Monday, May 30, 2011

In Memorium

Today is Memorial Day in the good old US of A. Today we sleep in, BBQ, shop, and do things having little to do with remembrance.

Today is Memorial Day. We are supposed to remember those who have served our country, those who are currently defending this country, and those who gave their lives for our country and the freedoms we have.
My father was in the 101st Airborne in the 60s. When I asked what he did, he told me he did his job. I learned later he was in Vietnam, Iran, and Iraq. He served his country with pride and later became a Philadelphia Police Officer.

I have friends with loved ones serving as we speak. I went to a funeral for a Philadelphia boy who was killed in action in Afghanistan, Francis Straub. I taught his sister, Dana, that year. I remember praying for him everyday with our class. I also remember holding his Mother's hand when she received the news she would not be able to view his body before burial.

I remember learning about Molly Pitcher in grade school. The brave woman of the revolutionary war who did her duty and served, regardless of the rules.

The Tuskegee airmen showed their country that all men, regardless of the color of their skin, can serve gallantly.

The 54th  Massachusetts Regiment marched into certain death on a warm summer day. They were the first all black regiment in the civil war.

I also remember the men and women in blue of my great city, the City of Brotherly love, who gave their lives protecting its citizens. Sergeant Patrick McDonald was my husband's friend. It was a run of the mill traffic stop. The passenger had outstanding warrants. He did not want to go to jail that day and decided the price of freedom was Paddy's life. He shot him, then stood over him and continued to unload his weapon.

Officer Skerski was our community relations officer. I'd seen him a few days before he was gunned down in cold blood. He'd given us his personal number to call him about problems in the neighborhood. He was working overtime the night he was killed, saving for his children's college fund.

In total 7 Philadelphia Police Officers lost their lives over a three year period. Today, I remember them all, not just the ones I knew. I remember all those who have served and hope you do too.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Divorce is hard. 

Sometimes it’s messy, sometimes amicable. But never easy.

No, I’m not baring my soul here, or sending out cyber tears, I’m talking about a different kind of divorce.

The kind you go through after writing, editing, and thoroughly vetting a manuscript. For months you bleed onto the page, through the written word, giving the world a little piece of your soul. And when its over ... you can't let go.

To me, my characters are REAL people. People that live in me wee noggin, but people nonetheless.

Crazy? Sure, but I've been called worse.

And while said MS is in the hands of several awesome agents, and queries are being bounced around cyber space, there are still times – almost everyday – that I think of something to add, change or edit.

These are the times I pick up the phone and call 911 ... er Charli. Usually she’s doing the same thing … no, not contemplating taking over the world with me, much to your dismay.

She’s adding a wee piece of dialogue here, taking away a smidgen of a scene there. So whilst I’m hoping she’ll give me a dose of, cut it out and move on sister, we chuckle and talk about the changes.

I know what your thinking, daft wenches.

You’re not far off the mark, but I digress.

The characters in my next MS are secondary characters from my first MS, and though I know them – we’ve met, chilled out, had a few beers – we’re not best buds yet.

I don’t know if my hero chews and talks at the same time, or whether or not he likes to bath
regularly – I write medieval historical’s.

I’m not yet at that point where I can comfortably sit for hours inside their heads, as I crave to be.

I’m hoping this divorce settles soon.

However, I suspect such things may continue for years, for when is a writer ever truly done?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The reality of being THIRTYSOMETHING

I turned 35 recently. The big 3-5. The mid 30s, oh so closer to the 40 mark. I am supposed to be wiser, have found myself already, and responsibly saving for retirement. That was my goal. By this age I should know my real bra size, no what color not to dye my hair, be a morning person (one who cooks her teen breakfast every day with a smile), have my checkbook balanced, be in shape after losing all that pregnancy weight (ah-hem 13 years later), and have my home be the epitome of design and style.

Yeah, um, we'll get back to that later.

Carrie Bradshaw was Thirtysomething in Sex in the City. That cool I am woman hear me roar, age. The age where you've traveled enough to be worldy, where you read the New York Times everyday, where you have that hipster loft downtown (like Partick & Demi's from Ghost), the age where your style is solidified, clothes beg to be worn by you, they fit perfectly, make your butt look awesome, and high heels are comfortable to not only wear but run in, and you have that dream career of being a Best-Selling author. The age where all you've worked for and dreamed of comes to fruition.

You know, like Carrie.

When I was a teen, the TV Show Thirtysomething was all the rage. I didn't get it. Old people acting like teens and being crazy. Gross. My parents were in their 40s then, but there was no way that in their 30s they acted like these people.

Years later, and being smack of the middle of my Thirtysomethings, I can only laugh at the temerity of my youth. Who at 35 has it all figured out? Why was this year going to be different for me? Why have I put so much pressure on myself?

All those things I listed above, yeah, I'm still working on all of that. I just figured out my bra size, I think anyway. This month I like the color I dyed my hair. Um, about that weight... yeah, um, I'm as heavy as I was when I was 9 months preggers. My style, well, I try to keep up but get lazy in my comfy chubby girl clothes. I am never going to be a morning person. My checkbook has its own sense of balancing. My home is not a trendy downtown loft and seems to be an eternal mess of DIY Construction (thanks Hubby for starting 10 projects and finishing none). High heels are not my friends. I have traveled but not to enough places to be worldy. I do not read the paper. Clothes laugh at me in the dressing room, some actually cry for me not to try them on.

Why did I think I'd magically wake up and have it all figured out? Well, I still believe in fairytales. I guess I should've known better.
The days preceding my birthday I was in a grand place. My plans of having my life fall perfectly into place were moving along quite perfectly, thank you very much. The local campaign I worked on for a dear friend had all the momentum it needed. Things were more than good. I had 2 full requests. TWO! One with an agent I think is the bees-knees and the other with an fabulous editor I met at a conference. And for the first time in years I was excited to celebrate my-bday. I've had many loved ones pass away and they seem to do so the week of my birthday. My brother died two days after my 12th birthday. My Dad died five days after my 24th birthday. My friend and hubby's cousin, who was more like his brother, died three days after my 29th birthday. Yeah, you can see how a girl wouldn't want to celebrate her birthday. Life is a real BITCH, btw. Only a girl would piss all this bad luck on me.

I am not telling you all of this for a pity-party. No tissues needed or Wah-wah-wambulances needed to be called on my account. It's just the reality of me never wanting to celebrate my birthday since my brother died. I'm not crying about it, really.
But this year was going to be different. Turning 35 was supposed to be different. I wanted to celebrate being me and the awesome place I was in.

Yeah, let's revisit that little thing about how life likes to eternally kick me in the proverbial balls in May.
Birthday celebration was thrwarted twice by life. Friends and family tried, they did, but it wasn't meant to be. Election day did not go in our favor. Not at all. And it was ugly, mean, and everything people hate about politics. I am grateful that my dear friend kept his hands clean and can sleep at night. Kudos to him. I got rejected by that agent. I expected as much since my novel is not exactly within the genres she represents. But we have this really great internet correspondence and I think she is full of awesomesauce. She has to be the sweetest person I have come across on this journey to publication. In this tough, cold business that says a lot. To be honest, I am lucky she even requested to read anything at all, since my mushy love stories aren't her style. Her rejection was filled with more praise than a Penecostal Church on Easter. It warmed my heart, truly (I will be posting about that very soon, btw). It just makes me nervous about the full with the editor. With the rate I am going this May, it doesn't bode well for me.

But, I am very happy. I am. I have a husband I love more and more everyday. He is my highschool sweetheart and this summer marks 19 years of being together. My daughter is blossoming into a young, strong, and intelligent woman, who happens to have one hell of an arm for softball and one hell of a singing voice. My two dogs are the cutest pound puppies, ever. My friends are always there and so is my family. My critique partner is the most kick-ass CP in the world. I am gainfully employed and have my health. I am truly blessed.

So happy, I just feel like whistling and singing a little Bobby McFerrin. Besides, anything with Robin Williams just cracks me up. :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We Don't Do Dead People

Walk! Don’t Run! The Zombies are taking over our books shelves and big screens. You really can walk, zombies don’t move very fast.

Zombies flicks and books have been around forever. 700 BC’s Mesopotamian hit, The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem where the Goddess Ishtar promises the undead to rise up and eat the living. You have literary giants like Poe, Mary Shelley, and King weaving tales using entrails. More recent authors like Jonathan Maberry, David Wellington, and Phillip Pullman are fresh and fleshy masters of the genre, garnering spots on many bestseller lists.

I (Charli) really can’t get into the zombie genre. Even if it’s a well written piece of prose all I will think about is when will the body parts start falling off and when will the brain eating commence.

I (AJ) really have a phobia of Zombies. They scare the sh*t out of me. My first real taste of the brain eating ghouls was 28 Days Later ... quickly followed by every other zombie flick that my husband could get his hands on. Oh god, every time I heard a bump in the night, my overactive writers' imagination would jump into overdrive.

And why would I read a book that meddles with the perfection of Austen? My brother gave me a copy of Pride & Prejudice For Zombies. I scoffed at the notion, for a few reasons, but decided one night when I had nothing left to read, meh, I might as well give it a try.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains will be in want of more brains.”

Whilst Jane Austen die hard’s just might vomit from the moment they read the first line, anyone with a sense of humor will chuckle at this tongue in cheek impertinence that author Seth Grahame–Smith employed in adding a subplot of ‘unmentionables’ (zombies) to this classic Regency novel.

Whilst about 85% of the writing is done by Austen, Smith’s transitions are seamless, satire at its best. The plot does not deviate from that of the original Pride and Prejudice, with the exception, of course, of the added zombies.

As the story unfolds, a strange plague has stricken England; the dead are rising from the ground. Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters have been trained in the deadly arts as zombie fighters, sworn to purge the countryside of the unmentionables, however, she's distracted by the arrival of the proud and haughty, Mr. Darcy.

Smith explains, “It’s not a parody, because it wasn’t my intention to make fun of the original. Pride And Prejudice is a brilliantly written book by a brilliant author, and all I wanted to do was give its themes and characters an absurd canvas to play out upon."

“Many of Austen’s characters are rather like zombies,” he continues. “They carry on single-mindedly in their bubbles of immense wealth and privilege, no matter what’s going on around them. They pride (sorry again) themselves on discipline and politeness and repression and subservience. These people simply carry on with their gossip and romances and manners and balls, despite the fact that people are being gored and eaten alive.”
Now whilst there is no romantic lead ,i.e. a zombie vying for the heart of one of the Bennet sisters, there are tales out there casting these unmentionables as leads. Seriously? We can take them being monsters and bad guys but heroes and romantic interests? GROSS! No nooky with yucky zombies! What if it falls off, you know, um, during sex? What if you swallow their tongue? Can you get VD? Preggers? Ewww. Must stop now, we’re getting nauseous.

What’s next, a Highland Epic Historical Romance about William Wallace limping around in a kilt looking for a wee lil’ lassie to come hither and help him put his bits back together? A Rotting Rogue seducing a brainy courtesan? We certainly hope not.

I (Charli) told AJ about a local author Jonathan Maberry, a Bram Stoker award winner. His novel Rot & Ruin, and Patient Zero is all about the ghoulish fiends. But they remain that, monsters to be exterminated. AJ actually read them. Could not put them down. Devoured them like a zombie would brains. The lassie will be chatting it up with Maberry soon enough.

I (AJ) am terrified of the decomposing dudes. But this book below, and Rot & Ruin, were both non-stop horrifying page-turners. As horror books should be. I HATE ZOMBIES and could, not, stop, reading.... like a night crawler possessed. Zombies are not heroes or romantic leads. Yuck.
All this jibber jabber about the ghastly ghouls reminds me (Charli) about that movie in the 90’s. The one where the dead kid comes back to get the girl and take her to prom, My Boyfriend’s Back. The only Zombie flick I could stomach. This wasn’t so bad but I still kept thinking about the logistics of dating a guy whose flesh can fall off at any moment. BTW, this movie totally has a hot and fresh and very alive Matthew Fox looking oh soo friggin’ foxy. Ha-cha-cha. Another surprise is Matthew Fox’s villainous side-kick, a very young Phillip Seymour Hoffman. What would Capote say to that?

Hmm, Tiffany for Breakfast could be the next mashup! Someone call Philip Seymour Hoffman and tell him to summon the long dead scribe and get on it. Then he can star in the film version of how a Zombied out Truman Capote rose from the dead to write his latest masterpiece. Not sure what grosses me (Charli) out more, a dead Capote writing such a tale or Hoffman playing a zombie Capote.

Bottom line, we don’t do dead people. Literally, in film, or by the written word. Gross!

Did you know that according to Wikipedia that Zombies are now competing with Vampires for popularity as the number paranormal entity among the masses? Imagine that as a YA book. Dead Vampy High. AJ may actually read that. Someone please get typing.

Charli Mac & AJ Wilson
Aspiring Authors & Future Rulers of the Zombiverse

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Don't Bring Him Home To Mama!

There are some guys you should never bring home to meet your Mama. You know the types. We've read them in books, seen them on TV, and listened to their music. These characters maybe cliche' but they are real or at least could be. And could one day knock for my teenage daughter.

As the mother of a thirteen year old young woman, I am writing this from a Mama’s perspective, not an aspiring author. Consider it my checklist, my reminder as to why I have to snoop in her diary…

The Jersey Shore Situation, AKA, The Pervs:
No one wants a perv to come knocking on their door for their precious little baby. Guys like this should be sterilized for the sake of humanity. They’re gross, dirty, and only have one thing on their minds… getting in your little’s girls pants. They’re the poster boys for clinics around the world, condom ads, and may be the only hope to keep Planned Parenthood in business. The are so slimy that their shirts cannot stay on, apparently. They're a situation you don’t want to deal with. Speaking of grenades, the CDC needs to grenade their nether regions.

Chet from Weird Science, AKA, The Jerk:
We all have experienced these douche nozzles. The bully, the jerk, the guy who pushes everybody around just because he thinks he can. A few dates with this charmer and you’re daughter will end up fetching beers from the fridge and emptying ashtrays like some servant. This type of guy will usually be found scratchin’ his crotch, hitting on every woman that passes, and will be unemployed for most of his life.

Smokey, AKA, the Hood Rat:
This guy is a one way ticket to the Maury Povich show. The only suit this guy owns is a track suit. New sneakers are considered dress shoes and a white tank top is his only dress shirt. He will most likely never be filing a tax return but will have a suspicious amount of disposable income.

Howard Wolowitz, AKA, The Mama’s Boy:
Your poor daughter may be scarred for life dating this guy. He pays more attention to the corns on his mom’s feet than showering your girl with affection. He’s needy, annoying, and probably a suspect in various serial murders involving older women.

Gerardo, AKA, Rico Suave:

The lyrics to his 1991 smash hit go a little something like this…

I don't drink or smoke ain't into dope
Won't try no coke, ask me how I do it, I cope
My only addiction has to do with the female species
I eat 'em raw like sushi.

Nuff said? I agree.

Dudley “Booger” Dawson, AKA, The Weirdo:
The name says it all. Booger. He’s odd, has poor hygiene, stares inappropriately, and wears obnoxious t-shirts that aren’t funny- just plain gross. His claim to fame is winning a burp contest and being in college longer than I was. Oh, and as an old weird guy he cruises high-schools for chicks. He’s that guy who worked at the local skating rink or movie theater but hung out with all the teens. Yeah, you know him. There’s the distinct possibility he is not allowed within 500 feet of schools or playgrounds. The same should apply to your daughter.

Brian, AKA, The Hippy Stoner:
The only shining light with this guy, he’ll be too stoned to knock your little baby up. Too stoned to make out, too stoned to show up for the date actually. The only threat this guy has is if he Puff-Puff-Passes to your angel. Down with dope, up with hope! This guy has to go to Rehab or it’s no, no, no to date your girl. Besides, his t-shirts and music choices probably give you flashbacks. Keep this guy away, for both your sakes.

The Entire Cast of OZ, AKA, The Ex-Con:
Have you ever seen an episode of Oz? Taken a jailhouse tour? Visited Uncle Freddy on Sundays? This is a no brainer. Your kid starts dating any one of these guys, move. Change your name. Flee.

Brad Bottig, AKA, The kid who doesn’t know he’s gay:

This one hurts. This one you have no idea how to handle, for many reasons. It’s someone’s sexuality we’re talking about. But it’s also your little girl’s heart. Heartbreak is heartbreak, whether you get dumped for another girl or guy. But when you look at all of the above choices, this guy is the safest and will be able to help you pick out an outfit for Girls Night Out. Bonus.

Did I miss anyone? I hope not. I have to keep this list handy. These teenage dating years are creeping up quick.

Happy Mother’s Day! Now go and read your teen’s diary, just to be sure. Also, take urine and hair samples, and stalk her on Facebook and Twitter.