Sharing Playlists: Two Minor Characters

Sorry for the late post—I’m experiencing one of those cold viruses that makes your head feel like a balloon on a string and I’m currently trying to type this with my fingers on the keyboard and what’s left of my brain floating near the ceiling.

Let me know how it goes. . .

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In my current WIP are two characters who aren’t supposed to be alive.

One of them wasn’t supposed to be on-page at all—he was supposed to die before chapter four. But I delayed the execution for logical reasons (I hope) and then put it off until I decided whether it should be he or another minor character who would take one for the team.

To my surprise, they appeared to take this personally and began circling each other like territorial cats or a couple of immortals from Highlander,* determined to be the last one standing.

The potential death sentence was the only thing they had in common. One was a grifter and one was a retrieval expert. One made a living being noticed and one was a professional ghost. One was gregarious, the other laconic.  One had a record and a reputation and the other one . . . was a mystery (especially to me). One of them demanded a POV, while the other leaned back and smirked, above such petty ploys.

They annoyed each other, goaded each other, and oh, man, the snark:

But somewhere along the line,they both became indispensable to the story . . . and maybe to each other.**

I kept switching between their playlists to the point where I finally shuffled them together.  Again, this isn’t a complete list, but it’s a good approximation and roughly in the order they were added (click the pop-out player to listen):

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I honestly don’t know if anything traditionally romantic will happen between these two—it doesn’t seem like any of my business, really.  In the words of another character, “Maybe it won’t; [he] isn’t a man I understand . . . But he’s pretty protective of [her], whether she likes it or not.  You didn’t notice?”

I suppose it’s enough that she does.

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*Or, continuing the musical theme in an unexpected and slightly embarrassing direction, NSYNC.

**Which doesn’t mean that I won’t have my death.   In fact . . . hmmm.

Random Thursday: Bagels, Brainstorming, and Belgian Jazz

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā):  the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s gathered during the week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as actually sitting down and creating real content.

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With Friends Like These, Who Needs Pigeons?

This morning, a friend sent me an e-mail with Pigeon Impossible in the subject line.

For the record, this is a terrible thing to do to someone who just sent you a synopsis draft for a novel with Pigeon in the title.

When I finally opened the e-mail, I found a video link and a brief note saying, “Relax, I haven’t read it yet.  Paranoid much?”

With friends like this, do you blame me?

It’s almost as bad as having this guy in charge of the nuclear suitcase:

Thanks for the vid, Kev.  You stinker.

oooooooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooo

 Save Sarah’s Sanity

Okay, seriously people—despite your dubious taste in blogs*, I know you’re all brilliant in ways I am not and it’s brainstorming time:

How can I catch the new Sherlock episodes on BBC One online without paying for an exorbitantly expensive service for a year—good God, what’s happened to the exchange rate—or without buying a plane ticket from Illinois to England  and throwing my obsessed self on poor Sarah P.’s mercy (I can cover a plane seat or a hotel, not both), since the Canadian Duchess has gone temporarily AWOL?

Sherlock isn’t arriving in the States until May.  May.  I can’t wait five months.  I’ll go insane** and take every single one of you with me.   By mid-March, I’ll be stationed below the virtual bedroom window of the whole Internet screaming “SherrrrLLLLOOOOCK!!!” in my second*** best Marlon Brando Streetcar impression.

“Scandal in Belgravia” starts at 8:10 pm on New Year’s Day, so we’ve got until 2 am EST on Monday (think Chicago), or a reasonable amount of time afterward (think hours, not months, pretty please) to make this work.

Comment below or e-mail me your ideas—I’d prefer not to risk being arrested or fined (the exchange rate again) or cash in my meager retirement fund to finance it.  And if it involves a procedure more complicated than plug-and-play, you’re going to have to dumb the instructions waaaaay down.

One of you must have an in with Stephen Moffat or Mark Thompson’s personal marker or something like that, right?  Anyone a friend of a school friend of a friend of the key grip?

Anyone?  Anything?

Don’t make me do the pouty Brando puppy eyes.  No one wants that.

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Docteur Qui?

One of the miracles of Boxing Day was the addition of BBCAmerica to our local cable provider’s offerings.

So even though BBCAmerica didn’t buy the rights to Sherlock, ^ at least I have Doctor Who, though a day too late for the Christmas Special—but a day’s delay for the rerun beats waiting for the DVD set (insert pause for pointed silence here).

And speaking of the good Doctor, and the length of time it takes to import BBC shows^^ I was watching Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra^^^ the other day, and fell in love with his version of the Doctor Who theme, which also has Lyra’s stamp of approval:

Grace, you lived in Belgium for a while, right?  What’s the verdict?

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*Hi, there.

**Hush.  Y’all ain’t seen nothing, yet.

***Because I will be keeping my shirt on, thanks very much.  Even insanity has its limits.

^What were they thinking?  Is their marketshare so high that they can dismiss all the non-British fans of the show?  You can’t tell me it’s too expensive—PBS bought it, for heaven’s sake.  At a delay discount, sure, but c’mon.

^^ And clumsy segues, while we’re at it . . .

^^^Bill Bailey is nine kinds of cool and this program displays at least eight of those.  You can view it on YouTube here.  If you don’t have an hour to spare, you can’t miss to the explanation of the bassoon, which is two kinds all by itself.

Poetry Wednesday: Sing it with me

When I started these weekly poetry rambles, I had no idea that anyone would actually read them.

I just figured I’d post my favorite stuff (or not) until no one bothered to show.

But you did show and kept showing, and a lot of you have been kind enough to share your own opinions and favorites either here or by e-mail.

Thank you for humoring me and arguing with me and for entering my odd contests and maybe trying something new along the way.

So here we are.  Last poem of the year.

Or a ballad, anyway, which is a poem sung to music and therefore earns extra points in my personal tally. Most of the really good ballads have been sung over the centuries until the origins are lost and someone decides to write them down, though in the earliest versions they usually omit any real instructions about the tunes, since everyone already knows them.*

Several someones wrote this particular one down, including Allan Ramsay and Robbie Burns, who put their own unmistakable, broguish stamp on it, but I’ve always been partial to James Watson’s 1711 version—as beautiful as the other versions are, sometimes I don’t feel like rolling my Rs until my tongue goes numb and my friends from Falkirk shake their heads in pity.

However you  prefer to roll, or not, Old Long Syne-ing or Auld Lang Syn-ing, for the sake of old times and the hope that new times will be just as good—if not better—let’s sing it together, shall we?

You know the tune.

Old Long Syne

(James Watson, 1711)

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
on Old long syne.
On Old long syne my Jo,
in Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
in Old long syne.

My Heart is ravisht with delight,
when thee I think upon;
All Grief and Sorrow takes the flight,
and speedily is gone;
The bright resemblance of thy Face,
so fills this, Heart of mine;
That Force nor Fate can me displease,
for Old long syne
For Old long syne my Jo,
for Old long syne
That thou canst never once reflect,
On Old long syne.

Since thoughts of thee doth banish grief,
when from thee I am gone;
will not thy presence yeild relief,
to this sad Heart of mine:
Why doth thy presence me defeat,
with excellence divine?
Especially When I reflect
on old long syne
On old long syne my Jo,
on Old long syne:
That thou canst never once reflect,
on Old long syne.

Oh then Clorinda pray prove more kind,
be not ungratefull still:
Since that my Heart ye have so ty’d,
why shoud ye then it kill:
Sure Faith and Hope depends on thee,
kill me not with disdain:
Or else I swear I`le still reflect,
on Old long syne.
On Old long syne my Jo,
on Old long syne;
I pray you do but once reflect,
on Old long syne.

Since you have rob’d me of my Heart;
It`s reason I have yours;
Which Madam Nature doth impart,
to your black Eyes and Browes:
With honour it doth not consist,
to hold thy Slave in pain:
Pray let thy rigour then resist,
for Old long syne.
For Old long syne my Jo,
for Old long syne;
That then canst never once reflect,
on Old long syne.

It is my freedom I do crave,
by depracating pain;
Since libertie ye will not give,
who glories in his Chain:
But yet I wish the gods to move
that noble Heart of thine;
To pitty since ye cannot love,
for Old long syne.
For Old long syne my Jo,
for Old long syne;
That thou may ever once reflect,
on Old long syne.

Dear will ye give it back my Heart,
since I cannot have thine;
For since with yours ye will not part,
no reason you have mine;
But yet I think I’le let it ly,
within that breast of thine,
Who hath a Thief in every Eye,
to Make me live in pain.
For Old long syne my Jo,
for Old long syne;
Wilt thou not ever once reflect,
On Old long syne.

THE SECOND PART.

Where are thy Protestations,
thy Vows and Oaths my Dear;
Thou made to me and to thee,
in Register yet clear.
Is Faith and Truth so violat,
to immortal Gods divine,
As never once for to reflect
on Old long syne;
On Old long syne my Jo,
on Old long syne;
That thou canst never once reflect.
on Old long syne.

It’s Cupid’s Fears or Frostie Cares
that makes thy Sprits decay:
Or it’s an Object of more worth
hath stoln my Heart away?
Or some desert makes thee neglect
her, so much once was thine.
That thou canst never once reflect
on Old long syne
on Old long syne my Jo,
on Old long syne;
That thou canst never once reflect
Old long syne.

Is Worldly cares so desperat,
that makes thee to despair?
It’s that, thee exasperats
and makes thee to forbear?
If thou of Ty, were free as I,
Thou surely should be mine,
If this ware true we should renew
kind Old long syne.
For Old long syne my Jo,
for Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
on Old long syne.

But since that nothing can prevail
and all hopes are in vain;
From these rejected Eyes of mine,
still showers of Tears Shall rain:
Although thou has me now forgot,
yet I’le continue thine;
And ne’r neglect for to reflect,
on Old long syne
On Old long syne my Jo,
on Old long syne;
That thou canst never once reflect
on Old long syne.

If ever I have a house my Dear,
that’s truely called mine;
That can afford best Countrey chear,
or ought that’s good therein:
Though thou wast Rebell to the King
and beat with Wind and Rain,
Assure thy self of welcome Love,
for Old long syne.
For Old long syne my Jo,
for Old long syne,
Assure thy self of welcome Love,
for Old long syne.

Happy New Year, my friends.

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*Very old recipes are like this, too, which drives me crazy, as I’m always finding ones from the 1700s that sound absolutely delicious but assume I was taught from birth how to ‘rise a heavy sponge’ and what a basic cottage filling might be when it’s at home, how to blanch a drupe, and the exact measure of drims and drams and the relative weight of a small brown egg.  I’m an American of the microwave generation.  I’m lucky I can wield a whisk without hurting myself and figure out pinches and dashes and blooms without poisoning people.

Book Review: The Book of Shadows

Anyone who has read more than three posts around here probably knows how much I enjoy the crowd over at Murderati, which is a collaborative blog written by several authors who were favorites of mine before I became a regular there and several others who became favorites afterward.

Not only are these people brilliant and funny—though occasionally deadly serious (with or without the pun) —they’re also extremely generous with their knowledge about all aspects of this writing schtick . . . And they sometimes offer free eBooks for review.

Which is how I came to spend most of Christmas Eve reading Alex Sokoloff’s The Book of Shadows.

I didn’t mean to.  I had a few hours before I had to ready the troops for the Christmas Pageant at the Children’s Service, and said troops were occupied with napping or staring into my spare Netbook.  So I figured I’d read a chapter or two of Book of Shadows, virtuously work on Pigeon for a while, and then dress everyone with time to spare.

Have you ever tried to get tights on a four-year old while trying to hold onto an eReader with one hand?

It’s about as difficult as you might think.  But so worth it.

Book of Shadows is an excellent story.

The mutilated body of a young woman is found in a landfill.  Her head and left hand are missing and strange symbols have been carved into her flesh, post mortem.  Even experienced Boston police detective Adam Garrett and his partner are unsettled and quickly hunt down and arrest a suspect whose inner demons are all too evident.

It’s a slam-dunk, high profile case that could put Garrett on the fast track to everything he wants . . . except something is telling him there’s more to this case than sex, drugs, and an Alastair Crowley wannabee.

And when a beautiful self-styled witch—from Salem no less—shows up and insists that not only do they have the wrong guy, but that demons aren’t just a metaphor. . . Garrett has to decide who, and what, to believe.  And what he’s willing to risk to close this case.

This story surprised me at first.  Knowing Ms. Sokoloff’s talents, I was expecting an immediate flavor of paranormal horror and instead, Book of Shadows begins as an unapologetic police procedural about a particularly gruesome, satanic-stained crime.

But slowly, steadily, the plot threads lead both Garrett and the reader off the familiar path to two possible realities, one a twisted mystery, one a mysterious horror.

Did the suspect kill the victim or love her? Is he schizophrenic or possessed?  Is Tanith an actual witch or only a mentally unstable fake?  Are demons real or drug-induced hallucinations? Is Garrett facing a dangerous psychopath or the Master of Illusions itself?

What makes this story so interesting is that these two realities aren’t parallel, but wind around each other in a masterfully-written, shifting pattern. I wasn’t sure until the end which was true—and I still have my doubts.

Which doesn’t mean the ending didn’t rock, because it did.

The characters are multilayered as well.  To be honest, I didn’t like Garrett at first.  He’s ambitious, ego-driven, chip-shouldered, and a bit of a hound—or an outright user—with the ladies.  He’s also stubborn as hell—at one point, Doubting Thomas himself would have rolled his eyes—but the thing is, he’s also a damn good cop who wants to catch the right bad guy, even if it tanks his career.  It’s kind of refreshing to have a jerk as a hero.

And Tanith might appear at first to be the lovely, altruistic psychic Wiccan who Knows the Truth™, but she’s neither omniscient nor infallible—nor completely honest.  And there are things in her past that aren’t easily dismissed by Garrett or the reader.

The secondary characters are well done, too.  I love Carl Landauer, Garrett’s partner, who uses every cop stereotype in the book as an effective blind for his sharp mind and decent humanity.  And Dragon Man, who reminds me of one of my favorite patrons, whom I’d give a violet quartz in a second, if I thought it would help.*

To sum up, Alexandra Sokoloff can write one hell of a tale—pun completely intended.  If you haven’t read her, yet, start with this one.

If you have, read it again.

I am.

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Also wanted to mention that Ms. Sokoloff and a number of other horror writers you might know—including Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, F. Paul Wilson, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Sarah Langan, and Scott Nicholson—have contributed to an eAnthology called Rage Against the Night, which is now available on Amazon and Smashwords for about four bucks.**

If the contributor’s list isn’t enough of a draw for you, all proceeds are going towards the purchase of an  eye gaze machine for Rocky Wood.  Mr. Wood is the current president of the Horror Writers Association who was just this year diagnosed with ALS. This machine will allow Mr. Wood to communicate with eye movements when he is unable to do so any other way.

I’m planning to send copies to a couple King, Straub, and Yarbro fans I know right after I hit publish on this post.  Why not do the same?

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*Nope.  You want an explanation, read the book.

*Ms. Sokoloff’s post about this is here.

‘Tis the Day After Christmas . . .

. . . and the house is less of a mess than it was, which is saying something.

I spent part of the morning playing Monster High dolls with Sunny, who was up far too early for a Mommy who was up  later than she should have been the night before, enjoying a glass (or so) of Crystal Head vodka* she’d received as a gift.**  No hangover—thanks in part to Lisa H.—just the sleepies and avoid-houseworkies.

But the dishes are now done, the detritus of Christmas cheer is in the recycling bin, and the remains of the turkey carcass is simmering on the stove for stock.

While I was dealing with said carcass,  Janie read me imagination prompts from her new favorite thing, Chat Pack™ for kids, which is a small box full of questions like, If you were given 5,000 ping-pong balls, what would you do with them? 

This was the first one out of the pack and has prompted Janie to work ping-pong into every single one of her answers ever since, including the one about what kind of sandwich she would make if she could put anything at all between the two slices of bread.***

One of these questions was Of all the words you know, which word is your favorite to use?

I thought about it. “Onomatopoeia  It’s fun to say and I like the meaning. What’s yours?” I ask, prepping an eye-roll for yet another ping-pong reference.

“Inuit.”

“Really?”  I stopped what I was doing.  She’s been studying Native American tribes in school, but I thought her report was on the Lakota Sioux.  “Why?”

“It flows off your tongue. Try it.  Inuit, Inuit.”

“Inuit, Inuit, Inuit.  You’re right it does.”

So we did an impromptu Inuit sing that morphed into “The Lion Sleeps Tonight (with Ping-Pong Balls).”

Good gift, Chat Pack™.

And not a bad way of spending the day after Christmas.

How did you spend today?  And what’s your favorite word?

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*Buy for the bottle, stay for the contents.  I’m not much of a drinker, but this is good stuff.

**Note to self:  hide laptop before imbibing.  You’re on Twitter now, you idiot.  And you aren’t a poet.

***Smoked turkey and ping-pong balls, with Colby Jack on oatnut bread.  My daughter may be a genetic goofball who will work a punchline to death, but she’s got very specific tastes.