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!”

“” 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.