Friday, June 25, 2010


Click, click, click. Do you hear that? That's the sound of the tumblers falling into place. I have a solid jumping off point for my characters. As of my shower about 10 minutes ago I know where and approximately when in history they exist. It's an historical, and for once I'm actually excited about doing all that research! (I've never taken a real shot at historical before, because the idea of all those picky Regency details plain wore me out.) I have a very general idea of what the mystery plot will be about- those details should firm up as I do my research and pick an exact time frame.

I'm so excited! For months I've wanted to be writing, but the WIP I've been poking at since 2006 just isn't going anywhere. I needed something new, some fresh idea to get me moving again. All my creativity has felt like it's been bottled up inside, and suddenly it's free! It's such a relief.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Alpha Heroes

I don't normally consider myself a fan of the Alpha hero. You know, those brooding, controlling, nasty tempered, He-Man types so common in romance novels. Mostly I find myself rolling my eyes at their antics, or occasionally wishing that the heroine would get smart, bash them over the head with a lamp, and run like hell.

But every once in a while I come across a fabulous Alpha, and when I do he's unforgettable. Recently I've been obsessed with two exceptional Alphas: Nicholas Brisbane from Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series, and Jericho Barrons from Karen Marie Moning's Fever series. (And the book I'm reading right now, Exit Strategy by Kelley Armstrong, has a character who shares at least one or two significant traits with these guys, but it's too soon to tell if he really falls into this category.) I'm trying to figure out what it is about these two guys that makes them so fascinating.

The thing that stands out the most for both of these characters is that they are men of mystery. Who they are, where they come from, even what they are in the case of Barrons, is a great big question mark. (This part is definitely true for Armstrong's Jack, at least so far.) Beyond the personal mystery, their motives are often hidden. We can speculate on why they do what they do, but it's rarely immediately clear. And they like to work behind the scenes, sometimes lying, sometimes just not telling their female partner (who in both cases also happens to be the narrator) what they're doing.

Another classic Alpha characteristic that they both possess is that they're powerful. Barrons is perhaps more classically powerful- he's rich, he's feared, he has magical power of (again) mysterious origin, and he has inside knowledge that the narrator lacks. Brisbane is powerful, but not in the way the typical historical Alpha is. He's not titled or rich. He's not well connected, at least not the kind of connections that most people would want to acknowledge. As a private inquiry agent he knows a lot of things that other people don't want getting around, so that does give him a certain amount of power. But his power really comes from his intelligence and charisma. It's clear that he's not the kind of man you mess with. He also has something else going for him, which I won't name here in case anyone reading this hasn't read the series. I don't want to spoil it. (And seriously, if you haven't read Silent in the Grave, go do it now! I'll wait.)

(Good, wasn't it? Chocolate and Amazon gift cards both make nice thank you gifts. ;P )

It's probably really not fair to try to analyze Jack at this point, since I'm less than half way through the book. But he's a hitman, which is power on a whole different level than Brisbane and Barrons. If a hunter, a predator isn't Alpha, I don't know what is. But he seems to work very hard to keep all of that suppressed and low key, so he doesn't come across as a classic Alpha at all in that respect. (Again, we're getting all our information on Jack from a female partner who is also the narrator. I'm beginning to suspect that Nadia is a slightly unreliable narrator, not because she's purposefully hiding something, but because it's starting to look like she has a big ol' honking blind spot when it comes to Jack. Which is slightly weird considering she's also a hitman, his protege, and claims not to trust him completely. Not bad writing weird, just human nature weird.)

Brisbane and Barrons also have that classic Alpha need for control, although they display it in different ways. Brisbane has something in his personal life that he tries desperately, and not always successfully, to control, which I think makes control everywhere else even more important to him. He fears for Julia's safety at various times, and he tries to protect her by controlling her involvement with the case. (Doesn't always work.) He never comes across as being arbitrary, though. He has specific reasons for not wanting her to take certain actions, and he's usually pretty upfront about them. (He's less upfront with her in Silent in the Sanctuary, but again he has very specific, non-arbitrary reasons for keeping information from her.)

Barrons is much more irritating with his need for control. He doesn't want to share information with Mac- he wants her to just shut up and do what she's told. And then he treats her like an idiot for putting herself in dangerous situations that she could have avoided if she'd known what she was getting into. If I were Mac I'd have taken my pretty little foot in my pretty little gold sandal and kicked him in his not so little shins. This stupid refusal to share information (Mac does it, too- you're fighting faeries but when the grim reaper starts appearing to you, you decide it's just a hallucination and don't tell anyone? Stupid.) (Sorry, that was a bit of a spoiler, but jeeze. The Stupid, she has it.) Um, I think I was in the middle of a sentence there before I got off track. Anyway, his need to control her actions (and yet allow her to wander free and unguarded and get into all kinds of trouble during the day- what's up with that?) (OK, I'll stop now.) and control the flow of information is really boneheaded. His control is also a major benefit to Mac later in the story. Humina humina! But mostly it's annoying and unnecessary. His complete refusal to reveal anything about himself is fairly intriguing, though.

Jack's need to control appears to be completely turned inward, at least so far. And as a hitman there's a lot to control. He's constantly monitoring and adjusting his personal appearance, accent, and body language to blend in and hide. Unlike the typical Alpha, it's really important that he not stand out in a crowd. He's acted as a mentor to Nadia for quite a while, but he treats her as another professional and doesn't try to control her actions. Unlike the female leads/narrators in the other books, Nadia has a strong sense of caution as she moves through her very dangerous world, so he doesn't need to be looking out for a blundering partner. Unlike the other two men, Jack would never partner up with someone who might flail around and make the kind of mistakes Mac, or even sometimes Julia, make. But he also doesn't seem to be withholding the kind of information that Nadia needs, either. So far he has controlled her access into the wider community of hitmen (which is more than fine with Nadia) and her access to information about him. I think (and again, I'm less than half way through the book, so I could be way off here) that he controlled that information at first as a safety measure, and Nadia has respected that so much that she doesn't even ask. Now he'd like to be able to share more with her and doesn't quite know where to start.

All three possess very specialized skills. That's maybe not the first trait you'd think of in an Alpha, but it stands to reason that if they're running the show then they're the best. Barrons has major magical skills and serious knowledge of the supernatural world. Brisbane is a phenomenal detective and has something else that gives him an edge. Jack can kill you a dozen different ways, and you'll never see it coming.

So, if I want to take these guys and use them as a template for creating my own fascinating Alpha, then I want a man who is mysterious (the more mysterious the better- I think that's why I like Barrons, major flaws and all- I want to be there when we finally learn all about him), powerful, intelligent, controlled and skilled. And eventually I want him to turn all that mystery, power, intelligence, control, and skill on me. Er, I mean my heroine!

After all this blah, blah, blah it seems like all I've done is define your run of the mill Alpha. But it's really how those characteristics were expressed that made these guys so unforgettable. How the author breathed life into them. Which is, of course, the hard part. Now that I have the general shape of the character, I'm going to have to start figuring out who this Alpha-shaped guy is and placing him in a story.

But not tonight- I'm tired.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I was surfing around, looking at blogs the other day when I came across someone who is doing Day Zero. ( It's one of those cutesy bucket list type groups. The goal of this one is to do 101 things in 1001 days, which comes out to about 2.75 years.

I love these things. I like the idea of actually working on all those "someday" dreams, surrounded by other people who are doing the same thing. Problem is, I never get beyond the list making stage. For this one, there's no way I could come up with 101 projects that are worthy of going on the list. Even if I could come up with 101 worthy projects, is there any way I could complete 101 projects between now and spring of 2013? I count it a good week if I do a few dishes, a load or two of laundry, a quick trip to the grocery store, and water arthritis at least once. The idea of completing a worthy project on an average of once every 10 days just makes me tired.

But then I got to thinking about spring of 2013. Not that I have any plans to go, but 2013 is my 20th high school reunion. What if I did 20 before my 20th? Much more doable. But then I still have the same problem- what 20 projects do I want to complete between now and my high school reunion?

Linking it up with the reunion makes me think of all those things that I want to have accomplished before seeing all those people again. (Although it's kind of academic, because as I said, I have no interest in going to this thing.) My life is so very, very different from what I thought it would be when I graduated 17 years ago. I thought I'd be married with kids by now, not terminally single and child-less. Children are a no-go for me now, and I'm not going on the hunt for a husband just to have someone to show off to people I haven't see or heard from in at least 15 years. So those don't make the list.

I've always wanted to write a book. I thought I'd be published by my 20th reunion, and so far I haven't even managed to finish one yet. Finishing a book could go on the list. So that's goal #1.

I really, really (ohmygod, really) need to lose at least 100 lbs. My joints would appreciate it, and to be honest, I'd be really embarrassed for anyone from high school to see me as I am today. I was never the hot chick, but I wasn't 300 lbs back then, either. A normal, healthy person who eats right and exercises should probably be able to drop 100 lbs in 1000 days- a lbs every 10 days is a very moderate pace. Is it possible for me? I kind of doubt it. But I could probably make some progress in that direction by spring of 2013, if I can avoid the prednisone. So, that's goal #2- lose weight.

My third thought is that I have holycrap credit card debt. I'd really like to have that paid off in three years or less. That's not something that I'd care to flaunt in front of my old classmates, but it would make me feel good to have them paid off, and the timing seems reasonable. Goal #3: pay off credit cards.

This one isn't at all sexy, but my closets are a complete disaster. I have a large walk in closet in the bedroom and another large storage closet off the office. Both are piled high with stuff. Good stuff. Bad stuff. Crap. Junk. I have a vague idea of what's in both places, but there's a ton of stuff in both closets that I haven't looked at since I moved into this apartment almost 4 years ago- including my high school year books. (Ha! Found a way to tie that in.) It could easily take me months, at my current ability level, to get through those boxes and ditch the stuff I don't want. I know there's a lot of stuff in there I don't want. I hate the idea of filling up the dumpster, and the landfill, with all this crap, but I don't have the patience and energy to try to freecycle or Craigslist it either. But it's got to go, because I don't know how much longer I'll be living here, and I'm not hauling it across country with me when the inevitable comes and I end up living in Indiana again with my brother or parents. That's the long way around to say that goal #4 (which has to be completed well before 2013) is to clean out those closets and clear the clutter.

And that's where I've stalled. What else do I want to accomplish by 2013? I feel kind of pitiful that there are so few things on my list, and maybe other than the writing one, nothing that's in any way exotic or interesting. There are plenty of things I could put on my "if I weren't sick" list, but I'm trying to keep it in the realm of my current reality. Current reality says that I'm not going to Egypt to see the pyramids or running/walking the Disney marathon anytime in the next three years. Or ever, probably. And "getting approved for SSDI" isn't a very good goal for something like this, because that's largely out of my hands. I fill out the paperwork to the best of my ability and wait around for someone else to say "yes" or "no". But there have to be other goals, right? Things that I can do, learn, accomplish. Sixteen other things that I'd like to do and can realistically accomplish in the next three years. I'll think about it for a while. And hopefully, if I come up with something I'll remember to write it down. Otherwise, it will end up in the junk closet in my brain, where all my unrecorded thoughts go to die. That's one closet I really don't care to clean!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Friday!

I woke up this morning from the strangest dream. I was at a beach house with a bunch of friends, and I spent the whole time flirting with Christian Kane and playing Patty Cake with my best friend's baby. (But not, unfortunately, playing Patty Cake with Christian Kane!)

I'm not sure what my subconscious is trying to tell me, but I think it might be "have more fun!" I suppose "you haven't talked to Keli in too long" and "Leverage starts on Sunday" are a possibility, too, but adding more fun to your life is never a bad thing.

My fun weekend plans all revolve around the television. Tonight is Popcorn Dialogues night ( We're watching Ninotchka, which I have to say I have no interest in. But I wasn't particularly interested in It Happened One Night and that turned out to be a terrific movie, so I'm giving it a shot. Saturday is Doctor Who, and then Sunday is True Blood, Leverage, and a new ABC show called The Gates.

My other project for the weekend, which is necessary but certainly not fun, is to finish filling out my Disability Report for Social Security for the third time. It's the same damn paperwork over and over. I tell you what, if the government ever decides to get serious about cutting the fat out of Social Security, the first thing they need to do is stop dicking around and approve people with legitimate claims on the first try. The amount of paper and number of man hours wasted on making us jump through hoops (we who are least able to jump) is disgusting. This is my second appeal, and sometime in the next several months I'll be going in front of a judge. Talk about intimidating. Being sick, constantly, chronically ill, is soul sucking enough. Add in a year or more trying to convince a bunch of faceless bureaucrats that yes, I really am this sick, and no, I am not faking- it's a wonder I haven't stuck my head in an oven.

But enough about that. Here's a picture of my hair after my first all night plop.

Not bad, huh? (Although this picture does a nice job of accentuating my double chin.) I wish the curls were a little rounder and bouncier, but I'll trade that for the ridiculously low-maintenance styling. And even with gel (I used Herbal Essences Totally Twisted Curl Scrunching Gel), it's nice and soft, not crunchy or sticky at all.

Oh, and I thought of one more fun thing in my weekend! I had my water arthritis class this morning. It's still exercise, but the water feels so good in this heat. And it's the one time being fat works in my favor- I'm nice and buoyant.
I like all three of the instructors for this class, but I particularly like the Friday instructor. She's about my age (I'm guessing- I'm not very good at judging ages) and always has something crazy going on in her life. This week it was an escaped crawfish. Apparently her mother bought crawfish this week, and the guy behind the counter gave her daughter one that was too small to sell, I guess as a pet. And of course, the crawfish got loose somewhere in the house. They've all been looking for it, but so far no luck. According to my instructor, crawfish live about 2 years. She's hoping they find it soon, because she doesn't want to live the next year to year and a half with an escaped crawfish roaming the house.

So, there you go. Funny story, even if it wasn't mine. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My First Plop

I've discovered a new hobby in the last few days- my hair. As with most of my new interests, it was sparked by an off-topic discussion on Ravelry, this time about curly hair.

For the first 32 years of my life I had smooth, straight hair with just a bit of wave. And then all this health crap came along, which I won't get into (again) except to say that in fall of 2007 I started losing hair. Eventually quite a bit of hair. When it grew back it was... weird. Not smooth. Frizzy. Snarly. It looked bad enough when I tried to wash and go, but it's true, horrible form came out whenever I tried to spend a little extra time on it to make it look nice. Horrible. I spent a good 6 months or so wandering around looking like Don King.

Finally, a friend took pity on me and directed me to her hairstylist. Imagine my shock when she looked over the disaster on my head and said, "You know you have curly hair, right?" Er, no actually. When did that happen? Apparently it's not unusual for hair that has fallen out due to medical treatments to come back a different color or texture. (I also got a liberal salting of gray hair at the same time. Yay.) So she cut and colored and styled and basically messed with my mess for about 4 hours. And when she was done... crap, she was right! I had curly hair!

That's all me, no curling iron required. And it only got curlier as my hair adjusted to being allowed to do it's own thing. I don't know how I could have missed it. More evidence that we don't ever really see ourselves until someone or something makes us see.

Unfortunately, I haven't liked any of her cuts as much as that first one, and at $200 a pop for cut and color, I'm just can't afford to keep going. So what to do? Well, there's a solution for everything else on Rav, I should have trusted that Rav would have a solution for this, too. Did you know there's a whole world of information and techniques to make curly hair behave better? It's amazing.

This blog post is a great starting point for the Curly Girl method, or going "CG": I've already cut the sulfate and silicone out of my hair care routine, and now I'm starting to experiment with styling. I have no energy for a big styling regime. Just the cowash takes more time than my old shampoo and condition routine, which means sore arms and back by the time I'm finished. So anything that requires a lot of blow drying, rollers or a curling iron, or much in the way of general fussing is right out. Fortunately, air drying appears to be the preferred method, along with something charmingly called "plopping". This is a good video on plopping:

And here I am, plopped on the couch, plopping for the first time. Wish me luck!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Sloppy Writing is Sloppy

So, I'm reading Black Hills by Nora Roberts. I wouldn't call myself a NR fan- what I've read of hers was enjoyable, but I don't go looking for her books, either. This one was coming along pretty well until this morning.

The heroine, Lil Chance, is a wildlife biologist specializing in cats. She trapped an animal to tag and take samples, but before she could get to it, someone shot it in the head and killed it. The police come, and she starts talking about doing an autopsy. Blew me right out of the story. An animal autopsy is called a necropsy, and there's no way a wildlife biologist wouldn't know that. Then a few pages after that, a farm hand refers to the new gelding she bought as a her. At this point I'm so far out of the story that I don't know if I want to continue.

I know these are details, not anything important to the plot of the story. But geeze louise. Isn't anyone paying attention?