Monday, March 30, 2009

Listmaker, Listmaker, Make me some lists

Have you seen Flashlight Worthy's massive Web site full of lists of books? Every sort of list imaginable? Best lesbian books, best ice cream books, best serial killer books, best lesbian, serial killers who like ice cream books...

No? Me, either.

Was definitely worth a look. (I somehow found them while building up a Twitter list. Imagine that.)

Flashlight Worthy--The Best Books Recommended

Here are my 10 Best-Named Booklists found at Flashlight Worthy: (No, I didn't really have time to get in depth at the site, but whatever. I tried.)

10) "Books that taught me to like the Subway again"

9) "Great novels with important lessons for leaders"

8) "13 Books You Have to Read Before You Turn 13"

7) "Creepy Houses That Must Be Explored"

6) "Classics of Steampunk"

5) "Vampire Novels to Sink Your Teeth In"

4) "11 Great Books for Unconventional Living"

3) "6 Books That Knock My Socks Off"

2) "Twaddle-Free Books For Preschoolers" (FYI: "Twaddle" is a term for dumbing-down books for kids...something many, many parents, myself included, try to avoid.)

1) "The Octogenarian's 10 Favorite Novels"

Some thoughts on genre

Nina Pierce wrote a pretty interesting blog about genre over in romance-land and how often, you switch back and forth in order to, ahem, sell your work.

That's the point, isn't it?

It reminds me of a two-year battle I engaged in throughout my tenure in grad school earning my MFA in creative writing. (What a trip that was.)

Did you know there's a secret war in MFA programs worldwide between two embittered factions? Those on the literary side are brilliant, pained and usually unsold writers of wonderful work.

Across the battlefield stand the genre writers, who tend to write a little differently, and a little more like what you'd find in those paperback novels. You know, those little things that always sell? Amazing, right?

In one of my fiction workshops I got harpooned for writing a scene that was obviously NOT from the literary set. I was historical fiction. It had a lord. A lady. It was good. My peers really liked the idea I was working with.

My instructor? Notsomuch. He humiliated me and basically stated that in this program, we work on literary fiction. Go to one of those online programs if you insist on creating genre trash.

Ohmilord, how I hated that man. I was nine months pregnant at the point, my last semester or so of grad school and I daydreamed about bashing his head onto the dry erase board. About drilling my dull pencil into his carotid artery. I mean, seriously, if there was ever a turning point where I started looking at both romance AND horror fiction, that had to be it. (Thanks, douche! Now I have two horizons to aim for. How you like them apples?)

(Ok. That's a lie. Blame "Uncle Stevie" for my fascination with horror fiction. I snuck Pet Cemetary into my room when I was 11 and haven't really turned back. Turn sideways toward romance and such now and then, but never back.)

So, anyway, genre. Right. Labels tend to stimy some folks. Me? I say write what you want and sell where it's wanted. Maybe someday I'll be important enough to have a crisis of conscience about what genre I really belong to, but for now, I pay dem bills and chase those kiddos. I'll stick to the common sense mantra of "write what you know, especially if it sells." Take that Mr. MFA Program-Stick-Up-Your-Arse man.

(P.S.: Aforementioned teacher wrote one novel at the time of his smarmy remark...a real piece of shite about an incestual Kentucky family with serious daddy issues. And he hasn't done much sense. Two words: ha and ha.

A good cause from a twisted mind

'Member how I mentioned how much I like reading Brian Keene? I snooped on his blog today (see right) and saw a link to a really touching article.

Seriously. Good work, Mr. Keene.

Read it here.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Monster Planet

Finally finished "Monster Planet" today by David Wellington. It's the end of a trilogy that began with "Monster Island," a book that I really enjoyed a few years back.

I like Wellington's style, I really do. I like how he balances carnage (light carnage) with the ridiculous and the humorous. I'm just not completely sold on how the trilogy began as a somewhat standard gore fest with rotten zombies (Monster Island) and morphed over the years into a showdown with wizards, mummies, a ghost-child and a mushroom monster woman. I didn't care for the talking zombies, either, to tell the truth. But I am grateful to any author who offers up SOME variation of the zombie lit, that I give it a go and finish the book. (Or series as it may be.) I guess the more complex and far-fetched the story line got, the harder it was for me to keep up with the multitude of stories and characters he juggled. It was a bit of a fight sometimes.

It's funny. I'll buy 20 books a month sometimes (no lie.) And the topics/subjects are as random as I am. I love romance. I'll read a good mystery. I'll attempt a biography or self-help now and then. But I tend to never really finish a book from cover to cover. I'll get distracted in the middle somewhere and "fast forward" through chapters until I get where I need to go. But not with the horror genre.

My favorite zombie book so far? I'd have to go with one written by Brian Keene I stumbled across at a used book store a few years back. (Keene is IMPOSSIBLE to find at the local Barnes and Noble. Why is that?)

Dead Sea, by Brian Keene.

The story has stuck with me since then because, to me, it raised the ick factor a few notches by involving everybody's favorite sidekicks...animals. Zombie rats, zombie dogs, zombie pigeons, zombie cats...ick! Parts come back to me now and then during the most random times. Big fan.

Still searching for more, sadly. There's quite a fascination with vampires these days thanks to ol' Stephanie Meyer and her hunky Edward in Twilight. (She even sexed up werewolves. Seriously?) Mass murderers and psycho stalkers get plenty of love, too. But zombies? Good luck with that one...

Friday, March 27, 2009

George A. Romero totally has my back on this.

I'll say it: I hate zombies that run fast. I'll say it again: I really hate zombies that run fast.

Part of what I love so much about them is my ability to (reasonably) survive one of their movies. Vampires fly (sometimes?) and are far too refined and talented for me to have any real chance. But zombies, well, they rekindle my belief in Darwinism and as long as there are nitwits in this great herd of humanity, I might just survive the zombie apocalypse.

So when an interviewer got the great Mr. Romero (writer/director of "Night of the Living Dead" plus a bunch more I am likely to have in my DVD player at random times) to extol his opinion on Carl Lewis-like members of the undead army, I had to share. Here's the link.

"George A. Romero Explains Why Fast Zombies Will Never Exist (Hint: Weak Ankles):"

What do you think about fast zombies — the kind we see in video games and movies like 28 Days Later?

Well, I took a big swipe at them in this film: There’s a running gag in the movie that dead things don’t move fast. Partially, it’s a matter of taste. I remember Christopher Lee’s mummy movies where there was this big old lumbering thing that was just walking towards you and you could blow it full of holes but it would keep coming. And in the original Halloween, Michael Meyers never ran, he just sort of calmly walked across the lawn or across the room. To me, that’s scarier: this inexorable thing coming at you and you can’t figure out how to stop it. Aside from that, I do have rules in my head of what’s logical and what’s not. I don’t think zombies can run. Their ankles would snap! And they haven’t yet taken out memberships to Curves.

If you're gonna start some shit, you better have a plan and a reason.

I'm 30. Have I mentioned that yet? I'm not the most mature of 30-year-olds, but I have changed decades thrice now, and you'd think I have some sense in my skull...somewhere. Sometimes? Not so.

I embarked on what I like to call the "most unwise pursuit of knowledge in megan's glorious career" last night with P. Poor man. I'd been feeling wonky and out of sorts for a few weeks now (thank you, hormones and ginormous glob of gelatinous post-partum GOO stuck to my stomach and creating the strangest shape my jeans have ever experienced. You m-fers...), and him being the closest life form with a pulse and the ability to speak whole sentences in range, well, he seems to absorb all the collatoral damage. And the blame. And my insecurities and wild imaginings.

I was convinced that an inkling I'd been feeling was very, very legitimate and that he was the cause of it, somehow. Despite him being a very level, grounded and wonderful human being,in my mind (a nonsensical place I like to call "Megan-land") he'd managed to make me feel isolated and out in the row boat of life (and our relationship) all by myself. (Stay with me. By the time this drama I had been creating came to fruition, I think I was ready to blame him for the original sin, global warming, and the blister I had on the back of my ankle.)

Cue "the" conversation.

Thinking things out using logic and having clearly defined goals aren't exactly my strongest assets. (Yeah. Put those two right up there with keeping my purse organized and putting away my laundry in a timely fashion.)

I steered us down the "why are you so mean to me?" road (paraphrasing and summarzing, obvi) and when we finally arrived at the crux of what I thought the matter was, he did the damndest thing. He wanted to know more about what was causing this "issue" and what it was that I wanted, so he could fix the problem. (WTF?)

Well, damn, Mr. Helpy-helperton. I hadn't thought that far ahead, thankyouverymuch.

I sit in sort of amazement/stupor even now with how precisely unprepared I was to have a conversation of that magnitude. Granted, my previous relationships were with absolute asshats, so logic never entered the equation, nor was it ever required. It was enough to get really angry and dramatic and, honestly, solve nothing, but at least I felt better, right?

Not so with Ol' Man Logic.

Sitting here now, as I write this, I feel petty and absolutely silly that I wanted to pick a fight with him. There's a great line in my favorite Joe Walsh song, Life's Been Good. It goes something like: "I can't complain, but sometimes I still do..." and there was that A-ha moment I must have been looking for with P in the beginning.

Only his logic and rational way of dealing with me turned it all back on me. Was there really an A-ha moment up for grabs, anyway? It's not like we have a tumultous, agonzing relationship and I finally stood up for myself (A-ha!). So missing those combative, explosive elements, what sort of moments do the more subdued, mature relationships have? More of a "Hmmm...Okay" moment? Perhaps it is one of those I had, but not the one I'd originally felt entitled to.

Amazing what you learn when you attempt a moment of importance (in your own mind, anyway) without knowing what you're really looking for. So my lesson learned in this endeavor?

"If you're gonna start some shit, you better have a plan and a reason."

Oh, and P is the awesomest ever. The end.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

FROM THE ARCHIVES: October 03, 2005

I wrote this post when I worked for a terrible, terrible man who owned a book publishing house here in Anchorage. They were stupid, self-published books and mostly Alaskana topics. But he was a plain nasty man and I HATED him for it. I only lasted four months, I think. Four long, long, long months.


Current mood: amused

I'm sure if you have read my blogs, you get the point that I hate my job. Last week I had a rather unsuccessful (I think) job interview at another place and will most likely NOT get that job. Nevermind that, I say. I'm practicing my resignation letter anyway. See below.

I’d like to announce my official resignation from your company. In case you’re too stupid to figure out why, I’ve been nice enough to give exact reasons below.

  1. The position advertised said "associate editor." It should have said "pathetic minion" because that is all this position is. I might have felt I had more dignity had I shown up and had a "kick me" sign taped to my back and my fly undone.
  2. The "exciting assignments" you advertised should have been named what you really meant—"bitch work." If you want the newspaper stack to look neat, stop tossing your used papers on it carelessly as you walk by. If you insist on doing that, clean the fucking thing yourself. Organize your own bloody phonebook shelves. Invent your own filing system…better yet, set a match to that fucking pigsty office and just start fresh. I doubt you need to hold on to your asshole memos you sent employees back in 1982. You probably don’t remember them and most likely they’ve burned you in effigy once or twice…you’ll never hear from them again, so get rid of it— and don’t ask me to. When you’re being sued for shady business practices, don’t ask me to make copies of your subpoenas. Show a strand of intelligence and do the damned thing yourself—I’m only going to read it and tell everyone in the company you’re being sued because you're a slimeball.
  3. Let’s touch on those communications skills, if you don’t mind. If I hear "as promptly as possible" one more time, I’ll break your nose. If you say "do a real reality check on so and so" in my presence again, I’ll bite your nose off. I swear to God I will. Try me.
  4. Continuing with communication…there is a computer in your office, I know there is. You’ve sent an email once or twice, so I know you’ve noticed it and I’m sure you’ve been trained on its particulars. Why don’t you use it and retire that fucking typewriter and save some shard of professional dignity you might have left? Typing scathing memos to me about trivial matters on a goddamned clickety clack typewriter (makes no difference to me that it’s electric)is absolutely ridiculous and it makes me laugh at you behind your back. You look like a motherfucking fool when I see white out and corrections typed over your typos. I feel plain sorry for you when I see that you’ve scrawled corrections in red pen over other mistakes—like you want me to see that you did, in fact, catch that mistake and that you were just too busy to retype it. Try a motherfucking Word document, loser.
  5. We all know you are on anti-depressants and we don’t think it’s enough. I found a note you scrawled that said something to the effect that "I’m dying inside." In the future, please keep your thoughts of suicide to yourself if you insist on acting like an asshole at every opportunity. I just don’t feel sorry for you when I read shit like that after having been micro-managed for the past five hours, and in fact, I passed that stupid note around and we all had a good laugh at your expense. We think you’re psycho.
  6. Torn pieces of scrap paper are not proper substitutes for post-it notes, you tightwad. They’re not even fucking close. Don’t ask me if I "really need a black AND a blue pen" at the same time. I do. Fuck off and quit being such a miser. We all laugh at you for it.
  7. Invest in a travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste and spend the money for a full sized deodorant. You make me cringe each time you come into my office after lunch and I wretch on the inside as soon as you open your mouth. You stink. You really do. It’s disgusting and you should be ashamed of yourself.

I hope the above list has helped you understand my position a little better. I thank you for the opportunity to work here and am sorry that it did not work out. Scratch that. This fucking job sucked ass and I’m going to run naked through the streets singing at the top of my lungs as soon as these next two weeks are over.

Best of luck to you . I wish you well. (Now that’s a lie. I hope you slip on some ice and break your fucking hip, you mean old bastard.)



Wednesday, March 25, 2009

If nothing else, at least give it hell...

My life, to say the least, is complicated. It never fits into neat, orderly compartments. It rarely pans out the way I envision it will (and, mostly, thats a very good thing!) and lists are often lost and forgotten halfway through completion. I've never been the most task-oriented or organized individual, but chaos became a mandatory and expected way of life when I had kids.

Those boys are my life and that's the way its supposed to be...the way I choose it to be. P and I love playing "Go Fish!" fifteen times before D goes to bed. I even love letting D win, despite seeing his cards from a mile away. I like all my clothes smelling like Gentlease formula. (Crap. That's a lie. I don't like that part. But I love that lil' man like he's always been here. Like life didn't exist with all these colors and all this madness before he entered the scene two short months ago.) I like how busy P and I keep ourselves...the constant "go! go! go!" pace we keeps ensures that we don't fall over dead from exhaustion if we ever were to stop and think about how little sleep and sanity we really muster up.

That said, there are parts of my life, despite being a parent, that I miss. A lot. That I feel really do belong to me, no matter how insane our lives become.

A long time ago, I had a plan to be a writer. A real writer. A writer who actually wrote. A writer who actually wrote and, at least most of the time, enjoyed the process. I was that person for a nanosecond when I first started graduate school. Then classes became another demand I had to fit in along with D and a full-time job.

And then when I graduated, writing and all of my work that I had either started or finished was more like a monument than living things that I'd continue to nurture. I had a baby to nurture, and nurturing does not come naturally to someone like me. It took all I had, and that's putting it mildly. (Not that D got all that much from me...I'm sure when the therpist bills start coming in somewhere in his mid-life, we'll all know just how crappy of a nurturer I really am!)

But, for once in a long, long while, I'm mildly excited about talking about writing. Maybe (gasp!) even about WRITING itself. (And yes, I do realize it's a bit lame to be writing about writing, but whatever floats my boat or finds my lost remote, right?)

The local Romance Writers chapter is hosting a writing contest. At one point in the middle distant past, I was an AVID reader of romance novels. (At this point, I'm lucky to read a J Crew catalog those rare times I get 3 minutes alone in the bathroom...but then, oh then, I was consuming them at an alarming rate as if they were made with sugar and butter and caramel.)

It's a ten-page contest. What's not to love? I have a project in a binder somewhere on my shelf that I started three or four years ago that could qualify with a little tweaking. The caveat? All entries due NLT April 1. And that gives me about four days to polish it or create it anew. What's not to love?

The second? Oh, the second. I'm a closet zombie fanatic. I've imagined a life where I make my millions and secure my family's comfort for years to come off the profits I make from selling thousands and thousands of copies of books packed with scourges and hordes of terror-inflicting zombies.

I found a horror magazine seeking short stories for their May edition. Why not says I? Give myself til April 8 to get it in? Maybe get a jump start on that zombie glory and fortune I'll create for us someday?

I know, I know. I've set some might lofty goals here. More likely than not, I'll be puked on and overtired to the point that polishing up that ol' romance manuscript is about as appealing as organizing the junk drawer. But maybe, just maybe...

'til then...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Zombie Me and Zombie You...What a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts

Oh, someone gets me...really gets me!

In today's opinon piece "The undead have invaded our games -- again," Citizen Gamer author Winda Benedetti extoles the virtues of the ravenous undead and attempts to tap into our undying (excuse the pun)love for them.

Despite the fact that it's main focus is the rise in popularity of zombies in video games, Benedetti hits a couple nails on the proverbial head.

Monster love comes and goes and with all the Twilight-driven love of Vampires, it's a bit of a shock to the system to witness the zombie love. (How can a green corpse with half his skull missing compete with the hunky, emo Edward? I mean, really?)

Zombies are beatable, and yet they seem to win over in countless movies and books...the ambling horde mowing down big-boobied blondes and cooky old guys who'd been warning the town for years that the apocolypse was upon us. As I've said before, zombies even the playing field for us average humans by taking out the nitwits in true Darwinian fashion.

The fact that they remain popular is a testament to my long-held belief that zombies rule. I own countless zombie movies, including some Italian flick that features a zombie in an underwater Battle Royale with a shark for the privilege of ripping a bikini-clad (and clueless) snorkeler to pieces. Classic.

Zombie fiction gives us an even better glimpse at their automaton senseless boundaries that limit us in Hollywood. In books, we get the pure, unadulturated madness that we look for when picking up a paperback novel in bookstore that features a decaying hand coming up through a gritty street grate...the absolute meltdown of all humaness when we, as a race, get squeezed a bit by foot-dragging monsters. It's poetry, really.

But what do I know?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cue the Aerosmith music...

'Cause I'm "baaaaack in the saddle again!"

It's day one back at work after a six week maternity leave. Hello! I believe in small victories, and so for the sake of chalking up this Monday in the success category, here are mine:

  • I made it out of bed on time. (Yes, P did stay up with the baby all night and I did get 8 hours of sleep...but still. It could definitely be a good sign of things to come. I make be an on-time riser after all.)
  • I got my fat a#@ in gear started watching what I eat. (It's not so great to be a bazillion pounds overweight postpartum, and it is great to do something, anything to get going in the right direction. Yay me. And for the record: I hate dieting. I am a eat what I want, when I want, get-out-of-my-face-with-your-damned-calories-and-carbohydrates kind of girl.)
  • I wore a dress and did my hair and make up today. (For six weeks I have been in pyjama bottoms until 3 p.m. I wore the same wifebeater tank top for four days in a row at one point in February. My make up bag had dust on it. My hairbrush cried out in pain when I attempted to de-knot my mane.)
  • I drank water today. (Ok, not MUCH, but still SOME.)
  • I blogged today. (You are reading proof of it, actually. This blog is important to me. I want to keep it up.)
  • I had adult converstaions. (This is a HUGE step, though less satisfying than bantering politco with baby A.)

In all, a great first day back on the fast lane. I miss the baby and P, but I know they are fine and enjoying their new schedule.

D returns from his visiting his Dad soon. I can't wait. I'm caught in a constant good v. evil internal fight. I want to both: A) snatch up D and hug the pudding out of him and B) wish his father would swallow a fork and make our lives exponentially easier and quieter.

But I digress. And down a nasty, negative road, no less.

(It was fun while it lasted, wasn't it?)

More tomorrow.