Car Thieves, Beware:
We have an ongoing situation here with my car. Last night Mike went down to get something out of the car and accidentally locked my keys in the trunk. The car doors were all locked, and my spare key (long story) is in Orlando at the moment, so we were stuck. I called Ford Roadside Assistance and scheduled a service call for this morning.
The locksmith arrived today and spent 45 minutes trying to break into my car. This is an experienced locksmith with all the right tools, you understand, but he couldn't get the electronic locks to open. Finally he got in by looping the door handle and opening it that way. Then we discovered the trunk release didn't work, the fold-down backseat was jammed and the headlights wouldn't come on.
I went back to my kid, who along with his sister confessed all. Last night, before he came to tell me that he locked the keys in the trunk, Mike and Kathy snuck back downstairs and Kath tried to pick the lock on my trunk with a big paperclip. My daughter, Ms. Grand Theft Auto, came up with this plan.
Anyway, somehow she shorted out the locking mechanism and/or blew a fuse and/or enabled the computer programmed anti-theft system. The locksmith had two more emergency calls, so he left and is coming back shortly for another shot at getting into the trunk. He's going to try to bust into my trunk, get my keys and then see if the car even starts. Otherwise, my car has to be towed in for repairs.
This is the second time someone has tried unsuccessfully to break into my car. Never though it would be my own children, though . . .
The Widow 2.0:
Remember when I took a stab at being literary
last year? I couldn't leave it alone . . .
By S.L. Viehl
The last woman on Earth had to quit smoking.
Victoriana certainly had plenty of second-hand around to breathe in; oily black smoke drifted in through the broken window as if drawn by the thinner, whiter smoke. Her last cigarette had reduced itself to a curl of undisturbed ash on the edge of the mantel. She’d put it there deliberately, right next to her second-to-the-last-one which she’d watched burn down there an hour ago. Her hair was sticky and her hands filthy, but she wouldn’t wash. Couldn’t wash.
If only they hadn’t taken all the towels and ashtrays.
A shower would have been nice, but she didn’t want to smoke. Only last week she’d give Joshua her word that she would quit. You remember what a total bitch I am when I go through nicotine withdrawal, darling. This summer, while I’m at Club Med. No one lights up there unless they’re smoking clove, and that gives me a rash. I promise.
Now he would never know that she had.
The air cleaner behind the sofa whirred and hummed incessantly as it polluted itself to save her lungs. The business-like drone of it masked the steady crunching sounds from outside. Victoriana couldn’t hear them, not if she stared very hard at the portrait of the dead man she clutched in her thin hands. Not if she prayed.
Our Father . . . Our Father Who . . . something something Heaven . . .
But what sort of God allowed destruction on such an epic scale to happen, without warning? Why should she pray to a Higher Power when He’d done nothing to stop this endless nightmare? And how could she offer up the Lord’s Prayer when she couldn’t remember the words?
It wasn’t her fault. She’d only been to church four times, and only then to watch one of her Jewish friends marry someone selected specifically to piss off their orthodox parents.
Rachel Steinbergen and Patrick O’Kelley, and Rachel converting six months before the ceremony. She recalled their nuptials. And Old Man Steinbergen had cried like a baby.
It had never been like that with her and Joshua, though. They’d been blissful atheists, united in their refusal to invest any hope in an afterlife. Live for the day
, that had been their motto. The money they’d saved on Christmas and Hanukah presents had been pretty decent, too.
“You are the twilight of my soul.” She whispered to keep the words just between them. She didn’t know what that meant, exactly, but it sounded appropriate. They had lived for the day, and now the day was gone, and so was he, along with most of the other life on the planet. “Never again. Never again.” Unless Patrick had survived the invasion – Rachel had told her that he was a wild man in bed.
The thing in the next room must have heard her despite her whispering, for the door to her chamber slid open and it came in. It was one of the many who had destroyed her world and now held her prisoner in the ruins. It had to squeeze a little to get through the narrow entrance (she strongly suspected that whatever world it had come from had nothing like Club Med) then it tromped in like a small elephant. No pachyderm on the planet had ever sported such a garish array of scales and teeth and too-large eyes, of course. In fact, an elephant would have been completely mortified by the comparison, but there were none of them left anymore, either.
So many had come to Earth. So many. So hungry.
“Still sullen over the death of your mate?” Cha Rlee’s wide lips made smacking sounds as it carefully pronounced each word. Learning the now-useless language of its prey helped it pass the time while it waited for the mother ship to arrive, so it practiced English on her hourly. Also, it liked talking to her. “I told you I would get you another one.” It looked out where its companions were snacking on the last of the intact bodies. “Okay, maybe a dog. We didn’t like the taste of those.”
“You don’t understand.” She carefully set down Joshua’s portrait on the remains of the dresser they had once shared. She had bickered with him about using the top drawer for her monogrammed panties and Peds, something she now bitterly regretted. She could have made room for him; given him half the drawer. Such a small, simple thing. “I don’t want another man. Or a dog. I want my husband.”
The alien invader rubbed a spiny tentacle around the wide, toothy maw at the center of its jointed abdomen. “I could regurgitate what I haven’t digested, I suppose, but I doubt you’ll want that.”
“No.” Victoriana guessed he was trying to be kind, but really
. “Joshua is gone forever.”
Vic-whatever-her-name-was was starting to remind Cha Rlee of its mother, the travel agent of all its guilt trips. When it came time for it to develop sex organs, it was definitely going for a penis. “In a few hours, anyway.”
“Monster.” She said it without heat, but didn’t know why. To cover her bemusement, she took the cigarette from the mantle and drew in one last lungful of smoke before dropping it to the scarred floor and grinding it out with her heel. If they hadn’t torn down the drugstore yet, maybe she’d walk down and get the patch. They had the clear ones now, no one would ever know.
Tears filled her eyes as she remembered that there was no one left to see. She blinked them back, determined if nothing else to preserve this coat of mascara.
“You should quit doing that, you know.” It studied the flattened butt for a moment. “Truly a disgusting habit. Plus we don’t allow it on the ship.”
Noise from the sudden destruction of something large, the health club around the corner perhaps, teased her ears. The rumbling, tumbling sound vibrated through the once polished, now deeply gouged hardwood floor that Joshua had insisted she wax every week. She, in turn, had hired Maria, to placate him and preserve her nails. Maria had had no English, which had been a pain, and no green card, which had made her extremely affordable. Yet the ruined planks of gleaming oak, her perfect French manicure and the collapse of The Tight Body Factory
could not equal the state of her shattered life.
Who would wax the floor? Who would do her nails? Who would keep her ass from sagging to the back of her knees? All, all gone.
“I know that I must do many things myself now.” She didn’t feel brave, but she could act it – her manicure was still intact. There were those Sally Hansen do-it-yourself kits. She could put in some ceramic tile. Loose sweat pants concealed a lot.
“Hello.” A sticky tendril waved an inch from her nose. “Alien to Earth lady.”
“I’m listening.” No, she wasn’t. It had nothing to say that she wanted to hear. It didn't even have fingernails.
“You’re not like having a panic attack, are you?”
“No. I’m just a little sad, is all.” She let her gaze drift to the cluster of stunted visulets at the base of Cha Rlee’s broadest segment. She lifted her chin, secretly rejoicing in the fact that he couldn’t do the same unless he stood on his head and bent over backward. “When do you plan to devour me? Next week? Next month? Tell me the truth.”
“Oh, I didn’t explain things to you, did I?” It covered its abdomouth with a feeler and smothered a tiny belch. “I’m keeping you as a pet. I’m going to take you home, put you in a little domicile on my property, and call you Trixie.”
She lifted her chin a little higher. “My name is Victoriana Elizabeth Jungorsiak.” She said it proudly, the way she had after she and Joshua had exchanged their vows under the redwoods in Eureka. It was her name, they would never take it from her. Never. No matter what horror she was subjected to. Even if they pried off her nail tips, one by one.
“That is precisely why I’m calling you Trixie.” Cha Rlee made wet sounds as it oozed up beside her and slid a tentacle around the base of her throat. It liked fondling her, though it wished she had a bit more fur. It had really wanted one of the cute little domesticated felines that had been running around the planet, but its commander had a thing for cat nuggets, so they hadn’t lasted long. “Why are you so sad? He died the moment he encountered my digestive juices. It was very quick.” And tasty, but it wouldn’t tell her that. It had some tact.
She drew in a quick breath that rasped against her raw throat. Those were the memories she did not want to preserve forever in her heart. Especially the moment when the alien had tried to spit out Joshua’s new trainers and the laces had become caught between its teeth. The dangling, the swaying . . .
That had been too horrible for words. Away with that. “But not painless.”
“No, but then being eaten rarely is.”
They shared the silence until something else large and made of concrete and glass collapsed, closer this time.
Victoriana dared to lift a hand and touched the slimy part of it that held her. It felt a little like the calamari she and Joshua had shared on their third date, minus the marinara sauce.
Maybe that’s why they came to eat us. Because they had distant cousins here, cousins we served up every night with our Chardonnays and our Sauvignon Blancs . . . Oh, God, Rachel never told me how to make her Oysters Marseilles, damn her for being such a recipe snob . . .
“Monster,” she repeated, almost with a queer sort of affection. She had certainly been very fond of that calamari. “We would have given you anything you wished. You and your kind. Anything, anything.”
“I’m sure you would have, if we had bothered to ask,” Cha Rlee said, and sighed. “Ah, look, Trixie–”
“Victoriana Elizabeth Jungorsiak,” she reminded it.
“Whatever. The reason I and my kind came down to this planet was because your mate Joshua signaled us. You remember that, don’t you?”
“Really?” A fond smile curved her lips. Joshua had been so proud of his transmitter, and how he had built it entirely out of parts from Radio Shack and the cordless phone that had never worked in the upstairs bathroom. His boyish obsession with contacting beings from outer space had been one of the first things she’d loved about him. That and his utter loyalty to the Young Democrats.
“Uh-huh. Something like that is pretty irresistible, you know. It’s like you seeing an ad on television for a Big Mac. We simply couldn’t help ourselves. Granted, we should have checked to see if you were intelligent, but we’ve been out on the intergalactic trade routes for months and we were starving, you know? And yes, the invasion was messy, and we did wipe out the native population – except you, because of that last minute viral serum lethal to my kind with which your husband injected you seconds before I ate him – but we’re full now, and we’d like to make amends, such as they are.” It stroked her hair, smearing it with residual slime before releasing her. “You’ll have a very nice little human-house on my estate back on Condiloma, I promise, and I’ll put up an energy fence so you won’t have to be tethered. And, as you will be the sole surviving human, I’m sure we’ll study you and discover all sorts of noble things about your kind and be very sorry we did this right around the time you die of a mysterious bacterial infection or a broken heart or something like that.”
It offered so little. Far too little, but she could be polite. “I don’t want to leave my home.” She picked up the portrait again. “I must dwell in my memories from now on. You must go without me.”
“Leave you here? By yourself?” Cha Rlee made an exasperated sound by flapping its abdomouth. “Isn’t that pushing the martyr bit a little far?”
“You know I have to stay behind,” she told it, caressing the frame around her husband’s smiling face with tender fingers. “By abandoning me to live out a solitary life on the ruins of my world, I will then have the time to reflect on the value of my short but meaningful life with Joshua before you came and ate him. I can curse him for daring to send that intergalactic signal that brought down the invasion, but love him for his infinite curiosity about the universe. After I lose a great deal of weight and stop washing my hair, I’ll find a way to build a beautiful shrine to him and to the endurance of love and the human spirit. Something tasteful, maybe out of the rubble you’ve left behind. Once I have finished that, I will doubtless collapse and die at the base of it, in an appropriately wretched pose, which other aliens will see when they come to tour the wreck you’ve made of Earth. Everyone will feel very sorry about this tragedy. One of the tourists will definitely weep. Then a scientist will mention the possibility of reviving me through cloning a DNA sample before he’s vetoed by a particularly spiritual companion who takes me and buries me in the shrine.”
“Dear me. That sounds uber-depressing.” It heaved its version of a sigh. “Not much of a choice either way, eh, Trix old girl?”
She nodded. She knew. She was the Widow of Earth.
“Very well. Shout for me in a desperate but determined voice if you change your mind.” Cha Rlee gave her a final sticky caress with its tentacle before it oozed out of the room.
She didn’t watch it go. Looking at the photo of Joshua required her full attention again. If she grabbed another cigarette – she’d hidden a pack in the SpongeBob cookie jar in the kitchen, hadn’t she?
– and looked at the picture hard enough, she would be safe. She wouldn’t hear the ghosts of those devoured screaming silently outside her broken window. She wouldn’t notice the tiny chip on the edge of her left ring-fingernail.
Build a shrine to Joshua. My ass I will.
She wouldn’t pray. She’d chant, but she wouldn’t pray.
Sally Hansen, Sally Hansen, Sally Hansen.
Much grumbling out there regarding my bad attitude toward Art and Artistic Sensibilities
and All Things Bovine and Sacred.
Sound almost like titles for Austen and Herriot novels, don't they? I'll try to irrigate some of the salt out of the little wounds I inflicted instead.
I do think novelists should actually write novels.
Webster's backs me up on this. But as Sarah
had to point out (again, poor girl) I am only expressing an opinion, not laying down the law. If you would rather skip writing novels so you can attend conferences to hang with published writers, buy their books and have them read to you and tell you how to write, by all means, do. If you want to be published, you need to write and submit your work. My suggestion is simply to seek a healthy balance between the two.
Long author interviews are not evil. They're boring. I hate to be boring. Seriously, talking about the my books in public is not important. I'm
not important. I'd rather the books speak for me.
Hypo-situation: what if you could print all the books in the world with no authors' names on the covers, just the title?* What if authors were prohibited from promoting their books as well? After the readers got over the initial shock, then it would really be about the story, not the name on the cover. How many authors would be willing to do that? How many would be outraged at the suggestion?
There are as many ways to write novels as there are people to write them. If you think paying a thousand dollars plus to have important industry professionals lecture and critique you is something that will make you a better writer, go for it. I truly hope it works.
And, finally, remember that you'll hear a lot of advice, joking and otherwise from pro writers. Don't take it personally or treat it as gospel; nobody died and made us Gods and Goddesses. Take what works for you from it and discard the rest.
*If that ever happened, we'd have a hell of lot more series writers, though, wouldn't we?
While everyone is getting up in arms over Governor Jeb Bush's involvement in the case of Terri Schiavo
, the real tragedy -- that of a life being sustained without personal consent -- is being largely ignored.
In the case of accident victims, sustaining the body when the brain is no longer able to do so in some cases allows for recovery, and I believe this is important. However, when the patient does not recover within a reasonable length of time, the issue changes. It is no longer a question of when
, and if the patient has not provided a living will or health care proxy
, healthcare providers must rely on the usually distraught family members to make the decision.
There is only one way to prevent tragedies like the Terri Schiavo case. Every single one of you reading this should maintain a living will or health care proxy, which specifically details your personal wishes, should you be unable to communicate with health care providers. If you don't have one, I urge you to get one as soon as possible.
The Author 8 Ball:
I was asked to publicly answer reader questions, and after my agent threatened to hurt me, I answered.
These Q&A things always make me cringe, especially when an author answers an interview question with several long, gushy paragraphs. By the time you get to the end you're thinking, Gee, love yourself much?
Writers are self-absorbed because we have to be. So much of what we do is an internal process, and focus is everything. Thus the focus is largely inward, and when it's outward, we're gathering data for more inward stuff. I don't know if that's something we should be proud of, though, particularly if that's all that defines our time here. In the end, I think the headstone should read more than "Here lies So-and-So, loved self, wrote a bunch of books."
You know you've got an editor who understands you when you get an e-mail like this:
The new scene is great--thanks for finding such a satisfying resolution to
[censored, spoilers] in the story. But I especially like that
[spoiler] dies in a pool of
[spoiler]. What a wonderfully fitting end!
Yep, I enjoyed it too.
The scene in question wraps up a subplot in the story, which involves a subtle but irrefutably non-hetero romance. This has always been a big taboo in the romance genre, but I think we romance authors should portray real adult relationships, not just the ones that are sanctioned by the Pope. Yes, I will get flack for it, but some things are worth dodging a few rotten tomatoes.
While You Were Talking:
I draw when I'm on the phone for more than five minutes. It's a habit, mostly because I'm hyper but also because I get ideas but I can't write coherently when I'm speaking (I have to shut up to make a note of something.) I keep a sketch pad at my desk for work, but I'll draw on anything. During one hour and a half teleconference on with an editor, I drew this on a file folder:
There's probably something Freudian involved, or I watched that David Bowie movie too many times with the kids. :)
I'm a big nonfiction reader. For every fiction novel I read, I probably read 20 nonfic books. Nonfiction books were my best teachers when I was a kid, and in a way, like my own personal time machine. They still are.
I'd like to read even more nonfiction than I do now, but time constraints have me reading more articles than anything. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as there are some fantastic nonfic mags out there.
If you can't afford to subscribe you can find a lot of their stuff online. My top three favorite nonfiction magazine sites are Archaeology
, National Geographic
, and Popular Science.
They inevitably have a stack of great articles to start the wheels in your head turning.
Have you got a great nonfiction web site to recommend? If so, post the URL in comments.
The proofs for Into the Fire barely hit my desk before the production crew issued bound galleys of the same. My wonderful romance editor always sends me a bunch to distribute to my booksellers and reading groups, and the box arrived today. These will be the same galleys that go out to all the chain book buyers, indie shop owners, etc.
Only one little tiny problem: The galleys are a freaking mess and no one corrected them.
I've had nightmare proofs before, but this one is Extensively and Creatively Screwed Up. About 20% of the paragraphs in the book were run together, and about a fifth of the dialogue is clumped (you can't tell when one speaker's line ends and the next speaker's begins.) Bizarrely, every time I used French, the typesetter randomly substituted a "Ç" for "e", i.e. bebe
came out bÇbÇ.
I already have more than 500 corrections and I'm not even two thirds of the way through.
Wait, it gets better.
I killed three characters, but the scene is missing. To give my publisher some slack, this was an option scene that someone was supposed to make an editorial call on while my editor was on maternity leave. Instead, someone simply dumped or lost it and my three bodies along with it.
Oh, well. CÇ la viÇ.
If you're having trouble visualizing your characters, try casting their roles for a movie version of your novel. Plus you can have any actor you want, dead or alive.
If someone asked me to cast StarDoc right now, for example, I'd want Angelina Jolie play Cherijo, Jason Isaacs to play Reever, Kevin Sorbo to play Kao (since he's the namesake, must give him the part), Daniel Day-Lewis to play Joseph, The Rock to play Xonea, Carrot Top to play Dhreen, Meryl Streep to play Ana Hansen and Anthony Hopkins to play William Mayer:
Blogger, you're really ticking me off this morning.
It's been a while since I've done one, so I present to you for your amusement
The Top Ten Signs You've Attended Too Many Writing Workshops:
1. Unlikely Weather:
In an erratic narrative voice, you compare a thunderstorm to Rice Krispies, the horizon to anything nautical, or the time of day to a netted fish.
If it's morning, call it morning already.
2. Genre Expert:
You write essays and get into online debates about The New Space Opera, Chick Fic, Oprah's Book Club or The New Weird. You killfile people who don't agree with you.
If you're writing novels, you're a writer. If you're writing about other people's novels, you're a fan. Which do you want to be?
3. Word Hung:
You casually toss around huge words like floccinaucinihilipilification, honorificabilitudinitatibus
in dialogue, thinking this will impress your reader.
The roll of socks you stuck down the front of your pants in high school was more impressive. Just write what you mean, i.e. "I think it's worthless" "I plagiarize Shakespeare" or "Man, your liver is wasted."
4. Workshop Junkies:
You have more than one book shelf filled of autographed how-to writing books.
Here are the four steps to becoming a professional writer: 1) You sit your butt in a chair, 2) you write something, 3) you submit what you wrote to a publisher and 4) repeat from #1 until the publisher sends you money. That will be $19.95; make out the check to S.L. Viehl.
5. Period Phobia:
Any sentence that rambles on for an entire paragraph or takes longer to read than this one.
Repeat after me:
Punctuation is our friend. Now, use it.
6. Masochism 101:
You apply to attend an intense writing course which lasts longer than 7 days, is held on a college campus, and is taught by famous editors and writers who tell you why you can't be a professional writer and rip up your work. If accepted, you'll pay at least a thousand dollars for the privilege.
Why don't you come down to Florida for a week? I'll beat the hell out of you for free.
7. China Syndrome:
Using more than two metaphors when introducing a reader to your protagonist; especially metaphors involving nature or organic substances.
People are people, not withered trees, electrical storms or (with notable exceptions) piles of shit. They're definitely not all three at the same time. Please make note of this.
8. Second Person POV:
You show the reader how clever you are by writing your entire novel in the same tense as this sentence.
There are only three writers who do second well and you're not one of them. If you are, your books are either a pain in the ass to read or you comes across like a pompous jerk. Either way, cut it out and write in first or third like the rest of us.
The writing conferences you plan to attend in one year exceeds the number of novels you've written in your life.
To grow as a writer, make a rule: for every writing conference you attend, you have to write and finish at least two new novels.
10. What Does She Know Anyway:
Reading this top ten list offends you.
Lighten up, it's just for fun. Or is it?
Novelist Michael Peterson (not to be confused with Scott Peterson, husband of Laci) was convicted
of beating his wife to death, probably to collect on a 1.4 million dollar insurance policy.
Peterson's defense team claimed Kathleen Peterson died as the result of an accidental fall down the stairs after a night of drinking at their home. Unfortunately, Elizabeth Ratliff, the biological mother of Peterson's two adopted daughters, also died from a fall down the stairs in her home in 1985. Ratliff's body was exhumed this year, and it was determined that she had also been beaten to death. Peterson was the last person to see Elizabeth Ratliff alive.
The neuropathologist who examined the body of Kathleen Peterson not only concluded that she had died of blunt force trauma to the head, but that she had bled for several hours as she lay at the base of the stairs.
Peterson's guilty verdict means an automatic sentence to life in prison without the chance for parole.
Rented the Matrix Reloaded, watched it, liked it well enough. I don't think any of the sequels will top the first one. I found myself concentrating on the fight choreography, which was particularly spectacular in the Neo vs. all the Smiths scene.
Odd that I can't watch movies anymore without a certain amount of detachment (and the writer in my head, re-writing certain scenes.) Occupational hazard, I guess. Tonight I'm off to watch Monsoon Wedding and do a bit of sewing.
Got an e-mail this morning from 1-800-FLOWERS that read:
Dear AOL Member,
There has been a purchase added to your AOL account on October 19th, 2003. This purchase took place at 1-800-Flowers.com. If this order was unauthorized and you would like to cancel, please Click Here. Below is listed information about your order:
Product - Love's Embrace Roses
32 dozen long stem red roses
Price - $29.99
Shipment Type - 3-5 Day Ground
Shipping and Handling - $7.99
Total Price - $37.98
If you "click here" you'll go to a realistic-looking site for 1-800-FLOWERS.com which asks for your screen name and password. Which is the scam, that's what they want to steal.
If you get one of these e-mails, DO NOT enter the information. Your account has not been charged, which you can confirm with AOL billing. Forward the e-mail to TOSreports@aol.com. The real 1-800-Flowers also has a recorded message you can listen to that explains the scam.
There have been a lot of these scams popping up lately. If anyone asks you for your AOL screen name and password, no matter how authentic it looks, report them immediately.