Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Adventures in Bartending: Christmas Edition!!

What says Merry Christmas better than festive shots? NOTHING.

On that note, I give you the Christmas edition of my periodic blogging adventure through the liquor cabinet that I affectionately call ADVENTURES IN BARTENDING!!


Santa Shot

3/4 oz. grenadine
3/4 oz. green crème de menthe
3/4 oz. peppermint schnapps

(1) Pour grenadine in a shot glass
(2) Float green crème de menthe on top
(3) Float pepperminet schnapps on top

Watch out!
The Santa Shot is a layered shot. I first talked about layered shots in an earlier bartending adventure. Making layered shots can be tricky. The steps are simple: pour the first layer into the glass, then place a spoon into the glass upside down, the tip of the spoon just barely touching the top of the liquid. Then slowly, sl-o-o-o-w-l-y trickle the liquid for the second (or third) layer over the back of the spoon.

Sounds easy, but it's painstaking work.

The Santa Shot tasted like a cold, extra-sweet, boozy candy cane. Yummy! A good shot for the women in your alcoholic life.

Santa's Breath

1 part whisky
1 part Sambuca

(1) pour whisky into shot glass
(2) float Sambuca on top

As mentioned in my earlier bartending adventure about layered shots, this shot was a special lesson for me in density. Although I poured the whisky into the glass first, then oh-so-carefully layered the Sambuca on top, when I was done the whisky was the top layer. Oh the chemistry! Where's Mr. Wizard when you need him?

Santa's Breath is STRONG and vaguely medicinal. It'll put hair on your Christmas-loving chest.

Merry Christmas everyone! And DRINK UP!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Nancy Drew Mystery Stories The Clue in the Diary

Back in June I posted my first review of a Nancy Drew book. (You can read about it here.) My review compared the original, unabridged version of The Clue of the Tapping heels with the much more widely recognized--and abridged--version, the one with the familiar yellow cover.

I was pretty intrigued with the differences between the two books--which I felt went far beyond what was strictly necessary to update the story. But I was even more intrigued to discover that ALL of the familiar yellow cover Nancy Drews are abridged versions of the original stories. Being a collector, I vowed to keep searching for more unabridged versions of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories.

And well...

Here it is:
I was thrilled with my find. Having already read the Yellow Cover version of the book, I couldn't wait to dive in. What changes would I find? Would there be entirely new subplots and characters that had been removed from the Yellow Cover version, as was the case with the original Clue of the Tapping Heels? Would I come across any uncomfortably racist remarks? Anything was possible.
(That's the Yellow Cover version)
I'll give you a summary of the plot in a moment, but first the numbers:
The Original Version of The Clue in the Diary has 202 pages and 25 chapters
The Yellow Cover version of The Clue in the Diary has 174 pages and 20 chapters--so it's 28 pages and 5 chapters shorter.
The story starts out with Nancy and her friends Bess and George enjoying a picnic after a long day at a carnival. They're tired but happy, because it's been a fun day. At the carnival they met a poor woman with an adorable daughter named Honey who they befriended. They intend to keep in touch with them.
On the drive home Nancy and the gang come across a fabulous mansion on fire. They stop to help (though what kind of assistance they could possibly lend escapes me) and learn the mansion belongs to a wealthy but unscrupulous man named Felix Raybolt ("Foxy Felix") and his wife. Fortunately, the couple isn't at home, though Nancy does see an unidentified man fleeing the scene. She fails to stop him, but recovers a diary he dropped in his haste to leave.

Both versions of the book begin this way. In fact, as I read further into the Original Version I was struck by just how closely it resembled the Yellow Cover book. I had had a decidedly different experience with The Clue of the Tapping Heels. The two versions of that book diverged greatly right from the get-go. I decided to do a close comparison of the first fifty pages of both books, just to see what I could see.
In the first 50 pages of the Original Version Nancy and the gang go to a carnival, meet Honey and her mom, stumble upon a fire, find the fateful diary, have a fender bender, meet Ned Nickerson and come to learn that "Foxy" Felix Raybolt made his fortune by swindling investors--and that poor Honey's dad was likely one such victim.
The same goes for the Yellow Cover book.
So how do the first 50 pages of the two books differ? As it turns out, in mostly aesthetic ways. For example, in the Yellow Cover version of the story, George Fayne, friend to Nancy Drew and cousin to Bess Marvin, was described as slim and short-haired. It's also said that she "enjoyed her boy's name." The Original Version of the book described George this way:
She gloried in her athletic prowess, scoffed at anything feminine, and went to great lengths to explain to strangers that George was really her name and not a nickname.
George had cropped her straight hair as short as the style would permit, and combed and brushed it as infrequently as possible.

(an artist's rendition of George from the Nancy Drew computer games)
As an aside can I just say that George is a woefully underused character in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories? I always found her to be a delightfully subversive character for the time. Imagine a young woman named--of all things--George in the 1930s loudly and boisterously eschewing all things feminine? I LOVE THIS.

Anyhow, back to the comparison. Do you see what I mean about the differences being merely aesthetic? It almost begs the question: why change anything at all?
And how about this?
At the scene of the fire, Nancy's car is hit by a careless driver. Ned Nickerson, ever the helpful young man, accompanied the gang to a mechanic and stuck around long enough to be sure that they'd be able to get back home safely. Just before the girls depart, Ned says:
In the Original Version:
"You girls haven't seen the last of me," the young man called gaily after them. "I know the road to River Heights and you musn't be surprised if  I follow it one of these days!"
In the Yellow Cover book:
"You girls haven't seen the last of me," the young man called gaily after them. "I know the road to River Heights. Don't be surprised if I follow it one of these days!"
The first passage contains 35 words, the second 33. Clearly that selection wasn't edited for length. So, then, what was it edited for? Style? The Original Version of the book was published in 1932. The Yellow Cover came out in 1962. I don't think grammar conventions had changed in those thirty years to such an extent that the term "musn't was deemed to antiquated. Or had it? It's still recognizable today.
But there was one other change in the first 50 pages of the novel that I can only conclude was done to make Nancy Drew look better. Or at least, look less like an over-privileged lawyer's daughter.
The diary that the young sleuth recovered from the scene of the fire was written mostly in Swedish. Nancy discovered this late one night in bed when she tried in vain to read it. But how, do you ask, was Nancy able to identify the particular language that it was written in? Well that depends on which version of the book you're reading!
In the Original Version Nancy recognized the language because she used to have a Swedish maid.
"I wish  now that I had kept that Swedish maid. She couldn't cook but she might have been able to read this for me."
In the Yellow Cover book Nancy knew the foreign language was Swedish because she had an old Swedish friend.
"I'll have to find someone who can read Swedish," she said to herself. "If only Karen were here!" But Nancy's former schoolmate had returned to her native country with her family.
Wow...ummm...wow. I love Nancy Drew but even I have to admit that the flippant statement she made in the Original Version came across very bratty. Spoiled bratty.
Ahem. Well. In either event, both versions of The Clue in the Diary finished well. Nancy and the gang successfully proved that Honey's father hadn't set fire to the Raybolt mansion and Foxy Felix was convinced it was in his best interest to pay the impoverished inventor for the patent he stole from him. Best of all Ned and Nancy hit it off!

(I think this scene happens in a later book!)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


So I'm writing a novel: a YA dystopian novel.
And for the first time since I began self-pubbing short stories a couple of years ago I'm feeling like I would actually like to try to traditionally publish this one.


I don't know. Maybe?

But I'd like to! I really feel like I've got something worthwhile going on here, you know?

But that, of course, means I have to finish the damn thing. SO I'M MAKING A DECLARATION!!

I hereby promise to you, to myself, to the NSA, and to any and all deities listening that I WILL HAVE THE FIRST DRAFT DONE BY NY 2014!!!

And here's a little taste, just for stopping by:

(The following is an excerpt from ROAD TO NOWHERE)

Cerulean met the little girl at Gruesome Point. That was where she met all the newcomers. The girl wore fuzzy pink slippers, pink bows in her hair, and a cheery nightgown that looked out of place with her gray surroundings and was all quivering lips, trembling hands, and wide, staring eyes. She looked like she had woken up to discover her nightmare was real. Which was pretty much exactly what had happened.

Meeting kids like this always made Cerulean want to cry, but she couldn't, at least not now. Now she had to put on a smile and be brave for the girl—assure her that life goes on, even in Nowhere.

She had to lie, in other words.

Cerulean smiled and approached the terrified child. “Hi,” she said in her most soothing voice, “I'm Cerulean. What's your name?”

Where am I?” The little girl asked.

This place doesn't really have a name,” Cerulean said. “We call it Nowhere. What can I call you?”

I'm Indigo,” the girl said. “This place is scary. I don't want to be here. Where's my mommy?”

Your mom's at home,” Cerulean said, knowing what question came next, and hating herself for how she was going to have to answer it.

Can I go home?”

I'm afraid not. At least not yet. We haven't figured out a way to leave this place.”

Indigo burst into tears. Cerulean wrapped her tiny body in a hug.

Sshh,” she said. “You'll be OK. I'll take care of you. You can stay with my while you're here.”

Indigo just kept sobbing. “I...I want...my...mommy!

I'll be your mommy here,” Cerulean said. “I'll take care of you.”

She picked the distraught child up and walked toward home.

A short while later, after Cerulean's footsteps and Indigo's cries faded into the black night, Mayor Blue came prancing up the street toward Gruesome Point. He wore a pointy hat atop his head and a shirt five sizes too big that flapped around his bony frame like a sail in the wind. His skin was cracked and the yellowy-gray of old parchment and it was stretched across his skull so tight it pulled his mouth into a mean, tight-lipped grimace.

He paused at the spot where Indigo stood and bent over, examining something on the ground.

Presently he stood up and laughed. He held aloft a stoppered glass bottle. Its contents swirled and sparkled in the pale moonlight. A label on the bottle identified the substance as Tears.

Girl's tears always taste the sweetest,” the mayor said in a voice like the rustling of leaves on a cold night.

And he skipped away into the night.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Tree House Mystery

Ah, nostalgia.

Ladies and gentlemen and readers of all ages, today I review the VERY FIRST BOOK I EVER READ: The Tree House Mystery by Carol Beach York.

I read this book for the first time when I was five. And I read it to spite my older sister Tonya. Tonya was seven and in second grade and could already read. I was in kindergarten and couldn't yet read on my own and that fucking killed me. And then one day I found her copy of this book on the floor of the bedroom the two of us shared with our little sister Melissa and I decided then and there that I was going to read it. All by myself. Come hell or high water.

So I hid the book where Tonya wouldn't look and every day when I got home from school, after lunch and The Monkees (back then kindergarten was only half a day guys), I would go upstairs to our bedroom and sit in my bed and stare at the pages.

And stare and stare.

And then stare some more.

Until one day the words made sense. I mean, not all of the words. Some words I had to sort of figure out by using context clues from the rest of the sentence. And other words I couldn't fathom at all and I just skipped over them. But I could read most of the words! Enough to puzzle out the story.

The book is about a family--the Mayfairs. There's mom and dad Mayfair and Roger and Annabelle. They sell their house in the city and buy a bigger house with a huge amount of property out in the country. They get 23 acres, which includes a wooded area and a creek. In the wooded area is--can you guess? A big old tree with a tree house. At first Roger and Annabelle are excited about the tree house. But then they started noticing things--scary things--about it. Like the huge footprints in the dirt at the base of the tree. And the note tucked into the floor boards that warned them away and mentioned that "The Thing" would be back.


There was no "Thing." It turned out that two little boys who lived on an adjacent property had been using the tree house for a clubhouse while nobody owned it and just didn't want to give it up when the Mayfairs moved in. But Roger was glad to have a couple little boys his age to play with so they all got along and lived happily ever after.

Guys this book is just good fun. It's a short, easy read: a small chapter book appropriate for kids 5 to 9 or 10. There are 90 pages, big type and lots of sketches to accompany the text. Reading it again now I'm reminded of The Magic Tree House series. I wonder if Mary Pope Osborne read the Tree House Mystery when she was little?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

21 Days of Words: SUCCESS!

Ladies and Gentlemen and Precociously Literate Children:

I am pleased to report that my 21 day writing challenge was a HUGE MOTHERFUCKING SUCCESS!!

I kept my commitment. I wrote every fucking day no matter how blocked, tired, or worn-out I felt. Some days I didn't write much. Other days I wrote a lot. But I wrote EVERY DAY. And since I didn't have any current works-in-progress at the beginning of the challenge I wrote all sorts of different, silly things. Sometimes I journaled. Sometimes I blogged. Most days I used prompts I picked or those picked by others.

And it was one of those prompts, picked by my awesome boyfriend Brandon, that proved to be the turning point for me. The prompt (a fake newspaper headline: "Road to nowhere set for repaving") began as just a silly lark but wound up opening up all new literary vistas for me. It's become my current work-in-progress. I'm writing it as a YA novel that I'm even considering trying to traditionally publish. Haven't decided yet. We'll see.

But I'm super excited about it. Squeeee!!

So thanks for all the moral support guys. You rock!! Writing rocks!! YAY FOR LITERACY!!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

SNEAK PEEK: Road to Nowhere

Here's a little sneaky-poo from my #WIP, ROAD TO NOWHERE:

There was a billboard at the corner of Rainbow Street and Prism Boulevard, two blocks from City Hall, that overlooked the playground in Vibrant Colors Park:

A smiling mom and daughter were perched on the little girl's bed. The girl clutched a teddy bear. Mom held what appeared to be an inhaler, and was demonstrating the device's use to the girl. A banner splashed across the top of the billboard read: Neutral children sleep better, wake more refreshed. Be sure your child uses his emotion actuator each night. At the bottom of the billboard, in smaller type, was this message: Paid for by the Friends of Somewhere's Recycling Committee.

Follow me on twitter for updates as I continue to write! Look for these hashtags: #Wordmongering, #LetsWrite, #21DaysofWords, #WORDBITCHES, #AmWriting, #RoadToNowhere

Sunday, June 9, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Nancy Drew Mystery Stories The Clue of the Tapping Heels

So you need to know from the get-go that I've recently become something of a fangirl for Nancy Drew.
I was a fan of the Nancy Drew Mystery Series when I was little, but I wouldn't have called myself a fangirl then. I read a few of the books, then quickly moved on to other literary horizons. (Probably Anne of Green Gables. I was a fangirl for L.M. Montgomery for a while.)

Recently, though, while on a run-of-the-mill Goodwill jaunt, I rediscovered the series. And I can't even describe how excited I was to see the books there. I literally gasped: "Nancy Drew!" I bought the few books they had, read them, and that was that.

Next thing I knew I was scouring every Goodwill in the greater Austin area, with the help of my helpful and enabling boyfriend Brandon. I even put an ad on Craigslist. And WOW was that a success! I found a woman who needed to sell FORTY books! For a STEAL!

So why do I love Nancy Drew? And why should you care?

Nancy Drew was fierce. She was an original independent woman. She was smart, tough, and fearless but never brash or mean. She was awesome.

Today I am reviewing the 16th title in the series: The Clue of the Tapping Heels. And through this I will share with you how I discovered that Nancy Drew was censored revised.

This is the cover of the version of the book I found at the Goodwill. This version was published under the imprint of Applewood Books. They included a publisher's note after the copyright page in which it is explained that this edition of the book is complete and unrevised just as it was originally published and that it therefore may contain elements that may offend modern readers. The note goes on:
"These books are a part of our heritage. They are a window on our real past. For that reason, except for the addition of this note, we are presenting The Clue of the Tapping Heels" unedited and unchanged from its first edition."

I was intrigued. Before reading that publisher's note, I had never heard of Nancy Drew books being revised or censored edited for content. But apparently they had. I dove right into the book, nearly daring it to offend me in some way.

What I found was the Nancy Drew I knew and loved. This original version was longer than other Drew mysteries I'd read, and felt less rushed. The story had time to develop at its own pace. I liked that. There was a moment, though, when Nancy's boyfriend referred to an African American man he bumped into on the sidewalk as a "darky." That was, umm...unsettling. Nancy herself never made any racial slurs, however.

Since reading that version I've picked up the revised edition, with the familiar yellow cover.
This version of the story is 38 pages shorter. I've skimmed through it. It has absolutely been edited for content and length. The story has the same framework: Nancy learns to tap morse code and helps an old spinster who has too many cats and suspicious neighbors, but aside from that they're remarkably different books. Which makes me wonder if all the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories have been changed to this degree.

Right now I've just been collecting what I can find, which means with the exception of the original version of The Clue of the Tapping Heels, all my other books are the regular yellow hardbacks--the censored revised versions. I love them. And I'll collect all that I can find. But I look forward to also collecting as many original editions as I can.

Before I go! Allow me to share the recipe to a Nancy Drew drink I found!

1&1/2 ounces white rum
splash of lime

This is light, sweet, and bubbly. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What If...?

This writing exercise was inspired by two things:

A question asked by my boyfriend Brandon: "What if your mom had said yes all those years ago?"

And by an exercise in a writing book I found recently at the Goodwill, titled What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
The exercise is called creative wrong memory and it involves writing out a memory, but altering it in some way: adding color, changing the outcome, or changing the players. The idea behind this exercise is to learn how to mine your own memories for use in fiction.

So I combined this exercise with Brandon's question and came up with the following!

(A quick note on the formatting: the writing exercise advises the writer to use italics for any portion of the memory that is added or changed. So that's what I did. Thus, in order to indicate emphasis, I used bold.)

The day dawned crisp and sunny for everyone else in Santa Cruz. It was spring in the cute California beach town: the birds were chirping, the sea lions were barking, the hippies were sleeping it off in their vans.

My day, on the other hand, began on my knees in the bathroom of the Vertigo Cafe, with my face hovering inches over the toilet bowl. My friend John had taken me out to dinner the night before and I was saying goodbye to the chicken pot pie and garlic bread and mashed potatoes that I'd so eagerly scarfed down. I puked until I was empty and then kept at it for a while longer. Morning sickness was a real bitch.

I checked the wall clock behind the cash register when I left the bathroom after round fifteen or so. It was eight thirty in the morning. My mom was supposed to show up about three that afternoon. That left me with six-and-a-half hours to kill. I had no money, nowhere to go, a nauseous belly and three cigarettes in my pocket. But what else was new? Such was the life of a gutter punk.

The only good thing about being awake at that ungodly hour was that I had no competition for seats. Cafe Vertigo was the only coffee shop I'd ever heard of that stayed open until two in the morning, and from sundown til last call, any day of the week, the place was hopping. I'm talking standing room only. But today I had the place to myself. I grabbed a magazine, hopped up on the window seat, and settled in to wait.

Mom showed up thirty minutes late, true to form, with my little sister Melissa in tow. Melissa was my little sister only because she was three years younger than me, but at fourteen she was already tall enough to look down on me. I didn't know when that had happened. It had been more than a year since I'd seen her. God, everything changed.

Even my mom. It sounds stupid to say “She looked so old.” It sounded stupid to me even then, in my head. Because of course she was old. She was my mom. I'd gotten older and so had she. I guess that's what happens when you don't see people. They change and it surprises you.

“Look at you!” Mom said with a big grin on her face, “You look good!”

I smiled at the compliment but regretted it before I could manage a weak, “Thanks.” Was she for real? You look good? That was the first thing she thought to say to me when she came to visit me on the street?

Mom and Melissa headed to the counter to order coffee. I followed. Melissa ordered first: one coffee for her and one for me.

Mom ordered next: a cup of coffee for herself, then she turned around and asked me, “What kind of cigarettes do you smoke?”

“Um, Camel straights,” I said.

She added a pack to her order.

They paid, the cashier handed everyone their coffees, and then we moved back to our table. As we worked our way over, Melissa slipped a ten dollar bill into my hand.

What is this?” I said.

Take it,” she said.

Thanks,” I said.

We settled into our seats, and that phony smile reappeared on my mother's face. “So how've you been?” She said.

“Good,” I said automatically.

A voice in the back of my head shouted: You have NOT been good! You've been fucking HOMELESS, and it's ALL HER FAULT. But I kept quiet.

“Did you have somewhere to sleep last night?” Mom asked.

“John got a motel room for me,” I said. Then, before I could chicken out, I blurted: “I'm pregnant.”

I took a big sip of the scalding coffee before anyone could ask me any questions. But nobody did.

“Wow!” Mom's eyes grew wide and her smile somehow intensified. “How wonderful!”

Melissa said nothing.

I blinked.

That was not the response I'd anticipated.

Being pregnant is such a special time for a woman. I remember when I was pregnant with you, Shana.”

Continued smiling.

I opened and closed my mouth a few times before I stammered: “But I—I'm homeless. What am I going to do? I can't have a baby out here.”

I said the words, and they were like an incantation. For the first time since I peed in a cup at the Planned Parenthood and my condition was diagnosed it felt really real to me. Like it was really happening. I was really pregnant. There was a human being incubating in my womb, and in a matter of a few short months that baby was going to force it's way out of me.

What the fuck was I going to do?

No one said anything. Minutes ticked by and still no one said anything. Melissa stared at her coffee cup; I stared at my mom; and she just smiled that empty, sappy smile.

I lit a cigarette to fill the silence and sucked in its delicious poison gratefully.

“You're going to be okay, Shana,” Mom finally said, “You always figure something out.”

She meant for her words to be uplifting, but they weren't. I didn't want to hear about how I was going to fix the situation. I wanted to hear someone say they were going to rescue me. I wanted a hero. Because I'd never felt so helpless in my whole life.

“Tony's gone back home to Pennsylvania,” I said. “His mom won't send me a bus ticket so I can be with him. Not that I expected her to,” I added, “she doesn't even know me, but...I'm trying to get the money for one myself...John said he might be able to help...”

I let my voice trail off, hoping she would fill in the blank with something helpful like: “I'll buy you a bus ticket, Shana! Of course you need to be with the baby's father.”

But: “I hope you can find the money,” was what she actually said.

My own feeble hopes crashed to the floor.

Melissa's eyes flicked up from her coffee cup and met mine. It was just a moment, but it was long enough for me to see the hurt in her heart.

“We're gonna have to get going in a minute,” Mom said, “I promised Carlos we'd stop at Home Depot on our way back.”

They were going to leave. They were going to leave and then I'd be alone again. I panicked.

“Well, could I—I mean, could I maybe have dinner with you tonight?”

Melissa's head snapped up. “Yeah Mom, can she?”

Mom looked from me to Melissa and then back to me. In another timeline, this would be when she said no. It would be when she dragged my little sister out of the cafe and drove her home crying. It would be when she left me, her pregnant seventeen-year-old daughter, on the street. And it would be the last time I saw her for years.

But in this timeline Mom said yes.

Fine Shana.” Heavy sigh. “You can have dinner with us. But you're not spending the night. So don't ask.”

I won't,” I said.

Yay!”Melissa said.

We stopped at Home Depot first like Mom promised my stepfather she would. She picked out planters for their backyard and Melissa and I played hide and seek among the two-by-fours. We laughed and laughed. My morning sickness was gone. For the first time in months I didn't feel like I had to watch my back. I felt like a kid again.

Me and Melissa were so busy having fun that when Mom was ready to go we were oblivious. She had to get one of the cashiers to call us three times over the loudspeaker before we noticed. Mom was so embarrassed! It was great.

On the ride to their house Mom gave us the low-down on how she wanted to handle dinner:

You guys keep yourselves entertained outside or in Melissa's room until Carlos gets home. I want to be the one to tell him that we're having you over for dinner.”

I looked at Melissa. She rolled her eyes. I snickered.

I'm serious Shana!” Mom said, glaring at me through the rear-view mirror. “The last time Carlos saw you wasn't the greatest time, if you remember.”

I remember,” I said. And I did. I remembered my stepfather telling my mom he'd had enough of me. I remembered him telling her that either I had to go or he had to go. And I remembered her saying goodbye to me.

I just want things to go as smoothly as possible,” Mom said, “so do what I say. All right?”

Yes Mother,” Melissa and I chorused, then exploded in laughter. Mom heaved a weary sigh.


I heard Carlos slam through the front door about half past six. Melissa heard him too—I caught the look of fear that flickered over her face—but neither of us mentioned it, and the look was gone almost as fast as it came.

Melissa had been showing me the scrapbook she kept of the kids she babysat: a brother and sister, ages seven and three. After our stepfather came home we kept up the pretense of the show-and-tell for as long as we could, but the raised voices from the kitchen killed our high spirits. Before too long, Mom knocked on the door.

Shana,” she said, pushing open the door without waiting for an invite, “I'm sorry honey but you're going to have to leave.”

Melissa started to cry.

But we haven't eaten yet,” I said.

I know,” she said. “This just isn't going to work out.”

You'd let him do that?”


Melissa cried harder.

You'd seriously let him tell you not to feed your own daughter? Your pregnant daughter?”

That's not fair.”

I stood up. “What the fuck do you know about fair?”

Stop it Shana,” Mom snapped. “Don't make it worse. Just leave.”

Are you giving me a ride?”


Of course not,” I said. “Am I supposed to hike the forty miles back to Santa Cruz?”

I don't know. But that's not my problem. Figure something out. Or call your friend John.”

I think he's visiting family in Santa Monica. Besides, I can't call him for everything. I'm not his responsibility. He's not my parent.”

That's enough! Go. Now.”

I walked out of Melissa's room, down the hall, and into the entryway. Melissa's hysterical cries echoed throughout the house. I saw Carlos standing in the kitchen. He had his back to me. I flicked him off, then opened the door and walked out into the night.

Alone again.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


So I've been tagged by Elyana (follow her on twitter!!) in this fun writerly-type blogger game! Here's a link to the original post: Read all about the game!

The game is called ONE MOMENT, and everyone who is tagged is asked to find timey-wimey type words or phrases in their manuscripts, pick their favorite instances of such, then post that chunk of literature on their blogs!

I scoured the entirety of my memoir HIEROGLYPHS for a timey-wimey phrase. And I found my favorite instance. Read on:

Tonya was seven when I began kindergarten, and from what she told me, seven was practically old enough to take over the world. She went to school all day whereas I was home in time to catch The Monkeys and eat a bowl of tomato soup before naptime. In my class we practiced dialing our home phone numbers on a giant cardboard rotary phone. Tonya’s class did real school stuff: math and reading and shit. They even had tests that they took with Number Two Pencils!

But it was the fact that Tonya could read and write that made me burn with jealousy. My big sister was now one of the Special People. She had the secret knowledge, the answer to the puzzle. She was in the know. And she never missed an opportunity to brag.

One afternoon I sat down next to Tonya while she did her homework. She pulled out a sheet of notebook paper so I pulled out a sheet of notebook paper. She grabbed a pencil and I grabbed a pencil. Then she began copying the assigned sentences out of her textbook. I watched for a few minutes in silence. I studied the way she gripped the pencil in her fist: she held it firmly enough to control it but also with enough freedom to allow it to skip and dance across the page. A flick of her wrist sent a series of seemingly random dots and dashes spiraling across the lined paper.

It all looked so meaningless but it wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t. More importantly, Tonya knew it wasn’t because she knew what all of it meant. She was creating those hieroglyphs!

Then it hit me: I could cheat! If I could move my hand like Tonya did, I could make hieroglyphs like hers. Then it would all be clear! It’d have to be!

So I held my breath, and I began to write—haltingly at first, but with increasing confidence as my hand made its meandering way across the page. I was doing it!

Then I heard a snicker in my left ear. I turned my head and caught my older sister staring at my paper with a delighted sneer.

That’s not writing!” She crowed. “That’s just scribbles! You think you can write words just by copying me?”

She laughed and laughed. I felt angry tears welling up behind my eyes.

No I didn’t! I just…”

Yes you did!” Tonya laughed some more. “You were trying to be big like me but you’re not big! You’re just a kindergarten baby!"

Monday, June 3, 2013

Billionaire Playboy Seeks Mommy Figure

At the behest of my sexy, Batman-loving boyfriend Brandon, my writing prompt today was to compose a dating profile for Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Here's what I came up with:

I'm the man who has everything except a woman to share it with.

White male, 30-something, very physically fit, and more than comfortable financially.

You know my name, and have probably heard rumors of my sexual conquest of Gotham. I'm the “Billionaire Playboy,” right? Well, half of that is true. Few people know just how sensitive and lonely I am.

I'm looking for an understanding woman to share my days. Someone who can appreciate the finer things, yes, but also someone who understands discretion. Someone who gets both the light and dark sides of “Master Bruce Wayne.” Maybe someone who has experienced a trauma in her own life and thus knows where I come from emotionally?

Perhaps someone who can accept that I have an unusual and often dangerous job and won't ask prying questions? My work often keeps me out all night. Is it too much to ask that you have my slippers and cocoa at the ready when I return? After all, you look nice in that mink I bought you.
That's what I thought.

(Follow my 21-Day-Challenge here and on twitter with the hashtag #21DaysofWords!)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The People's Eyebrow

So it's Day 1 of my 21-Day-Challenge!! (Hashtag #21DaysofWords)

Tonight me and Brandon are also going to join countless other wrestling fans at a Ring of Honor (follow them on twitter!) show in San Antonio!! Soooooo excited!

So Brandon thought it would be fun for me to use a wrestling-related writing prompt today. I agreed, and we put the word out on twitter and facebook for ideas. We received several good ones, but I decided to go with this:

"The People's Eyebrow returns to the ring because..."

This awesome prompt was provided by my twitter friend James Neal (@BloodandBlade on twitter). Thanks James!

And here's what I came up with:

It was late-summer hot, the sort of hot that discourages all but the meanest of children and biting bugs from venturing out. Timmy and his little sister Sara played in their front yard. They weren't allowed to leave the small rectangle of parched grass that defined their space but that was okay. Today the lawn was a wrestling ring.

Sara raised one tiny fist to the sky and declared, in her squeaky little-girl voice: “The People's Eyebrow returns to the ring because...!”

“It's People's Elbow, dumbass!” Timmy said. He was ten and very worldly so he knew these things.

“I'm not a dumbass, you are!” Sara said.

“At least I know the difference between an eyebrow and an elbow,” her older brother retorted. “You can't even put Mr. Whiskers in a half-Nelson.”

Mr. Whiskers was Sara's most beloved stuffed animal. Once he was velveteen-soft and the delicious pink of whipped cupcake frosting. Today his fur was coarse and dishwater-gray. Sara clutched him in one grimy hand and shouted: “Yes I can!” Even though she had no idea what a half-Nelson was.

“Oh yeah? Let's see it then!” Timmy said.

Sara threw Mr. Whiskers to the ground and flopped down on top of him. “Count to three, ref!” She hollered.

Timmy, who had been crouched down on his haunches, fell over on his back laughing. He laughed so loud it drowned out the roar of traffic rushing by. He hugged his arms to his belly and gulped and coughed and sputtered.

Sara jumped to her feet. Her cheeks were red with indignation. “Stop it Timmy!”

“You...you...” Her brother started, then dissolved into another fit of giggles.

“Shut up!

“You think that was a half-Nelson?” He finally managed.

There came a stirring from a few feet away.

Brother and sister stopped fighting. Their heads swiveled in the direction of the sound.

“She's getting up,” Sara said.

In front of their yard, in the strip of pavement that was the no-man's land between sidewalk and the black tar of the street, lay Kelly. She was seventeen and dangerous, with white-blonde hair that fell to her waist, a body that made all the men in the neighborhood stare, and green eyes that flashed fire when she got wound up—and she was always getting wound up. Sara had heard her parents call Kelly a lush. She didn't know what that meant, but she knew that the older girl got dizzy and fell down on the street a lot.

Sara tiptoed up to the very edge of the lawn to get a better look. Her brother followed. They stood there in silence and watched Kelly's eyes flutter open, unseeing. Suddenly, a daring grin spread across Timmy's face. He took a step onto the sidewalk. Sara gasped.

“What are you doing?” She said.

“I'll show you a half-Nelson,” the boy said and joined the semi-conscious girl in the gutter.

Timmy lifted her torso and twisted it around so that she was facing away from him and he held her arms up over her head while squeezing her from behind. Or he tried. Her arms went up and then promptly flopped back down. Her head lolled on her neck. Her pretty green eyes remained open but they didn't register anything.

“See?” Timmy said. “This is how you do a half-Nelson.”

Sara watched, simultaneously fascinated and terrified by her brother's daring move. Cars thundered past him but he seemed oblivious. He squeezed tighter.

“She couldn't move, even if she wanted to,” the boy said.

Then Kelly blinked, and life returned to her eyes. Color flooded into her cheeks. Her neck muscles stiffened. Her hands clenched into fists.

“Gah!” She sputtered.

In one swift move, Kelly ripped her arms out of Timmy's grasp, whirled around, and shoved him—hard—into oncoming traffic.

“NOOO!” Sara screamed.

Timmy's limp body sailed into the grill of a Ford pickup. He hit the truck with a spine-cracking crunch, then bounced off and flew into the gutter on the opposite side of the street. He landed in a twisted, lifeless heap and lay there, unmoving.

Kelly watched everything from where she remained—in the gutter on this side of the street. She didn't say anything, but her expression changed from fury to confusion to horror. Sara dropped to her knees. Blades of grass scratched her skin. Her tormented cries echoed back and forth across the busy street. She wanted to go to her brother and comfort him, but she couldn't. She was rooted to the spot.

She wasn't allowed to leave the lawn.

Friday, May 31, 2013

LET'S FUCKING DO THIS!!! 21 Day Challenge Starts.....NOW!!

Are you ready for this?



Tomorrow is June first, official launch day of my 21-Day Challenge!! If you'll remember, I'm challenging myself to DAILY WRITING. That's writing of any kind: blogging, journaling, fooling around with writing prompts...whatever. The plan is to cement daily writing as a habit again. Once upon a time this was a no-brainer, but I lost my writing mojo and I'm trying to get it back.

And, hopefully, all this random writing will either inspire a new project or rekindle a love of one of my ongoing WIPs.

Because today is Day 1 of my #Staycation I did a little sneak-preview writing exercise. Brandon kindly picked out a writing prompt from one of my books, and I sat down and gave it a whirl.

Here's the prompt:

The headline in this morning's paper reads: “Road to Nowhere Set for Repaving”

And here's what I wrote:

Two mayors ate tough steaks and drank stale coffee in a diner off route 13. Mayor Orange was from Somewhere, Mayor Blue from Nowhere. They ate in a companionable silence. A newspaper lay on the table, folded so that the headline was visible: “Road to Nowhere Set for Repaving.” Mayor Orange paid the paper no mind. From time to time, Mayor Blue threw the headline a sour glance.

Mayor Orange's ample belly threatened to burst the buttons on his shirt. He belched affably and wiped gravy off his chins.

“This highway project will bring jobs and hope to your town, Blue. And if you don't mind my saying so, those are two things that are sorely needed in Nowhere. I don't understand your objections.”

Mayor Blue pushed his plate away with a scowl. His bony frame suggested that he'd pushed many full a plate away in his time.

“The citizens of Nowhere aren't looking for jobs! And they sure as hell aren't interested in hope.” He spat the word out like it tasted bad.

That's all that I got before I had to take The Teen to work. But I kinda like it as a start. It leaves me with a lot of questions: Who are Mayors Orange and Blue? What are Somewhere and Nowhere like? It sounds like Nowhere has been left to decay without jobs and reliable roads. Why? And why is the Mayor not happy with the coming improvements? If the citizens of Nowhere truly aren't interested in jobs and hope like he says, why not? What are they interested in?

I just may explore this one further during the Challenge!!

UPDATES WILL BE FORTHCOMING!! And look for my upcoming review of the Nancy Drew mystery series!!

Monday, May 27, 2013

BOOK REVIEW The ABACUS Protocol: Sanity Vacuum

In space, no one can hear you scream...except, of course, the two adorable kittens that skulk the halls of the Extra-Galactic Observatory where young Vivian Skye landed an internship to further her studies of quantum informatics.

Ever hear of quantum informatics? Neither had I. Sorry, we're just not on Vivian's intellectual level. Suffice it to say, quantum informatics has to do with super-duper, high-end, near-sentient computers. I said near sentient. In the distant future that author Thea Gregory (or T. Gregory, as she is identified on the book jacket) describes, Earth has already had a run-in with malevolent sentient machinery, and is not about to let that happen again...hence the laws set forth in the ABACUS Protocol.


I've long been a fan of the science fiction genre. I've watched Star Trek, in all its incarnations, since I was a little girl. I grew up reading Douglas Adams and Greg Bear and Ray Bradbury. I love the deep intellectual romanticism of science fiction. In my opinion, the genre at its best is about humanity finding itself and defining itself against a foreign backdrop (space) and against unbelievable odds (aliens, malevolent supercomputers, etc.). Gregory's debut novel more than lives up to this ideal.

Vivian Skye hails from Aurora, a gorgeous agrarian planet that had long ago been colonized by humans. Like all the best science fiction protagonists, she's a bit of a misfit. Most Aurorans never leave their planet. They prefer farming to computer technology and leave the space travel to other, more intellectually curious, races. When Vivian enrolled in the only university on Aurora that taught quantum informatics, her family essentially disowned her.

So as nervous as she was to be traveling off-world for her internship on the Extra-Galactic Observatory, Vivian knew that she had been alone for a long time. And she was strong enough to face that. Besides, working with quIRK--the observatory's quantum computer--was worth it.

What can I tell you about quIRK? As Vivian explains to a fellow traveler as she prepares to leave Aurora for the first time:

"The Q and U are for quantum, and IRK is an inside joke about how irritating the system was to design."

So quIRK is an irksome quantum computer. A computer with a penchant for sarcasm and an affinity for the color antiblue (wish I could get a look at that!), and the company of kittens. quIRK shocked Vivian with his near-sentience at their first meeting  and her awe only grew as their working relationship deepened.

But Vivian's internship doesn't go swimmingly. The Observatory is run by Bryce Zimmer, an egomaniacal man from Caesarea, one of the only remaining planets that is still run with what is essentially a feudal system. He has his own political axe to grind, and a strong racist streak against Aurorans. So when strange accidents begin happening to Vivian, she doesn't know what to think: are they really simple accidents? Is Bryce plotting against her? Or is it quIRK, with his burgeoning self-awareness and his unsettling memory gaps?

The ABACUS Protocol: Sanity Vacuum is an adventurous tale of one young girl making her way in space. But it's also way more than that. It asks questions, like: what does it mean to be sentient? Does mere self-awareness make one an individual? Can a thinking computer feel? Could a thinking computer ever be equal to its creators?

Author Thea Gregory first caught my attention with her Zombie Bedtime Stories (buy them on amazon!). What I liked so much about her zombie stories was how she got me to think about this almost overly-played-out genre in an entirely different way. And she did that by writing stories that presented questions, like: what if zombies remain themselves even after they've changed? What if they're sort of captives within their zombified bodies? Are they still human?

I love a good story. And I love a good thoughtful discussion. The ABACUS Protocol: Sanity Vacuum (and indeed all of Thea Gregory's books) provide both.

Read and enjoy! Meet the author:


Sunday, May 26, 2013

21 Days in the Life of This Grrrl


It's May. It's the end of May. June's fucking breathing down the back of our necks!

I don't want to say that 2013 has shaped up to be a literary failure of a year for me, but, well...

In 2011 I self-published 10 short thrillers and 1 memoir.
In 2012 I self-published 2 short erotic tales and 1 memoir.
In 2013 I embarked on a YA novel that sort of petered out, and then fell into a pit of blinding writer's block.

Draw your own conclusions.

I know, I know. It's not all about the numbers: numbers of books published, or numbers of books sold. It's not. My endlessly patient, loving and sexy boyfriend Brandon (Follow him on twitter!) tells me that whenever I get down. And I know he's right. But I'm a writer. Which means if I'm not writing, I'm just not myself. The world doesn't look the same. I can't think the same. I get all mentally constipated and cranky. It's uncomfortable for everyone around me.

But there's a bigger problem: when I get all stopped-up in the noggin, it's like I lose my inner story-teller. He's replaced by a flashing neon sign behind my eyes that says WHAT THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO WRITE?!?!?

I explained this to Brandon a few weeks ago, and because he's so incredibly thoughtful and believes so much in my writing he bought me a couple of books of writing prompts. (You can download them for your kindle!) I was sooooo excited! And I dove right in, promising myself and Brandon that I'd do a writing prompt each day until I got my spark back and could begin an actual project again.

It worked. For a few days. But then I got all lazy-writer again. And that's what brings me here today.

I've recently learned about a theory: The 21-Day Theory. It says that it takes 21 days to break or make a habit. That's it. Struggle through 21 days, and then you're Scott-free. Whatever habit you wanted to break will be broken. And whatever habit you wanted to make will be made.

Well I want to make a daily writing habit. I need to make a daily writing habit. I need to break this mental constipation. I need to see the world the right way again. I'm a writer, for fuck's sake. I live through WORDS. Stories. Tales.

So this is my grand announcement! Beginning June 1st (because it's my birthday month and because starting on the first of the month will just makes some sort of calendar-sense) I, Shana Hammaker aka @LiteraryGrrrl, will be doing a 21-day writing challenge!!

What will I be writing? Whatever. Certainly I'll be playing with the writing prompts. Sometimes I'll blog. I'm sure I'll do a bit of journaling. We all know how much I like to write about myself.

Of course I'll write between now and then. But the serious, down-and-dirty, I'm-gonna-fucking-do-this-because-I-mean-fucking-business begins June first.

And hopefully the mental constipation will be all cleared up by my birthday!! (That's June 25, y'all! Get ready!)


Saturday, May 11, 2013

More Writing Prompts!

This prompt was provided to me by Nick Gator on twitter:

When the Pope asks you to whack a guy, you whack a guy.

And here's what I came up with!

“You're being such a dumbass,” Sheila said.

“I don't have a choice,” Kevin said.

“Of course you have a choice!” Sheila was getting loud now.

Kevin rolled up the car windows. “You're gonna get us caught!”

I'm gonna get you caught? Oh that's rich! You're gonna get your own stupid ass caught because you don't know what you're doing! And for what—to impress that asshole Frankie. Notice he's not here? Hmm? He's not going down with you Kevin!”

Kevin had noticed that Frankie wasn't there, but he preferred to believe it was because Frankie trusted Kevin to get the job done by himself. Of course there was no arguing with Sheila. But that didn't stop Kevin from trying.

When the Pope asks you to whack a guy, you whack a guy.”

“Frankie isn't the Pope. And we're not talking about you whacking a guy. We're talking about you holding up the Walgreens.” She nodded toward the building out the window.

“Just shut up,” Kevin said and opened his door. He slung one leg out, planted that foot on the ground, then slung the other leg out. “I've gotta do this, Sheila.” He said in a less-than-convincing tone.

He stood, tripped over his laces, and fell face-first into the pavement.


“You're such a dumbass, Kevin,” Sheila said.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Writing Prompts

Nearly seventeen years ago I brought The Teen into this world. 
In celebration of that, my awesome-and-handsome boyfriend Brandon gave me two books of writing prompts a couple days ago, to help cure my recent bout of writer's block.

Isn't he awesome?

So I've decided to share some of my experiments with these writing prompts with you, my adoring fans, I mean my friends in the blogosphere. Not every one, just the ones I particularly like.

Here's the first. Enjoy!

Prompt: The briefcase was heavy in his hand and the gun tucked into his waistband felt awkward.

Here's what I came up with:

 The briefcase was heavy in Tim's hand and the gun tucked into his waistband felt awkward. Who the Hell did he think he was kidding? He was no G-man. What the fuck was a G-man anyway? Did anyone even say that outside of 70s-era Bond movies? Relax Tim, he told himself. It's all gonna go down nice and easy. In and out in 15 minutes. Just collect the money and go home and bang Shannon.
An image of Shannon popped up in his mind: she was bent over at the waist in their walk-in closet, reaching for a pair of heels he'd purposefully moved out of her reach so he could get a look at her juicy ass.
“Dammit!” She'd said. “Why do my things always move? It's like they're playing tricks on me.”
“What are you going on about?” He'd laughed then. “Your things don't move.”
“Yes they do!” She waved the heels in his face. “These were in front, by my flip-flops. Then all of a sudden they're way in the back by my suitcase. Now why would I put these heels by my suitcase?”
Shannon flipped her unruly curls off her forehead and added, “Hmmm?” Her cheeks were rosy with indignation.
Tim felt himself get hard. He could've taken her right then: just bent her over the bed, ripped off her teeny white shorts and taken her, but Shannon would never allow that. She'd just scoff and tell him to be a man. That's what she was always saying: Be a man, Tim!
That's what this job was about, wasn't it? Proving to Shannon that he could be a man?