Killing the Darlings (scene excerpt)

Lately, I’ve been working on the synopsis/story outline for the new YA novella. Unusual for me, at this point, is to be working with my editor at tweaking the story before I’ve even written word one on the story proper. Yet, even this early, there are things I really like about the story about which my editor is saying, “We might want to rethink this a bit.”

Which just goes to show, the darlings, they can be killed at any point in the process and as an author, you have to be prepared to deal. Unless, of course, you’re one of those speshul snowflakes who exists in a vacuum and has reached a point where people are afraid/don’t bother to edit you any longer. In which case, I feel sorry for you because everyone can stand editing.

But that’s a post for another day. Today it’s about killing darlings and while I’m not prepared to share from the new story just yet (mostly because it’s really such a little thing and not much of a darling to kill anyway), I am willing to share one of my absolute favorite darlings from Dorian. 

Oh, how I love this scene. Like BURNING, I love it. I knew when I first wrote it that it was a hell of a scene. When my first readers started telling me that good as it was, it maybe wasn’t going to work, I rebelled. It was such a good scene, dammit. How could it not work? I moved it around in the narrative—I even tried making it the opening scene—but eventually, I had to acknowledge defeat and the fact that my readers, with the distance they had from the story, were right.

Great scene. Just not working for the story as a whole. Out it goes. But I still love it and pull it out from time to time to remind myself what I’m capable of producing.

 

***

The French Quarter, New Orleans

November 2005

Gabriel clenched one end of the tourniquet between his teeth and pulled tight, rapidly opening and closing his left fist and slapping the fingers of his right hand along the crook of his elbow, pausing only to feel for the telltale rise of the vein.  Praying for it to come up faster, sooner…

There… there

He unclenched his jaw, the filled syringe he’d been holding between his teeth dropping into his palm.  Quickly, he adjusted his grip and plunged the needle into the vein, his head dropping back against the weathered brick wall of the alley as the juice burned through his bloodstream and the familiar euphoria washed over him, ebbing and flowing in time with the rowdy strains of “Iko Iko” that drifted from some nearby club.

Look at my king all dressed in red

Iko iko an nay

“I bet you five dollars he’ll kill you dead,” he sang along in his head—he thought—until he heard the cheer and answering chant of “Jockomo feena nay!” from the group weaving through the lights glowing at the far end of the alley, pointing the way toward the noise and rowdiness of Bourbon.  A little more subdued, maybe, but signs of life were evident, the parties of the Quarter staging a return.  Celebrating survival.  Shooting a big, civic finger at that fucking storm.  That mean-assed bitch had blown into town, done her damage, then left them scrabbling in her left-behind shit like the goddamned Lord of the Flies.  But she could just go fuck herself—she’d been banished and they were still here.  Still here and not going anywhere.  Not anytime soon, no sir.

Sweat trailed along his scalp and around his ear, cold and sinuous as a snake.  No… no…  He fucking hated snakes.  Blinking rapidly, he tried to dispel the image, rubbing his back against the rough bricks to get rid of the feeling of something dark slithering down his neck and along his arm, leaving a dank, clammy trail in its wake, like it’d just come sliding up from the bayou.

The syringe dropped from suddenly nerveless fingers to join the rest of the crap littering the narrow alley—this sliver between two ancient buildings just wide enough to trap the shadows.  Perfect for a quickie, whether it was with someone—or something—you wouldn’t normally be caught dead with out there, even in the hedonistic surroundings of the Quarter.  Their remains lay underfoot: the mélange of cigarette butts and crushed go-cups, used syringes and condoms that had a way of tripping up tourists stupid enough to try to use the alley as a shortcut. 

Why was he thinking of all this shit?  He was trying to forget the bad.  Forget the sting of cold water against his face—cold that was alien to New Orleans in August.  Forget fighting against the wind and rain, trying to convince folks to leave, that he’d drive them to the Dome, to the Convention Center, to anywhere that wasn’t where the storm was trying to beat her way into their house… the House of the Rising Sun, the Crescent City, the Big Easy…

So easy… It had once been so easy.  It needed to be easy again. 

He never used to trust easy.  Easy was for suckers and the lazy.  Live long enough in New Orleans, though, and a body eventually succumbed.  Easy was their way of life after all.  Even when working hard, there was a welcome, sugar-drenched easiness about everything that made it home.

A screaming trumpet line wailed through the heavy, humid air bathing him in the soothing warmth of home.  So warm, even late, late at night, with the shadows and ghosts as his only company.  Just like he liked it.

The familiar lethargy began claiming him, sweet and relaxing, from his fingertips through his muscles and all the way down to his bones, making him feel as if he was sinking right into the weathered bricks, merging with the building.  So perfect.  He could be a sentry, standing guard, watching everyone go about their business… doing the things they did, good and bad, that gave the city a richness like sweet cream, that kept folks coming back, even now.  She was like a lady past her prime, ragged round the edges but still damned fine enough to attract all the boys and knowing it.

He smiled, rubbing his palms over the rough surface beneath them, caressing life back into the old girl, letting her know he thought she was still hot.  He’d never leave her for any of those sleeker, bigger cities with their promise of shiny and new.  Hell, why would he leave?  All that sleek shininess, it was bullshit—a smokescreen hiding all the same sorts of darkness.  At least New Orleans, she was honest and true. 

Rolling his head to the side, he peered down the tunnel-like expanse of the alley, the dark length lithe and supple, his beautiful girl reaching out to embrace him.  Slowly, he began making his way toward the movement—so fucking beautiful, bodies moving together, then apart then together again, a long, graceful arm reaching out to him, imploring, beseeching—

“Please—”

He blinked again, smiled at her request, tried to move a few steps closer, stumbling as muscle and bone rebelled, wanting to stay, the weathered bricks tightening their embrace as if wanting him to sink into every pore and crack.

“Help me, please—”

It was the darkest part of the alley and he was still too far away.  Too far and getting further, as the long arm reached out once more then fell away, the once-graceful fingers grasping at thin air, desperate for purchase.  Adrenaline surged through his system, fighting through the junk holding his body hostage.

He blinked furiously trying to separate reality and the fantasy—what if it was all a fantasy?  What if it was all real? 

What the hell was real?

Please—

He groped at the small of his back for his piece with one hand—reached into his pocket with the other.  Braced his legs.  Lifted the gun in what should’ve been a practiced grip.

Sweated as it trembled.

“Police—”  He flashed his badge.  “Step away and show me your hands.  Now!”

Except there was nothing there.  Nothing more than the stink of piss and illicit sex and the distant wail of a trumpet that sounded like laughter on the night air.

 

From A Tempestuous Noise

© 2012 Barbara Caridad Ferrer

And in the continuing saga of “Life is weird…”

It’s been… a week. To put it mildly.

I returned from a wildly successful and incredibly entertaining weekend at the Surrey International Writers Conference (writers, seriously, go to this conference. I cannot recommend it highly enough) to find that shenanigans were afoot.

What shenanigans, you ask? (Or maybe you didn’t, but I’m going to tell you anyway.)

Turns out that Lovely Agent had been working her beautiful magic, communicating with an editor at one of the Harlequin imprints who apparently is rather fond of my work (yay for editors being fond of work!). She’d sent my current available material and was waiting to hear back.

Well…

Haunted, the ghost/sci fi YA they couldn’t figure out how to make fit within their lines.

Breathe, the cancer spouse/love affair was perhaps a bit too darkly emotional for what they were looking for (but more on that later).

Dorian was just flat out too dark (yeah… that’s not a surprise and those who have read the partial will understand why I say that).

But Lovely Editor wanted to work with me so on Wednesday (The Diva’s 15th birthday as it happens), Lovely Agent called and said, “Hey, they have slots in a couple upcoming anthologies for which they want you to write a couple of novellas. You game?”

To which I replied, “Um… D’UH.”

Seriously—I’m a writer. Give me something I can work with and I’m a very happy camper and this… this is something with which I can work. The anthologies will be released through Harl’s Kimani TRU line, which is the multicultural YA imprint, for holiday 2013 and spring 2014. Totally in my wheelhouse and moreover, sounds like FUN, which is something that has been in short supply lately.

And in the meantime, new Lovely Editor has yet another proposal of mine in hand, which was one I came up with back in the day as an option book that never seemed to jibe with TPTB, but that I hope will work this time around. It’s a fun story, set in a fashion design school and deals with body image and perspective and presciently enough, kind of ties into the whole “New Adult” wave that’s going around.

And also in the meantime, remember that splendid time I said I had at Surrey? Well, I met another Lovely Editor, also from Harlequin, yet another arm of the company, to whom I pitched BREATHE. (For those of you new to these parts, this is That Book. The one I can’t let go of, because I believe in it So Damned Hard.) This particular imprint is one that I actually feel is rather well suited to a story like BREATHE, that’s a little outside the box and defies some traditional story tropes, yet is still deeply emotional and real and moreover, I really, really liked this editor a great deal and feel as if she’s also someone I could work well with.

So… I sit back and wait. (Story of my life.) But at least now I have something with which to keep myself busy. Already the ideas are percolating and I can’t wait for characters to reveal themselves although they better do it quick—proposal deadline is November 14th. My sister’s birthday, another lucky day.

And because I’m me, I celebrated by buying these. Go on… look surprised. I dare you. 

Yeah, publishers really CAN do that.

The latest kerfluffle to hit the net with respect to publishing has, of course, to do with The Smoking Gun’s report of Penguin suing several authors in order to recoup advances. Lot of authors (who should really know better) expressing outrage and even a well-known agent weighing in that if Penguin committed such an act against one of their authors why, they’d cut Penguin off from submissions.

Bitch, please.

Obviously, we don’t know all the facts, but of the authors cited, at least one of them delivered a completely fabricated tale under the guise of memoir. Gee, sounds like grounds for recouping a sizable advance to me.  Regardless, here’s what I know as fact:

Fact: Most contracts have provisions/failsafes written in to protect the publisher when an author fails to produce a manuscript (what they define as “failing to produce a manuscript” can be called into interpretation, which we’ll get to in a minute).

Fact: Every author who writes a book for a publisher, signs a contract.

Fact: It doesn’t have to be that you haven’t delivered the book—it can be that the book delivered wasn’t what was promised.

Fact: It could be that the publisher decides for whatever reason strikes their fancy, they no longer want the book, and they are well within their legal rights to do so, no matter how shitty and wrongheaded they are.

How do I know this? (And Lordy, I hate, hate, hate resurrecting this, but dammit, sometimes, it’s just necessary.)

Thank you and thanks to Barb for your patience as [Publisher] and I have taken more time to consider SO SHE DANCES. I’m sorry to send the news now that we’ve decided we can’t proceed with the publication. As personally committed to the project as I am and as much as I wish I could continue working with Barb on the book, I’m afraid it’s just too far from working as a [Publisher] book. By that I mean that, first and foremost, the characters aren’t developed fully enough, apart from Soledad herself, who is not coming across as a likable heroine to root for. Further, the style is overly wordy throughout, thus the story pace is slow.

I had hoped that [Publisher] and the other editors here would agree that further revision could bring the novel the necessary depth and emotional involvement, but unfortunately the group is unanimous in feeling that too much revision is required. And so we will have to cancel the contract now, with the provision that Barb will repay her on-signing advance if and when she sells the project elsewhere.

I’m so sorry to have to say goodbye to this novel. It’s painful to do so, but I’m hopeful that you’ll be able to find a home for the book on an adult- or paperback-original list. Please let me know if you’d like me to put [name redacted] in touch with you to discuss this further.

Yeah, the “Barb” in question was me. That was a letter I received nearly four years ago on a project I had sold nearly sixteen months earlier. Sixteen months of working on a manuscript, sixteen months of having more than one editor tell me how much they “loved it,” but when it finally went up to the final arbiter, the publisher, she decided she didn’t care for it and that, as they say, was that.

And because I had signed the contract, she was well within her rights to do so. And so, I had to sign a letter that read:

“The Publisher hereby exercises its option to terminate the Agreement based on an unsatisfactory manuscript delivered by the Author.

The book in question?

WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE.

Yeah. That one. The same book that wound up winning the International Latino Book Award as Best Young Adult Novel was the same manuscript deemed “unsatisfactory” (or in the parlance of my contract, “an unpublishable product.”)

I gave it one more revision pass on my own, basically to take out a few things I hadn’t agreed with at the time, but that I had put in to appease the publisher, and changed the title, but by and large, the book published by St. Martin’s as WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE was the same manuscript turned down the aforementioned publisher.

I won’t lie. That was the single, shittiest, lowest moment I have ever had in publishing. (And trust me when I say I’ve had more than my fair share of shitty moments at publishing’s hands.) To this day, it continues to fuck with my confidence, because by signing that letter, it was like a public acknowledgement that they were right, even though I knew (and still know) better. However, the simple fact is, I signed the contract that gave the publisher the right to cancel the contract and demand I pay them back.

Was it unfair?

Oh, hell yes.

Was it an abuse of their power?

Obviously, I believe so. The amount of the advance was an absolutely paltry sum (seriously, really paltry) by publishing standards and considering the amount of work I’d put in over sixteen months, never being late with a deadline, essentially being a Good Little Author, I thought it rather churlish of them to demand I repay, especially when you consider the amounts publishers (including this one) have let slide in the past.

However

They had every right to do so because I signed the damned contract.

The clause wasn’t a surprise—I was fully aware of its existence because I read my contracts beginning to end and ask about what I don’t understand. And it’s not an easy clause to have removed—trust me. I just never imagined it was a clause that would ever be invoked because honestly—the language: “unpublishable product,” seemed unthinkable. I’d already had two books published—had received critical acclaim and won awards—had proven I could produce a publishable product, so no… the idea that I could have a contract canceled because of that particular clause was near laughable.

*cue Fate laughing her snarky ass off*

See, here’s the thing— a term such as “unpublishable product” is an amorphous term—subject to interpretation. For that publisher, their opinion was that I had given them an “unpublishable product” and in retrospect, maybe I had, because that particular imprint certainly didn’t have anything like STARS among their titles or other acquisitions. Look at the editorial letter—they basically said they maybe thought it could find a home as an adult title.

My counterargument would be that they had contracted a book that was an interpretation of Bizet’s Carmen—did they honestly think they were going to get light and fluffy?

The truth is, that particular imprint should never have bought the manuscript. Because in terms of story structure, tone, and execution, I never wavered from the proposal I gave them, nor was it appreciably different from my previous novels. They knew what they were getting—or should have.

I will forever maintain that the bulk of error rests on their shoulders, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter.

Because I signed the damned contract.

And here endeth the lesson.

Emmys Fashion Roundup

We got the depressing, down-in-the-dumps post out of the way, so now we can return to what’s really important: my thoroughly matters-in-no-way-to-no-one burblings on red carpet fashion. I mean, I’m realistic about it—I’m not as funny as the Fug Girls nor am I as influential as Tim Gunn. All I’ve got is the perspective of someone who grew up in the high fashion industry and who, when occasion has called, has managed to dress herself reasonably well.

So then. shall we? Make sure you’re buckled securely into your seats and keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times.

I’m sick, so I’m feeling pretty lazy about uploading—all images referenced can be found on the following sites.

People Magazine Red Carpet Arrivals

HuffPost Style

(I may sneak a photo or two in…</rebel>)

Lot of yellow on the red carpet tonight. Lot of yellow. Look, I’ll be honest right up front. It’s not my favorite color. It’s a difficult color for most people to wear and let’s face it, judging from what I saw tonight… yeah, still difficult. Julie Bowen’s neon yellow, Claire Danes’ sack dress (honey, you’re pregnant—this is no excuse for a mustard-shaded potato sack), Julianne Moore’s very very-OMG-she-skinned-Big-Bird yellow, and Leslie Mann’s daisy yellow were the four, erm, standouts. Of the four Leslie Mann was the closest to pulling it off, mostly because the gown isn’t all yellow—the white bodice manages to offset all the yellow, not to mention, the dress fits her. This goes a long way towards making a dress work, regardless of color.

Speaking of dresses that didn’t fit well (aside from Claire Danes…) two that drove me bananas yet will undoubtedly show up on all the Best Dressed lists were Zooey Deschanel and Kat Dennings. Anyone who’s read my rants on strapless gowns knows how I feel about having them properly fitted to the Girls. Kat’s came closer than Zooey’s, but the bodice wasn’t long enough for her torso and let’s face it, Kat’s got some Bodacious Girls. They needed to be treated with more respect. I did absolutely adore the deep bordeaux color on her though, far more than Zooey’s powder blue. Darling, the Fairy Godmother called—Cinderella’s gonna cut a bitch if she doesn’t get her gown back.

Speaking of strapless gowns… Well, Christina Hendricks’ gown fit her well enough, although I wasn’t a fan of the belt cutting her in half and I really wasn’t a fan of the non-color. Yes, it made her hair stand out like a gorgeous beacon, but it otherwise washed her out. I wonder if maybe the belt had been a contrast color if it would have helped or hindered? Not sure. Overall, just meh on the look.

Her castmate, Elisabeth Moss, showed up as a blonde. I didn’t much care for it. I did, however, like her gown, considering it was a print. I liked the hi-low cut of the hem and the black and green color scheme. I do wish she’d done something about her tan lines.

Speaking of prints and tan lines… Julianna Margulies, what were you thinking? First off, honey, stealing the brocade off a Baroque sofa is so not done and secondly, TAN LINES: do something about them, please.

Continue reading

Another Day, Another Rejection (or two)

In light of all the publicity regarding the whackaloon wannabe writer who attacked the literary agent who rejected his work, I thought I’d offer my own response in the form of how I react to rejection.

You see, six months ago, I made the decision to apply to a writing residency program—the Television Writers Program sponsored by the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Five weeks in Los Angeles, five days a week spent in the company of other writers, creating a product. It sounded fun. I mean, five weeks in LA, for one. I have a ton of friends in Los Angeles and the opportunity to see them on something of a regular basis was super tempting. Not to mention, the opportunity to be on my own for a bit. I’ve never, in my life, lived on my own. Went from Mom’s house to dorm, to shared apartments and houses, to living with the boyfriend who became the husband. The idea of flying solo for a month? Yeah… love the husband and the family dearly, but I can’t deny that idea held its own appeal. 

Then there was the basis of the program itself— the opportunity to learn to write for television—that was pretty attractive. You see, it was television that drew me back into writing in the first place—that started me on my path to becoming a published author. (Those of you who know me well, know it was my love for the crazy talented writers Joss Whedon employed on BuffyAngel that made me think, “Hey, I can tell stories like that.”) Of course, I very quickly discovered that I’m a wordy bitch and I like narrative and internal character motivation a hell of a lot and all of that adds up to “Write novels, dummy!” So I did.  And I’m pretty damned good at it, even if my sales haven’t exactly reflected that. At any rate, I applied to this program not so much because I want to be a television writer, although God knows, I wouldn’t say no to an interesting opportunity to write for pay. It’s what I am, after all, and let’s face it, I’m spectacularly unqualified for almost anything else, but more than anything else, though, I wanted something new. New skills, new tools to add to the arsenal. I wanted something that would get me excited about writing again. To jolt my ass out of the Pit of Suckagetude in which I’ve found myself mired lately (which is a post for another day).

The application was pretty rigorous and involved, requiring multiple forms and notarized releases and writing examples (I sent in When the Stars Go Blue figuring it for a great example, given it’s an adaptation) and a lot of attention to detail. Good thing I’m a Virgo, yeah? The application window was ridiculously broad, stretching from mid-March to mid-August; being me, my application was posted by early April. Participants would be announced September 17th. So I sat back and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Kept fairly quiet about it, because I didn’t want to jinx it. I also didn’t want to face a lot of “Why would you want to do that?” inquiries, and frankly, I didn’t want to hear that maybe I was out of my gourd crazy for doing this. (I’ve had that happen before—I’ve sent in proposals and been immediately hit with “Why on earth did you send in that idea?” which results in the Doubt Monsters breaking into a spirited rendition of Numfar’s Dance of Kill Your Joy. Did. Not. Want.)

I just wanted to live on quiet hope and also not get anyone’s expectations up too high on my behalf, lest it get my expectations up too high. Expect nothing, regret nothing, right? I had run the suggestion past my writer’s group and a few other close friends whose opinions I trust, and as time went on, I let a few people know that I had applied for a writing residency program, but no details beyond that.

Anyhow, due to a large number of applicants, they posted a message that the announcement would be postponed until the 18th.

Which came and went without word. (Damned watched email never boils or summat like that.)

Finally, this morning (the 19th, Talk Like a Pirate Day, arrrggghhh), I sent an email to the contact liaison. Within an hour I’d heard back. I hadn’t made the cut.

I wanted to be sanguine about this. I knew it was a longshot going in for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was my utter inexperience with the medium. God knows, I’ve dealt with a lot of rejection in the past thirteen years. Certainly a hell of a lot more rejection has come my way  than praise. I know how to handle it. I know it’s not personal. It’s not an indictment on me as a human being.

Didn’t stop me from crying. Rather a lot, as a matter of fact.

Not the throw-myself-on-the-ground-pound-my-heels-on-the-floor-scream-and-rant tantrum sort of crying, mind. While there are times I wish I could, simple fact is, I suck at that. In fact, I abhor most self-pity, at least where I’m concerned. I’m remarkably forgiving of anyone else’s need for pity/support, self or otherwise, for myself, I can’t fathom it. The husband puts it more bluntly—he says I suck at wallowing.

He’s… not wrong.

But this one has broken me a bit more than usual. I don’t know… I generally don’t allow myself to dream outside of the confines of my own stories. For my characters, I allow my imagination to take flight — no dream is too grand or goal too unrealistic or impossible to achieve. Dreaming for myself, on the other hand? I’m about as good at that as wallowing. For me, it’s never been about the seven-figure contracts or #1 Bestseller status, although I certainly wouldn’t say no to either. I’m a pragmatist—not a Puritan— fer chrissakes. No, all I’ve ever wanted is a nice, steady career as a writer. Not an easy task, especially in this day and age, but certainly not grandiose.

But this program… yeah. I let myself dream. And maybe that’s why it hit harder than it might have otherwise.

Because I’m a sucker for punishment, I pinged my agent to ask about the status of another project that was out on an exclusive submission.

Yeah. Another rejection.

Oddly, this one left me more meh than anything else. It’s part of the game, right? The rejection letter was head-scratching in that way that rejection letters are and again, allowed me to be meh about the rejection on the whole. I mean, I don’t like it. I’m not a masochist (at least, not any more than anyone else in publishing), but it’s hardly devastating. I believe in my project. I know it’s a really fucking good concept and with the insight and advice I’ve received from the beta readers, I’ve certainly made it a stronger project than it was at the outset. Like so much else, it’s the sort of thing that requires the Right Person see it and I have to believe the Right Person is out there somewhere.

More than anything, though, it was something my agent said in her email to me that allowed me to put everything into perspective:

I think that sometimes we’re denied an opportunity to explore something to show us how much we actually value it, and that it goes beyond curiosity. Maybe that sounds trite but if I know anything about you, it’s that if you’re passionate about something you really go for it.

Now mind you, she said this with respect to the Writing Program rejection, but the end result was it immediately sharpened my focus and strengthened my resolve with respect to…

Writing.

Just writing.Telling the stories I love—the stories that need to get out or else they’ll drive me crazy(er).

It’s what I do. I really, really  fucking love what I do. Not only do I not want to do anything else, I simply can’t imagine doing anything else.

Something like ten years ago, after I’d started sending out queries and receiving rejections, but before I’d been published, I happened to stumble across an interview with actor Timothy Omundson where he spoke about pursing a career in the creative arts and some of what he said resonated with me—even then—to the point that I printed a pair of the more relevant quotes out and have kept them on my desk ever since.

One of those quotes is especially relevant today:

I really, really love what I do and for me, this work… there isn’t anything else. I’ve always been really driven. I think that is the most important aspect of my success… it comes down to how much I like it. I really think it has to be one of those things where doing it is the only option.

If you can do anything else, I’ve always thought you should go do it because this is potentially too hard a life.

No kidding. Today’s definitely one of those days where I idly wonder if it’s too late to get an accounting degree, never mind that no one wants anyone with my math skills balancing their books—trust  me. But after the tears dry and the inevitable trauma of “They hated my baby!” passes, all I’m left with is a sense of resolve (amidst the “You really are a sick glutton for punishment you crazy lady,” feelings).

I write. I’m pretty fucking good at it.

And I’ve got a couple of damned interesting stories to get back to. Anyone in publishing interested, give me or my agent a call.

I’ll be ready.

Guess what I did?

So yesterday, I pledged a considerable amount of money to Janice Whaley’s latest Kickstarter campaign. Yes, I’m privileged to call Janice my friend and so of course, I’m going to support her in any way I can, but more importantly, I think of her as a kindred spirit and I believe in what she’s trying to achieve. Like so many gifted artists, Janice once had a dream she thought might be impossible to follow—but she realized music was literally her life,  took the bull by the horns, and Made Things Happen. And while some amazing successes have come her way, the sad and simple fact of the matter is, in music, like in any other entertainment medium, it takes exposure to Make More Things Happen and in today’s media-happy climate, exposure tends to occur more readily with the benefit of large pots of money (or at least having the support of someone with large pots of money).

How cool is this, really?

Initially, Janice was going to use this Kickstarter in order to raise money for a publicist—luckily, a fortunate windfall has allowed for her to hire the publicist and now, the Kickstarter is going to offer some really cool things that showcase her immense talents and the fruits of her labors the past couple of years.

I’ve been told I can’t possibly be as supportive and happy for friends who experience successes as I appear to be, especially when the past couple of years have been so hard for me career-wise. Yeah… those people can bite me. Truth is, I fervently desire the success of people who are gifted and work their asses off, like Janice, just as much as I fervently desire my own success. (Hey, I’m no martyr. I hope it’ll happen for me, too.)

So yeah, I gave  to Janice’s Kickstarter campaign—and if you love really unique, beautiful, amazing music, you might consider giving too. Look, let Janice tell you all about it. *points down to link*

Janice’s Kickstarter

 

Everyday Sexism, Part Who-the-Hell-Can-Keep-Track-Anymore?

This past week, writers Eileen Cook and Mere Smith (@eileenwriter & @EvilGalProds, respectively on Twitter- go, follow, I’ll wait) wrote some remarkable posts on their blogs dealing with, in Eileen’s case, owning the term “bitch,” and in Mere’s, two that dealt with sexism. The first was about Everyday Sexism and connected to the Everyday Sexism Project while the second had to do with the equally insidious if more outrageous Fucking Egregious Sexism and her own recent experience with said FES.

*waits*

Yes, you should go read them. Like, now.

‘kay then.

As with much of both of these ladies’ writing, it stays with me for hours, if not days afterward—a) because they’re both funny as hell and I find myself giggling like a loon at the most inappropriate times (Seriously, Mere’s vagina blog nearly got me in trouble so many times, I can’t even begin to tell you.), and b) because they’re both insightful as shit and amidst the LOL humor, there are some amazing thoughts happening. So it’s probably because these posts were still rattling around in the gray matter that I even took notice of what happened today beyond, “Geez, what a douchecanoe.”

So, what happened today? I imagine you asking.

Lemme ‘splain.

My local bookstore called (yay!) to tell me a book I’d ordered had finally arrived (yay!). Because I had a migraine and wasn’t getting bubkes done on the writing front, I decided to brave the Great Outdoors and go get my book (yay!). And because it’s a bookstore, I didn’t just go to pick up that book—no, no… I lingered, I read pages, I checked out new releases and browsed the stacks to see if there was anything absolutely calling out to me. Finally, feeling calm and filled with the peaceful goodwill that wandering a bookstore tends to engender, I made my selections and ambled my way up to the front of the store where they were holding my ordered book (oh, research books, how I adore thee… but I digress). Now, the front of my charming and surprisingly large indie bookstore has a lovely selection of tchotchkes and old-fashioned games and candies, as well as cards and journals and writing papers and the like, so again, I browsed for a few moments. Finally ready to check out, I moved into the waiting area, glanced up, and one of the two cashiers caught my eye and waved me forward.

Now this is where things got good.

As I was asking my cashier about my reserved book, a man—probably around my age, maybe a few years older—strode behind me and walked up to the neighboring cashier. I wasn’t really paying attention until I heard him say rather loudly, “Guess you didn’t see me waiting there… in line… ready to check out.”

I glanced to the side and found that he was looking right at me. Okay, look y’all, I was raised in the South (as was Mere)—I am never intentionally rude to anyone unless of course, they ask for it. I certainly don’t do cutsies in line or deliberately ignore people (unless, of course, they ask for it). Realizing I had cut in front of this gentleman, I was, of course, mortified. So, like any good Southern-bred girl, I smiled and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I honestly did not see you there.”

And proceeded to dismiss the incident, because to my mind, hey, there had been another cashier immediately available, and he was helped at essentially the same time as me. No harm, no foul, right?

You’d think.

As I continued to conduct my transaction, this guy kept going on—not exactly in a sotto voce tone, if you dig—

“Yeah, you know… I was standing there for a couple of minutes waiting to be helped, no one took any notice of me, I must have been invisible or something.”

My first impulse was to apologize again, but even so, it was tinged with a hint of annoyance, because polite or not, I have a strong streak of reason lurking within which was muttering, “Dude, you were helped at essentially the same time—if you didn’t get noticed, then it’s because you weren’t proactive—you were just standing there, waiting to be—oohhhhh…”

That’s when it hit me. He wasn’t irked simply because he thought I’d cut in line—he was irked because he hadn’t been noticed. He was upset because he’d felt invisible. He even said it himself. He had expected to be noticed by one of the two female cashiers who had actually both taken notice of me first. Why? Who knows. Likely, because I stepped forward, made eye contact, and smiled, making it clear I was ready to be assisted while he… hell, I don’t know what the fuck he was doing. Hand to God, I never noticed him standing there and it’s not as if the waiting area for the line is all that spacious. Clearly, neither of the cashiers noticed him either.

But he had expected to be noticed and was bothered because he’d been rendered Invisible.

Dude, cry me a fucking river. I grew up an introvert in a family of extroverts, coupled with an inherent shyness that renders me decorative wallpaper in most large groups. Plus, you know, I’m a woman who’s been involved in male-dominated activities most of my life. I know from Invisible, Sparky. I’d wager most women have experienced Invisible at least once in their lifetime, if not at least once a week.

But this guy, man… he’d been made to feel momentarily invisible and clearly, it was a foreign concept and it seriously ruffled some feathers, because even as I was coming to this realization, he was still going on… and on… and on… in that ingratiatingly pleasant tone designed to let people know he’s doing everyone a favor by being pleasant but he’s really annoyed with the situation.

So, rather than apologize again, as I’d been prepared to, I looked at him and said, “Okay, you’re bothered you weren’t noticed—we get it. You’ve received your apologies, now man up and accept them like someone who wasn’t raised in a barn.”

My cashier may have choked a bit. His cashier had the more difficult task of keeping a straight face as she stared resolutely down into the register tray. As for him?

Wait for iiiitttttt…

“Bitch.”

Oh, please—as if that was the first time I’d ever heard that. Honestly, I’d hoped for something more original. Which was the gist of my response as I calmly signed my receipt.

“Honey, if that’s the best you’ve got, it’s no wonder you aren’t noticed.”

(Drawled in my best Southern, of course.)

Look, I’m no one’s shrinking violet—I certainly don’t shy away from confrontation, yet at the same time, I don’t go out of my way to instigate it. I probably wouldn’t have given this clown another thought beyond, “Geez, what a douchecanoe,” if I hadn’t had Eileen sitting on one shoulder and Mere on the other, prodding me with their stabbity little pitchforks comprised of their brilliant words and experiences.

So Eileen, Mere, and all the rest of you gorgeous ladies I’m privileged to call friend, this one’s for you—today, I owned (as I am wont to do) my bitchness and simultaneously struck a tiny-yet-needed blow against another instance of Everyday Sexism.

Welcome…

BetweenHereAndGone_coverLARGEHi there!

Just to get you started, here’s a little FYI on what you’ll find find around these parts. There’s the obligatory About me page and of course, if you’re here for the books, you’ll get information on When the Stars Go Blue (St. Martin’s Griffin/2010), winner of BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL: 2011 INTERNATIONAL LATINO BOOK AWARDS, as well as info on my previous novels, Adiós to My Old Life,  It’s Not About the Accent, and Both Sides Now. Also, there’s Between Here and Gone, the story to which Publisher’s Weekly gave a starred review as well as naming it one of its Best Books of 2016, calling it a, “lush portrayal of a joyful, painful, complicated life.”

READ THE FIRST CHAPTER HERE

I can also be found on Twitter, and Instagram where on the former, I talk a lot about writing and baseball and on the latter, I post pictures of my pets, food, makeup, and the gorgeous place were I live.

Barb

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Photo credit: Adam Emperor Southard

Really? Do I look like the reunion type?

The other day, my older sister asked if I had any plans to attend my high school class’ twentieth reunion. After I pointed out that my twenty-fifth was two years ago (and waved the smelling salts under her nose to revive her) I got to thinking. Yeah, yeah, I know—dangerous. But I couldn’t help but ponder my utter lack of interest in attending a high school reunion. I mean, yeah, I went to my tenth. Mostly because my high school best friend also went, so it was a nice chance to reconnect, but honestly, my attendance was driven more from a morbid sense of curiosity. I wanted to see who would choose to attend and yeah, I wanted to see who had changed—for better or worse.

I’m the short one in the middle. I’m still short.

A little background: I graduated from North Miami Senior High School, enrollment 2500, Class of ’85, 520 strong. I was not, despite my involvement in band, much of a joiner. Didn’t do clubs, Student Government, yearbook, newspaper, or anything else. My interests were so focused—i.e. music, music, and more music, in the form of band, drum corps, and the practice required for a concert pianist, that it simply didn’t leave time for any other extracurriculars. Because of the involvement in band and drum corps (in particular) I had a small group of friends with very specific interests and who were spread across a wide age spectrum so to say that I wasn’t in step with the majority of my cohort would be… understating it.

Convoluted way of saying I didn’t fit. And because at that time I was so practiced at being a chameleon and blending into my surroundings, I had no sense of anyone actually knowing or giving a rat’s behind who I was—and this was despite the fact that by senior year I was the drum major of our very successful award-winning marching band.

But you know, boiling it down to its absolute truth—outside of the friends I had in band (and they were pretty few, as well), there weren’t that many people I actually liked in high school. And the other absolute truth is, the converse was true. This isn’t me pity-partying it or looking for hairpats. Just is what it is—I was an oddball who walked her own path during a time when homogeneity is valued and to boot, wasn’t a particularly warm-and-fuzzy person to start with.So no, it was not the time of my life—it wasn’t happy—it’s really not anything I particularly care to revisit, even on an intermittent, allegedly celebratory basis.

But I’m a curious sort (comes with the writer territory) and so when I received notices about my twentieth (how they found me, I have no clue), I kept half an eye on the proceedings. To see who was planning on going and then after the fact, to see the pictures. Yes, I wanted to do a compare and contrast. So sue me, I’m human, y’all.

Basically, the Usual Suspects again. Student Gov, clubs, athletes, extracurriculars, cheerleaders—in short, the Beautiful People. And judging from what little I saw of the proceedings, high school was their highlight and they were trying their damnedest to relive it. Give them props, too—if they’re going to live the cliché, at least they’re committing to it completely.  Another point of interest, considering I went to school in Miami and many of these folks appear to have remained there (which begs the entirely different question of Dear God, why?) I noted an awful lot of Botox and surgical enhancements. A lot. Of course, to balance that out, there were also a fair number of guys who I recalled as being considered hot back in the day, who are now balding, have beer guts, and a lot of mileage on the faces, yet clearly look in the mirror and still think they’re that hot guy from high school.

Oh, Sunshine—that’s so adorable…

So yeah- not feeling as if I missed a whole lot there. I honestly can’t imagine that I would have any more in common with these people than I did back then.

Something to be said for being a late bloomer.

Because my high school apparently wasn’t all that great at engendering a lot of school spirit, the alumni couldn’t even muster enough interest to organize a proper 25th reunion. Instead, they had a multi-class reunion for the classes of 1981-86 that happened to fall in line with my actual 25th.

Nope. Didn’t go to that either. Saw the pictures. Usual Suspects. Acting much in the way they did in high school.

I don’t know—maybe when my 30th rolls around, I’ll consider going. Just out of curiosity’s sake.  Maybe see what the reactions are to me, if any.  If anyone actually remembers me.  Frankly, I’d be shocked if they did.  I suspect you’d see a lot of wrinkled brows as they take in who I am now and try to force a recall that just isn’t going to come.

Or  you know, maybe I’ll just stay home and wash my hair.

On Paying it Forward & the Power of Social Media

Yeah, yeah, I’m posting another blog. I can see you gaping from here. But this is important. Even more important than breaking down who wore what to the Oscars or the Golden Globes or shilling a new release.

I’ll wait for you to pick yourselves up off the floor.

We good now? Okay.

So, I’ve had this thing that I’ve done, ever since I sold my first book (going on *gasp* seven years ago, now) and that’s find a charitable cause to which to contribute. It’s not something I tend to make a big deal of because like religion, politics, & birth control, I find it a sort of private matter (sorry Rush, you lard-assed windbag, no videos for you).

Some years, it’s been a big thing—remember my RITA gown from 2007? The Maggie Gyllenhaal Oscar gown?

As some of you know, I won that in a Clothes Off Our Backs (now sadly defunct) charity auction, with the thought that I might one day, if I was really, really lucky, be able to wear it to a RITA ceremony, you know, if I ever finaled. Little did I know it would be that year and it wound up being my lucky gown, since I, you know, won. *pauses to preen just wee bit*

Most years, though, it’s been little things—small donations to multiple organizations, usually to theatre groups like Red Dog Squadron a not-for-profit theatre company or my own local Seattle Theatre Group or, of course, supporting museums, like Seattle Art Museum or the Experience Music Project Museum (look, I live in Seattle- how can I not?).

Thing is, while donating to these causes are, indeed, charitable, they’re generally also to my benefit—having a beautiful gown to wear, having theatre and museums to attend with the rugrats—let’s face it, I definitely get a pretty good deal out of it.

But now, things is a little different, children…

(And this is where we come to the Power of Social Media portion of our program.)

I’ve mentioned lately that I’ve been hanging more on Twitter than blogging, mostly because I’ve been so buried in the writing that my attention span away from it tends to be better suited for short bursts of, oh, 140 characters or so. Actually, it’s been beneficial from other standpoints as well. With Twitter, I’ve been able to expand the scope of the creative folks I come in contact with, from artists (@loveandcapes) to musicians (@janicewhaley) to actors (@chris_gorham) to writers of many, many stripes, across varying genres and media (Mediums? Media. Whatever). It stimulates my own creative juices (which sounds vaguely naughty) and stokes the excitement I feel for my own work in addition to helping the plot bunnies procreate. Hey, I never said I was completely altruistic—I’m completely open about what I get out of this.

I’m rambling, I know. Okay, I’ll get on with it. One of the actors I follow, Timothy Omundson (@Omundson) from Psych happened to mention he was guesting on the Pop My Culture podcast (@pmcpodcast).

(Hilarious podcast, highly recommended, but if you have kiddies, I suggest listening to it after dark or with headphones, lest the little darlings overhear. Five minutes of PMC and they’ll wind up sounding like extras from Deadwood. You’ve been warned.)

Anyhow, Tim also happened to mention that oh, by the way, Vanessa Ragland (@vanessaragland), one of the hosts, has got a charity thing going on. Goes to show how buried I’ve been, lately, since I follow both the podcast and Vanessa on Twitter and this had somehow slipped past. *shamefaced*

End result is, I checked it out and this is where I get serious, folks—it’s a big deal. Vanessa is in the running for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year

And this is why:

Guys, you know me—inveterate smartass, can make a joke about anything, but you know, cancer is no joking matter to me. It’s an insidious motherfucker that has messed with my own family and has hurt way, way too many people who I love, taking their loved ones from them, far too soon. It even permeated my professional life in that I wrote Breathe, the manuscript nearest and dearest to my heart, in part to express those feelings of helplessness and loss that cancer can generate. It remains my biggest professional regret that it never found a publishing home; too many publishers scared off by the cancer-centric storyline. Too dark, too real, too… scary.

Too bad. Cancer is scary. It’s dark and it’s real and it can strike anyone, including little girls and their daddies. So yeah, I donated, immediately, to Vanessa’s cause. And now I’m asking you, my awesome friends, to help out. If not by donating, because God knows, I know times are hard across the board, then by at least spreading the word, via your blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, whatever floats your boat. You wanna rent a plane and fly a banner over South Beach, go for it (although I think the money would be better spent on a direct donation).

Vanessa has until April 25th to raise lots and lots of money and even if she doesn’t win, which, of course, we want her to, she’ll win, because she’ll have raised lots and lots of money. You see where I’m going with this, y’all?

She also has another secondary, equally important, reason to raise lots of money: her dad. It’s a tragedy, really—Vanessa’s dad, Larry Ragland, for reasons unknown, decided to grow his hair. It’s apparently quite scary. Don’t believe me? Watch:

So there you have it. If Vanessa can raise $5K by the end of the campaign, then Dear Old Dad will have to part with his ponytail. If you don’t do it for the children, then do it for Larry.

Donate. Or pass the word.

Please.

Love you all.

LATE BREAKING ANNOUNCEMENT!

This week only, FightCancer with CHARACTER(s). if you donate $50.00 or more to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society ROB PAULSEN ( Or Yakko! Or Pinky! Or Raphael!) will record a personalized outgoing message for your phone!