Saturday, June 23, 2012

It is too hot.

Too hot for gardening. Too hot for walking dogs. Too hot for playing outside. Too hot for firefighters trying to kill a wildfire. It is too hot.

My garden soil is cracking. The worms are baking dry. The more I water my plants the more they wilt. I stepped outside to spread some mulch, and after ten minutes I looked at my shoulders to discover they had aged 50 years. My skin is wrinkling and sagging, scaling and blowing away in the wind. It is too hot.

I saw a butterfly land on the hood of my car and vaporize, so I mashed up butter in a bowl. I added sugar, flour, spices, and chocolate chips. I spread the dough out on my dashboard to make cookies. They burned. Now my car smells like the Keebler Elves (TM) torched their tree for the insurance money. It is too hot.

I saw a small child step from the shade into the sun and a fine trail of smoke rose from her feathery hair. I called out to her, "It is too hot!" She ran back to the shade, leaving smoking footsteps in the grass behind her. I called the police. They sent a rescue squad. Four strong men in protective clothing wrapped her in non-combustible blankets and rushed her to the ER. She is recovering but the freckles on her nose have joined into a chain that spells out: "It is too hot."

The trees are burning. The grass is burning. The cabins are burning. They were beginning to take the High Park fire in hand, but now...

It is too hot.

Friday, June 22, 2012


I'm getting excited for the release of SPARK, coming up on July 17th! It's always daunting writing a sequel, so I was very relieved when my editor told me she thought it was even better than GLOW. That sentiment has been reiterated again and again, by readers, bloggers, reviewers, and my staunchest critic: my brother. As an 'artiste', I should be above such gratification, but I freely admit I am not. With all this approval flowing in, massaging my fragile writer's ego, I'm feeling pretty good about this book.

I guess I agree that in some ways SPARK is better than GLOW, if only because with the second novel I had room to really get into the characters' minds. I'm especially proud of the work Seth's character does to improve himself. He's not a good guy in GLOW, but now he recognizes his mistakes and flaws, and he wants to try harder to be the kind of man who would deserve Waverly. Kieran, on the other hand, finds himself in increasingly difficult situations as the leader of the Empyrean, and I love how his pure heart gets twisted by the pressure. In SPARK, though, no one is more twisted than Waverly. She's still recovering from what happened on the New Horizon, and her experiences left a mark on her. She's a bit of a loose cannon, and though she always thinks she has good reasons for doing what she does, by the end of the book she has begun to seriously compromise herself. Spark is dark, it's fiery, and it's fun. At least, I had fun writing it and I hope my readers will have fun reading it!

So raise your figurative glass and toast the coming arrival of SPARK! May you read! May you enjoy! May you tell your friends! May they read it and enjoy it too! And may it sell well so my kids can go to college! Hurray for SPARK!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

REPOST from November 3, 2008

I just finished a great book called The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson. Reading good writing always makes me want to write. There's something inspiring about finding a fresh use of language, savoring it, and trying to use it for my own purposes. Some writers fear influence, but this has never made sense to me. Language flows through individual people like tributaries, each of us contributing to the great river of thoughts and sounds that make up the very grand, very adaptable English Language. This is how language changes. Writers should never fear influence from other great writers. I believe reading excellent work is what improves us as craftsmen.

Vibes certainly had many influences. I pulled the device of telepathy as a means of exploring the human condition from the brilliant Ray Bradbury. His work in The Martian Chroniclesuses telepathy to reveal how faulty are our constructions of reality, how individual, how fragile. Emma, by Jane Austen, was also a big influence on Vibes. Emma, just like Kristi, starts out thinking she's got everyone's number, but ends up learning that she is much more deceived and confused than anyone. I think Kristi's caustic wit was also borrowed from Austen, who can be every bit as caustic as any modern teenager. I very purposefully madeVibes a comedy in the Shakespearean sense, for the plot follows the basic outline of Taming of the Shrew in many ways. Kristi is a lot like Katherina, a strong, independent woman who is so protective of herself that she pushes everyone away. Ultimately it takes a man who is equally strong to make her admit that she needs love just as much as she needs independence. Because I allowed myself to be influenced by writers much greater than myself, I believe that my own writing was elevated above what it could have been if I had eschewed all influence.

But what about originality? With so many stories already written, and written better, how is it possible for any writer to really contribute something new? Some say it isn't possible, but I think that originality comes in a continuum. The truly original writers are those who change everything that comes after them. These are the geniuses. Shakespeare, Cervantes, Austen, Hemingway, among others, could be considered the literary lions of their respective centuries. I cannot hope for this level of originality. But I can be original in my own small way. Vibesborrows ideas and devices from great writing that has come before, and combines it to make something that is fresh, even if it isn't wholly new.

Originality doesn't only come in print form. In truth, we are all artists with language because we all speak in our own individualistic way. Everyone has little quirks, odd ways of speaking that help to make people the "characters" they are. These individual characteristics are why every human on earth contributes to the evolution of language. I wonder how many anonymous geniuses coined phrases that rode the waves of our verbiage, changing the way people express themselves. Who was the first person to use the word "dillweed?" How did "tight" replace "cool?" Why did people seize upon the change? What makes the new word feel so fresh and crisp? What makes one person describe a beautiful woman as "phat" and another describe her as "built?" Why are some guys "dawgs" and some "bros?" There are oral Shakespeare's changing our language every day, but few of them get any credit.

I'm reminded of that saying from Heraclitus: "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." Our language changes every time we use it. Perhaps it changes us, too. I might once has been described as a "bird," but now I think I'd be lucky to be called a "betty." Very lucky. I may someday turn into a "cougar," but only if I make a radical lifestyle change and start lifting weights. I used to go around exclaiming, "Man alive!" Now I say "Holy cannoli!" for some reason. I like how it rhymes. I also like how no one else says it. Maybe someday I'll overhear it said on a subway platform or in an airport, and I'll know that a goofy phrase I once uttered entered the English lexicon. I can dream, can't I?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wild fire.

A wild fire is burning in the mountains near where I live. The smoke is thick, and it stings our eyes and burns our throats. It's making my little daughters cough. They couldn't play outside yesterday, and they won't get to today either. We're running an air purifier in our house, and we're thinking of buying more because it still smells like smoke in our living room and the fire shows no sign of slowing down. This could go on for weeks. Even months.

Fires are a natural part of the cycle of any forest in the western United States. What isn't natural are the thousands of dead trees still standing, red tufts among the green, made ready for the flames by years of rampant pine beetle infestations. The pine beetles have been loving the warmer winters we're had over the last two decades. These warmer temperatures were predicted by scientists studying how the climate would change due to man-made pollution. These same people are predicting that temperatures will continue to rise, which means worse tornados, worse wild-fires, worse hurricanes...

There are a lot of people who want to deny that man-made climate change is real. None of them are, however, climate scientists. Sure, Fox News can find the occasional weatherman to act as an "expert" and tell us all to go on using our lawn mowers and driving our giant cars. But a weatherman is not a climate scientist. He's a meteorologist. He studies local weather patterns and makes predictions on a small scale. The climate scientist is the guy who dedicates his life to studying long term global weather trends. Man-made climate change has been tested and re-tested and verified hundreds of times by thousands of scientists. Yet so many people refuse to believe it. Why?

I think a lot of it has to do with a distrust of "experts." Because some experts are wrong some of the time, in some people's minds, they think that means experts as a group are untrustworthy and foolhardy. But this anti-intellectualism isn't the whole problem. Huge corporations spend gazillions of dollars on propaganda designed to make everyone feel better about our present energy and transportation infrastructure, because these companies stand to make a whole lot of money harvesting non-renewable resources like coal and oil and selling it to the very people they're poisoning. Because of these huge propaganda machines, lots of regular people are fully willing to bet the planet that the true experts have got it wrong.

For the sake of argument, let's ignore the science for a moment and imagine there's a 50% chance climate scientists' predictions about climate change are wrong. I'm not such a gambler that I'm willing to bet the entire WORLD on a coin toss. Are you?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Aggressive little minxes.

I've got a friend who, at the tender age of forty-ish, has joined up with the rock'em, sock'em roller derby. She skates like quicksilver around the track and rams into other women with her shoulder, whether her opponent is still in play or not. She gets sent to the box and then sniggers about it on Facebook the next day. She is my hero.

After seeing Drew Barrymore's awesome film Whip It, I considered joining our local derby. I was attracted to the camaraderie and general sassiness it represented. The goofiness was also a plus. I imagined the fun of being part of a team, the thrills of speed, the rewards of skating like a demon in front of a roaring crowd... Then I imagined knee surgery and decided against it.

Not my friend. She is fearless. Daily she writes of her aches and pains with plucky cheerfulness. And her recently posted pics of herself as she cruises around the track, her eyes on the back of a toothsome girl with a blonde ponytail, teeth gritted, eyes ablaze with fury --she's downright scary. And, oh yeah: She took her down.

People like to think that girls don't have that "killer instinct." We belong on the sidelines of battle, ready to tend the wounds and wipe the sweaty brows of our brave fighting men. I myself have no interest in soldiering, but I think the assumption we often make about the docility of women might be a little off. In fact, some of the meanest, most aggressive, black hearted people I know have been women.

So let's hear it for the general bitchiness of our sex. Women are tough. Women are scary. Women are mean. Do not cross us. Or we'll shoulder-check you in the kidneys and gloat at you from the penalty box.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Yesterday was my seventh wedding anniversary, so today hubby and I took a break from being parents and drove to a nearby touristy town to walk around. There were lots of cute shops with colorful merchandise, and plenty of fun stuff to see and people to watch. It was wonderfully freeing to be out and about, wandering around, with nowhere to be, nothing to do, no stinky diapers to change. It was a full day of playing hooky.

We had a beautiful lunch at a mediterranean restaurant, and seriously considered buying some totally awesome lighting fixtures for our house. I thought about a nifty twirly-kite looking thingy for our entryway, and I bought some sandals. It felt like when we were first married, when we had no obligations and life was mostly just about having fun together and making each other laugh. It felt great.

But right around nap time, when it would be time to cuddle my sweethearts and sing them to sleep, I started missing them SO MUCH! There is something so addictive about your children. Their smell, their laugh, their smile... If you're away from them too long you go into withdrawal. So I phoned the sitter and found out they had a good lunch and played hard outside and were basically having a lovely break from being parented. Just like daddy and mommy, maybe they needed a little space too.

When hubby and I walked in the door, though, it was all hugs and kisses and a few minutes of desperate competing for the first cuddle from Mommy and Daddy. I could tell they missed us too.

So all in all, a very good day. Would it have been quite so good a day though if they hadn't so clearly missed us? I don't think so. It's a little selfish of me, but I'm glad they wanted me when I wasn't there.