Thursday, February 25, 2010


Yes, I'm going to Vegas tomorrow. Sarcastically Delicious (aka boyfriend) is interviewing, as I type this post, at UNLV Dental School. I really hope he gets in. I think he could make a fabulous dentist. But back to what I was saying earlier....


Does part of me hope to find a tiger in my bathroom or a stripper's baby in my closet? Well, the tiger maybe. Babies have a tendency to cry, scream, and poop.

Does part of me hope to stumble across a casino vault  heist and run into Matt Damon and ten of his cohorts? That would be pleasant.

Does part of me hope to hit the jackpot at some slots? Hell yeah!

But, more than these things, I get to spend time with Sarcastically Delicious and see one of my best friends, let's call her Dr. Smelly (not because she smells, but because Smelly is a term of fondness between us) and her fiance this weekend.

And then there's always the four hour plane ride there, during which I will be penning away Product of an Illusion.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blib Blab finkle dinkle dum bum

Admit it. You clicked over to my blog just to see what the finkle dinkle dum bum was about. It's nothing. Just a bunch of random words that I threw up  as a title to gimmick you into reading my post today.

I haven't been posting much because my re-write of Product of an Illusion is a bit behind schedule. I have a few chapters written and a semblance of a mental outline, but I can't bring myself to move forward. It's often suggested that when you have a story to tell, just get it down on paper, and then go back and revise and rewrite. But, this is like the tenth rewrite of Product of an Illusion and I'm scared to go forward, because I don't know if my beginning is strong enough. And I don't want to get 90 pages into it and realize that it sucks and I should start over. I've already done that more times that I care to admit.

I believe there is a fine line between a gimmick and a hook. And I can't figure out which label applies to my beginning. Secondly, I've tried to make sure I'm "showing" and only "telling" if it is pertinent to moving the plot forward. And third, this is the first time I've written something in third person with an omniscient narrator, and sometimes I wonder if I'm going about it correctly.

Would any of you guys be interested in reading and critiquing my first chapter? If you're willing please email me at productofanillusion at gmail dot com.

Happy writing!

Friday, February 19, 2010

And the winner is......

Thomas Taylor! Isn't the design the most fabulous blog banner you've ever seen?!? It's just (except I don't have cool red ice skates).

Who is Thomas Taylor you ask?

Thomas Taylor's blog That Elusive Line is a must follow. Not only does he live in France and work as a published illustrator and hopefully soon-to-be published YA author, he is now offering on-line illustration services for blogs and websites. If you're looking to spruce up your online presence- Thomas is your man.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stinky Feet and Name That Cat

I got on the ice at 5:30am this morning and ice danced. Then I taught a student at 6:00am. My student was half asleep and I did my best to jostle her awake by chasing her around the rink while she skated her moves in the field. After that lesson, I skated again, and had a blast dancing the Paso Doble, Killian, and Westminster Waltz with my fabulous coach. The point of this run down, is to address the fact that I was skating for an hour and forty five minutes.

In any other sport, if you're exerting yourself for an hour and forty five minutes, you usually get a pretty good sweat going and some body parts start stinking. I don't know if it's the neutralizing effect of the cold air, or the fact that ice skaters are perpetual roses forever glowing, or if skaters inherently lack stink and sweat glands- but as a whole, ice skaters don't usually get that stinky or sweaty. There are exceptions though- like skating your long program back to back.

But, for the past eighteen years, I never once thought I had stinky feet. NEVER. But, this morning after I took my skates off and I was stretching, I caught whiff of something that was not particularly pleasant. I don't know if it's just that my sinuses are finally clear after two rounds of antibiotics or if my rose like qualities are wilting with age, but I smelled something noxious- and it was most definitely coming from my feet.

Despite, the callouses, corns, pump bumps, and a cyst on my ankle, I've always thought of my feet as perfection, at least in the smell department. Boy, was I wrong.

And then of course, this made me think of writing.

As writers, we're always striving to be better. Every edit, every rewrite is so that our writing can be the best that it can be. And sometimes, you think you've hit the mark. You've made that manuscript as perfect as you think you can make it. And sometimes it is. And you get that agent or book deal. But then, there are those instance when you get that agent critique, and it's brough to your attention how much your writing stinks. And it's ok to stink. If you're not stinking then you're not trying, and if you're not trying, then you're not going to succeed as a writer.

So even though my feet smelled pretty rank today. It didn't bother me because tt just meant that I was skating hard.

NOW....on to Name That Cat.

Due to my crazy schedule, my kitty, Sasha, who I also affectionately call Bing Bing, Sash Master, and Bootie Tasker, spends a lot of time at home by herself. I used to make up for it by letting her snuggle with me at night. But, since I'm seriously allergic to cats, the snuggling left me stuffed up and gasping for air. So, I decided instead to find a friend for Sasha kitty. My vet friend has been keeping a look out for potential mates for Sasha, and this is who she found the other day stranded in a gutter, desperately needing a home.

Kitty-in-need-of-a-name will be coming home in a few days. Here are few that I've come up with (I'm unoriginal, I know):


Look at that preciousness. Do you guys have any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Banner Contest and Grammar Giblets

I hope everyone is having a great week. We've been blessed with multiple days of snow here in Alabama. Not so much, that its causing any distress, but just enough to give us southerners the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of winter. Snow layered on the black branches of winter trees. Large, fluffy flakes falling in torents from the sky. Patches of glassy ice scattered across walkways, strategically placed for the distracted to slip and fall on their bum. It's snowy bliss.

Just wanted to remind everyone of the stupendous design a banner for Anita's blog contest. The winner will receive a $50 gift card to a bookstore of their choice. Entries must be received by midnight (of your time zone) on February 17, 2010.

And now for the grammar giblets. Well, they're not really giblets. I just felt like using that word. The other day I came across a copy of The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. Yes, this is the same E.B. White that wrote Charlotte's Web.

Interesting Snippets from the Introduction of The Elements of Style:
William Strunk, Jr. was actually E.B. White's college professor in 1919 at Cornell University. Back then, The Elements of Style, was fondly called the "Little Book," and was a small volume of grammatical rules and guidelines. Later, in 1957 Macmillan commissioned E.B. White to revise it for the college market.

The Elements of Style was a book that I was forced to buy in college. And I don't think I even read it. But since then, I've come to realize that it's an indispensable tool for learning what I call usable grammar, principles of composition, and an approach to style.

Here are some style giblets from the The Elements of Style:

Do not overwrite
Rich, ornate prose is hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating.

Do not explain too much
It is seldom advisable to tell all. Be sparing, for instance, in the use of adverbs after "he said," "she replied," and the like: "he said consolingly"; "she replied grumblingly." Let the conversation itself disclose the speaker's manner or condition.

The truth is...The fact is.... A bad beginning for a sentence. If you feel you are possessed of the truth, or of the fact, simply state it. Do not give it advance billing.

I just love how to-the-point The Elements of Style is. It' even hilarious at time, but it is has undoubtedly become my writing bible. If you don't have it...and you want to be a writer....go buy*

* Just want to clarify that this post is not endorsed by Mcmillan nor will I receive any compensation from the sale of this book.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Something's missing....

Ahhh! Yes, that would be the complete manuscript.

Life has been, well, busy, to put it mildly. And so it takes more of an effort to write. But, I know this is not an excuse for NOT writing. Whenever I feel this way, I think of Nicholas Sparks (I highly suggest this link to his page for writers). He was working full time as a pharmaceutical rep, had a family, and he found time to write The Notebook. So, there. I have no excuses.

But, do you ever feel like you've learned as much as you can about the querying process, you're reading all the agent blogs, educating yourself about plot, pacing, and character, and then....well there's the execution. You know, the actual writing of your book. Yeah, I'm kind of missing that part.

It seems all you bloggers out there are really pounding out the words, and I'm writing about not writing, and holding a contest for a new header design for my blog.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I am extremely jealous of all the people out there that know how to use photoshop. One day I will have to learn.
But for now, I can't stand the way it looks around here. My current header is blah....generic...hum drum.. you get the picture. I want a new header, but I haven't a clue how to make something original and fun.  So here's the contest:

Submit your designs to productofanillusion (at) gmail dot com
All designs should be emailed by midnight of the time zone of your choosing on Wednesday February 17, 2009.
And the winner will get a $50 gift certificate to a bookstore of their choice.
Contest rules: I will be the judge of the contest and the winner will be chosen upon my whims and fancies.

Here are some things to take into consideration when creating your design:
1. My favorite color is red.
2. I like things that are simple.
3. I write YA
4. I ice skate.

Now go and DESIGN! Or sit back and watch the mayhem ensue- which ever blows your skirt up.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Pocket Muse

My friends are quite supportive of my writing addiction. They encourage me with words, hugs, patient ears, and sometimes gifts. A few years ago a friend gave me a book called The Pocket Muse written by Monica Wood. To be honest, I just rediscovered it on my book shelf today, and as I was thumbing through it, I came across Ms. Wood's Ten Commandments for a Happy Writing Life.

1. Don't wait for inspiration; establish a writing habit.
2. Take time off.
3. Read voraciously.
4. Shut out the inner critic.
5. Claim a space.
6. Claim some time.
7. Accept rejection.
8. Expect success.
9. Live fully.
10. Wish others well.

Happy Writing!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Leaving Heflin....

It's a gloomy, rainy day here in the back woods of Alabama, in a little town called Heflin. Today a tatooed man told me that's he trying to make a good so he doesn't go back to his outlaw ways. And as the rain comes a pourin' in, I wonder why things couldn't be plainer in my life. If you didn't know, plain is synonomous with saying clear.

The doom and gloom of publishing is mirrored in the rain drops fallin' here in Heflin. Each drop a luminiscent crystal, a reflection of the missing buttons on Amazon for all the McMillan books out there. Every rumble of thunder, an echo of the rejected writer's cry. And every puddle, an abyss of liquid hopelessness for all the writers suffering from creativity block.

Have a fabulous day!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Today is the season premier of LOST!! SQUEEE!!! I can barely contain my excitement. LOST is amazing on so many different levels. What I wouldn't give to be part of the writing team for that show. Or if I couldn't be on the writing team, if I could just sit in a corner and listen, that would be...would be....gosh...I'm speechless. Each character is developed. There is suspense and plot twist upon twist, and yes sometimes you do end up feeling lost- hence the name.

Last night I watched the final episode from last season so I could freshen up a bit on my story line. Some of you may have never watched the show, and if you haven't, go to the library and rent season 1 on DVD. Do it. Now. I mean, why are you still reading this post.

But, for those of you who are seasoned LOST followers, let's play a little on the LOST island.

Here are Jack and Kate. They met on the island when the plane first crashed. The surgeon and the convict. The hero and the girl who always wants what's best, but tends to just mess things up even more. I really hope that by the end of this season Jack and Kate end up together, forever. Sigh. I'm a hopeless romantic what can I say?

But, then there's the hydrogen bomb. Well, really it was the plutonium core of a hydrogen bomb that Jack dropped down a well into an electromagnetic pocket of energy. And I can't believe that he dropped it with the intention of hopefully reversing everything that happened. Oceanic 815 would have never crashed. Jack and Kate would have never met- amongst other relationships never forming.

This is Sawyer. When he was a child his Dad was conned by a man (who we later find out is John Locke's father). His Dad was so outraged that he shot Sawyer's Mom and then himself. When the plane first crashed, Sawyer was always looking out for himself. But then as the story progressed he changed into a leader. For the first few seasons he's in love with Kate, who he fondly calls freckles. But then when Sawyer, the island, and the people on it are sent back in time 30 years, he creates a life for himself with Juliet. It was so sad last season, when Juliet fell down the well. When Juliet gave up at the sight of Sawyer glancing at Kate for a fraction of a moment (I mean she could have had spinach in her teeth or something), and in that one glance she decided that Sawyer still loved Kate. But why oh why did Juliet not understand that Sawyer loved her too. And then before we knew it, Juliet was at the bottom of the well, beating the plutonium core with a rock and everything went white.

This is John Locke. And wow is his story something. When Oceanic 815 crashes on the island, he is a paralyzed passenger who is wheel chair bound. Then the island heals him, he can walk, and he turns into this boar hunting, eventual leader of the others on the island. And then Ben killed Locke last season. And Locke's body is in a coffin on the Algira flight which crashes on the island. But when the plane crashes, Locke is alive and he leads the people on the island, including Ben, to see Jacob. But then there's this other group of people, who I think are loyal to Jacob, carrying Locke's dead body around in a big metal box.

So let's talk about this amonst other mind boggling LOST topics. Just pick your favorite question or questions to ramble about in the comments.

1. If Locke is dead in the box, who is the guy walking and talking around, looking like Locke, and ordering Ben to kill Jacob? I think Sarcastically Delicious figured this one out last night, and it was a big moment of revelation for me. What do you think?
2. Now that the bomb has gone off at the bottom of the well, what do you think is the fate of the island? Jack? Kate? Sawyer? Hurley?
3. Will Sayid survive his gun shot wound?
4. Will Sun and Jin ever see each other again, considering one is thirty years in the past, and the other in the future?
5. Why has Richard Alpert never aged? Jacob?
6. Will Charlie, Mr. Eko, and Anna Lucia come back to life if the explosion really does reverse time and Oceanic 815 never crashes?
7. What do you think of LOST's take on time travel? I was a bit befuddled when Daniel Farraday saw his mom on the island, and his baby self was in her womb. If you believe in a person having a soul or a spirit, then when your later self sees your past self, is your soul split in two? They do this in Prisoner of Azkaban as well, when Hermione and Harry see their past selves. I know. It's heavy.

Can't wait to hear what you guys think!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gossip Time....FIRE

I just finished listening to Fire, written by Kristin Cashore, and....WOW.

When I first started listening (yes I don't have time in my busy life to read, so I listen to books in the car), I have to admit I was disappointed for a couple of reasons:
  • This audio book did not have a full cast of narrators as Cashore's first novel, Graceling. I think it takes an audio production up to a whole new level when each character is read by a different person. But, despite this, the narrator, Xanthe Elbrick did a phenomenal job. She has the ability to change her voice, and was able to give each character their own distinct sound. The narrator of the Harry Potter series, Jim Dale, does an excellent job of this. If you haven't listened to Harry Potter on audio book- I highly suggest it.
  • Fire is not at all like Graceling, and this was a bit of a let down in the beginning. I had expected another adventure with Katsa, Po, and Bitterblue, but instead Cashore introduces you to an entire new world full of monster creatures, a royal family, lords, and a kingdom on the brink of war. And it took me awhile to warm up to my new imaginary environment, only because I was so attached to the seven kingdoms she had created in Graceling.
As I listened, at first I thought the story was progressing slowly. But looking back, I now see that it was necessary for the story to unfurl as it did. That was the nature of the kingdom of the Dell's. It's a place where it takes three weeks to travel from the north to King's city. Letters and messages don't appear in the blink of the eye as it does in the internet age. But more importantly, the slow pace in the beginning was important to properly introduce the wide cast of characters and to develop the many layers of their personality. In a previous post by agent Nathan Bransford he mentioned things to keep in mind when revising a novel. And one revision point he posed as a question: Are your characters irrevocably changed by the end of your book? Each one of the characters in Fire are irrevocably changed by the end of the book. Did Cashore sit down before the start of the novel and draw an arc for each character and then intertwine them, or did everything just fall into place as she wrote the story? Inquiring minds wants to know.

When I sit back and think about it, it astounds me how many complex layers there are to Fire, the main character of the novel, and the namesake of the book. She is in her late teens and has the ability to hear other people's conciousnesses and control the conciousnesses of those who are unable to guard their mind. And depite having a tyrant for a father, Fire struggles with the moral implications of using her monster powers (as they are called in the Dells). Fire is also enchantingly beautiful. But her beauty is a curse (in the beginning of the book) because it compels people to act out of their minds when they are in her presence.

There is much love and heartbreak, triumph and loss in this novel. There were points when I was on pins and needles, feeling the tension the characters were feeling in particular scenes. And during the times of war, I worried dearly for the commander, wondering if he would make it out alive.

Needless to say, I highly recommend Fire as a read/listen. And in no way was I compensated for this edition of Gossip Time. Go read FIRE, just because it's that good.