Friday, December 14, 2012

On funerals and family

I was eleven when my nonie died.

My parents decided that my sister and I were too little to deal with prolonged knowledge of her illness and only told us three months before her death that she had cancer. I remember where I was when my father called me inside to hear the news of her passing – standing in a four-foot-deep trench I’d been laboring over with my best friends, Tom and Mike. We had some notion that such a trench would help us capture one of the bullies in the neighborhood. What we would do after his capture, however, was a mystery, but that didn’t matter. The trench took weeks to dig and that was really the point of the exercise.

I don’t remember my reaction in the moment. I remember returning to that trench with my friends and having distant awareness that our trench was the exact shape and size of a grave.

We traveled to Mississippi where the family gathered. I remember feeling strangely detached and confused. I tried to understand. I knew death was sad. It was an ending and if the television was correct, there would be wailing and uncontrollable sobbing.

I waited for that to hit me and while I waited, I explained it to my little sister who, at the age of eight, was surely more lost than I was. It made me feel better.

“Rosie,” I said, “tomorrow is going to be a very sad day. People might not smile. We’ll have to be quiet.”

This was my way of preparing her (and myself) for a day with no laughter and no play. But when that day came, there were smiles everywhere I looked. My aunts and uncles smiled, my parents smiled, all the distant relatives I didn’t remember and couldn’t keep straight, they all smiled. They laughed and hugged and traded stories for hours. My favorite was the story of Nonie letting the horses follow her into the kitchen for a quick apple so long as Poppy wasn’t around to see.

It was many years before I would come to understand funerals. In fact, it was many years before I would attend another. I came to understand the sobbing and the wailing, I came to understand the laughter, and I came to understand how family weaves and unweaves itself around theses shades of sorrow.

Late this November, one day after I turned thirty-two, Poppy passed away.

This time, I returned home with equal parts sadness and anticipation. I knew there would be tears and difficult moments, strained throats and messy noses, but I also looked forward to seeing the aunts, uncles, and cousins who live all across the country.

I expected the reunion to be good. I expected it to come with surprises and stories and all the awkward moments imaginable. And it did. But it also came with moments so touching and humbling that I hardly knew how to react.

One of those moments was on the day of the funeral. After the service, the church had prepared a meal for the family and we all filed over to the gym to feast. I stood to the side with a few of my cousins, letting others go through the line first. One cousin, who I’ll call J, studying the buffet table, said, “Those better not be Chick-fil-a nuggets.”

This was a surprise. Of all the cousins and as far as I knew, I was the only one that fell in the LGBTQ spectrum. My cousins, all younger than me, didn't have to care that the church was serving food from an institution that actively takes an anti-LGBTQ stance and funds anti-LGBTQ causes. They didn't have to care, and yet, they did. They all did.

Cousin J went to the table, plucked one from the platter, and tasted it with the results we feared.

The rest of the cousins collectively sighed and as we moved through the buffet line, every single one of them walked quietly past the nuggets and instead filled their plates with potatoes and salad.

It was a quiet resistance and I marveled at the cousins I hardly knew all making that choice.

When my uncle sat at our table with a small pile of nuggets on his plate, no one said a thing. At least, not while I was there. I left the table at one point and when I returned, noticed that my uncle had pushed his nuggets to the side of his plate and didn’t eat a one.

In some ways, this defied all expectation. This was certainly one of the last things I expected to learn about my Mississippi-based family while sitting in church. It was almost as absurd as discovering that my great-great grandmother’s middle name was Bobo. Almost as absurd as the number of roosters in my grandparents’ house. Almost as absurd as sprinkling Poppy’s ashes into the lake – his lake – ten feet from a floating gator head. But no less amazing and wonderful for it.

I thought I knew about funerals. I thought I knew that they were for the living – for mourning and remembering and moving on. But they’re also about discovering who we are now and how we fit together as pieces of a family.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Conversations with Mom

A short time ago, my sister and I visited my mom. While we were there, I decided to introduce them to The Vampire Diaries. It was really more for my sister, who I was sure would love the show every bit as much as I do. She did. But the surprise was that my mom did also. After I left, she continued to catch up through the end of season two. She missed season three entirely and one day, this happened.

(Note - all conversations with my mother improve if you imagine that she speaks like a Southern Belle.)

(Second note - she doesn't actually look like Katherine Pierce, but I don't have a handy picture of her in hoops.)

MOM: You remember that vampire show? The one you showed me?
ME: The Vampire Diaries?
MOM: Yeah. That one. Well. I turned on the TV the other day and there it was -
ME: Oh, no. You mean you caught the season 4 premiere?
MOM: Well, yeah. I guess. I just thought I'd be able to fill in the gaps on my own.
ME: *cringing* ....and?
MOM: And I'll be damned if Elena didn't turn into a vampire!

And then yesterday, we were chatting about nothing related to vampires when this happened.

MOM: Have you seen Lincoln, yet?
ME: No. I promise you I'll see Breaking Dawn 2 before I see anything else.
MOM: Oh! I hadn't done any of the Twilight things until just the other day when they showed the first two movies on TV. I watched them.
ME: ....and?
MOM: You know what I've decided? I've decided that the next time I get a pet, I'm going to get a werewolf.
ME: .....
MOM: Because I miss my cat, but I don't have a lot of time and if I got busy, my werewolf could just take care of itself. They're very self-sufficient and I think they're pretty. Don't you think they're pretty?
ME: .....I have to go internet you now.

So there you go. Some people post conversations with their children. I, apparently, post conversations with my mother.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On Attacking Baristas and Xylophones

I'm very protective of the music I use for writing. I search long and hard for the perfect collection of songs that can suffuse my brain with the tone I want to create in my novels. Every revision requires at least one new song to represent the shift, the new sense of climate I'm aiming to add to the story.

There's a small handful of people I'm willing to share my songs with. I can count them on one hand. It's not that I don't want to share my music, but I'm sort of afraid that if I give my story songs away, I'll dilute the power they hold over my subconscious. Somehow, I'm convinced that giving away the musical kernel of the novel is to give away the kernel of the story itself.

Irrational. I know. But it means that when I'm sitting in my coffeeshop, sipping my cappuccino on a Tuesday morning, and one of my hard-discovered songs comes over the speakers, I immediately leap to my feet and attack the mild-mannered, music-literate, cappuccino-making genius behind the counter with what I'm sure is a terrifying "WHY MY MUSIC, YOU THIEF????"

Don't fret. The encounter ended with mutual respect, one more cappuccino, and an exchange of music recommendations.

The point is, I'm as emotionally invested in my music as I am in my own novels. There's something really amazing about finding a song that perfectly captures a piece of my own imagination - the spark of a character, the first image of the story, the core of its emotion. It reminds me that I'm participating in a much larger tapestry of creative thought, adding to a conversation that's been going for hundreds of years in every medium storytellers can get their fingers on.

Which is my long-winded way of saying music is important to me, yo. (And I'm a little crazy about it).

As a way to further establish how crazy I am (and entertain you with my follies), I'll offer this final example.

About a week ago, M (one of the four people I share music with), sent me a song with the explanation, "you should listen to this because it's weird."

And it was. Weird. But oddly appealing. I filed the recommendation away for further thought and countered with a piece that was equally as odd, but far less appealing with attack xylophones. The point is we had a decent exchange about this piece of music.

Fast forward a week to two days ago when I encounter a song I think M will like. I send it and the following happens:

Me: Have you heard of this band? I like them so I think you will, too.
M: .....I have. Didn't I send you one of their weird songs last week?
Me: Um. You did? Did I like it?
M: You did. There's a problem with your brain.

I'm on the prowl again. Searching for the music that will pattern my brain for the foreseeable future. Send your recs if you've got 'em!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Overdue / How I was defeated by a sink

Well. October happened.

But before October, there was September and that month was filled with travel and adventure.

Sometime over the summer, Tessa and I decided we'd be joining a few other YA writers on a retreat in the wilds of the French countryside. However, we seem incapable of hopping the pond without also stopping in the UK, so the trip quickly morphed into a two-week, two-country extravaganza. And it was brilliant.

In England alone, we met editors, agents, writers, bloggers, and family members. We rode the London Eye (after multiple trips to England, it was high time we knocked that one off our list), visited the Rosetta stone, got gouged by the Tube, walked miles and miles and miles, had a pint at The Anchor (which boasts many a debaucherous night with Charles Dickens), happened upon Douglas Adams' grave (as well as many cats), and more.

But it's the hotel room I really want to talk about. The sink inside it, to be more precise.

You see, I'm convinced it was a practical joke. It was not meant to be used by anyone sporting a head.

It's worth noting that Tessa and I have traveled together a lot. Not to and from Mississippi to visit my family, but all over Japan, Bali, and Europe. We backpacked through eight countries when we were sophomores in college. We're practiced travelers. We've managed crises in countries where neither of us spoke the language and returned with all our limbs in tact.

And England defeated us with a sink.

The bathroom in this establishment had clearly been a closet once upon a time, but as space is at a premium in London, it was converted into a bathroom with a toilet crammed in one end and a shower stall in the other. In the middle was a sink no wider than a loaf of bread and no longer than the same. It was petite. Adorable even, and smart given the restraints of the room.

Clever, I thought, to make a sink small enough that the door can still close!

I was so charmed by it's size, that it didn't occur to me that the shelf above the sink, of approximately the same dimensions, would be a problem.

Until I brushed my teeth and leaning down to spit found only the shelf and not the sink staring back at me.

I stopped. Considered. Bent my knees to see if it would be possible to hit the sink from a shorter height. (It is not). Then, I tried to squish my head between the shelf and the sink and be very careful with my aim. This....was only partly successful.

The floor got messy. I got messy. Tessa giggled. I giggled. I looked for some explanation. Some clue that I was doing it wrong, that in my travels, I'd forgotten how to sink. But no. This was THE sink. There was no way to push the shelf out of the way, flip it up or down. Clearly, I was supposed to be capable of using this travesty of a sink.


I eventually gave up. A shower works just as well as a sink and one of our precious towels had already been sacrificed to this great international practical joke.

And every single time I or Tessa went to use the sink, we had to relive the humiliation ALL OVER AGAIN. Half of the time, we knocked our heads against the shelf before remembering. Then there was the half-blind swivel between the sink and shower as we tried to wash our faces - that was an entirely different sort of crazy. Four days we were there and we left feeling relieved and confused.

Thankfully, our apartment in Paris greeted us with not one, but TWO unchallenging sinks.

I still don't understand how that happened. It was more a gesture at a sink than a sink. I wish I had a picture to share. Alas, I was laughing too hard to snap one.

Well played, England. Well played.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dot Com

My website went live yesterday. I'm pretty taken with it. What do you think?

Before you ask, I'll tell you. My web designer is ckladesign. He's pretty much made of fabulous.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

When the UPS Man Brought Me a Date (or Two)

I received a package on Tuesday. It's an exciting package because it means I'm about to get really serious with BEWARE THE WILD again. It was a package of notes and treats from Editor π and Co.

Would you like to see? (click for close-up)

It's almost too much excitement for one photo to contain.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a few thousand words, a few awkward metaphors, a few new scenes... YES, I'm going to be busy for a while.

Ciao, y'all.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

In Search of Bonkers

I made an intriguing discovery on a recent trip through western Kansas. Well, I suppose I made several discoveries, one of which is that the hills around Fort Riley are ridiculously well prepared for a zombie attack. Not only did we spot a fleet of helicopters, but they’ve got this cannon all set up and ready to blast the approaching horde. This is extremely thoughtful of them. And it’s telling that they seem to think the attack will come from the west.

Sorry all you west coasters, but this cannon is clearly pointed your way for a Very Good Reason.

(Note to whatever agencies I’ve alerted by writing this post: I’m assuming these things weren’t secret because I observed all of it from I-70. Which totally makes sense. Zombies don’t require covert anything. Just cannons and attack copters.)

I was greatly comforted by this discovery as I’m sure you can imagine.

 The other discovery was less comforting, but just as interesting.

Every time I’m in a place that feels something like “the middle of nowhere” I search for this candy I loved as a child called Bonkers. It’s probably been discontinued for years, but I have this feeling that there’s some gas station somewhere with an unending stash of Bonkers and I just have to find it.

Never mind the fact that it would be EXTREMELY UNWISE to consume Bonkers were I to find them as they would likely be as old as Full House by this point. I just sort of want to see them again and okay, I would probably eat them. Hey, people eat Moon Pies all the time and they HAVE to be as bad for you as decades old candy.

So we were in this gas station in the middle of the middle of nowhere, Kansas and ‘lo and behold, I didn’t find Bonkers, but I did find something nearly as exciting: Big Hunk.

I’d never heard of this candy, but…it’s called Big Hunk. How could I not buy that?

But it wasn’t done being delightful. As soon as I got back to the car and started examining my new discovery, I found that this candy comes with eating instructions. You can’t just unwrap and take a bite out of this thing. Or, I guess you can, but it’s not what they advise. Big Hunk requires special attention in order to be enjoyed properly. It requires smacking and/or heating and I think, perhaps, a vlog when I finally get around to trying it.

I’ll keep looking for Bonkers because it’s good to have goals when exploring the candy aisles of gas stations, but for now, I’m mollified.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Question of the Political Author

There’s been a fair amount of discussion lately about whether or not authors should be political. In May, Agent Jenn Laughran made this incredibly thoughtful post in response to outrage about Orson Scott Card, Reading with the Enemy. I’m sure she wasn’t the only one to post on this topic, but hers is the one that stands out in my mind. More recently, there was this post from Em’s Reading Room, which used a survey approach and broke it down by reader/blogger/author opinion.  Which then lead to this post by Maggie Stiefvater, which is a general reminder to be civil.

The topic of artists being political is an interesting one, but it’s not a new one. I promise you, there’s not a single author, musician, or actor who hasn’t spent many hours pondering the question of how much to say in the public eye, especially in the age of Twitter and Facebook, when your words are very quickly and efficiently dispersed. This is a new topic for the YA community however and so it’s worth paying attention to how it’s being discussed.

I think it’s particularly interesting that this question surfaced in the weeks following an example of OSC’s vicious homophobia and also in the weeks after Jackson Pearce’s vlog criticizing Chick-fil-a President Dan Cathy for his opinions of gay marriage.

This is incredibly troubling to me, because it looks an awful lot like the question isn’t whether or not authors should be political outside of their books, but whether or not YA authors should be political about Certain Things.

There are many topics about which authors get their politics on without this question rearing its ugly head: the whitewashing of covers, the presence of LGBT characters, the insidious nature of the “pink cover” on novels written by women…. There are tons of examples. The most recent that comes to mind is Cassie Clare’s discussion of the response to the casting of Magnus, a topic that (disturbingly) echoed earlier discussion of Rue and the Hunger Games.

YA authors are frequently political, some even about gay marriage, but I can’t think of  other examples as pointed and as widely-viewed as OSC’s opinions or Pearce’s vlog. I think the fact that the question of whether or not authors should be political has surfaced around each of these occurrences is significant.

I don’t think this is a coincidence and I’m uncomfortable that this is starting to look like a pattern.

I’m uncomfortable with the fact that this puts authors in the difficult position of having to weigh their beliefs against their pocketbooks.

I’m extremely uncomfortable with the fact that this points to a very specific idea of censorship.

There is always something to be said for engaging in civil dialogue. I am completely in favor of passionate, difficult conversations that move hearts and minds. I think it’s important to ask these questions about art and the artist and politics and I think it’s extremely important to watch how they’re being asked.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

An excessively thoughtful post on how to write

I've seen a lot of blogs about writing, recently. Maybe more than a lot. I've probably seen scores. You can't turn a virtual corner in the blogosphere without coming face-to-blog with some list of writing do's and don't's.


That can't be right.


That's better. Except for making me crave donuts.


Back to the subject at hand, I thought I'd take some time to write a super thoughtful post about writing to share with all of you because I like to weigh in on things and pretend my opinion matters, and because I always find myself arguing with these lists.

I know. It's a bad habit, arguing with lists. They just get to me. Maybe it's because they look so authoritative and tall. Or because they try to make something organic fit inside this neat structure and I get all "OH NO YOU DON'T. I DEFY YOU, LIST. I'M A SPIRAL." Because, really? Listing out do's and don'ts of writing is a little like teaching a snowflake how to be a snowflake.

STEP ONE: Be unique.
STEP TWO: ...No, that was basically it.

So I had a latte and a good think while staring into the Kansas sky. I even put on my glasses to write this post because it makes my thoughts poignant - such is the universal rule of wearing glasses while thoughtful.

THEN I turned on some Mozart because Mozart makes your words sophisticated and all treatise-like. I titled the post, "Writing: An Overture to Timelessness" because it sounded important.

AND THEN I started writing. And do you want to know what I realized? I really only have TWO things to say about writing or learning how to write or honing your craft in general. Ready?

DO: Write.
DON'T: Wait.

Ta da! Since it turns out my advice could fit inside a fortune cookie, I changed the title.

(As a side note, ((or a parenthetical, even)) I am joking.)

(Sort of.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Contest Winners!

Thank you to everyone who participated by tweeting, tumbling, and blogging. I think the first line of The Blood Keeper looks mighty fine plastered across the internet.

Alright. No more ado.

The winner of the ARC of The Blood Keeper and the paperback of Blood Magic is:
Katherine Leah

The winner of the finished copy of The Curiosities signed by all three Merry Fates is: 
Krystalyn Drown

And you were all so wonderful that I'm blowing the lid off the bundle prizes. If you want a small bundle of swag (including bookmarks and a signed bookplate), just email your mailing address by Friday the 20th to nataliecparker AT gmail (take note of the c in there!) and I'll happily oblige. 

Again, thank you all for participating! 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Contest: The Blood Keeper

The companion novel to Tessa Gratton's Blood Magic releases in just a few short weeks. August 28th, to be exact. That means it's high time I gave away this precious, precious advanced reader copy I've been coveting. Though totally connected to Blood MagicThe Blood Keeper is a stand-alone and I'm just going to post a snippet from the Kirkus review below because they do a better job than I would with the description.
Will Sanger, high school soccer star, only wanted to free himself from his recurrent nightmares. Mab Prowd, neophyte guardian of the blood magic, only wanted to understand the curse buried beneath her rose garden. But when their choices bind their fates together, an old love story and a long-concealed crime begin to creep into the present. (Full review here.)
But! I'm going to give away more than just an ARC.

One winner will receive an ARC of The Blood Keeper AND a paperback copy of Blood Magic which sports a new cover. Don't they look smashing together?

But wait, there's more! One winner will win a finished copy of The Curiosities which releases on August 1st. And if you are willing to be patient, then I will kindly ask all three of the Merry Fates to personalize it to you when they come to visit at the end of August.

Oh, but wait, there's even more to be had! I will give away up to 50 bundles of swag including signed bookplates from Tessa and bookmarks of The Curiosities and perhaps more if I decide to get creative.

I know you're wondering how you enter. Well! I'm trying something new. I'm going to use one of those fancy contesty gadgets which should do all the tedious work for me.

I'm going on the record as someone who doesn't like contests that force you to follow a person in order to enter. BUT I would love it if you stuck around for a while. At least long enough to decide if you like me. I think I'm pretty likable (and maybe even funny). I post about music and movies and sometimes I give away massive amounts of crit. In the future, I'll post about my debut novel. In general, you can trust me to be on the slightly ridiculous side of things, with the occasional dash of Something Meaningful. So that's my endorsement of myself.


There are two ways to enter:
  1.  - There are three tweets in the widget you may tweet once per day for multiple entries: two that are specific (do not change!) and one that gives you license to be creative (do change!). Do this, by selecting "Do it!" on the widget, then press the "Tweet" button. It will take you directly to twitter. Tweet and you're done!
  2.  - You can make a blog post about the contest and share the cover with your friends (found here).  

So please join me in making a little noise for an author I'm quite fond of.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you don't want to enter the contest, but would just like to share it with others, that's totally cool, too.  

Good luck!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A really true secret of character creation

I’ve discovered one of the secrets of creating an irresistible male character. It may be THE secret, but having only just discovered it, I can’t say for sure. However, it’s definitely A secret. If you do this one thing, you’re sure to have a complex, slightly dark, slightly troubled, brash but surprisingly sensitive, and quite probably beautiful character on your hands.

I know you’re dying to know what single act you can take that will lead to such a character. Well, I’m going to tell you. It’s quite simple actually. Easier than slogging through the Myers-Briggs personality type test, easier than painstakingly crafting a compelling backstory, easier, even, than stealing a character from real life.

All you have to do is name them Logan.

Yes, really. Watch as I prove my point.

Aside from having an emotional spectrum that ranges from cavalier to cocky and personalities with the intensity of the summerwe’re enjoying, these Logans all have three things in common: daddy issues, girl issues, and a casual disregard for their ownmortality. It’s a killer combo.

The case of Logan Echolls (of Veronica Mars) 
“And what is so great about living?"
  • Daddy issues? His dad killed his girlfriend.
  • Girl issues? He falls for his dead girlfriend’s best friend (who also used to be his best friend’s girlfriend).
  • Casual disregard for mortality? Between his home life and the PCH Biker gang, it’s a miracle he survives.
The case of Logan Huntzberger (of Gilmore Girls)
“People can live a hundred years without really living for a minute.”
  • Daddy issues? He’s destined to follow in his father’s overbearing footsteps.
  • Girl issues? His family dismissing his girlfriend as “not good enough for the family.”
  • Casual disregard for mortality? Um, Life & Death Brigade, anyone?
The case of Logan aka Wolverine (of X-Men)
“What I do best isn’t very nice.”
  • Daddy issues? Erm. Well, SOMEone’s responsible for his memory loss…
  • Girl issues? Ha! Haha! Does this require explanation? Because I don’t know that I have the time.
  • CasualExtreme disregard for mortality? Only on his best days…
Alright, there you have it. One ofthe essential truths of character creation gifted from me to you. If you’re struggling to create a cocky, enigmatic, and surprisingly deep character, go ahead and name him Logan. Once a character has thusly been named, everything else will naturally, effortlessly fall into place.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Musical me

Music has been a pretty significant part of my life. It was always in my house as a kid. My mother made sure to have all sorts of noise makers handy and started me off on the piano early. I cycled through a handful of instruments - including a brief and serious affair with the tambourine (yes, that's me) - before proclaiming my new life as a 3rd grade cellist.

Not only did my mother make sure I had access to the tools of musical creativity, but she inadvertently inspired my first forays into the world of rock. As a dedicated pre-teen rebel, I countered her love of Enya with Nirvana. I met Libana with musicals, Adiemus with Lorena McKennitt, Secret Garden with VAST (yes, my mother has very specific tastes). All the while, I was falling in love with Bach, Mozart, and Prokofiev. 

There's never been a time in my life when I didn't lean on music in some way or another. It's always been a crucial element of my writing, both creative and academic. I am of the camp of writers who creates playlists for novels and can't really get going until I have THE song that captures the tone, the emotion of the story I want to tell. 

In the past year, I've been on a ruthless hunt for new music. I don't know how many albums and tracks I've purchased, but my music library is looking rather flush at the moment. 

When a reader asked me for more music recommendations, well, I was only too happy to start thinking about my favorites from the past year. I'm avoiding the obvious ones like Fun. or Mumford and Sons (both favorites from the past 12 months), and going for a few I think are less well known. When possible, I'm linking to, which is a FABULOUS way to support artists.

First up, a group I found less than a week ago, Imagine Dragons, "It's Time". I love this track for their use of percussion, strings, and the unexpected in an otherwise fairly typical sound. This has been released as an EP and I enjoy all of the tracks. 

Next, another recent discovery, Zaki Ibrahim, "Something in the Water." There are SO MANY reasons to love this. The blending of African beats with dubsteb with that silky vocal....this one slayed me quite dead. 

Third, one my friend Maggie sent me, Lost Lander, "Through Your Bones." It was extremely difficult to pick one track from this album. They're sort of folk, sort of not. This is an album, called DRRT, I can put on repeat.

And finally, a new one from Santigold (used to be Santogold), "Go!" Full of energy and experimentation. Brash and unapologetic, I love this song. 

Hope you enjoy! And please feel free to drop a few recommendations of you own. I'm always on the prowl for new music - Music Predator, that's me. Send me prey! ;)   

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Girls with swords

I’m gonna be honest, if there’s a movie out that features a girl with a sword, I’m probably gonna go see it regardless of what it’s about. I grew up flat out addicted to movies like Legend and Labyrinth and Star Wars and The Princess Bride, none of which feature girls with swords. What they did have in spades were willful girls, girls with tenacity, girls who if given a sword, probably would have picked it up and taken things to a whole new level. I credit this cinematic upbringing with my immediate and unapologetic love for characters like Buffy and Starbuck – girls who fight, who charge into the fray with abandon. I’m such a sucker for the story of the warrior, especially when played by a girl.

So, when posters and previews appeared for BRAVE and SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, it was a done deal. I would see these movies. Possibly more than once.

I’ve heard a lot of lackluster reviews of both of these. And I’m honestly a little baffled by that. THERE WERE GIRLS WITH SWORDS. Not only that, but these were girls taking charge of their own lives and changing the world around them in the process. There's nothing lackluster about that.

These movies probably weren’t supposed to be in conversation with each other, but they totally were. I saw them back-to-back because whenever I do manage to make it to the theater I have to make that visit count (also it’s been two million degrees out and I like free AC). Though the differences between these films are probably pretty obvious, it was the similarities I found intriguing. Basically, both movies argue that girls (with swords) are fighting against three things: destiny/fate, queens/mothers, and creeptastic forests.

But there’s another similarity – and here is where I think these films get particularly awesome – in how the films treat the heroine’s relationship to the world around her.

Take Merida, who’s bound by tradition and heading in a direction she’s not particularly interested in. She doesn’t make arguments about wanting to fall in love. She doesn’t even really protest the character of the three sons she’s to pick from. What she does do is say explicitly, “I’m not ready” and leverage her mother’s help in order to make a change in her world. Her struggle literally changes the lives of everyone in the clans.

In this case, her sword is a part of her character and passion, and with it she saves her mother’s life. 

Now, take Snow White, who’s bound by jealousy and fights her way free with a nail (which, we can all agree, is a very tiny sword). While we could argue that her character is less nuanced than that of Merida, I don’t really mind that in a fairy tale. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a Snow White posses an ounce of power in her reality. This is an enigmatic Snow White. She leads with her heart and when she comes to understand this about herself, she does so with purpose and changes her world by leading the charge.

In her case, the sword is something she comes to posses. It’s less about who she is and more about the power she must step into in order to save herself and her people.

And if that wasn’t enough, this is a Snow White who changes the land itself. As Tessa pointed out, this isn’t done. Neither of us could remember another film where a woman was the one tied to the earth, bringing it back to life and happy times a la Persephone and Demeter. If you can think of other examples, please let me know. But this is another solid mark in favor of SW&tH being quite awesome.

Finally, there’s the thing about boys that makes me so happy I want to hug all the storytellers involved in bringing these two films to life. While there are questions of romance in both, neither forces the story to end in that annoyingly typical happily-ever-after fashion of coupledom. These stories weren’t about romance. They were about the heroine’s journey and HOORAY to them for allowing the girls to stand up on their own at the end.

That’s what I call brave storytelling.

So, if you haven't guessed, I whole-heartedly recommend both of these.

Friday, June 29, 2012


It seems I've been traveling for all of June. It's not far from the truth. I've only spent 14 days of June in my own home. That's more than half the month spent in beds not my own. Which. Recently, isn't really such a bad thing if we're considering the spider invasion.

This past month, I've spent time in Washington, DC, New York City, Columbia, Missouri, and Norman, Oklahoma. And looking back through my photo album, I noticed a strange trend: signs. Everywhere I went, I took pictures of signs.

It all started in DC, when we came around a corner to cut through the drive of a hospital and discovered this:

Angel of Death? Grim Reaper with a bone saw? Icarus? I'm not entirely sure of anything other than its inherent awesomeness.

Next up, New York, with a sense of humor when it comes to its ice cream.

Maybe he's just super sensitive....

Then, it was a diner in Columbia, Missouri. We're best buds, now. Me and the diner. Because no other place of business has ever supported me like this: 

And finally, Norman, Oklahoma. Where we encountered enigmatic chalk signs...

 One required a Tessa-shaped being for scale:

But the clear winner of all the signs we encountered we found in our own B&B:

I can't imagine this one requires much comment.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On not attending BEA

A short time ago, thousands of people in the publishing industry descended upon a single convention center in New York City for one mother of an expo. It's one of the largest "book" events of the year and it attracts authors, editors, agents, librarians, book sellers, bloggers, superheroes, villains, cab drivers...the list goes on.

I did not attend Book Expo America, but being attached to someone who was attending, I did travel to New York at the time of BEA and I did reap a few benefits.

It ended up being one of the most surreal five days of my life and not only because I encountered Spiderman on the street, and ate more cupcakes than in all the years of my life combined.

Possibly the surrealitude of the week could be contributed to the total lack of sleep one can achieve while renting an apartment with friends you only see a few times a year. Possibly it was due to the fact that in said apartment, two blocks from Central Park, the noise of the city barrels through the windows at all hours of the day and night to throw erratic parties on your eardrums. Possibly it was due to the lack of actual oxygen in the air…


Possibly it was the cupcakes.

Either way, three things happened in New York which have altered my life in slight, yet significant ways.

First – In a little coffee shop on Tenth Avenue, I met three incredible women and I'm still surprised the shop survived our impact. The first, my agent, who is as kind and dynamic in person as she is via email. The second, my editor, who impressed me all over again with her passion for the work and BEWARE THE WILD. The third, my editor's assistant, who was insightful and equally as excited about BTW. Sitting there, with a small group of people who had found a way to love this story as much as I do, who are every bit as committed to putting in the time and energy to making it better, I realized again just how incredibly lucky I am.

Second – This one requires a modicum of backstory. When I was fourteen years old, I left my childhood home in Virginia and moved to Yokosuka, Japan. I was only there for two years, but I never made it back to the east coast and eventually fell out of touch with all my childhood friends. Such is the life of a Navy child. But – prepare yourselves, I’m about to say something NICE about Facebook – Facebook (for all its faults) changed that.

I fell back into touch with M and after nearly two solid decades of estrangement we had a four-hour reunion in the middle of New York City. We spent much of the time staring at each other in amazement saying truly profound things to each other.

Me: I can’t believe you’re in front of me.
Him: I can’t believe I’m taller than you.
Me: ……*goofy grin*

We were so wrapped up in nostalgia that after 20 minutes of walking way too fast, I felt the axis of the world shift and suddenly ALL THE PEOPLE were around me.

Him: *slow blink* Yes.
Him: ….we…walked?

Which brings me to the third life-altering experience I had in NYC.

There’s really no way to be tactful about this, but I’m going to try because this is something that may save your life in the future.

If you take away nothing else from my non-BEA experience, take this one lesson: NYC DOESN’T CARE ABOUT YOUR BLADDER.

No. It’s true. And it’s important you know this because discovering it when you’re twenty blocks away from your apartment, all the Starbucks are closing because it’s 10pm, and you’re too stubborn to hail a cab isn’t something I’d recommend.

I mean, it might change your life, but not in a Hunger Games sort of way. Rather, this will change your life in a Trainspotting sort ofway where the world is suddenly very loud and very strange (which is really saying something for NYC), and all the doors are locked and the shopkeepers all look like Delores Umbridge, and then you discover you don’t even have a key to your apartment and no one is answering your texts so WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GET HOME? WHAT HAPPENS THEN???

It is FAR from pleasant.

So, there you have it, my recipe for how to have one singularly intense day in New York City. Passing ife-saving advice on to you is really just a bonus.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Spiders and Beds: things that should not mix

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that last week brought some uncomfortable surprises to my bed in the shape of demonic arachnids.


Arachnophobes, READ NO FURTHER.

If you live in Kansas or in any of the states south of the Mason-Dixon line, then you’re probably Very Aware of the terrors capable of being wrought by the brown recluse. If you're not from one of these states, then it's probably worth mentioning that the bite of a brown recluse carries a venom that causes your flesh to rot from your body. I don't recommend googling "brown recluse bite," but if you must, consider yourself WARNED.

Every region I’ve ever lived in has this sort of boogey beast. In Virginia it was snakes. In Japan, centipedes. In Mississippi, black widows. In Washington, rain. But none have ever pursued me so well as the brown recluse.

(I was about to say none of the others have followed me into my bed, but a very chilling memory of an encounter with a poisonous centipede in Japan just refreshed itself for me….I’m suddenly unsure that it’s wise to continue writing this post….*)

(*This blog is not about wisdom.)

So. Imagine this if you will: you’re waking up after a blissful night of rest. The sun is rising outside your window, the birds are singing sweetly, the aroma of coffee floats through your door on a curling wisp of cartoon steam.

But when your Darling roles out of bed, there’s a large dark spot on the sheets just at the point where her shoulder blades might have been, which leads to the following conversation:

Darling: What is that?
Me: Turn on the light.
Darling:…I do not want to.

But when the light goes on, there’s no doubting the fact that the dark spot pressed to the bed sheet is a brown recluse spider. Adult. Squished. Horrifying.

Naturally, this led to two solid days of denial. Which is why I can now say with absolute certainty that I do NOT recommend using denial to rid your home of spiders.


How do I know this?

Picture this: two mornings after that horrible experience, you wake to another delightful birdsong of a morning and lazily climb out of bed. You think all is well in the world until you and your Darling return to make the bed a short time later to discover something small and stick-like laying on the sheet.

Me: What is that?
Darling: It is a part of a plant.
Me: *spots another* I think it’s a spider’s leg.
Darling: O_O It is a PART of a PLANT.

This led to a very careful and fruitless inspection of the sheets, which in turn led to lifting the pillows….

And WHADDYA know? Brown recluse. Sans three legs. Squished beneath my pillow.

I’ve never considered myself to be afraid of spiders (because really? between spiders and zombies, there's a clear winner where rational, reality-based fear is concerned), but finding two full grown brown recluse complete with fiddle-playing heads in my bed has definitely tipped me toward the more hysterical side of things.

Upon finding this, the second brown recluse, we leapt from denial to aggression and went berserk on the house. I have no idea if vacuuming the ceiling and walls, setting down traps, or playing my cello menacingly at the corners were effective, but it sure made me feel better.

So, this is the point at which I realize this story doesn’t really have a comforting ending. … Sorry?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Contest Winner!

I'm several days tardy posting this....but the winner of the Curiouser and Curiouser contest is Rachel Bellavia (from Blogger)! Rachel, please email me at nataliecparker AT gmail DOT com with your mailing address to claim your very own ARC of THE CURIOSITIES.

Her entry was both silly and delightful, so I'm posting it here for you all to see.

Thank you to everyone who entered! I enjoyed all of your entries and if I could give all of you an ARC, I would!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

And then I was a debut novelist

I'm sure there will be a time for details later. Now, however, is the time for ex!cla!ma!tion points! Because I'm going to be published!

The official announcement:
Natalie Parker's BEWARE THE WILD, pitched as Twin Peaks meets The Village, in which a claustrophobic Louisiana town is dominated by its sinister, encroaching swamp, which swallows up a boy who is instantly forgotten by everyone except his sister, and replaced by a mysterious girl from the past who is intent on taking over his family and his life, to Phoebe Yeh at Harper Children's, in a good deal, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in Winter 2014, by Sarah Davies at the Greenhouse Literary Agency (NA).

That's right. HarperCollins Children's Books! I am so happy I could sprout flowers from the top of my head. And oh, holy crow, there's already a Goodreads page.  

To every one of you who has been reading this blog over the years, THANK YOU.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Curiouser and curiouser contest

I'm in an exceedingly good mood. My week was a pitch perfect mix of challenging, exciting, and engaging. It involved high stress day job meetings, celebrations, chalk drawings, and fire. Really, it was incredible. I suppose you could even call it a curious sort of week.

*and then it happened that Natalie failed to segue seamlessly*

So, I'm going to give away an ARC of a book I've had the privilege to watch evolve, THE CURIOSITIES by the Merry Sisters of Fate (do I really need a parenthetical here? don't you know them already? Brenna, Tessa, and Maggie).

What's it about? I'm glad you asked:
A vampire locked in a cage in the basement, for good luck. 

 Bad guys, clever girls, and the various reasons why the guys have to stop breathing. 

 A world where fires never go out (with references to vanilla ice cream). 

 These are but a few of the curiosities collected in this volume of short stories by three acclaimed practitioners of paranormal fiction. 

 But The Curiosities is more than the stories. Since 2008, Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff have posted more than 250 works of short fiction to their website Their goal was simple: create a space for experimentation and improvisation in their writing—all in public and without a backspace key. In that spirit, The Curiosities includes the stories and each author’s comments, critiques, and kudos in the margins. Think of it as a guided tour of the creative processes of three acclaimed authors. 

 So, are you curious now?

I'm sure you ARE curious and you're dying to figure out how to win this beautiful ARC.

The rules are simple, really: I want you to show me how curious you are about THE CURIOSITIES.

This is a points for creativity sort of contest, but the kind of creativity is entirely up to you. The only requirement is that your blog entry/tweet/facebook update/vlog/tumblr post/whatever include the words "I'm curious as a ___ about THE CURIOSITIES."

For example, you might tweet: I'm curious as a cucumber about #THECURIOSITIES!

Or you might blog an original piece of artwork: (This was also the week I learned cucumbers are strangely difficult to draw and they look better without arms.)

Whatever you do, include the phrase "I'm curious as a _____ about THE CURIOSITIES." Add links to this post if it suits your fancy. Enter as many times as you like, just make sure you drop links to your entries in the comments below.

I'm afraid this is a US address only contest. I also need to be able to see your tweets/FB updates/etc - I can't count locked entries. Sorry!

I'll pick my favorite entry next Friday the 11th, so you've got time to be creative. Aaaaaaand go!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Canyon via Junipers

The problem with the Grand Canyon is that it doesn't look real. And unless you have some wicked fancy macro lens, your camera isn't going to help with that. It didn't take very long for me to realize that all my photos of the canyon were going to look exactly the same. Same rocks. Different angle. Each looking like a romantic painting of a striking landscape.

So! I turned to the local abundance of juniper trees for assistance. They make marvelous models, it turns out. They're so emotive, so friendly, so shockingly versatile, which is how I ended up with a series I'm calling, Juniper in Repose at the Grand Canyon.

First up, the model I like to imagine crept upon the canyon in the dead of night, then awoke to discover how close it had come to falling in, Juniper Startled:

Second, Juniper in Awe:

Third, the Juniper who wished to be a Condor:

Fourth, the Giving Juniper + Tessa:

And finally, Yesterday's Juniper (taken 1,000 feet down in the canyon wall):

There you have it: the Grand Canyon via the life and times of a juniper tree.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The trip of trains and canyons

For years and years, we’ve been talking about making a trip to the Southwestern US to see the Grand Canyon. Partly because Tessa loves the region and partly because I’d never been. So, we decided it was high time we made good on this particular item on the Someday List. We bought train tickets (because what’s an adventure without trains?), booked a package via the Grand Canyon Railway, and took off.

Neither of us has traveled extensively by train in the US, so this was an incredible way to spend 4 and a half days. The trip ended up being as much about the train as it was about the canyon. Let me just break it down by hours because I suspect it will be impressive.

Hours spent on the Southwestern Chief (to/from Williams, AZ): 52
Hours spent on the Grand Canyon Railway (to/from the park): 5
Hours in the park, doing parkly things: 28
Hours in Williams (mostly sleeping and watching outlaw re-enactors): 21
Total trip hours: 106

My take-away? Train travel is beautiful and slow. Perfect for two writers searching for inspiration, but maybe not for obsessive clock-watchers.

We had perfect weather and even though I had my laptop handy, I had a very difficult time prying my eyes away from the changing landscape. We went from the plains, to mountains, to desert – gold to green to rust red.

As a bonus, my bed came with a handy harness that strapped into the ceiling to keep Natalie from falling to the ground in a graceless splat. I felt like an astronaut.

And then there was the canyon. Whoa, that canyon! It wasn’t what I was expecting. I think in my mind, the Grand Canyon was in a barren landscape like Tatooine, with a vicious, toothy maw in the bottom.

But, it is not.

In fact, there was an entire forest around the Southern Rim and shrubs grow all the way down to the bottom of the canyon. Pines that smell like vanilla, and shrubs that look like they’ll cut you if you stray too close.

In any case, the canyon brought out one of the key differences between Tessa and me, and it has something to do with self-preservation.

Bonus points if you can tell me which of the women in this picture is representative of me. HINT: I’m the Sagittarius.

I really wanted to hike down into the canyon and if I’d planned more time and packed better hiking clothes, I’d have hiked all the way to Phantom Ranch to stay the night all the way down at the bottom. As it was, though, we had time to hike down the 1.5 mile trail and back up again. 

This is the point at which the Grand Canyon pulls one over on those of us used to mountains and hills and other things that go up. The canyon trails suck you in. They look easy. They look fun. You’re cruising downhill and looking at the world rising up around you. You’re excited to see what’s ahead, what’s through that next nifty looking tunnel, what’s around that next switchback.

It’s all exciting and wonderful and EASY.

But then, it’s time to go back up. And that’s when things get painful. Not only is the uphill climb interminable and hard, but you’ve already seen the view from the top. THERE IS NOTHING NEW AHEAD OF YOU. It’s not like a mountain hike, where you’ve got the view AND the downhill trek to look forward to. No. It’s all pain and sweat just to get back to the vantage point you’ve already seen. It’s insult to injury, I tell ya, and it’s only by the sheer desire to survive that you reach the top again. 

The Grand Canyon has a dark sense of humor.

But I don’t regret making the hike. What’s a victory without a little pain?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Witches are Women, too

Friday the 13th, perhaps more than any other day of the year, makes me think of my mother.

It's a strange sort of association, and not one she intentionally worked to create. In fact, I think she'd be surprised to learn that every single time the 13th of the month falls on a Friday, I hear her voice singing, "Happy Women are Powerful Day, darling girls!"

I'd be willing to be this occurrence was unique to my house. This is the sort of story that I think captures the essence of my mother.

We didn't always go around calling Friday the 13th Women are Powerful Day. In fact, we probably didn't call it anything at all until I was in elementary school and capable of bringing home scary ideas like viruses. One day, I came home with Friday the 13th in tow - there was one on the horizon and I'd learned they were dire things. I remember explaining to my concerned mother that there was a list of things we needed to avoid: black cats (and we had three!), ladders, the color red, and umbrellas. When she asked me why we needed to be so careful on the 13th, my answer was obviously, "Because of the WITCHES."

"And what," she asked, "do witches do?"

"BAD THINGS." I was horrified that she, a grown adult, was clueless.

Since this was also the time in my life when I discovered a love for books by R. L. Stein and Christopher Pike, I'm sure she was already looking for signs of trouble. I know this to be true because whenever I picked up one of their books, my mother transformed into hag from 'The Princess Bride' and shouted, "Boo! Boo! Booooo!" She'd continue until she ran out of breath, at which point, we'd enter negotiations, which usually ended up with "If you get two MORE books and read them BOTH before that one, then you may get it." 

(Man, I miss that sort of negotiation.)

So! What this meant was that mom was tuned into things like useless fear and degradation of women (yes, witches are women, too). She wasn't going to stand for my blaming all the bad luck of Friday the 13th on a group of women, so she reclaimed it. 

"Natalie," she said. "I'll tell you a secret. Many people are afraid of witches because they were powerful women. Just like you. So, you don't have to be afraid of Friday the 13th. It's not actually bad luck. Not for us. It's our day because we are powerful women."

Well, you can bet I went right out to convert my friends over to this way of thinking (an unsuccessful campaign). I also started looking forward to the 13th because I thought, surely, on one of those days, my magical ability would present itself (still waiting...).

So, Happy Friday 13th, everyone. Live it up. I hope you go out and cross the path of a black cat, walk beneath a ladder, and that you're wearing red. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I don't do memes...except this one

Not long ago, I was tagged by Ruth Lauren Steven (who, by the way, is running a very, very interesting contest on her blog for writers - one that involves agents and queries and pages - go here for all the details) in the Lucky 7 meme. But I was busy and didn't post, and a short time later, was tagged again by Myra McEntire. I'm not usually one for memes. In fact, I never post them because they invariably take me back to grade school and the excruciating pain of hand-written chain letters. However, I've enjoyed seeing this one on the blogs of friends and fellow writers, so I'm dipping into the meme world for just a second to play along.

If you’re tagged, you have to do the following:
  1. Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript 
  2. Go to line 7 
  3. Copy down the next seven lines/sentences as they are – no cheating 
  4. Tag 7 other authors (I've reserved the right to edit. If you want to post, consider yourselves tagged by virtue of stopping by to read my blog.) 
I have two works in progress at the moment, so I asked Twitter to help me decide between options 1 (click) and 2 (click) and they picked the first. The following drafty excerpt is from page 7 of the wip I'm calling WATER for now:

Half a mile below, miles of dusty karst-invested hills swept past. Perfect territory for finding hidden pockets of water in one of the many cave systems, but every last one I passed was as dry as the sky above. I didn’t need the constant reporting of the ship’s radars to know it. The only water I sensed was pumping through the veins of the ship. With the sun already past its zenith, I was looking at yet another night in some cracking valley with who knows what for dinner and a dwindling ration of water. 

I’d already been away from camp for five days. I carried enough drinking water for ten, twelve if I pushed it and was careful. 

/end Lucky 7 meme

Thank you for reading. To show my appreciation, I'm going to save your life. BOOM. You're welcome

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

So, come here often?

A few days ago, I was out for a run with my dog, Grendel (so named for his monstrous seven-toed feet). I've lived in my neighborhood for nearly six years and in that time, I've run my three-mile path hundreds of times. I feel good on this path. I recognize the other joggers and walkers, I know which dogs Grendel does and doesn't like and cross the street if needed - it's my path. But on this day, something totally unexpected happened.

Not zombies, though I understand why it would be your first, rational guess.

It was later in the afternoon, so the main street was busy. I passed a man who was walking in the opposite direction, but I stopped just a few feet away because I'd reached the point at which I always cross the road. But there was traffic and as I waited I heard, "Hey, what kind of dog is that? That's a good looking dog."

I turned to see that this man had stopped and was walking back toward me. He was not looking at my dog.

Three things I should have said?
  1. DEADLY.
  2. Oh, he's just a pit bull/rottweiler/german shepherd mix, but his mama was a dire wolf.
  3. This, right here? Best argument for earbuds I've ever heard.
But instead, I said, "Just a mix."

I thought that was it because I was clearly exercising and ready to cross the road, but he had a follow-up question. Get ready to marvel at how smooth he was...

With a vague gesture, "Hey, I just moved in over there. What's your address?"

Three things I should have said?
  1. How about directions? Second star to the right and straight on til morning.
  2. I think you'll have better luck with the lottery.
  3. 555...
But instead, I said, "Oh...somewhere..." 

I know. Marvel at my smoothness. This terribly clever remark was combined with vague hand twirling in the air above my head, which I'm sure was intimidating in some way. BUT this was also about the time I was sizing him up and deciding I could out run him if it came to that. I may have also started to imagine he was in the early stages of zombie-infection...

Traffic, thankfully, paused just enough that I could dart across the street and put several tons of fast moving steel between us.

Oh, but that wasn't enough of a deterrent for the bold street stalker! As I began to jog away, he yelled, "What was that? What was that?"

Three things I should have said?
  1. All the answer you're gonna get!
  2. Evasive maneuvers. I'm sure you've seen them before.
But instead, my wit failed me, yet again. I shouted, "See ya!" And ran away.

Of course, this whole time, Grendel was standing idly by, pondering clouds and bugs alike. At least he's cute.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How Zombies Will Save the World

You may be aware of the fact that I find zombies to be utterly, engrossingly terrifying. It's fair to say that I think about them at least once a day. Not only because Socrates stands guard on my desk, but because my imagination simply will not let fantastical creatures be. To the piece of my brain that processes fear, zombies are something I should fear approximately 17 times a day. 

There's a reason I can't run outdoors with music on, and it isn't because I'm afraid of being hit by a car or that I've watched way too many episodes of Criminal Minds or even that I've watched those episodes 5 or 6 times a piece (don't judge). It's because I need to be able to hear the zombies when they come up behind me. This isn't true for treadmill running. Because if a zombie sneaks up on me on my treadmill, then they deserve my brain. 

What I'm getting at is that my brain is powerful. For the sake of argument, let's just say there's no rational reason I should be afraid of zombies. Let's just pretend for a moment that I wasn't actually in danger of having to outrun the horde anytime soon. In the absence of Real Danger, my mind has done a fantastic job of believing in something that doesn't exist. So well, that probably 80% of my physical fitness is a direct result of that fear. 

You think I kid? 

There's only one other thing that could possibly motivate me to hang from my pull-up bar or hold plank pose for longer than the 5 seconds it takes for me to remember how HARD those things are, and that's cookie dough (or possibly Damon's eyebrows).

(I deny your accusation of gratuitous Salvator Brows).

I used to think I was alone in this strange reality of Zombie! Terror! But it turns out, I'm not. 

There's a professor at Michigan State University teaching a course called, "Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse - Catastrophes and Human Behavior." The full story is behind that link (sent to me by my little brother), but basically, this prof is using zombies to make social science immediately intriguing to students. It's a perfect blending of imagination and scholarly pursuit! 

Another recent exercise of Zombie! Terror! as motivation is the Zombies, Run! game, which is basically like a real life video game. I suspect that the majority of people playing the game won't actually experience the sort of terror I do even without the aid of an app, but that doesn't negate the power this has to change someone's reality. 

Both of these are tapping into the idea of the Zombie to change the world in a positive way. I find that to be pretty amazing. So. Imagination is powerful stuff. It can make the mundane exciting and turn every single day into an adventure, which is pretty much what I've been trying to do my entire life.

When does your adventure start?

The second you imagine it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What happens at retreat...

...ends up in one of Jackson's videos. This is something of a cautionary tale.

As you may have deduced, this was the retreat at which I learned I love to chop firewood, some houses really are like little countries, and nothing delights like Carrie Ryan story time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Busy weeks are for links...

...and I have two.

Link, the first!

If you'd like a few more details on how I found representation, fellow Greenhouser Ruth L. Steven is running a "How I Got My Agent" series on her blog. My story went up last week. You can find it here.

Link, the second!

Lori M. Lee is having a blogaversary contest. It's major. There are tons upon tons of prizes and I've contributed a crit. Go here for details. 

I promise a post of more substance in the future. Just as soon as I recover from revision brain and paint my nails again.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

So, I'm Revising

There's nothing quite like revision to make me wish the world and all of my daily responsibilities would quiet down for a while. It's not possible and perhaps it's not ideal (I've always responded well to a fair bit of pressure), but it means I become rather limited as human beings go. My answer to everything is, "I need to be writing," because every time I disentangle my mind, even a little bit, from the twisted vines of my manuscript, I have to fight to find my place again.

This means I've started doing things that are entirely unlike me. I've dropped bowls of dog food all over the floor. I've stopped organizing my bills. I've privileged getting home faster over stopping for essentials like milk, eggs, or vegetables.

I've stopped painting my nails.

This is serious stuff. Anything that doesn't appear immediately useful to my revision process gets tossed if possible. But there are some things that do help my revision process and yesterday contained so many that I'm taking this moment to share them with you.

First! The Shearwater album, Animal Joy was released, which meant it was on my iPod nearly as soon as I woke up because someone who loves me very much preordered it for me. I've only recently discovered this band via NPR, but oh, how I love them. The album was on repeat nearly all of yesterday. Here are two tracks for you to sample:



Very soon after receiving this musical delight, I visited my local coffee haunt and was treated to this peach of a latte (a-ha ha ha) by our regular barista. He says he didn't do it on purpose, but I prefer to think he's just this talented.

And finally, a little bit later in the day I got something I've been anticipating for weeks and weeks, which will make my hours of staring at the screen much more comfortable...

 And with that, away I go, back to work so I can get back to work.