Monday, February 27, 2012

And The Next Contestant Is...

I can't decide whether to gush over "Act of Valor" or "Walking Dead" this morning, so I'm going to skip both for now and talk about writing contests.

I'm pretty new to this contest thing.  I joined RWA a couple of months ago and went to one chapter meeting...I'm definitely a "stick your toe in the water, wait five minutes, then submerge to one ankle" kind of a girl.  Let's not rush it!

But then, since I was finally an RWA member, my crit parters, Mary and Dawn, suggested that I enter something in the NTRWA Great Expectations, after a whopping 48 hours of furious editing and emailing back and forth, "I" entered.  I say "I", because if Mary and Dawn hadn't been willing to tear apart my entry six ways to Sunday, it wouldn't have gotten out the e-door. 


"I" placed fifth out of 13 in the Contemporary Series category, and got some great feedback.  Some of it was conflicting advice, which was also helpful...what one judge liked, another didn't.  So I kept that part. 

So now "I" have taken those suggestions; and have been tormenting Mary and Dawn again, and am going to enter NEORWA's Cleveland Rocks contest.  We'll see.  I may have edited the life out of it, but maybe not. 

I'm also going to be judging, which is going to be even more interesting!  I took a judging workshop, and learned a lot.  I'm practicing how to say "don't quit your day job" in different words.  Like:"Please keep writing in your spare time, some day you'll learn how to use "spell check.""

And, as The Big Guy often reminds me, I do know that I live in a glass house. 


And now for something completely different: 

Last night was Zombie night. Yeah, I know, there was some awards show on, I did see J Low in a Saran Wrap dress, but I figure I'll get the highlights from MSN this morning and not have to sit through all the speeches and commercials. 

I know I've said it before, but I love, love, love AMC's Walking Dead.  They throw in a few nasty zombies every week, and last night's episode was especially crunchy and squishy.  But it's not about zombies.  It's about relationships.

Last night, Rick, who wears the white hat, had it out with his BFF Shane, who wears a camoflage hat. 

I totally think Shane (on the right there), is smoking hot.  It's that bad boy thing, dontchaknow.

Rick always tries to do the right thing...the traditional, what we all believe is the right thing thing. 
But the zombie apocalypse has come, and the rules have changed.  And Shane is working hard to redefine things.  It's not quite clear how pure his motives are, but he does what he does with a lot of angst and nice muscles.

My Kentucky girl is also a bit in love with Daryl, who wasn't on last night.  At. All. 

In the last episode, Daryl hinted that his unresolved childhood issues might be coming to the surface.  Okay, maybe "hinting" is a weak verb in this instance.  He pretty much went on a rant at Carol, his possible love interest, and it was pretty clear that he wasn't upset about what he said he was upset about.  That's as clear as the muddy water in an episode of Hillbilly Handfishing.  You just had to be there.  So maybe you should be there next week, and more will be revealed?

We also went to see Act of Valor yesterday.  That's the movie with the real-life Navy Seals.  It was pretty intense.  It also requires kleenex. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

If you Woke Up and Channing Tatum Said He Was Your Husband...

Some things just don't add up. 

My daughter and I went to see The Vow the other night, and after I got over my annoyance at all the skanky women in the theatre drooling over my imaginary boyfriend, settled back to enjoy the view.

If you aren't familiar with the story, The Vow is "based on true events" about this couple who are all in love, and they have a car accident, and the wife gets amnesia and doesn't remember meeting or marrying the husband.  She wakes up thinking it's five years ago when she was engaged to another guy and living with her parents, and in law school. 
So here is my problem: 
When Rachel McAdams wakes up from her medically induced coma, and CT is standing over her bed, and he tells her he's her husband, she's all like, "Go away". 



And he gets all devastated when she doesn't remember him right away...I'm no neuroscientist (Oh, wait.  Yes, I am), but I know enough about head injuries (mostly from personal experience and reading romance novels) that doctors are going to warn you that there can be some confusion when the patient wakes up.  But he's still run-out-of-the-room-and-collapse-next-to-the-Pepsi-machine devastated.  I don't think that scene was necessary.  I know that it was intended to show just how much he loves her and stuff, but it just seemed kind of too drama-queen for this moment. 

Then, after she decides she's going to take his word that he's her husband (at least THAT part made sense), he brings her home from the hospital to a big-ass welcome home party, which doesn't go over well.  And he does say, "I didn't know there would be so many people here", but still.  Wouldn't you be more likely to go with, "Hey, some of our friends are going to stop by later", and then have too many people show up? 

After those few dumbass scenes, the movie was pretty good.  There was a lot of clever dialogue, cute, funny, sweet, romantic junk, while CT tries to make his wife fall in love with him. She never gets her memory back, and she moves back home with her parents, and there is pretty major Dark Moment stuff there (and a late-story Save the Cat moment). 

And the nekkid butt scene was cool, but you gotta pay the $10 for that one, I don't have a picture to post here.

So here is my official review:  Great Chick Flick, but don't bother trying to cooerce the Man Unit to go with you...he might snore as loud as the guy in the back row at our theater, and don't expect an Oscar Nomination for Best Actor, (or Best Screen Play)  to come out of this one.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What does "Slow and Easy" Mean to You?

Apparently, "slow and easy" mean completely different things to a 17 year-old boy and a 47 year-old mom. 

But I'm recovered enough now to talk about it. 

Last weekend, the Sam Stanley Experience and I went skiing in West Virginia with our Venture Crew (which is an older, co-ed version of Boy Scouts). 

I learned to ski last winter at our local ski area, and I did...okay.  Okay, if you don't count the minor head injury, the pulled hamstring and the anxiety attack on the ski lift (who knew?  I'm afraid of heights!). 

But like with childbirth, the memory of pain fades. When the chance to go to a "real" resort came around, I gladly waved my hand in the air to organize a trip.  But this year, I decided I was going to do everything, but be extra careful.  I would fight through my fear of heights and figure out how to ride the lift (and how to get off of it without too much damage), and I would go nice and slow and have a good time. 

I found a nice instructor guy to help me figure out the ski lift, and I made it up the beginner hill.  Then I came down the beginner hill.  I felt a little wobbly--as in, my legs were shaking so hard that I almost fell over)--so I decided to take the complimentary beginner lesson.  And I did GREAT.  The nice instructor guys were very complimentary, and at the end of the lesson, said to go down the beginner hill a couple more times, then try Salamander Trail.

Okay:  On that map right there, Salamander Trail is WAY over to the left, it's got a green circle on it.  That means it's the easiest kind.  It's also the longest trail in the area, at 2 miles. 

And my son said, "it's slow and easy, Mom, come on, I'll do it with you!"

So I did.  And it felt really fast. And I fell.  So I got back up, went really fast again, and I fell again.  All within the first 1/4 mile.  And I was scared.  And the Sam Stanley Experience was long gone. 

So I took off my skis, and I walked down that hill.  1 3/4 mile, in 20 degree weather, with snow cannons blowing in my face,  in God-Only-Knows how many feet of snow.  Downhill all the way, fortunately, but O. M. G. 

The upshot of this experience is that I got a major work out, and didn't feel guilty for taking off my boots and putting on my jammie pants for the rest of the day. I lay in my bunk reading a book.  After that, I took a nice long shower and spent the evening, being the hot tea drinking person, with the other adults in the lodge playing Catch Phrase. 

So.  I get to cross something off my bucket list during the Decade of Living Fearlessly: "Learn to ride a ski lift without Xanax". 
"Learn to go down a hill on skis" gets pushed back to next year.  Maybe.  And maybe with Xanax.  

What does "Slow and Easy" mean to you?  Get your mind out of the gutter.  Or keep your mind in the gutter.  Whatever. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Best Science Fair Project EVER, and How I'm Like a Navy SEAL

My daughter's science fair is tonight  (That's not her project, by the way).  She did a good job, all by herself, with only minimal help from me...I was a test subject, and we now know that my heart rate is not affected by classical music.

Allow me to share the story of my own science fair project.  I was in the ninth grade, and I wanted to examine the effects of water pollution on wildlife.  I  bought three goldfish, and put each one in a different jar.

I poured motor oil in one jar, and laundry detergent in another.  The third was my control. 

Interestingly, it took the motor oil fish a few days to die.  I hypothesized that it was lack of oxygen that killed him, rather than acute toxicity, as in the laundry detergent jar...fortunately, I didn't do any further experiments to confirm this. 

I also didn't get a very good grade.

But I DID go on to get both a BA and an MS in Zoology.  Uh huh. Yeah.  And I have been earning a living in science for a good 25 years now. 


I am reading a book right now, The Heart and The Fist, by Eric Grietens, who is a SEAL and lots of other nice things. 
The Heart and the Fist: The education of a humanitarian, the making of a Navy SEAL
 In the first or second chapter, Greitens describes his own science fair project, which involved three tulips and a container of water, one of Coke, one of beer. 

Do you see the similarity?  I'm like, OMG, this guy and I could have been separated at birth, give or take ten years.  We have SO much in common. I should totally write to him and invite him to dinner.  We can talk about dumb science fair projects and...okay, maybe not much else.  

Anyway.  I'm really enjoying the's not a complete testosterone-fest (not that I would complain about that), it's very well written, and this guy seems to be doing what he's doing for all the right reasons.  He's also got this group, The Mission Continues, that gives fellowships to post-9/11 veterans to do service work.  I'm a big fan of service work--not just because I'm a nice person, but because it is good for me...keeps me out of my own dark scary places.  Check it out, it's pretty cool.

What about you?  What is your science fair story? 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Press One for American Sign Language

I was watching the newest episode of Justified last night, loving my Marshall in the White Hat:

I just love this show.  It's got all the good stuff...good guy in a white hat, his best friend who's a bad guy, but not a BAD bad guy; lots of BAD bad guys, some romance, humor, lots of plot lines, and a setting that is a little different.

If you aren't familiar with Justified, which is on FX, it's about a US Marshall, Raylan Givens, played by my imaginary boyfriend, Timothy Olyphant.  It's set in rural Kentucky, and it's full of gangsters and drug addicts and drug dealers and gangster drug-dealing addicts.  And most of them are white. And they live in trailers instead of tenements.  They drive trucks instead of cadillacs. Their drugs of choice are meth, oxycontin, and good old fashioned marijuana--not crack, coke, heroine, or whatever other urban drugs are popular (okay, meth seems to be ubiquitous.  But you know what I mean). 

I don't love that rural Kentucky is being painted with a brush that suggests that most people living in trailers in the hills are drug addicts, but it's kind of cool that this show is shining a light on some reality...drugs and crime are hardly unique to urban areas.  On the other hand, I don't think it's cool that people who drive through Appalacian areas are going to be even more worried about hearing banjo music (that was  a Deliverance reference, in case I was being too subtle).  If we are going to be doing racial profiling, is any ethnic group immune?

I was driving to work this morning (from Kentucky to Ohio) and followed a semi that had a big sign on the back that said something along the lines of "Why should I have to press one for ENGLISH?"

I thought, "Really? I guess if you live in ENGLAND you could be bothered--maybe. But you don't, dumbass.  You live in A MELTING POT!"  English was NOT the original language of North America.  It just happened to be the language of the guys who had the most power at one particular time in history.  There are a lot of Spanish-speaking people here.  We need to learn some Spanish, maybe? 

At which point I started thinking about how easy it is to assume that all Spanish speaking people are illegal immigrants, in which case...and then I smacked myself in the head...I don't know what the statistics are, but I would guess that the majority of Latin American immigrants in the US are here legally.  But if you watch the news, you start to think that these people have all gotten here by crawling under some barbed wire and running from border agents. 

Anyway. My point is, that as a writer, how do I know when chracters become offensive stereotypes?  I am working on a story set in semi-rural Kentucky, and I've got some characters who are pretty indigenous to where I live.  The truth is, I do have neighbors who drive trucks with gun racks and rebel flags.  But I also have neighbors who are flaming liberals and soccer moms and Baptist preachers, and Catholic mothers of 13.  Yes, kids, that was not a typo.  13 kids.  Many of whom are home schooled.  And all well-behaved.  Although maybe we need to check behind the shed for a still--there's got to be a secret to how she keeps them all in line. 

So if I include the Catholic mother of 13, can I keep my dental-impaired tobacco-chewing redneck? 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Replacement

The kid thinks she's entitled to keep old What's His Name for her imaginary boyfriend, so being the good mother that I am, I've decided to step aside and find another one.

Jason that's a REAL imaginary boyfriend's name. 

What kind of pansy-ass name is Channing Tatum anyway? Totally made up.  So have at him, daughter-mine!

See, my imaginary boyfriend is cool even in aviator sunglasses.  And he rocks that unshaven look WAY better than you, oh scraggly Shaggy-boy.