Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Ballad of the Expectant Mother


Greetings from the third trimester!



I haven't written much lately because I've been quite busy with impending motherhood (and a forthcoming adventure at Tributaries Press, about which much more will be said very soon), but I decided to take a little time out this evening and put some thoughts to verse. If you or someone you know is with child, then I hope you'll find this poem helpful. Also, if you don't intend on ever becoming or befriending someone who is pregnant, then this should confirm your plans nicely.

The Ballad of the Expectant Mother
(or, "Because I'm Pregnant, It's Allowed")

I have no intention of brightening my mood-
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.
Unless you might care to fetch me some food-
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.
I’ll staunch the cascade of tears from my eyes
While plowing through multiple apple crumb pies
And redefining a Snickers bar’s “fun” size-
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.

I’ll send Husband on a late-night ice cream run-
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.
Don’t care if the clock reads a quarter to one-
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.
While he’s questing, I might soak in the tub,
Or eat the last serving of leftover grub,
But when he returns, I’ll request a back rub-
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.

For a bathroom stall I won’t be waiting,
So just let me pass and we’ll be friends.
With my waist so much fatter, and a kid on my bladder…
If you don’t, you won’t like how this ends.

I’ll roll my eyes during long meetings at work-
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.
I’ll rain down my wrath on that snippy sales clerk-
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.
And yes, I will claim that entire bus seat,
Don’t care if you want it—I’ve got swollen feet!
And if you have a problem with that, I repeat:
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.

The nursery’s great fun for designing,
But I can’t lift or fix things or paint...
But I CAN give directions and lots of suggestions,
And if it comes out wrong, I might faint.

My emotions are truly all over the map-
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.
Must be time for another two-hour nap-
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.
We’ve started buying our Kleenex in bulk
For all the times when I just want to sulk
Or morph into a Maternity Hulk-
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.

So I’ll cry when those Google commercials come on-
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.
Or when I see kids playing outside on the lawn-
Because I’m pregnant, it’s allowed.
I’ll cry at the Hallmark kiosk in the mall,
I’ll cry if you forget to return my call,
I’ll cry for absolutely no reason at all-
BECAUSE I'M PREGNANT, IT'S ALLOWED!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What My Son Will Teach Me

Today I read an article that made me so angry that I almost threw up.

Last night, a certain political tongue demon, who for some reason still has a channel through which to broadcast her toxic and outright false views, referred to the sitting President of the United States as a "retard."

"Retard" has been considered a pejorative term in America for decades.  My siblings and I were raised never to use it to refer to ANYONE, let alone the leader of our country.  This headline-chaser's casual tossing around of this slur is pathetic and shameful.  When I hear someone use it in conversation nowadays, I am happy to observe that, by and large, the people around them no longer laugh it off or consider it acceptable.  Whether it's the casually admonishing "Hey, not cool," or the more forthright, "That's offensive," people are calling out on use of the r-word.

As a society, we seem to be moving blessedly closer to acknowledging that a person with intellectual disabilities is a PERSON, first and foremost, just like anyone else, and that any disability or condition is but a single descriptor, not a definition of who they are.  For example, a person shouldn't refer to a child with Down Syndrome as a "Downs child," any more than they would introduce someone fighting breast cancer as "my cancer friend," or someone who went through a divorce as "my divorced aunt."  We shouldn't treat people as though the footnotes of their lives are titles.

This issue, and this caustic pundit's despicable choice of language, may be hitting closer to home for me than it would have a few months ago.  You see, about nine weeks ago my husband and I found out that our son Joshua, the precious and strong baby who kicks me a hundred times a day, will be born with Down Syndrome.

It was news we never expected.  My age-related risk of bearing a child with Down Syndrome was about 1 in 1000.  We had had no idea, yet every single second since his creation, Joshua's cells had added an extra chromosome.

I admit that our first response, aside from disbelief, was a feeling of grief--loss of the future we had imagined, without even realizing it, for our son.  I had already compiled a subconscious scrapbook of his young life, full of swim meets, piano lessons, football games, prom dates, college visits, ANYTHING he wanted...  The feeling of loss was not for us, but for him.  I prayed desperately, feverishly: What kind of life would Joshua be able to lead, and how could we possibly give him every opportunity he deserved?

We should have known better.  The night after we found out, as we were lying in bed and trying to fall asleep, David and I were comforted by the realization that a few things wouldn't change.  Joshua's bedroom would still be across the hall in a warm, comfy house in a safe neighborhood.  He would still have an adoring pet dog to cuddle.  His mother would still sing to him, and his father would still take him camping.  His extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins would still dote on him from Day 1.  Many things might end up differently than we had expected, but most things--the IMPORTANT things--would stay just the same.

A meeting with a representative from the Down Syndrome Center of Pittsburgh confirmed this new outlook; she told us more than we could have ever hoped for about the possibilities for Joshua's future.  There are early intervention therapies provided at no cost to us, to give him every developmental opportunity from infancy onward!  There are sports leagues!  There are overnight camps!  There are horseback riding lessons, music lessons, martial arts classes, gymnastics teams, art classes--ANYTHING he might want.  And Joshua's health care should be permanently covered by Medicaid, giving him the chance to live a long, happy, productive life.  Just like everyone else.

No.

Just like him.  Just the life he was made to live.

Another realization sunk in pretty quickly, too.  One of the first things my mother said to me when I called her to confirm the diagnosis was, "He is going to teach us all so much more than we'd ever expect."  At the time I almost couldn't process those words.  I was still hung up on how on earth we were going to teach Joshua--how we were going to help him learn enough to live his life.  But soon afterward, especially as I read accounts of other parents with children who have Down Syndrome, it started to make more sense.  Though we have no way of predicting the so-called "severity" of Down Syndrome, the odds are that Joshua will be intellectually disabled, and that he will see the world in a different way than his loved ones do.  But that will NOT mean he's seeing it wrong.  It will mean that we are privileged to his unique viewpoint on life.  It might mean that my son will see a forest when I see only trees.  And he will teach me to see the world differently.  My life will be richer and have greater perspective because of him.

I have been meaning to share this news for several weeks and just wasn't able to find the words.  The sickening news article I read this morning catalyzed the need for me to find them.  This is because there is another important lesson my son will teach me:

I have largely tried to spend my life as a peacemaker and finder of common ground, and I like to think this kind of moderate approach has served well--I rarely offend, and I often find agreement.  But sometimes I don't speak up when I should.

That is a luxury I cannot afford any longer.  There are people who may not understand or appreciate Joshua, and it will be his family's responsibility, most of all his parents', to be his fiercest and strongest advocates to the world.  I need to learn to speak up, to call out, and to raise my voice when my son needs it.  I may need to be louder than I feel comfortable being.  I will need to be his constant advocate against discrimination, cruelty, and injustice.  I will need to champion him every day.  NOT because Joshua will be helpless, but because he deserves it.  If the dozens of daily kicks I take to the belly are any indication, my son will be a fighter.  He deserves a mother who will fight for him, too.

And so, to return to the beginning of this post, to the pundit who called our President a "retard":

Shame on you.

Who on God's green earth raised you to speak this way about people?

Who taught you that this is an acceptable way to promote your stagnating career?  Your continued presence in the political and news media is nothing short of a tragedy in American culture.  You sow only unkindness, and I don't envy the harvest you will ultimately reap.

I haven't used your name once in this post because you don't deserve a name-drop in the same zip code as my son, let alone the same webpage.  He may be born with severe intellectual disabilities, but I'll take them any day of the week over a stunted, disabled soul like the one you've publicly shown our nation.

Towards you I have felt disgust, nausea, and something dangerously close to hatred... but then I think of Joshua, and I feel only pity.  I will not raise my son to hate.  I will not raise him to use words as weapons.  I will not raise him to be like you.

My unborn son has already taught me a lot, and I still have a lifetime of lessons to learn from him.

Clearly, so do you.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." 
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Visual Inspiration: Getting Back to My Roots



I have a confession to make, internet.

I haven't been blogging this summer... because I haven't really been writing this summer.


I don't know if it's because of pregnancy-mandated caffeine withdrawal, or because Little Pierogi is pirating my mental bandwidth, or just because I've been putting it off in favor of other pursuits over the past few months, but there it is.  Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, I had wanted to churn out a rough draft of my nascent wedding mishap novel, The Backup Bridesmaid, and get started on an additional project.  Instead, I'm about 3,000 words in.

Three thousand.  Three.

I wrote that much in a 24-hour period during NaNoWriMo last year.  Heck, I've completed academic papers longer than that in a few days' time.  So what's wrong with me?

I've finished three reasonably cohesive novels, so it's not some kind of second-story-paralysis syndrome.  It's not an issue of the ideas not flowing.  I have character sketches, chapter plans, plot arc summaries...  I love the concept and all the details I've lined up, and I have a blueprint of the whole story.  So why can't I get going on moving that taunting little cursor across the actual Word document?

Whatever the reason, I've decided to set this one on the shelf for a little while.  If it's as fun and as solid a story as I believe it to be, it will be there in a month, too.  But I'm not going to let myself just stop writing altogether and "get back to it."  I will not let a surge of hormones, a lack of caffeine, and a little frustration atrophy my imagination.

So it's time for something new.

Rather, something old.

I'm picking back up my first novel (The Keeper of Hawthorn Garden) and re-working it, following a lengthy meditation on what will make it stronger and more driven as a narrative.  The changes to Lily's family history and personal back story will add complications, and even some damage, to her outlook and actions.  She'll be less of a participant and more of an adventurer.  I can't wait to spend more time with her -- it's like revisiting an old friend after a long absence, and seeing how they've changed (and how you've changed) since you last parted ways.

I'm also switching up the setting, from Victorian England to early-1910s American Deep South.  I've quickly fallen in love with the new cultural and atmospheric possibilities that this decision will bring, as well as the updated, untamed feel it will give to the fairy tale mythology.  To give you a feel for what the new setting will look like, here's some visual inspiration: images I've collected from Middleton Place in Charleston, SC (a still-functioning Southern plantation) and a visit to Eden Gardens State Park in North Florida with my mother-in-law last winter.  Enjoy!

It's time for a new journey, and a new destination.












Oh, the possibilities!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Another Exciting Announcement


If we're friends on Facebook, you may have already seen this.  It's by far the biggest announcement I could possibly make, but right now the little one is less than three inches long!  And (I admit it) already Tweeting.

(Hey, there's only so much I can do to entertain myself during pregnancy, since roller coasters and flip-cup are out of the question, okay?  At least I'm imbuing the kid with a healthy dose of wholesome snark from an early gestational age.  And it's healthier than wolfing down buttered pop tarts and watching Teen Mom reruns all evening.)

Anyway, in the interest of keeping internet-based pregnancy announcements fresh, I have decided to present the five most frequent ANSWERS I have given in recent days, Jeopardy!-style, in response to the most frequently asked, well-meaning questions.  Answers (I mean, questions) follow.

A Pregnant Woman's Answers to FAQs:

A1. Yep, I really am!

A2. January 16.

A3. Yes, we'll find out at the end of August. 

A4. Way better than I thought pregnant women were supposed to feel, thank you.

A5. At the moment we're partial to James Tiberius or Primrose Renesmee.  Or Emma, if it's a girl.



Ready for the questions?



The Most Frequently Asked Questions I've Encountered Since Informing Others of the Contents of My Womb:

Q1. OMG OMG OMG YOU'RE PREGNANT?!?!?!  R U SRS?!??!

Q2. When are you due?!?!

Q3. ...Are you going to find out... y'know, if it's a boy or girl?

Q4. So how do you feel?

Q5. Have you thought about any names?

---

(Re: Q&A5 - We're not actually considering those, though I think Emma is a lovely name.)

So yes, our family will get bigger right around New Year's, and everybody's excited!


Well, almost everybody.



I kid!  Riley's excited, too.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Second of Several Exciting Announcements

The second exciting announcement is actually THREE announcements in one, all pertaining to recent developments in the celebrity world!

(yes, I know, they're not announcements about me or anything, but they've all fascinated me over the past week or so.  Just because I rarely update this blog doesn't mean I have a life or anything.)


#1: Adele Is Pregnant



The 24-year-old singer announced that she is expecting with her boyfriend.  Adele has reportedly been studying Supernanny for child-rearing tips.  This intrigues me, especially because Nanny Jo sounds so much like Adele, but more than that, this is terrific news!  Do you know why?  


It means that there will be a celebrity baby out there to counterbalance the Spawn of Snooki coming to a Jersey shore near you.

Snooki Walks a Baby Stroller Full of Beer & Party Supplies | Nicole Polizzi
(Well... at least she's not wearing high heels again?)

Seriously, now the next generations of both ends of the entertainment industry are covered.  And for that, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.


#2: Katie Holmes Is Leaving Tom Cruise

It's about time.  Run, Joey Potter, run.  And take that adorable mini-fashionista daughter with you!

Let freedom ring.

I'm happy for Katie Holmes and all, but honestly, my first matter of concern in seeing this pop up in Google News was, "But what will happen to Suri Cruise's fantastic tumblr blog?"

But I needn't have worried.  Carry on, Hollywood's Little Sweetheart, carry on.


#3: The Spice Girls Are Making a Musical



Let me repeat.



THE SPICE GIRLS ARE MAKING A MUSICAL.

If I weren't constitutionally opposed to the use of the term "squee," I would be using it now. A lot.

This December, London's West End will become the new home of Viva Forever!, a jukebox musical similar to the ABBA tribute Mamma Mia! in style and presentation, as well as in creators Jennifer Saunders and Judy Craymer (I guess if you have a winning recipe, why only bake one cake?).  And you thought our friends across the pond were going to be content with hosting the Olympics this year.

As a 90s pop music junkie (I still have and regularly wear a Hanson t-shirt), I was a huge fan of these British lasses, what with their tarty lyrics, tight harmonies, and Girl Power mantra.  And of course, the shoes.

A tiny part of me doesn't even care now if the Mayans are right about 2012.  After this musical debuts, won't we have reached the pinnacle of modern Western culture?

I kid.  But seriously, I am excited.  This had better make it to Broadway so I can hop on a bus to the Big Apple and see it for myself.  Girlfriends?  Who's with me?  Road trip?  We can start this month with a movie night to watch Spice World.  Just tell me when's good and, er... "Say You'll Be There." =)



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The First of Several Exciting Announcements

Before I announce anything, I feel the need to apologize for not posting on this blog in so long.  It's been a crazy-busy couple of months, and I unfortunately let my blogging fall by the wayside. 


Here are a few of the things that kept me away so long:

  • Being in the wedding party (along with Husband) of two of our dearest friends for their beautiful wedding in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Discovering what is almost certainly the World's Coolest Bar in Milwaukee (deserving of its own post in the future).
  • Planting our Summer 2012 vegetable and herb garden.
  • Training to become a tutor for a terrific, community-minded, non-evil-corporation local test prep company.
  • Engaging in an escalating war of words that resulted in an acrimonious divorce... from my dentist's office (also deserving of its own post, as well as a Consumer Report).
  • Sewing a set of paisley-print curtains for our bedroom.
  • Plotting and executing "Operation Awesome," a week-long surprise-a-thon for Husband's birthday that included visits from his parents, sister, and a half-dozen of our closest friends from college.
  • Cheering on my sister as she graduated from The Ohio State University earlier this month, in the most epic commencement ceremony I have ever witnessed.
and...
  • Watching The Bachelorette.  Yes, I have a problem.

And that's not even EVERYTHING that I've been up to!  But I have to save some for the next post. =)

With all that said, the big announcement of the day is this:

I'm starting a new novel!

Yes, starting what will (hopefully) in a few months be my fourth completed novel.  It's an untitled project that will be, as usual, different than anything else I've done before.  Do you remember those Wedding Mishaps I blogged about way back in 2010/2011?  I fell off the countdown about halfway through because, well, I shouldn't have set up my attention span for ten posts anyhow.  

BUT!

The new book is going to include most of them, as well as some new ones I've encountered along the way.  Some will be stitched together as composites, while others will remain almost exactly as they happened.  Because, if you've been to many weddings, and/or had one or more of your own, you know that the truth is more hilarious than fiction!

The plot is going to revolve around Emma, a just-too-young-to-be-a-bridesmaid 19-year-old whose high-maintenance cousin is getting married.  Instead of getting to party with her older cousins and the hot groomsmen and ushers, Emma has been assigned two equally boring duties: guarding the super pricey guestbook with her life, and chaperoning her prudish 82-year-old grandmother Emmaline for the entire wedding weekend.

However, nobody was prepared for truly terrible toasts, a drunk DJ, a sleepwalking groomsman, a fainting bridesmaid, or a total mental meltdown from the last person you'd expect.  When one thing after another goes awry, amok, or just crazily wrong, Emma and "Grammaline" keep finding themselves saving the day--and bridging the generation gap in the process.

-----

Like it so far?  I can't WAIT to start churning out pages and sharing them with you!  And that's also where you come in, net friends.

Just like with my last project, The Real Friend, I am looking for your creative suggestions.  Do you have any crazy wedding anecdotes, heartwarming moments, or horror stories?  More than one?  Do you enjoy making things up?  Do you want to be credited in a novel?  SHARE WITH ME!

Email me at joy.eilene (at) gmail.com, or post your wedding stories in the comments.  Names, physical traits, back stories, personalities, occupations... it's all fair game.  If I can use it in the book, I will -- and I'll credit you when it's eventually published!



So with my thanks, I'll conclude this announcement.  Thank you as always for reading.  Now, I'll try to not stay away so long!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Lord of the Rings Finals Survival Guide

Happy almost-summer, for those of you in the college world!

Many of my good friends are slogging through their college finals right now, and I just wrapped up my own coursework for the semester last night.  Now that I have a life again, I'm posting a few tips from Middle-earth for your studying, cramming, speed-writing, 5-hour-energy-swilling enjoyment. Ni estel i le ve sa.


(That's supposed to mean "I hope that you like it" in Elvish.  I hope I translated correctly and don't offend any elves.  Most of the LOTR Elvish translation sites seem to be run on Angelfire and Tripod.  However, this means they must have been around since the Third Age of Middle-earth and are probably accurate.)


Step 1: Fuel up.



You can't do your best on an empty stomach!  Stop by the 7Eleven or RiteAid and pick up some lembas,  Elven bread that will keep you full for days, and wash it down with a flagon of Ent-draught, hair-curling magical spring water that will-

Wait, you can't buy that stuff at RiteAid.  Hmm.

Viable substitute!  Little Debbie Zebra Cakes and Red Bull (which will probably also make your hair curl, if you drink enough).  Not a Red Bull fan?  Just dissolve a half-dozen Altoids in a glass of Gatorade and toss it back.  Curiously strong, right?


Step 2: Suit up.


(http://collecttolkien.com)

Comfort is important when preparing for finals.  You want to be comfy enough to focus on your work, but not cozy enough that you actually give in to slumber when you need to be memorizing the atomic weight of plutonium.  Therefore, a Forever Lazy is not an option.

A Forever Lazy should never be an option.

A hobbit cloak is warm and provides a nice hood to keep your roommate's TV out of your peripheral vision, but the rougher traveling material's not TOO blanket-y, so you won't be lulled into a stupor.  If you don't have a hobbit cloak, you can improvise with a jersey knit bed sheet and a long shoestring.


Step 3: Crank up.

Nothing inspires the human mind like music, but anything with lyrics can be majorly distracting while you're trying to analyze literature or calculate quadratics.  That's why you should take advantage of a free service like Spotify to create an epic film soundtrack playlist.

What to put on it?  Howard Shore's orchestral masterpiece scores for the LOTR trilogy, of course!  Nothing makes you feel victorious like wrapping up a paragraph of your term paper just as "The Battle of The Pelennor Fields" swells through your speakers.  The tunes of victory!  Sin tul i Rohirrim!


Step 4: Loosen up.

When you need a break, treat yourself to a remix interlude.  Like this one!



As epic as it may seem now, trust me: it's twelve times better at four in the morning when you need something to keep your head off your keyboard.


Step 5: Get fired up.

If you've fueled up, suited up, cranked up, loosened up, and stayed up until all hours studying for that final, you still might catch yourself dragging during the actual test.  This is normal.  You're in last-twenty-feet-slog-into-Mount-Doom-with-Frodo-on-your-shoulders territory.  This is tough stuff!

So visualize this:



Visualize an angry Gandalf bellowing at you in the middle of some forsaken mountain cave.  And then visualize knocking him into the bowels of the Earth.

I know, this probably sounds wicked... but he's kind of pretentious, really.  So just get him out of your way and get back to your exam.

And you KNOW he'll be just fine in the end, smiling at you when you meet him at the harbor to catch your boat to the Unhiring Lands (graduation).

---

Any finals survival tips I missed?  Good luck on your finals, if you have any!  And remember, ancuio silailye!




(that roughly means "Live long and prosper."  Yes, I'm aware it isn't from LOTR.  Don't mess with me, pal.  I just visualized smiting a certain wizard.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"The Girl with the Teardrop Tattoos on Her Guitar"

A new YA paranormal thriller


by the formidable team of Inky and Peequeat


(this is our first official effort at live-tweeting a story. hope you enjoy it!) 


(if you'd like to follow the next one, keep an eye out for the hashtag #YAMwow, like "Shamwow," on Twitter. it stands for "YA Masterpiece - wow!") 


(also, we can hold 12 times our weight in adverbs!)




   It happened every year, was almost a ritual. Taylor Swift looked out across the empty arena and smiled. She picked up a rag, wiped the traces of blood off Strum's strings, and settled onto the stool at the center of the deserted stage. 
   "Why couldn't they see you belonged with me?" she said sadly. Backstage, someone - something - nodded.
   Her rough fingers caressed the strings and picked out a single minor chord. The teardrops inked onto Strum's body started to glow. She hadn't wanted to play Stockholm, but her manager had insisted. Something was happening...something bigger than Ticketmaster.
   "Who's there?" Taylor called out nervously. Her delicate voice sounded even smaller as it echoed through the Tealight Thunderdome. No one spoke, but a strummed chord roiled through the stadium. It was a D... a D minor.
   Taylor jumped up, clutching her guitar. "Really, pal? A D minor? Try out a diminished B-flat sometime, and we'll see who's scared!" She, for one, was not afraid. She may not have been cheer captain - may have spent her life on the bleachers - but she could jam. 
   "Seriously, man," she yelled as she stepped up to the mic. This specter, whoever it was, was messing with her ritual. "SPEAK NOW!"
   She let loose with the rockingest country-pop love ballad Sweden had ever heard, only stopping when she heard screams. The painful shrieks echoed from the rafters -- literally FROM the rafters, Taylor realized. "Who's up there? Are you all right?" 
   A pair of sunglasses dropped to the ground. "Special Agent Berg," the spy gasped. "Your chords are...killer."
   She tossed her perfectly tousled ponytail over one shoulder. "So I've been told," she said casually. 
   With a zipping noise, the spy dropped to the stage and pointed an unfriendly-looking machine at Taylor. "You're going to have to come with us," she said.
   Taylor sized up the spy. This one was no tougher than the suit they'd sent after her in Oslo. It was time for a diminished B-flat. 
   "Imma let you finish, ma'am," the spy said impatiently. "But I'm not here for the concert. I'm here to save you." 
   Taylor paused, ready to strike the fatal chord. Could she trust this spy? "Save me from what? I don't want to go back to December."
   "It turns out freedom ain't nothing but missing you," the spy said, and as an explosion sounded in the distance Taylor understood.
   "Fine, Agent Berg, I'll come with you," Taylor said. "But we're traveling my way." She braced her feet and blasted a wicked G major.
   Strum wasn't just the beloved guitar of an independently wealthy pop star. It was also a weapon. Lucky, because when they landed on the muted, decrepit outskirts of Stockholm, after flying past the site of the explosions at a reckless, Fearless pace, a horde of popular girls were waiting. They had never understood Taylor. They didn't even try. And there, in their midst, stood Drew.
   Taylor froze. She couldn't just play a C minor with Drew there. HE was the reason for the teardrop tattoos on her guitar. Not only that, something was strange about him. He didn't look sheepish at all...and he was levitating gently.
   "Taylor," Agent Berg said, "I think you've already met Drew, Kristen, Kirsten, and Gibby. But... meet your new special ops team."
   It had been easier back in her lunchbox days, but she'd really done it this time. Taylor was still an innocent, but she knew that a vicious guitar battle with Axl Rose himself would hardly compare to a locker room showdown with these divas. But there was Drew. The teardrops on her guitar glowed eerily as she stared him down, and then she nodded. It was showtime.
   "All right, Berg," Taylor said, brandishing Strum at the rude girls. "I'm already missing GOSSIP GIRL tonight. What's the op?"

Friday, March 2, 2012

An Open Letter to My Anonymous Co-Writer

Dear Anonymous Co-Writer,


You and I make a great team.  Remember the little gem we live-tweeted a couple of months ago?  The opening of  a Young Adult Steampunk Justin Bieber Vampire Romance Novel?
(Yes, everyone else, this happened. Excerpt posted below.)
Well, I've been having a little problem of late.  I keep coming up with inspirations similar to our live-tweet attempt -- story ideas and titles so original and fresh
(read: outlandish and ridiculous)
that I am beginning to have trouble resisting the urge to just write them already.  Here are some of my ideas:


-Catch of the Century, a YA Romance/Fantasy Dystopian/Steampunk novel about Waterlily, a mermaid who falls for a time-traveling vampire named Ymthrigulyx


-Going Green: My Summer of Guacamole and Saving the Planet, a YA Eco-Foodie-Superhero SciFi novel about a girl torn between an unabashed love of avocados and the idolization of her hero, a 21st-century update of Captain Planet


-A Wizard of Waverly Place in King Arthur's Court, a Middle Grade Fantasy FanFic novel about Selena Gomez, who is really the long-lost, time-traveling, amnesiac daughter of Merlin


-O'Flanagan, the Pot o' Gold, and the Ring o' Fire, a gritty Dystopian Steampunk YA about the life of a cage fighting leprechaun in Victorian England


-The Girl with the Teardrop Tattoos on Her Guitar, a YA Paranormal Spy Thriller about the fictionalized secret life of Taylor Swift


So here's the deal, Anonymous Co-Writer.  You choose which one you want to work on next, and at a mutually-agreed-upon date and time, we'll start live-tweeting it.  140 characters at a time, we are going to bring one of these ideas to LITERARY LIFE!!
(and then I'll post it on the blog for posterity.)
Your move, Anonymous Co-Writer.  Your move.


- Inky






"Untitled Young Adult Steampunk Justin Bieber Vampire Romance Novel" excerpt:
(purple text is mine; black text is ACW)


My weather app reported that the night was dark and stormy, as the strains of 'Baby' wafted from the deserted street outside.  Above, in the dirigible, sat Chad Vampwick, the coolest guy at my school - and the most undead.
"Coming, Selenia?" he called out.
I flung my garlic-laced muffler, my only protection, around my throat and raced to the roof.  My heart pounded as he lifted his marble-like chin and gazed at me with his blood-tinged lavender eyes, switching to track 5.
"You're looking well," Chad purred, before wrinkling his nose at my scarf. "Must you wear that? I swore I'd leave your neck alone."
"It's...it's for the concert," I stammered. "Justin Bieber loves garlic. Don't you remember? 'One Less Lonely Clove'?"  I couldn't meet his lavender eyes, for fear that he would see how desperately I wanted to rid myself of that aromatic accessory.
"It just looks a little tacky," he said finally. And with a puff of smoke and the grinding of gears, we were off. 
The city rushed below us, a sea of smoggy sepia. I knew Chad would soften once we got to the Tealight Thunderdome for the concert.  His goggles twinkled as he docked near the Thunderdome and held out one icy hand to help me down; my heart pounded generically.  How could he be at once so hot and so cold?
"Thank you," I whispered. "Do you think... I mean, do you have the tickets?"  The concert - my idea - was my only hope that Chad would briefly forget the deathless (and awesome) war between our species.

Friday, February 17, 2012

World's Worst Query: A post from E.J. Snevigsburg

Sometimes when you're working hard on a query letter (a cover letter to an agent or editor, pitching your book and explaining why they might want to represent it), you need to clear your head a little.

I do this by imagining the worst ways I could screw up a query.

I know, it doesn't sound head-clearing, but sometimes it's (a twisted form of) fun to make up the most outlandish premise for a story and pitch it with glaring arrogance, garish grammar, and pancake-like plots.  Sort of like a literary-verbal diet cleanse.

Anyway, with that in mind, I present for pure Friday fun,

A "World's Worst" Query, by E.J. Snevigsburg

---

Dear Agent,

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a mermaid fell in love with a time-traveling vampire?  CATCH OF THE CENTURY, my debut Young Adult Romance/Fantasy Dystopian/Steampunk novel, and surefire New York Times Bestseller, will answer just that!!

Waterlily is just your average redheaded sea-shelled mermaid, living with her sisters and father, the sea-king Traeton, in the year 2167, off the coast of what was once Boca Raton, Florida.  Waterlily loves to spy on humans and one stormy night she sees a tall, dark stranger, on the beach.  Ymthrigulyx is an undead Taylor Lautner lookalike with a thirst for human blood.  Fortunately, Waterlily is a mermaid!  So Ymthrigulix can already tell that him and Waterlily are going to be a great match.  How could it go wrong?!?!

UNfortunately, Ymthrygulyx is not only a vampire, but an unwilling time-traveler.  With every neck he bites, he's gotten sent to a different generation of the victim's family.  He can only stay in one place and time as long as he can resists his bloodsucking urges.  But Waterlily's feelings are growing stronger and faster than seaweed in the shallows, and she can't bear the thought of him biting another neck.  Waterlily goes to the sea-witch Mersula to grow legs and lungs, and turns human for Ymthryguulix.  But, Waterlily realized her mistake too late--now that she's human, her new vampire beau will have to resist... HER.

CATCH OF THE CENTURE is complete at 185,842 words, each carefully chosen and in no need of farther editing.  It will appeal to fans of TWILIGHT, HARRY POTTER, THE HUNGER GAMES, THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB, and THE DARK TOWER.  So, pretty much everyone.  Bestseller, right??!!  I know you'll be yearning for more right about now, so I've attached the whole manuscript for your reading enjoyment (in PDF).  I'm waiting for an offer!!!!

Sincerely,

E.J. Snevigsburg

[Attached: 676 pages in PDF format.  Typed in Comic Sans MS.  In purple ink.]

---

What do you think?  Can you write a worse one?  Leave it in the comments!

Monday, January 30, 2012

What's in YOUR name?

I've always been fond of my name. 
I like the fact that it is a standalone noun, an ideal that doubles as a virtue. 
I like that it counts as a Biblical name without being something awkward like Hepzibah or Hezekiah or Ur. 
I like that it spawns nicknames like "Joyful," "Joy to the World," "Joyful Noise," "HappyHappyJoyJoy," etc.
I like that I attended "Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church" in college.
I like that it is a lyric in many songs and hymns (including "Ode to Joy," which I chose for the processional in my wedding). 
I particularly like that it is a Christmasy name.

However--

THIS past Christmas, I don't know if it was the economy (i.e., take "joy" in what you have), or if I happened to be particularly attuned to it... but it seemed like everywhere I looked (even more than usual), "Joy" was being used as a holiday ad buzzword.  So I started keeping track. 

(This is only a sampling, because I lost a bunch of photos in the Great Thanksgiving Procrastination Debacle.  Anyway, enJoy.)

FEDEX:
Send me anywhere!

PANERA:
Share me with a friend!

THE GAP:
You can find me in skinny jeans and an overpriced sweater!

KIVA HAN CAFE:
Or while wearing your skinny jeans in a hipster cafe!

STARBUCKS:
You can take me WHEREVER YOU GO!!!

PUBLIX:

You can even find me in the grocery store, just like that one awful sort-of-Christmas song.

SPECIAL K:
You can use me to (somehow) help burn off all those extra helpings of casseroles and slices of pie!


The more I saw, the more dizzying it became.  Couldn't those unoriginal ad executives think of something else, like "Jingle All the Way" or "Merry and Bright" or "Holly Jolly"?  Didn't they realize that Joys everywhere were being visually assaulted?  The world was starting to feel like one big nametag!


There comes a point, though, when you find yourself standing in the middle of Jo-Ann Fabrics, and you realize that you can either curl into the fetal position on the linoleum, or suck it up and decorate your ENTIRE house with your name...


And you just decide to go with the flow.


Have you ever seen your name in an unexpected place?  Where, and under what circumstances?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012 Book List

One of my resolutions for the New Year is to read more books for fun.  As somebody who has always loved books and hopes to write them for, you know, a career and all, I've strayed in the past couple years from reading as much and as often as I used to.  I figure if I keep a running tally here, I'll be more inclined to keep it up. 

I added a "Book List" page to the top of this blog, and I'll add to it as often as possible.  Here's my first entry for 2012!


Girl Parts, by John M. Cusick (2010, Candlewick Press)
  • Started January 11, 2011, on the morning commute; finished same day on my lunch break (!)
    • An inventive, darkly humorous (and at times heartbreaking) YA sci-fi novel 
  • Plot in a Nutshell: David, a popular rich kid who demonstratives dissociative disorder, is given Rose, a beautiful, realistic "Companion" android, to teach him how to develop proper relationships.  Their unconventional pairing starts off well, but when David cruelly rejects Rose for her lack of "girl parts," she runs away and meets Charlie, a depressed loner who helps Rose to realize her own identity (as well as his own in the process).
    • Cusick deftly fuses social criticism of our increasing replacement of meaningful relationships with internet connections and avatars, with a narrative that is flush with complex characters and a well-structured plot.  The scene-painting and attention to the individuality of even tertiary characters are what particularly impressed me from the start.
    • For such a theme-centric story, Girl Parts never feels heavy-handed, though the ending wrapped almost too quickly for me.  However, Cusick tweeted that a sequel may be in the works!  There's also a companion/sequel short story at YARN, titled "Abandon Changes."

What new books have you discovered so far this year?  Any recommendations for me?