Tag, I’m it!

I’ve been tagged in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, which is a huge compliment—and also a relief, as I won’t have to cast about for a post topic and possibly end up discussing the gruesome details about why we just replaced the incontinent toilet in our small master bathroom and why the replacement is stylish and housebroken and everything but does deliver a particularly icy shock to one’s derrière first thing in the morning.

The person you have to thank for this is the brilliant Angela Quarles, whom I met through Six Sentence Sundays.  She not only let me beta her amazing time-travel romance Must Love Breeches but gave me some great feedback on one of my projects as well.  Her book  Beer and Groping in Las Vegas is out on December 19th.

Here are the rules I was given:

—Use this format for your post
—Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
—Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Here goes:

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your WIP?

This is self-indulgent like whoa, but I currently have three projects going, for given values of “going”:

I unearthed an old drawer novel for Six Sentence Sundays almost a year ago—I’ve received some terrific feedback about it and to my surprise, the story has slowly become a WIP instead of a Whatever.    When I started posting pieces, I renamed it Full Metal Librarian—I’d originally called it Daughter Of, which most people assumed was an incomplete sentence instead of a title.

The Pigeon Drop is my main project—I’ve just finished edits. The title is the name of a classic scam—a ‘pigeon’ in this context is a con-artist’s potential victim.

And I’m using Nanowrimo to jumpstart a new project—I always start these things with the working title Pirate Ninja Nuns From Mars until I figure out a better more apt different title, but I’ve already tentatively renamed this one Hard Limits.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Full Metal Librarian was a Nanowrimo-novel that developed from a short story I’d written after a seriously bad day at work. I armed the librarians, privatized and militarized the American Library Association, and rigged the books to explode if you left without checking ’em out (or didn’t bring them back in time). It was cathartic. And then I started imagining a society that would allow that kind of library system to evolve . . .

The Pigeon Drop coalesced from my fascination with classic scams and con artists—including Melvin Weinberg, who ended up working for the FBI after his arrest—an interest in how far rehabilitation goes, a few questions about forgiveness, and a couple timely articles about sickle-cell anemia and the difficulty of finding minority donors.

As for Pirate Nuns/Hard Limits, I’ve had this weird ‘what if’ crime lurking around for a while, though I was too involved with Pigeon to do much with it except scribble the odd note. And then I was talking to my friend Cha Cha about all this stuff that was happening to her all at the same time, and I told her she was a serendipity magnet.* She said, “That sounds like the name of a literate stripper.” And I said, “Ooo! Or a brilliant stripper who helps the police solve crimes and dances to pay the bills.” We laughed . . . but something about that strange character clicked with the odd crime. We’ll see how it goes.

What genre does your book fall under?

Full Metal would be shelved with the science fiction, but there’s a mystery in there, too.

The Pigeon Drop is a caper novel, so it would be shelved in mystery.

Hard Limits is looking like a Police Procedural/Amateur Sleuth cross, but we’ll see.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

In Full Metal, I’d like to see the main character, Clyota, played by Gina Carano, the former extreme fighter who starred in Haywire. Chris Hemsworth might do as her reference partner, Charlie, as long as he—or his fans—would be willing to have his hair buzzed. And since I like to dream with an unlimited budget, I think Kevin Spacey would make the perfect Pressman.

In Pigeon. . . possibly Gina Carano for Judith or maybe Mary McCormack (a lot of my female MCs seem to be kick-ass Amazons, which is definitely writing against type). MacRae, a reformed grifter is hard to figure . . . I think Peter Facinelli** would be good in the role,*** though he’s not exactly how I described the character. I’ve always imagined security-specialist Saul as a young Ving Rhames, though LL Cool J would be seriously awesome. I’m not fussed about Blaine, the legendary huckster the rest are trying to save—Morgan Freeman or Danny Glover would be just fine!

Hard Limits . . . Summer Glau^ comes close to how I picture the MC dancer, but that’s all I’ve got so far. I don’t usually cast my characters until their books are done—I usually give ’em their own soundtracks, instead.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Full Metal: In an alternate future, where the police are privatized and librarians are armed, the daughter of a posthumously convicted mass murderer is hunted by an unknown enemy as she tries to find the truth behind her mother’s alleged crimes.

Pigeon Drop: To save the life of their boss and mentor, who needs a bone marrow transplant, a group of ex-cons use their various skills to track down his estranged family before his enemies can do the same.

Hard Limits (so far): a homicide detective acquires an unlikely—and possibly dangerous—consultant when he meets a brilliant exotic dancer who seems to know far too much about the murder of another dancer.   (or, you know, Pirate Ninja Nuns from Mars save the universe from the Mad Monks of Neptune. . . it could go either way).

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Yes.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

One month.

A year and a half . . .ish.

I hope thirty days. We’ll see.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I wouldn’t presume. It’s far too soon to be thinking about read-alikes.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See the answer to the second question above, but otherwise, I have fantastic friends who encourage and nag and commiserate and inspire, who beta and corral my commas and mail me their Kindle with their notes on it, and give me their awesome stuff to read and send cookies and snort jokes and truly filthy limericks and Librarian LOLS and pigeon tchotkes.

You know who you are.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Full Metal has cybernetic Press Corps, flying cars, a mass murder on a MoonBase, a possible corporate cover-up, armed librarians, a telepathic therapist, and a courtroom scene that owes a lot to Perry Mason.

Pigeon Drop has thieves, hackers, grifters, and muscle pulling several cons to reach their goal—and those are just the good guys.

The only thing I have for Hard Limits so far is the undeniably weird fact that my mother knew someone, off the top of her head, who could answer my questions about pole dancing.

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

As I said, Angela Quarles tagged me.  In turn, I’m tagging:

Averil Dean: A good friend and a writer of  of incredible depth and imagination, her blog is a must-see and her next book, Tapestry of Scars (Mira, January 2014), is going to be a must read.

Jalisa Blackman: My First Reader, without whom Pigeon would not have been written past chapter seven. She is a teacher, a writer, a reviewer, and a world-builder extraordinaire.

Laura Maylene Walter: Laura is actually the Current Big Thing.  If you haven’t read her short story collection Living Arrangements, you have a treat in store. If you haven’t read her blog, you’re missing out.

Mike Allegra: Mike writes children’s books, including Sarah Gives Thanks (about Sarah Hale, without whom there would be no official Thanksgiving), which just went into its second printing two months after its release. His blog, Heylookawriterfellow, is a fun time.

Indy Clause: Poet, essayist, freelance editor, guest poster, blogger, all around snarktastic person.

It’s my understanding that you can substitute other written forms (poems, essay, short stories, etc) for ‘book,’ if necessary.

Ladies and gentleman, tag, you’re it!

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*Yeah, I’m not sure where that came from, either.

**No, I didn’t know he was in the Twilight movies until I was trying to find his name—I saw him in Loosies earlier this year and thought he was terrific. His sparkling career came as a bit of a shock, to be honest.

*** Or Jeremy Renner, because I know some of y’all were waiting for me to mention him and will make pointed remarks (cough Watson, Cha Cha cough) if I don’t. He’d actually make an excellent Chet Menke—that slimeball—or Eddie Costello, but those roles are probably too small  to interest him now.

^Am I the only one who thinks Ms. Glau resembles a Sigourney Weaver/Tia Carrere hybrid, in the best possible way?

Tic, tic, tic, tic . . .

Today is the last day of my vacation before I’m back in the library trenches, digging out my desk and going through the hundred and sixty e-mails (at last count when I slipped in for a saved message from Jane’s teacher) waiting for me.

As I finished my laundry yesterday, I’m dedicating the time until the kids come home to doing some housework editing of my current WIPmaking sure characters’ names were spelled consistently, scene breaks were indicated appropriately, and that my personal writing tics were under control.

Stuff I should have done before I sent it to a few trusted betas to read over . . . Except I thought I had.  I’d taken out the justs, the verys, the -ly words and the maybes, curtailed the ups and kept the seems in check.

But that wasn’t everything.

I had no idea that I’d had three people baring their teeth in four consecutive paragraphs.  I felt like Jane Goodall.

That’s really the point and the blessing of beta readers—they find the stuff the writer can’t see any more.

What my betas have seen so far is somewhere between amazing and appalling.  Apparently, if you were to run my novel at high speed through a movie projector, my characters would all look like they had St. Vitus’ Dance.

They grin, they nod, they sigh, shake their heads, work their eyebrows as if they’d glued caterpillars on speed to their foreheads, offer smiles to anything that moves, and oh, dear Lord how they snort.

I’d be annoyed and embarrassed, but instead I’m just so very grateful they identified all these before I started querying.

Here are the numbers, after I ran the tics they mentioned, plus a few of my own, through the Find function:

snorted: 33

nod/nodded: 79

sighed: 73

grinned: 58

eyebrow/s: 60

shaking/shook (mostly heads, sometimes hands): 94

smiles/smiling: 91

baring/bared teeth: 7

Sheesh.

I’m proud to say that I’ve pared things down to 5 well-spaced snorts, 11 total grins (and acts of grinning), two sets of bared teeth, and 23 eyebrow manipulations (I’m not quite done there).  It’s oddly satisfying to find ways around them, too—including outright deletion—now that I know what to fix.

Along the way, I’ve learned that I use a metric ton of action tags (He nodded.  “Of course you do.”), which would be overkill even if I stuck to the standard tags (“Of course it would,” he said.).

Good to know for future projects—I may not be able to stop myself from tic-ing while I’m in the zone, but at least I’ll know what to watch for in the next drafts.

So let’s hear it for beta readers and the glories of editing.  Not only are their sharp eyes helping me write a better book, they’re helping me be better writer.

I can’t thank you enough, guys!

Clearly Written Fortune (Knock, Knock)

I had a Fortune Cookie Breakfast this morning after I clocked in at work.

This is how Mondays often roll around here, because my children are actually Recombinant DNA tree sloths and what with getting them awake(ish) and dressed and brushed and combed and braided and Show-and-Tell itemed and shod in matching shoes,* getting them fueled up is usually a them-or-me proposition, and no one is going to call Child Services if I don’t have a decent breakfast in the morning.**

Plus, fortune cookies are the only food(ish) item I usually have in my bag, since we eat at the Japanese Buffet so often they’re thinking of putting up a plaque near our usual table and my MIL never opens hers—which drives me not a little crazy for some reason I don’t care to explore—and I don’t see the point of just leaving behind a perfectly good prepackaged food(ish) item that could keep me from ingesting pencils and Post-it notes mid-Monday morning, since Diet Pepsi Breakfasts don’t work as well as they used to several birthdays ago and I had to stop with the Sugarless Gum Brunches because of jaw pain.

Of course, they do play hell with my sentence structures . . . But sometimes I get good advice.

So I cracked open this morning’s cookie and found this:

Good writing is clear thinking made visible.

Sheesh—even the fortune cookies are busting my chops now?  It must be Monday.

If I could think clearly, I would pack breakfast for myself when I do the kids’ lunches the night before.

Actually, if I could think clearly, I probably wouldn’t write at all, since writing is always how I’ve worked stuff out—lists, outlines, angst, rants . . . I have a deep-seated belief that if I get things down on paper, like a story problems, I’ll be able to find solutions.

This has worked pretty well for me, all things considered.  I’m hoping it works when the story problem itself is a 100,000-word story.  At the moment, I’m editing the parts where I’d become stuck on a character or McGuffin or plot point and wrote through it, hoping to find my way.

In general, I think I did—Pigeon Drop appears to be shaping up into a Real Novel (that noise you hear is me rapping on the side of my head for lack of a wooden table).  There’s work to do, but I believe it’s worth doing (knock, knock, knock).

And having written this post, I might even remember to eat a real breakfast tomorrow morning.  Or pack one tonight.

I hope so.  I’m all out of fortune cookies.

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*And unmatched socks, which is a fashion trend I can totally get behind, because I am of the opinion that a significant percentage of teenage pregnancies could be prevented by having one day-long workshop in which the participants do nothing but pair together basketfuls of various-sized kid socks.

**I could eat when I get up, but seriously, eating at 5am isn’t going to happen.  Ever.  And then I get to typing, and, well . . .

Novel Withdrawal

epic win photos - Sound Guy WIN

For the past week, I’ve been lugging around several pounds of manuscript and a handful of pens.  Every time I had a break or five minutes to myself, I read through the former and scribbled all over it with the latter.

Last night, I finished my initial run through of Pigeon Drop, made some final notes*, kissed the air in the direction of my husband, and collapsed face first into bed.

This morning, I left the printouts at home.  I also, for the first time in over a year, did not stick my bright pink flash drive in my pocket.

I will not be working on my WIP on my breaks or at lunch today.

To be perfectly honest, this wasn’t a deliberate decision on my part, and I’m glad I’d already dropped the kids off when I realized I was  totally PigeonlessI know how it happened—mornings after a holiday is always rushed, plus this was the first day I added an early morning walk to my routine and had to remember to load Janie’s new percussion kit** into my car and had to capture a urine sample from Sunny, which I hope is a one-time deal.***  But still, how irresponsibly scatterbrained can I get?^

And yet . . . this might be a good thing—aside from the time-anxiety shakes and the mild panic attacks I get every time I touch my pocket to check on the flash drive that isn’t there.

Editing, or so I’ve heard, is easier from a certain distance.  I’ve lived this book, off and on, for more than a year now, and a little time apart might help me notice the words I’ve read so often that my mind glides frictionless even over the typos.  And some perspective wouldn’t come amiss before I start cutting and consolidating in earnest.

Maybe a guilt-free^^ day off is just what I need.  The first step in letting go and moving on to the next project . . .

. . . or maybe I can talk my husband into bringing me that flash drive . . .

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*Not final final notes, just final I’m-too-tired-to-hold-the-pen-right-hope-I-can-read-this-in-the-morning notes.

**I’d say that this is my karmic punishment for inflicting my early bassoon years on my parents, but that was Mom’s idea in the first place.  So I’m probably just a pushover.  And I just this second remembered her lesson book is still on the piano—oh, $#!%.  There’s your karma right there . . .

***Another part of parenthood no one warns you about.  I have no idea what the pediatrician is testing for—lead?  Tennis elbow? Barbie addiction?

^RHETORICAL.  I repeat, RHETORICAL.  We are not at home to any examples, especially supplied by family members, both biological or by marriage contract.

^^HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHhahahahahahahahaha-aha-ha-cough, hack, whew . . .  That one’s gonna take some practice.

Random Thursday: Gnomes, Mash-ups, Mom, and Gravatational Comforts

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s acquired 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 genuine content.

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Sweet Child of Ours

Julia Child would have celebrated her 100th birthday this week.

Her life story is even more fascinating than her cooking skills and her talents for teaching generations of nervous television viewers to be unafraid in the kitchen.

She was absolutely one of a kind.


(thanks to Bobbi French for the Facebook link to this video)

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Fairy Garden, Revisited

Mom sent those images of her Fairy Garden that Dad and I couldn’t figure out how to access last week.

Creative and computer savvy—go, Mom!


If you look closely, you can see St. Francis of Assisi being hugged to death by mint.
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Home, Sweet Gnome
(Oh, sure, like you weren’t thinking it)

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From this angle, doesn’t it look like the frog is wearing a ceremonial headdress?  ‘Cause that really wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

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We’re NASA and We Know It

I couldn’t resist one more parody of this song. Because it is a big deal, y’all.

(Thanks, Kev)

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A New Stage in the Journey

Rough edits on Pigeon are done and I’ve finished the last chapter. Onward to . . . fine editing?  One hopes?

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The Cheese Stands Alone in Heliocentric Orbit

In this uncertain world, it’s good to be able to say, with scientific accuracy:
“Well, at least the Earth won’t fall into the sun today.”