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THANK YOU ALL for yesterday's TEASERS. Remember, tomorrow's teasers are due by midnight tonight.

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The only way to conquer that fear is to fill it in--and remember:

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Here is the first TEASER DAY of GRAPEMO 2014. I've posted these in no particular order, other than in the order I happened to receive them.

Thank you all for sharing!

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Mialie S

Ahhhhhhhhh! Doodle Dog tried with all his might to stand his ground. The friendly leaves he loved to chase were caught up in an incredibly blustery way on a quite-more-than-windy day! The little floppy-eared puppy bowed his head against the constant gusts keeping him from crossing his favorite meadow at his usual steady speed. Instead, he took one step at a time (there was not much else he COULD do!), pushing against the bullying breeze as clouds of leaves swirled around him. As he put one paw in front of the other, Doodle Dog felt the harsh currents getting stronger and stronger, blowing and blowing and BLOWING him backwards. It reminded him of the story he’d heard about three little pigs and how their house was almost blown over! Doodle Dog looked around the meadow, as well as he could see through the curtain of red and yellow and brown leaves blocking his view, and didn’t see any houses nearby to be blown over. Whew! Doodle Dog kept going slowly but surely, but was knocked sideways as a new group of bright orange leaves was tossed at him only to take another step or two and be knocked right back where he had been by a jumble of crunchy greenish leaves coming from his other side. WHAP!

Well, all right, then! Doodle Dog thought. Apparently it WASN’T a very good day to be outside, but he couldn’t very well do anything about it now, could he?

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Startled, Yawa spun around and found herself nose to nose with a boy. One of the fancy dressed ones she had to travel along with on this African field trip. uhg.

“What are you talking about? I stole nothing,” she said keeping her left hand in her pockets.

“Did too. I saw you pick up that coin in the dirt. It belongs to the site, not in your pocket. Put it back,” the boy said crossing his arms on his chest.

He was obviously a few years older than Yawa but she was confident she could take him out if needed.

Nobody tells Yawa what to do.

“No,” she spat and took off running in the opposite direction.

A cloud of red dirt lifted from where her slim feet pounded as she ran.

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Emelia took the arm of one of the bearded, frock-coated creatures—what had they called them? Sgolin—and steadied him as he caught his balance on one of the slick stepping stones across the river. He nodded, keen gaze measuring hers before darting away. “Keep together, keep moving,” she encouraged. “Once we’re across, head for the trees.”

“There’s not enough time,” a voice whimpered from among those waiting to cross.

“We’ll be fine,” Emelia called above the rising murmurs. “Be careful, the rocks are slippery. Just keep moving.”

A hand touched her shoulder. “I can help.” The confidence in PilaNe’s voice eased the constriction in Emelia’s chest.

PilaNe waved her hand. “Wyba miro. Miro.” She frowned, mouth drawing to a thin line, then shook her head. “The elder tongue, of course.” Eyes closed, she lifted her palm above the river. “Iryea sawapindua. Iryea.”

Startled cries and shouts rose from those cautiously traversing the river, the waters rippling and splashing as hundreds of stones broke the surface, crowded together to form a wide, if uneven, path above the flow.

“Quickly now,” PilaNe urged. “Everyone—”

A sharp crack echoed from the cliffs behind them. Emelia whirled, staring beyond the river where the first plumes of smoke rose toward an azure sky swarming with golden ovoids. Aramyr’s fleet. Screams, sobs, and cries of alarm filled the air around her.

Realization stole her heart, then instinct and necessity rushed to fill the void. “Let’s go,” she barked, pulled an elderly man up onto the bank, then motioned to the wide flow crowding the passage. “Into the trees, hurry.”

A troop? flock? of Gracka hopped across the stones to her side, eyes wide and the feathers that topped their heads fluffed or rising in crests. A sharp look and she cut off an endless volley of questions before it could begin.

“Stories are for survivors. Want some? Run.”

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Lucas had an overwhelming urge to hold her. He fought it, and instead asked, “What do I call you?”

She thought for a moment, then looked up at Luke and said, “I do not have a name.”

He stewed over this information. Before he could think of something to say, she spoke.

“Would you name us, Lucas?”

He was so taken aback by this request, that he responded without thinking, “Me.”

“Yes. You. You have found us. You have taken care of us. We would like you to name us.”

Lucas let out a shaky chuckle and said, “No, that’s not what I meant. You said ‘Name us’. You mean ‘name me‘.”

“Oh,” she said. “Lucas, will you give me a name?”

Lucas looked at her. Studied her. He thought about the fantastic and impossible way she had fallen into his life. The way, he knew, she had altered it forever. He thought about who she might be. He thought about who he was, in general and at this particularly desolate time in his life. He thought about how she would affect him, how she already had.

And, all at once, he knew what to call her.

“Hope,” he said, and he looked at her with a woeful desperation. And something else, something powerful and dangerous, underneath. “You’re my Hope.”

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Patti M

“Trey, get out to the car.” My mother spouted at me, her head hanging through the half-open door to my room. The doctors told her I could hear but she still made sure I saw her lips every time she talked. It’s like she hoped I was deaf, just so she wouldn’t feel like she had some crazy 15 year-old kid for a son. She left my bedroom after I nodded.

Huh. Yeah. My bedroom. More like the room at the top of the stairs to the left, just past the bathroom, at 877 North Royal Street in the bustling city of Green, Ohio. That’s what it was now. Not my room anymore, I thought as I picked at the paint chips on the wall where my posters used to be. It’s just a room now; an empty room, in an empty house.

The view outside my window looked better today than it ever had. Why didn’t I notice what a cool road we were living on? Guess it’s not so cool until you have to leave. Stupid friend of Mom’s. Stupid Moltenville, Ohio. Stupid castle. Who buys a castle anyhow? Why is it our responsibility to live there and help run it? Stupid me, taking those online classes instead of going to that special school. Wouldn’t have been so easy for us to move. Stupid me. Stupid everything.

I crumbled a small piece of paint from my wall between my fingers and popped it out into the toilet on my way down the hall. At the bottom of the steps mom and Brandy waited, glaring at me. What else is new? My big sister didn’t look at me, she glared at me.

“Come on,” she said. I looked away, pretending I didn’t hear how she ended that phrase. The way she always did. “Freak.” I heard just fine and she knew that too.

There’s no way to explain why I don’t talk. Well, there is. But I won’t tell them. It’s stupid too and I don’t need any more reasons to see doctors and psychologists and counselors, or any other stupid person to fix me. Doctors said I could hear and should be able to talk just fine. My medical file says mute, but as far as my sister thought, it should read freak.

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GRAPEMO 2014 DAY 3: Gearing Up For Teasers

Tomorrow with be our first TEASER day! Please try to get these to me by midnight tonight for posting tomorrow. I generally have them up by noon EST.

Quick reminders:

Include the TITLE of the piece.
Limit them to 300 words, give or take.
One teaser per participant.
These will not be edited or proof-read, so be sure it's your best work.
Comments are welcome--NOT critiques.

The reason I encourage people to post TEASERS is simple: To get writers used to having others read their work.

People who don't write may find this strange. Why wouldn't a writer want other people to read what they're writing? After all, isn't that why writers...well...write? Of course. And what huge egos we must have! To imagine that we can not only write something that others will want to read, but actually pay money for the privilege of doing so.


The truth is, writers are some of the most insecure creatures on earth. This insecurity is one of the reasons we write in the first place. We express in words what we can't express face to face. Some of us are introverted, often to a fault. For every writer who is as comfortable in front of a microphone as he is behind a keyboard, there are a thousand others who would rather suck on a blow torch than get up in front of a roomful of people, even our most adoring fans.

This "social anxiety" continues when it's time to share our writing with others, whether it's friends and family, our first beta readers, or agents and editors. It continues on when our stories are published, when we're then at the mercy of critics and the general public.

Criticism stings. Rejection hurts. It's frustrating. Disheartening. Many writers give up after two or three rejections. I wonder how many of these writers would've have succeeded if they'd only listened to THE GODFATHER--

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"It's not personal. It's just business."

--and kept trying, i.e. done their best to make their writing their BEST.

The writers with the huge egos--the ones who are so very eager to share their work that they foist various versions off on total strangers, post lengthy, poorly edited excepts of their work on blogs and message boards and anywhere else they can sneak them in, and send out hideous first drafts willy-nilly to random agents and editors (then bitch about their rejections)--are the ones desperately in need of some brutal, honest feedback. The rest of us welcome it. Yes, we might whimper and sob, maybe hit the bottle, perhaps take to our beds for a week or more (just kidding--it's never a full week) but in the end we know it'll make us a better writer.

The first step, though, is to put our writing out there--and yes, it's a difficult step for many.

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GRAPEMO--one of the safest place to start. xox

GRAPEMO 2014: Day 2

Since this is only our second day of GRAPEMO, you don't have to send in any updates tomorrow--we'll start this NEXT Monday, on Feb 10, once we've had a solid week of writing behind us.

In the meantime...

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"Don't bug me. I'm writing!"

Grapemo 2014 DAY 1: Embrace the Zone

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You know what that feels like.

You're there at your keyboard, or at a table with paper and pen, or huddled away in your secret "hideout" with notebook and flashlight.

Possibly you're at work, grabbing a few minutes of writing time when the boss isn't around. Or sitting in your car with a laptop, or scribbling on the back of a deposit slip while you wait in line at the bank. In the garage. The basement. The bathroom, even. Some of us will write anywhere, any chance we get.

Some of us can't be choosy about our surroundings.

Whether you write for two minutes or for six hours straight, you're in that indescribable Zone that only writers experience. You are in your novel, a world solely of your creation, and it whatever happens around you matters very little.

You are there, with your characters. You know them as intimately as you know the people you live with. The conversations you have with them are real and true. You own their emotions, and experience them as acutely, if not more so, as your very own.

Better yet, in the Zone you're completely in control; nowhere in real life can you possibly achieve this level of power. It's exhilarating, galvanizing, liberating. Even when it's not all fun and games--the Zone can also be sad, and scary, the darkest of places--there are times when you long to stay there forever.

That'll never happen, of course. But neither will it leave you.

Your story, that steadfast rock, clings to you as stubbornly, as passionately, as you cling to it.

It's there, always waiting. Ready whenever you are.

And So We Begin...

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Seriously, folks. There were just so, so many things wrong with this episode, I don't know where to start.

I'm a die-hard AHS fan. Yes, I admit there are faults with the writing; the first season in particular always felt like a "rough draft" to me. Still, I liked it. The fact that I was recovering from surgery and high on Vicodin while watching it On Demand, one episode after another, might have something to do with that enjoyment. I dunno. But yeah, I couldn't turn it off

The second season, "Asylum," rocked. I agree they crammed a lot into that season. Way too much, a lot of viewers insisted: Nuns, Nazis, aliens, mutants, demonic possession, serial killers, etc. But it was creepy, and riveting, and...well, addictive.

Then came "Coven." Again, it was kind of all over the place, but so grotesque and fascinating I couldn't not watch it. Jessica Lange is amazing. The whole cast was amazing. I couldn't care less who became the Next Supreme--I just wanted to watch these twisted characters every week. Admittedly it annoyed me that there weren't any "rules," i.e. that any rules that existed were subject to change at the whim of the writers at any given moment. Even magic has to have rules because magic, however unbelievable, has to be believable--otherwise it's, well, senseless crap.

Example: The Wicked Witch of the West melts when she's splashed with water. Dorothy and her friends flee the castle with the broomstick, only to find the Witch lying in waiting at the gates. Wait--isn't she dead? Nope. The heat from her melting body dried up the water, enabling her to rise once again. Changing the rules? Riiight.

So then we get to the "Coven" finale. Who will be the Next Supreme? Well, if *I* had written the show, it would've been:

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Of COURSE I knew Fiona wasn't dead. Nobody really ever dies in this show. Everyone is resurrected at least once. Except for Nan. But Fiona, who spent the entire show craving youth and beauty and power, would've prevailed in THE MOST BIZARRE GRUESOME MIND-BLOWING SCENARIO IMAGINABLE. I mean, she died in "Asylum"--did they have to kill her off in "Coven" too? I lost 5 bucks on a bet with this one because I thought Cordelia "winning" was way too predictable. Silly me.

Note: My second choice for the Next Supreme would've been Frankenstud, aka Kyle. True, he wasn't a witch. But, as I always like to think outside the box, I was hoping AHS would do the same.

OK. Why I thought the finale sucked (and these are just some examples off the top of my head):

1. What happened to Zoe? Was it an accident? Did Madison do that? Why didn't we see it happen, or did I blink?

2. Why couldn't Queenie bring Zoe back to life? She brought Misty back! Made no sense.

3. What the hell happened to the stolen baby? Is she still living in a cupboard up in the attic--being cared for by a DEAD MAN?

4. Kyle kills Madison? MADISON IS A FREAKING WITCH. She has POWERS. She just lies there and lets him choke her? LOLOLOLOL! As my dear friend Pamela would say: Too stupid to live.

5. The going-to-hell-and-back sequences. This alone is why the finale should have been two hours long, not one. We already saw Queenie's version of hell earlier, stuck in eternity, serving up fried chicken to obnoxious customers. Then we had to see it again. Fine. We get it. But we didn't get to see Zoe's or Cordelia's or Madison's (and how cool would Madison's have been: Playing Liesl in a TV version of The Sound of Music?--"Not even the lead!") Why didn't we get to see those? RIP-OFF!

6. We did see Misty's hell--dissecting the live frog over and over. But it was never explained why she couldn't escape, or, at the very least, showed her trying to do so. And seriously, for them to kill off Misty--probably the most sympathetic character aside from Zoe--really sucked.

7. Not that this has anything to do with sloppy writing, but how about that line of new witches outside the house, wrapped around the block like nanny candidates for the Banks kids? If four teenage witches can cause so much havoc, what the hell will happen with thirty or forty of them around?

8. Happy ending. Seriously?????

9. I'm still stuck on that poor baby...in a cabinet...dead man...



I'm so happy to see some familiar faces, and equally happy to welcome several new participants as well! With less than 24 hours left till the start of GRAPEMO, here is the current list of participants (aka "Grapenuts") and their PWGs. Anyone who did not get your PWG to me yet, please e-mail or PM me ASAP. Thanks!

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Akoss will revise 10 chapters of her middle grade manuscript by the end of the month.

another_wip will write 300 words a day.

Cari D will write 10k words between the three projects she has going, and decide which one she wants to stick with.

Dominique plans to complete the book she is currently working on and create a glossary of terms and names for at least the first two books.

edgyauthor plans to complete at least six comic strips for her webcomic ECHO EFFECT.

Elaine H will write 15K words.

Emma plans to complete four chapters this month.

fandoria plans to write 2 hours a week.

Jean D has three projects in the works and plans to work on them EVERY DAY.

Jenni will wrap up the last few paragraphs of DIMENSIONS, clean it up and tie up any loose ends, and have ready for release.

Kathie C will A. research and work out the plot for the historical aspect of her novel, and B. develop more fully the 5 different 'voices' of the main characters.

kbaccellia will revise and finish her revisions of EL COMPUESTO.

Kim V will revise her novel MULESKINNER.

Mialie S plans to put together her next PUPPY TAILS chapter book manuscript--expected word count approximately 20,000 words.

Monica M will write book 3 and revise book 1.

newport2newport will tighten the narrative string in the present-day chapters of her memoir.

onegrapeshy will write the first 50 pages of a new WIP.

Patti M's PWGs: First week--send out 3-5 more queries on her finished YA sci fi; second week--tackle 2 chapters minimum on her WIP, a YA paranormal; third week--finish up any of the 3-5 queries of week 1 that she may not have completed; fourth week--2 more chapters on the above stated paranormal.

Sher T will finish the rewrites for SECRET INGREDIENT by the 12th, then start first edits on KATE'S HOUSE--and will finish as much of that one as possible by the end of the month.

swhisted has a PWG to add 10K to her novel DREAMSTERS.

Grapemo Schedule for the MONTH



(no update on Monday 2/3)
Mon 2/3 Teasers due
Wed 2/5 Teasers due

Sun 2/9 Weekly updates due
Mon 2/10 WEEKLY UPDATES POSTED/Teasers due
Wed 2/12 Teasers due

Sun 2/16 Weekly updates due
Mon 2/17 UPDATES POSTED/Teasers due
Wed 2/19 Teasers due

Sun 2/23 Weekly updates due
Mon 2/24 UPDATES POSTED/Teasers due

GRAPEMO in a Nutshell

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PERSONAL WRITING GOAL (PWG): This is what you plan to accomplish between 2/1 and 2/28. Ideally you should come up with a concrete goal. Ex: Write/revise/edit/proof read X number of words or pages; complete a project you're currently working on; outline a project, complete a synopsis, perfect a query letter, etc. Some people choose to religiously write X number of hours a day instead.

Whatever you choose, remember this: DO NOT OVERREACH.

I can't stress this enough. Remember, this isn't NaNoWriMo. I love NaNo but this is not it. Choose a realistic choose you feel you can accomplish in a month's time. It's so much better to come up with smaller goal and *succeed* than to choose an impossible goal and give up halfway through--or, worse, feel like a failure.

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As the month progresses and you realize you did pick an unrealistic goal, remember: You can revise it down the line. Just let me know when you submit one of your weekly progress reports. Is that cheating, you ask? The answer is NO. Nobody fails at GRAPEMO. If you want to write 20K words and only make it to 10K, that's still 10K more than you would've written if you haven't participated.

WEEKLY PROGRESS REPORTS, i.e. what you've accomplished the previous week. These are due on on Sunday nights for posting on Mondays. Progress reports are generally posted by noon EST.

1. Progress reports are required, and an important part of GRAPEMO, i.e. "accountability."
2. Progress reports must be send to me via e-mail at sassenach43 (at) aol (dot) com or private message here on LJ. Facebook friends can also message me there.
3. Please get these to me on time. Though I always try to add late ones in after the fact, "...it makes more work for me," she whined. Smiley

TEASERS: 300 words (roughly--I honestly don't count words unless the piece looks huuuuge) of your current work-in-progress. These are due by midnight on Monday for posting on Tuesday, and by midnight on Wednesday for posting on Thursday. Teasers are also usually up by noon EST.

1. These are my favorite part of GRAPEMO (and everyone else's)!
2. These are NOT for critique by any participants, only for reading enjoyment.
3. These are strictly voluntary.
4. One teaser per day per participant.
5. Teasers received too late to be posted will be saved for the next teaser day.
6. Teasers must be EMAILED (no attachments) or PM'ed here on LJ ONLY. Please don't send these via FB.
7. Teasers will not be edited in any way (make sure it's your best work) though I may have to adjust the formatting at times. Warning for anyone who submits OVERLY LONG teasers: I will chop at my own discretion.
8. Be sure to include the TITLE of the work.

NOTE: Whenever e-mailing me, please be sure to put "Grapemo" in the subject heading so I don't miss it. Thanks!

I will post a calender with reminder dates, and will also post a "sticky" calender each week as an additional reminder. I will also post reminders here and on Facebook, but I will NOT be sending out any personal reminders.

Any questions? Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section here.
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FOUR DAYS LEFT TILL THE START OF GRAPEMO! Please get your personal writing goals for the month to me as soon as you can (by Thursday night would be great so I can post these on Friday.)

1. LJ users can PM me
2. Everyone else can e-mail me at sassenach43 (at) aol (dot) com
3. This year I will also accept PWGs via private message on FACEBOOK


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GRAPEMO 2014 List-in-Progress

Six days left till the start of GRAPEMO! Please click this link for more information and drop me a note if you'd like to participate. There is still time to sign up!

Here is a list-in-progress of current participants, which I'll be adding to as needed. THANKS!





Elaine H


Jean D



Kathie C

Kim V

Mialie S

Monica M



Patti M

Sher T


If anyone is missing from this list, please let me know!

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Dream Crazy

The scariest place to be is inside the mind of a writer.

When I was much younger, I used to wonder what real writers "thought" about. I'd hear people say things like "What kind of twisted mind comes up with this stuff?"--usually referring to some bizarre horror story.

I never thought these writers were really twisted. I just figured they went about their daily business as usual; then, when it was time to write, they sat down at their typewriters and zoomed off into their "crazy" zones and wrote...well, novels like "Carrie" and "Lord of the Flies."

Now I know better: The fragments of insanity are with us 24/7.

"How do you come up with your ideas?" is a question frequently asked of writers. Well, we don't "come up" with ideas any more than the average person seeks out the flu virus. Most of us don't sit around drumming our fingers, wondering, Hmm, what can I write about now?

The fact is, ideas find us. Characters, too. They actively seek us out, stalk us even. Every news story on TV is potential fodder. Every eavesdropped conversation. We take the most mundane daily activities and, without even trying, twist them about in our minds into an unimaginable what if? We can't drive down the street or stand in a checkout line without nabbing a character to add to our stable. It's these same characters who follow us home and interrupt the conversations we're trying to have with our families--

Family: "Did you hear what I said?"

Writer: "Um..."

--and make bank tellers and clerks have to repeat themselves--

(Because we just came up with the greatest lines of dialogue EVER and we're mentally carrying on a lively conversation, hopefully without moving our lips)

--and speak to us at night when we're trying to sleep.

Ah, sleep. Do any of us really sleep?

Some of us do, some of us don't. When we do, we dream crazy. We either dream long, fantastical sagas--potential novels themselves--or endless, random bits of pure ridiculousness; both leave us not only exhausted upon awakening, but frozen with wonder: What the hell was THAT about?

We have nightmares, too, possible more than the average person. I'm not sure what that means, but I can guess: All those stories, all those characters, trapped in the confines of our mind, the vast majority with no hope of ever seeing the light if day... Well, that energy has to be released somehow, doesn't it?

How many of us are comfortable enough in our own minds to simply lie down at night, close our eyes, and go to sleep? There are times when we use this dark, quiet period to review what we've written that day, to maybe work out a plot hole, a conversation, or a future scene.

There are other times, though--far more frequent--when we have to turn on the TV or grab the earbuds; those are the nights we know for a fact we'll never be able to fall asleep without background noise. Without CNN or Big Bang on in the background, or our favorite playlist or late-night radio show, all we'll be stuck with is our own racing thoughts. Whether the thoughts are good or bad makes no difference. You want to sleep. Sleep! Why can't I just go to sleep?

Writers don't always choose "what" to write. They might decide to write romance, YA, fantasy, etc., simply because it's a genre they love, or one they feel they have a knack for, or one they hope will garner a publishing deal. If the genre's a bad fit for the author, generally they figure that out fairly quickly. The ones who don't have a serious problem; none of their writing, regardless of their passion, will ever ring true, not even to themselves.

Once we find our fit, though...we dream crazy.

We find ourselves slipping in that dark zone sleep and wakefulness even during the day, and rapidly covering it up. We go through the motions of our daily routine, and all we can think about is getting back to that computer to allow the words to spill onto the screen. It's all-consuming. Agonizing at times.

As for "twisted minds"? Sometimes what we write is exactly who we are. Sometime what we write has nothing to do with us. It's a creative process unlike anything else. Even the most simplistic of stories compel the author to reach deep into the recesses of her soul. To touch on haunting memories that, often for good reason, have long been buried. To examine personal relationships and long-held beliefs. To confront fears, to question values.

To feel unbearable pain and unconditional love. To experience terror, hatred, and tremendous loss.

All of this is reflected in our words. It's exhausting, and painful, and positively exhilarating.

Our stories are not "us"--yet are stories are us. We can have it both ways. Let our readers wonder.

Countdown to GRAPEMO 2014

Eight more days left till the start of Grapemo, which means there is still plenty of time to sign up and get your Personal Writing Goals to me.


1. Livejournal users can private message me. If you e-mail me, be sure to include your LJ handle.

2. Non LJ users, please e-mail me at sassenach43 (at) aol (dot) com and put "Grapemo" in the subject heading.

3. This year you can also sign up via private message on FACEBOOK. Just be sure to write "GRAPEMO" so it catches my attention. :)

Everyone: Please include your PERSONAL WRITING GOAL for the month.

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Management of time

One full month devoted solely to your project

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Announcing GRAPEMO 2014

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Yes, yes, yes--it's almost time for GRAPEMO!

for those of you may not know, is a month-long writing challenge for writers at every level,, and it begins on Saturday, February 1st. Absolutely everyone is welcome--we've had some great successes here in the past--and you don't need to belong to Livejournal to participate.

What GRAPEMO is:

1. One full month of writing/revising/editing/outlining/world-building/illustrating/and/or anything else you need to accomplish.

2. Runs from February 1st through February 28th.

3. An exercise in discipline without the mandatory word count of NaNoWriMo.

4. FUN!


1. A race or a contest. *

2. A month-long life destroyer.

3. A critique group.

4. Goals set in stone.

5. Ever, ever a waste of time!

All you need is a PERSONAL WRITING GOAL (PWG): This can be anything you want it to be. A certain number of words to either a brand new story or something you’re already working on. Finishing up a current project. Revisions or edits. A short story, a synopsis, an outline, or even a legible query letter. It’s whatever you want it to be—and the best thing is, as time marches on and you realize there’s no way you’re going to reach your original goal (life, as we know it, often gets in our way), you're free to change it. All I want is for you to be actively working on something for 4 straight weeks, with a solid plan to achieve a realistic goal.

The first thing you need to do, if you want to join in, is to send me a PM here on LJ or else e-mail me at sassenach43 at aol dot com, to let me know. I’ll be posting participants' names and adding to the list on a regular basis.

Then, sometime between today and January 30th, please send me (same as above) your PWG. PLEASE be sure to write “PWG” in the subject heading so I don’t miss it. On January 31st I’ll post the complete list here of all participants and their PWGs. Once GRAPEMO starts, every Monday I’ll be posting everyone’s weekly update (think "progress reports") so we can all see how we’re progressing. If you need to revise your goal, let me know at that time.


1. LJ users can PM me and everyone else can e-mail these to me over the weekends. Again, put PWG or “update” or something else in the subject heading. Tell me how you’re doing!

2. Please try to get these in by Sunday night so I can post them in a timely manner.

3. Important: Please do NOT post your updates in the comment sections of posts.


* THIS is my favorite part! In fact, even though this is not a contest by any stretch of the imagination, I usually bestow lovely prizes (names drawn at random) on unsuspecting participants. Each time you send me a “teaser” of your current project, you’ll automatically be entered into the drawing. One teaser, one chance…five teasers, five chances…you get it. These will be posted on Tuesdays and Thursdays by noon.

1. Tuesday teasers need to be in by Monday night, Thursday teasers by Wednesday night. Teasers received too late to be posted will be saved for the next teaser day.

2. Teasers should be roughly 300 words.

3. Remember to include a TITLE and your NAME. If you are an LJ user and you e-mail me, please be sure to include your LJ handle.

4. Please put “TEASER” in the subject line so I don’t miss it.

5. If you send a teaser and don't see it posted, please let me know. I *have* been known to miss them in my cluttered inboxes. :)

The TEASERS are absolutely the best part of this, so don't be shy! These are not for critiquing, just for our own reading enjoyment!

Any questions?

Remember, you do NOT have to be a member of Live Journal to participate. Also remember these are public posts and anything you write can be seen by everyone. Anyone can comment on a post--just sign your name so I know who you are. Non-LJ user comments are always screened but they *will* be posted.

NOTE: For those of you on Facebook, I will regularly post reminders there as well, as well as links to all GRAPEMO entries.

Any questions?

So...WHO'S IN? Smiley

Grapemo 2014 ON THE WAY

Wait, wait, wait. What do you call THIS???

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Oh, I get it. THIS is your "Eh! Eh! I really don't know if I want to do Grapemo" face. Eh! Eh!

Seriously. It's a lot of work. Heck, WRITING is a lot of work. And it's so much nicer to kind of lie around and enjoy the peace and quiet.

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But that story of yours...it wakes you in the middle of the night, disturbing your sleep. Haunts you. Keeps you awake.

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Then there's that nagging little voice somewhere over your left shoulder--your muse, or your subconscious self, or even one of your characters--

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--whispering, "Write! Write! Why aren't you writing?"

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"Because!" you whimper. "IT'S TOO MUCH WORK! Wahh, wahh, I have stuff to do! Stuff like..."

And then you stop and think about all that "stuff." And then, "What about me? What about MY WRITING? Don't I deserve, like, 4 weeks to myself? Just an hour or so a day? Why am *I* not as important as that stuff?"

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GRAPEMO is FUN! It's stress free! It's not a race. It's not a contest. It's not a razor, not a laser, not a creative writing taser. It's a mini-NaNo without all the pressure, just your own Personal Writing Goal along with lots of friends--

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--and "support"--

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--and a few surprises--

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--not to mention our bi-weekly TEASERS:

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Have I changed your mind yet??

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I think I see a smile. No more Eh! Eh! Eh!???

FEBRUARY 1st through FEBRUARY 28th! Details to be posted this week.

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UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King

I'm reading this one now. It's about 1335 pages long. Maybe 1338. This is precisely why it's ON my NOOK. Having already slipped one disk in my life, I'm not about to schlep around a book of that size. So far it's riveting.

Note: I got off my SK kick for a while, somewhere around NEEDFUL THINGS (the title of which drove me nuts--shouldn't it have been "NEEDED Things"???) when I felt his books started to read as if he had the screenplay in mind. His early stuff I've read over and over. My introduction to him was SALEM'S LOT, and, as far as I'm concerned, no vampire novel before or since can hold a candle to that one. His ON WRITING is a must-have-or-die for any writer. Lately Kingitis is creeping back into my bones. Hooked on this one. Less than a quarter way into it.

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I'M NOT HER by Janet Gurtler

Loved this, and read it in three days. It's so much more than a girl-gets-cancer story. Twice I screamed out loud, once at something the mom said to one of her daughters (I WANTED TO SLAP HER!) and the second time at a twist I never saw coming. Then I screamed again at the end because something really pissed me off. God, I looove when that happens! Trust me, there is nothing "pat" or expected or cliched in this touching, realistic YA novel starring smart, ambitious, yet socially awkward Tess who resents the sudden "celebrity" that befalls her only when her older sister, the gorgeous, extremely popularly Kristina, is diagnosed with cancer.

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MANSON: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn

Yeah, well, I've been addicted to this story since I opened the newspaper back when I was a little kid--and my horrified grandmother grabbed it out of my hands (I got it back.)

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This one I read back in high school. It was wasted on me. Now that I work in psych nurse, I'm dying to re-visit it. I'm sure it won't be like revisiting THE SCARLET LETTER, which, as you might have noticed, is not on my Nook. And never will be. Even if it's free.

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SYCAMORE ROW by John Grisham

I loved A TIME TO KILL. Originally I thought this was a sequel to that (though I wasn't quite sure what kind of sequel that would be) but evidently it's not. It's been ages since I've read anything by Grisham, so I'm looking forward to this one. Recommended by friends.

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THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak

Well, it goes without saying that there must be something wrong with me that I haven't yet read this novel, especially with my lifelong interest in WW II and the Holocaust. Plus the fact that practically everyone I know has read it it, and highly recommends it. I will definitely read it before I see the film. That's as it should be, right?


10 Simple Ways to Stay Out of a Psych Ward

Nobody likes psych wards unless you work in one. Getting pink-slipped to one (aka a 72-hour hold) is another matter. Let's discuss ways to avoid this, shall we?

First of all, if you are ordered medication: TAKE IT. Selling it on the street is counter- productive. Medication helps. Yes, there are side effects—but these are nothing compared the side effects from not taking it. Side effects like jail. Side effects like spending 80% of your life in a locked ward. Side effects like sleeping under a bridge. Side effects like having no family and friends because nobody wants to deal with you anymore.

You don’t want to take meds? Fine. Here are tips for staying out of hospital if you choose to treat your mental illness with...oh, vitamins or Kush or accupuncture whatever:

1. Do not talk to yourself in public. If you do talk to yourself, try to avoid words and phrases such as “bomb,” “pussy” (unless you’re holding a cat carrier) and “You don’t get outta my way, Imma cut your m—f—ing face off.” Do try not to make eye contact with others while addressing your hallucinations. People think you are speaking to them. And then they answer you. And then you get mad.

BTW, if you do not have a mental illness and are talking into a blue tooth: A. make sure it’s it visible B. keep your voice down C. You really do look crazy. Just so you know.

2. If you rent an apartment or home, and your rent is due, either pay it, or politely ask for an extension. Do NOT offer drugs in exchange, Do NOT break anything or set fire to the place. Most importantly, do NOT insist it’s YOUR house and chase the landlord off the premises with a broken beer bottle. In fact, paying any bill should at the top of your list. This includes grocery bills. Stuffing a Stouffer’s family-sized mac and cheese, or a wad of bananas down your pants at Giant Eagle is a sure way to draw unwanted attention. The authorities will question you, and remember: Once you start talking, you're doomed.

3. Do not stockpile weapons, especially in your front window. Also, don’t carry them public, or to church, or to family get-together. Guns and knives should be avoided at all costs, but also remember to leave the others behind, too: The crossbows, machetes, blow torches, bottle bombs, and the two-by-fours. Especially the ones with the rusty nails in the end.

4. Do not urinate in public no matter how bad you have to go. Especially do not urinate indoors, whether it’s Macys or the Dollar Tree or the Horseshoe Casino. Note: This does not apply to RTA bus and rapid stations. If you absolutely can’t help yourself and MUST pee outside, avoid passersby and police cruisers—then run like hell. As for defecating, remember: Toilets. ONLY TOILETS!

5. If you stop at a relative or friend’s home at three in the morning and they refuse to let you in, it’s generally not a good idea to throw bricks through the windows or vandalize their cars. Sometimes it’s these little things that get people hauled in. In fact, you might be out there for 20 years, off meds and totally bonkers and happily flying under the radar UNTIL you commit some small, insignificant crime.

6. It’s very important to wear clothes outdoors, regardless of the weather. Nude people attract attention, particularly in the winter. Particularly in the daytime hours. Particularly if you are making a lot of noise. If you must run nude outside, try to keep it in your own backyard, not on Public Square, and be quiet about it. Do not pound your chest and Tarzan-yell. Do not ask anyone’s opinion of the size of your breasts or your penis, nor ask to compare. Frankly, and this not a disparaging comment about your body, no one is impressed. In fact, we’re all pretty revolted. Also, no public masturbation. What's sad is that I actually have to mention this.

7. If you’ve recently been kidnapped by aliens, understand that you’re a vampire, a dog, a famous record producer, a multibillionaire mogul who owns every business from Cleveland to Saudi Arabia, or if you’re Tupac or Obama or Michael Jackson or Lil Wayne or The Terminator (or married to one of their relatives) or if you work for the FBI, the CIA, the NSA*, it’s probably wise not to discuss any of this in public--ever, ever, ever. Introducing yourself as Tupac when a cop pulls you over (and please DO stop, as driving quickly away in the opposite direction is rarely a good idea) is sure to land you a bed you-know-where. Also, do not go to the police station to turn in your microchip, or to report your family for animal abuse when they won’t buy you any more Milk Bones. As previously noted, the key to avoiding hospitalization is to keep your mouth shut.

*If you really do work for any of these organizations, have not been diagnosed with a mental illness, and for whatever reason end up in a hospital emergency room: DO NOT MENTION IT.

8. Keep a relatively tidy house. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart—but we’ve all see “Hoarders” and know where that leads. Also, I can’t stress enough the importance of Personal Hygiene. While a whiff of bad breath or BO is certainly not enough to get you pink-slipped, there some are warning signs you should be aware of. Examples: the fact that people gag whenever you approach; brown underwear, especially the ones that can be cracked in two; a cottage cheese farm in your nether regions; spitting out popcorn kernels that are, in reality, your actual teeth (and you're not even eating popcorn); and that perpetual itch and active movement of your scalp.

9. Street drugs exacerbate mental illness.You think drugs "relax" you? Go back and talk to those people who wouldn't let you in the house at three in the morning. Drugs do not relax you. Drugs make crazy people crazier. Drugs make people who AREN'T crazy crazy. You like to sniff or smoke that gas station herb because you know it won't show up in a urine tox sample? Go ahead. Smoke it. See you in a few hours when they haul you, covered in taser burns, into the hospital in restraints. AVOID, AVOID, AVOID!

10. Learn to take cues from other people. For instance, if you say “I am God and you are the Devil” or “Princess Diana is still alive and she lives in my mother’s basement” or "My wife is being raped by your computer" and the other person says “Man, you’re full of shit,” there might be something to it.

To sum up, the best ways to avoid landing a psych ward are to:

A. Stay out of trouble
B. Don’t do weird or threatening stuff
C. Speak only when absolutely necessary and with the utmost caution.
D. Drugs are bad, m'kay?

Or you could just take your LEGAL medication and follow-up with your doctor. Seriously.
After searching far and wide, I’d thought I found a church that was a perfect fit for me: An Episcopal church in a neighboring community. Very traditional, with all the comforting rituals I found lacking in other churches. The church itself is old, and absolutely beautiful, the congregation warm and friendly. I felt comfortable there, and at home--happy, even--and was looking forward to attending Christmas Eve service there.

I especially loved their “all inclusive” aspect; in their Sunday program they always include a flyer claiming to welcome everyone—paraphrasing here, but not making this up—“fat or skinny, black or white, gay or straight, drunk or sober, liberal or conservative,” etc.

Note that last part: “Liberal or conservative.” Yes, I’m conservative. Yes, I’m a Republican. No, I am not what many people believe a “typical conservative Republican is.” As anyone who knows me personally will tell you, I can be astonishing liberal in many respects. I'm a writer, for pete's sake. How uptight can I be?

So, for a moment I had a church, and a Sunday ritual: Church service with my daughter in the morning, then Barnes & Noble for an afternoon of coffee and writing. What better way to start off a week? We didn't attend regularly because of our work schedules, but we went when we could. We'd already discussed the possibility of joining the congregation. Again, with our schedules, it’d be difficult to regularly attend classes, but maybe the pastor could meet with us personally…? We tossed the idea back and forth, not quite able to make a firm commitment.

Then I happened to come across the pastor’s Facebook page. The same genial pastor who gave the greatest, NON-boring sermons, who displayed such a charming sense of humor, who shook our hands on Sundays, and always made us feel welcome.

The dude is a raging conservophobe--if that’s even a real word.

Post after post about rotten Republicans. Rotten conservatives. How we are “horrible people, period.” Political rant after political rant. My jaw hit the keyboard.

What’s interesting is that some of his posts I actually AGREED with. Many I found relevant and thought-provoking, never mind that the Average--what was the word? Oh yeah: "Horrible"--Republican undoubtedly would shit the proverbial brick. However, I also learned that the government shut-down a few weeks back was caused by Republicans SOLELY because they hate having an African-American president. The idea that people actually believe this crap boggles my mind. Oh, and I especially “loved” the cartoon of the GOP elephant saying to Santa: “Let me tell you want I don’t want OTHERS to have for Christmas.”

On and on and on.

People on my friends list who post this dreck on Facebook (and anti-liberal rants as well, which I find equally tiresome--though there is far, far less of that) have long been kicked off my newsfeed, along with tortured pets and people, plus the usual 1,000 selfies/recipes/shared cartoons/slaughtered animals i.e. you-suck-if-you-eat-meat/minute-by-minute developmental charts of their kids/food porn/racist rants/atheist rants/Jesus rants/endless self-promotion for self-pubbed books/general TMI/ and endless snarky bitchposts a day. I simply don’t want to read it. I'm sorry I read this. I'd have preferred to remain blissfully ignorant, to simply attend church and enjoy it, and continue to feel at home.

It's easy to say "don't take it personally." But I'm taking it personally. How can I not? It's everywhere I turn as it is. Free game. Conservatives, possibly the last group of people who can be bashed with impunity.

I totally “get” that this is the pastor’s personal Facebook page and that he, like everyone else, has the right to voice his opinion. In my opinion, however, he, as a pastor, represents his church. Don’t pass out that flyer week after week, claiming everyone is welcome regardless of political affiliation, then jump onto Facebook and insult every one of us. You, sir, are a flaming HYPOCRITE. Right now I’m more frosted than Frosty the Snowman—and, once again, without a church home.

But that’s okay. I’m beginning to understand that not everyone “fits” into a church. It doesn’t make me less of a Christian not to sit in a pew every Sunday morning. I’m comfortable with my spirituality, confident in my faith. Maybe one day I will find a place…but, I can safely say, it won’t be in time for Christmas.
BEFORE, AFTER, AND SOMEBODY IN BETWEEN is an Amazon pick for the Holiday Big Deal. So if still you haven't met Martha, you can get her on Kindle for $2.99 from now through 12/22 from AMAZON.

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AMAZON description: One hour into her first day of tenth grade, Martha Kowalski knows she’s really in trouble. The school bully, Chardonnay, has already threatened her life—and at home, things are even worse. Martha’s mom, fresh out of rehab, is shacking up with a total jerk in a run-down two-family in the ghetto.

More than anything she’s ever wanted, Martha wants to play the cello. But even music becomes a danger—because nothing is what it seems in this place. With her mother’s willpower dissolving, Martha watches helplessly as her own dreams slip farther away.

But in an exhilarating twist that would stun even Cinderella, everything changes. A wealthy lawyer invites her into his family’s home, and Martha is given a chance to start over. The warm, caring Brinkmans treat Martha like one of the family, and even though it feels so right, she knows they can’t be as perfect as they seem. And she knows this fairy tale can’t last forever...

One of my personal favorite scenes--Martha's first Ala-Teen meeting:

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People are crammed like pigs feet in the basement of a church so incredibly medieval, it’s not even air-conditioned. Kids in one room, adults in another, and slogans, slogans, everywhere I look: Let Go and Let God. One Day at a Time. Live and Let Live... Bite me, I think.


1. Heading off to SC on Wednesday with my sister, niece, and grandniece, to visit my nephew and his family (and Pamela, aka another_wip!) I was expecting 80 degree weather, but I think I'm out of luck. Still, it'll be fun (and it's warmer than Cleveland!) Totally psyched. Aside from my WV trip in September, it's been years since I actually, yanno, left the state.

2. LOVED "Catching Fire"! What did I love about it? I loved that it's been so long since I read the book, I didn't remember the details, so I enjoyed it even more. I loved Cinna beyond belief. I loved that Effie cried so much. I loved that I laughed so hard I choked on my popcorn every time Caesar opened his mouth with that HA HA HA HA HA. I loved Rue's family. I loved how much I hated President Snow. I wanted to reach into the screen and rip his beard off and shoved it through his teeth. I loved that there will be a third film which mean I catch watch Katniss KICKASS again. I loved...just everything. This movie, happily, turned me back into a thirteen-year-old.

3. I spent 5 hours today getting back into iTunes. I haven't been able to access my account for two years, God knows why, let alone transfer my music to my current laptop, not to mention my non-i-PHONE, and my bitchy emails went unanswered, and I didn't want to talk to some yokel on the phone and look totally stupid because I do not "follow directions well" over the phone; I need to be shown, not told. But I did it. Though it gave me a friggin' headache, I was able to cash in all the iTune gift cards I've collected over time. Road trip music!

4. Oh, and did I mention how much I'm enjoying American Horror Story this season???

5. I bought 2 dozen donuts today. :)


"The End"

It's been seven weeks since I've blogged, but with a very good reason. KND is completed (can I hear a "YAY"?)

Writing this novel has been consumed more time, more energy, and more of my soul than any of my three previous novels. I've had to delve into dark places I'd never ventured before. It was scary, and thrilling, and it started with two photos: This one--

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--and this one--

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--both photos of dolls, found in concentration camps, that once belonged to young victims of the Holocaust.

As soon as I saw these pictures, the "what if?" began...

The "play name" for my wip, "killernazidoll," has always been a misnomer. Though Berta belongs to a Nazi, not a victim or survivor, it's not she who's the killer, though she does have her gruesome moments. As I needed a "real" doll to serve my purpose, I spent weeks on eBay till I found the perfect one. If you follow me on Facebook, you're already familiar with her:

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A Madame Alexander "mama doll" from the late 20s/early 30s, I originally named her Bernadine. Soon I grew tired of typing out the long name, so I shortened it to Berta, as she had to have a German name. This was one of the very few name changes I made; unlike my other manuscripts, I knew *exactly* what my main characters' names were before I even started the first draft. The Berta you see here is exactly as she's described in the novel. Maybe less, um, sinister. :)

It astonishes me that so many people find old dolls "creepy." I find them breathtakingly beautiful--cracks, flaws, and all--each one steeped in her own marvelous history, worn nearly to shreds by the many hands that loved her. I get the feeling "my" Berta, unlike the Berta in my story, led a fairly innocuous life. She is not stained with blood. Her green eyes, wide and innocent, don't watch me with veiled suspicion. I suspect she has a story of her own that I'll never know, but it's not important enough for me to find out.

The "other" Berta's story, however, broke my heart while I wrote it.

American Horror Story: Coven

Well, it just figures I'm working on premiere night.

They repeat it around 11:15-ish. I still won't be home. Then FX throws in "The Bridge"--whatever that is--and repeats AHS-Coven around 1:20 a.m. That's only 20 minutes later than I used to watch it last year. But still. Something tells me I'll be sucking down energy drinks that night.

Is anyone else as excited as me?

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October Writing Goals

I completed 100 pages of revisions on Berta (aka killernazidoll) last month.

October goal: To complete the next 100 pages of revisions.

Thinking ahead: To FINISH revisions in November. That's my marathon month, anyway, since I frequently do NaNoWriMo.

Which means I could conceivably have a fully revised manuscript before the end of the year. :)

Though this would only be my second revision (and I often do many more) I seem to have a better grip on this one. Instead of overwriting, I'm underwriting. It's easier for me to add rather than cut.

I am loving this story!

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Because I Can't Just SHOP Without Drama...

I like Wal-Mart.

Sue me, laugh at me--I don't care. I don't care about people's opinions about union-busting or how-we-hate-ugly-big-box-stores or Nike sweatshops or nasty Republicans who promote capitalism. In fact, I'm sick of them.

I like a A Place Where I Can Buy Things Cheap. Maybe if I were rich it wouldn't matter. I'd go to what's left of the mom-and pop shops and pay twice what I'd pay at Wal-Mart and then "feel good" about myself and then get on my blog and bitch about how I'd never, ever set foot in Wal-Mart. Um, that'll never happen. Rich or not, I can't see paying $10.99 for a box of K-cups when I can get the same box at Wal-Mart for $6 or $7. Or maybe I'm just saying that because I'm not rich.

Yes, the place is sometimes deafening. I routinely get run over by scooters and shopping carts. Babies shriek. Kids dive-bomb the aisles. People can be rude and occasionally profane. This, however, is also true for the mall and the grocery store and any other place I shop. But when you work in a psych ward, dealing with rude, profane people and taking your life in your hands is a daily occurrence. I don't bat an eye.

So, yeah, I regularly shop at Wal-Mart. I stopped in there Saturday to GET MY CHEAP K-CUPS and also socks. You have no idea how hard nursing is on socks; I've been throwing out my holey ones over the past few months, and then, curiously, I was out, so I started wearing my husband's...and son's...and suddenly NOBODY had socks anymore. Imagine that. I buy a good brand, too ($12 bucks at Wal-Mart, btw, double that the mall.)

Most importantly, Hubby needed a fan. Not any old fan: A rotating fan on a stand with a remote control.

Have you ever tried to buy a fan at the end of September? Good luck.

I find the fans at Wal-Mart, but all they have left are box fans and window fans and those little desk-top fans designed to relieve some of the agony of menopause. Ecstatic, I finally I spot one: A Fan on a Stand!!

One left.

Only one.

And there is a couple standing in front of me, stacking cartons of the box fans right in front of it. Hiding it. Burying it, actually.

They notice me.

Guy: "Oh, are we in your way?"

Me: "Yes. I wanted to look at that fan."

Girl (giggle): "Oh, we were hiding it."

Me: "Yeah, I kinda got that impression..."

Guy: "We were gonna come back and get it later."

Me: "Does it have a remote control?"



Here was my dilemma. Part of me wanted to say what the hell, let these kids have the fan. After all, I'm a nice person. On a really really good day I might've bought that fan for them. If I were rich. Maybe. But no, I was already in a crappy mood--I'd stopped right after work, I'd been up since 5 a.m., and had people yammering at me and cussing me out for eight and a half hours. I was hungry, and tired, and HOT, and had a hole in my son's sock and the start of fricking blister.

This, I think, is how you can tell whether or not you are truly a good and charitable person.

I'm embarrassed to say I didn't particularly feel "good" or "charitable." Worse, I admit it was kind of fun to mess with these two after people had been messing with me all day.

I tried to rationalize my reluctance to part with the fan. Internally, of course. My lips might have been moving. It's a habit I picked up.

1. I had the money in hand, which apparently they did not.

2. I needed that fan too, dammit, and didn't particularly want to run all over town looking for one when there was one right in front of me that they were not planning to buy at that particular moment. Who's to say they'd even come back for it? They might go home, roast wienies, get drunk, have sex, fall asleep in their hot little bedroom, and never think of it again. They'd be still be fan-less. I'D still be fan-less.

3. These two goofballs were hiding the fan. HAHAHAHAHA! They actually were hiding the fan! Didn't they ever hear of layaway?

Me: "Well, let me look at it. If it doesn't have a remote, I don't want it anyway."

Guy reluctantly moves all the extra boxes aside. I reach over and lift the heavy carton so I can turn it around to read the label, and...


The bottom falls out of the box. The fan drops out of the bottom. Pieces roll across the floor. Wal-Mart suddenly goes silent.

Guy and girl back rapidly away.

Guy: "That's okay. We don't want the fan."

I read the label on the extremely weightless box: "No remote. I don't want it, either."

I did get my K-cups, however, And twenty-four pairs of socks.


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1. Yes, this is where I'll be this weekend, along with Beth and Pamela aka another_wip: THE MOTHMAN FESTIVAL in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

If any of you missed the movie, here is the trailer for THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES:


2. Car has been duly checked over. Camera is charged. Mr. Garmin is updated. Now on to my iPod...

3. I'll be gone all weekend. Eli will miss me. Oh man, will he miss me. He'll be stuck with Daddy. He loooves his daddy--but for some strange reason he doesn't like to go out and pee for him. I dunno, it's like he's afraid Daddy won't let him back in or something. Ever. If I'm gone for hours, Eli will hold it for hours. Two days, Eli...two whole days... It ain't gonna happen, buddy. PEE FOR DADDY!

4. As excited as I am about a serious road trip (well, 4-5 hours) I'm a bit nervous about the fact that I don't own a spare tire. Yanno, like I'd actually know how to change one...

MARGOT: A Novel by Jillian Cantor

                Remember Margot Frank?

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What if she'd survived the camps?

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Author Jillian Cantor explores this "what if" in her touching, meticulously researched novel, MARGOT (Riverhead Trade)

Amazon blurb: In the spring of 1959, The Diary of Anne Frank has just come to the silver screen to great acclaim, and a young woman named Margie Franklin is working in Philadelphia as a secretary at a Jewish law firm. On the surface she lives a quiet life, but Margie has a secret: a life she once lived, a past and a religion she has denied, and a family and a country she left behind.

Margie Franklin is really Margot Frank, older sister of Anne, who did not die in Bergen-Belsen as reported, but who instead escaped the Nazis for America. But now, as her sister becomes a global icon, Margie’s carefully constructed American life begins to fall apart. A new relationship threatens to overtake the young love that sustained her during the war, and her past and present begin to collide. Margie is forced to come to terms with Margot, with the people she loved, and with a life swept up into the course of history.

I loved this novel. From the beginning, of course, I knew it was a fantasy, that Margot died decades ago along with her sister, her mother, and everyone else in the Annex except for her father. The sheer originality of this story captured me at once.

I don't agree with the reviewer who stated that (and I'm paraphrasing here) Cantor glossed over the true horrors of the war. We know what happened in the war. Is it so unbelievable that Margot would not, fifteen years later, want to obsess, page after page, over happened to her in the camps?

Or the one who dismissed the story because of a "predictable office romance." Margot survived an unspeakable past; now she's started a new life in a new country. She has an apartment of her own. She works for a law firm. She is now over thirty. Is it so unbelievable that she'd want to find love? To be like everyone else? To feel like a normal person for, well, the first time in------???

The reviewer who complained that Margot "picked" too much at her ever-present sweater, always pulling her sleeve down to hide her tattoo. Well, I guess a couple years in a concentration camp might make me quirky, too... Not to mention there's a good reason she wants to hide those numbers.

Then there was the review that complained that Cantor rewrote history: That it was Anne, not Margot, who had a romantic attachment to Peter. Well, yes, according to her diary, she did. But do we know that Margot didn't? Margot also kept a diary, a fact that Anne herself mentioned in her own. That diary was never found. We will never know how Margot felt about Peter, or, frankly, anything else in her life. This certainly wasn't mentioned in the movie which was based only on Anne's perspective, and--as even the character of Margot notes when she see the film for the first time--portrayed Margot merely as a stoic wallflower.

This novel enhances, rather than diminishes, the memory of Anne Frank. Anne is alive again, and just as importantly, so is Margot. Trust me: It's a joy to meet them both.

Writing Catch-Up

It's been a while since I posted anything "writing related." This does not mean that I haven't been writing.


1) I finished my proposal for LMB. This only took the better part of this year. I worked in tiny sprints and massive marathons. Funny how it's one of those stories I don't think about much when I'm not actively working on it--but when I DO work on it, it's all-consuming. Now the trick is not to think about it at all. May the Force be with it is all I can say.

2) I did an interview with my good friend and blogger Allina Forrester at ECCENTRIC CHAI. Part of it focuses on my job in mental health and how it affects my writing. Please check it out if you get a chance: Changing Perspectives: an Interview with YA Author Jeannine Garsee.

3) I'm also excited to be back to BERTA! In the past 2 weeks I've revised 80 pages out of a 270+ first draft (GO NANOWRIMO!) and hope to at least hit 100 pages by the end of the month. And another 100 pages in October, and then on to November, which means--with luck and perseverance--I'll have a decent second draft by Thanksgiving.

Yes, as you can see, Berta and her friends are thrilled to, uh, death.

 photo creepy-dolls-dancing.gif
I was so excited to see INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 because I really, really liked the first one.

The first one was creepy.

I loooove creepy.

It had very creepy music--

--and a creepy premise.

It was subtle, for the most part. It didn't smack you in the face.

This sequel, though. The fact that only seven other people showed up in theater should've been a dead giveaway. That, and the fact that they didn't even have the right title over the door. It said: WE'RE THE MILLERS.

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We should've seen WE'RE THE MILLERS.

A sure sign that a movie sucks is when you don't care if you have to get up and pee in the middle of it. I, unfortunately, did not have to pee. I did, however, LMAO.

Beth, after: "Why did they even make this movie?"

Good question. It seemed like it tried to channel every horror movie ever made--Stephen King's in particular. Much of the score was straight out of THE SHINING. So was the old dad-with-a-crazy-grin chasing-the-family-through-the-house-with-a-deadly-weapon and having them barricade-themselves-in-a-room-and-desperately-search-for-an-escape while Crazed Dad Busts Down The Door bit.

The whole time I'm wondering: Where are the phones? They don't own a single phone? I mean, it's not like they're snowed in at the Overlook Hotel. They even have neighbors! And, before that, when Grandma was tooling around the house, scared out of her wits--she couldn't yell out to any of the other people in the house? (However, I'll give her credit for turning on the lights for a change)

The disappearing kid with the disembodied voice. POLTERGEIST, anyone? The cadaverous face and growling voice of the dad near the end looked and sounded exactly like Billy in THINNER. Yes, again, Stephen King. The ghost who popped up and snarled "She has your baby!" was a perfect cross between Gollum and Pennywise the Clown.

Of course, we lost it--and could not shut up: "Beep beep. Richie!" "My precioussss!" "We alll float!" "White man from town!" "Heeeeere's Johnny!" Even when Rose Byrne's character bawled her eyes out, we couldn't help remarking: "Wow. You're an ugly crier."

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Then, very best of all, we have MOMMY DEAREST jacked up on crystal meth:

 photo insidious.jpg

If the director had gone for "subtle" instead of "bestial" this scene could've been the greatest one in the film. I mean, if there were any great scenes...

Score: 4/10
If any fellow Outlander geeks are following this, the role of Claire has been cast: Caitriona Balfe

 photo outlanderclairecaitrionabalfe.jpg

I'm not geeky enough to sit here and hash over what's good and bad about the casting choices -- unlike the tens of thousands of Outlander fans currently flocking to message boards to wail about Balfe's eyes and hair, because, yanno, they never heard of hair stylists, wigs, contact lenses, etc., and believe every actor in every film looks exactly like that in real life. I'm just happy this project is happening.

The last time I was excited about a book coming to the screen one was my childhood favorite, Harriet the Spy. However, I swear the casting director had to be high on crack at the time to choose Rosie O'Donnell to play the part of Ole Golly. Really? SERIOUSLY? I never recovered.

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(original illustration by the author)

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