Monday, June 30, 2008

The Big Announcement! Hear Ye, Hear Ye...

Things have just gotten more exciting on Miss Snark's First Victim. Are you ready?

I'm delighted to announce that our next Are You Hooked? will feature a Secret Agent in the comments box. What's a Secret Agent, you ask? Why, it's a real, honest-to-goodness, bonafide literary agent who has graciously accepted my invitation to participate.

Our Secret Agent will be critiquing our next submissions along with the rest of us. At the end of the round, the Secret Agent will choose which submission is the strongest. The lucky winner will receive a little prize from the agent.

Once the crit round is over and the winner has been chosen, I will reveal the identity of the Secret Agent, along with a short bio and any info the agent has chosen to share concerning what he/she is currently looking for.

The call for submissions will take place on Monday, July 14. So you've got plenty of time to polish your first page. Because, yes, this is going to be a classic First Page Are You Hooked.

Spread the word. Get your work in tiptop shape. Post your questions here. And mark your calendars for the 14th of July.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Fricassee

Well, despite some "technical difficulties" (??) we've accomplished another crit round, albeit a sparse one.

I'm not sure why I didn't find the un-superscripted version of Karen's submission in my inbox, for instance. It's 99% probable that the fault is at my end, though I'm still scratching my head.

So I'm going to have to get a major clue for next time. Because, oh. Oh, oh, OH! Is our next round going to be SUPER FUN or what.

I'll be announcing the details on Monday!

In the meantime, an extra big "thank you" to all participants. And Karen, I don't know how I missed your second submission. Part of the problem is that gmail's format really confuses me. (I know, I know, I'm easily confused.) You know how the emails kind of link up to each other like a big bulletin board conversation? Well, that whole thing blows my mind. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it.

So. Talk to me in this week's Fricassee comment box about your MCs. It's been said that many writers inadvertently write themselves into their MCs. I know that's been true for me. What about you? Do you find that your MC exhibits your dark side? Your light side? Your idiosyncrasies? Your strengths? Or nothing even remotely close to your own personality?

What you do you feel makes an MC truly likable? Or at least truly empathizable? (Yes, I'm coining my own words this afternoon.)

Do tell! Because, in the end, no one really wants to read a story about someone they couldn't care less about. Right?

Big hugs to you all...and be sure to stop by Monday for the Exciting Details!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Talkin' Heads -- MC #6

(Post removed via author's request.)

Talkin' Heads -- MC #5

This one's from KNIGHT'S CURSE, my urban fantasy novel:

I shuddered. Yeah, I knew the kind of comforts he was into. It made my skin crawl. Folding my arms, I glared into his ice-blue eyes. “That was one hell of a job you sent me on. You owe me.”

He arched his brows. “No, dear. You owe me.” He held out his open palm. “Give me Saint Geraldine¹s hand.”

An icy flush covered me from head to toe. I backed up and spun around, a prickle of fear nipping at the base of my spine. I couldn't deal with his anger right now, not with the change so close. Remembering past punishments, I could almost feel the sting of his leather whip on the backs of my legs.

Taking a deep breath, I pretended to study the decor of the foyer that was so different from the Grandville mansion. Gavin’s was tastefully creepy, like the set for the Adams Family but without the dust and cobwebs.

“I’m waiting, Chalice,” Gavin said, his tone frosty. “Where is it?”

“I don’t have it.” I turned to face him again, but from a safer distance. “It got eaten. I think.”

Gavin’s eyes widened and his jaw muscle twitched. He furrowed his brows. “Eaten?”

“There was a hellhound you didn't warn me about, and the hand...” Damn, I should have figured out how to get it away from that stupid beast. I couldn't let Gavin see my concern--signs of weakness were like catnip to him­-so I shrugged my shoulders and leaned against the wall, feigning boredom.

Talkin' Heads -- MC #4

"What's going on dear lady? Spill the beans." Larry waits for an answer. "Trish are you still there?"

"Yes, I'm here. I messed up royally and I don't think you'll ever forgive me."

"Well there aren't many things I wouldn't forgive. Did you fall in love with someone else?"

"No. That could never happen."

"Did you kill anyone?

"No." Larry's question causes me to giggle.

"So you think murder is funny? You have a serious problem! Larry lightens up the conversation.

"Is there anything else that would piss you off beyond forgiveness?"

"Nope, because death of love or life can't be fixed. Everything else can." I can hear Larry's smile through the phone.

"Okay, you made me feel better." I wipe the last tear from my eyes.

"Good, whatever it is we can deal with it, as long as it doesn't contain the word goodbye," Larry says cautiously.

"It absolutely doesn't." .

"Good. I'll try to get off work early. What time are you leaving?"

"Probably noon or so. That way I'll beat the rush hour traffic."

" I'll plan to leave work around, seven. It should get me home, right about the time you pull into my driveway. We'll get a bite to eat and then talk. Okay?"

"That sound good." .

" Get some sleep; you'll need it for the long drive home. Call me in the morning."

"Okay. I love you Larry."

"I love you too babe, goodnight."

"Nite." I hang up the phone, grab a fresh T-shirt, and head for the shower.

Talkin' Heads -- MC #3

At last he had told her all.

Megda sat staring at him for a moment in silence. When she finally spoke, her voice was quiet, but terse. “You said that to your father? You said that to the Treespeaker? And you wonder why he lost his temper?”
Dovan felt hot all over. Why was everyone so mad at him tonight? “I told him I didn’t believe it!”

Megda’s face softened suddenly and she reached across and took his hand. “Dovan, before this Outlander came, before Kattan died, who was your father?”

Dovan shrugged, not understanding the question. “He was Jakanash, the Treespeaker. He still is.”

Megda nodded. “Treespeaker, yes. And didn’t he have the respect of everyone in this village?”

“Of course!”

“Does he still have that respect?”

“Yes, of course.”

Now Megda shook her head and squeezed his hand. “Are you sure? When even his only son doesn’t defend him against the suggestion that he’s been tricking his people for the last twenty-five years, that everything he has done has been a lie?”

Dovan felt sick. He was embarrassed to find tears springing to his eyes. He pulled his hand from Megda’s and covered his face. What had he done?

Talkin' Heads -- MC #2

Situation: Ajax is the former commander of a colonial rebellion that lost. The opposing
commander, Kaminari, released him rather than executing him. Since then he's settled on a far flung planet with little connection to the rest of the galaxy, until Kaminari is brought to the colony's medic to be healed.
Speaking characters: Ajax Hajari and Miriam the Medic

“You were a prisoner I thought, from the colonies, right? And you escaped?”

“That’s right.” He sat, staring at the door to Kaminari’s room. What would Miriam say if he finished the conversation, if he confessed to being Ajax Hajari? If he told Miriam that her patient was the infamous Kaminari?

Miriam continued on, oblivious to his distress. “You’re lucky Ajax Hajari was captured.”

“I am?” Jax asked without really listening. In his mind he pictured bonfires and witch-hunts.

“If Kaminari hadn’t been so busy with the Butcher of the Downs you never would have been able to escape..” He could feel her eyes watching him, could sense her anticipation of confession. “Right?”

“It wasn’t quite an escape,” Jax said. “It was something between a daring escape and the jailor throwing the doors open and telling me I cost to much to feed.”

“I can’t imagine Kaminari letting anyone go.”

“Kaminari is a difficult woman to imagine,” Jax said. He barely understood Kaminari, and he’d spent years trying to think like she did. But you couldn’t think like Kaminari because Kaminari didn’t seem to think. She just did. Every action seemed impulsive. But the results always seemed planned.

Miriam laughed nervously. “It’s not like I’m likely to meet her ever.”

“The chances of the average person meeting Kaminari are small,” Jax agreed, but he didn’t make eye contact. He was being overwhelmed with an unfamiliar sensation. He was afraid. For Kaminari. If Miriam knew who lay in her cot helpless….

Talkin' Heads -- MC #1

Situation: Multi-national (interstellar) group being marched down a path on unknown planet by unknown attackers with two Speail Forces groups working together for an escape.


“Are you sure you can do this? If Khal and his gunner haven’t managed to neutralize our targets were walking cold into a hot situation. I’m just as good a shot as you are.”

Kit closed her eyes and muttered something low, a prayer maybe. “I’m not going to die Beka, it’s just a bruise.”

“It’s a bruise and a concussion combined with what I’m guessing are several strained or torn muscles, dehydrations, fatigue, and the beginnings of malnutrition. It’s been nearly four days since you’ve had anything solid.”

“I could take a sniper position if it would make you happy,” Kit offered.

Beka couldn’t smile at her friends’ concession, but she did feel some minor relief. “I’d feel better if I knew you were somewhere picking off people. It’s better than both weapons going in open and obvious.” Kit nodded. “Maybe you should take my hand gun?”

“Keep it hidden and keep a garrote handy. You have one, correct?” Beka nodded an affirmative. “You’ll probably wind up doing close combat if it comes to anything, but it’s best for you to keep all your weapons. If worse comes to worse we can split up.”

“And meet where?” Beka didn’t even bother to ask what worse might be. She knew what worse was, they had trained for worse. No one ever bothered to train for the mission that would go off perfectly with nary a bruise.

Talkin' Heads -- MC "Make Me Care"

And here we go.

In your crits, please let the writer know:

*If you care about the MC
*If you want to know what happens next
*If you don't care or don't want to know what happens next, then please explain why
*Kindly, of course :)

Let's have at it!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Call For Submissions: Talkin' Heads

Okay, folks, here's something new for you.

This week, we're going to focus on our MCs. Send in an excerpt (roughly 250 words) of a dialogue-rich scene that bestows a sense of EMPATHY for your main character.

The emphasis here is dialogue, not action. Tags, internal dialogue, and a bit of action are fine. Just try to find something where your MC's dialogue with another character(s) is the main thrust of the scene.

And by the time we reach the end of your excerpt, we should REALLY CARE about what happens next.

Or, at the very least, we should be INTERESTED to find out what will happen to the MC.

Capiche?

Email your submissions to facelesswords(at)gmail.com by 9:00 am EDT on Thursday, June 26.

Post your questions here.

And here's a tip for you, so that you get the most out of this exercise (and subsequent exercises). Don't write something just for this submission. Find something from a work that's well on its way to polishedhood. Find something you feel confident about, but could use some fresh eyes for. Find something that could really benefit from some good feedback here.

And if you can find a way to email me a slice of key lime pie, feel free. I am burdened with an inexplicable craving for one right now.

Looking forward to your submissions!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Fricassee

Goodness me. Has it really been a week?

I mostly want to say...wow. Your responses to last week's "Friday Fricassee" were nothing short of amazing. Thoughtful, honest, inspiring.

I think I might be compelled to take off my cybermask if I had the chance to meet you all at a coffee house. I might even be compelled to pay for everyone's lattes.

Seriously.

So here I am, writing on another Friday (yes, I'm embarrassed to have blown off writing anything here for an entire week), and thinking, hmmm, what can I share with these fascinating writers after they've bared their souls in my comments box?

And I know just the thing.

You see, I've got something really cool in the works for all of you. Really cool. As in, really.

So, while I'm not exactly ready to spill all the beans, I do want to tease you a little bit, just out of the sweetness of my heart.

Here's the teaser: There's going to be a Very Special Are You Hooked? next month. It's going to include the usual -- call for specific submissions, crits from fellow writers. And it's also going to include something extra.

As in, a special secret guest.

Who will offer a special prize to the best entry.

Yep. It's THAT GOOD.

And as if that's not good enough, we're going to do the whole thing over again the following month. With a new special secret guest and a new special prize.

Are you drooling yet?

Oh, yeah. You're going to love this. And I'm not even winking.

So start spreading the word. Whisper down the alley and all that. Spruce up your favorite WIP and check this blog for the specifics, which I plan on posting next week to give you plenty of time to submit your very best!

Now you're either loving me or hating me. I'm okay with that, though. Because I'm sure you will all love me when it comes time for full disclosure.

Feel free to chatter away in the comments box, and I'll join in when I can. But don't even think about asking me any questions about the Very Special Something. You're just going to have to wait.

Tee hee.

Have an awesome weekend! Wish I could better express how you've inspired me.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Fricassee

Thank you, thank you, one and all, for your entries, your comments, and your continued enthusiasm for our little "crit sessions."

I know the antag thing was challenging. Naturally we want to reveal our "bad guys" in layers, over many chapters. Sometimes the bad guy is someone we trusted all along, in which case the revelation is a big shocker.

So, yeah. It was a stretch. But, truth be told, you rose to the challenge. And we got to meet a few "nasties."

And now I want to ask you a (hopefully) thought provoking question:

How do you fight bitterness?

Let me explain. We're all on this road together. We write, we polish, we submit, we wait, we submit some more. There's a strong sense of support and community among writers online -- especially in places like Verla Kay. And it's encouraging when somebody posts good news.

"Hooray, my PB has sold!"

"Wow, I finally got an agent!"

"I've just earned past my royalties and signed for a third book in my series!"

And on.

So, does something inside you ever make the tiniest little snapping sound? As in, when is it my turn?

When is it my turn?

Not to sound like a snarky, preadolescent brat or anything. Simply, "when is it my turn"?

My turn.

Your turn.

How badly do you want a turn?

Do you live to write? Or write to live?

Are you the quintessential "artiste?" Or someone who works hard to get published, plain and simple?

How do you wash away the bitterness that wants to creep in?

Or, does it never creep in at all?

I've seen where many of you are in your writing. Where are you emotionally on this journey?

Let's have a Literary Therapy session on this almost-summer Friday!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Drop The Needle BAD GUY #7

Romantic Fiction (not romance novel)

"You are the man, L-a-r-r-y!" Billy Martin sounds like a circus ring master.

"Yeah, some may say. But why you?" Larry tries to read Martin's hidden scheme.

"Your dance moves, the hair, intelligence and like every good boy scout, you're always prepared. Larry, you smoke cigars?"

"On occasion."

"Try one of these, boy, a Cuban, Flor de Farach Corona, 1947 Cuban.... ."

"Thanks. Mr. Martin."

"Call me Billy."

"Alright, Billy." Larry says drawing in on his Corona, hating everything about Billy Martin, even these expensive cigars.

"I'm a man who gets things done and I need someone like you to help me."

"Help you with what?" Larry asks and fears the answer.

"Graham, my right hand man recently met with an unfortunate accident. I need someone like you, to take his place."

"What did Graham do?" Larry asks.

"Larry, don't play with me. You think, I and don't know about you? You're a DEA agent! You worked with Graham. You could tell me, what he did for me." Martin's demeanor altered from congeniality to frenzy.

"I knew Graham, or I thought I did. " Larry's coolness prevails.

"Wasn't he your buddy?"

"At one time." Larry says, remembering, shooting Graham, just as Graham aimed for Larry's head.

"Graham told me about you: Identity change, the Dominican drug cartel on your trail, and the

Fentanyl fiasco." Martin snickers and continues. "You're a smart man, Larry, maybe you've been straight for 25 years, but in your heart you're still a junkie chasing after what's best for Larry."

Drop The Needle BAD GUY #6

“The lights have gone.” The valhara stood over fifteen hands, covered in thick plated steel from head to toe. His armor was black, trimmed in white and scribed with glittering runes. Like all members of the warrior race, he was known only by his weapon, a wickedly curved polearm named Biqehix.

The bearer of Ajanende, a weapon which remained unbroken for thirty generations, looked a mirror image of steel plate--white trimmed in black. “We cut them down like milkweed, and now one youth stands against us.”

“Such courage.” The wielder of Biqehix replied.

“A mighty attack.” Ajanende’s bearer echoed.

“How many have fallen?”

“Several hundred spears perished to the lights.” Ajanende’s bearer sounded greatly pleased.

“An honorable attack.” The wielder of Biqehix answered.

“A very honorable attack.”

“We must show them honor by offering a...”

“worthy counter.”

“Summon the shadows, a score at least. We must not dishonor them by responding too lightly,” the wielder of Biqehix said.

“Two score, to be sure. When the shadows find their lair…”

“We summon the Nigra Kar and they will...”

“bring us a Sisrath.” When Ajanende's bearer mentioned the Sisrath, the scouts jumped, the air seemed cooler, the smoke darker.

“Just one.”

“One Sisrath is very honorable.”

“Two would be...”

“Yes. Dangerous to our own forces. They will be honored by the Sisrath. Just one.”

The wielder of Biqehix raised his weapon, playing the light off the runes on the blade. “Then, we grind his shattered blade in the remains of his body.”

“He will be honored,” Ajanende's bearer said.

[author's note: I added minor expo in the first para to set the stage; it's hard to jump in the middle of fantasy so forgive me that. Though there is nothing despicable or devious about the Valhara, I loved them as bad guys. The objective in this excerpt was to create a sense of dread at their dogged, relentless honor and distorted perception of warfare as something that brings honor to the people they slaughter. Hope it's enjoyable!]

Drop The Needle BAD GUY #5

Genre: Dark Science Fiction

This is the story of a clone, who is an anti-hero. Eva is a sociopath. The villian is something you might not expect. Society.
"Don't touch, they aren't good to touch."

"Momma," she said, pouting.

Her mother turned her face to face, and smiled a most beautiful smile at her. My heart ached for a smile like that. I reached through the bars again, but this time I reached for the woman. "Ma – ma." I said and waited for that smile. Instead, I got a look of horror.

"Take Annalise out," my keeper's mother ordered the caregiver. The woman led a pouting Annalise away, shutting the door behind them.

I smiled again at the woman before me. "Mamma," I repeated louder.

The woman retrieved a leather strap from the wall, unlocked my cage and stripped me of my clothes. I'd never known violence, or I would have cowered in the corner.

"You are forbidden to use that word." She swung the strap down. "I am not your mother." Another blow. "You have no mother." Over and over, until she released me and I fell to the floor like a broken doll. I curled into a ball and cried. The woman walked out of the cage, locking the door behind her. "You are a clone. You haven't a mother." She turned to the caregiver who'd returned. "No food for her tonight. She must learn this lesson." My Keeper's mother spun on her heel and left the room.

I cried. Welts covered my arms, my back, my legs, but that was not the reason I cried.

I cried because I hadn't a mother.

Drop The Needle BAD GUY #4

GENRE: fantasy


Winterblade licked drying blood from the dead girl's cheek. "We
appreciate your help, kitten."

He pulled a thick wood sliver from her arm and pinned the scribed note
to her torn smock. There. A perfect trap set with the perfect bait.
Winterblade ran his tongue over his sharp teeth, anticipation
spreading arousal through him. How could the Shaded Warrior resist
this?

Winterblade smiled at his handiwork. Flies gathered, undeterred by the
chill predawn.

"The rest of them?" one of the Sobakas said. The vampire jabbed the
hilt of a knife towards the huddled captives.

The adult male—the father—his mate and two other offspring cringed
together. Tears grimed their faces. It had been almost as
entertaining as butchering the kitten, watching them scream into their
gags.

Winterblade tipped his head back and breathed deep, controlling his
impulse to agree and let his pack slaughter the humans. He still
needed the family alive.

At least until the Shaded Warrior caught up to him.

"Not yet."

The Sobaka showed his fangs. "You said—"

Winterblade smiled, showing teeth back. "I said when I have the
warrior." He flexed his hands and stretched. The kitten's blood had
dried between his fingers. "Is your memory faulty?"

The vampire stared him in the face for a second, challenging. Then he
lowered his head. "No."

Winterblade glanced at the rest of the pack. They avoided his gaze.
Two Sobakas, two humans. The fifth lay in a ditch miles back, skinned
and gutted, an example. Winterblade had enjoyed that. Perhaps it
would prove an inspiration to his stalker.

Winterblade nodded. "Bring the pets."

Drop The Needle BAD GUY #3

Genere: Science fiction

Premise: A pirate attack on a ship leaving the crew dead. The lone adult passenger, a single motherwith 7 children takes over and confronts their attacker.

The woman snorted.. “How many of there are you? I’m getting crazy readings from the hold.”

“Just me and the children, I think,” Fleur said. “I’m sorry, are you a rescue ship?”

The woman smiled, it wasn’t a pleasant sight. “You planet bound whores are so sweet,” she said. “You know what right of salvage is? Anyone who finds a dead or abandoned ship has the rights to the parts.”

“Will you give us a ride to the nearest port then?” Fleur asked. “I’d like to get home.”

“Not a problem,” the woman said. “I know a place where I’ll fetch good money for you.”

Fleur’s eyes narrowed at the implication. “I am a free citizen of the Francesca City-State in the Europa System. You can not sell me as a slave.”

“Not in Francesca,” the pirate agreed amicably

“I have children!” Fleur shouted. “They need a mother!”

“They’ll get a master,” the woman said.

“No! You don’t understand, they’re in ill health, all of them. They’re Penumbra children.”

The woman laughed. “Fabulous! Children forever! Do you know how much they’ll fetch on the slave market?”

“Who would want a child slave?”

“Pedophiles,” the pirate said. “Pedophiles with lots and lots of money.”

Drop The Needle BAD GUY #2

Genre: SciFi/Fantasy Romance


RieAn poked at the meat on her plate, pushing it around. Two days without food, her stomach cramped from emptiness, but for some reason she'd lost her appetite.

That some reason sat across from her, staring with black soulless eyes, smiling in a cold, calculating way. OrXian, Torin's creepy son and way too advanced in his abilities for a child.

Abilities, he used at the very moment to unnerve her and make half the guests squeamish and green.

RieAn couldn't stop herself from fixating on the large roasted boar sitting in the center of the table, a showpiece. It turned its head, squealed and stared back at her. Roasted eyes rolled around in the sockets and hot steam that smelled like bacon snorted from its nostrils.

RieAn swallowed and shifted her gaze away.

Torin ignored his son's behavior and reached up to slice a hefty slab from the carcass. The boar squealed and snapped at him. He smacked it with the broadside of his knife, then transferred the wiggling flesh to his plate, cutting a bite sized piece, he popped it in his mouth and groaned in pleasure. "Spectacular."

RieAn gagged, but managed to keep from being sick. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction.

Torin stopped eating. He glanced up and pointed his knife. "You should eat. You're going to need your strength later."

"I'm not hungry."

"Stop playing with your food, OrXian." Torin stabbed another piece and stuffed it in his mouth. "It's bad manners, son."

Drop The Needle BAD GUY #1

Genre: Urban Fantasy

When I shifted my attention away from Gavin, he rushed in and grabbed me from behind, pinning my arms so tight that an ounce more stress on my bones would surely break them. He was damn strong for an old man. A hell of a lot stronger than me. I kicked backwards and he squeezed me tighter, forcing my shoulders back so far that I thought the bones would pop from their sockets.

He pressed his face against my cheek, his lips touching my ear. Drops of spittle flecked my skin when he breathed. "Hold still or I'll break both your arms."

"Not if I break yours first."

He chuckled. "Such a dreamer. As always, your reach exceeds your grasp." He grabbed both my wrists in one powerful hand while using the other to search inside my coat. I knew what he was looking for, and a sick, lost feeling filled me from the toes up. If he took that away, my chance at freedom was lost.

His hand slid up my ribcage and over my breasts, making me gasp. He'd done some horrible things to me in the past, but never had he molested me sexually. I'd let him do it now if I thought it would distract him from what he was really after. His hand changed direction to feel the lining of my coat, searching for an inside pocket. When he found the knife, he yanked it free and pushed me away.

Drop The Needle: BAD GUYS

Shortly (or not so shortly), I will be posting the entries for this week's Drop The Needle.

We've got some doozies. :)

Be kind, be honest, and please remember to critique if you are one of the authors.

And, too, I want to point something out: Please put on your thickest skins when reading crits of your own work. (Merc, you were born with a thick skin, so this doesn't apply to you. :D) This is subjective, and it's also meant to be helpful, not to tear you down. Use the input to grow as a writer, and, in this case, to work toward developing the best antagonist you can.

OK? OK!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Life's Little Annoyances

So my husband decided to take out a new insurance policy on me.

No, I don't think he's plotting anything. In his words, he's "trying to be prudent."

If you've ever dealt with life insurance policies, you'll know that one of the hurdles to overcome is a patently annoying, come-to-your-doorstep meeting with a local rent-a-nurse for a blood draw and questions about your health and/or penchant for deviant or death-defying behavior.

This morning, I had one of those. A blood draw, that is. It's just the way I wanted to begin my Tuesday morning.

I've been through this before. The first time, it couldn't help but strike me that the nurse at my front door -- the one who was hired to uncover any hidden health problems I might have -- was morbidly obese. By the time she'd walked the twenty paces to my kitchen table, she was completely winded. I felt like I should have been the one taking her pulse, and not the other way around.

In short, she was, without doubt, completely uninsurable.

Fast forward to this morning. I was already feeling annoyed because a) I couldn't have any coffee; b) I couldn't eat breakfast; c) I couldn't have any coffee; d) I had to put my entire morning on hold for a stupid 8:30 appointment in my kitchen; e) I couldn't have any coffee. Add to that the breakfast bread that decided not to rise and the fact that we were inexplicably out of butter, and I wasn't feeling too chipper.

And, too, I already had a distinct prejudice against Nancy, the rent-a-nurse who was on her way. Upon having spoken with her the night before, I discerned an unmistakable smoker's voice. In other words, it was completely shot -- as in, I could have auditioned for the part of Gollum but I was too busy sticking people with needles shot. I fully expected her to be overweight, diabetic, and addicted to hang gliding.

But Nancy arrived thin and nicely dressed, breathing normally and pupils not dilated. Of course, she still sounded as though she ate lit cigarettes for dinner, but I chose to overlook that in the hope that our little kitchen table meeting would be professional and, well, painless.

Because needles don't really bother me. Having to wait for my coffee is much worse than a needle.

To be fair to Nancy, she was friendly, accommodating, and halfway intelligent, the latter not always a given in these instances. She asked the (silly) questions and made me sign the (silly) forms, and she took two vials of blood without causing me the slightest bit of pain. I marvel at nurses who can do this. Seriously. No pain.

And then came the part I wasn't ready for. She wanted me to pee in a cup.

Normally, this isn't a problem. I drink a lot of water and I pee a lot. Except, I had just gone to the bathroom five minutes before Nancy arrived.

Oops.

I wasn't going to tell her that, of course. Especially after she took the time to demonstrate her special "squeeze the cup" technique for avoiding urine spills whilst pouring, and to hand me a latex glove to protect my gentile hand from pee splatters.

Golly, I was all set.

My bladder, on the other hand, wasn't. After squeaking out just enough urine to fill one of the small tubes, I returned to Nancy and sheepishly explained that I didn't have enough pee for the other tube.

"I'll just drink some water, though, and try again in a minute." I guzzled some water while Nancy watched, and felt utterly ridiculous. I mean, what human can will himself to urinate less than five minutes after emptying his bladder?

I made as much small talk as I could, all the while painfully aware that Nancy and I were both waiting for a signal from my recalcitrant bladder. Then I announced that I was ready to try again. I'm sure Nancy was ecstatic.

"Now, run some water in there," she said. "That always helps you go, you know? When that water's running."

Do tell.

Despite the fact that I have never found a correlation between running water and peeing, I turned on the tap so that Nancy could hear me taking her advice (and not hear me trying to pee). It was a grand effort. Really, it was. In the end, I came out with less than half an inch in the tube. I was sure that I'd failed.

"Policy denied. Reason: Failure to urinate."

But no! Nancy declared that there was plenty of pee in the little tube. She gathered up all my labeled bodily fluids and extended her hand for a farewell shake (that explained the glove). I don't think Nancy cared one fig about how much pee was in the container at that point. She was happy to take what droplets she was offered and leave.

Bye-bye, Nancy. Hello, coffee.

If this insurance policy isn't approved, I'm going to pee on someone's desk.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Call For Submissions: BAD GUYS

A new twist on "Drop The Needle" -- send me your antagonists!

In short, choose one page of text (approximately 250 words -- please stick to this!) in which your antagonist's character is really painted out -- whether through action or dialogue is up to you. Give us a scene that really gives us a taste of your antagonist.

We will decide the following:

Is he/she believable?
Is he/she scary/hateful/dark/misunderstood/demonic/whatever-he's-meant-to-be?
Is there enough conflict to make us WANT the antagonist to ultimately fail, even without reading the entire story?

In short, how good are you at creating THE BAD GUY?

Send your submissions to facelesswords(at)gmail.com (Please note the change in email address from prior submissions.) prior to 9:00 am EDT on Thursday, June 12. Please include the GENRE of your story.

Sound fun? Spread the word!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday Fricassee

So he's gone and done it.

Despite my rants about Terry Brooks's terrible tags and cloying clich├ęs, he has sucked me into the entire Jerle Shannara trilogy and I am, in fact, almost finished with the third book.

Serves me right.

Though, to be sure, my complaints about his writing stand.

And he seems to have acquired a penchant for particularly graphic and gory death scenes. Definitely a "boy writer."

I mean, I don't really need to have visions of dismembered bodies, bone fragments, and heads-ripped-off-at-the-neck embedded in my brain. Seriously.

But I am compelled to finish the tale. Because he's just that good at making you want to know what happens (even in the midst of skimming over ridiculously boring internal dialogue every other page).

So there. I've confessed.

What are you unable to put down right now? Any recommendations? I'm going to need to clear my head of some very unsettling battle scenes after this.

Cheers!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

You May Have Noticed...

There hasn't been a call for submissions this week.

Well, bear with me. It's hard getting a new blog up and running. The lifeblood of a successful blog is its readership -- so long as the blog itself is well written and somewhat engaging (I flatter myself). Most of the time, readership builds slowly. My faithful readers/critters (yes, that would be you) have been amazing. You crawled out of your cyberholes and sprinkled your goodness and talent all over the comment boxes.

I'm grateful.

But I've got to make sure this thing will work. And that takes...thought. Aside from all the thought, though, there needs to be a continual building of community. I've discovered over the past several years that writers are really good at that -- at building community. That's probably because we so desperately need it.

Who else understands the journey, except for those who are traveling it?

We'll do another "Are You Hooked?" next week. I promise.

In the meantime -- write on! It's good to know that there are so many like minded, passionate writers out there. I'm pleased to be among you.