Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Evestering: An Alternative to Black Friday Shopping

In response to my post describing my distaste for Black Friday, my brother-in-law Larry O'Donnell has contributed a guest post about the extreme other end of the continuum. Evestering.  I'll let him take it from here ...

EVESTERING by Larry O'Donnell

There is a holiday shopping alternative to Black Friday, which we'll call Evestering.  Evesters are cut from the same bolt of cloth as pantsters: adventuresome, creative, and solving difficulties on the fly.  Evesters are ordinarily men.  I’ve heard stories, but I’ve never seen a woman Evester.  They must exist but are rarely seen.  You just don’t find many women with really bad shopping sense.

Evesters are extreme shopping procrastinators.  I was part of the movement until lately, having wound down considerably since I married Deb.  I still feel the urge sometimes but Deb has gotten very good at hiding the car keys, shutting off the internet, and disabling my cell phone.

Evesters don’t worry about waiting in lines nor do they have crowd concerns.  There is camaraderie among Evesters, with high fives all around when one gets the last floor model of some hot item.  Of course, it is a bit shopworn but what the heck, the season is about giving, not sticky controls, scratches, dents, missing parts, and no instructions.

Evesters will climb a three story rack system to grab that last circular saw at Lowes and will gladly toss down Dremel Tool kits, cordless drills, orbital sanders, and routers to kindred souls below.  It’s a lot like looting, only you pay for the stuff you find.

No problem with traffic or parking spots.  No mugger in his right mind is going to get in the way of a man who has to buy gifts for a wife, four children, four parents, and six friends in two or three hours. 

Evesters often get great bargains.  A Christmas tree that cost $40.00 on Black Friday goes for about $6.00 at 8:00 Christmas Eve.  The tree guy will even throw in a stand and give you a cup of coffee.

There are some challenges.  Some stores’ merchandise has been picked over and the shelves look like nuclear Armageddon happened last Tuesday.  Evesters start to think that the wife would love a new set of pillowcases that don’t match anything at home or in the store.  Then they snap out of it and head for the penultimate source, the all-night pharmacy.  These places expect Evesters and always have gift items for sale on hand late Christmas Eve.  Of course, the merchandise is not always mainstream but you can get a Pony VHS player, a Samasonic alarm clock with digital display and built in cassette deck, or a Falcon keyboard with forty pre-recorded show tunes.

Then there is the ultimate source, the Evester’s last resort, a jewelry store.  It is here that the Evester finds the perfect gift for his wife.  There is no haggling, and generally the Evester gets to learn exactly what his credit cards limits are.  It is not a problem since the jeweler has a telephone number the Evester can call to get another $2500.00 added to the limit of each card.  So, the bass boat goes up on Ebay on December 28th, no big deal.

The Evester gets home around 11:15 pm., puts up the tree and rapidly distributes his treasures underneath it.  The wife’s glare is softened somewhat by a very little box placed in a prominent position on her pile.

Of course, there's another kind of shopper -- the kind I am. The sort-of anti-shopper who doesn't like to set foot in an actual store on Black Friday, Christmas Eve, or any day in between. The Internet Shopper. But I'll have to tackle that subject on another day ... if I'm willing to confess my sins.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Spirit Game -- The Film

Last week was pretty exciting. I got sneak peeks at the filming of The Spirit Game from afar, via Facebook – and I can finally tell you more and share some photos!

The Spirit Game is a short film directed by Craig Goodwill and based on my novel WE HEAR THE DEAD. It will be released in early 2013 and will make the rounds of film festivals next year. Filming was done at Melody Ranch Studios, the place where Deadwood was filmed.

This is a photo of the principal cast, seated around the séance table.

The lovely Katie Boland is a perfect Maggie Fox.

Katherine Isabelle plays her enigmatic younger sister Kate.

Their older sister Leah, the brains behind the séance business, is played by British model and actress Liberty Ross.

Canadian singer Chantal Kreviazuk plays the part of Mrs. Hopkins, a grieving mother who has come to the Fox sisters to speak to her dead daughter.

And I am thrilled that well known actor Charles Shaughnessy (The Nanny, Mad Men, etc.) is playing the part of Mr. Hopkins, a reluctant participant in the séance with a few skeletons in his closet.

You can “like” The Spirit Game on Facebook to see LOTS more production photos, and I finally broke down and created my own Facebook author page too, where I will post updates.

You know how when it rains, it pours? Yeah, it feels like that right now – with The Spirit Game in production, promotions for The Caged Graves soon to start, The Eighth Day #1 to revise and The Eighth Day #2 to write … But it’s a happy kind of downpour! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stuff Going On

I’ve been a little ridiculously busy lately, so I haven’t been getting around to other blogs as much as I like. I tried not to miss any WRiTE CLUB rounds, but I’ve been scarce everywhere else. Here’s a little update from all the Stuff Going On:

Ready to cut words.
  • Report Cards and Parent Conferences – I had a ton of student work to mark in order to complete my grades, but I got it all done with time to spare and had my grades entered online a few days early. Parent conferences started last week and continued through to this Monday, which included spending two evenings at work.
  • Contract – I signed my contract with HarperCollins and got all the due dates for the three books. Revisions for book one are due in a few weeks (and just like the report cards, I will consider myself “behind” if I don’t have them finished early). I don’t have any publication dates yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.
  • Revisions and Outlines – I am well into my revisions for book one and also working on outlines for the other books in the series. For those of you interested in numbers, I need to take a 77k manuscript down to 65k, while still adding a few new things to it. (Cue Requiem music while I don my Grim Reaper robe and bring out my Word Scythe.)
  • The Spirit Game Movie – I’m only peripherally involved in this, but it’s still very exciting. Filming for the 7-minute film short based on We Hear the Dead started Monday. I did get a chance to review the script (and suggested a line change, which they made – go me!). I’ve got some information on casting which I can’t talk about yet, but hopefully I can reveal all and share photographs very soon.
  • Teaching – In spite of all the exciting happenings in my writing career, my employers, my students, and their parents still expect me to show up every day and teach for several hours. Luckily, I’m about to start my students on one of my favorite literature units (science fiction) and history units (the American Revolution), and I am also getting a kick out of reading The Eighth Day manuscript to my class. Last week I received a compliment that was better than any good review I’ve ever gotten. One of my students said, “I’d totally play this at recess.”

I am really lucky my family supports me as much as they do or I’d never be able to manage all this and I would have have vanished from the blogging scene entirely by now. My husband and daughters do SO MUCH around the house to give me time to write (and blog).

Sorcia, I can’t say the same about you. You’ve been slacking off, and your breath stinks. WHAT did you eat?

And the new lizards. Zeus and Pandora. Can't say they've helped out much. I keep running upstairs to see if you're okay. STOP turning brown, you two. You're supposed to be green.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Black Friday and Greed

Via Wikimedia Commons and
You won’t find me setting foot outside the house on the Friday after Thanksgiving. That’s partly because I have a deadline to meet and lot of revision to do. But I’ve never been a Black Friday shopper, because there’s nothing I hate worse than a crowd!

Lots of people don’t feel that way. I know some people who love shopping at midnight – or who view Black Friday as a yearly tradition, going with family members or friends to pick up bargain Christmas gifts. And I can see that – or at least, I could see it with the old Black Friday.

Not the new kind we have now. Not the kind where shoppers use pepper spray on others to get to the video games first. Not the kind where muggers wait by your car to shoot you for your merchandise when you come out. Not the screaming, elbowing, ugly mass of people I’ve seen on the news for the last few years.

I don’t believe it’s the economy that created this. These people aren’t trampling each other for food and clothing. They’re doing it for electronics.

I don’t believe they’re trying to get Christmas gifts for their precious children either. Not for a second. They’re buying the items for themselves, or to resell on eBay.

The retail community has encouraged and promoted this for their own benefit. They’ve set up a yearly invitation for the criminal element, the people with no ethics, the greedy and the truly ruthless to congregate in specific places at specific times to do their worst.

Regular bargain shoppers don’t stand a chance. And I think the retail stores should be legally culpable for anyone injured during the mayhem they have fostered.

What about you? Will you shop on Friday? If so, where and when? Daylight or nighttime? Do you feel safe at a Walmart? At a Best Buy?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Last week, I went through my Twitter list and weeded out about 250 accounts. This took FOREVER, and if anybody knows a way to do it without looking at each and every account, please clue me in!

I had already noticed an increasing number of people who follow me to get me to follow back, then promptly unfollow me. File that under skanky self-promotion! I also cleared out a lot of inactive accounts and people who only ever tweet their contest entries. (ie: I just entered to win …)

Almost immediately, I saw an improvement in my Twitter feed. Less BUY MY BOOK bleats and a lot more conversation. On Saturday night, a tweet about Anne of Cleves prompted me to reply to someone I didn’t really know. After a few tweets, I learned that she writes about Mayans for MG readers and is going to Mexico City next month and visiting Teotihuacan. I was just there in August! I sent her the list of recommended restaurants my brother had given me (He works for the FCC and spends a lot of time in Mexico City.), and then we found out she is using the same tour company I used! Awesome coincidence, huh?

Anyway, Twitter is a lot more fun with less advertisement. Yes, we all want to promote our books there sometimes, but I’m going to get more finicky about who I follow. I’m there for the twitversation – not the ads.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Teacher and Author: The Reading-Writing Connection

My 5th grade students were excited when they heard the book I’d been telling them about was going to be published as a series. And both my reading classes wanted THE EIGHTH DAY to be their next read-aloud. When I cautioned them that the current version is unrevised and not the one that will be printed, they were even more adamant.

“We’ll be the only ones to hear the original version!!!”

This was a new thing for me. My other manuscripts were all YA. They weren’t necessarily inappropriate in content; they were just over my students’ heads. Reading my own book to my students was going to be a first.

I was surprised by how nervous I was. My mouth got dry, and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through the first chapter. But the students were enthusiastic, interested, and encouraging. And wonderful reading-writing conversations ensued.

 “Why do you have to end every chapter like that – so we don’t want to stop?” complained one boy. It was a rhetorical question. He knew the answer. (I checked.)

“How did you come up with the names for your characters?” asked a girl. I'll never forget the dead silence in the class when I told them the characters chose their own names. They looked at each other with raised eyebrows, and I could see them trying to figure out if I was joking – or nuts.

And then there was the afternoon one of my students wailed in great distress, “I don’t get it! I don’t understand this book at all!”

I turned to him with concern – as a teacher and as an author – and asked, “What don’t you understand?”

Then he fired off a series of questions that proved he understood everything perfectly. He had noticed every event that was mysterious. He was halfway toward connecting the dots that would explain those events, and he was wondering all the things I wanted him to wonder.

I had one of those TEACHER REVELATION moments.

You see, some students do not start out as strong readers, and they know it. Their grades have always told them so. They know they’ve always been in the lowest reading group. They know they get extra help. When they start to become stronger readers (and when teachers stop giving them low level materials), they don’t recognize their own improvement. When they encounter a place where they have to draw their own conclusions or wait to get more information, they just assume they don’t understand … which is business as usual for them.  They haven’t learned to differentiate between a comprehension problem and anticipation/suspense set up by the author.

I assured this young man that he was not confused. “You are exactly where the author wants you to be,” I said. “You are noticing all the right things and asking all the right questions. The author is trying to keep you puzzled right now. The answers are coming. You have to wait for them.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a conversation like this with a student. But usually the response is a frowny face from a downtrodden reader who thinks the teacher is trying to be nice.

This time, I got a big grin. My words carried more weight than usual because I was the author I was talking about.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

First Impressions: PARADOX

Our final submission for First Impressions this month comes from Blake Haysel. This is the first page of her YA Paranormal Romance, PARADOX.

             Sleepy Hollow, Say It Proudly!
My high school’s slogan was printed at the top of the bulletin board I found myself examining in the empty hallway. It was the middle of July. The summertime and I was in school. Voluntarily.
How lame.
Sleepy Hollow High School is located near the East bank of the Hudson River, with a total of eight-hundred fifty students. The entrance of the school is right along Route 9, like most other important places in town. The large brick and granite sign that reads Sleepy Hollow High School Home of the Horsemen makes sure you can’t miss it. Once you enter the front parking lot you can see and appreciate the high school’s structure. The outside, with its deep warm brown shaded bricks, makes the school appear as if it was erected only a few years ago. The inside is brightly lit, the walls are painted a soft gray – which I guess was in effort to keep rowdy teenagers as calm as possible -- and the floors are freshly buffed and waxed industrial tiles.
I was waiting for my mother, Bianca, to finish her discussion with the assistant principal. It was about allowing me to enter the summer bridge program to earn extra credits for college; I was determined to graduate a year early. My schedule this year was already going to be filled with more classes than any sane student would ask for. So naturally there was resistance from my mother along with my guidance counselor, Ms. Tolkin, but I didn’t budge. After realizing that they didn’t have a choice but to let me take the extra classes they surrendered. “Too stubborn for your own good,” my mother had said, as she always did when there was no changing my mind.
“Thanks again,” I heard a voice call out as the person attached to it exited the secretarial office.
That is when I first see Him. My eyes eat up the body that lies underneath His burgundy Nike T-shirt and beige shorts. I was acutely aware of the way His tight T-shirt showed off His tan and tall, athletic physique enhanced by his obscenely hot broad rounded shoulders. His black hair is cut short and His brown eyes are complimented by a long rounded nose and Orlando Bloom lips. The strength and long length of his fingers quickened my pulse as I pictured them running down my bare back. This guy had All-American quarterback down to a T.

I love the idea of Sleepy Hollow as the setting for a paranormal romance! Lots of potential there, and the school slogan is delightful.

The first thing that needs addressing is verb tense, since the paragraphs switch between present and past tense. The author should pick the one that best serves the story. Present tense is popular with first person POV these days, but if the writer is more comfortable with past tense, that works too.

Secondly, I suggest trimming the description of the school down to the best two sentences to keep it brief and move the focus to the MC faster. Also, if the narrator was eavesdropping on the meeting between her mother and the assistant principal, some of the MC's back story could be conveyed through their dialogue. Having the MC listen to them discuss her class schedule and the summer bridge program might be preferable to explaining it through exposition. Just be careful to avoid the “As you know, Bob …” scenario where the principal and the mother tell each other things they both already know. And keep it brief, too. If necessary, some explanations can wait for later.

Finally, I’m not sure if the boy gets a capital letter for He and Him because he’s divinely hot – or because he’s really divine! (This IS a paranormal romance, after all.) Just be careful not to overdo it, because it can distract the readers and pull them from the story. Maybe Blake could capitalize that first Him and leave the rest of the pronouns alone?

Thank you, Blake, for sharing your first page with us! Readers can find Blake at her blog, The Tattered Page, and don’t forget to visit Marcy at Mainewords for her critique of the same page.

Monday, November 5, 2012

First Impressions: MINGLED

Our second First Impressions this month comes from Angela Brown, author of NEVERLOVE. This is the first page of her YA urban fantasy WIP, titled MINGLED.

Rubbing my parents’ gold coins for luck was a bad habit.
And a terrible idea. Their disappearance was proof enough. I just couldn’t stop myself. Until graduation, that’s all I had of them, all I could turn to when I needed to feel their presence the most.
I shook my head and slipped their coins into my pocket. Leaning into the hallway, I took in the dim lighting and shadows.
 Empty. Perfect.
Carpet muffled the clunky footfalls of my hand-me-down boots and the loud click from closing my bedroom door. I crept along the wall, listening for anything at all. No surprise I only heard my pounding heartbeat. The other kids were at school, the same place I should’ve been five minutes ago. Screwy alarm clock! Why didn’t it work?  Each step downstairs brought me closer to the first floor, closer to getting away from…
“Whitley!” The corners of my lips curled into a hurried grin.  “Didn’t expect to see you.” At least it was the truth.
She stood at the foot of the stairway, pinning me with narrowed eyes. A familiar gelatinous material molded flush to her ear, whisper thin. Her Collective Communications Tag. Unlike mine, hers included the virtual extension with the wrap-around lens fitted to the eye. A major upgrade overnight? Wonder who she sold out to get it?

This first page raises a lot of questions, which I’m sure the author did intentionally. Where is the narrator – possibly in a group home or the dormitory of a boarding school? Who is Whitley, and what is a Collective Communications Tag?

There are a couple things that could be tweaked. I really liked the first two paragraphs and the tantalizing information about the gold coins. But if her parents “disappeared,” why does she think she’ll see them at graduation? Because that’s the impression I got. Rubbing the coins for luck is a bad idea, because her parents disappeared. (The connection between the coins and the disappearance is implied, but not yet explained.) Then she says the coins are all she has of her parents until graduation, implying that at graduation she will have her parents back. If she knows they’re coming back, is disappearance the right word?

Regarding the Collective Communications Tag – if the narrator has one too (I’m guessing they are standard), then the earpiece is not the first thing she’s going to notice. It’s the upgrade lens that will catch her eye first, so the lens should be described before the earpiece.

That’s all I have. Readers, do you see anything else that needs to be addressed?

Angela, thanks for sharing your page with us! You can find Angela at her blog, and don’t forget to stop by Marcy Hatch’s blog to see her feedback on the same page.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Spooktacular Winners & First Impressions: THE SUMMER SHAKESPEARE SAVED MY LIFE

First, the winners of the Spooktacular Giveaway were selected the old-fashioned way. I put all the names into jars, where they were pulled by Dread Daughter the Younger. The winners are:

  1. signed copy of WE HEAR THE DEAD -- Caroline
  2. signed ARC of THE CAGED GRAVES -- nfmgirl
  3. Kindle ebook of TWO & TWENTY DARK TALES -- vicjbr
Winners, congratulations and please contact me at so I can send you your prizes! If I have not heard from you by November 9, I will select other winners.

Next, our first submission for First Impressions in November comes from Serena Kaylor, who happens to be the sister of my critique partner, Krystalyn Drown. This is the first page of her contemporary YA, THE SUMMER SHAKESPEARE SAVED MY LIFE.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. 
A drug rehabilitation group coined this phrase in the 60s, as a way for its members to feel like they could reinvent themselves.  You can find this sentiment in song lyrics, on coffee mugs, and encouragingly uttered by my Nana Quinn when I update her on the status of my love life.  The problem with this phrase is that it indicates I am unhappy with the way things are, that I don’t find myself to be an absolute delight. 
Well, maybe I’m a little rough around the edges, but theater camp is not the way to polish me up.  I imagine that all of Oxford University’s other incoming freshmen are taking summer courses, or moving to England to become oriented with the campus.  My summer is apparently going to involve tights. 
I really didn’t have a choice.
You’d think most parents would be thrilled that their progeny had studied their ass off for years, could debate on a great number of topics, and was one of the few chosen to continue their education in the most hallowed of halls. 
My parents are both sex therapists and want me to continue living at home, and follow in their footsteps at Berkeley. 
This is what I’m dealing with. 
I didn’t even get a boisterous “Hallelujah!” when I told them the good news.  They just sat down on the worn, leather love seat in their study, and fixed their therapist stares on me.
“Honey, don’t you think you’re a little young to move that far away?” Sophia said tying her long, dark hair up with one of her many floral scarves.
“Please. I’m seventeen years old, which actually means a lot more in England.  I’m practically drinking age! Plus, I finished all my high school classwork almost two years ago!  I can’t just hang out here forever.” I folded my arms across my chest and gave them my beat-that look.
“Ellie, we’re just concerned because you’ve never really had classmates before, and that can sometimes be a difficult transition,” Edwin, my dad, piped up in solidarity. 

I love the premise of this story: A straight-laced, serious, home-schooled girl with Berkeley-educated sex therapist parents gets accepted into Oxford but has to jump through her parents’ hoops (including a summer Shakespeare camp) to get permission to go. I also liked the first line, but after that I think the order of presentation could be improved.

Serena could jump straight from the quote in the first line to Ellie sitting down for this interview with her own parents, which sounds more like a therapy session than a family conversation. The information from the opening paragraphs could be conveyed just as easily through dialogue and Ellie’s internal monologue. Certain lines – like the one about Nana Quinn worrying about her love life and what other Oxford freshmen were doing and how their parents were proud of them – could be woven between the lines of dialogue with Ellie’s parents.

Imagine the first page happening this way:

1. Positive-sounding therapist double-speak from Ellie’s parents.

2. Reasoned, logical spoken response from Ellie.

3. Internal indignant rant from Ellie.

4. Repeat 1-3 as needed until conclusion of scene.

The reader would see the complex dance between Ellie and her parents, grasp the situation, and watch Ellie lose her case (and be sent to Shakespeare camp) in one dynamic scene. What do the readers think?

Serena, thanks for sharing your page today, and I hope the feedback is useful! Readers can say hello to Serena at her blog, See Serena Write, and don’t forget to check out Marcy Hatch’s feedback at Mainewords.