Friday, February 26, 2010

Behold, the purple hair

Though I’ve never personally met any of Michelle Wolfson’s other clients, I consider several of them to be good friends. Fellow client Linda Grimes calls this “Agency Sistahs,” a term I quite adore.

Last summer, one of my Agency Sistahs, Kiersten White, decided to tempt fate. She vowed that if her book PARANORMALCY sold, she would embarrass herself by dyeing a swatch of hair a bizarre color.

Since I’m a bit superstitious myself, I joined her in the pledge. After that, my Agency Sistah and I cheered each other on from afar, each of us hoping the other would soon have the opportunity to humiliate herself with ridiculous hair.

Kiersten had the chance to make good on her pledge when Michelle sold PARANORMALCY in an amazing deal.

Now it’s my turn to do the same.

Behold, I give you evidence of the purple hair:

Just a normal Friday, except...

So I’m having a tough time deciding what to blog about, and I’ve decided to take a vote. Which of the following would you like me to discuss?

1) Tips and techniques for proper tooth brushing.
2) The role of Alkiviades in ancient Greek history
3) My new three-book deal with Sourcebooks, Inc.
4) How to change the spark plugs in your car.

Alkiviades, you say? Excellent choice.

Alkiviades lived from 452-402 BC and is considered one of the most controversial figures of the antiquity. A member of the democratic parataxis, he—

What? That wasn’t what you wanted me to discuss? Oh, you wanted to hear about the book deal?

Well then . . .

For several weeks, Wonder Agent Michelle Wolfson and I have been having talks with Editor Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks, Inc. Though many aspiring authors probably start off thinking you just write a book and hand it off to an editor who either buys it or doesn’t, the process is seldom that simple.

For one thing, Sourcebooks is big on building authors’ careers – not just publishing one book. Savvy publishing professional that she is, Deb wanted to see a complete career arc and a “hook” that sums up the sort of books readers can expect from me. The three of us have spent weeks brainstorming titles and marketing ideas and concepts for future books.

We finally got everything nailed down just the way we wanted it, and Deb informed us on Monday that she would be taking it to her editorial board Thursday as a proposed three book deal. She wanted BELIEVE IT OR NOT, MAKING WAVES, and LET IT BREATHE. The first two are written, the third is not.

All day yesterday, I waited patiently (read: bit my fingernails and carried the phone with me every time I went to the bathroom) for news. Around 2:45 PST Michelle emailed to let me know she hadn’t heard anything and that it was possible the meeting had been canceled due to bad weather.

I resigned myself to not hearing anything that day and got busy doing the dishes. One hour later, the phone rang. It was Michelle, and I knew from her grim tone that bad news was coming.

What I actually should have known from her grim tone is that my agent is a sneaky wench who delights in yanking my chain by making idle chit chat in a faux-somber voice when I just wanted to scream “WHAT IS IT WHAT DID THEY SAY?!?!?!?”

She finally put me out of my misery and told me about the offer. She gave me the details, which I feverishly jotted on the back of a grocery receipt while the dog licked my ankle. Tentatively, the first book is scheduled for release in August 2011, with the other two coming out over the course of the following 12 months. This makes me happy because (a) having three books released in a 12-month span is a fabulous way to build a readership, and (b) August is a great month for a release not only because my books are excellent beach reads, but because it’s my birthday month!

So that’s what I know right now. Well, that and the fact that WONDER AGENT MICHELLE WOLFSON TOTALLY RULES!

And I’m really, really looking forward to working with Deb Werksman as well, since she’s an amazing editor who clearly has terrific taste in books. I’m also excited about being published with Sourcebooks. As some of you may recall from a previous post, Sourcebooks published one of my very favorite books (Tiffanie DeBartolo’s HOW TO KILL A ROCK STAR) as well as several others that have been favorites with my drinking club . . . er, book club . . . over the years.

So this is very good news all around. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go climb up on the roof with a bottle of champagne and a megaphone so I can shout it out to the neighborhood.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

24 hours with Hot Lips

Years ago, my grandma told me my grandfather had accused her of “cursing like a mule-skinner.”

It was clear he meant to shame her, and equally clear she saw it as a complement to the highest degree.

Is it any wonder I like spending time with her?

That’s what I did yesterday, driving six hours round-trip over the mountains for a quick overnight visit with Hot Lips.

Yes, that’s really what I call my grandmother. I’ve done it for so many years that it hardly registers for me anymore that this is not how most people address their grandmothers. When I asked critique partner Cynthia Reese to autograph one of her books for Hot Lips as a Christmas gift a few years ago, you would have thought I’d asked her to smack grandma on the ass and call her a skank.

“I don’t feel right calling someone’s grandmother ‘Hot Lips,’” she told me.

“If you don’t write it that way,” I pointed out, “she won’t know it’s from me.”

Hot Lips will be 80 next year, and though she lives alone quite capably, my mom is always 20 minutes away to look out for her. With my parents traveling for a few months, I decided to visit Hot Lips in case she needed me to take care of anything for her.

It was immediately clear Hot Lips had other ideas. If someone needed to be taken care of, by God, it was the granddaughter.

I tried to take her out to lunch. Hot Lips threatened spankings for a waitress and me if I attempted to pay the bill.

I tried to demonstrate my cautious driving skills when I took her out to run errands. She called another driver a “fart face” for going too slow.

I tried to suggest we cook dinner together in hopes of packing her fridge with nutritious meals for her future enjoyment. She was appalled to discover I had never eaten a hot turkey sandwich slathered in gravy, and smacked my hand with a spatula when I tried to help her make it.

So I’ve just returned home stuffed with mashed potatoes and ice cream and a whole lot of grandmotherly affection. But the best thing she gave me wasn’t the food. It was 24-hour distraction from the business of writing.

My last four weeks have been a whirlwind of blogging and tweeting and a lot of behind-the-scenes marketing tasks that people don’t tend to think of as part of the package when they decide to write a book.

Not that I’m complaining. I just didn’t realize how much I needed a break from it until I spent 24 hours with a woman whose only experience with computers is referring to them as “those sumbitchin’ things everyone’s always farting around with.”

So I’m back home now, and ready to tackle whatever comes next for me in the life of a struggling author. Best of all, I learned some new curse words. That’ll come in handy with the next book.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why titles are a bitch

I’ve been thinking a lot about book titles lately.

This is probably because I’ve had to come up with a buttload of them in recent weeks, some for books I haven’t even written yet. I think this may be my agent’s attempt to kill me.

Because the truth is that I hate coming up with book titles. I’d honestly rather take a carrot peeler to my forearm and spritz the wounds with grapefruit juice.

In my mind, every book I ever write or consider writing is titled by combining some element of the book’s theme and the word “bitch.” It’s quite simple. The book I sold to Silhouette Bombshell staring a ski patroller was “Snowbitch.” The follow-up starring a heroine competing in the Iditarod was “Sledbitch.”

My most recent projects include “Psychicbitch” (BELIEVE IT OR NOT) and “Dumpbitch” (GETTING DUMPED). I think it startled my agent the first time I accidentally referred to one of my manuscripts this way, but she now shares my habit of forgetting a manuscript’s actual title in favor of the simplified bitch-version.

Unfortunately, my bitch-titles don’t work in the real world.

Fortunately, I’m very lucky to have some excellent tools at my disposal for developing real-world titles. By “tools” I mean friends and family (not that I’m calling you guys tools, but hey – some of you kind of are).

My loved ones have been amazing contributors to the process, sometimes offering terrific ideas and sometimes offering abysmally bad ones that morph into ideas that are actually quite decent.

When my agent asked me recently to conduct a quick poll of friends and family and their feelings about a list of potential titles, I was stunned to have nearly everyone – about 30 people in all – reply within a matter of hours. I was also a little stunned by some of their preferences, which indicate that in addition to the tools, I know a surprising a number of perverts. Apparently several of them feel it’s vital to my writing career that my name someday appear on the cover of a book with the word “booty” in the title.

Another secret weapon in my arsenal of titling strategies is the winestorm. The winestorm is pretty much like a brainstorm except for the obvious distinction of including wine. Lots of it. I have a handful of friends who will gleefully participate in a winestorm regardless of whether they have any notion what the book is about. Or whether they’re literate. Past winestorms have yielded some terrific ideas for book titles, as well as a number of titles that will be useful if I ever decide to enter the adult film industry.

But probably my most treasured resource in the titling warefare is my friend, JJ, a woman known to me as Her Royal Majesty the Title Queen. JJ isn’t a writer. She actually works in the technology field, and to my knowledge, has no aspirations to write a book. But I can give JJ a one-paragraph synopsis of any book and she’ll come back to me with half-a-dozen potential titles that are roughly 1,597-times better than anything I could possibly come up with on my own. When I made the switch from writing women’s action/adventure for Bombshell to writing quirky comedy, I wasn’t certain JJ would still be up to the task. To my delight, she kicks ass at quirky comedy even more than she kicked ass at kickass action/adventure. (And yes, for those of you paying attention, I did in fact name the heroine in GETTING DUMPED for her).

The funny thing is, as much effort as we put into coming up with titles for my books, it’s a fact that publishers will often scrap an author’s title in favor of something they’ve come up with on their own. I know this to be true, which is why I try not to get attached to any of my titles. Even so, it’s crucial for an author to put her best foot forward. No sense giving an editor reason to reject a book based solely on a title that makes her want to beat her forehead with a shoe.

So bottom line, I do my best with titles. And since my best tends to suck, I do my best to absorb the combined wisdom of my friends, family, and all the tools and perverts I know. Isn’t that what writing’s all about?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why I shut my hair in the door (and other deep thoughts)

As I’ve eased into blogging and tweeting these last three weeks, I’ve made some truly interesting friends and had some highly stimulating discussions.

And by “interesting” and “stimulating” I mean “weird.”

Case in point, I’ve tweeted several times recently about getting my hair stuck in the mailbox and on various parts of the car (because obviously these are fascinating topics of conversation). Then I tweeted about losing a piece of candy and finding it an hour later stuck in my hair (yes, I ate it. It was delicious).

Clearly seeing a trend, one of my aforementioned new Twitter friends, @smoulderingsea (aka. Adrien-Luc Sanders) replied:

@tawnafenske What is -with- things in your hair? It's like some kind of creepy tentacle monster that grabs everything.

It was a strange question, particularly coming from someone I’ve never met. The answer is probably more strange:

I forget that I have long hair.

As a kid, I was a serious tomboy. Until I was about 13, my hair was literally buzz-cut short. I began growing it out when I stopped seeing it as a source of pride each time someone thought I was a boy.

My entire adult life, my hair has been well past the middle of my back. I’m 35 now, so I’ve lived with long hair for many years.

On top of that, Pythagoras endearingly describes my physique as “small body, big boobs.”

Even so, at least once a month I will emerge from the closet and ask Pythagoras, “does this outfit make me look like a boy?”

And he will stare at me like I’ve lost my mind before shaking his head and ignoring the question (as he’s learned to do with any question that begins “does this outfit make me look...”)

So what is my problem? Why is my subconscious still telling me I’m at risk of being mistaken for someone with a penis?

I’m no shrink, but I do know it can be tough to shake the early impressions you form about yourself. I’m lucky my parents instilled in me a tremendous self-esteem, which is probably why I’m able to handle writing rejections without serious damage to my psyche. That’s the upside of this strange tendency to cling to youthful impressions of oneself.

The downside? Well, aside from shutting my hair in the car door on a regular basis, I do sometimes have to remind myself that I’m not just writing to amuse myself and my fellow third graders. There’s a real possibility that someone besides friends, family, and my agent will eventually read my books. In some ways, this scares the crap out of me. Every time my agent forwards a comment from an editor, a tiny voice in the back of my head thinks, “wait, you mean this isn’t just for fun? You mean a REAL editor saw it?”

So how about you, dear readers? Are there any ideas you formed about yourself in childhood that you’ve never quite shaken? Do share!

I’ll be over here in the corner picking a gumdrop out of my hair.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Deeply profound lessons from my weekend

Do you ever have one of those weekends where it just feels like life is constantly teaching you little lessons? No? Maybe it’s just me.

In random order, here are the things I learned this weekend:

* Standing on my frost-covered back porch wearing only a towel and shouting “bad woodpecker” is not an effective way to make him stop pecking my house.

* A dog’s breath is remarkably fresh when she eats an entire packet of Sen-Sens.

* Though I may wish I could sleep with the hero in critique partner Cynthia Reese’s new manuscript, it’s never going to happen. (Duh, it’s an inspirational romance. He doesn’t do that sort of thing).

* Sometimes no matter how long I sniff the sock, I can’t determine if it’s clean or dirty.

* If I get my hair caught on the mailbox and end up yanking out a clump before turning around and smacking my head on the car door, it’s pretty much a guarantee one of my neighbors will see.

* I’ll never get over the thrill I feel when I find myself laughing out loud at something I’ve written.

* Try as I may to decode the secret message my cat is trying to communicate with items stolen from neighbors’ yards, there is no discernable connection between a gardening glove, a pair of swim goggles, and a dirt-smeared page of homework with a bad grade.

So what did you learn this weekend?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Peddling at your own pace

Pythagoras and I have slightly different exercise habits. The key differentiating factor is that he actually has exercise habits. I have a pair of running shoes that function solely as a place for the cat to rest his head while napping.

Don’t get me wrong, I keep reasonably fit. I do this through a complicated routine of trickery and self-manipulation (no, not that kind of self-manipulation, though that is a fine way to burn calories). I can trick myself into a daily five-mile hike as long as I believe I’m just walking the dogs. I can be eased into an hour-long yoga session by telling myself I’m just going to lie down on the cozy mat for a little nap.

I’m easily fooled like that.

Pythagoras, on the other hand, is insane. When he tells me he’s going out for a “short bike ride,” he means he’ll be peddling for 90 miles, half of it straight up the side of a mountain. If he takes to the treadmill after dinner, there’s a good chance I won’t see him again until morning.

When we first met, I was a little intimidated by his fitness regimen. Would he think I was a slug if I didn’t share his single-minded determination to set the world jump-rope record? Did he find slugs erotic?

By now we’ve found a happy balance. Sometimes I can even keep up with him – like the time we rode 60 miles on our tandem bike and I totally kicked his ass. OK, fine, it was three weeks after his surgery for a torn Achilles tendon, and he was admittedly still wearing a cast. Even so, I schooled him.

Though I’ve stopped fretting about the difference between my exercise habits and my husband’s, I am prone to occasional moments of panic when it comes to comparing my writing habits to those of other authors.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with the same two terrific critique partners since the early days of my foray into fiction. Not only do we have wildly different writing styles, but very different habits.

Sometimes I find myself wondering if I’d be a better writer if, like Cynthia Reese, I wrote in a linear fashion and handed off one chapter at a time for critique. Her plots are always much tighter than mine, so maybe that’s the ticket.

But while that works well for Cynthia, I’m just not that sort of writer. I might not know until chapter 17 who my bad guy is, which means my early chapters will likely undergo a full lobotomy before I type “the end.”

My other critique partner, Linda Brundage tends to write at a slower pace than I do. I know she sometimes frets about that, and I’m prone to the same anxiety for the opposite reason. Maybe if I slowed down I’d be able to write beautiful, dark, heart-wrenching prose like she does?

But heart-wrenching isn’t my thing. Crotch-spliting, that’s more my style. And I’m slowly beginning to accept that, and to accept the fact that there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to write. There are a million different methods, just like there are a million different writing styles. The important thing is to just do it, and to work hard at improving my craft along the way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I'm going to go trick myself into snowshoeing. It helps if I carry a mai-tai and tell myself I’m shuffling through sand on a Jamaican beach.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A ski racer, a singer, and an author walk into a bar

I write humorous fiction, so generally speaking, I try not to get too serious on this blog.

But occasionally I’ll have a point I want to make, so I’ll warn you that today’s entry may not make you laugh (unless I decide to insert the word “scrotum” at random intervals, which come to think of it, would be funny).

Pythagoras has been involved in ski racing since he was a wee tot, so he loves the Olympics. Yesterday was the women’s downhill, and as many expected, American Lindsey Vonn won gold.

While Pythagoras is thrilled, he noted that several of Vonn’s competitors routinely beat her on the World Cup circuit. There’s no question Vonn is incredibly talented (scrotum), but that doesn’t mean the German racer who finished eighth yesterday won’t kick her butt again next week.

To the outside world, ski racing seems simple – if you’re the fastest, you win. Period. The clock doesn’t lie.

But there are other factors to consider. Yesterday, Vonn chose to race on men’s skis, and as it turned out, the terrain on the course was rough – perfect conditions for that equipment. (scrotum) But had she chosen different skis or a different wax, or had a competitor not gotten behind on a turn, things could have ended differently.

It wouldn’t have been a reflection of Vonn’s talent either way – just the circumstances. Though winning proves Vonn is indeed a tremendous athlete, not winning doesn’t mean the others aren’t every bit as good.

Here’s another example: a friend of mine loves American Idol, so sometimes I watch if there’s wine involved. Last night, the judges whittled the field from 50 to 24, and the blogosphere is abuzz with speculation that so-and-so didn’t make it because the producers limit the number of singers with a certain hair color, skin color, or vocal style.

While there’s no doubt the final 24 contestants will make many singing missteps along the way (scrotum), the decisions at this stage aren’t just about who’s the best singer. With a room full of similarly-talented singers to choose from, the judges are most certainly considering factors that have nothing to do with vocal skill.

What does this have to do with writing? I’m getting there. (scrotum)

Over the years, I’ve critiqued work for a number of unpublished writers. Sometimes I’ve found myself thinking, “she’s so good, why isn’t she published yet?” Likewise, I’ve seen plenty of authors beat themselves up over rejections from agents or editors or critique partners. “If I were better,” they tell themselves, “I’d be published by now.”

But it doesn’t always work that way. While it’s true that authors who achieve publication tend to be talented, that doesn’t mean the ones who aren’t there yet aren’t every bit as talented. Someone else’s success doesn’t diminish your talent.

This is something I have to remind myself as well. A few years ago, I sold my first book to Silhouette Bombshell and had already cashed the check and written two follow-up books when the line was cancelled. None of my books hit the shelves. Convinced I needed an agent, I wrote a new book and began querying. Four amazing agents offered representation, one of whom described my book as “an easy sale.”

But guess what? The book didn’t sell. And none of the feedback from editors said the writing wasn’t good enough. In one case, we were told the publishing house already had something too similar. In another case, the editor just didn’t like the subject.

I’m not making excuses here (scrotum). Believe me, there’s room for improvement in my writing, and I work hard at that every day. But I also know that if a writer doesn’t get published quickly, it’s not necessarily because he or she isn’t talented. Surely I must have some talent to secure a previous book deal and the interest of multiple agents, but for whatever reason, I’m not published. Yet.

Luckily, I now have the most amazing agent on the planet, Michelle Wolfson, who remains confident we’re almost there. I believe it too, so I try not to take rejections personally.

I thought of this last night as I watched a sobbing American Idol hopeful receive his rejection news. “You did nothing wrong,” the judges insisted. And he really hadn’t. But they still picked 12 other male vocalists over him. Yes, the others were talented, but their selection doesn’t mean the other guy is less talented.

The most important thing an author can have isn’t talent or a good agent. It’s perseverance. It’s the ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and say “just because someone else won this time doesn’t mean I won’t win next time.”


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yes, I'm coveting your phone . . . and your ability to use it

Last night, I had a girls’ night out with a group of former colleagues. We shared drinks and laughs and spring rolls and had several meaningful conversations about shoes.

While admiring everyone’s accessories, I couldn’t help but notice that my friends all have much cooler cell phones than I do.

Their phones have keyboards and GPS and Internet and cool ring-tones.

Mine has 78 photos of the inside of my purse.

Not that I’d actually know what to do with a cool cell phone if I had one, but since I’ve managed to get the hang of tweeting and blogging over the past two weeks, I have high hopes that I will someday own and master such a device.

Then again, my history with text messaging suggests otherwise.

I received my very first text message about two years ago. I was so pleased with myself for being able to open it, and even more pleased that it required only a simple “yes” or “no” reply.

I fumbled with the buttons for the better part of the morning. Finally, I managed to reply with neither “yes” nor “no,” but “moss.”

Surprisingly, my friend did not find this helpful.

Several months later, I got my second text message. It was the same friend, and this time we were both celebrating the outcome of an election. I meant to type something clever and witty, like “f**k yeah” (which is considered very clever and witty after five glasses of wine).

The response I sent was “feed.”

Thoroughly annoyed with me, my friend took my phone away the next time we met and magically reprogrammed it so I could send text messages that actually made sense.

In theory, anyway.

A new problem has arisen now that I’ve managed to send more than a handful of text messages. My phone – helpful creature that it is – feels compelled to complete words for me based on similar words I’ve typed in the past.

Considering the words I’ve typed in the past, this isn’t a good thing. Recently, I tried to text a friend to let her know that I would see her the next night.

Naturally, my phone concluded that I was trying to tell my friend I would see her next nipple.

So I haven’t managed to master technology yet, but I’m trying. Who knows? Maybe amid all this blogging and texting and tweeting, I’ll even find time to write another book.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No really, it's just for the articles

I love Playboy magazine.

As a woman, I’m probably not supposed to admit that. I’m probably supposed to complain about the vile exploitation of the female form and the unfortunate glorification of airbrushed bodies and big fake sweater potatoes.

To be honest, I’m only dimly aware that there are, in fact, naked pictures in the magazine. I love it for the written content – the articles, the political commentaries, the jokes, the short fiction, the advisor column, and most importantly, the recipes.

This mortifies Pythagoras to no end. When he came home one evening to find me with a Playboy spread open beside the stove and a houseful of guests awaiting dinner, I could see he was seriously considering running away from home. He opted to stay when he realized the recipe I was referencing for White Chili was pretty damn good, even if it was printed beside a photo of a woman in a glitter-crusted thong.

For the record, the subscription is mine. Hey, I’ll admit it proudly, though Pythagoras has pleaded with me to quit starting conversations with, “I just read in Playboy. . .”

However, he surprised me last week by showing an unexpected interest in my chosen reference tool. Upon emerging from his favorite reading room, he handed me the newest issue with an expression somewhere between guilt and grudging appreciation. “There’s an article I think you’d like about social advertising and the changing face of marketing.”

And indeed, I did like it! Ben Parr’s piece on "The New Ad Age" discussed the evolution of social media and its role in advertising. To quote, “We’re often scared of new technology at first but embrace it as its usefulness becomes apparent.”

Very true! I’ll admit my brilliant and talented agent Michelle Wolfson had to drag me kicking and screaming to the realm of blogging and Twitter. Now that I’m here, I’m quite pleased to discover a whole new world of opportunity for making friends, learning new things, and building a platform for my future writing career.

In that respect, I suppose I owe a thank you to Michelle, Pythagoras, and Playboy in equal measure for honing my appreciation of social media.

Now why do I suspect none of them would appreciate seeing that acknowledgment in a book someday?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Being funny without trying

Agent Kristin Nelson recently shared a collection of church bulletin bloopers. In addition to providing a good laugh, the blog post served as a good reminder to me that the funniest humor often stems from things that aren’t meant to be funny at all.

Many moons ago while working as a newspaper reporter, I was editing an article about a guest speaker who would be talking about buffalo diseases. Clearly this was to be a sellout event. While reviewing the speaker’s bio, I stumbled across the following sentence:

John Doe became an expert on Brucellosis during the six years he spent as a buffalo in Yellowstone Park.

Once I stopped laughing and picked myself up off the floor, I did a little research and discovered that John Doe had not actually spent six years crawling around a national park on all fours eating grass. The missing word was “herder.”

It’s been more than a decade, but I still can’t type that sentence without risking laughter-induced incontinence.

Another bout of accidental humor came a number of years later when I was writing my very first love scene in a novel. It was risqué and steamy and took place in a shower. I was feeling pretty proud of it until I got the following note back from one of my critique partners:

“I know he’s a great lover and all, but did you mean to have him lick the back of his own neck?”

Upon closer inspection, I realized I had used the pronoun “his” when I meant to use “her” to describe the hero trailing his tongue along some exposed flesh. I briefly considered leaving it the way it was, as I’m certain many female readers could see the merits of such a skill. Eventually, I decided the sex appeal would be negated by the hero’s habit of using his exceptional tongue to bathe and catch insects.

Now that I’m writing humorous fiction, almost everything I write these days is supposed to be funny. Even so, it’s humbling to know that I’m never quite as funny as when I don’t mean to be.

Got any amusing typos to share? Leave them in the comments so we can all have a good laugh today.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My real life romance novel . . . um, kinda

Love is in the air today! Or maybe that’s just the gorgonzola the dog snatched last night.

No matter, tomorrow marks my twelfth wedding anniversary with Pythagoras, and as I promised yesterday, I’ll be sharing the details of our oh-so-romantic betrothal.

Pythagoras and I met as college roommates, and by the time we’d finished school, had moved beyond the realm of two strangers sharing an apartment and into the realm of two people sharing bodily fluids.

Though we’d talked about marriage in the vague “probably someday” sense, we were in no hurry. I think we both pictured something small, maybe a backyard barbecue with a few drunk relatives and a justice of the peace.

Shortly before Valentine’s Day, I spotted an ad enticing people to sign up to win a free wedding at halftime during Portland Trail Blazer game. “We should enter that,” I told Pythagoras, my mind focused mostly on the words “free” and “win.”

“Sure,” said Pythagoras, his mind focused mostly on the pizza we planned to have for dinner.

Though neither of us is much of a basketball fan, I filled out the form and mailed it in along with a photo of the two of us.

On Friday evening, the phone rang. Pythagoras was busy tuning his skis, so I answered.

“Hello?” I asked, expecting a telemarketer.

“Hi, is this Tawna?”

Pleased at my name pronounced correctly, I confirmed my identity. The woman then identified herself as a representative of the Portland Trail Blazers.

“Congratulations,” she gushed. “We’ve chosen you to get married next Friday at center court when the Blazers play Houston.”

“Cool,” I said. “Can you hold on a minute?”


I set the phone down and turned to Pythagoras. “Hey, Pythagoras?”


“We just won a wedding next Friday. Want to get married?”

“Sure,” he agreed, barely glancing up from his skis.

I stared at my future groom, not sure he was grasping the situation. “It’s a real wedding, you know. ‘Til death do us part?”

“No problem. I’m not planning to die for awhile.”

“OK. You do know this takes place in the middle of an NBA basketball game with thousands of people watching?”

Pythagoras paled a little at that, and finally looked up from his skis. “I’m marrying you, right?" Not someone randomly chosen from the audience?”

“You’re marrying me,” I confirmed.

“I’m in.”

So we agreed to this romantic arrangement, which kicked off a surprisingly stress-free wedding week in which we were provided with everything required to form a blessed union. Rings, tuxes, dresses, cake, flowers, hairdos, even a brief honeymoon in San Francisco – all of it was taken care of as long as we showed up to be measured, coiffed and photographed.

The ceremony itself was less than five minutes long, and took place in front of 21,000 of our closest friends and family, most of whom were stuffing their faces with nachos and gawking at the Blazer Dancers in their tiny tuxedo outfits.

When we were pronounced man and wife, someone yelled drunkenly at Pythagoras, “Your life is over, man!”

Pythagoras beamed at me proudly. “How many guys get heckled at their wedding?”

“You’re a lucky man,” I agreed.

And unlike a romance novel hero who would sweep his new bride into his arms and whisper, “I’m a lucky man indeed,” Pythagoras just grinned wider. “Think they’ll let us watch the rest of the game?”

So that’s the story of my real life romance. Yes, it’s a bit offbeat. No, it probably wouldn’t fit the conventions of most romance novels. But based on the last twelve years, I’d say it fits my idea of romance just perfectly.

Our Portland Trail Blazer Wedding. If only all 21,000 guests had brought gifts!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The wacky side of romance

I’ve always been a slut for romance novels.

In high school I worked hard to hone my talent for snatching any bodice-ripper romance novel out of a garage sale bin and locating a major love scene in under a minute. It was a skill based largely on my ability to skim for words like “heaving” and “moan” and “thighs” and “pounding,” but a skill nonetheless.

Sadly, it’s one that’s gone largely unappreciated by my employers.

One of the first things I did after graduating with a degree in English Literature was drive to a thrift store and cram an oversized garbage back with as many romance novels as I could carry. I spent the summer devouring those books, loving every gasp and whimper and flirtatious frolic in a meadow.

But despite my appreciation for the more traditional romances, my real passion is for the ones that are a little more offbeat. Those authors who can take something decidedly unromantic and turn it into something that makes me want to toss my panties on a chandelier.

Take Jennifer Crusie, for example. Any author can set a love scene in a candlelit room with rose petals on the bed, but Crusie can do it in a miserable, stifling attic with a heroine whose mind isn’t in the moment and a hero who turns her on by throwing a lamp and an alarm clock at the wall (read WELCOME TO TEMPTATION if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

In Tiffanie DeBartolo’s HOW TO KILL A ROCK STAR, one of the sexiest scenes in the whole book has the heroine sitting backstage on a crate while the hero plays guitar onstage. The two don’t even touch, yet it’s one of those pulse-pounding scenes you’ll find yourself daydreaming about on the subway two months later (and when you’re all flushed and sweaty, you can tell your seatmates you have a highly contagious disease. More room for you!)

And don’t even get me started on Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER series. When my book club’s ringleader described a 660-page novel about time travel in the Scottish Highlands in 1743, she pretty much hit every hot button of what I don’t like to read. Then she whispered scandalously, “everyone I know who read it swore it spiced up their marriage.” Sign us up! And somehow, Gabaldon managed to take these improbable situations with unwashed bodies, a forced marriage, and a virgin groom and create these unbelievably hot love scenes over and over and over and over and . . .

Where was I?

Oh, right. So when it comes to my own writing, I’ll admit I take my fondness for offbeat romance to the extreme. Fortunately, this is something my brilliant and talented agent Michelle Wolfson seems to like about me, which is probably why she didn’t have a stroke when I told her I wanted to write a sexy mystery set in a landfill. I’m very happy that Michelle loves GETTING DUMPED as much as I do, and we’re excited about our upcoming quest to find the editor (and readers!) who share our enthusiasm.

My other current project, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, falls more squarely into the romantic comedy realm. There’s a scene where my heroine says to the hero, “This has to be least romantic courtship in the history of the planet.” In my mind, that line existed before I wrote a single word of the book. Every scene I wrote leading up to that line was crafted so the reader would reach that point and say, “you know, it is the least romantic courtship – but damn if it I don’t want to jump the mailman right now.”

Don’t do this, by the way. Mailmen carry mace.

At any rate, I’m crossing my fingers there are plenty of others out there with a fondness for offbeat romance. Based on feedback from my critique partners, beta readers, and agent (who are never afraid to tell me when I suck) these stories don’t suck. Thank God.

In the meantime, I’m pleased to announce that Saturday marks my twelfth wedding anniversary with Pythagoras. Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you the least romantic engagement story on the planet – and why it’s precisely the kind of romance I love.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Where fiction meets reality: the litter box

Though last Friday’s post showed that I’m a big fat liar when it comes to inventing characters, I’ll admit that not all of them are products of my imagination.

Despite being an animal nut, I don’t often include pets in my stories. Maybe it’s that I didn’t want to pee on the turf of some of my idols, Jennifer Crusie, Janet Evanovich, and Kristan Higgins, all of whom feature animals in their books.

Or maybe it’s just that I didn’t want to play favorites. My pets read my manuscripts, and the Australian Shepherd would be a real bastard if I portrayed him in a poor light.

But when I began writing GETTING DUMPED, my friend Larie (owner of the fabulous Clutch: a handbag boutique that partly inspired the story) insisted that a pet would make my heroine more sympathetic.

I rounded up our two dogs and three cats, surveying the brood for the most sympathetic character. It didn’t take long. Napping facedown on Pythagoras’ sneaker was Blue Cat.

Blue Cat’s mere presence in our home is all about sympathy. I spotted him in a lineup of death-row shelter cats a couple years ago. He was shaved nearly bald, and what little fur he had stuck out around his face like a matted blue-gray mane. Despite being hairless, he was enormous. His tag declared him to be 12 years old and a resident of the animal shelter for the better part of a year (minus a brief stint where he was adopted, matted beyond repair, and returned to the shelter for shaving and more incarceration).

I’m a sucker for pet sob stories anyway, but I knew a bald, oversized, elderly cat that had been in the pound for a year wouldn’t be high on anyone’s adoption list. Since we already had several elderly pets at the time, one more wouldn’t hurt.

On our first trip to the vet, Blue Cat threw such a screaming conniption fit that the vet tech nearly sent us home. When the vet came in, she bravely wrestled him to the floor and pried open his jaws. “This cat isn’t twelve,” she said as she inspected his fangs. “He’s more like three or four.”

Oh. That might explain the vigor he shows when chasing the dogs around the house. Or his youthful enthusiasm for hitting – not clawing, literally hitting – anyone who irritates him.

In spite of his occasional cantankerous attitude, Blue Cat is one of the most loving members of the pack. He weighs as much as a small car, but still loves to park himself on my chest every morning and purr so hard he shakes the bed. He’s afraid of nothing – not dogs, not houseguests, not even the vacuum cleaner.

So Blue Cat seemed like a perfect match for my spunky, independent heroine JJ (who deliberately purchases a blue-gray sofa to mask cat fur, and knows better than to expect her pet to come to her rescue at any point in the story).

I’m not certain what will eventually happen with GETTING DUMPED, though I know my fabulous agent Michelle Wolfson has a game plan.

But I do know that Blue Cat is here to stay. Lord knows I couldn’t lift him anyway.

When he's feeling generous Blue Cat will allow the dog to sleep on her own bed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I'm not procrastinating, I'm percolating

Though I may have my American citizenship revoked for this, I’m going to say it anyway:

I don’t like television.

It’s partly that I just don’t have an interest, and partly that I have the attention span of a gnat. I’d rather read or hike or alphabetize my nail polish.

Don’t get me wrong, I do sometimes watch. Rarely on my own, but if a friend calls and says “Let’s drink wine and watch The Bachelor,” I can be lured by the first three words into participating in the last three.

That fact that I don’t like television renders me a bit out-of-touch with the rest of humanity. When I failed to understand the umteenth TV-culture reference over Thanksgiving dinner, my mother sent me an exasperated look and said, “talking to you is like talking to an Amish person.”

But despite the downside of my failure to engage in this most noble of American pastimes, there are two distinct advantages to it.

The first is that I have several extra hours a day in which to write, cook, hike, read, ponder, or do anything else that tickles my fancy (including ticking my fancy, which as you can imagine, takes a lot of time).

But the second thing is something I didn’t realize until one of my critique partners told me last week about an educational special she saw on TV. I don’t recall the details (attention span of a gnat, remember?) but the gist was that scientists determined the segments of the brain responsible for creativity are most active when the brain is in neutral gear.

Watching TV doesn’t count – the brain is too engaged – and same goes for reading a book. But doing the dishes, petting the cat, taking a walk, staring off into space – those are all effective ways to downshift your brain and kick-start your creativity.

It makes sense. Though I never did it for scientific purposes, I’ve always noticed that if I’m writing a scene that just isn’t working, the best thing to do is leash the beasts and go for a long hike in the woods. My objective is usually to get the hell away from the story, so I deliberately avoid thinking about it. Even so, nine times out of ten I’ll return to my computer with a brand new idea my brain somehow cooked up while I was scolding the dog for eating goose poop.

So for all you writers out there, it’s a good reminder not to feel guilty if you find yourself procrastinating by baking banana bread or cleaning lint out of your belly button (though not at the same time, I would hope). You’re not procrastinating – you’re percolating.

And on that note, it’s time to go percolate while I clean the aquarium.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Writing makes me rip out my own hair . . . no, really

My mother hates that photo of me in the sidebar. She says my smile isn’t “natural.”

Normally I’d just write it off as Mom being . . . well, Mom. But a few friends voiced the same sentiment, and since the photo is two years old, it’s time for a new one.

Lucky for me, I’m friends with wildly talented photographer Claudine Birgy. She agreed to take some new pictures in the coming week, so yesterday seemed like a good idea to wax my own eyebrows.

This is like saying it seemed like a good idea to smear my hand with rubber cement and light it on fire. I’ve done both, often with dismal results. You’d think I’d learn my lesson, but clearly the dogged determination that has fueled my writing career has also given me a bizarre over-confidence in my ability to groom myself.

Case in point: a couple years ago, I accidentally waxed a half-inch bald patch right through the middle of my left eyebrow. After several vain attempts at an eyebrow “comb-over,” I decided to draw in the missing hair.

Admittedly I don’t wear much makeup, so I had limited tools at my disposal. I briefly considered a Sharpie marker before discovering a crusty eyeliner pencil in the back of a drawer. I quickly drew in the missing brow and hurried off to work.

Within minutes of my arrival in the office, it became clear that my artistry had somehow fallen short. A co-worker stopped me in the hall and studied my face with a frown. “Why is the middle of your eyebrow green?”

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson and just resigned myself to ponying up the $15 to have someone else groom what my mother lovingly calls my “Brooke Shields eyebrows,” but no. I’m nothing if not determined, and occasionally, I actually do a pretty good job.

Much to my surprise, yesterday was one of those occasions. OK, so the right one is a little crooked in the middle, and it’s possible the left one is a bit shorter, but I think I did OK overall.

So now I’m ready for my photo shoot. In the event that I’m fortunate enough to score a book deal in the coming year and the publisher wishes to use one of my new photos on the book jacket, my mother can rest assured that this is as “natural” as it gets.

Friday, February 5, 2010

How I'm inspired by dog doo

I love writing about offbeat characters and wacky scenarios. Those who’ve read my manuscripts sometimes ask how I come up with it. Real life? Imagination? Am I in therapy?

Here’s a roundabout answer to all of the above.

This morning I took my two beasts to the dog park. It’s a 20+ acre fenced area with places for dogs to frolic and sniff and do what dogs do. As we made our way from the parking lot to the park, a man race-walked past with a small black terrier attached to what appeared to be a women’s belt. The man was burly with a camouflage jacket and a tattoo of a spider on the back of his neck.

“Come on, Belinda,” he snapped when his dog paused to inspect my dog’s hind end.

Belinda cast an irritated look at her owner, trotted three steps, hunched up, and . . . well, did what dogs do.

The man grunted with obvious disgust, waited for Belinda to finish her business, and yanked her toward the park.

“Hey!” someone shouted. “What do you think you’re doing?”

We turned to see an elderly woman walking a small camel. On closer inspection, the camel turned out to be a Great Dane with a growth on its back. The woman had frizzy blue hair that looked like someone dipped her head in a cotton candy machine.

“You can’t leave that doody there!” she yelled.

“Doody?” the man asked, looking genuinely perplexed.

“Poop,” I offered helpfully. “You’re supposed to pick it up in a bag.”

“But I don’t have a bag,” he griped. “And the dispenser is way over there.”

The woman scowled. The Great Dane took a step forward. I took a step back. My dogs hid behind my legs.

“Do you know what the fine is for failing to pick up after your dog?” the woman hissed.

No one answered, probably because none of us knew the answer.

The man snorted. “Bite me, lady,” he said as he turned toward the park with Belinda trotting beside him.

“That’s it, fart-knocker!” the woman shrieked. “I’m calling the police right now!”

“Fart-knocker?” I repeated, committing it to memory for future use.

The woman grabbed a hot pink cell phone out of her pocket and began to dial.

“Stop!” the man yelled. “No cops.” His eyes were wild as he looked from me to the old woman.

“I’d give you a bag if I had one,” I said.

The man shook his head in disgust. Then he bent down and picked up Belinda’s doody with one gloved hand.

We watched him stalk away, hand out, palm-up. Beside me, my dogs whined. I looked down at them. “Just so you know, I’m never doing that for you.”

The woman marched off. “Come on, Ferguson,” she told her dog. “Let’s make sure he disposes of that properly.”

And that was that. See, I can’t make that stuff up!

Except I just did. All of it. OK, there was a moment at the dog park this morning where I forgot my bag and briefly considered sacrificing a glove to avoid being yelled at by the couple behind me. But the rest was made up.

It’s a good illustration of where these stories and characters come from. One little thing will trigger an idea that just keeps going and going as I wander around the dog park. Normally, I’d put a little more thought into a scene and its characters before posting something for all the world to see, but you get the idea.

Oh, and for the record, I went and got a bag for the dog doody. I’m no fart-knocker.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The fine art of funny

Um, so I was kinda kidding in Monday’s blog post when I mentioned penis jokes. But apparently my humor missed the mark (or more likely, people who read my blog are perverts) because I’ve had several emails from people wanting to know when I’m going to get to the penis jokes.

Fine, Grandma – I”ll tell one in just a minute, OK?

First, I want to talk a bit about humor.

Since I write humorous fiction, a good portion of my writing time is devoted to trying to be funny. Sometimes it comes naturally, and sometimes . . . well, not so much. Other times I’m funny when I don’t mean to be.

This actually ties to my point yesterday about everything being subjective.

I work with an amazing group of women who serve as critique partners and beta readers for me. My critique partners, Linda Brundage and Cynthia Reese are both PHENOMENAL writers with whom I swap ideas, critiques, and general bitching. My three beta readers are all book nuts with eagle eyes and strong opinions they’re not afraid to share with me. To say I couldn’t do this without all of them would be a disgusting understatement.

Recently, all five women critiqued my newest manuscript, BELIEVE IT OR NOT. They all did a bang-up job catching plot holes and typos, but on top of all that, they were all more diligent than usual about flagging scenes that were funny.

As one of my beta readers put it, “I thought it might be helpful for you to see what made me laugh so you’d know if there were any long stretches without humor.”

I thought it was a terrific idea, and Lord knows I love to know what makes people chuckle.

But here’s the funny part – they were all amused by different things. One beta reader had a clear fondness for any jokes that were alcohol-inspired. One critique partner loved all the deadpan humor, while the other seemed to gravitate toward the more goofy stuff. Still another reader kept laughing at things I hadn’t realized were funny. The third beta reader – pervert that she is – giggled like a fiend over all the raunchy stuff.

It was a terrific reminder for me that not everyone has the same sense of humor, but if I do my job right, I can make sure there’s something in my books to tickle everyone’s funny bone.

OK, OK . . . keep your pants on, Grandma. Here’s your penis joke:

An old man and an old woman are sitting together at their nursing home.

“Bet I can tell how old you are,” says the old woman.

“No way,” says the old man.

“Sure,” she replies. “Pull down your pants.”

Intrigued, the old man complies. The woman studies him thoughtfully for a moment.

“You’re 89 years old,” she reports.

“Wow, how did you do that?” he asks, buttoning up his pants.

“You told me yesterday.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My drinking club has a book problem

For more than a decade now, I’ve been a member of a book club.

OK, if you want to split hairs, it’s probably more of a wine club that loves to read. Nevertheless, we’ve been together an awfully long time, sharing our mutual fondness for reading, eating, and drinking (not always in that order).

We get together once a month and read selections ranging from classic literature to bestsellers to poetry to smut. We’re proudly devouring an Emma Holly erotica title for Valentine’s month, which will be followed in March by Kathryn Stockett’s critically acclaimed novel THE HELP.

Eclectic tastes, to say the least.

Over the years, we’ve eaten a lot of great food, consumed oceans of wine, and have watched our membership fluctuate between six and 20+. There’s a 25-year age difference between our eldest member and our youngest, and our group includes women with wildly different lifestyles, political views, and beverage preferences.

It goes without saying that we often have vastly different perspectives on the books we read. That’s the whole point, really.

Last August, we read Tiffanie DeBartolo’s HOW TO KILL A ROCK STAR, an amazing novel released in 2005 from Sourcebooks. If you haven’t read it, go buy it right now.

Our discussion became heated when one member dared to suggest she didn’t particularly care for the narrator. In a room full of readers who had developed a sisterly love for this character over the course of 352 pages, this was akin to calling the sister a skank. I had to remove the wine bottles from the table in case a fight broke out.

For the most part though, it was a fun discussion, and a good reminder of one of the key mantras of the publishing industry:

It’s all subjective.

What one reader, editor, or agent hates, another may fall in love with. We all want to believe there’s a magic bullet in publishing – a “right way” or a “wrong way” to read a book or to write one. Believe me, I’ve seen plenty of feedback from editors and it never ceases to amaze me how varied it can be. These are smart, accomplished, professional editors with extensive careers in publishing. They certainly don’t all agree on what makes a good book or a bad one. Why should we?

So I’ve learned not to take it personally when an editor rejects my masterpiece, or a book club member hates a book I picked, or when my brilliant and talented agent sends me back to the drawing board to rewrite the marketing hooks I was so certain were perfect.

Just don’t question my taste in wine, OK? Thems fightin’ words.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Word soup with a side of crusty sourdough

I’m proud to report that I managed to repulse both my agent and a critique partner with yesterday’s blog post. They’ve refused any future invitations I might extend for them to join me at my house for a glass of milk.

But since we’re discussing the contents of my refrigerator (and since I promised to talk about something writing related) I should confess that I love to cook. I own three-dozen cookbooks and consider a delightful form of Internet porn. I have a lust for sauces and marinades, and achieve a near-orgasmic thrill from creating my own recipes from scratch.

Though Pythagoras will cheerfully eat anything I set in front of him, I suspect he’d be content to eat Top Ramen every night. Even so, he always makes an effort to compliment my cooking. Unfortunately, he tends to zero in on the item that required the least effort. I could spend a whole day preparing an elaborate German feast of Sauerbraten (marinated for two days, natch), red cabbage, fennel salad, and homemade spatzle, with a loaf of store-bought sourdough bread tossed on the table as an afterthought.

Inevitably, Pythagoras will compliment the bread.

What does this have to do with writing? I’m getting there.

I recently had a conversation with one of my critique partners, the amazing Linda Brundage, who was reviewing feedback she’d just received on her new manuscript.

“It’s funny,” she said, “I’ll spend days slaving over a scene trying to get every word perfect, and no one will comment. Then I’ll have a scene that I totally phoned in, something I dashed off one night when I was too tired to be creative. And all my critique partners will love it.”

This was one of those special bonding moments we writers cling to because they remind us we aren’t totally nuts.

There’s a scene in my recent manuscript, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, where my two main characters are chatting on the sofa. I recall being mildly brain dead while writing it, and I slogged through with no idea what the hell I was hoping to accomplish. I made a mental note to go back and fix or remove it, but like mental notes are wont to do, this one ended up in a crumpled ball in a dark corner of my brain.

The draft made the rounds to my two critique partners and three beta readers, and every single one of them commented on that scene. They loved the dialogue. They enjoyed the character development. One person even laughed at a joke I didn’t realize I’d made.

“Yes,” I told them, sounding writerly and wise. “I meant to do that.”

I’m not suggesting one should never slave over an elaborate scene or a complicated meal. If nothing else, it’s a good way to hone your skills. But I am slowly learning to give myself a little more credit for the less complicated endeavors in life. Just because a scene or a Sauerbraten takes all day doesn’t make it any more fabulous than a grilled cheese sandwich and half-a-page of drivel dashed off when you’re grouchy and hung over.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find a recipe for Pompano En Papillote with a light buerre blanc.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pythagoras and the milk moustache

My brilliant and talented agent, Michelle Wolfson, has dragged me from the realm of “creepy people who lurk on blogs and Twitter” into the realm of people who actually participate in such things. Apparently the thought of me hunkered in a dark corner breathing heavily and staring glassy-eyed at the crowd is not an image that will sell books.

So here I am!

My first order of business as a real blogging author is to discuss the complexities inherent in poststructuralist strategies toward the analysis of contemporary romance and the various unconstrained interpretation of oedipal patterns in such works.


OK, really, my first order of business is to name my husband. Because despite the fact that I allowed him to keep his surname when we wed, I feel better giving him one more layer of privacy from this blog. After all, his profession isn’t one that operates on the same wavelength as an author with a fondness for penis jokes.

Helpful guy that he is, he kindly suggested “Long Dong Silver.” I suggested he keep thinking. He swiftly ruled out “Love Chicken” and “Guy Who Leaves the Toilet Seat Up,” which really left us with very few options.

Inspired by our trip to Greece last summer (or perhaps by the ouzo) we decided to consider ancient Greek names. Eventually, we both agreed that Pythagoras had a nice ring to it.

Let’s give it a try, shall we?

So Pythagoras called me the other day as he was leaving work.

“I’m glad you called, Pythagoras,” I told him. “Could you grab a two-pack of milk on your way home?”

Pythagoras assured me he would collect the requested two gallons of skim, and since I had plans that evening, I wasn’t home to see whether he completed the task. The next morning, I opened the fridge to discover it disconcertingly milkless. I huffed out and bought a two-pack of milk.

When Pythagoras returned from work, I was required by our marriage contract to point out his failure. “So Pythagoras, you didn’t get milk yesterday?”

Pythagoras frowned. “Yes I did,”

“I see. So where is it?”

Pythagoras thought about that for a moment. “It must be in the trunk.”

“Of course it is. In case you get thirsty on your way to work?”

Pythagoras ignored me and marched out to the garage. He returned moments later proudly bearing two gallons of milk. He lined them up on the counter next to the ones I bought and nodded thoughtfully at our four gallons of milk.

“What are all our friends doing tonight?” Pythagoras asked.

“I have no idea.”

Pythagoras smiled at me. “We should invite them all over for milk.”

Our friends proved useless in our quest to diminish our milk supply, so Pythagoras spent the next few days drinking milk at an alarming rate. Somehow, we made it to the final cup with several days to spare before the expiration date.

“See,” Pythagoras told me as he wiped his milk moustache. “We really did need four gallons of milk.”


So there you have it. We managed to consume a disturbing quantity of milk, test-drive my husband’s new pseudonym, and complete my first official blog entry as an author. At some point, I might even consider blogging about something related to writing.

Tomorrow: formalist strategies for analyzing the structure of the psychological themes in Oberiu Russian poetry in the context of the canonical dilemmas facing such works.

Or maybe I’ll tell some penis jokes.