Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Before Paper, Pen, and Keyboards...

'On a dark desert highway,
 cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas,
rising up through the air…'

Although not a literary classic, ‘Hotel California’ is a classic in its own right and, when you think about it, thousands of years ago, this song very well could have been the basis of modern day literature.

Because back before paper and pen, when the majority of the human race didn’t know how to form symbols into recognized words, there was song. 

And poetry.

Stories were passed down through word of mouth.  And a rhyming story set to melody was the easiest way for storytellers to remember the order and wording of a piece.

Like today, some ballads were for entertainment value only- a work of fiction.  But others were strung together in hopes of relaying important historical details- kings, queens, knights and battles both won and lost.   The basis of many religions were upheld by stories about Gods and Goddesses performing impossible feats.

Today, the need to combine our tales with song and poetry is long lost.  The tethers of storytelling rope have been unbound and left us with three separate and very different forms of creative expression and entertainment.

But there are still some artists who hold the power of music and poetry in such high esteem that they continue to combine and express their tale through all means.

Jessica Bell is one of those people.

A poet and lover of words, Jessica’s novel about a housewife who wishes to reclaim the stage  ‘String Bridge’ is being published through Lucky Press in November 2011.  Her book trailer features a song Jessica wrote and performed herself- further proof of her all around talent and creativity.    Check it out!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Writing Comedy

I’m always so envious of authors who are able to write comedy.  Humor is so subjective that I find a lot of the books people assure me are ‘SO funny’ don’t get more than a quick smile and scoff. 

So what does make a book funny for me?

Voice, situation, and dialogue.

If a book has only one of the above, but not the rest, it might earn a couple smiles here and there.  I've read books with a funny voice where nothing funny actually happens.  I've read books where funny stuff happens but the author didn't make the most out of it.  And I've read books with great witty dialogue that isn't backed up through enough description or overall voice.  All of these are funny-ish in their own ways.

But I find the scenes that have me rolling in the isles come from having comedic set up- the situation in and of itself is humorous.  Then you’ve got the author’s description (the voice!), take, and action on said situation which increases the humor.  Then if you can add just the right out-loud commentary (dialogue!), it all comes together to create a vivid, visual, funny-fest.

Here are a few examples from books I love:

Situation and voice:

‘Thankfully his offices are clean, his staff is efficient, and his manner is both gentle and professional.  There’s only one problem:  His speaking voice is inaudible.

            Flat on my back with my feet in the stirrups I found myself repeatedly yelling down between my legs for Dr. Eiger to please repeat himself.  But it was no use.  This seemingly lovely man in his early sixties with soft gray hair and sparkling blue eyes was clearly unable to project his voice past my ankles.

So I gave up.  And dubbed him the Crotch Whisperer.’

Situation, Voice, and Dialogue:

And yes, my dog is galloping—galloping!—her huge ears flapping, jowls rising and falling with each stride, enormous paws flopping gracelessly on the pavement as she runs—runs!—right down the middle of the street. This from a dog who has to be dragged to go outside!

And on her hindquarters, in order to prevent little drops of blood from spattering my house, is a pair of Matt’s bright white Calvin Klein boxer briefs. Her tail, which is guided through the front slot of the briefs, whips back and forth. I sit frozen in horror as she careens onto the sidewalk right in front of Emo’s.

“Why is that doggie wearing underwear?” asks a little girl.

“Oh, my God!” I stand abruptly, bumping the table. Ryan’s water sloshes. “How did she get out? She’s never gotten out before! I told the boys—”

My precious puppy, all one hundred and twenty pounds of randy, menstruating she-dog, leaps up against the window, front paws leaving great muddy smears against the glass, baying with joy at having sniffed out her mistress. “Aahroorooroororooo!” she sings, head thrown back in ecstasy.

“Dear God,” Ryan says.

I stare open-mouthed. “Um…I think I’d better…that’s…that’s my dog.”

“Dear God,” Ryan says again.

I’m already weaving my way through the restaurant toward the bar. People are either laughing or frowning as Buttercup continues to serenade me. The maître d’ and two servers are pointing and talking.

“I’ll take care of this!” I tell them. “She’s mine. She must have tracked me here. She’s part bloodhound. She’s in heat.”

“Thanks for sharing,” the maître d’ says.

So what makes a book funny for you?

Hope everyone had a great weekend!


Friday, March 25, 2011

The Bigger the Better

I’ve always loved English as a language.  Especially now that I’ve learned to speak and write in another language, I realize just how much I adore our mother tongue. 

Our verb conjugation is a piece of cake compared to French or most other modern Latin languages.

We don’t give non-living objects abstract sexual connations.  In short- we don’ t have a feminine or masculine tied to our nouns.

 In French, every word is either feminine or masculine.  As someone who didn’t grow up with this system, I have a really hard time figuring out the how or why ‘the table’ is more girly than ‘the pen’.  I mean, who the hell decided which objects would be feminine and the others more manly? And more importantly, how did they decide?

Anyways-  Just because I have a preference for English doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the nuances and beauty of the French language.  I mean, those French love them some words.  And not just any words.  They have thing for big, unpronounceable, seven syllable words.  It’s no wonder the page count is so much higher for books translated into French. 

A vacuum, for example is an as-pi-ra-teur. 

A zipper?  Fer-ma-ture E-clair.  (5 syllables)

How about a little word, like ‘pin’? 

E-pang-le à nour-ice.   Yes.  That’s seven syllables right there.  
You get the picture. 

No wonder the French are stealing nifty little english words like ‘stop’, ‘go’, and ‘okay’ and sticking them into everyday conversation.

It’s to save time, pure and simple.

And of course, in exchange we Americans like to use French words like ‘deja-vu’ and ‘rendez-vous’ in order to glamour up  and draw out our conversations:)

Au revoir! (see you!  OH! - just a side note.  French don't say 'à dieu' very often.  That means 'to god' and you only say it if you don't think you'll ever see the person again.  Like, when they're on their death bed.  Definitely not something to say if you're just hoping out to mcdonads and back)

  Hope everyone has a great weekend!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Book Only A Mother Could Love

I finally got around to emailing my third book to my mom last weekend. 

My mother’s an elementary school teacher, loves to read, and has a great way with words.  So she’s a pretty good beta reader for big things like plot, pacing, and characterization—well, that, and she can never get over how many spelling mistakes I make.

I sent my manuscript to her on Saturday.  Sunday night she called me.  She’d been reading it all day, couldn’t put it down, loved the characters, story and the ending.  Then she went on facebook and told the world:

Read my daughter's third novel today. She has really grown as an author, and it amazes me as much as watching her first steps. So proud! : )

I know.  Can we get a cumulative ‘aaawwwe’?

Most of you know I’d been feeling kind of down about my third book still living the single life despite the desperate search for Agent Love.  Here are the stats thus far.

My mother is not a writer.  Or an editor.  Or an agent.  But that doesn't mean she can't help me succeed.  In fact, her message of enthusiasm has done more for my fragile wrego (writing ego) than anything else I’ve tried.  She totally changed my perspective.  She made me re-believe in myself.

Having her thumbs up made me realize I can do this.  It is possible.  Someone out there will love this book as much as I do, I just need to find them. 

Does anyone else have a non-writer in their support group whose opinions mean the world no matter what? 


Monday, March 21, 2011

The Balogna Song

My bologna (pronounced Baloni- why? No one knows) has a first name.

 It’s O-S-C-A-R.

My bologna has a second name. 

It’s M-A-Y-E-R.

I like to eat it every day.

And if you ask me why I’ll saaaay

That Oscar Mayer has a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A.

*sigh* --A flagrant example of how so few words can make such an impact. 

The Bologna song. 



Educative (I mean, it teaches kids how to spell Oscar Mayer, and Bologna- a much needed and valued capacity in today’s society)

and, most importantly it has withstood the test of time.

So, as you can imagine, I am outraged, I mean O-U-T-R-A-G-E-D that Daniel Bedingfield, the author of this little priceless piece of history, does not have his own Wikipedia the free encyclopedia page.  We should start a petition. 

P.S.- I did God or Google why we pronounce it 'baloni' in the U.S. and all I could come up with is that the Americans thought it sounded tastier.  The real pronounciation is Balon-y-a.  Like the town in Italy.  

OH! and yes, in case you were wondering- the above blog post is what you get when Katie runs out of writerly topics to discuss. lol.

Have a great Monday!


Friday, March 18, 2011

School Days

In France, children begin school at age 3 and continue until they’re 18.  We might get lots of vacation time, holidays, Wednesdays off and strikes that interfere with the normal school year schedule-  But in the time the children are actually in school, they’re expected to learn ALOT.

French being one of the most complicated languages doesn’t really help matters.  Between the major curriculum subjects, a school day that ends at 4 :30 pm, after-hours tutoring for kids in difficulty, and an hour of homework a night--  there’s really no time for anything else after school.

There are no school affiliated sports teams.

No band, pep club, or cheerleaders. 

No theater, chorus or art besides what a teacher might feel like doing with their own class. 

But that doesn’t stop the French from holding extracurricular activities in high esteem.  In fact you need them in order to be a well rounded individual in these parts.  Therefore Wednesday’s are devoted to whatever sport or leisure you can find and/or afford.  Judo is big here, as is classical dance, and gymnastics.  There’s also piano lessons or fencing. 

The education system is tough.  Wheras Americans are preoccupied with every child feeling special and significant, and are starting to teach according to how every individual child learns--in France you are expected to conform to the way things are done, will be done, have been done for the last five generations.   (I do have to say there has been a general shift in the last couple of years, however- teachers beginning to grade differently and trying to motivate their students by pointing out how much they’re capable of instead of focusing on their failures.) 

My daughter is in the first grade.  She has homework every night.  Not anything big- usually just reviewing what they worked on that day or drawing a picture of a sound.  I don’t think I ever had homework in first grade in the states.  But here, by the time you’re in high school,  you have a good two hours of homework a night.  There just isn’t enough time in the school day/week/year to get the students where they’re supposed to be.

University is basically free here.  But in order to get in, you have to have the highest grade average and test scores.  If you fail your SAT type exams-what is referred to as your baccalaureate- you don’t graduate from highschool and can not go on to college  so basically the last 12 years of education goes down the drain.  Talk about pressure.  

I can’t help feeling like we have it pretty good in the U.S.  We nurture creativity and use a little of both textbook learning and hands-on.   Our colleges train you how to do a certain job in real life instead of how to memorize the text book on how to do said job. 

And while the American education system might be under scrutiny lately and with all its faults- I’d totally take it over the French system and most other European systems any day! Sometimes you don't realise how good you have it 'till it's gone.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


In support of the newly released ‘Like Mandarin’- Kristan Hubbard’s debut novel,  I’m spilling my guts about those embarrassing I-wanna-be-like-you chick crushes I had in my younger years.

I would have given anything to be like : 
Cher from ‘Clueless’

I didn’t have to practice it in the mirror.  The tips of my thumbs would touch with pointers extended as I snobily drawled ‘Whateeever !’.  I’m not ashamed I went out and bought the mock catholic skirts, knee socks and mary janes.  I even wanted to dye my hair blond but my mother wouldn’t let me.  So I secretly bought bottles of ‘Sun-In’ and sprayed the shit out of those floppy locks whenever I thought I could get away with it.  Cher had it all- she was beautiful, rich, popular and had boys falling over themselves.   I watched ‘Clueless’ on a loop throughout eighth grade. 

I would have given anything to talk like :  Buffy

‘Wow, That was boring.’  -nuff said.

I could never quite manage: ‘The Rachel’

  Try as I might, my stringy, flat, partially bleached hair just wouldn’t pop and tuck enough to offer the beauty of what was once referred to as ‘The Rachel Doo’.

Who was your MANDARIN?  For more details on the LIKE MANDARIN Non-Blogfest, click here.

Monday, March 14, 2011


I want to thank everyone for their kind words and encouragement last Wednesday when I confided I was totally slumpin’ it on the writing front.

You gave me the motivation to rise, dust myself off, re-open that word document and write a whole page !  (baby steps okay ?)

However, something amazing happened to me this weekend. 

I had an idea for a new book. 

I’ve been waiting for this for awhile now.  It seems like ever since I finished my third, I’ve just been flopping around like a fish out of water, hoping for inspiration.  When it didn’t come, I tried to force it.  My now-four-page wip is based on an idea I’ve had on the shelf for years and even though I think it’s a good idea and it could make a great book- it’s a darker, more drawn out, complicated paranormal romance.  (Needs major brain power, of which I am currently running low)

My new idea is for a funny YA contemporary romance and it’s just coming to me- scene after scene.  I have a title, the blurb is written, the first page complete and I can’t wait to completely jump into it. 

Have you ever gotten an idea that had you chomping at the bit (- first time I’ve ever used this expression ever, I swear) to sit down and write after a monumental slump?  Why do you think certain projects tempt us more than others at a certain time?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Yes, You Really Do Need to Get Naked

Most of you probably don’t know this.  I mean, unless for some reason you found yourself in need of a gynecologist while in France.  And in that case, boy were you in for a surprise! *snicker*

You see, here, you’re expected to get completely butt- naked at the gynecologist’s.  I’m not kidding.  I actually had heard about this (thank god) from reading American books on France.  I Googled it and yep, sure enough, you have to put on your birthday suit at the ol’ gyno’s. As you can imagine, as a student here I opted to stalk up on bc pills before leaving the states.
Unfortunately, when it came to my first pregnancy in France, I didn’t have much of a choice.  So I made sure to pick a woman gynecologist.  No way was I going to show my white puritanical American arse to:

A.-  Some strange man.  
B.  A Frenchman at that  
C.  a man who voluntarily did ten years of med school so he could look at hoo-hahs all day long.  (I’m sorry, but my rose colored glasses are perpetually lost when it comes to this--although I can kind of understand it if the men also do obstetrics and deliver babies for a living- That’s the miracle of life after all!)

They don’t give you anything to cover up with, no robes, no toga sheets, nada.  Now to Americans (or maybe just me) this is kind of horrifying.

It took me awhile to prepare mentally.  But it turned out by the time the visit was over, being naked was the least of my worries.

My French gynecologist was a little rough around the edges.  After shaking my hand and introducing herself, she slipped behind her massive desk and abruptly told me to ‘git naked’.  But, you know, in that breezy French way that sounds like they’re asking you if you’d like coffee or tea.

So I did. 

Being naked in the middle of an office with a complete stranger was completely surreal at first.  But I just did what any normal woman would do and pretended I didn’t notice I was naked.  Take my weight naked? Sure!  Hop up on the table?  Naked?  No problem!  It’s just like being clothed…but not.

Dr. Optimist then informed me we’d be doing my first ultrasound, afterall, ‘my baby could be dead.’  (her exact words)


Once we finally established that my baby was alive and well, she confirmed I’d already gained too much weight and to lay off the taboulé from here on out.

Yes, she was a real peach.

Be thankful for friendly doctors and medical robes people.  They might air out your back side but at least you don’t have to go full-monty with your well known health professionals on a regular basis. 

Oh, and have a great weekend!


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Slumpin' It

I’ve been holding off on this post for awhile, just hoping things would get better.  Alas, it’s time I step up to the plate and announce:

I’m in a slump.                       A total writing slump.

I have an original premise.  I have a kind-of outline.  I have the first three pages (and have had the first three pages for the last eight weeks).  But I just can’t seem to… get into it.

Querying is going-*ahem* nowhere.

I don’t usually share stats but I can’t help but feel like its part of the problem.  I started querying my third book in late October.  So far I’ve sent out 68 queries,

wracked up 34 query rejections

7 requests for material

and 4 rejections of requested material

I’m tired.  I’m tired of waiting and hoping.  I’m tired of the high I get when I’m writing – thinking ‘no wait- THIS is the best thing I’ve ever written!’  and then the lows that come months later when I realize my best still isn’t good enough.

I know as bloggers, we aren’t supposed to complain or spread negativity around the blogosphere but dammit!  - heart break and deception pervade this god-forsaken process like a fart no one wants to admit they smell.   And if we can’t be real and just ask ‘who the hell farted?’, what can we do?

Has anyone else found themselves in a writing slump?  How long did the drought last?  What ways did you find of getting motivated and jumping back into the game?   How many metaphors did I just use in the last three sentences?

Monday, March 7, 2011

What's Wrong with Clichés? I LOVE Clichés!

I might even get it embroidered on a t-shirt!

I saw the passage below for the first time last week when someone posted it up on facebook.  The similarities between Disney’s ‘Pocahontas’ and James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ were always fairly obvious if you’re familiar with them both, but I couldn’t help thinking ‘yeah, so?’. 
 (to see it larger, just click on it)

Is it even possible to avoid clichés now a’days?

When I’d finished my second book, I was SO sure ‘this’ would be the one. (like I am with every frickin book I write before reality smothers all hope or enthusiasm)   The story was a funny YA romance.  But then I critiqued another blogger’s YA romance and the similarities between them were striking. (borderline depressing)

Bring on some ‘Creepy’ clichés:

1.       1. Girl starting out at new school.  (check)
2.       2. Good Boy / Bad Boy scenario  (check)
3.       3. Love triangle  (check)
4.       4. Bad Boy has daddy issues- dad’s in prison (check)
5.       5. Main character has mommy issues (check)
       The list goes on.....

Oh lord help me.  What I thought was an original premise has been done and done and doooone five times over.

But it was fun writing it!  Which is what brings me to why I think clichés continue to come out in all forms of entertainment.   We LIKE them!!!   We like the struggle between good and evil.  We like the good girl caught between the dark and dangerous lad and the handsome righteous hero.  We like the characters almost dying but then being saved at the last moment.  We like happy endings! 

Because lets face it- if we didn’t like them, they wouldn’t be so popular even when presented in the most similar of forms, don’t ya think?


Fun twitter pitch contest going on at Beyond Words.  Click here for more details!  But hurry- there are only 75 spots available!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Give a Warm Welcome to Contestant Number One: Caahhrrreeeepy!

I hate game shows.  I don’t know why- they’ve just always creeped me out.  Maybe it’s the high pitched theme songs, or the insincere uproar of applause and whistles.  Maybe it’s the way the show host’s voice is always a little too excited, their smiles plastified into position. 

In any case, if American game shows always gave me the heebies, European game shows are the things of nightmares. - Unfortunately my husband is a fan and I’ve been forced to sit through them on occasion.

The first time I saw ‘Attention à la Marche !’ (tsl : ‘Watch the Stairs !’)  I couldn’t speak or understand French very well.  So there was no way of knowing why there were animated purple blobs dancing at the bottom of the screen or reacting to the contestants.  The audience not only laughs and whistles on cue but also breaks into song and dance with coordinated shoulder shimmies.

Then the show suddenly comes to halt and clears the floor for some random act :  karaté demonstrations, people on stilts, a scene from a musical, a couple doing the cha cha…you name it.  Why ?...Beats the hell out of me.

And then there are shows like ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and ‘The Price is Right’.  Except in France, Vanna White is a six foot tall, big-boobed blondie and the five foot tall show host is constantly talking into her breasts as though they’re a set of microphones.

Every article on the ‘Price is Right’ is featured with half dressed woman fawning over it as though it’s an alpha male; sprawling herself across car hoods, riding the exercise bike in her bikini and fingering toasters as though they’ve all the appeal of Johny Depp in his Jump Street years.

It takes some getting used to, I’ll tell you that.  But then again I suppose I can count myself lucky---  I’ve heard other European countries have game shows that are even more random and racy than their French counterparts. 

Hope everyone has a great weekend!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Writers Behind Television

From the time I could hold my little head upright, television has been a close personal friend of mine.  My mother watched daytime soap operas with religious-like fervor.  Up until I was five, I thought the cast of ‘Guiding Light’ were family members.

I watched Oprah back when she was fat.  Then watched her get skinny.  Then fat again and finally back to the politically correct plump figure she is today.

My father was a fan of ‘M.A.S.H.’ and ‘Cheers’ but that’s where our taste in TV ended.  For some reason game shows have always creeped me out and the Jeopardy theme song still gives me a stomach ache to this day.

But it’s my addiction to teen shows that has grown in magnitude throughout the years.  Sure, it was normal to watch reruns of ‘Saved by the Bell’ after middle school let out.  And ‘Dawson’s’ and ‘Buffy’ were the highlight of my week when I was in a freshman in highschool.  But now, at 28 years old, I watch more teen television that I’d like to admit.  I mean, I chalk it up to ‘research’.  A writer of YA needs to reference modern day television shows, right?  Keep up with the trends in language and fashion? 

Well, we all know that’s only half the reason.

But honestly, now that I’ve been writing for awhile, I have to say I do pay much more attention to how my favorite series are panning out.  What keeps me watching?  Is it the love triangles ?  The characters themselves ?  The mystery ?

For the last few months I’ve been keeping a closer eye on the plot points, dialogue, and characterization in the shows I watch.  Gone are the days when I could look at actors as though they’re real people and I’m simply glimpsing into their personal dilemmas.

Because, behind it all, there is a writer.  Or more often writerS- people who brainstorm, write the lines and character mannerisms that make us laugh and cry along with the actors who interpret them.  People who think up the devastating twists and turns.

As I caught up on last week’s Vampire Diaries, I realized that the actors aren’t quite doing it for me lately.  For some reason Damon is doing the crazy eye thing in every scene whether he’s compelling someone or not.  And it doesn’t help that the show’s stylists traded in his tussled dark hair with highlights for A-typical vampire flat black mop top and powdered his skin till he looks like he’s suffering from a medical condition.
           Damon Before- 'hubba hubba'
Damon After- 'eh..'       
Elana’s character is going flat in the personality department (or flatter in any case.  Not like she was really a bottle of spunk to begin with). -- I mean, I know your life is constantly in danger hunny, but can’t you have a sense of humor?  Smile once in awhile!  Geez!  And someone needs to call her stylist and tell them to stop stealing clothes from 1999.  Use some imagination for crying out loud!  Your viewership is through the roof!
2010 vs.  1999
As you can see, the character/actor part of the show is starting to get on my nerves, so why do I keep watching?

The plot.  The mystery.  The way every episode ends with a cliffhanger.  Just because the interpretation isn’t up to par doesn’t mean the writers behind the show don’t know what they’re doing and wheras I might not have recognized this three years ago-- today it makes all the difference.

What shows do you watch and have you ever thought about the writers behind them?  Have you ever looked up a writer of your favorite show to see if they have authored books?


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