Monday, February 24, 2014

Babes in Spyland

Since I'm at Dean and Kris' anthology workshop this week my friend, Jo Ann Schneider, has graciously agreed to make Ninja Keyboard part of her blog tour. Every blog on the tour has a different character bio and snippet from her novel, Babes in Spyland. There's a link to her blog at the bottom of this post if you want to read the other bios, as well as the Amazon link so you can buy a copy of this fun book.

Agent Amphibian Queen:

Height: 5’-9”
Years with The Super Secret Agency: 2
Preferred Gun: Kahr P9
Strength: Stealthy, subtle and artistic. Blends in.
Weakness: Tiny things. She thinks they’re adorable.
Name origin: Something involving a frog. She doesn’t talk about it.

The aromatic garland of white orchids, yellow lilies, and baby blue morning glory hung over the metal detector like drapes, failing to hide the dirty, off-white housing underneath. Even after calling in a third florist and an extra bundle of greenery, Super Secret Agent Amphibian Queen couldn’t figure out how to disguise the machine.

“Maybe a few more on this side,” she said, squinting her eyes in an attempt to picture the results of her suggestion. The sun beat down on them like a hammer, and she really wanted a cool, refreshing Hilly Dew.

“It’s a metal detector,” Agent Bunnynose said, crossing her arms over her stomach and glaring. Sweat plastered the stray tendrils of hair to the back of her neck. “It’s not supposed to be pretty.”

Amphibian Queen ignored her partner. Agent Bunnynose had been rampaging since they’d touched down in LA the day before. She must be at a delicate time of the month, Amphibian Queen decided. She would need to send someone for snacks. Agent Bunnynose was prone to random acts of violence if not kept sufficiently fed.

Monday, February 17, 2014

When the little things aren't so little

Back in October I picked up a stack of advances at a trade show. Most of the titles were YA spring releases and they all sounded really good. Last week I started reading one during lunch. I'm not going to say which book nor by whom because it was that disappointing.

I had high hopes for this book. It was by an author whose previous work had received praise on a prominent morning show, the title filled a much neglected area of the market, and the author possessed the expertise to make the unique nature of the story work. The parts of the story that fell within the author's expertise were great, and exactly what I'd hoped they would be. So why the disappointment?

Because the author doesn't understand modern teenagers.

Oh, the book had the angst, the relationship drama, and mischief elements right. What the author erred on was how teens use of technology. In one scene the protagonist and friends headed out to their favorite hangout for an afternoon of fun. On the way they turned on the car radio. Now, most of the teens I know would plug in the iPod or connect to their favorite internet radio station on either the in-dash system or on their smart device. I'll admit that it's not out of the realm of possibility that they would tune into the local popular music station on a car radio. Unfortunately, the author didn't have them listening to a music station. No, they were listening to an NPR news report.

Maybe the teens the author knows are different, but all the teens I know wouldn't listen to NPR news for love or money. It's not that they don't care about world events, it's that they don't have the patience or the desire to listen to the persistent monotone of NPR's reporters. Heck, I don't have the patience or desire and I'm twice their age. If teens want information they're going to look for it on the internet. Even if they're on the go, they're still going to turn to their phone or tablet before they even consider TV or radio.

Teens are smart. I mean, scary smart. I recently stumbled across a photo of a High School classroom. The teacher had put information on the overhead screen and gave the class permission to take notes. Rather than use pencil and paper, all of the students were taking a photo of the screen with their phones.

Like I said, scary smart.

I don't know how teens may react to this scene. I suspect it wouldn't be any better than mine and given how tech savvy and connected most teens are it probably wouldn't be long before their dislike was posted for the whole internet to see. That could potentially damage the author's career. I hope it doesn't because as I said earlier, the premise was quite good and there were some very well executed scenes. But this certainly illustrates (at least it does to me) how important it is to understand your audience.

Monday, February 10, 2014

For want of a potato

I'm sorry I didn't post last week. It was one of those unfortunate times where I had too many deadlines and no internet access. While I wasn't able to get the blog written and up, I did get nearly everything else done.

There's one bit of news that I haven't mentioned on the blog yet because I've been a bit hesitant. My close friends and family already know but I'll tell the rest of you. My geriatric cat, Spud, the one I've mentioned in a few early posts, passed away two weeks ago. It wasn't unexpected -- she was almost 19 -- but her passing has definitely put a pall on my life. Not a good thing when I've had so many deadlines and obligations that couldn't be postponed. For some people losing a cat wouldn't be traumatic but I've had her for more than half of my life. She's comforted me during the most distressing moments in my life. That's a distinguishing achievement for any being, let alone a pet. I'm not telling you this because I want to be a pathetic figure or because I can't move on. Believe me, life has given me no choice but to move on.

I've never been one to criticize someone in mourning. It's a very personal thing that effects everyone differently. If an author wants to mourn for a year and a day, then that's what they need to do and I hope they find the peace they need during that time. Me? That's a bit hard to say. The last time I was in this sort of headspace I wasn't a serious writer. But how it progressed last time was completely different. This time around I'm oddly aware of my mental state and the precarious edge my schedule has forced me to walk. It's a very strange place to be. It's like living in someone else's head while being fully aware that it's still my mind.

That part isn't so bad, weird, but not bad. What I don't like is that this headspace is making my writing inconsistent. On good days I can produce the same quality words at the same pace. But if I'm having a difficult day I don't get much of anything on the page. Difficult days have already caused me to miss one deadline. While I don't want to miss another I don't want to ask for extensions because that would mean that I'm letting depression take control of my life when it should be the other way around. I'm stronger than this, damn it.

Grief aside, I've had enough experience with depression to know how I need to deal with it. Unfortunately my production issues have mitigated the effects of my usual therapies of choice. I've worked too hard to get my work to this stage to let my imbalanced brain muck it up. Please don't flood the comments with suggestions. As I said earlier, I know my own mind and if anyone is going to find a way through the brain fog, it'll be me. If you want to offer condolences, prayers, positive energy, go right ahead. What I don't want is a barrage of "try this therapist &/or medication"or "you need to do _____."I realize those kind of comments are offered out of concern and love but they aren't what I need. They may help someone else, but they won't help me.

So if I don't want advice, why bring all this up? Because depression and silence tend to go hand in hand. The last time I was in this headspace I pulled away from my friends and didn't tell anyone what I suffered. It made my recovery excruciatingly slow and I refuse to let my depression sabotage my life like that again. This time I'm being proactive. I'm telling you that my mind is currently teetering between okay and hanging in there. If I seem out of it or not as chatty as usual, it's because I am having a difficult day and need to be in the background for a bit. If I look pissed off, I am, but not because of any serious wrong doing on your part. My fuse is very short these days and it doesn't take much to set me off. Plus it may be the result of writing frustrations so don't take it personal. I'll be myself again in time. All I ask is that you be patient and understanding while I work my way through this.