Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I Got Nothin'

Does there ever dawn a day in your life when you've got nothing to say? To anyone? At all?

My sister calls, and chats and chats and CHATS in my ear, and I answer her with monosyllabic grunts. My husband tries to engage me in conversation on important topics like "have the glass people called about that broken window yet?" or "does the van need an oil change?" or "I see the boy aced his spelling test this week," and I sort of stare dully and shrug. The kids come bouncing in with tales of fourth grade doings, and I give them the stink-eye. They slink away, muttering about "bad moods" and "she loves that computer more than us." Bad sister, bad wife, really REALLY bad mommy.

But dedicated writer. Because although it appears as if I'm falling fast into catatonia -- or, at the very least, a truly monumental bout of seasonal depression -- I'm in fact living a book in my head. Listening to characters talk to me and each other. Looking at plot developments from different points of view. Trying on different openings and endings for size. Thinking about market and word count and wondering if the story blossoming in my head is worth the effort, when there are at least seven other incomplete manuscripts on my hard drive, waiting for attention.

Generally, it only takes a day or two for me to snap out of what my family calls "the funk." But in the meantime, I can be a challenge to live with. Quiet and docile if no one's bothering me, dispensing mommy-and-wifely service with a snarl when absolutely necessary, and a raving bitch when somebody gets between me and my keyboard during the periods I feel are MY WRITING TIME, dammit.

I'm trying to learn to curb this unpleasant trait. I've always said "family first, writing second" (at least until the writing starts to pay off seriously, and then the entire family's priorities may need to shift a bit) but when a cast of characters present themselves on the stage in my brain and start performing three act plays, it's tough not to get sucked in.

Does anyone else suffer from this malady? Am I alone in devolving into a snappish beastie when the make-believe takes over? I'm really sort of sad about it. It's not who I want to be.

In other news, everybody who's anybody hates Miss Snark. Mostly, I'd like to know how any agent worth her salt -- or her commission -- has enough free time on her hands to spend it eviscerating both willing newbies and NYT bestselling authors. Between that and her rabid George Clooney droolage (as if, baby) I'd think her daily schedule would be too full to do much actual representing of authors. But what do I know? Very little, it would seem, compared to the Snarklings, who are a vast and mighty army in defense of their mistress.

May you have much for which to be thankful. Have a great holiday. :)

SelahMarch.com - Romance of Dubious Virtue

Thursday, November 16, 2006

In Which I Ramble Endlessly About People Who Never Existed

PBW asks today what fictional characters have influenced our writing. I think I have to answer that by talking about the fictional characters who've influenced my life, my way of thinking and being in the world, and through that have influenced my work.

Number one with a bullet would be Scarlett O'Hara (Hamilton Kennedy Butler) who taught me that a woman can be strong. I read Gone With The Wind for the first time when I was ten, right after its broadcast television premiere. Scarlett's strength was a revelation to me. I was surrounded by women who ate excrement on a daily basis and routinely asked for more. To watch/read about a woman dishing out the shit for a change? And getting away with it, right up to the very end when she lost everything? And to see her, even then, lifting her head and facing life with the full expectation of victory, because "tomorrow is another day?"

For a girl who saw her mother, grandmothers, aunts and cousins continually beaten down and told to shut up and take it by both the men who professed to love them and by life itself? Astonishing stuff.

Even at that tender age, I could appreciate that Scarlett's strength was based on a strong core of selfishness that had little consideration for others. I watched her suffer for her sins repeatedly, and then haul herself up and go forth to make the same mistakes again. I had no illusions that her way was the best way to behave, but if nothing else, her perseverance created an epiphany for me. To this day, when Miss Melly begs her to flee because Melly is clearly dying in childbirth and Atlanta is burning to the ground, but Scarlett stays to deliver that baby and get all of them out of the city? When the ex-delicate-Southern-belle drags the lot of them, along with a balky horse, beneath a bridge in the pouring rain to hide them from the Yankees? When she stands in the ruined garden of Twelve Oaks -- whether on the page or on the screen -- and swears that neither she nor any of her folk will ever go hungry again? I get chills. (Got 'em as I was writing that, as a matter of fact.) Because she says it, and then she DOES it. And there's a kind of beauty in that.

Which is not to say she doesn't make some really awe-inspiringly bad choices. Takes action that often hurts those she professes to love. And -- in the book, at least -- is a truly horrible mother, not to mention abusive and racist in a way completely at odds with my own belief system, but perfectly in keeping with the realities of her era.

But to those who would say Scarlett is ultimately a villain (I'm looking at you, Watcher) I would say that a male character making the same -- sometimes terrible, hurtful -- choices would not be considered nearly so reprehensible. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, right?

Later, when I was in my teens, I came to appreciate another character in the book whose strength is not nearly so obvious, but who is the catalyst for pretty much all the action. That would be, of course, Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, whom Scarlett repeatedly calls weak.

She's not, and in the end Scarlett knows it. Miss Melly's strength is the kind that moves mountains an inch at a time, born of love and faith. From her I learned that you don't have to be a bitch to have amazing power and influence over those around you.

Both of these characters changed my outlook on life. Made me see I didn't have to be a doormat upon which others -- specifically men -- wiped their cow-patty encrusted boots. And they've certainly informed the female protagonists I've created.

Gah! Look how I've rambled. I was about to start describing a term paper in which I proposed that Melanie Wilkes represents the Old South, and Scarlett O'Hara the dawn of the New South. But no one should be subjected to THAT nonsense on a perfectly good Thursday, so I'll refrain.

*Check out my brief debate with author (and very good friend) Donald Francis on the topic of Scarlett. He wants to slap a bitch. I say, settle down, Sparky. It's all good. :p

A pop culture note: There's a show on Thursday nights (The CW, 9PM Eastern) that not enough folks are watching, and that's a shame. It's called Supernatural, and it's about two brothers who travel the country fighting evil in the form of classic American folklore and urban legends. The writing is strong (think a darker, more gritty, less campy Buffy), the acting is better-than-average, and the actors themselves? HOT. Seriously. We like The Pretty here in the shallow end of the pool. TiVo it tonight while you're watching Grey's Anatomy (apparently everybody watches Grey's but me, and I'm trying not to succumb). You won't be sorry.

SelahMarch.com - Romance of Dubious Virtue

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Postcard From the Edge

Let's see...well, bad news first. My submission to Ellora's Cave 2007 "Caveman" anthologies was, as expected, reeeeeeeeeeeJECTED. Rather than whine about it again, I direct you to my pathetic, loser-like mewlings on the subject.

I have since submitted the story elsewhere. And now the wait begins again. This is the part of publishing everyone hates, methinks. So...nothing to see here. Moving right along.

Had my rear brakes entirely rebuilt yesterday. Five hundred bucks and change. Decimated my book-buying budget from now 'til February. Luckily, I have very little time to read because...

...within the next ten weeks, I have no fewer than three hard deadlines for contracted and/or verbally promised work. The total word count for these combined projects could (that's COULD, not WILL) exceed 80K. I'm a little overwhelmed by the prospect, but I'm taking it one day at a time.

God, I loved that show when I was a kid. All my friends wanted to be Valerie Bertinelli, but me? I wanted to be Bonnie Franklin (the mom) living in my own apartment with a cool job and the perfect pageboy haircut. (Later the perfect pixie cut.) Dysfunctional daughters optional.

ANYWAY...PBW has decided to critique ALL the 2006 Ebook Challenge entries, instead of choosing twenty from the group. Is that not the coolest thing? Is she not incredibly generous with her time and effort? I've said it before, but...MY HERO. Seriously? Seriously.

We've had heavy fog here every morning so far this week. The kind of fog that makes the drive to school with the spawn take a good twenty minutes, instead of the usual six-and-a-half from door to door. The kind of fog that makes it so I can't see the house across the street. The kind of fog that makes me want to sit in the big chair by the window in the living room and stare out, contemplating the universe and my infinitesimal place in it.

I'm trying to refrain from this sort of behavior. It never leads to good things. If only the weather would cooperate...

And...that's about it. I leave you with this.

This is it. (This is it.)
This is life, the one you get, so go and have a ball.
This is it. (This is it.)
Straight ahead and rest assured, you can't be sure at all.
So while you're here, enjoy the view. Keep on doing what you do.
So hold on tight, we’ll muddle through
One day at a time. (One day at a time.)
So up on your feet. (Up on your feet)
Somewhere there's music playing.
Don't you worry none, we'll just take it like it comes.
One day at a time. (One day at a time.)

Heh. Now that seventies sitcom gem is going to be stuck in your head all day. Don't say I never gave you nothin'. :p

SelahMarch.com - Romance of Dubious Virtue

Friday, November 10, 2006

Scenes Between A Mother And Daughter: Part I

I have a nine-year-old daughter who is a tad on the precocious side. The following conversation took place last night, shortly after the completion of the evening meal.

Daughter: Mom, can I get the DVD of The Parent Trap?

Me: No.

Daughter: Why not?

Me: No.

Daughter: *sighs with arms crossed over nonexistent chest* But WHY NOT??

Me: *glares in general direction of dog who is attempting to eviscerate a bag of leftovers I forgot to toss in the trash* Because I hate that movie. I’ve always hated that movie. I hated that movie when it starred Hayley Mills, and I hate it now that it stars Lindsey Lohan before she got boobies. No.

Daughter: What’s to hate? It’s Disney. Disney is good, wholesome entertainment.

Me: *sets down silverware caddy with loud, jangling thud on counter* What you don’t know about Disney would fill a book. Do you know what a Nazi sympathizer is?

Daughter: *rolls eyes*

Me: Do you know what a subliminal message is?

Daughter: Mom--

Me: Plus, they employ Billy Ray Cyrus. What’s wholesome about THAT, I’d like to know.

Daughter: Mom? Topic?

Me: That movie is evil, sweet-cheeks. EVIL. Think about it: two adults decide they can’t get along well enough to continue their marriage, so they decide to divorce and live on opposite ends of the country/world, never allowing either of their daughters to know she has a twin. An IDENTICAL TWIN. Not to mention depriving said daughters of all contact with their other PARENT. Talk about self-centered, immature, irresponsible asswipes.

Daughter: Mom, you promised you wouldn’t use that word anymore. I’m telling Dad.

Me: And then they get all bent out of shape when the kids pull a fast one. Like the KIDS are the ones with the problems. I tell you, it bugged me when it was Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara pulling this self-indulgent shit...

Daughter: Who?

Me: ...and it bugs me now that it’s Dennis Quaid and what’s-her-name. The British chick.

Daughter: Natasha Richardson.

Me: Right. I mean, I understand a marriage not working out, but to split up siblings? And twins? And then they do this big scene where they can’t even remember WHY they didn’t get along, and it all turns out to be over nothing? I want to call Social Services on their spoiled asses. In real life, this situation would lead to major anger and abandonment issues for the kids, not to mention a lifetime of therapy. But Disney passes it off as a fun ROMP. *runs out of steam*

*long pause*

Daughter: Missed your nap today, huh?

Me: Yeah.

Daughter: So about that DVD?

Me: Put it on your Christmas list. Maybe Santa’s a shill for the Mouse, too.

Daughter: Mom--

Me: Go do your homework.

SelahMarch.com - Romance of Dubious Virtue

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote, Goddammit.

One definition of true patriotism (as opposed to the faux variety that inspired the actual Patriot ACT, for example) is the willingness to take time out of a busy Tuesday and haul your ass to the polls, where you may have to stand in line for the privilege of helping choose your own government.

It's never convenient and rarely enjoyable.

Do it anyway. Goddammit.

SelahMarch.com - Romance of Dubious Virtue

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Butter my ass and call me a biscuit!

A few months ago, I went all twitchy because I'd just submitted LIE TO ME to Romantic Times Book Reviews and was unsure about its reception there. This was my first go-round with the magazine, and as much as all review submissions are a crapshoot relying on subjective opinion (is that a redundancy? I think it is.) I was especially nervous about this one given its potential to affect sales. Erotic romance told from first person point of view isn't altogether common, and my heroine is not what you'd call "likeable" right off the bat. I was prepared to receive 3 stars, and was steeling myself for 2.

Damned if Leigh Rowling, RT's "Erotica" reviewer, didn't up and give LIE TO ME 4 whole stars.

She says:
"With its fast start, good suspense elements and strong erotic tone, March's story will keep readers well entertained.

Drew Donnelly and MJ Peters are about to get up close and personal. The question is, does Drew know MJ's secrets before he seduces her? Also, what will she do when she discovers the truth about Drew? This smart-mouthed, sarcastic woman has good reason for the secrets in her life. Before Drew showed up in her small town, she was doing pretty well. With him in her bed and now in her head, all that is about to be shaken up."

To celebrate, I immediately went online and bought a two-year subscription to the magazine. And had some tequila.

Not necessarily in that order.

If you get a spare minute, check out the free story (titled Dark of the Day) I've posted as part of the 2006 PBW Ebook Challenge. It will be a permanent part of my website, but it's specially written for this time of year...the dark, windy days of November in the northern part of North America. (Those of you living in New Zealand and Australia can maybe pretend it's May.)

Have a lovely Thursday. :)

SelahMarch.com - Romance of Dubious Virtue