Friday, December 6, 2013

Jane and Henry

            Jane Austen and I enjoy an occasional acquaintance. I open one of her novels, catch a whiff of printer’s ink and rose water, and suddenly she is with me. She waits patiently until I close her book before she asks her questions.
            “It certainly is warm here, yet I see no hearth!”
            I point to the radiator. “The fire that warms this contrivance is in the root cellar.”
            “How clever, though a fire can be very merry. Where are we going?”
            “To the kitchen,” I say. “I've left the dishes rather too long.”
            “What?” she says as I scrape the egg yolk off my breakfast plate. “Are you doing that yourself?”
            “Here in the colonies, the few servants available work only for the very rich.”
            “How vexing!” She watches, captivated as I turn off the water. “Water comes right from the walls, does it?”
            I improvise: “The wall makes it. Now look at this, Jane.”  I go to my desk and turn on my computer.
            “What a wonderful little lamp!” she exclaims politely, though I can see she is appalled by its ugliness. “Where does the oil go?”
            “Actually, Jane, this is more like pen and paper than it is like a lamp.” I point to the keyboard.
            “Letters!” She says. “But it must take so very long to search out the correct -- Oh!” She cries, for I have begun to type, and my speed is positively dizzying.
            She reads over my shoulder, delighted with what she sees. “What beautiful sentiments! What lovely language!”
            “Thank you,” I say.
            She reads my work aloud: “We the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union… You must be very studied in matters of state!” With a sideways glance at my person, she ventures, “Perhaps this occupation, which belonged only to the men of my day, is the reason you go about in trousers?”
            “My attire is not entirely unrelated to democratic government,” I say to cover the fact that my furious typing has stopped. I am finished with the Preamble, and now I am at a loss. The Preamble is all I know. My eye alights on a slip of paper, and I wince with immediate regret. A schedule I'd written for myself the night before lies in full view on my desktop.
Before I can hide it, Jane says, “I fear I am keeping you from your work.”
            “Not at all, don't give it a thought!”
            “But here it says that you were to begin revisions on your novel at eight AM, and I've selfishly kept you occupied with my own writing these many hours. Do not let me prevent you! I am quite content to amuse myself with a novel from your library until teatime.”
            “It is nearly teatime, now,” I say, wondering if I have any cookies left in the cupboard. I begin to rise from my desk when I hear a throat primly cleared.
            “Oh, I haven't any appetite, and you must be eager to begin your work.”
            “Naturally,” I say, sitting down again. “You are too good.”
            She walks to my bookshelf and peruses the selection. When her back is turned, I feverishly type the Preamble to the Constitution a few more times. I have to stop, though, when she stations herself on the divan in perfect position to view my computer screen.
She opens The Tropic of Capricorn.
            I open the file containing my novel. I look at the first sentence. There are no truths universally acknowledged, and no one is uniting the best blessings of existence. Morality is so absent from the page that not even morality’s absence is a commentary on anything.
            “Do you call this writing?” I hear Jane mutter to herself. “This is obscene.”
            I give her such a look that my true sentiments are fully, visibly expressed.
            “Oh, dear!” She cries upon seeing my countenance. “I am sure your writing is everything this is not!” She holds up Henry Miller. “I am only on page one and already confronted with such grotesque offenses!”
            Suddenly the overwhelming odor of printer’s ink and human effluence pervades my apartment. With dread I realize the smell is coming from my bedroom. He is doubtless reclined on my clean sheets, utterly naked. I can only hope he has bathed recently. “Obscenity is a concept employed by the cowardly,” he mutters, his voice resonating through the wood of the bedroom door. I am momentarily relieved that he’s said no more, until he adds, “you prudish, frigid husk.”
            “Who is here!?” Jane whispers, alarmed.
            I move in front of the bedroom door. “It was the man delivering more water.”
            “I thought the water was made in the wall!” She says, agitated.
            “Someone has to put in the ingredients, doesn't he?”
            “I suppose,” she says suspiciously, but delicacy prevents her from pursuing the subject further. “Perhaps a walk would be in order,” she mumbles.
            “Yes, Jane, you are looking pale,” I say by way of excusing my readiness to usher her out.
            She gathers her shawl about her shoulders, ties a bonnet under her chin, and walks through my front door, muttering, "Boar." Or maybe it was "bore."
            “Overrated priggish little noodle,” I hear growled from my bedroom.
            “Yeah, well I only read you for graduate credit,” I remind him.
            “Oh? And who reads you?”
            It is best to ignore him. And I should work on my first sentence, I remind myself. I should make it perfect.
            Maybe not perfect. Maybe just good.
            But what is good?
            The question is terrifying enough to warrant a good gorging. I get the cookies from the cabinet, pick up the Tropic of Capricorn, and head for the bedroom.
            “My god you’ve gotten fat.” He leers.
            “Move over.” I kick at a hairy leg.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Nation’s fat lazy husbands wish their wives looked more like Angelina Jolie

A recent Pew Study has found that up to 60% of American fat lazy husbands wish their wives looked like Angelina Jolie. The other 40% of those surveyed mentioned such unattainable actresses as Megan Fox, Scarlett Johansen, and Jessica Alba.

When asked to comment on their choices, one respondent said, “It’s just you can really tell Angelina works hard at her appearance, you know? She’s always got her hair fixed nice, and her makeup looks good. And I think she’s got really nice taste in evening gowns. My wife…” Respondent pauses to think while scratching a fungus growing in the folds of skin between his fat rolls, “I mean I’m lucky if she puts on a tube top, you know?” Other respondents echoed similar concerns while picking at hairy moles, pulling underwear out of their butt cracks, or pausing to swallow a large mouthful of under-chewed meatball sandwich.

Respondents’ wives were too busy cleaning their houses, earning a living, mothering their children, and working out at the gym to comment.

(If I wrote for The Onion)

((And for the record, my husband is neither fat nor lazy. He's actually very cute.))

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Learning to talk - (Beware: F-Bombs.)

            I have a two year old daughter who is a big talker, but like a lot of kids her age, she has trouble with certain sounds. Lately almost every vowel that comes out of her mouth sounds like “uh.” So our conversations go like this:
            “Fuhk.” She jabs her hand into the air in the direction of the kitchen counter.
            “What honey?”
            “Fuhk. Fuhk.”
            I go to the counter and randomly pick up objects –a wooden spoon, a ladle. “This? This?”
            “No! Fuhk!”
            “Point to it, honey,” I say as the sweat soaks through my shirt.
            I finally realize that she wants a fork, except she can’t have one because she’s only allowed to have them during mealtime lest she remove one of her sisters’ eyeballs with it.
            “Not now honey. You can have a fork at lunch time.”
            At which point she throws herself on the floor, kicking and screaming, “FUUUUUUUUUUUHK!!! FUUUUUUUUUUUUHK!!!”
            My thoughts exactly.
            She also has trouble making the “th” sound, and so she’ll substitute, “f” for it. This linguistic peccadillo becomes especially awkward when the grandparents come to visit.
            “Thank Grandpa for the new Elmo doll,” I say as I pick up torn wrapping paper from the floor.
            “Thak,” she says around the wad of red fur in her mouth.
            My heart leaps with hope. She almost said it right! “Take Elmo’s hand out of your mouth and speak clearly.”
            She sweetly obliges, climbs onto grandpa’s lap, places one chubby hand on either side of his face, and says quite clearly, “Fuhk you, Pop Pop.”
            My father is hard of hearing, and he bends his ear toward her. “What honey?”
            “Fuhk. You.”
            “What?” he says, refusing to believe his own senses.
            “FUHK! YOU!!!” she yells into his face, and runs off with Elmo trailing behind.
            Grandpa looks at me, pearly blue eyes clouded with confusion.
            “Just say you’re welcome,” I tell him.
            The problem is that anyone who knows my husband and me are aware we suffer from the condition of potty mouth. Like every conscientious couple, when I was pregnant we resolved to purge all swears from our vocabulary so that on the auspicious day we would be curse-free. For months we were pure of mouth and thought, somewhat, and on the inaugural day of our parenthood we believed we’d been adequately conditioned to avoid the salty side of the English language. The problem is that when you become a parent, your stress reaches a level heretofore unimagined. You can find yourself pacing the living room at three in the morning, not having slept four consecutive hours for weeks, with an infant inexplicably screaming in your ear. When your husband asks you if you’re absolutely certain you mixed the formula correctly as he examines it under the light... I defy anyone not to release a few expletives under these conditions.
           So I feel a little guilty that, during moments of extreme duress, I might have relieved myself of a few fu*ks within my daughter’s hearing. A worry nags at the back of my mind that my predilection for cursing is what led to her phonetic confusion. To make matters worse, I think she has begun to notice the flicker of shame on my face whenever she says it, because lately she’s been coming up to me when there are no forks in sight, says, “Fuhk,” then visibly enjoys my unease.
            I know in my heart if I tell her to stop saying it, she’ll develop a one-word vocabulary pretty quickly. What’s worse, her vocabulary is expanding, but she can’t say the “T” or “G” sound either. So I do my best to suppress my guilt and let her explore the myriad applications for this combination of phonemes.
            And my favorite, owing to my obliging explanation for where farts come from: Fart=Fuhk Butt. (She can say the “T” sound in “butt” perfectly, but not fart? Do you see why I sometimes wonder if she is, if you’ll excuse the expression, fu*king with me?)
           She’ll grow out of it. Her language skills are developing by leaps and bounds. She’s beginning to explore verbs, in fact, and is even starting to form simple sentences. Even if she has trouble pronouncing letters like “s,” she’s making an effort, and it really is exciting. So when she comes up to me holding her frog toy, lays him gently on a chair, points proudly, and says, “Fuhk shit in chair,” I’m a proud momma, even as my mother in law stares at me in horror.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The defilement of Hannah Montana.

Unless you're living in Antarctica right now, you know that the media has been in an uproar over Miley Cyrus's lascivious performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. My first reaction was: "Meh." Much ado about nothing. But the more I've seen written about it, the more interested I've become, not in Miley's silly dance, but in the media's reaction to it.

A few days ago I watched the dance on YouTube to see what all the fuss was about. There's Miley shaking her tail feathers and simulating oral sex, surrounded by people dressed up as giant plush toys. The choreography didn't wow me, nor did the artistic vision behind the display, but the entire thing is very clearly the work of many professionals. To get something like that together, a juggernaut of producers, choreographers, audio-visual experts, software engineers, costume designers, dancers, and cameramen all had to come together to execute this folly. Miley Cyrus herself must have had an enormous staff of people, from the agents who fought to get her the gig, (which must have been sought after by many performers,) to her make-up artists and hair specialists, not to mention all the dancing lessons and coaching she must have gotten regarding how to properly twerk.

And then: OUTRAGE! How dare Miley Cyrus behave like a wanton slattern, stripping down to her underwear to gyrate so suggestively! Suddenly she is at the center of a disapproval vortex for performing in a dance that someone else designed, being asked to explain herself only to have her absolute dumbest sound-bites published. (Were there any intelligent sounding bites? Perhaps we'll never know.) This twenty year old girl is being grilled rather mercilessly.

Considering, though, all the people involved in the show, I have to ask why isn't anyone else being held accountable? Somehow I doubt the dancing puppets, the twerking, or even the song were all Miley's idea. After all, she was hired for this gig by somebody, and told what was expected of her. She was given a job to do, and she did it.

I did a quick web search looking for the names of the choreographers and producers who are ultimately responsible for the show, but I couldn't turn up any interviews done with them. All the attention and scorn is for Miley. I went to the MTV website and found triumphant reports of Miley's record sales skyrocketing, and proud mention of how her name dominates social media. She sure is cashing in on all that disapproval, and so are a lot of other people. So I can't help wondering: Wasn't she just trying to do what they asked of her? And I'm sorry to say this, but at the age of twenty, I would never expect her to have the kind of judgment an older woman would have. She's young, ambitious, she wanted to please her bosses.

In the final analysis, what I see when I look at that performance is a young woman's body being exploited --by a multinational corporation, by producers, by music executives, and by herself. Was she a victim? Not at all. She was more than complicit in that performance; she obviously embraced it. But I have to wonder at all the many people behind that dance number, the people pulling all the strings to make it happen, and question why twenty year old Miley is the only one sitting on hot coals.

To me the answer is obvious: Because the ones behind the scenes are mostly wealthy middle aged businessmen, and she is a young woman.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, I'm pulling out the sexism card.

As soon as a woman exposes her body to suggest sexuality, she is labeled a slut. No matter that she was fulfilling a contract, no matter that a thousand other people are making money off what some see as her degradation. She's called the slut. She's named the whore. My personal reaction to her dance was to feel a little grossed out, but rather than heap all responsibility on her head, I think the responsibility can be spread around to plenty of other people who made the cynical choice to display her that way for the sake of money. They knew exactly what would happen in the media, and probably so did Ms. Cyrus. This tempest in a teapot is every bit as choreographed as Miley's twerking, only in this case, you and I are the performers, and we are fulfilling our role splendidly.

We are talking about it, we are blogging about it, tweeting and twerking about it. We are dancing where they want us to go, and with us come our dollars. Because they knew that nothing gets people more worked up than seeing a young woman unapologetically embracing her role as a sexual object. If it hadn't been Hannah Montana it would have been someone else, but they chose Miley because a few short years ago she had a wholesome, spotless image, and turning that image on its head would provoke the most heated response, and bring in the most money.

I don't have a problem with Miley Cyrus. I have a problem with the system that made such a display so damn profitable.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tales of School Humiliation: Chapter One

The thing about middle school is that you are thrown into close proximity with people who you would never socialize with by choice. The kids tend to self sort, so the smarties hang out together, and the burn-outs corner a table in the lunch room from which they emit their dreadful vibes. But that doesn't mean you won't get stuck sitting next to someone who loathes your very soul in math class.

There was this one guy I remember from school who seemed to see into the very pit of my being and recognize some irredeemable shortcoming there. His name was Mark Something. I didn't think much of him either. I was always a good student, and he never seemed to try very hard. He was kind of chunky, and he walked with the kind of lumbering gait you see more often on a middle aged retiree. We were in band together, and he was a consummate musician. He played the French horn, or the Souzaphone, or some large, curly brass instrument. I played rhythm piano, quite poorly I might add, which probably didn't do anything to dispel his contempt.

It was people like this I learned to avoid. I sat with my speech team compadres at lunch, I hung out after school with my goofball pal Annika, I avoided parties altogether. In short, I was not very sociable, though I felt like I ought to be, and to be honest, that hasn't changed much even three decades later.

I wasn't without my petty rebellions, though. One day I wrote on the corner of my desk, "This sucks." I thought I'd gotten away with something occult and mysterious. I'd defaced public property! I was a true rebel! Imagine my surprise when the next day I discovered that someone who sat in my desk during another period wrote a reply: "No kidding." I had a partner in crime! Naturally I don't remember the conversation, but it went something like this:

"School is boring."
"I hate social studies."
"Who cares what the Netherlands exports?"
"You got a problem with tulips?"
"Yeah. I got a problem with tulips. What of it?"

Like that. Meaningless banter, but kind of funny, kind of entertaining, and healing to my introverted soul.

Finally, after a couple weeks of this exchange, I committed a fatal error. I finally breached the firewall of our concealed identities, and asked the name of my desk buddy. The reply came: "Mark Something. Who are you?"

Mark Something? The guy who loathes me in band? The chubby guy who walks like my grandpa? Mark SOMETHING? I was very disappointed.

I wrote something I wish very much I hadn't. I wrote: "I'm Amy Ryan. I'm not thrilled about it either."

And boom. When I saw Mark Something in band class his loathing had morphed into a complete withdrawal of any kind of emotion whatsoever. He no longer looked into my being and found it wanting. He no longer looked at me at all. I did not exist to him. All desk banter stopped.

And ever since, I can't help wondering if I'd left that last bit off. If I'd just told him my name and waited for his reaction, if he might have become my friend? We had a connection after all. If I hadn't assumed that he would be bummed out to see my name under his, if I hadn't been so defensive, maybe band class could have become fun instead of boring, and I'd have made a friend instead of an enemy.

That is one of thousands of moments in my life I wish I could go back and fix. Mark Something, if you're reading this, I'm sorry I ruined it. You can write on my desk anytime.

That's the problem, though. I will probably never see him again, and even if I did, I doubt I'd recognize him. But I remember what happened. It has stayed with me through the decades, even haunted me a little, as though it were whispering in my ear that I was supposed to learn something from it.

The connections we have with people make life interesting and worthwhile. Before our desk graffiti, I had a connection with Mark, even if it was defined by a mutual dislike. The graffiti could have changed that, and gave us a chance to create a different mode in our relation to each other, but I was too stubborn to let my idea of our connection change. With one sentence I gave Mark a reason to sever our tie altogether. Maybe if I'd been willing to tolerate the ambiguity of our relationship, something even more special and interesting than our desk graffiti would have happened. But I couldn't tolerate that ambiguity. I had to keep defining us as enemies, so I wasn't open to anything else. Something about that negative definition felt safer to me than the possibility of change.

If I hadn't been defensive, if I'd just let my name hang there, he might have responded meanly, or he might have decided to offer friendship. I couldn't have done anything to prevent him from putting me down if he'd wanted to. My only power in the situation was how I behaved. I don't know if I let Mark Something down, but I think I did let myself down a little in the name of self protection. I don't know if the experience really changed me, or if I learned anything from it at the time. I think I was too young to think very deeply about what this exchange meant for me and the way I related to the world. But I can think about it now.

It reminds me of a quote from the poet W.H. Auden: "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?"

So here's what I think: My definition of Mark Something as an enemy was actually useless. It was useless to define him at all. A better attitude would have been to accept the fact that I had no idea how he would react to seeing my name written on that desk. I had no control in the situation. Trying to maintain our old orientation to each other, persisting in seeing him as my enemy, was cowardly. If I'd been brave, if I'd been open to change, I might have a happy memory of that time instead of a sad one.

It is better to face the world with an open heart than a closed one.

Sometimes it's better to let your name stand alone.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A minute a week.

I've been an on again, off again runner for most of my adult life. When I'm off, it's because I've overdone it and injured myself. When I'm on, instead of enjoying the run I'm on, I'm always thinking about how far I'm GOING to be able to run. I would read articles written by seasoned marathoners, and followed the advice of these experts who tell you that you can build your mileage quickly if you take a one minute walking break in the middle of a run, or that you can increase your mileage ten percent per week. I dutifully followed these rules, confident I was doing what I was 'supposed' to do, yet they still led to injury. I would end up with a wicked case of plantar fasciitis, runner's knee, or incredibly painful clicking hip joints. I thought for a long time that soreness is simply a part of running, that it's normal. After all, most runners' magazines are filled with tips about how to wrap sore feet or properly ice a throbbing knee, so I ignored what my body was telling me. The truth is, I am an impatient person, I want what I want right now, and if that means I have to damage my body trying to reach my goal, I tend to grit my teeth and try to run through the pain --until I can't anymore.

Since the last time I was running in my mid thirties, I've had my kids, put on a bit of weight, and turned forty. For a while I tried to tell myself that I can't run anymore, that I shouldn't even try it. Instead I walked, or used my elliptical trainer. After all I've got kids to keep up with. I can't afford to be limping around after them. But I miss running. Nothing makes me feel stronger. So a couple months ago, I got an idea. What if it is possible for me to run pain free? What if I went even slower than the experts tell me to go?

So I started running again, but I'm building my miles at a snail's pace. The first week I got back to running, I ran for one minute. Was I tempted to go farther? Hell yes. It felt good to be on the trails again, but when my timer ran out, I quit and walked the rest of the way. The next week I ran for two minutes. I've continued the pattern for ten weeks now. I figure, since I'm slow, that once I reach twelve minutes of running I'll have broken the mile. The impatient voice inside my head demands, "According to the experts, I could be running a 5K by now!" But I ignore that voice. I'm no longer trying to be the hare. I'm going for turtle.

It's agonizingly slow, it's frustrating, but you know what? I've been running for three months now, and I don't have plantar fasciitis, runner's knee, or clicking hips. I'm not limping. Instead of listening to experts about what my body should be able to deliver, I'm listening to my body, and it's working.

For a long time I made the mistake of trying to fit into the expectations of other people. I ignored the pain, which was a message from my body that I didn't fit into the experts' rubric, that I am different from the norm. Maybe my body is more fragile, maybe my joints are too loose and wobbly for me to ever be a marathoner, but maybe, if I pay attention to the signals I'm getting from my feet, knees, and hips, and take it slow, after another year of running I might finally reach my goal of five miles.

It's taken me four decades to accept myself as I am, to stop trying to measure up to an ideal that simply isn't possible for me. Just because I can't measure up to the ideal doesn't mean I should give up on something I enjoy. So what if I'll never run a marathon? I accept that. And, if I find my upper mileage limit is three instead of five, I'll accept that too. I'd rather run a regular three miles for the next ten years than run five miles this year, only to burn out and quit again. The important thing is to keep running, and to do it in a way that respects my body.

Monday, August 26, 2013

What I've been up to.

When I am writing to meet a deadline, I just don't write much on my blog. I've been feverishly working on my next novel, FLAME, which ought to come out in January sometime. I just turned it in to my editor on Friday, and it's going right into copy editing this week. This was by far the most difficult of the three Sky Chaser novels to write because I had to tie up about a thousand pages of story into a meaningful denouement. I feel good about the end product, and I hope my readers enjoy it.

Other than that, I've been raising my cute kids, walking my dogs, and tending my garden. As the summer wore on I became less and less attentive to my garden, but once things are planted they tend to take care of themselves. I've got tomatoes, beans, lettuce, and carrots to harvest, so much that I'm not always sure what to do with it!

Now that I'm not on deadline, I'll have lots more time for my blog, and I'm looking forward to getting back into it. I've sadly neglected my online presence, but the nice thing about the internet is it's never too late to dive in!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

RUBY'S FIRE by Catherine Stine

I'm excited to help sound the clarion call for my friend Catherine Stine's new e-book, Ruby's Fire!
If you're interested in imaginative science fiction with a romantic twist, you should check it out! Here is an excerpt and some links to help you find (or win!) a copy of RUBY'S FIRE, book TWO in the innovative FIRESEED series.

Danger! Is Ruby falling for the wrong guy? A short excerpt

“I didn’t know you cared,” I tease. “Do you?”
Blane shrugs. I know he can’t answer those kinds of questions. Instead of answering, he places the mask on my head. His fingers, fastening the straps at the back of my head shoot fire through me. His body, so close makes my chest swell with confusion and desire. Why am I so sensitive to his presence?
I press him. “Why do you always stare at me from the window? Why do you ask me questions with your eyes and not your mouth? What do you want with me?”
He stands his ground, his boots planted apart. His silent confidence angers me.
“I asked you what you wanted. Do you want to kiss me? Huh?” I ask with more fury than I intended.
He lowers his head and kicks at the sand. “Why are you such a tease? You’re either too remote or flirting in an angry way. What happened to you at that place, Ruby? What did they do to you?”
“What did they do to me? Hah! What didn’t they do to me?” I barrel on, looking over Blane’s shoulder at one of the dunes. “That man you saw claimed me when I was five. He beat me.” I hold up my bad hand. “He cut off three of my fingers. He would’ve assaulted me if I hadn’t run!” I pause to catch my breath. My knees are ready to cave. As at peace as I was before, the memory of what I went through renders me a furious, quaking catastrophe in seconds. “And you have the nerve to ask me why I’m such a mean tease?” That hurts. Armonk has said as much, about me being seductive. But why should I tell Blane that he’s the second guy to tell me this? “I have a question for you,” I fire back. “Why are you such a brute?”
He flinches. Hurt dims the light in his eyes. Is that what we are to each other? Punching bags? No, I won’t play that game. There’s good in Blane. He dragged Thorn and me in to safety when we passed out in the sun. He saved me from Stiles that night. He defended me against Jan. Blane might be a brute but brute force is sometimes what’s required. And I sense that there are more layers below.
“I had to get strong to survive,” he whispers, so low that I need to move closer to hear him. “I couldn’t protect my brother, Percy. I couldn’t protect my family. I vowed to always be stronger after that.”
“You got too strong, too mean,” I tell him.
“You too, Ruby.”
“You helped me get rid of Stiles,” I admit. “And I never told you what that meant to me.”
“No, you went off with Armonk.”
“You didn’t give me a chance because you stormed off so fast,” I tell him. I raise my head to Blane’s solid neck, to the honey-brown stubble on his chin and up to his eyes—locking gaze-to-gaze, fire-to-fire. “I do like Armonk, as a friend.” Why am I admitting all of this? Why?
I feel Blane’s heart beating out of his suit. Or is it my heart that’s beating out of my chest? He steps closer. His warm sea apple breath drifts onto my cheeks. I breathe him in. This is dangerous madness. He reaches for me, hungrily, desperately. Our masks bump awkwardly against each other as we kiss.


“Seventeen year-old Ruby and her little brother Thorn, have only known a life blighted by the extremist Fireseed Cult. The night Ruby is set to be claimed by one of its cruelest and oldest leaders, she makes a bid for freedom. With Thorn in tow, she stumbles into the world beyond, and finds an opportunity for a fresh start in Skull’s Wrath under the guidance of Nevada Pilgrim, a woman who may not be all she seems. Ruby's new life could bring her friendship, love, even fortune, but nothing comes without a price. Is Ruby's talent for elixirs keeping the roof over their heads, or do some of her associates have a more sinister and lucrative interest in them? Life outside a strange cult isn't without its dangers, and the experience leaves Ruby transformed and communing with the Fireseed more closely than she ever would have imagined. Stine delivers a thrilling adventure led by an exciting cast of characters, and the romance is really well handled.”   -YA’s The Word

BIO summer 2013
Catherine Stine

Catherine Stine writes YA, New Adult and middle grade fiction. Her YA futuristic thriller, Fireseed One, illustrated by the author won finalist spots in both YA and Science Fiction in the 2013 USA Book News International Book Awards. It was also granted a 2013 Bronze Wishing Shelf Book Award and a 2013 Indie Reader Approved notable stamp. Her YA Refugees, earned a New York Public Library Best Book. Middle grade novels include A Girl’s Best Friend.

Fireseed One sequel, Ruby’s Fire is earning advance praise from reviewers and authors:
“Ruby's Fire, returns to the sun-scorched earth of Fireseed One. In this long-awaited sequel, Stine delivers a thrilling adventure led by a new and exciting cast of characters. Ruby, Armonk, Thorn and Blane are memorable, and the romance is really well handled. Favorite quote: " It feels wrong to lean on Armonk right now with Blane staring at me, a hungry, lonely look in his eye. It’s as if he’s never been hugged, never been fed, never been loved..." ”  -YAs the Word

More and more, Catherine enjoys writing speculative tales where her imagination has wild and free reign. She has taught creative writing workshops at the Philadelphia Writing Conference, Missouri University Summer Abroad, The New School and in her own ongoing NYC writing workshop. She loves her readers, and enjoys blogging.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How to Tell You're Dating a Jerk

Here is a list, compiled from my long, ignoble dating career, that will help the young ladies or gentlemen spot a dud early on. (Below I use the pronoun "he" for brevity's sake, but I suspect many of these observations apply to jerks of the female persuasion too.)

1. He doesn't laugh at your jokes. This is a lame power play, and a subtle way of embarrassing you.
2. He is rude to your friends or family. If he's a nice guy and he really likes you, he would want to please the people in your life, not drive a wedge between you and them.
3. He stands you up, and not because his car broke down. He felt like doing something else instead. No brainer, right? Dump him.
4. He blatantly ogles other girls while he's with you. This is impolite and uncool. You're the one he's with. He should be paying attention only to you.
5. He lets his buddies make jokes at your expense, or speak rudely to you. Any guy worth hanging out with has nice friends, and won't let anyone treat you with disrespect.
6. He talks meanly about girls he's dated in the past. If he pulls out the "B" word about another girl when he's on a date with you, he'll probably say something nasty about you later on too.
7. He doesn't make eye contact with you while you're talking. There is shyness, and then there is rude disregard. Learn to tell the difference.
8. You find yourself making excuses for him, or you spend a lot of time trying to understand his behavior. A jerk acts like a jerk because he is a jerk. Nice guys don't need excuses made for them.
9. He's mean to animals or younger siblings. This is a sure sign of a bully. A good guy doesn't use his strength to hurt someone who can't defend themselves. Get this guy out of your life ASAP.
10. He bosses you around. "Don't do this." "Do that." A good guy asks nicely, says please, and doesn't expect obedience.

The sexier a guy is physically, the more likely you are to stick around past his expiration date. The best way a young woman can protect herself and stop wasting time on jerks is to think clearly and logically, look at the behavior, and not let her mind get too clouded by hormones. Easier said than done. But I do wish I'd had a list like this when I was a teen and even into my twenties, and I wish I'd run from the guys I describe above. Time is precious. Don't waste it on someone who doesn't deserve it.