Friday, November 25, 2011

Five Days Left in NaNo....

So how's everybody doing with that?  I'm just checking in, because well.....remember that Critique Partner Auction Blogfest thingie I tried to do last year?  Didn't really work out and I said I'd try again after NaNo....

Yeah, so...I'm not gonna do that.  Got an epic workload in December and that's just asking for trouble.  What I AM going to do however is host a Critique Partner Blogfest for everyone who wants another set of eyes to sign up.  On the day/week of the Blogfest just post a logline and first 250 words of your MS and then click through other blogs in the blogfest in search of new Critique Partners to swap with.  Easy peasy.  So what I'm just curious about is when you think would be the best time for this?  Is December 1st too soon?  I know that even if people finished 50K in November that doesn't mean they'll be done with their book yet.  So would people be interested in going ahead and starting with a Blogfest like this first week of December or would you guys prefer to wait a week or two and give people a little more time to finish their whole books first?

Feel free to chime in with thoughts, comments and suggestions and I'll post next week with an actual date and sign up sheet for the Blogfest once people have had time to weigh in.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend all and good luck on the last few days of NaNo!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tough Topic Tuesday: Where's the Responsibility?

Hello, lovely peoples!  It is a beauteous Tuesday here in Southern California, and I have been PONDERING.

Also, whichever one of you got me hooked on alliteration (points up at post title), I suggest you start running, for I am mightily vexed.  You don't even want to know what my manuscripts look like these days.  It's like Old English Poetry decided to just take a dump all over them.


So I've been thinking a lot lately about the responsibility of an author, especially a YA author, in regards to difficult or morally gray subject matter.  A lot of YA (particularly contemporaries) tackle some pretty heavy stuff these days.  I mean, we all remember the Wall Street Journal kerfluffle, right?  But it's not subject matter that's got me thinking, but how we approach those subject matters.

Sometimes you have the Voice of Moral Authority, that heavy-handed author who ordains from her writing desk that CERTAIN THINGS ARE BAD AND YOU SHOULD NEVER DO THEM.  'Mary Ellen caved to peer pressure and smoked a joint one day and it ruined her life and broke up her family and she flunked out of school and never went to college and worked at a gas station the rest of her life and died miserable and alone, DO YOU WANT TO BE LIKE MARY ELLEN?'

Fortunately, most of us keep our Voices of Moral Authority tucked far, far away from our writing desks.

But then we have Buddy-Buddy/I'm Just Like You Kids Syndrome, that lackadaisical approach wherein we're all just good friends and its just a story anyways and kids'll make the right choice on their own.  'Mary Ellen got high every single day and it was totally awesome and she never had to be sober once all through high school and yet she still graduated with honors and had a totally cool boyfriend and they both went to law school and had two point five kids, a golden retriever and a house with a white picket fence and lived happily ever after while still occasionally getting high with their now teenage kids, DON'T YOU WISH YOU WERE JUST LIKE MARY ELLEN?'

Fortunately, this particular syndrome is rare amongst capable writers as well.

Obviously, these are two very extreme ends of the spectrum, and most of us, and most published works, fall somewhere in the middle.  The question is, where do you fall in this spectrum?  What do you see as your responsibility to teen readers?

I think most of us would like to be as true to life as possible and let readers draw their own conclusions, and decide for themselves.  But drugs are a fairly easy example.  There's not a lot of gray area when it comes to strictly illegal substances and breaking the law, so you don't HAVE to be heavy-handed as an author to still feel comfortable that kids aren't going to put down your book and immediately go in search of a crack pipe, no matter what tack you take with it.  It takes some of the pressure off.

But what about something where there isn't as clear a right or wrong?  A lot of YA deals with complex social issues like eating disorders, abusive relationships, let's extrapolate from one of those.

This is a purely hypothetical writing exercise, not based on a real book:

Say you're writing a story that involves a boy with a history of being abusive to his girlfriend - but he's not with her anymore, he's done his best to make amends, he's been through therapy, he's doing his best to be a different person, a better person...and he meets a new girl.  What does this new girl in your story and in his life do?  Does she trust herself with him, even knowing he has a violent past, believing in second chances and that he's a different person now?

What message would you, the author writing that narrative, want teenage girls to take away from reading that book?  And how much, and in what ways, would your writing of that book be shaped by the choice you'd hope your readers would make if they found themselves in that situation?


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tales from the Set

So I have officially beaten NaNo with the completion of SUNSET SONATA at 85K....and I'm off and running again with my next novel GHOST FOX GIRLS (sample and synopsis are up on the site under my KalenO profile - feel free to add me to your buddy list if you haven't already).

But I thought I'd take a break from all that for a second and revive a short-lived series from earlier in the weekly Tales from the which I give a nitty gritty view of some of the shenanigans that take place on the sets of some of the most popular TV shows and movies.

Be forewarned.  This week's installment is SCANDALOUS.

Now, aside from being SCANDALOUS, this week's tale is also from my early days as an extra, and takes place on the set of a popular medical drama...but do not bother speculating as to which show precisely it is, as I CAN NEITHER CONFIRM NOR DENY!

Unless you bribe me with books, of course.  I'm the literary equivalent of a cheap date.

ANYWAYS.  So there we were, on location at a real, actual hospital for filming.  This show had its set on one of the major lots of course, but it also used big, sweeping shots of the outside of a hospital, people going in and out of the entrance and scenes that took actors down long, hospital hallways that simply couldn't be replicated on a small soundstage.  So for shots like those, they used a VA hospital that allowed them free reign of one wing of it after 4 pm one day a week.

Now, most of the extras on this show were regulars...they liked to establish us as background doctors, nurses and orderlies so there was a familiar feel to the hospital rather than the sense that it was a Magic Hospital that contained thousands more doctors, nurses and orderlies than the Rules of Physics would seem to allow.

So we were all friendly, we knew each other well, joked around all the time, knew the cast, the fact, to the new, virginal extras who came on the show every week to be patients and visitors and never return, we seemed an impenetrable clique.

As such, in accordance with the Laws of Cool Kids Everywhere, we didn't really associate with the new extras much.  And for that, I blame society and accept no responsibility.

ANYWAYS.  So on the day in question, we were pretty much being left to our own devices while the cast and crew shot scenes on the far end of the hospital wing opposite where we were positioned.  There was a grand, Very Dramatic scene wherein a mob of doctors swept through the halls of the hospital following the lead of one doctor, and we were all positioned in that last hallway they were to walk through so they'd have people to Dramatically Sweep Aside as they passed.

However, they were taking a very long time with the scenes at the other end of the hospital, and they hadn't gotten to us for hours.  Needless to say, we were very bored.

So a group of us 'regulars' were sitting on the floor in the hallway we were supposed to be waiting in.  Playing on our phones, chatting, being silly, and rolling a tennis ball back and forth to each other.  Oh yeah.  Hollywood, baby.  You know you're jealous.

All of a sudden, one of the new extras came running up to us.  She'd been stationed in a small alcove further down the hall, and I guess due to our Unapproachable Cliquey-ness had remained there rather than come closer and join us in our highly fulfilling game of 'Roll the Tennis Ball'.  So imagine our surprise when this petite little blonde girl in nurse scrubs comes running up to us, all wide-eyed and out of breath.

"What is it, Lassie?  Did Timmy fall down the well again?"  One of us (possibly me, I admit to nothing) inquired somewhat asininely.

"So I was waiting in that alcove like they told me," she huffed, still out of breath.  We nodded along, hoping this was going somewhere good.  As I said, we were very bored.  "And I had to sneeze, but I didn't want to make any noise, you know, cuz they're filming over there!"

We nodded somewhat less enthusiastically, no longer convinced the punch line was going to be worth our attention.  She clearly had no idea how to get to the point.  It was very different from how I tell a story like this, for instance.

"So I opened the door behind me and stuck my head in to cough - " Here she paused dramatically, so I will do the same....

"And there were two people in there HAVING SEX!"

"Just to clarify, when you say having sex, you mean..." 

I received a few dirty looks at my effort to seek clarification, and shrugged.  "What?  We don't know what she considers to be having sex.  I feel its a valid question.  She could be Amish and referring to heavy petting, for all we know!"

"Well, there was a guy laying on a bed and a woman on top of him and she had no shirt on and when they saw me the woman said 'Can I help you, sweetie?'"

"Yup, that counts," I said.  I was mostly ignored.

Instead everyone exchanged wide-eyed looks and started down the hallway.  This was by far the most exciting thing that had happened since lunch, and we were all a bunch of pervs anyways.  It wasn't like we were going to look in the room or anything.  It was just that it was after 4 pm, so the only people still in this part of the hospital were members of the production like us and we were very, very curious to see who would come out of that room.

Now, since we were regulars and had been to this part of this hospital many times before, we were familiar with the layout.  And like veritable Nancy Drews we staked out all exits to the Room Behind the Alcove...and sure enough, we spied with our little eyes, Let's Call Her Helen (one of the make-up artists) and Let's Call Him Drew (one of the key grips) sneaking out of the room not long after.  Looking miiiiiiightily disheveled.

This would have been pure titillation, were it not for one thing.

Being 'regulars' on the show, we were familiar with most of the members of the crew.  Including Let's Call Him Drew.

And Let's Call Him Drew's wife.  A very lovely, very sweet woman.

Who was definitely NOT Let's Call Her Helen.

In that empty, echo-ey hallway, you could actually hear the sound of a dozen eyes narrowing militantly.

Now, here's the thing about Hollywood.

Gossip is kind of its lifeblood.  Doesn't matter how much you moan about it, or whether or not you abstain from partaking personally.  Everyone knows everything about everyone....or in the absence of actual knowledge, makes stuff up to fill in any gaps.

Even sequestered away from the rest of production in our little hallway at the end of the hospital, somehow, within ten minutes, every other member of cast and crew knew what was going on.  Except for the first AD who was growing increasingly frustrated at his inability to locate Let's Call Her Helen anywhere (she was hiding in one of the trailers)...and the smirks he was getting whenever he asked.

And for the record, there's nothing quite like watching an A-list actress and major star of a show royally ream out one of the grips for being 'a dick-weaseled ass monkey', to paraphrase loosely.

Now, the moral of today's tale is you never know who might be watching - or just sticking their head in to sneeze, so be careful what you do and say and where you do it and with whom.  That shit'll always come back to bite you in the ass.  ESPECIALLY if you're doing something interesting and observed by people who are bored.

And further for the record, that describes 99% of the internet.  Just something to keep in mind when social networking.

Oh, and just don't do the dirty at work.  It's never worth it, kids.

Unless you're getting paid for it.

(Which incidentally ties into next week's tale.....but that's a story for another time.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Productivity: Magic or Timing?

So a gchat with one of my best buds and a twitter conversation with some of my favorite tweety birds has me thinking....

I know, I know, that's never a good thing.  You can all stop groaning now.

But real talk, peeps.  So we were talking about productivity and writing speeds, and how I can be a little cray cray at times.  And my good gal-pal Linsey who has known me nigh for a decade now, allllll the way back when we were wee Roswell fanfic writers (gasp, I know, I wrote FANFIC!) was testimony to the fact that like, yo.....I used to be completely incapable of finishing a single project.  True story.  Oh, I've always written fast, I can pound out a few thousand words in a sitting, but we all know that's only half of writing.  It doesn't matter how quickly you can type, because if the words ain't coming, they ain't coming.  And that was my problem.  I'd launch into these big, sweeping epics, get 15K or so into them in just a couple days....and then I'd flounder and flounce off to a new shiny.  I'd come back to the initial project after awhile (or after I'd floundered midway through others) and add more....another massive update or two of 15-20K in a matter of days....but it might be weeks or even months between those updates.

My writing was a study in evolutionary leaps.  Stories would crawl through the mud aimlessly, and every few thousand years a sudden LEAP to give them legs....and then it'd be another few thousand years before I came back to teach that little story fire, and like, give it a plot or something.

Yeah, not the best analogy, I know.  This is my brain on NaNo, remember kids?  I warned you it wasn't going to be pretty.

But basically, I had a lot of fish in the sea, but all of them were deformed little mutant tadpoles who were never gonna grow up to be Adult Bullfrog Stories or whatever.  (Man I am just BEATING this metaphor to death.)

And to this day, most of them remain floundering around in the back of my brain, malnourished and unloved.  This is why I don't have pets.

But overtime, once I moved on to being a 'real writer' - which means you have to legitimately write THE END on a project without using the 'rocks fall, people die' shortcut - I got better at the whole finishing thing.  But it took time.

My first novel, ROANOKE, took nine months to finish.  And I wrote for it every day.  But I wrote a couple hundred words a day at times, completely uninspired.  It was like pulling teeth, but I did it.  But what I wound up with wasn't very good.

My second novel, SHADES OF ADRIAN GRAY, took two years to finish, technically speaking.  But in reality the break down went:  Wrote the first chapter in a sat for seven months....wrote the next six chapters in six days, one a day....then it sat for a year and a half....then wrote the last fourteen chapters in three days.

Later books were somewhere in between.  ESCAPE ART took around five months, with long periods of not writing at all, GEMINI took three and I managed to be fairly consistent, but with low daily word counts.

But then, with more recent books, my stats jumped again.  DUST TO DUST was finished in three weeks.  MOST LIKELY TO SURVIVE took a month.  And I'm 25K into my NaNo novel, SUNSET SONATA, with another 50K projected until the end.  And my first drafts weren't...aren't terrible.  They're not just words on a page.  Oh, they're first drafts, with desperate need of revision, but they're still workable first drafts.

So Linsey and I were talking, and I attributed my speed with SUNSET SONATA to the book just coming to me easily, the story well within reach.  I picked the right story to write, I said.  And she laughed, and was like, oh yeah, because this was one of your contenders all along.  As of October 31st...four days ago, I was still debating which of three story ideas I was going to write this month.  SUNSET SONATA was not on the list.  The basic grain of the story idea was one I had over a year ago, for a short story I was going to write, an adult sci-fi short, but I hadn't even thought of it in months.  It was nowhere in the reckoning at all.  Then several hours before NaNo started, I got up from my computer, started pacing, annoyed with all three of my story ideas and my inability to choose between them....and I randomly thought of that short story idea again.  It grew and grew, I hopped on gchat and threw it out there as a possible story idea to Genn, weighed pro's and con's, the story growing all the while, and after an hour of chatting I decided, this was going to be my NaNo.  It was around 10 pm on October 31st, and I was still brainstorming titles, trying to make a cover to inspire me....

And then midnight hit, it was the start of NaNoWriMo, I tossed the words SUNSET SONATA on the top of my first page and started to write.  Three days later, I'm a third of the way done with the book at 25K.

So no, this story wasn't one of my contenders long before NaNo started.  It wasn't even a speck in my brain.  But I was still right, in what I told Linsey.  I'd picked the right story, that's why it's coming so quickly and easily.  It doesn't matter when I came up with it, or how much thought I'd put into it beforehand....I had other story possibilities, all of them viable, most that I'll still likely write at some just happened to be the right time for THIS story.

And that, I think, is my personal secret to my productivity.  I've always written quickly.  But in terms of writing full novels just boils down to this....somewhere along the line, I got better at picking what story to write at what time.  That's it.  Call it luck, call it instinct, but I firmly believe that FOR ME at least, and my personal writing process, knowing full well it's different for everyone....I can write any story at any time.  But the difference between it being a long and arduous process and a lightning fast sprint is finding that magical sweet spot where I'm writing the RIGHT story at the RIGHT time.  If I had gone with ALL HIS LITTLE MONSTERS instead of this one, would I be 25K into it?  Probably not.  Hell in fact, I can guarantee it.  Oh, I'd probably have 8K or so, still completely respectable, but it would be a struggle.  I wouldn't still be as inspired when I got up from writing as I was when I sat down.  I'd be exhausted at the end of an eight hour block of solid writing rather than exhilarated.

But when its the right story, when its the right time....10K a sitting doesn't wear me down.  Doesn't burn me  out.  Not til all's said and done, anyways, and I put THE END after that final period.   

I guess what I'm saying is....writing's kinda my crack, yo, and I'm a hopeless addict.

Somebody pass me a lighter, willya?

And just so its not all about me.....(though really, its my blog and I'll be egocentric if I want to, dagnabbit, ME ME ME, there, I feel better)....

So what about you guys?  What's your average pace like, if you have one, and does it vary from project to project?  If so, what, if anything, do you think was special about the projects that came to you quicker or easier?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

WIP Wednesday

So its Day Two of NaNo and I am off and running and a little bit insane.  Just topped off at 15K for two days....definitely time for a break, but I think I can get another couple thousand words later tonight.  Not gonna aim for 5K more, as tempting as it is though.  Pace yourself, self.

Anyways, a little about my NaNo project....its a YA sci-fi space opera called SUNSET SONATA.  In it, there's a race of supremely powerful bodiless entities known as the patrons...they don't communicate with humanity or interact with them, save for when they can be persuaded to through art, the only thing humans create that they're at all interested or intrigued by.  And so in the galactic civilization of the distant future, artists wield great power - they attend rulers and command armies, as with the backing of a patron, they can manipulate the weather, destroy cities, even confer immortality.  But first they must train at the Academy, in the hopes of attracting a patron of their own....and learning, sometimes at a terrible cost, that the favors of their patrons are unpredictable and sometimes dangerous....and can vanish as quickly as they're granted.

In this excerpt, the main character Teela (a Musician) gets her first glimpse of the Academy, along with three of her future classmates, an Architect, a Painter and a Dancer.

The sky-ferry rounded the cliffs and I leaned forward over the railing, eager for my first glimpse of the Academy.  I failed to realize doing so would put me partially outside the comfort of the ferry’s artificial atmosphere.  Chill winter winds tore at my face, chapping my lips and numbing my cheeks.  I gasped and shivered and most likely caught pneumonia, but then the towering spires of the Academy loomed up ahead of us and I forgot how to be anything but awed.

It crowned the red rocks of the mountaintop like a glittering, multi-faceted jewel, walls curving and climbing at dizzying angles that defied everything I thought I knew about geometry.  Buildings shimmered like pearls beneath the haze of the Academy’s perpetual twilight, the grounds blanketed by lush, sprawling gardens said to bloom year round in an eternal spring.  A spinning crystal orb balanced atop the tallest tower.  Riotous displays of color boiled and shifted within it and splashed across the sky above, rainbow auroras crashing against banks of clouds like waves upon a shore.

“The Painter’s Moon,” Alars said.  He leaned forward besides me, eyes following the same path as mine.  His fingers twitched against the railing.  “Imagine painting with the sky itself as your canvas.”

I was no painter, but I understood the hunger in his voice all the same.  Then the temperature jumped in a span of seconds as we crossed whatever border kept the Academy in its own space and time, untouched by the outside world.  The sky-ferry picked up speed and we skimmed along the sides of the mountain.  We darted past hanging tropical gardens, the air thick and heavy with their perfumes.  Winds from our passage set delicate trees to swaying and howled through gaps in the rocks, somehow turning into haunting melodies that I recognized: Ardakoff’s Requiem at Midnight, the Dosvai Dirges, Mariroja’s Pasionada ad Infinatum….great.

Even the rocks at this place played them better than I did.

We drew level with a waterfall thundering down the cliff-face.  It drowned out whatever Mera was saying next to me.  Spray misted our faces as the ferry rose to the Academy proper. 

It was impossible to gauge just how big it was, but then, a good many things about it were impossible in general.  Like the buildings that looked as though sculpted from ice and hovering above with no support whatsoever.  Or the sweeping silver staircase that climbed so high in the air it seemed to end in the clouds.  Or the bridge of water growing out of a fountain and supporting a handful of people as sturdily as one made from stone…but then, I supposed that’s why it was called the Impossible Academy.  What do you expect from a place crafted from imagination, unfettered by physics?

“Wait, hold that pose!”  Ezra shouted behind me.  I spun to see him viewing me through framed hands.  He pursed his lips in mock concentration.  “I have my first masterpiece.  Open-Mouthed Peasant Feasting Upon Flies.”

“Ezra, move away from the railing,” Mera said with an imperious eye roll I vowed to later practice in the mirror.  She held a perfectly manicured hand between them and studied it, as though gauging its effectiveness as an instrument of fratricide.  “I’m feeling dangerously justified in shoving you overboard.”

He scowled and sulked off.

“How are you related to him?”  I wondered out loud.

“Some kind of cosmic joke, I suppose.”  She sighed.  “I don’t get it.”               

Monday, October 17, 2011

Can you smell the Nano in the air?

It's that time again, boys and girls.  Mostly girls though.

Yes, November is just around the corner, and I don't think I have to tell anyone what that means.  Not followers of THIS blog.  You crazy kids know the drill.  It's the annual writer version of a marathon, the literary equivalent of the Olympics, its time for you to strut your stuff, walk the walk, talk the talk, put pen to paper (in an entirely digital fashion), place butt in chair and WRITE THAT BOOK.

Oh NaNoWriMo.  That glorious one month a year, where we writerly types almost feel athletic.

Have you all been stretching your creative muscles?  Getting limber, doing your breathing exercises, loosening up those 'THIS MUST BE A BESTSELLER OR I WILL NEVER WRITE AGAIN RAWR' expectations and getting in touch with your innate love of writing?

Because that's what NaNoWriMo is, if you think about it.  It's not about a book that will get you an agent or a book deal or a house in Hawaii.  It's not about the book at all.  NaNoWriMo is about the WRITING.  It's about letting go of all the hang-ups and expectations and self-recriminations we work ourselves into a frenzy with the other eleven months out of the year.  It's about not worrying what the book will look like at the end of the month, how many drafts it'll need before its publication-ready, whether or not this is the book that'll put you on the map.  NaNo is about telling the story, in whatever way you need to in order to get it out there, and worrying about the packaging later.

It's a chance for us every year to stop, breathe, blank our minds and get back in touch with what makes us all writers in the first place....that inner drive to just sit in whatever environment suits us best, place our fingers on the keys and just let go, channel the story inside us and watch the words, thoughts, and ideas blossom on the screen in front of us.  No obsessing about the perfect beginning or perfect ending, just each word right NOW and then the one right after it and then the one after that....until all the words are out and we can write THE END and sit back, exhale, and celebrate our accomplishment, finally putting one more of the many stories rattling around in our head to bed.       

And best of all, it's a chance to do it in the company of fine friends and like-minded fools....I mean fine friends.  The ones who actually GET what the madness is all about, and celebrate the insanity of giving birth to a book with only a month for gestation.  To urge each other on and carry each other to the finish line.

So, fine followers, I ask you....are you ready for NaNo?  Do you have your story idea yet?  Plotters, are you plotting?  Pantsers, are you loosening up that belt?

I'll be doing a MG Fantasy called 'The Two Sides of Midnight', but am abstaining from plotting.  We'll see how the story takes shape on its own this time.  Should be fun.  How about you all?  What are your plans for NaNo?

For anyone partaking, I'm proposing a daily check-in on twitter, starting November 1st, using the hashtag #thisismybrainonNaNo.  Just a little something for everyone to use in a morning tweet with your wordcount thus far, an easy way to find others and urge each other on at the start of each day.  You can end the day with another #thisismybrainonNaNo tweet with how many words you've written that day, and get a flurry of feel-goods to take with you to bed, a smile on your face.  As always, you can find me on twitter at @kalenodonnell where I shall happily enable any and all of you in your drug - I mean NaNo induced frenzies.

Tick-tock goes the clock, guys!  Fifteen days til NaNo!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Inevitable #YesgayYA Post - but its not what you think, honest

No, your eyes do not deceive you, for lo!  I have returned from blogging hiatus!  (We're gonna pretend that was an official 'thing' and not like, me utterly FAILING on the regular updating thing.  Okay?  Sound good?  Thanks for playing along, guys.  You're all aces in my book.)

So, speaking of books - yeah, you know you liked that segue - how about that whole yesgayya hoopla from last week?  Oh YA.  We do love our drama.  Course, you know me being me, I have A Very Important Opinion on it, so despite being a day late and a dollar short, I'm going to drop my two cents down right here.

BUT instead of talking about this instance in particular, let's talk about the greater issue.  And about diversity in YA in general.  I'm sure most of you following this have seen all the relevant posts like Malinda Lo's charts demonstrating that less than 1% of YA books have gay characters at all.  I know!  Crazy, right?  And I think we all remember the whole white-washing thing with the cover of Justine Larbalestier's novel 'Liar'.  We've come a long way in the publishing industry, where today books like Scott Tracey's 'Witch Eyes' can wind up on shelves next to every other YA paranormal, not caring that the MC's Romeo and Juliet style romance with a witch from another family is with another boy.  But the way we got to this point, and the only way to get to MORE such books on the shelves, is not by writing blog posts or arguing for better minority representation via twitter.  It's simply by WRITING MORE MINORITY CHARACTERS.

Eureka.  Pretty self-explanatory, right?  Except it's not so simple.  Because no single author can make up for under representation of any given minority.  When an author tries, the effort tends to stick out amidst all the other books featuring a cast of straight white teens across the board.  And I can't speak for everyone, but I know when I examined my own works and my own motivations in writing this character this way and that character as a member of that demographic, I discovered a personal fear of mine.  A fear of being labeled - as That Author.  The One With the Agenda. 

I'm ashamed to admit - I have in the past made the conscious decision to straighten or whitewash my OWN characters - because I was afraid of being perceived as the author who always had gay or minority characters in his novels.  That readers would perceive it as filling a quota, or pushing an agenda.

But you know what?  That's just silly, boys and girls.  That's hogwash.  And there's a lot worse things to be known for.

The thing is, all writers are readers, first and foremost.  And reading a book is a HELL of a lot easier than writing one.  So when we writers write, we usually do it to fill a lack.  We write the stories we want to read, but can't - because they're in our heads, and nobody can put them to paper but us.  We write the characters we want to see in other books but don't.  Doing the things we wish the hero of this book would have done, or making the choice we wish the heroine of that one had made.  For me, a lot of the time that means the characters I want to write are minority characters, a bi-racial heroine, a predominantly Hispanic main cast, a gay hero having fantastical, non romantic adventures.  Because these are the stories and characters I can't read elsewhere.  Because they don't exist elsewhere.  Because there's a lack.

Writing to fill a void is not the same thing as writing to fill a quota.

Intent matters.  Your reasons for making this character black and that one gay matter - but the only one they have to matter to is YOU, the author.  Everyone else will think what they want to think regardless.  If you have a formula, and after writing a book full of straight white teens sit down and make one of them multiracial, one of them LGBT, etc...yeah, that could probably be construed as agenda.  But if you're simply writing the characters as they pop into your head, who cares if every single one of them happens to be black and transgendered? 

I'm bisexual.  My older sister's Jewish.  My younger sister's Vietnamese, my little brother's Mexican.  We're a weird family.  It's a long story.  But if a family lineup like that can come about naturally in real life, then surely you can make any assemblage of characters work in a fictional world of your own making.  I grew up used to being around people who are different from me.  That's my normal.  So yeah, the books I write are pretty much always going to have more minority characters than most - because that's what's normal to me, and that's a part of my life and my world I don't see adequately reflected in fiction.  It's silly for me to be self-conscious about it, just because it sets me apart from books with no minority characters and risks me being labeled as an author with an agenda.

Yeah, I'm a minority writer and I have an agenda.  My agenda?  To write what's inside of me.  To write and let it out.

More people should try it, honestly.  Saves truckloads on therapy bills.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

An Abundance of Katherines

No, I'm not talking about the John Green novel, though that is most definitely worth checking out.  I'm talking about last week's birthday of the many incarnations of my good friend Katey....better known in these here blog parts as horror/dark fic writer KV Taylor and her shiny alter ego Katey Hawthorne, romance writer extraordinaire.

Not only was last week her birthday, it was a book birthday for her as well.  Her very first book, Equilibrium debuted from Loose Id, and is available for digital purchase right now!  It's a m/m romance, with punches pulled, so since many of my blog readers are YA readers and writers I advise you to go into that with your eyes wide open, but I know superpowered boys in love should appeal to more than a few of you, hmmmMMMM?  *Eyes a few of you in particular YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE*

And it's SO good, Loose Id has already announced they will be publishing her second book in the Equilibrium universe....this one to be tentatively titled 'Riot Boy', I believe?

But maybe superboys in love aren't your cup of tea.  That's okay, she has 'Scripped' dropping from Belfire Press any day now under her KV Taylor nom de plume....a dark, twisted tale of Appalachian fae and the old adage you can't go home again....

And get this!  Belfire Press likes her so much, they've already announced plans to publish the next KV Taylor book....a dark and bloody vampire romance/horror, where the monsters are actually monsters....and still disturbingly hot, just the way we like them.  Now, if the woman managed to sell a vampire book in THIS market, you KNOW it's gotta be good, right?

And to top of Ms. Taylor's all around awesome sauce year last year, it also saw her debut as an editor at Morrigan Books AND as the creator and editor of the Red Penny Papers, a quarterly online lit magazine of things that go bump in the night, a compilation of amazing fiction, stunning art, and the revival of the serial novella with weekly installments of a new novella in between each regular issue.  Get the scoop on that here at the Red Penny Papers site - it's fully legit and FANCY yo....I think more than a couple of you might have some things you might want to float her way, and it's ALWAYS a good read and worth a perusal.

So in conclusion, Katey is awesome.  If awesome people want to read the implication that they should totally go wish her a happy birthday with a quick peek at some of her goodies (I MEANT HER FICTION NOT THOSE GOODIES YOU BUNCHA PERVERTS) and possibly snag one or two for a read, well.....that is totally your call.

*Is hella subtle, yo*

Happy birthday Katey!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Let's Hear It For the Girl....

So I'm neck-deep in the amazing-ness that is at the moment (if you're not over there, you need to run over and join the fun IMMEDIATELY) but I had to come up for air real quick to give a round of applause and big shout out to your friend and mine, Ms. Anita Howard, authoress extraordinaire of the upcoming YA fantasy 'Splintered'....coming to shelves near you in the spring of 2013.

That's right. the one and only Goat Posse Den Mother, fountain of boundless optimism and inspiration to the rest of us, has inspired once again!  She's going to the big leagues kiddos, so run on over to her blog and congratulate her!  You're not gonna want to miss this dark Alice in Wonderland spin off about a girl who talks to bugs!  Four out of five critique partners think its the bee's knees.

We no longer speak of the fifth.

(I'm just kidding, there is no fifth.  Everyone who's read her book loves it, I just made up an imaginary person who didn't to make Anita seem more real and less Wonder Woman-y.  Seriously.  Nobody's that frickin' nice unless they're secretly like, a cyborg or something unnatural like that).

AND THAT WAS A TEST BY THE WAY.  If you actually read that far, CLEARLY you did not follow instructions and hop on over to Anita's blog.  Shoo!  What are you still doing here?

Sigh.  Some people...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Guest Post at Cory's Blog!

Hey everybody!  I'm guest blogging today over at the blog of the always lovely Corinne Duyvis over here!  Cory, a totally fantabulous writer who rocks the casbah and is represented by Michael Carr of the Veritas Literary Agency, is currently away at Clarion West right now with all the other kids and asked me and a few others to fill in for her with some guest spots at her casa de la intarwebz!  If you've yet to acquaint yourself with her, you should get your butts over to her blog posthaste and delve into the awesomeness that is she!  And like, read my guest post, yo.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hidden Treasures

So I was cleaning out an old email account, when I came across a cover I'd made for one of my epic fantasy WIPs.  I used to play around with Photoshop a lot (back when I still had it *cries*) and had a blast combining different images and elements to create mock covers for my works.  (Note, I didn't create any of the specific images in this cover, I just combined them with various elements and designs to create the overall piece.  Credit where credit's due, but alas, I can't remember where I found the images, which is why this is just for fun.)

And then it got me thinking about all the random creations I've lost over the years...due to computer crashes or lost spiral notebooks or a box of old printed manuscripts vanishing in a move to a new apartment.  I still have my first broken laptop tucked away in my closet, and on it is all the outlining and writing I did on my original magnum opus I started years ago.  There's still a fun story to be told from those notes, I'm sure, but I for the life of me can not remember how the story was supposed to go without them, and I've yet to find someone able to recover the files from that particular harddrive.  I hold onto it anyways, just in case.

So how about you guys?  Any of you have any vanished masterpieces you've lost and been unable to recover, or that you know are still lurking around somewhere if you can just remember where you put those notes or saved those chapters?  Or have you ever stumbled across something you created years ago and totally forgot about until it popped up again unexpectedly? 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Big Things Poppin'

And with that fabulous intro by rapper T.I., I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

But just for a second.  Sorry to leave you lovelies deprived of my awesomeness for the past two weeks (Hey you in the back!  Don't think I don't see you rolling your eyes!) but I have had DRAMA!  And excitement!  Amazing happenings!

...also, bronchitis.

But enough about the questionable state of my lungs!  I am merely popping in to say rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated! 

...Hmm?  What's that?  Nobody's been spreading such rumors?  Well fine, I don't care about you either.

Anyways, just wanted to say regular blogging probably won't resume until after next week - due in part to said DRAMA!  Excitement!  And amazing happenings! - and in part due to my being in New York next week for work.  If any of y'all live in New York near the Lincoln Center (think that's where I'll be), it'd be awesome to hang or something, even if ever so briefly! 

But once I get back, expect NEWS.  And a blogfest.  And a contest.  And possibly scandalous gossip about my famous co-stars, once I have weighed whether or not they are the type to SUE me for spreading slanderous half truths all across yon interwebs.

So basically, business as usual.

Ta ta, peeps!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dear Wall Street Journal - My YA is for your kids, not you

Serious talk for a second guys. I wrote this post yesterday, and have gone back and forth about a thousand times on whether or not to post it. It's not something I ever expected to talk about publicly at this stage in my (as yet) non-career. But the more I think about it, the more I burn and simmer over the casual ignorance in the Wall Street Journal review that blew up twitter yesterday, and how dangerous that ignorance and brand of thinking can be - I realize that because I am me, and because I can not just NOT respond to it, I will be talking about this publicly at some point in my career. So - why not now?

For those of you unaware of what all the fuss about, the article at the Wall Street Journal is HERE. There are a lot of things wrong with this article - my anger first started to rear its ugly head when the writer talked about the rape, prostitution and suicide in GO ASK ALICE - and then a paragraph later says stuff like that pales in comparison to the YA of today, and describes a book where the EXACT SAME STUFF HAPPENS, except its a male character, who's ALMOST raped by another man.....dear writer, please be careful, I think your prejudices are showing.

As I said, there are too many things wrong with this article to respond to them on a point by point basis. But the gist of the ignorance here stems from the reviewer overlooking one very crucial thing in YA:


As adults, we have a wealth of life experiences and education to guide us past certain elements of 'darkness'. It's our responsibility to try and share those experiences and education with teenagers, to protect and guide them in turn - but too many adults forget its not as simple as do this or don't do that. Mandates are meaningless. You can shout certain warnings until you're blue in the face, and teens will go right ahead and do them, because vague ominous declarations of Here There Be Dragons sometimes only intrigue, rather than forewarn. There are certain things in life that can not be avoided, that you can not protect kids from. Things they have to experience and learn to avoid on their own.

No matter how many times you tell a baby not to touch the pan on the stove because it's hot and it will burn, given the opportunity, curiosity will still drive that baby to touch and find out for itself - because it has no context for pain, no frame of reference to understand that it is something to be avoided. Until it experiences it firsthand.

This is what YA does. This is what YA is. It's context. It's a frame of reference for things beyond kids' immediate circle of understanding. It's a support system when your real life, person to person support system fails. Books connect us to places and people and experiences we will never encounter in our real lives. They put us inside the minds of people both less and more fortunate than us, and let us see for ourselves if the grass is truly greener on the other side. Books - whether books about the darkness around us or about the light - teach us empathy, and what it is like to walk in another person's shoes, in ways that no teacher, no parent, can ever impart.

Drugs are bad, we say. But without the personal anecdotes, without the actual experiences, fictional or otherwise, without the perspective of one who has been there and made those choices and experienced them firsthand, we might as well say fire hot. Don't touch.

And so, because I am pissed off, and because I often do things I might regret when I'm pissed off, I want to provide some context that the writer of this article overlooked. I'm going to talk about two books in particular, and my reasons for writing them - one the first novel I wrote, and one I haven't written yet.

'Shades of Adrian Gray' is the story of two closeted high school teenagers who develop a hidden relationship - and of the one of them left behind to cope and deal with his grief on his own when his boyfriend is killed in a car accident. It's about coming of age and coming to terms with one's sexuality, sure, but more than that, its about being isolated from the friends and family around you, of feeling you HAVE to be isolated to protect yourself. It's about convincing yourself you have no one to turn to, and no one who can understand, and how secrets eat away at you and wear you down and make you do stupid, stupid things you'll regret.

It's based on elements of real life. I grew up in a very conservative, old money part of San Diego. I was only in high school a little over a decade ago, but being out - whether as gay or bi - was not an option. To this day, I don't know of a single other out person from my high school. I'm sure there are a couple, but I'm not aware of them personally.

And yes, its also based on my losing someone very close to me when I was in college, because we were both young and stupid and thought we could be careless with each other's lives and feelings and hearts because we were still learning and working things out, and we thought we'd have time to fix all the mistakes we made along the way. We didn't know that the universe has its own timetable, and what we want or assume isn't a factor in its calculations.

And it has cursing in it and sex and violence and depression and all the things that happen when you take a teenager who's convinced the world won't accept him if he's not straight and macho and full of anger and repressed emotions - and cut him off from everyone who wants to help him, but just doesn't know how.

I was that teenage boy. I was that angry at the world in general. And I made stupid, stupid mistakes because of it.

What that reviewer overlooks, and what the woman she speaks of in the bookstore at the opening of her article is blithely blind to - is that teenage boy could also be their sons or daughters. Standing facing a wall of books you consider too dark for your child, you fail to realize - its not about what you want for them. They're making their own choices, living their own lives. You can only guide them so far, but eventually, they're going to start down roads you can't help them traverse - BECAUSE YOU'VE NEVER BEEN THERE YOURSELF.

When I was younger, due to circumstances and mistakes all around, I had very big issues with my parents - but let me be clear. It was not because they are horrible people. But the best parents in the world can not provide directions back from places on the map that they've never ventured themselves. And as teenagers, we know the difference between meaningless platitudes and advice based on what is proper or normal or right - and advice that comes from relatibility, from having been in the same boat. And we are very picky about what advice we choose to accept.

YA books are not the darkness, they're the light in the darkness that says here, follow me, let me show you what it's like, what the road ahead looks like, and you can see how to pick your path and place your feet a little more carefully.

I wrote 'Shades of Adrian Gray' because there was nothing like it for me to read when I was growing up, and because having a book like it could have changed EVERYTHING. Because knowing that someone else is out there who's felt the same way, who's faced the same decisions - sometimes that's enough.

As for the book I haven't written yet:

That's why, despite countless times of sitting down at the computer and trying to write it, only to get up, nauseated and tell myself that I don't need to write THIS story, that someone else can do it for me, I know now - after reading this article, and the reactions to it, and the #YAsaves hashtag, that someday, when I'm brave enough, I will write 'Confessions of a Craigslist Hooker.'

Or perhaps 'Hustle'. I go back and forth on what the title should be.

I will write it - no matter how much tearing the bandage I've plastered over that part of my life hurts, no matter how sick it makes me to remember how stupid and careless and self-destructive I was - because there was nothing like it when I needed it. Because thousands of kids just like me do the same things, convincing themselves they have no other options and nobody could possibly understand. Because even now, I go on craigslist sometimes just to look, and I see smug, self-righteous entitled assholes posting comments and ads about lazy hookers and telling them to go get a job or go to school or a thousand careless, oblivious dagger-shaped words and I just want to SCREAM its not that simple. That you can have a job and be in school and still be desperate.

I will write it because I didn't understand how one small, seemingly insignificant decision in the face of overwhelming desperation can snowball. How easily one isolated event turns into another. And because society told me that there are some things too dark and too shameful to ever confess to another person. That there are sins that can't be forgiven and not everyone deserves redemption. I will write it because there was no person and no book I could find to tell me that THESE THINGS ARE NOT TRUE.

I will write it because its not actually what people think it is, not what you see on TV. Because nothing can prepare you for how addicting it is - after years of being overlooked and lost in the crowd, to have people falling all over themselves telling you how gorgeous you are and buying you expensive presents and flying you to Vegas for the weekend. How you get hooked, even as you tell yourself at least you're too smart to get hooked on drugs.

I will write it because there are kids out there, who even right now, at this very moment - their parents are standing in bookstores, trying to find the least offensive title for their son, completely oblivious to what he really wants or needs and a year from now, two years from now, he'll be walking the same road I was. Without anyone to warn him to at least look out for the young, good looking guys - they're the worst ones, because they're the ones who only pay because they enjoy your desperation. Because someone needs to prepare him for the look on the sweet old man's face as he tries to convince you to let him be your Richard Gere and save you from it all, when you're still too proud or too stupid to know you need saving. To tell him about the stuff you can't wash off in the shower, and how you'll just stand there, soaking, thinking about the guy who asked you point blank, why are you doing this - and the fact that you couldn't find an answer. And that all the 'friends' you make, the kindred spirits, the other loud, bravado-shouting boys with their swagger and dreams and secret hopes and fears confessed to each other while the john who paid you both to come over is in the bathroom - they'll all be dead in a few years. That being one of the lucky ones, the ones who get out disease free and all body parts intact, just means that all your scars are on the inside.

And it won't be enough. It'll never be enough. But it'll be something.

It will make me want to yell and break things, I can tell you now. It'll hurt to write, and it'll hurt every step of the way as I fight to get it published, and it won't be easy. Because it will have violence and sex and swearing and drugs. And it will not be pretty, because you can't make it pretty. And some people will praise it for being edgy and racy and controversial and I'll want to hit them. And other people will fight their hardest to keep it from the ones who need it most and I'll want to hit them too. And still others will label it heavy handed and preachy and that's okay, because I can assure you there is no way in hell I can write this book without pouring DO NOT DO THESE THINGS into the words with every fiber of my being.

Because what the Wall Street Journal really failed to grasp, at the end of the day, is that YA is about paying it forward. That it's not even about the kids who read it. It's about the kids who write it - or at least, the adults they grew up to be. When I write it, I will not write it for the faceless teens in San Diego and Chicago and Tinytown, Idaho. I will write it for me, and will simultaneously pray to the universe for a warp in the space/time continuum that lets nineteen year old me find it on a shelf in the bookstore while I'm waiting for my 'date'. So that I know, that even when things are at their worst, that it can get better. That I will be happy again. And that I deserve it, no matter what choices I've made to bring me that far.

I'm not quite ready to write this book. I've tried, and I've even come close a time or two, but it still hurts too much. Someday I'll be able to power through it though, and when I do, because I am a vindictive fuck the dedication will read:

To Ms. Megan Cox Gurdon of the Wall Street Journal -

This one is not for you

Friday, June 3, 2011

In Which an Awesome Person is Awesome

Not what I intended to blog about today, but there's no way I could not pass this on -

If you guys don't know her already, you need to go familiarize yourself with the amazing Gen Albin!  I first met her on QueryTracker, and after a whirlwind journey of beginning the query process to signing with an agent and landing a book deal all within six weeks, you can read the official announcement about her book deal for CREWEL at her blog here!

And just remember folks, in a year and a half when everyone's talking about the hottest new series since the most recent (failed) apocalypse, you heard about it here first!

Congrats Gen!  So freaking happy for you! 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday's Tales from the Set

Hello all, and welcome to the second installment of Tuesday's

Tales from the Set

In Which Kalen Becomes a Stunt Driver

or alternatively titled:
In Which Our Hero is Asian For a Day, and a Bad Driver, But its Totally Not Racist

So there I was - roasting in my car on a hot Sunday afternoon, foot firmly on the brake pedal and surrounded by a sea of equally stalled cars on the Pasadena freeway.  Was there an accident?  Was the president in town?  Had the zombie apocalypse finally come and we were all fleeing the ravenous undead hordes?!

No.  We were extras, working on a Sunday, and instructed to sit in our cars on the cordoned off section of the freeway and keep the ignition on and our feet on the brakes so they could shoot from behind and see our brake lights lit up.

Three months into my work as an extra at the bottom rungs of the entertainment industry ladder, and Hollywood continued to bring the glamour.

We'd started work at five am that morning.  Hours of just sitting, alone in our cars with our thoughts and our books and our Ipods and laptops - but never getting too comfortable, lest our feet slip off the brake pedals...which they started to do as one hour stretched into two and then three and four and five.  It's terribly fulfilling, knowing that your work can be performed with equal competence by an actual rock.  At one point I did leave my car and hunt around for something to hold down my brakes so I could take a nap in my backseat.  Alas, I came up empty handed.  Or else all the other extras beat me to it...

But that's the thing about a Hollywood set!  Just when you start to feel the chill of slow and painful death by boredom set into your bones....out of nowhere!  Excitement!  Happenings!  Egads!

A PA in an ominous black truck zoomed up alongside me and rolled down his window.  I snapped to attention and shouted 'I'm not sleeping!' before remembering oh wait, nobody cares.  

Much like my high school girlfriend, they just wanted me for my car.

The PA briefly looked me up and down.

"You'll do," he said, and told me to shut off my engine and get in his truck.  Flattered beyond measure, but having heard stories about boys like him, I hesitated.

"But what about my car?"

"Just leave it there," he said.  "It'll be fine."

"It won't mess up the shot?"

"Nobody can even see it back here," he assured me.  My last several hours of work thus validated, I shut off my engine and climbed into the strange man's car.  We drove in awkward silence (he wasn't a big talker) the ten minutes back to where base camp was set up and he dropped me off in front of the wardrobe trailer.

"Tell wardrobe that the director wants you to photo double for Matt King," he said.

"Okay," I started to say, ever agreeable.  Then something occurred to me, even as he drove off.  "Wait.  Isn't Matt King Asian?"

But alas, he was already dust in the wind, and thus armed with my dubious instructions I prepared to face The Wardrobe Department.

Mercurial in their favors, The Wardrobe Department is one of the mightiest of the departments - they hold the power of Good Clothes in their hands.  Their whims may be tempered by the Will of the Director, but they and they alone know what clothes can make you look your best and what can make you look your worst - AND THEY CAN MAKE YOU WEAR THEM.

Bad things happen to those who piss off Wardrobe.  Incidentally, that may or may not be part of the reason I can be glimpsed in an episode of Melrose Place wearing a lavender suit and matching pink fedora.

But that is neither here nor there.

I approached the wardrobe trailer with all the timidity of the lone extra separated from the safety of the herd and very aware that he is out of his element.  The three wardrobers paused in their discussion of Sekrit things and eyed me balefully over their diet sodas.  They knew my coming heralded a Return to Work.

"What?"  One barked.

"Umm, they need me to photo double for Matt King."  I stood tall.  Or at least made an attempt at height.

The Lead Wardrober narrowed beady eyes, trying to decide if I was pulling her leg or not.  "Matt King is Asian."

"Yes, he is."  It's always best to agree with Wardrobe.

"You're not Asian."

"That had occurred to me as well," I said politely.

"God I hate this set," she sighed and waved me up to the trucker.  "Come on.  Let's see what we can do with you."
Half an hour later and garbed in his character's requisite SWAT gear, I was shocked to find that I did in fact, look vaguely Asian.  I still looked nothing like Matt King of course.  The powers of Wardrobe are vast and many, but even they can only do so much.  Still, it was something.  And if you squinted with one eye, gouged the other one out with a stick, and the lighting was poor, our resemblance was absolutely uncanny.

"You'll do," Lead Wardrober ultimately grunted in eerie similarity to the first PA.  And thus armed, another PA was summoned and I was driven back to set, along side another extra photo doubling for the other lead actor.

At set, we were escorted to the first AD, who was standing next to a very large, very expensive SUV.  I started to get a Very Bad Feeling.

"You're Matt's photo double?" She asked me.  

I nodded.  My fear was a great and terrible thing.

"Good.  You'll be driving."

"I will?"

"Yup.  You'll need this."

She handed a walkie talkie to the other photo double, but my attention was on the SUV, which bore a passing resemblance to an eighteen wheeler and probably cost more than my entire apartment building.

"You'll follow that PA to the other side of the freeway and wait there.  We'll radio you instructions from there.  Got it?  Great!  Don't crash!"

I wasn't really sure what to say to that, and by the time I mustered the nerve to propose a version of the scene where Matt King WASN'T driving the car, she was already out of ear shot.  
Me and my Very Bad Feeling climbed into the car.

Initially, I tried to drive at about 5 miles an hour, figuring any damage I did at that speed would be negligible enough that I MIGHT be able to pay it off at some point in my lifetime.  My ingenuity was thwarted by two things:  the speed of the PA we were following, and the swift revelation that my companion had no idea how to work a walkie talkie.

"You're useless," I informed him.  I was not in the best of moods.

He didn't disagree.

Soon enough we found ourselves parked on the shoulder on the other side of the freeway, about half a mile out of sight of where the crew and cameras were set up.  Unlike the side of the freeway we had been working on, this side was not in any way cordoned off, and cars whizzed past us at breakneck speeds.

Were it Christmas, you might say my Very Bad Feeling grew three sizes.

"You guys ready?"  Squawked a voice from the walkie talkie.  Which I was now operating.

"Umm, yes?"  I can be forgiven, I think, for lacking confidence in my answer. 

"Great!  When I say 'action' I'm going to need you to merge over to the far lane, the one closest to our cameras and just keep accelerating until I say you're good.  We won't be able to see you until you round the curve at those bridge supports, so we're only going to get one shot at this.  But relax, its just a simple drive by shot.  Got it?"

As I looked at the cars whizzing by where we were parked at a standstill, I tried to calculate the time it'd take to match traffic speed and merge across four lanes successfully.  I then gauged the distance from me to the curve she'd designated as the edge of camera frame.  My silence was  not an assent so much as an inability to form words due to sudden lack of saliva.

"Aaaaaaaaaaand action!"

I dropped the walkie into my lap, threw the gear shift into drive and slammed down the accelerator.  The Terrifyingly Big SUV responded accordingly and we zoomed down the shoulder, gaining speed at a ridiculous rate.  We approached the curve in the freeway and were rapidly running out of shoulder.  I prepared to merge into the first lane of traffic.

It was only at this point that I realized the car had no rear view mirror.

It had been a relatively easy drive to our parking spot and I hadn't needed it and so had failed to notice its absence until that point.  Of course the car had a rear view mirror - just not the traditional kind.  Rather than hang from the ceiling of the car, there was a camera that looked out the back of the car and relayed a video feed to a display set in the dashboard.

Dear readers, in case you have never found yourself zooming down a (soon ending) freeway shoulder at eighty miles an hour with an incompetent passenger screaming at you to merge merge merge in one ear while a director squawks 'Where are you? Why can't we see you yet?  Go faster!' into another.....let me assure you.

It does not occur to you to look for a rear view mirror in the dashboard.  

Craning my neck as far as my neck would crane and praying that this car did not come with blindspots, I threw the car across all four lanes of traffic at somewhere upwards of ninety miles an hour and we blew around the corner and past the cameras.

"Great job!  Now turn around and come back to set!"  Came over the walkie.

"Turn where?" I yelled, still somewhat adrenaline crazed.

Somewhat, in this instance, being code for: Completely.

"That break in the divider, right ahead of you."

"The one ten feet ahead of me?"

"That's the one!"

I whipped the car to the left in a nearly 90 degree turn in a gap in the divider roughly twice as long as the car was wide.  The car squeaked through, my passenger squeaked a scream, and I oddly enough, was praying to Krishna.

Really couldn't say why.  The sum of my Hindu knowledge is having read Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny a couple times.

"Awesome work guys!"  The first AD, upon our return to set, was far too bubbly in my opinion for someone who had just tried to have us killed.  I would have said something to that effect, but I was busy kissing the ground and swearing off all forms of vehicular travel in the near future.

"You didn't crash, hurt the car, or die!"  She continued in what I can only assume was her attempt at levity.  I would have informed her that her confirmation those HAD indeed been possibilities in no way helped my state of mind, but my lips were still making love to asphalt.

"Be sure to see me before you guys wrap for the day.  We've got a week left of shooting to do, and I might bring you both back as stand ins."

Well that part sounded nice, and so I didn't utter mystic curses at her back as she walked away.  I did however, have negative emotions that needed venting in abundance, so I turned once more to my companion.

"You're useless."

He didn't disagree.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Writing is NOT Like a Box of Chocolates Meme

I have been TAGGED, y'all, by the nefarious Party Pony, one Miss Jenny Phresh!  And in turn, I tag Lori, L.J. Boldyrev, and Robyn Lucas.

The assignment, should I choose to accept it (under threat of violence if I do not, I might add) was to take the phrase “Writing is like . . .” and finish it. Post it on my blog. Tag three others to do the same. That is all.  The end, finito.

Oh, but apparently you can't say writing is like a box of chocolates.

Now, my second thought upon receiving this assignment was to say:

Writing is like Cormac McCarthy's The Road - wild and fraught with peril, beginning at the end of a world and ending at the beginning of one, and occasionally along comes a Viggo Mortensen to star in the movie version and that makes everything better because he takes his shirt off a lot.

HOWEVER.  That way threatened to lead me to deep and profound thoughts, and that scared me!  So we're going with my first thoughts upon receiving this assignment.

Which, because I am a contrary little bitch, was to say, but wait!  Writing IS like a box of chocolates!

Let's examine this for a minute, shall we?

You receive two packages, unasked for, unexpected.  One a shiny red box of chocolates, another a shiny new book idea.

They lie there, tempting, inviting, but still unopened - because both are oh so bad for you.  Both will lead to intense highs of sugar and excitement and adrenaline - and plummeting lows of exhaustion, regret and self-flagellation.  Sleepless nights are soon to follow, filled with neurotic fears as to the maximizing of your glutius and the preponderance of your adverbs.  This is not the time to be opening such Pandora's boxes.  You have that new dress to squeeze into, or That Other Thing soon to demand all your time and attention, with no room for the distractions of a novel. 

But you are weak, or the boxes powers' of temptation are too strong.

And you open them.

And reach inside.

You start with something familiar, the devil you know.  Just one piece of milk chocolate, just a little paranormal fantasy, enough to take the edge off, but still easy, not dangerous.

But absorbed in savoring that little piece of chocolatey goodness, that 'short fiction' piece of paranormal fluff, you blindly reach for another.  You're not quite sated yet, and surely one more can't hurt, right?

You grab without looking and pop it in your mouth - and ooh, its coconut!  A hint of sci fi!  How unexpected!  But not unwelcome - it complements the previous flavors quite nicely, you find, even though you never would have thought to add that in on your own.

Now curious to see what else this magical box of surprises can offer you, you reach for another piece.  It's indefinable, an explosion of flavors you can't easily identify, but they're all enjoyable enough so you shrug and don't complain.  Maybe opening this box wasn't such a bad idea after all!  THIS time will be different from all those OTHER times before!

One more piece leads to three more after that, and you're starting to feel quite full but you can't stop now!  There are wonders yet to be discovered!  You bite down into something with a crunch, and its pecan and ooh, how did that get in there!  But it fits!  It works!  Baby, you're on a roll!

And then you find that weird piece.  The one you just don't know what they were thinking when they came up with it in the lab, and its gross, and nasty, and doesn't belong at all.  But its too late, you've bitten into the witch's poisoned apple and that taste isn't going away any time soon.  That odd bit of horror that has no place in your paranormal fantasy has wormed its way deep into the heart of the plot.  A simple mouth rinse isn't going to wash it free.

Frantically, you grab a handful of the flavors you know and love, no longer worried about any other possible consequences in your desperation to rid yourself of that awful taste.  You'll drown it out!  Bury it beneath an avalanche of chocolatey genre goodness!  You cram characters and plot twists and genre tropes in with reckless abandon!  Come one, come all!  There's room for everyone!

But then bloating sets in.  And cramps.  You start to feel quite queasy.  Clearly, this wasn't a good idea at all but you've come too far.  You've got to ride the sick feeling out.  You suck it up and grab some water, a cleansing, healthy distraction.  Spend some time with the hubby and kids.  Welcome back to civilization.  It missed you.

But the boxes still lie half open on your desk.  Unfinished.  More tastes left to savor.  You know better.  You really, truly do.  But you can't find it in yourself to just walk away, just discard them in the trash.  Think of all those starving children in third world countries or those poor would-be writers that would love to write a book but can never seem to come up with an idea.  How can you just reject these treasures that have been offered to you free of charge?  How can you turn them away when others would kill for just a taste from that box you're so casually thinking of discarding?  What kind of ungrateful louse are you?

Once more, reluctantly this time, out of obligation rather than desire, you reach into the boxes.  You're going to finish what you started, dammit.  Even if your ass will never be the same.  The queasy feelings have abated somewhat, and you can do this.  You've learned your lesson, you'll take it slow.  One piece at a time.  Pace it out.  Don't get too caught up, less is more.

There are still bitter pieces to swallow, but you power through them, determined to let nothing go to waste.  There's not a lot of the good pieces left, you plowed through most of them early on in your initial binge - you kick yourself for your lack of foresight, NEXT time you vow you'll start with the bad flavors first and save the best for last.  But wait - next time?  What are you saying!?!  There's not going to BE a next time, you know better than to ever accept such a 'gift' again!

But even as you say it, you know its a lie.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday's Tales from the Set

Hey guys!  Sorry about being MIA, just been crazy busy y'all, but more on that soon enough.  Instead, allow me to present the first installment in my new regular Tuesday feature:

Tales from the Set

In which I get REAL, y'all, on the nitty gritty of what work, life and love looks like behind the scenes of a Hollywood set.  And I'm not just being alliterative with the love part, just so you know.  Twice now, I have come across cast or crew members having sex somewhere on set (I KNOW I WAS SHOCKED TOO *STABS EYES WITH FORKS AND PEEKS SLIGHTLY BECAUSE ONE OF THEM WAS REALLY HOT*).  No, but seriously.  Thank God that whole Rapture thing didn't pan out, because I'm telling you, the televangelists are right about us.  When the End comes, us Hollywood types are totally getting Sodom and Gomorrah'd.

Now, I'm sure most of you have at some point or another said to yourselves: "Self?  I wonder how my good buddy Kalen metamorphosized from a naive little Hollywood wannabe to a full-fledged Hollywood  Butterfly whohasneverthelessstillnotmanagedtogetanoticeablerole."

And if you haven't asked yourself that question YOU ARE NO LONGER INVITED TO MY BIRTHDAY PARTY.  You know.  Next year.  When I turn twenty five again.

But I'm just going to assume you all are coming, and tell you a story about Little Pupa Kalen the Actor's first steps on the road to being a full-fledged Hollywood Butterfly whohasneverthelessstillnotmanagedtogetanoticeablerole.

It's called "Kalen's First Day On Set."

It's otherwise known as: "How Kalen Almost Cost Production Tens of Thousands of Dollars His First Day On Set."


Sips water.

Adjusts tie.

Once upon a time, an ambitious, well-intentioned and utterly clueless aspiring actor named Kalen arrived in HOLLYWOOD.  Capital of the entertainment industry, city of glamour, fame and fortune, the place where dreams come true.  He strode down the star-studded Hollywood Boulevard, gazing around him, wide-eyed at the wonder of it all, until a passing car splashed muddy rain water all over his Clearly Not Designer Clothes and he realized catching pneumonia your first day in town does not make for the most auspicious career beginning.

So he moved on to hovering around Starbuck's in the areas Big Fancy Agent Types were said to frequent, waiting for someone to recognize his Obvious Brilliance and Pending Fame and Fortune.

This continued for a couple of weeks.

Our intrepid hero was a real go-getter however, so soon enough ascended from Street Corners to the next rung of the Hollywood Ladder.


It was there, after several false starts involving Large Overweight Hollywood Stereotypes Who Seemed to Think This Was A Date, that our hero came across the secret entrance way to the Actor's Inner Circle and Pending Fame and Fortune.

A magical place, known only as....

Central Casting.

*Your narrator pauses to allow his audience time to make the appropriate oohs and ahhs of wonder*

Central Casting, he learned, was the largest casting agency for extras in Hollywood.  They supplied ninety percent of all the movies and TV shows filming in LA with extras or 'background artists'...those people you see in the background of your favorite shows and movies, just doing random every day things to make a scene feel real and large as life.  It was the perfect place for a Famous Actor In Training!  They could get him on every set in Hollywood where you could see first hand how things worked behind the scenes.  He'd learn the difference between a director, a director of photography, and assistant directors.  He'd learn magical words and phrases like 'Check the gate', 'martini's up' and 'first team flying in!'  It was the best way to earn his union eligibility, and there existed the slim, fragile hope that he might even be DISCOVERED.

Standing in line at Central Casting, waiting for his photo to be taken, he heard all the stories.  About how Charlize Theron was an extra when the director picked her out of a line-up and gave her a role.  About how Brad Pitt was actually fired from Central Casting for sneaking off set to go to an audition - and two weeks later booked his first movie.  So many stories!  So many possibilities!

So when our hero called the Casting hotline that night and right away booked a job as an extra on a major primetime crime procedural show for the very next day - oh the excitement!  He was on his way!  He would show up on set, bright and early, and his Obvious Brilliance and Pending Fame and Fortune would take it from there!

Fate however, had other plans.

His call time the next day was five am, and as he drove through fog-shrouded streets on his way to another mystical land known as CBS Radford studios, it occurred to him that bright was perhaps not the best descriptor - though early fit it well enough.  It also occurred to him, as he circled the studio five times, that there were an awful lot of entrances to CBS Radford, and he had absolutely no idea which to enter or where to go upon entering.

This was, to say the least, unforeseen.

So after trying ALL THE GATES and only discovering the right one on his last attempt, it was five after five when he finally parked his car and ran quick-like-a-bunny to the bungalow the Less Than Helpful Security Guard had directed him to.  His heart beat like a jackhammer as he struggled with the three changes of wardrobe he'd been instructed to bring for Various Unfathomable and Possibly Occult Reasons.  Clearly this was the first of his Trials to test his worthiness for Pending Fame and Fortune.  He could not fail!  And so when he arrived at the bungalow just in time to see a Production Assistant leading a herd of extras down the street, instructing them all to grab a chair and follow him, our hero did the only reasonable thing.  He grabbed a chair and followed the pack, hoping his tardiness had gone unnoticed.

Luck was with him!  For when they stopped at the 'holding area', he was one of the first ten to be picked out by the PA and instructed to go to set!  Eureka!  Not only had his near-gaff been completely overlooked, he was one of the CHOSEN ONES.  Surely this meant great things!  Lots could be read into this!  His future Bel-Air mansion awaited him!

However, after the first four hours of standing around a cramped Hollywood setting cleverly gimmicked to look like a New York night club, he couldn't help but notice that all the tales of Hollywood glamour had left out some very key details about Being An Actor.

The first was the temperature.  Surrounded on all sides by huge whopping lights that could only be characterized as miniature suns, our hero quickly learned that being on set was synonymous with BEING HOT AS FUCK THE ENTIRE FREAKING DAY AND OMG HOW COULD IT POSSIBLY BE THIS HOT WITHOUT DEFYING THE LAWS OF PHYSICS.  As sweat drenched his shirt, he prayed for deliverance from the hellish heat - and then the director called cut, the lights were switched off, and the sound stage's AC kicked in, blasting the set with sub zero temperatures.

That was the day our hero grew to hate the phrase: "Be careful what you wish for."

The second detail the tales of Hollywood glamour had left out was that Hollywood does not like noise.  It frowns upon it, in fact.  Or in most cases, yells.  Apparently - shocking as it may seem - sound stages are in part named for well...sound.  As in, it carries.  And so it turned out that acting involved a lot of standing around being completely silent for several hours at a time, because on a sound stage, hearing any sound OTHER than what his actors are saying in scene is the kind of thing that makes a director Very Very ANGRY.

That was the day our hero learned he doesn't like when directors are angry.

The third detail the tales of Hollywood glamour had left out was that acting is hard freaking work.  This too, was unforeseen.  But as hours of performing the same actions over and over in EXACT repetition set in, along with the effort it apparently took to manifest the same amount of energy in the same facial expressions every time the camera swung his way - all so the director could have multiple takes and then match the same actions from different angles when the cameras were moved to capture the turnaround shots - it started to sink in that the ease of this career had perhaps been somewhat exaggerated.  Especially when our hero considered how much more difficult it probably was for the ACTUAL actors, the ones reciting the same lines over and over and conveying ACTUAL emotion and having the cameras on them FOR EVERY FREAKING SECOND OF THOSE HOURS AND HOURS.

That was the day our hero first contemplated a career change.

And then, disaster struck.

During the lunch break about half way through the day, he checked his voice mail to see if anyone had called him in the eight hours since he'd started working.

It turned out Central Casting had called him about twenty times, asking in increasingly angry tones where he was and why wasn't he on set and this was EXTREMELY unprofessional and his standing with them was in serious jeopardy.

Our hero was understandably alarmed, and experienced a momentary existential crisis.  He had THOUGHT he was right there, on set, but apparently that was somewhat in question.  He hurriedly called Central Casting and insisted upon both his existence AND his presence on set.

Then the casting director asked if he'd checked in.

....Checked in with whom, our hero asked?

There was an audible sigh, and the casting director asked whom he'd gotten his voucher from.

Our hero was forced to admit that he did not in fact HAVE a voucher, and wasn't exactly sure what one was.

There was a definite groan then, and after telling him to stay put, the casting director hung up the phone.

A mere thirty seconds later, the PA angrily strode into the holding area waving a small white voucher and demanding to know who this Kalen O'Donnell person was.

With increasing foreboding, our hero reluctantly admitted that was most likely him though he wasn't one hundred percent certain.  Due of course to his current existential crisis and the fact that he suspected from the PA's expression that it perhaps wasn't in his best interests to BE Kalen O'Donnell at that particular moment.

Then he learned that a voucher is the small piece of white paper that tells the production both that you are in fact, there and accounted for, and how much you are owed for the day.  It's a very helpful piece of paper, and its VERY VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU HAVE IT IN HAND FROM THE SECOND YOU STEP ON SET.

In explaining why he had not actually checked in or received the all important voucher, our hero was forced to admit that there was a slim, small, slight possibility that he had been five minutes late.  When asked if he had ever been approved by wardrobe then, he was again forced to concede that there was an equally slim, small, slight possibility that he had not - and in fact had no idea what the phrase 'approved by wardrobe' referred to.

There was a moment then when it seemed that the PA might do bodily harm to our brave but stupid - oh so stupid - intrepid hero.

One flurry of activity later, a trio of the most bizarrely dressed women he had EVER seen swooped over and clucked in dismay over his attire.  Although he had THOUGHT he was wearing appropriate apparel for a New York night club scene, he was outvoted and apparently it was not at all what they would have put him in, had they seen him. NOT AT ALL.

And then, there was a small, stifled sound from one, almost like choking on a scream.  She clutched at her heart, and horrified, pointed to his chest.  He was wearing a logo!

That was the day our hero learned this was a VERY BAD THING.

For in our era of product placement and multi-million dollar endorsement deals, ANY visible sign or indication of a brand name must be carefully vetted and approved by production, as they can not risk lawsuits from the makers of products they aren't approved to use, promote or endorse on their shows.  Nor can they risk angering the makers of rival products who HAVE paid to have their product used, promoted or endorsed on their show or in their advertisements or commercial spots.

And yet, blindly, stupidly, our hero had been cavalierly promoting an un-endorsed shirt IN EVERY SINGLE SHOT.

For a moment, it seemed all was lost.

Would they have to reshoot?

In a panic, production quickly reviewed their footage, and to their vast relief, discovered that our hero was not actually visible in any of the final footage, despite his many hours of doing all the same work and showing all the same effort as every other, ultimately visible, extra.  Crisis averted, he was swiftly changed into more fitting attire, and production proceeded.  By the end of the day, nobody even remembered what he'd done.

And that was the day, dear readers, that our hero realized that he was in for a LOT of hard work, with absolutely no guarantee of reward.  And the very high likelihood that most, if not all, of his work might ultimately go largely unnoticed.

It was a sobering day.

But, it was merely the first day.  The first of many, and of many lessons to be learned, and many times of screwing up and almost costing production thousands of dollars.

Because, as our aspiring young actor soon came to realize and will share with you in weeks to come, Screwing Up and Costing Production A Metric Shit Ton of Money is something that happens every single day.  And despite the frequency of it happening, it is Never a Good Thing and to be avoided at All Possible Costs and that these are just two of the reasons why most actors are stressed, neurotic, raving lunatics.

Welcome to Tinseltown, Kalen O'Donnell.

We hope you survive your stay.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thanks Again and Sample First Chapter of Dust to Dust

Guys, I just want to say thanks again for all your kind words, thoughts and encouragement!  And since I don't have time for a real post today, I'm totally cheating and just linking you all to my still in development website - specifically the first chapter of Dust to Dust, available for sampling.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thank You!

Just wanted to take a second to shout out a quick thank you to everyone who helped me with my Dust to Dust pitch last week!  Apparently, it got the job done, as Sara Megibow selected it as one of the three winners in Sisters in Scribe's twitter pitch contest, and I'll be sending her my first 30 pages for critique!  You all are rockstars!

But then, you knew that.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Eye of the Beholder and All that Nonsense

So I keep having to postpone giving my own flashy awards.  SOME people who shall not be named but who I am currently looking at POINTEDLY, are taking foreeeeeeeever to announce big exciting news that needs to be bragged about to ALL the interwebs, and until they announce it, I can't brag about it!

So, you know.  Hurry that up.  And if you think I'm talking about you, I probably am.  There's like, five of you.  What's the point of having massively talented world-conquering friends if you can't use their accomplishments to shock, awe and amaze people as though they were your own?  You're all fired, you hear me?


So since none of you will let me brag about you yet, I guess I'll just have to brag about myself and sound like a total egotistical tool, so THANKS A LOT GUYS.  JEEZ.  So anyways, one of those fancy callbacks I was talking about a couple weeks ago resulted in me getting a part in a movie shooting in New York.  So June 30th, they're flying me out to New York for three days to shoot my part.  Anyone going to be in New York then?  We can hang out in my trailer!

I'm just kidding.  I'm not getting a trailer.  They're spending all their money on just flying me out there.  I'll be sleeping in Central Park or the subways, like all the other actors who live in New York.

Hah!  ZING!

Excuse me.  I've had too much sugar today.  Aaaaaanyways, I'm super stoked, because I love to travel.  One of the things I've always wanted most from an acting career is being able to travel due to it, and this is the first time I've ever been paid to fly somewhere or stay somewhere else during a shoot.  Unless you count that pilot I did where they put us all up in hotels down in Irvine for the shoot, but I don't.  It was Irvine.  Who counts Irvine for anything?  So yeah.  New York, baby!  Just don't ask me what the movie's about.  Or who else is in it.  Or like, what the name is.  They don't tell me that stuff.

Seriously.  They haven't even sent me the script yet.  Oh Hollywood.

Now that THAT unpleasantness is over and done with, on to more important things.  Our topic of the day!

So I used to suffer from serious clinical depression right?  Yeah, I know, way to bring down the mood, huh?  But no, is okay.  Was long time ago.  But it was like hereditary and due to interesting young adult life and it was all very much too much and made me want to curl into a ball all the time except for when I was being self destructive and never get out of bed and mostly eat lots of ice cream and go waaaaaaaah why does the universe hate me?!

It was all very dramatic.  It's almost like I'm an actor or something.

But anyways, drugs didn't work cuz apparently I'm a freak of nature.  Who knew, right?  So the only way to kick the habit of you know, sucking at life, was to alter my outlook.  It was all very Zen.  But it worked!  I revel in an overabundance of pep these days!  All totally natural!  No artificial flavors or preservatives whatsoever!  And you can too!  Just drink the Kool-Aid, my children!

Ahem.  Sorry.  Wrong speech.  ANYWAYS.  One of the most fundamental contributors of depression, and easiest parts to beat, is that we start looking at all the PILES and LOADS of obstacles, difficulties and handicaps weighing us down.  We make mountains out of molehills and stare up at them with wide, panicked eyes and go, how am I supposed to get over that?!  It's too big!  And so we don't even try.


And it applies to day to day life too, not just giant chemical misfires in your brain.  How many of you have ever stopped somewhere around 20K into your new manuscript and thought to yourself, omg, this is impossible!  I have SO MUCH MORE to write!  I'm never going to finish!  Oh sure, you put it away for a time and you come back to it later and start again, cuz you're a determined little sucker, but it takes it out of you, doesn't it?  Saps some of your strength, a little of your drive?

But what if you look at it just a little differently?  Don't think of your manuscript as one giant mega-beast of 90,000 words, but instead see it as a collection of scenes and subplots and character moments, each as important as the last.  Like dozens of little short stories, or windows into your characters' lives, all strung together to make up one greater whole.  Suddenly, its not quite so unmanageable.  Bang out a thousand words one day, and you didn't just write 1/90th of a novel, with 89 more days like that to go.  You wrote a short story, banged out a whole complete THING that you don't have to worry about anymore until your novel is done.  And everyday is just another short story finished, or more you've learned about your character, and you're not even thinking about it like a race with a distant finish line anymore.  Each day is its own little race, and you win every time.  And then before you know it, you add up all those little stories and moments and look at them together in a big picture window, and voila!  You finished your novel without even realizing it!

You have TRICKED yourself!  Isn't it great?  Outsmarting yourself and your own writer craziness is fun!  Everyone try!

Another useful mind game to play on yourself when you think you're not being productive enough, or as productive as you'd like, is to write down everything you do during the day, as you do it.  Everything, from the little to the big.  Write it down, and cross it off, like writing a To Do list as you do things instead of ahead of time.  Work out in the morning or go for a run?  Write it down. Cross it off.  Take a shower?  Counts.  Feed the kids?  Totally productive.  Write 1,000 words of your manuscript?  Hell yeah you did.

You can break it down into the little things too.  Instead of just writing 'worked on book', get specific.  Write 'explored Character X's backstory' and cross it off.  'Outlined action sequence for next chapter.'  On the list, with a giant X through it.  'Kiss scene', 'kill scene', 'everybody dance now' scene....list 'em individually and check, check, check.

Doesn't even have to just be physical things either.  Mental or emotional goals you succeed at during the day can go on the list as well.  'Didn't drink soday today' is an accomplishment, as is 'refrained from having my mother-in-law shipped off to the loony bin just to get her out of my house.'  Write 'em down, cross them off!

Then at the end of the day, just before you go to bed, look at everything you did.  Don't even read the list, just look at ALL THE THINGS YOU DID and crossed off.  Pretty awesome.  And the best part?  Cross your items off really well so you can't really read them too well and then leave them out for your roommates, friends or significant others to find and feel intimidated by your amazing-fantabulousness.

"Honey?  What's this?"

"Oh, just my To Do list for today."

"Your To Do list?  Just for today?  You really did all this today?"

"Mm-hmm.  Why?  What'd you do?"

Be warned.  Obnoxious smugness IS an occasional side effect of using this technique.  Just remember.  It's for the greater good.