Monday, December 29, 2008


Does anyone else watch Pimp My Ride? Do you ever feel like maybe there's a gas leak in your house while you're watching it, then you realize that it's just the show?

Seriously, I don't understand. Xzibit, help me to understand!

No, never mind. You'll likely make things worse.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I wish I had a coffee gun.

So, I'm at Dino's Lounge in Kalamazoo right now. It's been a while since I've been here. They have beer now. Who the hell wants a beer at eight in the morning?

Well, this morning, I do.

Anyway, I'm doing the take Jen Jr. v1.0 to school and then go to the coffee shop thing again. Yeah, I know, that's all supposed to be hyphenated. But I'm not doing it, because I'm too tired and my coffee hasn't reached my heart yet.

Why am I running away from home, you ask? Because my husband has left his job in order to be a full time house husband, which means that in order for me to get anything done, I have to flee my home. So, here I am, at the coffee shop again.

What was the point of this entry? Oh, right. Coffee gun. So, the guy was getting me my coffee out of one of those thermal carafe things that you have to pump, and he goes, "I hate this one, it has no pressure, so it takes forever to get anything out of it. The other one is like a gun, but this one sucks." And it got me to thinking... how awesome would it be to have a coffee gun? Like, you could just get out of bed and shoot yourself in the face with it and be good to go.

Sigh. I think this chair is going to break right underneath me, and the spot I picked to sit in, in hindsight, is not so great, because this tree/plant/fern thing keeps picking at my hair.

It's going to be a long morning.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Are you on my podcast feed?

If not, get on it. It's rambling and fun to listen to in the car, and this week, I sound like a frog. Click subscribe, you magnificent beasts, you!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Where the hell is my sweater?

I have/had an awesome sweater. It was/is orange. I wore it all the time last winter, before I started "showing."

Now, I cannot find it.

I want my sweater. Where the hell did it go?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Breakfast With Jen

If I said, "big, sloppy pile of eggs and cheese," would that phrase excite you? If so, you have come to the right blog, dear readers.

I am going to share my recipe for the single greatest breakfast scramble of all time. It's a bastardized version of the "Pig In The Garden" scramble from Food Dance in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Their dish is much better, because it's made from all these ingredients that have fancy names and also, I think they put scallions in them. But if you can't get to Kalamzoo, Michigan, and you settle for my version, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Here is what you'll need:

  • 2 large eggs, prepped for scrambling via your preferred method (I don't add water when I make this, because I feel it makes the eggs too runny. Your mileage may vary).
  • A decent sized handful of sliced, white mushrooms, fresh, not the button ones from the can.
  • Yellow, red and orange cherry tomatoes, for a total of about four or five itsy bitty tomatoes. Trust me, the different colors make it way more fun.
  • Two strips of bacon, fried and crumbled up.
  • 1 oz. swiss cheese, grated
  • 2 tsp. unsalted butter.

Okay, what you're going to do is just lightly sweat the mushrooms in the butter over low to medium heat. You're not going for a full saute, here. Just get them a little wet looking, like they're starting to cook, but haven't achieved full, translucent brownness. Then, add the tomatoes, giving them a little squeeze, just to bruise them up a little as you toss them in, but don't crush them. Yup, you leave them whole. Don't worry, it all works out. Immediately pour on the eggs and scramble, scramble as though your life depends upon it (if you haven't upped to medium heat yet, take the plunge right now, so your eggs will cook). When the eggs have achieved their desired level of done-ness, throw in the bacon pieces and the cheese. Fold them in and let the cheese melt. Then, plate and eat the hell out of that big, sloppy pile of eggs and cheese. Goes well with toast.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Two Things:

1) Yup, I did buy Britney's new album. DON'T JUDGE ME!

2) My weekly podcast went live today! My feed is . If you want to listen to me talk about how much I loathe NaNoWriMo, why I'm going to burn down Lifetime network, and how Emilio Estevez has influenced my life (also, hear me confuse Newt Gingrich with Rush Limbaugh at no extra cost!), give it a try.

Monday, December 1, 2008

This just in: British people can hear penis.

Remember the whole Janet-Jackson's-bewb-made-my-kids-gay debacle from the Superbowl a few years back? And remember how everyone was like, "OMG, only AMERICA would be that uptight about a naked body part?"

Today, the BBC issued an apology to any listeners who might have been offended when John Barrowman, star of "Doctor Who" and "Torchwood," exposed himself during an interview on the radio.

On the radio.

On the radio.

On the radio

As a fervent, long-time proponent of public nudity for the sake of funny, I am torn on the issue. On one hand, this man:

should never have to apologize for exposing himself. In fact, I would wholeheartedly support any legal resolution that might be passed that would say something to the effect of him having to be starkers at all times.

On the other hand, the apology is far, far funnier than someone claiming to pull out their peen on the radio. In fact, the apology is the funny in this case. If someone said to you, "Oh my god, this guy just claimed to have pulled his dick out on the radio," you're not going to say, "Oh, that is hilarious! I must phone my friends immediately and tell them about this, it's that funny." But if someone said, "People in Great Britain were seriously offended by the very mention of a penis that they could not see, the BBC actually issued an apology for it and it's this huge scandal," you'd make a blog post about it.

On the other hand (in this scenario, I have three hands), it's actually pretty sad that someone would be offended enough to call for an apology. Seriously, is radio somehow different in England, like how in America we say "Chips" and they say "Crisps" and we could accidentally order French Fries? Is radio really "tv" or "in person," and I'm just not getting it because of the language barrier that somehow, incomprehensibly, exists between our two English speaking countries? Are the British afflicted with some horrible disease that makes them see out of their ears and also makes them allergic to genitalia? It's not like this guy whipped his wang out during an elementary school spelling bee. The DJs brought it up, and he answered by... well, example.

If you want to read about it, Sky news has an article at their website. The title, TV Star Exposes Himself On Live Radio Show basically sums up the absurdity in a nutshell. No pun, or horrible offense, intended.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

OMG, WTF? Twilight Edition.

I have tried, oh lordy, how I have tried, to not express my feelings about the Twilight series. One, because I try really hard not to express negative thoughts about books, since they are written by authors, and I, being an author, feel a sort of loyalty to other authors, even ones I have never met. But that loyalty does not extend to the movies (or television shows-- you're lucky you redeemed yourself with that season finale, True Blood) made out of those books by those authors. Thus, our story unfolds.

So, Saturday night, my husband and I were looking for a movie to go to. We wanted to see Zack and Miri Make A Porno, but the showing didn't start until too late, whittling our choices down to Role Models and Twilight.

I have a theory about movies. There are bad movies, and then there are bad vampire movies. Even the worst vampire movie (Vampire In Brooklyn) is not as bad as the worst movie that doesn't have vampires in it (Across The Universe). Mr. Jen, knowing this, and thinking that Role Models "looks stupid" (isn't that the point, Mr. Jen? I mean, really?), said, "Fuck it, let's just go to Twilight."

We decided to give it a fighting chance. Mr. Jen has never read the books, owing to the fact that he doesn't read anything that isn't about guns or Nazis or WWII or some other kind of historical boring stuff that he will later use to ruin a film I enjoy by saying, "That's not really accurate." So, he was going in as a blank slate. I, having read the books, had some pretty basic expectations (vampires, sparkling, etc.), but I pledged to have an open mind. Thousands upon thousands of shrieking fourteen-year-olds can't be wrong, right?

So, you know how when you're in a really serious situation, and everyone is being totally serious, and something serious happens that isn't supposed to be funny, but you can't help but laugh at it and you have to put your hand over your mouth and bite your cheek because you know that you're not supposed to be laughing? That was Twilight, the movie, in a nutshell. And it started almost from the very beginning. When Bella stands in the desert, holding a potted cactus and a spade, looking introspective and slightly constipated. When the Cullens show up, looking like they just slathered on their white foundation to head off to a mime performance or Cure concert. When, upon seeing Bella for the first time, Edward looks like he's about to totally barf all over the biology lab.

No, I'm not kidding. He really does look like he's about to vomit.

The most ridiculous moments come at the expense of poor Edward, who, while slogging through his painfully lonely immortal life, makes pained expressions akin to someone trying to pass a kidney stone, because it is imperative that the viewer realize he is in pain. Beautiful, beautiful pain. Pain that causes him to act in such a way that a teen girl should think he's a freak, not a lust object. But that's the role he's there to fulfill, and Robert Pattinson does an admirable job of it, even as he labors under a gravity-defying pile of hair and perfectly sculpted eyebrows that would make Peter Gallagher weep at their thickness. When he first stepped on screen, at least five teenaged squeals rent the silence of the theatre.

His vampire clan is just as laughably unsubtle. They glower at the humans and slink around with superiority complexes on par with super models prowling the dressing rooms at Lane Bryant. How has no one else in town figured out that they're vampires? And how come no one calls CPS on these "foster parents" who allow their wards to get all humpy with each other?

But the deepest flaw in the movie is the fact that, despite breathless close-ups and a kissing scene hot enough to titillate the moms of the swooning fourteen-year-olds queuing up for repeat viewings, Bella and Edward never seem to achieve any sort of chemistry. And it isn't the fault of the actors, but the screenplay. The characters behave like clumsy and beautifully tortured paper dolls, respectively, going through the motions as if they know they're going to fall in love simply because the story calls for it.

There were good points about Twilight. I'm sure there were. I remember beautiful cinematography (if some of the close-up shots got occasionally dizzy and tilty like a college rock video), and really liking Kristen Stewart's hair. But the rest of it was an utter disappointment. There were no fangs, unless you count Jacob Black's bizarrely elongated canines, almost no blood, and no real sense of danger when the villains finally show up. Again, the characters act with no urgency, as if trusting the screenwriter to get them out of their predicament. By the time Bella and Edward were getting all necky on the dance floor at prom, I actually began to wonder if all vampires were this boring, and began making a list of movies I planned to watch when I got home. Movies where vampires have fangs, and drink blood, and have some kind of element of danger to them that is not limited to really fast games of baseball and walking in slow motion to a distortion-laden alternapop song.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Two Things:

1. Could someone be a peach and buy me the Aston Martin DBS, please? Shiny and red, if it isn't too much of a bother, with the touchtronic shifting option.

2. If my season 4 Doctor Who dvds do not arrive today, I will burn down everything in the whole world.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Battle Of The Scary Sci-Fi Monsters

Okay, first of all, who do you have to blow to get to write one of those licensed Doctor Who novels? Seriously?

Anyway, instead of lamenting about my lack of licensed properties I'm allowed to write about and still get paid, rather than just posting it to and waiting breathlessly for comments, here's a versus battle for y'all.

Battle Of The Sci-Fi Monsters, Round One: Daleks vs. Borg

What They Are
Daleks Tentacled creatures resembling octopodes who motor around in heavily armored salt-and-pepper shakers whilst seeking to remove anything not Dalek from the universe.
Borg A cyborg race on a massive, intergalactic scavenger hunt to collect as many species as possible and "assimilate" them into their hive.
Advantage: Borg

Home Planet
Daleks Skaro, a planet devastated by nuclear war and inhabited by failed mutation experiments. Also, they have like a hundred Starbucks.
Borg Anywhere they feel like it; someplace in the Delta quadrant.
Advantage: Dalek

School Motto
Borg "Resistance is futile."
Advantage: Borg

Multipurpose attachments and tools
Daleks An egg beater that can kill basically anything; plunger.
Borg Laser goggle that will never heal if you don't stop picking at it; bionic arm.
Advantage: Daleks

Cool Club Name (No Girls Allowed)
Daleks Cult of Skaro, which sounds mysterious and cool.
Borg The Collective, which sounds like an art school project.
Advantage: Daleks

Arch enemy
Daleks The Doctor.
Borg The whole effing Federation.
Advantage: Borg

Double Dare Physical Challenge they would soooo fail
Daleks Stairs, but they totally fixed that problem.
Borg Running, because they're in no particular hurry.
Advantage: Daleks

Daleks International Talk Like A Dalek Day, November 24.
Borg None.
Advantage: Daleks

Round One goes to: Daleks

The Borg put up a good fight, but let's be honest... it's not like they're ever going to get you... they're in the future, in space, and you can easily outrun them if you're in modest shape. The Daleks, on the other hand, have come to Earth, can vaporize you with their egg beaters, and are basically unstoppable, now that they've overcome that pesky stairs situation.

On the other hand, the Borg are communists, so I suppose they're enemies to our freedom or some similar empty rhetoric.

Tune in later for Round Two, Daleks vs. The Gentlemen (Buffy The Vampire Slayer).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I, for one, welcome our new overlord.

Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Can we fix it? Yes, we can! -- Bob the Builder

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Friday LOL Blog, A Bit In Advance...

Christianity: UR DOIN IT WRONG.



Think About This As You Go To The Polls...

Because of my mania over the election, and also probably because of weird pregnancy hormones, I've been having dreams about Barack Obama nigh on nightly. No, not those kinds of dreams, you perv. But really, really strange dreams. Bronwyn Green has ordered me to make a blog post about them, probably because my sporadic blogging makes it appear as though I have run out of things to talk about. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong.

Anyway, please do not take these as a pushy political statement. Accept them in the spirit of non-partisan WTFitude that they are intended.

The most notable one, I think, is the dream I had wherein Barry and I were going to buy a used car. Not together, the car was for him, he just wanted my advice on it. He wanted a family car that wasn't too flashy, and opted for a Dodge Caravan. But the lot only had white ones with red interiors, and he wanted white with a gray interior. We argued back and forth for a while about the car-- I thought maybe he could use it as a sticking point to haggle a lower price, but he was adamant about the gray-- and then were interrupted by the sudden appearance of two elderly gentlemen in tattered Victorian dress. Coats, hats, you name it. They were actually pretty creepy, but they handed Barack a treasure map indicating that just over the hill from the car dealership, there was buried treasure.

Well, Barry and I, we got right on it. We headed up the hill, to find two palm trees at the top, crossed in the shape of an X, like in that movie "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World," although I think that was a W and not an X. I don't know, it's been a long time and I'm not about to sit through that movie again to find out.

Anyhoo, under the arch there is a bank, like a big, Wall Street, modern glass and steel type bank, and the two little Victorian men, riding around on tricycles. When they see us, they yell, "Congratulations, you found the missing government surplus!"

And then I woke up really confused.

Just a few nights ago, I had another dream in which Barry and I got to pal around. This time, under much more serious circumstances. You see, during a campaign speech, Obama made some inflammatory comments about the planet Saturn. This deeply offended a large portion of the voting public (somehow), and the campaign called me in for damage control. See, somewhere some signals got mixed, and the campaign advisers mistook me for a brilliant space scientist instead of an author of genre fiction. They wanted me to write a report about Saturn, the power of which would somehow turn public favor back towards Obama. I tried to explain that they'd made a mistake, but they wouldn't listen, and they locked me on my Grandma's porch with a whole bunch of paper and astronomy tools and said they'd be in later to check up on me.

In a panic, I start working on my Saturn report. But I know nothing about Saturn! I start going through all the drawers and the toy box and the bookshelves on the porch, but come up with nothing about space at all, let alone Saturn specifically. I'm doomed, I'm going to lose the whole campaign for him.

Then, Barack shows up. And he's in a really good mood, and he brought me popcorn. I try to explain the mix up to him-- I am not a space scientist!-- but he won't listen. He gives me a bowl of popcorn, pats me on the back, and says, "Whatever you come up with will be just fine."


I woke up and, to my husband's confusion, cried out, "Joe, tell me everything about Saturn! I have to help Barack!"

And my husband, God bless him, said, "Wait, are you having the used car dream again?"

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Day That Facebook Ate My Soul

As you might have been able to tell from the list of links just over there ---->, I have a Facebook account. I'll be honest, I have never really used it all that much. I think I have thirteen friends or something. But I could never really understand the interface, I always felt like I was doing something wrong, and it seemed like this huge hassle because every time I got on my account, I got bitten by zombies or spanked by vampires or someone wanted me to plant something in my little green patch (and I'm pretty sure that's not a euphemism, right?) Basically, the whole thing just seemed like a really good way to waste the day on the internet and get nothing accomplished IRL.

Well, Sir, I have a blog for that, thank you very much.

But two days ago, I received a curious email, stating that my Aunt Mary had sent me a friend request. Now, my Aunt Mary is a hip kind of person. She's not like, a knitting auntie, or a cookie baking auntie. She's young, as are all of my aunts and uncles. But I'll be perfectly honest, I always viewed the internet as the refuge of MY generation, not theirs. So, imagine my surprise when I find that A TON of my family members, the ones who are at least fifteen years older than me, are chatting it up and sharing photos and biting each other with zombies on Facebook.

I was deeply shamed, and sought to correct the error of my technophobic ways immediately.

So, it is with deep pleasure and personal pride that I announce: "I, Jennifer Armintrout, have figured out how to use Facebook!"

Also, Jill Monroe sent me a friend request, and it made me feel famous.

In other news (and you may have seen this on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, but I don't care, because when I saw this over the weekend on the PlayStation Network I totally flipped out and thought it must be shared on my blog), David Hasselhoff, the Hoff, El Hoff, Hoffski, is now downloadable content for the game "Pain" on the PS3.

What does this mean, dear readers? It means that when he is released as a playable character in November, players of "Pain" can purchase a Hoffski of their own, and launch him from a giant slingshot.

You see, the entire point of the game is to launch a character from a giant slingshot, aiming their body for things that will cause the most satisfying collision and destruction. Propane tanks, for example, or an old lady waiting for a bus. Sometimes, there are mimes that you can hit. Points are awarded based on how much damage you cause the person you just launched into free fall, and how much damage they cause the city scene.

Sounds like something I just made up, doesn't it? I wish I had, for, if I had helmed this grandiose project, the Hoff would have been included from the very beginning.

Check out this video to see what I mean, and pay particular attention to the not one, but THREE different outfits available for your Hoff enjoyment.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Some guy from our local Democratic party came over this morning with two Obama/Biden signs for me, because news of my awesome homemade sign has spread. I have achieved local notoriety!

My work here is done.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Literal Videos

A very long time ago, my husband and I had a conversation about Billy Joel's song "Piano Man" and how it's super funny if you take the lyrics literally.

This isn't exactly the same concept, but it's close, and it is hilarious:

Because of these, the phrase, "This guy's going to get an ass full of pipe wrench," has become disturbingly common in our home.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Do they get that I can still, like, vote, even if they take my yard sign?

I wasn't going to post anything political in my blog. I just wasn't going to, because I don't like arguing about my political choices with people, or trying to tell people why their choices are wrong, because no one ever changes their way of thinking in those conversations, and, let's be honest, I don't want anyone to not buy my books because I didn't support their candidate. So, don't think of this as a political post. Think of this as a JEN IS MAD AS HELL AND SHE IS NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE post.

On Monday, I put out my brand spankin' new Obama/Biden yard sign. Today is Thursday. Today, my sign was stolen.

Mine was not the first sign to be stolen in town. Another house has put out replacement signs that say, "Obama was stolen from this spot," whenever their signs are lifted, and then they replace them with another, official sign.

Someone else in town had an unsavory word scrawled across their Obama sign. I'm sure that you can guess what the word is, based on the candidate's race and the fact that there are an alarming number of Confederate flags in this town despite being located in one of the northern-most states in the country. It rhymes with "jigger," if you're slow on the uptake.

I loathe, and I mean, loathe, the fact that my neighbors have had McCain/Palin signs, two of them, proudly displayed in their lawn for the last month and those signs have gone completely unmolested. I don't WANT their signs to get stolen, I just want to know why their political yard signs are a-okay and mine are totes steal worthy.

So, with rage and spray paint, I concocted my own solution to this problem:

This is the part I do not understand, dear readers: what do political sign thieves think they're going to accomplish? Was the goal to make me go out to get the mail, see the missing sign and say, "Damn, my sign is gone. Guess I have to vote for McCain." BECAUSE THAT IS EXACTLY HOW IT WORKS.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Scariest Thing In Kalamazoo

I have a great friend. His name is Keith, but he likes to be called Raven, and so that is what I call him. Because Raven is a much cooler name that Keith, if you really think about it.

This cool friend decided to hang out with me a couple of weeks ago and, being the cool friend his is, show me the coolest place in Kalamazoo:

This is the Goodie Shop. They have a truly staggering array of candies and soda pop of all kinds, but they specialize in nostalgia candy. I happily skipped out of there with a bottle of grape Nehi and an Abba-Zaba. It was heavenly.

To access this wonder of childhood indulgences all grown-up, you must first go by the single most scary and confusing thing in Kalamazoo. The mural on the side of the hippie co-op grocery.

Now, I had driven past this building many a time, and never really paid much attention to it. But on this day, we parked directly in front of the thing, and that really makes you stop and pay attention to it, the way that parking directly in front of a live T-Rex would make you pay attention. There was no way to avoid it, so to speak.

Luckily, I had my trusty camera on me and was able to capture the truly freakiest parts of this thing to share with you:

Freaky thing #1: Giant Cyclops Baby

Because of this mural's age, there are places where the paint is cracking and peeling. That's to be expected. But look at the weird absence of paint over the baby's eyes, and shape it takes. I'm not kidding, this was the first thing I noticed about this mural... the baby looks like it's wearing Cyclops glasses to keep from firing his mutant laser beams everywhere. Which leads me to an important issue I suddenly have with the X-Men comics... if Cyclops couldn't open his eyes or risk blasting people away with his laser vision, what happened in the womb? Babies open their eyes in utero at like, twenty-something weeks. Did his mom have a mutant-laser-resistant womb? I must call a comic geek immediately and get this sorted out.

Freaky Thing #2: Baking At The Beach For No Apparent Reason

Here's the deal: this whole mural is depicting all different types of people doing all different types of things... but the setting is a sand dune. So, this guy, who looks creepily like the dude from Disneyworld's "Carousel of Progress," is standing out at the beach, mixing up something delicious to bake. Somewhere. Because there is not an oven around. In fact, there is no kitchen. One can only assume that he put all the ingredients in the bowl, grabbed his spoon and jumped into the car. "These cookies will only be complete if they have seen the ocean!" some concept-mad part of his artist's brain commands. He cannot rest until the dough has been bathed in the warm rays of the sun, has felt the embrace of the hot sand and heard the lapping of the tide against the shore. Only then can one truly understand that these cookies are not just oven warmed lumps of dough. These cookies are all of creation!

Freaky Thing #3: The Literal Hoverround

See the guy in the wheel chair? See anything odd about him?

Look closer:

He is hovering off the ground! His wheelchair is magic!

Freaky Thing #4: The bastard child of Joey Ramone and Howard Stern makes uncomfortable small talk with tiny Ron Jeremy

"Would you like to play what appears to be my out-of-proportion guitar, Tiny Ron Jeremy?"
"No, thank you, for I am tiny, and getting a bit lost in all of this vegetation."

This is the textbook definition of surrealism, my friends.

Freaky Thing #5: The guy in the mural who is just as flabbergasted at all of this as I am.

I have a theory about this tiny man. I think he was probably on vacation at the beach, probably filming his kids frolicking in the surf, when he spotted this enormous bean stalk. And he was all, "Honey... you watch the kids a minute. I'm going to go check this out." So, he goes toward the giant bean stalk. He's curious, but it's a curiosity mixed with fear that is fueled by disaster movies. You know the ones. They always start out with some clueless tourist on vacation who decides to check out this ancient ruin or dormant volcano. And when they do, their death is the first in a long line of tragedies that spur the hero to action. Now, this tiny man with the video camera doesn't want to be a plot device. But he just can't help himself. He creeps through the giant leaves and what does he see? This clusterfuck of random imagery just begging to be filmed.

And so, he waits. He waits to see the gargantuan Joey/Howard hybrid come to a loving accord with Tiny Ron Jeremy. He wants to know how the Dadaist baker's cookies turn out. He wonders if he can sell the patent on granddad's hovering wheelchair, or if the huge baby with laser vision will blast him to pieces before he can properly examine it.

Aren't those questions we're asking ourselves every day? Maybe not in those exact words, but I have a feeling you understand my general sentiment.

Or maybe there is a gas leak in here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Wreck Of My Office Chair

What did I do this weekend? I'll tell you what I did. I went to see Gordon Lightfoot in concert, that's what I did.

Now, if you are like most of my friends (except for Bronwyn Green), you will be asking yourself, "Why?"

Because he's Gordon Lightfoot, that's why! Because he writes songs that tell beautiful stories, and so what if some of those stories don't make a lot of sense and seem to be induced by "hard living," if you get my drift (and I think you do)? The man is a modern-day bard, a wandering minstrel selling his songs. And he's still doing it while pushing seventy. That, my friends, is true devotion to one's craft.

However, pre-Gordon, there was a tragedy. And it happened in my house. It happened to my butt.

Back in the day, when I posted about my office and included pictures, I showed you the nightmare of my office chair. The chair that was the very reason I called my blog, "My Office Chair Is Real Uncomfortable." I kept that chair, despite the fact that it often popped apart and pinched me, despite the fact that it made my rear cheeks fall asleep, because it had seen me through several manuscripts and was a trusted friend. But now, it has betrayed me.

Here's how it happened: I'm replying to a fan email (I actually do that, despite all evidence to the contrary. It just takes me a long time and I don't get all of them) on my BlackBerry, and I lean back in my trusty chair. And as my texting thumbs fly over the tiny keys, I hear this queer sort of groaning sound. Then, a cracking sound. Then, the physical reassurance of the chair at my back is no longer, and I am sliding, too slowly for it to be sudden, to quickly to do anything about it, off the back of the chair and onto the floor, where my tailbone makes a brisk acquaintance with the wood laminate.

Holy God, was that humiliating. Yup. I broke a chair. Sure, it was already broke, but come on. I'm super huge and pregnant here, let's not add insult to injury. If I was meant to have a bruised posterior this weekend, it would have been just as easily accomplished by some method that did not point out my super lardassness.

Here is photographic evidence of the carnage:

And that's my dog, looking guilty, though he had nothing to do with it. He just has a guilty conscience. He's Catholic.

Onto brighter things, though. Here is a picture of me and the lovely Gena Showalter at Meijer in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Gena was there signing books on the Levy book tour, with some other authors. But I was there for the Gena, because she was one of the very first authors I ever met after become a "real" writer, and she has always been ever so nice. Please to be looking at Gena and not me, the person with the swollen face and the hair that is in bad need of recoloring:

Thursday, September 25, 2008







Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Morning Of Disappointments.

I found the following things disappointing this morning:

  • Came home from dropping the kid off at school to find Cleopatra on one of the movie channels, but I'd already missed the Rex Harrison parts.
  • Metallica is being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, despite their general douche-baggery.
  • I cannot find the cord to connect my camera to my laptop so that I can share the fabulous picture of me and Gena Showalter standing by the bras in Meijer.
  • I just bought new long-sleeved maternity shirts and it's going to be like, a bajillion degrees today.

Otherwise, things will probably go okay for me today.

Except for that Metallica thing, which will stick in my craw for quite some time.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hooray Hooray It's Gena Day!

In about twenty-five minutes I shall be pulling out of my driveway to head into Kalamazoo to see Gena Showalter on the Levy book tour.

Now, the only question is, do I wear the t-shirt that says "I HEART GENA" or the one that says "RESTRAINING ORDERS ONLY MAKE ME LOVE YOU MORE, BABY!"?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bienvenidos A Mis Baño

So, it's official. I'm probably going to die. Oh, the people at the doctor's office acted like it was no big thing. Just bronchitis. But I know the truth. I have some creeping lung disease. I may not have spent much time in a coal mine, but I know what this cough means. Certain doom.

Also, I have a real stuffy nose. The above few lines, when read out loud, sound something like this: "I bay not hab spend much dime in a coal bine, bud I know wud tis cough means. Cerdin doob."

Yes, cerdin doob, my friends. Your brave hero might not survive this one.

I have found a temporary way to alleviate the insidious symptoms of my disease. I can sit in the bathroom with the hot water running in the shower, and make a little rain forest for myself in there. It's giving me Robert Plant hair, and I'm sweating, but I'm pretty sure that what I'm also doing is breathing. I haven't done it in so long, it's hard to tell, but I'm confident that this is what people are referring to when they talk about it.

So, this is my view, today:

I like the bathroom, because it has a natural place to sit. Also, it is convenient for when I start sneezing and coughing and hacking and wheezing and peeing at the same time. But notice how shiny the walls are. That's a combination of being slick with moisture from the tropical climate I've introduced, and the fact that the guy who "helped" me at Lowes was like, "Get high gloss for your bathroom and kitchen!" Well, I don't know what he thought I was going to be doing in those rooms that I would need vinyl-like paint that was highly susceptible to peeling (like, what, did he think I was going to make a homemade sweat lodge in there or something? Well, I DID), but holy cow, is it annoying. I hate my paint.

Check out my awesome bathroom reading, yo. I like to leave books in the bathroom, because I think it tells people, "I am a good time manager. I use every moment available in the day to broaden my mind and experience. Even when I am pooping."

Okay, this is my shower curtain. I bought it because I thought it was so cool. Like, Enchanted Tiki Room cool. I brought it home, took down our old one, which was just plain white, and hung this one up, thinking it looked so awesome and that I was just the bestest, most funnest decorator ever.

And everyone makes fun of it.

My enthusiasm for it has not waned, but now there is an edge of spite to its presence. It's me saying, "Screw you, world. I love my shower curtain. If you don't like it, go to hell!"

Me and my shower curtain, against the world.

My husband complains that I have to much stuff on the bathroom counter. I say, "What the hell do you need so much space on the counter for? Are you going to do an autopsy in there or something? Shut up!"

The bathroom is an enormous source of marital tension, really, once you factor in the shower curtain and the counter space issue. I'm sure if we ever get a divorce, right next to "Reason for petition" it will say "Bathroom."

Dime mas! you're all saying. Okay. I will. These are the lights in my bathroom. They annoy me, because I bought the wrong light bulbs when two burned out, and they don't match. I tried to make it look intentional by alternating them, or putting two of the same on the outside and the other two in the middle, but it's just not working out. This is the best I can do.

So, that's what I'm doing today. I'm sitting in my bathroom/steam room and pretending to be alive, when what I really want to do is curl up into a ball and die. But don't worry, somehow, I shall soldier on, I'm sure. I always do. For I am tough.

Also, look at this turtle:

Is that not the happiest turtle you've ever seen? Look how thrilled he looks! No matter what awesome thing happens to you today (maybe an author you really like doesn't die of lung collapse in her bathroom), your day is not going to be in anyway as good as that turtle's day is going, I guarantee it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

So, I'm Pretty Sure I'm Going To Die.

I think I have pneumonia. I'm not a doctor, despite the appearance of my shiny white lab coat (I just wear that to protect my clothes from spills), but I'm thinking the sloshing sounds coming from the vicinity of my lungs, making me sound like a human water bed whenever I move, might be an indicator. Also, the fact that I woke up this morning going, "Is someone making boiling water? Where is that tea kettle noise coming from? Oh, it's me. Breathing. That sucks."

Today, I'll be giving a presentation at GRRRWA, after which time I will drive myself directly to the funeral home in anticipation of impending demise.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Grab Blog...

In reaction to the news that Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series has been optioned (by Cinemax or Vivid Video, one could only assume) for release as a television show or movie series, some fantastically snarky YouTuber has given us the following trailer. Snicker, and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Science Time With Jen (And It's Not About Space Rocks).

This morning, I woke up at 4:45AM. Why so early? Did I have to go somewhere? Not really. I woke up that early because, my friends, I am like a kid on Christmas Eve, awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus!

THEY'RE GOING TO TURN ON THE LARGE HADRON COLLIDER TODAY! Okay, technically Wednesday, but it'll still be Tuesday here. And technically, its not the first time it's been turned on, and they're not going to actually bash any particles together today. Today is more like a test run. The big show will be in October. But this test is enough to get super-stoked over... because if they manage to get a particle beam all the way around the 17 mile circle, all systems are go for launch and some really important questions can finally be answered, like:

  • Is time travel possible?
  • What about alternate universes?
  • Does the Higgs-Boson particle actually exist?
  • If it doesn't, what gives matter its mass?
  • Can Daleks really come get me?
  • We know Daleks can go up stairs now, but how about a spiral staircase? Am I cool if I'm up one of them?

Okay, so maybe it won't answer those last two. But you have no idea how exciting this is to someone like me, someone who sees this as a brave new frontier, the horizon of a world that, with luck and science, might someday be just like an episode of Dr. Who.

Now, before you go picking out ugly wallpaper for your Tardis, there is an ugly side to all of this physics fun (aside from the face that for seven years I have been consistently misreading the name of the LHC as "Large Hard-On Collider"). You see, just like with awesomely huge space rocks, someone has to get their panties all in a bunch about the end of the world, and how we're all doomed. Seriously, people, can't you just enjoy the science without ruining it for everyone else?

But here is what they're worried about:

"It's going to make a black hole that sucks up the earth." This is what happens when someone prone to paranoia and overreaction knows enough about something to formulate a worst case scenario, which they will then obsessively cling to until the world DOESN'T end and they just look foolish. For those who need a primer, a black hole is typically what happens when a star collapses. It leaves a spot of like, super compressed gravity. We can't see them, but we know they're there, because we can see what they're doing to nearby stars and galaxies by just sitting around. A black hole's gravitational field is inescapable; much like your crotchety neighbor's porch when you were growing up, if you throw a tennis ball over there, it is not coming back.
Now, the fear of most armchair scaredypantses is that the LHC will create a microscopic black hole, which will swallow up mass, becoming bigger and bigger and bigger until it sucks us up. Which, I guess, could happen, theoretically, if not for something called Hawking Radiation.
Stephen Hawking theorizes that all black holes emit radiation, and that, for example, a non-rotating Swarzschild black hole that is very, very tiny is going to burn up energy faster than it can collect mass. Without significant mass, it cannot collect mass at a higher rate, and therefore will fizzle out. So, I guess you could say that according to the theory of Hawking Radiation, black holes are like Katamari... you can only pick up things that will stick to your Katamari, and if you can't pick little stuff up fast enough, your timer is going to run out before you can pick up the big stuff and the Prince is going to shoot lightning at you from his magnificent eyes.
Now, this is where the paranoid conspiracy theorists' argument gets really fun. They throw a fit about how this microscopic black hole is going to magically stuff crap into its gaping maw and grow big enough to gobble up the planet because Hawking Radiation is an unproven theory.
Even if I explain it, it won't make any more sense, but I'll give it a try. Armchair physicists are pretty sure that Stephen Hawking, arguably the most brilliant theoretical physicist of our time, is wrong. No, wait, that's not quite it either. Armchair physicists are pretty sure that Stephen Hawking, arguably the most brilliant theoretical physicist of our time, is wrong, AND they, who have learned what they know about physics from the National Geographic Channel, are RIGHT.
My verdict: We're not going to get eaten up by a black hole created by the LHC. The LHC has the potential to create microscopic black holes, and that is a GOOD THING. It will give us a chance to observe that which has until now been unobservable... you know, theories like, oh, I don't know, HAWKING RADIATION. And even if Stephen Hawking is wrong, you're still an idiot, because the baby black holes will be high-tailing it out of the earth's gravitation, and likely won't be able to accumulate enough mass to become a threat until they're winging out through space, at which point they will slow to a crawl and eventually stop, having run out of breath after their proton buffet.

So, chill out, enjoy the LHC, and begin planning your Dalek escape routes now.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Horror, Woe, Lament, I Can't Believe I Did That

This morning, as I pulled into my son's elementary school parking lot, I noticed something a bit queer. None of the children were wearing uniforms. In fact, they were wearing very nice clothes, the boys all in ties and the girls in pretty dresses. My son was wearing his uniform. What gives? thought I.

Well, being the best mom in the whole fucking universe, I missed the memo that today was picture day. I still maintain that this is not my fault. The "Parent Pack" envelopes that are supposed to come home every single month did NOT come home with me this month. And I am vindicated, because another mother was at the office complaining of the exact same thing. She, also, did not receive the information and had dropped uniformed middle schoolers off to be mocked all day for not taking advantage of the uniform holiday. Yes, that happens. The kids who remember not to wear uniforms on uniform holidays make fun of the kids who don't... even though on picture day, chances are your mom has put you in something far more hideous than your uniform.

Anyway, I go down to the office to hurriedly fill out a form. Then, I remember I don't have my checkbook. And it all sort of goes downhill from there.

Normally, when I am not in the third trimester of what is quickly becoming the worst pregnancy in the history of the universe, this sort of thing would roll right off my back like perspiration off a heavily greased male stripper. Not today, friends. No, not today at all.

Instead of simply saying, "Silly me, forgot my checkbook, here's the form and I can drop the check off later?" I have a complete breakdown. We're talking an all out, hyperventilating, "I'm a bad mom!" wailing crying jag. In front of the office ladies.

Now, the way I see it, I have two options here:

  1. Switch my son to a different school. This would probably be the easiest option. He's only in kindergarten. Young kids are resilient. The memory of being abruptly jerked from one school to another will surely fade faster than the office ladies' memory of me sobbing hysterically over picture day. And he can always make new friends. However, I have already paid tuition for the entire year, which leaves me at a decided disadvantage and makes me consider option #2.
  2. Fake my own death, resurface disguised as my son's new stepmother. Now, I know what you're thinking. "Jen, isn't faking your own death illegal?" The answer is "Yes, but only if you're doing it for some kind of illegal fraud." The fraud I'm proposing is (or damned well should be) totally legal. Here's how I do it: I go somewhere tropical, where the police are not as carefully trained to handle the disappearance of a tourist. Then, I go scuba diving, or some other such high risk activity, possibly involving sharks. After my wet suit, riddled with shark teeth holes, washes up on a local beach, I will be assumed dead. Even if it doesn't make the national news (but really, why wouldn't it? Doesn't everyone panic when a white woman is missing?), my husband can still go to my son's school and tell them of my horrible demise. After that, we just have to wait a while and then I can re-enter the picture in a fabulous wig that maybe might look like Annabelle Scioria's haircut from "What Dreams May Come," pretending to be the new wife and step mom, Sofia. You know what? I might even try out an accent. Maybe I'll be the wife he met while in an Ashram in India, recovering from Jen's horrific shark death. I'm at the Ashram seeking peace after my first husband, Gino, a brilliant conductor, drank himself to death after losing a hand in some bizarre Opera accident. And like, maybe I'm Italian... from Venice... and I was once an extra in a Woody Allen movie. You know, I'm liking this more and more all the time. The only draw back would be the weight I'd have to lose so people wouldn't recognize me, and possibly some plastic surgery to make my eyes more exotic shaped an mysterious. And while I'm in there, a boob job. Nothing too much, maybe just a lift and tighten them up, so I don't have to wear a bra under t-shirts. Is that too much to ask?

I've forgotten where I was going with this. Oh, right, crying in front of the office ladies at my son's school. Anyway, we got the picture thing worked out, I cried all the way home even though there was no longer a reason to cry, and now I'm suitably mortified and never want to face the office ladies again.

Oh, they said they understood. They said they'd all been there. But that doesn't make it any better.

Sorry, impending baby. Looks like you'll be home schooled.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Well, fuck.

I was going to post synopsis help yesterday. I vowed to do it today.

But it's gonna have to wait until I figure out how to explain it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Great Peter Allen's Ghost! Also, THE HOFF!

Okay, for YEARS I have told people about this television special I saw when I was little. It was something to do with Disneyland. It was really little at the time, like four or five. But of a few things, I was certain: Drew Barrymore was there, David Hasslehoff sang an oldies song in front of Space Mountain, Donna Summers danced with Cinderella and Snow White, Julian Lennon was there, and at the end, Peter Allen lead a marching band in front of a giant cake.

Obviously, no one believes me. This is the kind of thing I am prone to make up. Also, it's too unbelievable. David Hasselhoff? Peter Allen? A giant cake? Riiiiight.

But now I have proof. THANKS, YOUTUBE!

Why yes, those are Disney Animatronics singing "I'm So Excited" by the Pointer Sisters.

After the arrival of all the stars, Drew Barrymore and John Forsythe ask the Micromachines Man directions to Fantasyland. You see, it's vitally important that they arrive in time to see Donna Summers warble a disco ode to prostitution with Snow White and Cinderella. Then, there is some sentimental stuff about the building of Disneyland.

I'm really just waiting to get to the part where John and Drew introduce Alabama from the back of a flying Dumbo. Are you a fan of classic 80's country? Double-necked electric guitars? Mickey in a cowboy hat? You are so in luck, friends.

John gives Drew a history lesson about Dancing Hippos, which she responds to with her usual precociousness. Then, its off to part one of Debbie Allen's wildly inappropriate tribute to "Zippadee-doo-dah," where in she, dressed as a turn of the century New Orleans prostitute, leads costumed Mardi Gras revelers with high kicks and sheer spunk. And now, here's Roy! And after him? Tina Yothers and the guy who played the judge on Nightcourt, who finishes off a magic trick by handcuffing himself to his crotch.

At this point, all the naysayers who thought I was just making up wild tales need to realize that they gave too much credit to the power of my imagination. There is no way I could have been making this stuff up.

Along comes Bobby Bersini and his orangutans, who make rude noises set to music. And then, it's the moment I've been waiting for. One of them, anyway. People never believe me when I tell them my version of this story. I always tell them that David Hasselhoff drives in with KITT, jumps out in a black leather jacket outfit, and sings an oldies song.

It is so much more, my friends, than I could ever possibly imagine. The jacket is not black. It's SILVER. And he's not alone on stage. THE DANCING HIPPOS ARE THERE AS WELL. So are Minnie Mouse and, for some reason, Captain Hook. And the Big, Bad Wolf is playing guitar. With the Queen of Hearts on drums. It doesn't seem like it can get any more wonderful.


I could not make this up. Don't all of you doubters feel foolish now? VENGEANCE IS MINE!

Drew, John, and Dumbo introduce Marie Osmond, who sings and dances under an enormous pile of hair. Not only does she have more teeth than the average human, she has more hair, too. It's a scientific fact.

Then, after a ride through my favorite attraction, Donna Summers sings "Unconditional Love" in front of it.

The Pointer Sisters show up and perform amidst a flock of dancers dressed as Tron drivers. If anyone figures out what the "neutron dance" is, and if it applies to cold fusion somehow, please let me know.

Then, something happens that ruined my life for like, twenty-two years. No joke. Julian Lennon, who looks about twenty here, sings "Too Late For Goodbyes" on a raft in the Frontierland river. Which is fine, because it's a pleasant song. But after seeing this and hearing this song for the first time, it was then stuck in my head for OVER TWENTY YEARS. This, right here, is the reason that song was stuck in my head for so long. This isn't an exaggeration, you can ask people who have known me for a long time, and they'll back me about the twenty years thing. It took FOREVER to get it out. I'm afraid to listen to it, because it might get stuck back in there. So, you'll have to just watch the following clip without me:

After Drew and John talk about the various celebrities who've visited Disneyland and Annette Funicello, queen of the mouseketeers, makes Drew an honorary member of the Mickey Mouse Club, it's time for part two of Debbie Allen's "Zipadee-doo-dah" tribute, which shall henceforth be known as Debbie Allen's Jungle Freak Out. In order to calm you down from the wild native rhythms, the celebration cuts to Alabama performing on the Mark Twain riverboat as some lucky Disneyland guests turn it into a waterbound fire hazard.

Part 8 of our wonderful journey brings us to Marie Osmond and her huge hair wishing for a handsome prince to come sweep her off her feet. Unfortunately, the best Disney can do for her is David Hasselhoff. They sing a song together in front of a romantic tableau of dancers, but really, you can't concentrate on it at all, because their combined hair volume is truly alarming.

Throughout the show, imagineers share their memories of opening day. And as the show goes on, the memories seem to get progressively darker... like they're remembering a war or something. The tales start to sound pretty grizzly in this installment, what with the sinking boats and parents throwing their children around.

Oh, and Julian Lennon does an eerie impression of his father.

Returning from the commercial break, Debbie Allen does her best to offend and embarrass South American peoples everywhere with her calypso version of "Zippadee-doo-dah," but it is blessedly short. Then, a chimney sweep dance serves as an introduction to a lady who certainly doesn't need one. Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins herself, shows up to sing a bit from her legendary role and share a truly moving, personal story about Walt Disney that I used to fast forward through when I would watch this on video as a child. Then, she launches into the song that makes me weep every flipping time I hear it.

Okay, now comes the moment you've all been waiting for. At least, I have been waiting for it. It truly must be seen to be believed. If you have not clicked on any of these videos yet, you owe it to yourself to watch at least this one. After much fanfare, PETER ALLEN, dressed in a SPARKLY GOLD AND SILVER MARCHING BAND UNIFORM emerges from the castle gates and dances and sings his way down Mainstreet, U.S.A. This is another one of those things no one believes when I tell them. But I swear, it's the best thing you'll ever see in your life. Then, Mickey comes out on a giant cake, and Peter dances around THAT.

There you are. Probably the best hour you will ever spend in your entire life. Or, if you were like me, and your grandmother taped this when you were young, the best seventy or so hours, after repeated viewings.

Synopsis help will be on the way tomorrow. This was just too good not to share.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

#3: My Query Letter Can Eat A Bowl Of Moby-Dicks! I Quit! I Hate Writing!

Okay, the internet appears to be working, my eyes are weirdly crusted shut from too much sleep, I can't drink coffee because of the ungrateful parasite taking up room in my uterus, and I've got Peter Allen blaring from my iPod. This is going to either be awesome, or total failure.

Okay. So, you're getting your manuscript ready for it's long trip to judgment. So far, you've:

  • Figured out where this thing is going
  • Made it somewhat presentable to the person who's getting it.

Sometimes, depending on the publisher, you have to basically ask their permission to send them your manuscript. How do you do that? Different publishers have different submissions rules. They will ask for one or more of the following before asking you to actually ship off your manuscript:
  • A query letter
  • A brief synopsis
  • A detailed synopsis

These words strike fear into the heart of writers. I know this, because I know a lot of writers. Writers dread queries and synopsii almost as much as they dread the question, "So, what's your book about?" I'm sure it's something to do with trying to condense the events of the imaginary world in your head down to an easy to digest, literate sounding answer. After all, how can you look at all of your hard work, the complex themes and characterization that you've agonized over, and pick out just the important bits? They're all important, or else they wouldn't be in there, right?

At this point, I am imagining Herman Melville pitching Moby-Dick to a modern day editor who has just said, "So, tell me about your book." I imagine a panicked look in his suddenly dilated pupils, beads of sweat rolling of his forehead as he struggles valiantly to form a coherent sentence that doesn't start with "Well, you see, there's this whale..."

The query letter is the on-paper equivalent of "Well, you see, there's this whale..." crammed in with "Also, let me tell you a bit about myself." This is one sheet of paper, with a proper letterhead and everything, in which you have to sell not only your book, but yourself as an author. So, you've basically got three paragraphs.

Here's how you do it. Or, at least, here's my way of doing it:

You've got about three paragraphs. In your first paragraph, you need to give them a little introduction about what you're sending, and why you're sending it. Something like this (obviously, not EXACTLY like this... it needs to sound professional while still showing some of your personality):

Dear Editor:
I am contacting you in regards to my novel, MOBY-DICK, a [insert word count here] novel that I feel would be perfectly at home at [insert publishing company or imprint here].

Just a little something to let them know, right off the bat, what you're looking for. You're writing to them to pitch them your novel. Some people think it's tacky and impersonal to start off a letter asking for something right away. To those people, I ask, "have you ever met an editor who wasn't busy, and just had time to read penpal letters all day?" You're not apply for the position of BFF or World's Best Butt Kisser. Just throw it out there and don't waste their time.

And yes, I do advocate capitalizing the title of your manuscript in your letter. It's advertising, and you want them to remember the title, even if it's so they can spell it right on your rejection letter.

In your second paragraph, you're going to tell them something about the book. Yup, this is the dreaded, "Well, you see, there's this whale..." paragraph, where you're going to condense everything down into a few sentences. Here, we take a page from all of those trailers for big budget Hollywood action movies. You know, the ones that begin with, "In a world where," and the narrator with the voice that sounds like if Chuck Norris sounded as bad ass as he really is tells you the plot of the movie in a few sentences? Those are excellent things to study for our purpose here. You don't have to tell them every single thing about the story... they need to know three basic things:
  1. What the important parts of the setting are
  2. Who the protagonist is
  3. What they have to overcome in the plot

Your second paragraph should read something like this:

MOBY-DICK tells the tale of Ishmael, a sailor who has embarked on what at first appears to be a routine whaling voyage. It soon becomes apparent that the captain intends this to be a mission of revenge against the legendary and feared white whale, Moby-Dick. As they sail toward their inevitable confrontation with the beast, Ishmael watches the captain sink further and further into a madness that may destroy them all.

That sounds exciting, doesn't it? Makes you want to run out and buy a copy of Moby-Dick! Or, at least, leaf through one and see what all the fuss is about. And that's what you want this editor to do. You want them to read your very brief summary of your book and go, "Huh, I wonder what happens to that Ishmael guy," long enough to dash off a letter asking you to send the first three chapters and a synopsis.

In your last paragraph, you're going to tell them something about yourself as a writer (like, what other work you have published or what won contests, etc.), and reiterate why you're telling them all of this stuff, like this:

In the past six years, I've had five other novels see publication: Typee, Omoo, Redburn, White-Jacket, and Mardi, but I feel that MOBY-DICK is my greatest achievement thus far. With your permission, I would be glad to send a copy of the manuscript at your earliest convenience.

H. Melville

What has happened in that query letter is, I've stated my (okay, Herman Melville's) intention to pitch my (Melville's) novel, given a small pitch, and asked if it would be okay to send it along. Easy enough, once it's all demystified.

No, they don't need to be longer. No, they don't need to hear about your pet turtles or get to know you as a person. And they sure as shit don't need to know about any other houses that have rejected your manuscript. No, I'm not kidding. There are actually people who will send off query letters with exceedingly negative sections in them. Everything from "I used to belong to a writer's organization, but they didn't understand me and were jealous of my talent" to "I previously sent this manuscript to this other publishing house, and they didn't buy it, so they're obviously short-sighted morons."

Do not do that. That is bad. The only thing you should add is if you had contact with this editor previously. Something along the lines of, "I am contacting you in regards to my novel, MOBY-DICK, which I spoke to you about at RWA Nationals this past July in San Francisco," as your opening line, or "I have previously submitted to you my novel, Typee, which you declined, but at the time you expressed interest in seeing another work in the future, so I would be glad to send the MOBY-DICK manuscript at your earliest convenience," to your last paragraph. The editor might see that and go, "Oh, right, Typee. I remember that. It was good, but we had just purchased another vaguely homoerotic sailing story, and we couldn't fit two in the lineup. Yeah, I'll take a look at that." Just don't go into a woe-is-me tale of "I sent you my last book, but it wasn't good enough. So, I hope this one is. LE SOB!"

I was planning on making today all about synposises/syposes/synopsii, as well, but my brain is fried and I need a nap. Tomorrow, look for exciting Lesson #4: First, This Happens, And Then, Some Other Stuff.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ah, crap.

Due to wonky internet, which will be solved shortly, I will return with the next part of the submission tutorial on Wednesday.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Grab Blog

Today is a much needed day off for your dear writer. And I'm going to the zoo.

That has nothing to do with Friday Grab Blog today, my friends. Today, I'm going to post one of my favorite execution videos from YouTube. It's footage, with weird music added, for some stupid reason, of a criminal being executed in France by guillotine. Yup, it's real.

You have been warned. But it is very efficient and kind of cool.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lesson #2: They Want Me To Do What Now?

So, as discussed yesterday, you now:
  • Have your first draft finished
  • Know where you're going to submit
  • Have a copy of the publisher's guidelines for submission in your hot little hands

For this example, I'm going to totally steal the submissions guidelines from my own company, Harlequin, because those are the ones I know best. Guidelines for each line are available on You just scroll right on down past the bells and whistles, and in small print at the bottom of the main page, you'll see the words, "Submission Guidelines," which will lead you to the magical world of this page, where you can find not only general manuscript format guidelines, but also descriptions of each imprint and what they publish. Which you might totally find helpful while working step #1 of this long process.

So, you have the guidelines in front of you. Now, even though I'm working from Harlequin's guidelines, and Harlequin, in their tree-saving wisdom, doesn't accept unsolicited manuscripts (you have to query them first... don't worry, we'll talk about queries tomorrow), we're going to assume that you're sending a full or partial manuscript along.

So, here you are, clutching your list of manuscript guidelines, because you printed them off, which is extra smart of you, because if this is your first time, you're going to want to cross things off the list as you go so as not to forget anything.

Let's go to the guidelines and find out what good old HQ expects of us:

Harlequin®, Silhouette®, Mills & Boon® and Steeple Hill® publish only category/series romance and women's fiction. Please do not submit any type of nonfiction. Your manuscript should be told in the third person, primarily from the heroine's point of view. However, the hero's perspective may be used to enhance tension, plot or character development. Please see the guidelines for each series for details.

Only you can tell for certain if your book fits into the guidelines for where you're sending it. But what if you read that paragraph and go, "Oh, great, I have like, two scenes from the best friend's point of view!" do not despair! You can still submit your manuscript. All you have to do is change those two scenes, right?

HELL TO THE NAW, my friends! Do not, under any circumstances, change your story to fit a particular publisher's guidelines UNLESS THEY ASK YOU TO. Why? Because let's go ahead and imagine that you're an editor. This great book comes across your desk (ew, that was probably not the best imagery I could have used) and it's just perfect. Except for the two scenes that are written in the best friend's POV. You know it will fit perfectly in your line, be a balls out best seller, but those two pesky scenes. Guess you can't buy it now.

Or, can you? Can you, in your infinite editorial wisdom, contract the author and ask them to remove or rework those scenes during the revision process? Why yes, yes you can. It is in your power, mighty editor. You wield the sword of revisions like a modern day Excalibur, red ink glistening in triumph upon its blade! Oh, the pen is mightier than the sword, dear readers. Far, far more mighty.

What I'm saying is, unless you find out at this crucial stage that your manuscript is not at all fit for the publisher's consumption ("Heroine and Hero? My book is about a bowl of fruit, slowly decaying on a counter top! It's a metaphor for the decline of society, and it's brilliant!"), don't go hacking away at your manuscript until they tell you to.

That rule goes for word count, too. Unless your book is grossly over-inflated for the publisher's requirements (You wouldn't submit a 100K novel to a 50K word limit line), don't go trimming the heck out of it. If an extra 5 or 10k are a problem for them, let them choose where to lose them. That's what editors are for. Editing. See violent pen imagery, above.

So, you can check that one off. Phew. Let's take a look at the next one:

All material should be the author's own original work. Stories that contain scenes or plotlines that bear a striking resemblance to previously published work are in breach of copyright law and are not acceptable.

I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt here and guess that since you're at the point of seriously considering submitting your work to a major publisher, you've done enough research about writing to know that plagiarism isn't okay. If you're reasonably sure that you didn't take a bunch of Ambien, black out, and type up a word-for-word recap of what happened on Big Brother last night, then you can check this one off. If you think no one is going to recognize the startling similarities between your book and "Paradise Lost," well, you're beyond my help. Go in peace, and enjoy jail.

Our next item up for bid:

All material must be typewritten, double-spaced, and on a reasonably heavy bond paper. No disk submissions. Computer-generated material is acceptable, but must be letter quality, and pages must be separated. Any material received on computer reams will be returned without evaluation.

Okay, first of all, Harlequin, come on. You need to seriously update the wording here. "Typewritten?" Really? Not to mention, does anyone even own a dot matrix printer anymore? Are you really getting reams of dot matrix paper all strung together like sausage? Is that still in production?

But I digress. Your manuscript needs to be typed, double-spaced, on "reasonably heavy bond paper." Panic! Do they mean cardboard? Do they mean resume type paper? Calm your bleeding brain, friends. They just don't want it printed on that see-through paper often found in bibles and wedding invitations. Regular old printer paper (provided you don't jog on down to NASA circa-1984 and borrow their reams and reams of green-and-white lined dot matrix paper) is fine. Photo paper is right out. Just use the regular old paper that would shoot out of a copy machine.

As for double-spaced, I'm going to throw my hat in the ring here and say something about font size, which they have not mentioned. Do you have really bad eyes, requiring you to use 16pt Times New Roman, bolded, in order to read your text on the screen? Alternately, do you have really, really good eyes and type everything out in 8pt Mistral, italicized, and it doesn't bother you one bit. Assume that the person opening up your manuscript at the publishing house is a happy medium. Use a monospace font, a font where each character takes up the same space on the page. Don't know if you're using one already? Check some out here. These are, in general, easier on the eyes, and it's easier to catch typos and such when reading them. Use 12pt size, and yes, always double-spaced. This will also help the publisher determine word count, if they use the traditional word-count method of 250 x #of pages = estimated word count.

Now, once you have made these changes to your document, I'm going to have to ask you to step away from the guidelines for a second. Print out what you're going to be sending. If you're sending off your first three chapters, print them out. If you're sending off the whole darned thing, print that off. Now, spend a day or two going through the material line by line, looking for possible typos, continuity inconsistencies, anything that might need changing.

Now, you're probably wondering why I'm asking to you waste a bunch of paper printing it out, when it's already there on, your screen. I don't know why, but it's just easier to see the errors on paper than on the screen. I think you're more likely to recognize mistakes, rather than read what you thought you wrote, when it's on paper.

This is not the point, however, to become super panicky, and spend three weeks agonizing over word choice or checking just one last time to make sure all your commas are in order. The editor who reads your work is not going to say, "Oh, great story, but I see that on page 210 you wrote 'teh' instead of 'the,' so we're going to have to pass." Just give it a brief once over, and let it go.

Moving on!

Do not submit your material bound in binders, boxes, or containers of any kind. Secure material by rubber bands. Cover sheets must have your complete name, address, and phone number. Each page should be numbered sequentially thereafter. Please type your name and title in the upper left-hand corner of each page. If we ask to see your manuscript, please include a complete synopsis. Enclose a self-addressed, stamped postcard if you require acknowledgment of receipt.

Ah, this is important. If you haven't done so already, you need to make a "header" on your document with the title of your book, your name, and your page numbers. This is really easy, I'll leave it up to you and your ingenuity to figure out how to do this in your own word processor. But you want to put your title in ALL CAPS, just so it stands out. Your header should have YOUR TITLE, Your Name on the left hand side, and your page number should align to the right.

When you're getting ready to ship out a manuscript, put a rubber band around the middle of it and put it in a big enough envelope. Yes, it's going to indent the edges of your pages. Trust me, they won't care. Wait until you see what it looks like when you get it back. Hand of God, once they sent a smashed fly back in my line edits. They're not grading you on the integrity of your paper, but the quality of your story.

I will step out of line here and say that, for smaller submissions, like when you're sending off three chapters, a rubber band isn't going to cut it. Use a binder clip. No one will slap your hand. They will, however, keep your binder clip. It's almost universally acknowledged that editors hoard binder clips like dragons hoard treasure.

As for your cover sheet, type one up fast and print it out when you print out your fully corrected manuscript. If, like me, you're a freaking genius, you might find it handy to create a word processor file called "COVER SHEET" on which you can simply edit the title of the work and print it off without any heartache for later manuscripts.

"Now, this is all fine and dandy," you may be saying, "But I'm submitting to Ellora's Cave, and they want only electronic submissions, Times New Roman, single spaced!" Well, give them what they want. The point of this little exercise has been to calm your fears about what you have to do to your manuscript, and how to follow the guidelines you're given, even if you question the wisdom of such guidelines (like the rubber band, which makes me cringe every time. I like paper with nice, neat edges).

Following a publisher's submission guidelines is important. Sure, it might show them that you're really creative if you illustrate your manuscript and send it in on blueprint-sized paper, but they don't care about your creative packaging skills. Publishers write their guidelines based on what is the most efficient and convenient for them, so that they can look at two hundred manuscripts a week and not miss out on the really good ones because they were printed in red ink on neon paper and they just couldn't subject their eyes to that kind of nonsense. Following their guidelines to the letter won't get you published if your book doesn't tickle their fancy, but not following them can get a good book ignored, if the editor who picks it up is a stickler for the rules.

Tomorrow is Friday grab-blog, and a much needed rest for me. Actual blogging with like, worthwhile content is hard, y'all. But on Monday we'll be back with Lesson #3: My Query Letter And Synopsis Can Eat A Bowl Of D***s! I Quit! I Hate Writing!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lesson #1: Am I ready to submit? Not in a sexy way.

Okay, first a little introduction here, to cover my bases. First of all, you follow any advice I dispense at your own peril. I'm gonna share what worked for me, but maybe you need my awesome charisma to pull it off. I don't know. All I'm saying is, I don't want a bunch of lawsuits coming my way because you followed my advice of not singing in elevators to editors and it turns out that the editor used to be a record executive and you could have totally landed a recording contract if you'd just busted it out like you were in the Hollywood round of American Idol.

Other disclaimer: Since it was asked, I cannot read anybody's materials. It's part of this thing I've got going where I'm trying to avoid lawsuits and shit. Also, it would eat up all the time I need to spend playing World of Warcraft meeting my deadlines, which are looming like the spectre of Death, scythe and all. And not funny, Terry Pratchett death. Death like a giant metal bird with red eyes, that breathes fire and when it opens its beak, it emits a cry that is like the sound of brakes screeching in futility on wet pavement as the vehicle fishtails, coming dangerously closer and closer to the guardrail that makes the difference between driving down Mulholland and shooting like a flaming meteor through the night sky over Hollywood.

Wait, where was I?


Okay, today's lesson will be lesson #1, because #1 is a good place to start a list. And this lesson will be called, "Am I ready to submit?"

Several factors will decide if you're even at the point where you need to be worried about the submissions process yet. You are ready to submit when:
  • Your first draft is complete.
  • You have researched publishing houses that accept your genre of work, and have a pretty good idea which house, imprint, and editor you're going to submit to.
  • You have researched the submission guidelines for that house, imprint and editor.

Now, some schools of thought (my grandmother, for example) believe that you can go ahead and get a book like, half-finished and go ahead and submit your first three chapters to a publishing house because, hey, it takes them forever to get back to you, right? Let's just say, hypothetically, that you're a first time writer, and someone (like my grandmother) says, "If you've got three chapters, go ahead and submit them, because it will take them at least a year to get back to you." So, not knowing any better, this first time writer has six chapters of a book they're calling Blood Ties finished, and they send it off to a hypothetical publishing house, we'll just use Tor in this example. And then like, a week later, the hypothetical author gets a request for a full. But she doesn't have a full, she's got six chapters still, because she hasn't been getting a lot of work done because her boss left for Washington D.C. and the office is falling apart around her and he left a stun gun in her desk because he thinks a client is going to go crazy and try to shoot up the office.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Do yourself a favor. The publishing industry moves really slow, most of the time. But if you have luck like mine, you're going to end up submitting a manuscript that is only partially finished to an editor who just discovered the productivity increasing wonder drug Crystal Meth, and then she speeds through her slush pile on a slow Tuesday afternoon and you end up writing a whole book in two weeks while screaming, "I WILL GET THOSE DEPOSITIONS TO THE COURT HOUSE WHEN I DAMNED WELL FEEL LIKE IT, JEFF!" into the phone.

Better to be safe than sorry, finish your first draft completely before submitting.

When it comes to researching publishers and publishing houses, you have a few options. My number one recommendation to all writers is to join Romance Writers Of America. Even if you don't write romance. Why? Because they have the tightest network of working writers who know the ropes. You don't have to join a local chapter and go to meetings if you don't want to. You can join online chapters, too. The dues probably seem pretty steep for something that hasn't officially become a career yet, right? Consider it an investment in your future career.

If you're not a joiner, or you have some mortal dread of romance authors or clubs, you can also motor on down to your local library and request a copy of The Writer's Market. This is an annual publication that lists thousands of publishers from childrens' books to hardcore erotica, and how to submit your work to them. The drawback to this method is that it's an annual publication, and guidelines change during the year depending on what editor gets promoted or fired or pregnant or hit by a bus, so my advice in this area is to look up the information and send a letter or give a call to the publishing house to double check that your information is up-to-date.

Similar to The Writer's Market option is the guerrilla editor stalking option, which some people do because they don't know about the other two options, and this seems like a great way to start. They go to a bookstore or their own bookshelves, find books that are in the genre they want to be published in, copy down the address of the publisher from the inside of the book and call or write for submission guidelines.

Luckily, guerrilla editor stalking can also now be accomplished via Google, so if you're going to go that route, check online for guidelines before you call.

Something you may run into in your search for the right house and editor is the dreaded, "No unagented submissions" clause. This means, "We only deal with agents." This is meant to warn away potential unagented authors from storming the castle gates and creating a slush pile of monumental proportions. I have a controversial opinion when it comes to "no unagented submissions." I, personally, tell people to query, even if they don't have an agent. Why? Because they might go ahead and read it anyway, and the worst that can happen is that they'll just return it unopened. There's this weird fear in the writing community that if you stray one centimeter from the approved guidelines of a publishing house, they're going to mark your name off on this big checklist and send the news of your transgression around to the other big publishing houses so that they can blacklist you and never buy your work. If you query, and they call you on the fact that you're unagented, you can always either lie and say you didn't realize they didn't accept unagented submissions, apologizing profusely all the way, or you could be like, "Yeah, I know. I thought I'd give it a shot anyway." Which ever comes standard in your operating system.

Tomorrow, we'll cover how to make your work ready to be submitted, as per submission guidelines. And I'll try to keep all disturbing death imagery out of it.