August 29, 2012

The Next Big Thing (What I'm Working On)

I've been tagged to write about my current work in progress in week 10 of The Next Big Thing. Here are the questions and my answers.

What is the working title of your book?

Right now I'm torn between Maggie Magick and The Witches of Dark Root. My husband says that Maggie Magick sounds like a book for an eight-year-old so...that may be the deciding factor.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The two things I love to write about are magic and family dynamics. So one day, while daydreaming, I thought about what it would be like to really combine the two into one book. I was pretty excited!

What genre does your book fall under?

Hmm...I'm guessing fantasy. But it's also really grounded in realism. It was important to me to let the magical parts of the book be secondary to the real world setting. I never wanted to go over the top with this project.

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

I like the girl from The Hunger Games. Think I can get her? :)

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Maggie is a young woman with magical powers who left home to get away from her 'witchy' upbringing, but now she has to return to her hometown of Dark Root, Oregon to set things right with her family and learn the true nature of her gift.

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

Unsure at this point. I think every story needs a home. I will find it a home one way or another.

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

I am still about 15,000 words from finishing the first draft, but the end is in sight. It took me almost a year, but that wasn't straight writing. A lot of the time was spent thinking about the characters and the plot line. Its more intricate than the other books I've written. I should be done with the first draft in two weeks.

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

The only other book that I know of is Practical Magic. The blending of realism with witchcraft, along with the sibling relationships, is pretty comparable.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

My childhood. I've always been fascinated by family dynamics. I was the second oldest of six children and we had our own mini-political system in the family. Any time I get to explore that I am happy. We also had somewhat of a magical upbringing. My mother possessed some unusual, if not downright spooky powers at times. It intrigued me.

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

Well, there are no shades of grey in the book, but there are some blurry lines between light and dark. Maggie has to learn how to use magic effectively, tapping into the good stuff, without straying into the bad.

If you like books about witches, sisters, small towns, and mysterious backgrounds, you might really enjoy this one.

Thanks JC Andrijeski for tagging me!


***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. It’s that simple.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing

  1. What is the working title of your book?
  2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
  3. What genre does your book fall under?
  4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
  5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
  6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
  7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
  8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
  9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?
  10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

August 10, 2012

Swinging for Success

I participated in FlashFiveFriday. You have five minutes to write about a topic. Here are my thoughts on Success:

I’ve been watching the Olympics Gymnastics competition this week, and it got me thinking about success.

Success can come suddenly. Gabby Douglas, the new Women’s All Around Gold Medalist, wasn’t favored to win. In fact, it was a surprise that she was even in the games at all. But as Gabby lept onto the uneven bars and swung like a monkey on Ritalin - she suddenly caught the attention of the world and became America’s new sweetheart.

Success can end just as suddenly. While Gabby Douglas was in, with a few bad moves, the favored woman, Jordyn Wieber, was out. Meanwhile, the hunky American Men’s Team was touted at being the next wave of gymnastics golden boys, but somehow tumbled out of our hearts as one after another succumbed to the mighty pummel horse. It was almost painful to watch.

Sometimes, a near success isn’t good enough. American McKayla Maroney looked like she had bitten off her tongue when she earned silver instead of gold. And those Russian gals, they literally wept when they learned that they had come in second instead of first. They cried so much I was actually worried about what would happen to them when they returned home? Did Russia ship off silver medalists to work camps? Or worse, make them work the Starbucks Drive through window in Moscow? I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to smuggle a few of them back to the states because the looks in their eyes said their next few days with coach were going to be really, really bad.

Success is something we all want, strive for, sacrifice for, and once attained, do everything in our power to keep. It’s in our DNA. From the moment we enter grade school and start chanting “We’re number one, cuz number two won’t do,” we strive for nothing less than perfection. When the Great Britain team, a team who had never won a medal, suddenly secured the Silver, the crowd went wild. Only minutes later, however, the Japanese team, who had won second in 2008 and weren’t happy about being pushed out of medal contention, actually paid the judges to revisit the scores. The newly tallied scores put them back into Silver status, knocking the Brits to bronze. The London crowd, who would have been happy to win any medal only moments before, sat scratching their heads, dazed and morose. The same look my twenty-something friends had when they realized the Twilight movies were coming to an end.

When someone succeeds, someone else loses. Above all I ponder this. Why do we want to win so badly? Does being Number One mean we are better, more loved, and more important than the person next to us? And as viewers, why are we so heavily invested in our teams? Not only in gymnastics but in any sport. I know adults who let a loss by their favorite team ruin their weekends. If Aly Raisman hadn’t medaled, I’m not sure how her parents would have gotten through the week. My guess is with a lot of alcohol and some Sylvia Path poetry.

Is being the best really showing what human beings are capable of or just another way to say nanny nanny boo boo?  We can’t really live through athletes, nor should we try. We should enjoy the games, celebrate the successes, appreciate and learn from the losses, and move on with our lives. In the Olympics, the NFL, or the Fourth Grade Spelling Bee. There’s no dishonor in being second, or even tenth. There’s only dishonor in not trying.

We are each given gifts, but too often we are afraid to let that gift shine because Billy down the street can do it a teensy bit better. So we sit on the sidelines because society has taught us that being number one is the only number that counts.  That’s sad. Life isn’t about being the best. The Best is a fleeting place to be, a chapter in our story. But it isn’t our whole story.  Our real story is about coming together, learning from each other, and honoring one another. And that’s what the Olympians, or any contestant of any event, should truly celebrate.

August 7, 2012

Downward Dogging for Dummies

“Namaste.” Our yoga instructor said, bowing before us from her seated position on the floor. Namaste, she explained, meant that we recognized the light within ourselves and the light within others. I bowed in response, repeating the phrase as someone flipped on the lights. Blinking like a post-apocalyptic-mole-person, I yawned and begrudgingly rolled up my mat. I didn’t want to leave class yet, but Senior’s Strength training was about to begin and the room was soon flooded by sixty-year-olds who were as devoted to ‘their spots’ as they were to Regis Philbin and Moons Over My Hammy.

“Great class," said a guy who had been seated next to me. I looked him over in the light. He was classically beautiful, bronze and sculpted, like one of those guys on the cover of romance novels. I imagined his name was Duke, or Jake, or Pierce. Or Steel.

"Sure was," I agreed as we filed out of the room. Though I had only been taking classes for a few weeks, I was really beginning to enjoy my sessions. In fact, I was enjoying them so much that I was in danger of becoming one of ‘those people’, that annoying group of gym-goers who continuously reminded others of how out of shape they are and how exercise could save their lives. Only yesterday I had caught myself explaining to an unsuspecting woman at the grocery store how Downward Dog could help with both unwanted back fat, sciatica, and possibly herpes (though the jury was still out on that one). I would have to check myself.

I wasn't always the Yoga Goddess I now claim to be. I’m not an exercise enthusiast by nature. In fact, I hate working out. But as my short frame is always one Snickers Bar away from hobbit town, I’m forced to move it. Thus, if there’s a shortcut to getting in shape, I’ll take it. The Thigh Master and The Shaker Weight will always hold a special place in my heart.

It seemed natural that a slacker like me would eventually stumble onto Yoga, and then one day while picking up my husband from the gym, it happened. As I was scanning the room I happened to see a group of fit, relaxed looking people emerging from a classroom. They had muscular arms, braided hair, and casually discussing chimichangas. They all carried mats like the kind you see Kindergartners nap on.  Best of all, at least half the group was wearing Flip-Flops.

“Who are they?” I asked my husband when I had finally located him. I had never seen people like this in the gym before. If it wasn’t for their toned legs and tight abs, I would have thought it was a special class, kind of like a ‘take your couch potato to workout day’.

“Oh, the Granola Group,” he said, dabbing his forehead. He had just run an hour on the treadmill and was in danger of melting.

"The who?"

"The yogis."

“What do they do?” I watched as a woman unloosened her braided hair and it floated out around her. It was so long I could almost climb it.
“I think they bend and stuff.” My husband answered. “Supposed to be good for you.”

"Do you ever do it?"

"Me?" My husband's chest puffed out with manly pride and I regretted my question.

The next day, sure that I had found my mother ship, I headed in, new purple mat tucked under my arm. My first lesson in Yoga was that mats weren’t cheap, especially the cute ones. I spread my mat near the back of the room,with the other yoga newbies that somehow wandered in. We all looked dazed and amused, like we had just wandered into a high school class that was famous for giving out passing grades even if you didn't do your homework. In front of us, I later learned, were The Middlers, they were the drama geeks of the group, trying to pass themselves off as yogis, but not quite cutting it. And at the top of the ranks were The Front Row Yoga Divas, the popular group whose bodies seemed to be made from limp spaghetti. If you got in with them, you were golden.

The class started out well enough, lights out, relaxing music. We spent the first minutes sitting cross-legged, palms up, breathing in and out to the sound of Gregorian Monks, and I tried to play "Name That Chant".  Our instructor informed us that this relaxation technique this was helping our bodies to do good stuff: repair cells, lengthen muscles, and align chakras (I wasn’t sure what a Chakra was but it sounded delicious). For fifteen minutes we slowly stretched our shoulders, our neck, our sides and our legs. Our instructor gave us permission to block out the worries of the day. This direction left me a bit anxious. Without my worries, I wasn’t sure I was me.

When I had finally found my rhythm of breathing and stretching, things changed. Our instructor had  suddenly transformed from Gandhi  to G.I. Jane. “Okay, people,” She bellowed, walking the floor with her hands laced behind her back, “now its time to work. And I mean work.” She forced us from our comfy position on the floor into a position known as plank. In plank position you sit at the top of a push up, but you don't go down. You just hover there. Indefinitely. I’m pretty sure it originated during the inquisition to get witches to confess. I wasn't sure how holding one position without moving could hurt so much, but it did. Sweat beaded across my forehead, and my arms began to tremble. I was going down.

The instructor must have spotted my weakness. She moved towards me like a lion on a zebra. She placed her bare foot under my hovering body and warned me not to let my body lower onto hers. Somehow I held strong, wondering if I could crush the bones in my arms with the weight of my own body.

“Hold for five more breaths,” she said. I could feel myself whimpering. Then, mercifully, she had us change position.

“Downward Dog.” The whole class shifted into a new formation. We were still on our hands and feet, but instead of being parallel to the ground, our butts rose high into the air. Downward Dog was plank on crack. “This,” she said, “is our resting pose. Come back here whenever you get tired.”

For thirty minutes our instructor pushed us into positions that not only seemed bendi-logically impossible, but that also worked muscles I forgot I owned. At every new pose: Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Side Plank, Triangle, I thought my body was going to dissolve. I could already see my tombstone: April Aasheim. Survived giving birth, her husband’s driving, and late night Denny's runs. Was eventually done in by Downward Facing Dog.

Yoga, I learned, wasn’t a workout for slackers,. Yoga hurt. And that ‘chimichanga’ thing I  heard people talking about wasn’t a yummy deep-fried burrito. It was actually called a Chaturanga, a sinister pose where you lowered your entire body near the ground and just sat there, an inch or two above the ground. Just another method of torture in my instructor’s ever growing arsenal. I had made a horrible mistake.

During Standing Splits I decided I couldn't take anymore. I knew when I was licked. The moment my instructor looked away I would sneak out of class, mat tucked between my legs, and tell my husband that I couldn't take yoga because it would interfere with the existential meditation courses I had pretended to sign up for. But before I could make the break, something wonderful happened. Our instructor called for the final pose: Shavasana. I heard a collective sigh from around the room and watched as everyone flopped onto their backs, legs stretched, arms splayed, and eyes closed. They all looked dead. Finally, something I could do.

Our instructor turned on Johny Mayer's Gravity and I decided to join them. She had us breathe deeply, focusing on each muscle in our body, tightening it, and releasing it. When I was fully immersed in the nothingness she spoke, her voice soft and gentle again, as she read from The Book of Wisdom. She said to imagine what it would be like to live in a world where everyone loved everyone and there was no judgment, only peace and cooperation. It sounded lovely and I began to imagine such a place, much like the little Sims town I had built a few weeks before. She then prompted us to sit up and bow, and she thanked us for sharing our hour with her. I stretched and rubbed my eyes, realizing that I was doing something I had never done in a gym before. I was smiling.

I started attending class regularly and before long I was doing things I never thought I was capable of doing: back bends, lunges, and one-legged balance poses. I was also holding Plank for more than thirty seconds without puking.  My shoulders began to get rounder, my abs began to firm, and the waddle under my arms that I’ve had since I was a fetus, began to vanish.

I’m as surprised as anyone about how much I now love Yoga. It’s a harder workout then I had realized,  but I leave each class relaxed, and smiling, and ready to take on the world. While I have not quite joined the ranks of the Front Row Yoga Divas, I have inched my mat up towards the Middlers. From this position, I can look ahead to what I will be capable of one day, and behind to those foolish newbies who, like me, wandered in hoping for an easy A.

August 5, 2012

Sam's Rules for Sex

Sam walked over to the sofa and flopped down. Picking up the remote control he scanned the channels, settling on the Shark Week Marathon on the Discovery Channel. He smiled and folded his arms behind his head.

"I could make it up to you," Spring said. She walked towards Sam, obscuring his view of the TV She rolled her hips and touched her lips with her fingertip the way the lady did in that movie Lanie had her watch last evening.

"Pookie, you are in the way," Sam whined, straining his neck to look around her. Spring took a sudden step forward and snatched the remote control from his lap. With one quick click, the shark and scuba man disappeared. "They were about to eat the guy in the wetsuit," Sam moaned.

"You know Sam, call me crazy. But isn’t it strange to you that we never have sex?"

"We have sex. Remember Easter?"

How could she forget? He had come to bed dressed in bunny ears and a cottontail, fastened to his bottom with safety pins.

"Sam, I can count on my two hands how many times we’ve had sex over the past year. Nine times. That’s less than once a month. Doesn’t it bother you at all?"

Sam looked around, his eyes widening. "Shhh. Lanie and the boys will hear. Do you want that?"

"Lanie is the one who brought it up to me, if you want to know the truth. She wonders why she never hears anything coming from our bedroom. I tried to ignore her, but she is right."

Sam stood his ground. "Damn it, Spring. There are a million other more pressing matters in the world than food and sex...the only two things you seem to care about." Sam surveyed her waist as if to point out that her vices were beginning to show.

Spring gaped. Sam’s face softened and he patted the couch beside him, beckoning for her to join him. When she crawled up beside him he tenderly pushed the damp hair from her face.

"Sweetie, listen. We need to talk," he said reassuringly, as she sipped on the diet soda Lanie had left on the coffee table. "Lately, I’m getting the feeling that the only reason you are with me is for my body."

Spring, choked, spitting soda all over herself and Sam. "I’m sorry you feel that way," Spring said, holding back the laugh. Sex, even at its best, was lukewarm with Sam. He was so fussy about the way it was executed and he had so many rules.

Rule 1: One must always wear a condom, maybe even two. They did not even have to be the good condoms, such as those that were lubricated or ribbed for her pleasure. In fact, the less money spent on the quality of condoms, the more money that could be spent on important things like mochas and books.

Rule 2: Foreplay is a myth created by a matriarchal society to enslave men. Those days have passed. Get used to it.

Rule 3: One must never kiss one’s partner anywhere below the neck. Ever. You could touch someone below the neck, if you must, but your hands must not linger on any one body part for more than say, 30 seconds. You were being timed.

Rule 4:  The missionary position is your friend. Learn to love it. Experimentation is bad. Woman on top is heretical. God might come and smite us right in the midst of lovemaking for even thinking of this maneuver.

Rule 5: The bed only. Enough said. Refer to rule 4.

Rule 6: Forget any semblance of after-play either. Or snuggling. Immediately after sex the male must rise, steal the blanket, and shower profusely until all evidence of physical intercourse has been washed away. Then the male deposits blanket back down on the bed for the female, and sneaks quietly into the study to read before going to sleep.

"Spring, honey, are you understanding what I’m trying to say?" Sam was waving his hand before her eyes, trying to bring her back. Her eyes had glazed over. She had gone to that place she went whenever he was trying to explain anything important to her.

Spring nodded.

"What did I say, then?" He quizzed her.

Spring knew the answer by heart, even if she hadn’t heard the speech today. "That lately you think I just want you for sex. And that makes you feel dirty and disgusting and demeaned. That I should be focusing my energies on more important matters. That sex is trivial and only for people with no will power and no ambition. And should only be used for procreation." Spring tilted her head and looked at him for confirmation.

Sam tightened his lips and smiled. It was strained. "Well, most of what you are saying is true Spring, although I may have said it differently. The Lord wants us to have sex but only when we are married, and we are not married yet. If you do not have sex within the sanctity of marriage then you are saying to God that He did not know what is best for us when He laid down the laws of marriage."

Spring thought for a moment. "Do you think there’s any chance that God might be a She, Sam?"

Sam seemed taken aback as if she had said the most blasphemous words that had ever been uttered. Then, slowly he smiled. "You are so funny, Pooks! You almost had me. Give me a hug!" He took her in his arms and patted her head reassuringly. "There, there, it will be okay. We will get married soon. I have a date picked out now: July 21. Then you can use my body whenever you want!"

Meditations on The Shadows of Dark Root

I may have gotten a bit metaphysical during the creation of The Shadows of Dark Root. I always knew I wanted Maggie and her companions to j...