile and take the compliment and pretend it is not all Cathy's doing.

Vicki: Things were going so well with Cathy that I decided I needed a second critique partner. Vicki was being very funny online somewhere, so I asked if we could trade manuscripts some time. She said no, she didn't need a critique partner. But you see how THAT turned out, and now she relies on me completely. Vicki has vast knowledge of what a writer can and can't do in a manuscript, how far is too far, so I lean heavily on her in the planning stages of a book (ask her, she will gladly tell you).

The problem with both Vicki and Cathy is that they will laugh at anything, so I have never gotten over my initial problem of writing bad jokes.

Then there's my local writers' group, Southern Magic. When I moved from Atlanta back to Birmingham a few years ago, I researched this group on the internet, and I joined them before I had the gas turned on at my house. Recently we were thrilled to be featured in a magazine article called Sex and the Magic City that I'd say is an excellent representation of what we're all about. The article also includes my book covers, a nekked man, and Fabio. Perfect!

Do you write in isolation? (This actually seems to work GREAT for some people.) If not, who are your peeps? I'm always fascinated at these networks, because some you could predict, and sometimes the paired-up novelists write genres that are wildly different.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Promo Vids"

I'm late, I'm late, for a very important MTV blog date.

haha. Just kidding, a little tired here. :)

So I think this is the perfect time to share some video promos for my September 16th release, INVISIBLE TOUCH. First we have the book video for TOUCH, created by M2 Productions ran by an ultra cool talented teenager. :)

And because I wanted to make some noise for my release, I enlisted the help of some of my author friends to share some of their secrets (or their characters) on the Secret Fates blog (secretfates.blogspot.com) through the month of September. This one was done with my little amateur techie skills. hehe. I think it's going to be one fun month, and I hope you'll join us from September 1st thru the 30th!

Thanks, Kelly :)