Monthly Archives: June 2009

HELP!

Okay, folks, I need your help. I’m looking for genre stereotypes. You know the ones. Everyone who reads science fiction is a geek. Everyone who reads romance is a bored, undersexed housewife. Only intellectuals read literary fiction. Yeah, those.

So do you know any literary stereotypes? Wanna share? Either email me at cate@catherinewade.com or leave them in the comments.

Thanks, all!

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We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to Carrie Divine, winner of two Samhain ebooks in my June Let’s Dish contest.

Who’s Maggie’s dad’s favorite football team? None other than the Green Bay Packers!

Thanks to all who entered, and be sure to watch for my next contest in August, when I’ll be giving away an advance copy of Another Time Around!


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Next Thing You Know, He’ll be Shaving

I am not old enough to have a teenager. Am I?

My oldest is fourteen today. Holy cow. Fourteen. In this crazy state, that makes him old enough to learn to drive. He won’t, mostly because he has autism and will probably never drive, but I would not put a fourteen-year-old behind the wheel of a car unless I absolutely had to. As the next two kids coming up – they’ve already been told.

But fourteen! I still feel young! I can’t possibly have a kid who is taller than I am and looks like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. Seriously, he does, but that’s mostly my fault because I need to give him a hair cut. But he has that same half-slumped posture, the same reedy, skinny figure, same appetite, and the same goofy laugh. And his voice! It’s gotten so deep! No nasty cracking or breaking. He just woke up one morning sounding like Barry White.  Face it, my baby is no more. Slowly but surely, he’s turning into a man. In four years he’ll legally be an adult.

Scary.

So I’m spending my day feeling old, but also feeling very proud of how far he’s come. There was a time we never thought he’d speak, and now he tells me what’s on his mind. He is starting to care about what others think of him, and is getting that teenager-y vain streak. You know the one – when they stare into the mirror endlessly getting the hair just so? That’s a huge step for a kid with social issues.

Yes, my boy is growing up. And you know what? He’s pretty cool.

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Filed under The One Where I Waffle On About The Kids

We Have Artwork!

Another Time Around has a cover:

AnotherTimeAround72LG Ain’t it cool??

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Filed under It's A Writing Life, Just for Fun

The Boys of Summer

Well, aside from the obvious, there are a lot of reasons why this summer has been kind of crazy at Casa Del Catie. One of those reasons is baseball.

The youngest has gotten to Little League age – D minor for those of you who know what that means. I don’t. At any rate, he went from three days of ball a week last summer to five this summer- with three games per week! But he gets a uniform this year, and ommigod he’s cute. (He’d shoot me for saying that.) Luckily, since I’m single-parenting this summer (with an additional “child” who has a lot of doctor appointments) my boss is letting me work half days so I can get the kiddo to all his games and practices. I’m learning a lot about baseball. Like a foul is considered a strike unless it’s on the third strike. And you can’t make a run on the third strike. And you can’t run to first if it’s the second Tuesday of the month and the runner on second is facing north.

Kidding.

But seriously! Who knew there were all these screwy rules in baseball? People who like baseball, I guess. Not me. But the kid seems to get it. I just watch and look stupid.

The oldest has summer school this year – actually extended school year, designed to help him retain what he learned during the school year. Waste of time if you ask me, since it runs for four weeks right after school let out. Then they get two months to lose everything. Oh well, he enjoys it and loves loves loves his teachers.

The middle child (his words, not mine) is spending his summer on the computer so far. Well, he does go to the park sometimes, and I signed him up (a little against his will) to go to history camp for a day. That sounds like fun to me. I’d love to go. But I have to be at baseball that day.

And of course the biggest kid has finished his second cycle of chemo and now we see the doc on Friday. He’s doing well, by the way. Seems pretty strong and feels relatively well. Someone asked me the other day how I was holding up. I told them I was beyond the sad, shocked stage and now I’m just irritated and annoyed. Pretty much my standard state of being, so it’s all good.

Wow – I’m rambling today!

So anyway, I’m not getting a whole lot of writing done, which is why I am really trying to throw myself into this NaNo-esque thing my write club is doing. I have some words down, but mostly I’m still exploring the characters. As an exercise the other night, we described our main characters from another character’s point of view. What I wrote tells more about Jeff (our hero) than it does about Alex (our heroine), but I thought I’d share it here. So, in the course of ten minutes, here’s what I wrote:

Okay, so she’s kind of a nut job. But she’s a cute nut job – not that she’d be anything I’d go for. But she’s like a slave to that family of hers. I don’t know why – she’s smart enough and has talent. I just don’t get it.

Looks? Oh, well, she’s comfortable looking. Pretty enough, but not exactly a girl in a magazine. But when she’s in the sunlight, her hair kind of shines reddish, and her eyes are green. What is that, Irish? Yeah, maybe Irish. But she’s more like a girl you could hang out and watch football with. You know, comfortable.

Not that she’s anything I’d go for.

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Filed under It's A Writing Life, Life? You Mean I Have To Have A Life?, The One Where I Waffle On About The Kids

Let the Insanity Begin

I’ve been putzing away on Happy Medium for far too long. I started writing it about a year ago, but then managed to get sidetracked by Let’s Dish and Another Time Around. Since I sold both books, I can’t exactly complain. However, I went from having Alex and her cohorts talking to me to having them sit in the back of my brain pouting. Then I finally started getting into it again, and the hubs got sick.

Well, husband is feeling pretty good (considering) and the day job has lightened up, so it’s time to get back on the bandwagon.  To that end, a bunch of buddies from a local writing group and I are going to do a NaNoWriMo style writing challenge for the next few weeks.

Yup, I’m crazy. Thank you for noticing.

So here’s a teaser – an unedited, don’t-look-down, craptastic first scene from Happy Medium. Odds are if it’s ever published, this will all be changed, but you never know.

In July 1929, Euphadora Blotz sat at this table and foretold the crash of the stock market three months before Black Tuesday. In January 1964, Helena Blotz sat down with President Kennedy, who told her about a second gunman on the grassy knoll. Two months ago, Zahndra Blotz – Madam Zahndra to you and me – told a grieving widow that her husband had hidden the insurance policies and stock certificates in a safe deposit box at the Grand National Bank. There is no Grand National Bank.

How times change.

Thunder clapped outside as I sat across from my mother, which added to the ominous ambiance of the darkened room. Incense permeated the windowless space, filling every square inch with its Oriental spices until my sinuses begged for mercy. I swallowed several times, stifling a cough that was tickling the back of my throat.

Our sucker – ah – client sat in the most comfortable chair, her hand gripping my mother’s with familiar desperation, leaving her fingers bone white. But Mom’s face was serene and her eyes closed in an expression of ecstasy.

“Oh spirit guides,” she said, her voice strong and unwavering. “Oh great goddesses of the afterlife. We beseech you, oh great ones, to call forth the beloved…” She paused, opening one eye just enough to gaze at the client.

“Al,” she said in a small, nasal voice. “Al Barthalamew.”

My mother’s eye snapped shut, and she began to sway slightly. “We beseech you to call forth the beloved Al. His lovely wife Mona calls to him beyond the grave.”

Mom kept up her shtick for a few more minutes, and the grieving widow watched her intently. Lovely. I’d reserve judgment. I try not to place value on people based on outward appearance. For all I knew, Mrs. Barthalamew was a wonderful person. Behind all that 1970s frosted blue eye shadow and false eyelashes. And what was she thinking with fuchsia lipstick? Probably that she would fit in well at Blotz Occult Bookstore.

“We beseech you,” my mother’s voice resonated with more urgency. I’d missed my cue. Again. With one toe, I hit the switch in the floor and the A/C kicked in but good. Afternoons like these I wished I wore as many layers as my mother and sister, because when it’s cold enough to see your breath, a Howie’s Hardware tee shirt just doesn’t cut it.

“Is that him?” the client asked. There was a stiff breeze, for sure, and the tiny bells hanging from the beaded curtains started to jingle.

“He is here,” my mother whispered. “His presence is standing beside you. He’s calling to you.”

In reality, there was no one behind Mrs. Barthalamew, but she seemed more than happy to chat to the empty air. “Al, honey, are you there?”

“He’s here,” my mother said again. Her eyes were rolled up and her lids flickered. “He is taking control of my body.” She had been leaning back, relaxed in her seat. Suddenly, her eyes flew wide and she sat up board straight.

“Petunia?” Her voice was not her own. The accent was southern, I thought. Maybe Georgia. And definitely deeper than it had been seconds before. “Petunia, my dahlin’, you there? I can’t see you.”

“I’m here, Al.” The client grasped my mother’s hand even tighter, and I started to worry if the bones would snap. “Al, sweetheart, are you all right?”

Depends on how “all right” you think dead is.

“I’m fine, Petunia. It’s quiet here. Lots of fishing. I’m very happy.”

“Oh Al!” Mrs. Barthalamew cried. “I miss you so much!”

Mom’s face softened, and she touched Mrs. Barthalamew’s cheek. “Petal, as long as you have the orchids, you have me. And we shall meet again soon.”

“Oh, Al!” For a split second, she looked like she was going to kiss Mom square on the lips. But she pulled back when my mother started to shake. Time to hit the switch again, and if I missed my cue this time, I’d never hear the end of it.

The furnace kicked in as Mom’s eyes shut tight. She shook a moment longer, but more subtly. She heaved a deep breath, as if she’d been underwater for minutes, and slowly opened her eyes. “He has passed.”

Tears streaked down Mrs. Barthalamew’s cheeks as she pumped my mother’s pale, smushed hand. “Oh thank you, Madam Zahndra. Thank you so much.”

Mom smiled at her, a kind but kind of patronizing smile. “You are more than welcome, Mrs. Barthalamew.”

Mrs. Barthalamew?” My sister took the client by the elbow. “If you’ll just come this way, we’ll settle the bill. Madame Zahndra needs to rest now.”

“Oh of course, of course,” she said, trailing along behind Phillipa. I tagged along, more than ready to get some incenseless air into my lungs. I had to pause, though, as we made our way through the beaded curtain. I offered a shrug to the short, balding, sixty-something man who stood near the doorway. In return, Al Barthalamew offered me a faded smile.

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A Heads Up on Head Hopping

Head hopping. If you say those words in a group of writers – particularly if they all write in different genres – be prepared for a bumpy ride. Everyone has an opinion, and no two are alike.

First off, for those of you not blessed with the trial-by-fire education I recieved on the subject, let me clue you in on what head hopping is. It’s all about point of view – who’s “head” you’re in when you are reading the scene. Is it from the heroine’s point of view? The hero? The protagonist? When one head hops, you switch point of view in the middle of a scene without a break. (Yes, Virginia, switching between point of view at a scene break or chapter is okay. To everyone. Maybe.)

Anyway, on with our regularly scheduled argument…

So head hopping, to romance writers, is bad. Like completely unforgivable. Go to an RWA function and ask about head hopping, they’ll nail you every time. Go to a sci fi writers conference, and they probably won’t have the same opinion. Ditto for mystery or general fiction. They do it all the time. Oh, there is the odd duck who will argue head hopping is just bad craft, but it’s honestly not that big a deal with those folks.

So enter me, having grown up reading mostly sci fi, fantasy and mystery novels. When I wrote my first book, I wrote the sucker from an omniscient point of view (knowing all that is going on in all character’s heads) and with a good bit of head hopping. That’s what I grew up reading. Well, kind of. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to learn a little more about craft, I realize just how poorly written that thing is. Still, I have no issues with head hopping, as long as it’s done in such a way I can keep up with it.

So why am I waffling on about this today? (And it is waffling, since I can’t seem to type two sentences in a row today without someone needing something from me – does any of this make sense?) During son #3’s baseball practice, I was reading a book by a favorite mystery author of mine. She’s an amazing writer, and even though she writes in limited third (from the heroine’s point of view only), she’s so deep in her character’s head that I’m sometimes startled to find out she’s not writing in first person. She will occasionally – like once a book – do a little head hopping, but I can keep up with it so it doesn’t bug me.

Then in the last book I read, she jumped into our hero’s head – for one scene. Out of the whole book, just one scene. But I dismissed it and moved on. In the book I’m reading now, early on she wrote a scene from a minor character’s point of view. Again, just one scene. But what really got me thinking about point of view and head hopping was toward the end of the book, she suddenly switched into omniscient third – describing what the people at the table didn’t know was happening behind them. I stopped, re-read the page, and thought, “Where the hell did that come from?”

Totally threw me out of the story. That, in my definition, is bad craft. And saying that about this author kills me. Especially since she makes a helluva lot more money at this than I do. But still, her consistent and clean writing from her earlier books is becoming sloppier and with things thrown in to suit her purposes. The thing that really cheeses me is the omniscient paragraph was unnecessary. When X, Y and Z later happened, the reader would have realized what had gone on without the author  jumping out of the book and beating us over the head with it.

So did I just say in one post that head hopping is okay, but it’s not? No, not really. What the key is, I think, is consistency. If you are going to have a hero’s point of view, using it for one scene is kind of cheap and lazy, I think. And so is jumping to a totally different point of view just to get a point across that could be done in another way. Actors are told not to break character. The same can be said to writers.  If you’re breaking character to slip in a plot point, don’t do it. If the reader is thrown out of the story, don’t do it.

And if you’re a romance writer, God help you if you head hop!

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