Blogfest: Hook, Line & Sinker

For this blogfest, you are required to post 500-1000 words of your story’s or novel’s “hook” and then go visit the other participants’ sites to critique their hooks in turn. I had a tough time choosing what to post. For one thing, I’ve been mostly writing plays and screenplays lately. For another, while I really feel St. Peter in Chains is a strong work, I get the sense it’s not for everyone; most blogfest people (from what I gather) write and are interested in sci-fi and fantasy.

I finally decided to post the first part of my novella The K-Pro, which is one of the projects I hope to finish over the year (it’s on my list of goals). It is, at the outside, a sort of paranormal romantic comedy, if there is such a thing. Up-and-coming British actor David Styles finds himself hopelessly entangled with Andra Martineau, who is a Kleidouchos Propilaya, or K-Pro for short, a sort of granter of wishes. Andra is convinced David called her, that he must want something, but he insists he didn’t. And Andra begins to realize there’s something very different about David . . . Something even he doesn’t know . . .

This, then, is the opening of The K-Pro:

The scent of the hydrangeas carried across the wide lawn, pushed along by the ocean breeze. The combined smell of flowers and salt water, along with the remainder of uneaten dinner littering the table and the musk of wine on everyone’s breath, was enough to turn David’s stomach. He sat back and watched the sky grow steadily darker, idly wondering how long he was expected to stay.

No one tried to talk to him. Everyone here knew him too well for that, thank God. They’d been filming for a week and staying in the house—well, the principals had been staying in the house; everyone else was in trailers or local hotels—but soon they would finish with this bit and move on to another location. In the meantime, nearly everyone was looking at this as a sort of paid holiday. Everyone but David, who took the work too seriously to relax. He’d been an actor for eight years, but most people wouldn’t know it since he’d only begun to be noticed over the past two or three. His working philosophy was to keep his head down and barrel forward, ever building what looked to become a fair-sized empire if his luck continued.

“David Styles,” said Alfred from across the table, drawing the words out so the name was long and somehow heavy. There were more wine stains in front of Alfred’s seat than anywhere else on the white linen cloth. “What are you thinking about over there?”

Well, almost everyone knew him too well to try striking up a conversation. Or more likely, Alfred knew perfectly well and simply didn’t care.

“Tomorrow’s scenes,” David said.

“Rehearsing your lines?”

David made a noncommittal noise and pushed back his chair. “Early call time.”

“Beauty sleep,” said Alfred. “Who needs it? Let the makeup artists earn their keep, I say.”

On Alfred’s other side, Liz turned. “They earn their keep on you even when you’ve had enough sleep,” she told Alfred, and he laughed, too long and too loudly.

David stood and heads swung his way. A chorus of “good night” rained around him. No one tried to stop him, to talk him out of leaving. He exited the patio, now reliant on the lanterns that lined its margins, and went inside to be enfolded by the warm, dim glow of chandeliers and the chill of too much air-con.

It was a lovely house, an old and grand estate that was as much a movie star as David had ever wanted to be. In fact, the damn house probably had more credits than David did. But not for long, he told himself. No, he was on the rise now; after this project there were three others in the wings, and his agent had new scripts for him to look at almost daily. He should be pleased. He was pleased. His life was turning out to be everything he’d aspired to.

But as he trudged up the richly carpeted stairs, David felt tired. Overextended. He needed a real holiday, he supposed, and reasoned that maybe he’d finally reached a point in his career when he could afford to take one without missing any opportunities.

Did he have any down time between this project and the next? He’d ask Walter in the morning.

He reached his room, a nice room with big windows but no balcony. He wasn’t the lead, after all. It was an ensemble cast, but his name wouldn’t even be above the title. Not yet. Not this project, and maybe not the next, but that was coming. That, and the room with the balcony, and creative input on the scripts, a producer credit . . . All of it was on the horizon.

But for now, this would do. Even though he’d showered before dinner, David hopped in again. He couldn’t sleep without having showered first. Quirk. Kind of thing that would turn up in a magazine one day. He made it quick, pulled on clean boxers and went to lie down. Alone.

Not that it had to be that way; David had come far enough that he had good chances of company in bed when he wanted it. But he found it to be like rich foods—too much indulgence gave him a sour stomach. That, and almost a decade with Marjorie had made him the relationship equivalent of lactose intolerant. He’d only recently shaken her loose—his broadening prospects necessitated keeping his options open—and if there was a tiny amount of guilt preventing him from moving forward on that front, David supposed that was normal. He’d get over it and so would she. Better to have done it now than when his career really started snowballing. Then it would have been so much tabloid fodder. He’d done them both a favor, really, breaking it off when he did.

These are the things David told himself as he drifted off to sleep, alone in the oversized bedroom of an old English estate house that was serving as the shooting location for a movie in which he was, if not starring, at least majorly featured.

Name on the poster. Second to last, but they were alphabetical. Not much he could do about that aside from possibly change his name.

David Styles.

No, that was good. Easy to say, and no one was likely to misprint it.

And Margie had been proud of him, she’d said as much, and a little bit jealous of David’s growing popularity, though she’d never said that of course.

David wasn’t aware of having fallen asleep until he woke up. His last coherent thought had been along the lines of how stupid it was Margie had spelled her full name with a “j” but her nickname with a “g,” something that had always bothered him. And as he opened his eyes (fan sites having reliably informed him that his clear blue eyes were his best feature), he imagined for a moment that Margie was there, in the bed. But no. She wasn’t.

Margie was blond, you see. The head sharing David’s pillow was auburn.

Sign up for this blogfest here.

My 80s Crush

I should start by saying that in 1980 I was four years old and a little young for crushes. I really don’t remember much of the 80s as a whole, aside from a vague notion of Ronald Reagan as president (and that Genesis video with the puppets), and a fear of Russians, except that in my mind all Russians looked something like Gene Hackman, and so really I had a fear of, well, Gene Hackman.

I’ve had people make suggestions: Richard Dean Anderson (aka MacGyver). Yes, but I didn’t actually get into that show until the early 90s. And while I admired MacGyver, I didn’t have any romantic feelings for him or anything. Robert Downey Jr. I do like him—now. But in the 80s I didn’t know who he was because I was too young to see the kinds of movies he was in. Jonathan Frakes (aka Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation). I was a ST:TNG fan, true, but again, no especial romantic attachment to the characters or actors.

So after some thought and once I sifted down I discovered there are, perhaps, two potential candidates for this blogfest. The first would be Harrison Ford. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the first movie I can remember seeing in a cinema. (My parents swear my first movie was Bambi, but I don’t remember that at all.) I was under this strange impression that the main character’s name was Petey and was, because of his hat, some kind of cowboy, but these misunderstandings aside, the film made a terrific impression on me. I went over to my best friend’s house and forced her to play endless games of Indiana Jones (once I’d been corrected on the name). I was also aware that Indy was the same person as Han Solo from Star Wars, and since Star Wars was my best friend’s favorite movie, it was easy to marry the two into one game by making Han and Indy cousins.

Still, wanting to be someone is decidedly different than wanting to be with them. I was too young to want to be with anyone romantically; I only wanted to have adventures.

Candidate #2 came a few years later, when I was on the cusp of understanding “attraction.” It’s a movie I mention often enough here: Young Sherlock Holmes, starring Nicholas Rowe. That movie came out when I was nine, and while a part of me wanted to be Holmes—the clever one, the hero—a bigger part of me wanted to be Elizabeth. She was pretty, and moderately smart, and very pert, and most importantly: Holmes loved her. In my mind, nothing could be more perfect.

I think the influence of that movie, and of Rowe in the lead role, bred my predilection for tall, thin men with accents and messy hair who are somewhat more interesting looking than classically handsome. (Though growing up in a house filled with Sherlock Holmes in varying incarnations may also have had something to do with all that.) I was still too young to want anything more than, say, hand holding or, at a stretch, maybe a kiss (though the very idea embarrassed me without me understanding exactly why), or really just to be saved by the hero for once instead of being the hero myself. But I look at it this way: though I didn’t have fan posters in my room until I was much older, if there had been one in my room at age nine, it would have been of Young Sherlock Holmes and/or Nicholas Rowe. So using that as a rule of thumb, he comes out on top when attempting to gauge my budding interest in the opposite sex circa the 1980s.


Favorite Character Blogfest

Hosted by Laura Josephsen. There are prizes and everything!

The blogfest runs from January 23-25. Here’s how it works:

1. Decide which of your characters you’d like to introduce everyone to, and choose a snippet about this character (preferably no more than 200 words) to share about this character. (A snippet from your manuscript would be awesome, but if you’re not comfortable with that, you can choose to do a character sketch—something to show us your character and writing.)

2. Between January 23-25, tell us who your favorite character you’ve written is and why and post your snippet.

3. Hop around to other participants to check out their favorite characters and a bit of their story.

The lovely Melanie Billings, Acquisitions Editor at Whiskey Creek Press, has graciously offered to supply critiques as prizes! Winners will be drawn from the list of active participants after midnight on the 25th and announced on my blog on the 26th.

1st Prize: critique of first 15 pages of your manuscript, an e-book copy of my book, Confessions from the Realm of the Underworld (Also Known as High School) and an ARC e-copy of my next book, Rising Book 1: Resistance (upcoming publication in February 2012)

2nd Prize: critique of first 10 pages of your manuscript and an e-book copy of Confessions from the Realm of the Underworld (Also Known as High School)

3rd Prize: critique of first 5 pages of your manuscript


I like writing men for some reason, and my character Peter Stoller in St. Peter in Chains is probably my favorite. He’s an intelligence agent (colloquially, a spy). Oh, and he’s gay, which is not something anyone he works with knows until he’s compromised by his lover. Oops.

The thing about Peter is that he’s fine with flings but has difficulty in long-term commitments. He’s not used to being “in love.” In St. Peter in Chains, when Peter meets Charles and begins to develop a real interest in him—one outside of a one-night stand—the result makes Peter distinctly uncomfortable:

There came, for Peter, that strange feeling of one’s life and world being carefully balanced on the edge of a knife. Anything he said or did would tip it—it had to tip, it couldn’t just stay teetering on the brink—but in what direction? That depended solely on what he said or did next. It was a familiar enough feeling given his line of work, but utterly alien when applied to relationships. The fear that welled when it was a life-or-death moment paled in comparison to the sudden terror that opened in him now.
. . .
It wasn’t natural for Peter to second-guess himself; he was, as a rule, a confident and competent man. And he’d had his share of flings—some were part of the job, others merely stress relief—but there was something different here. Peter thought he could really come to like Charles, if only they could get better acquainted. He just didn’t know how to go about that bit. And he didn’t know whether Charles wanted to go through all that effort.

What I like about writing Peter is that he’s complex and conflicted; there’s something lovely about slowly cutting a character’s heart in two. Sadistic, maybe, but lovely in the art of paring a person down to his basic elements.

Today: The Noughties Blogfest

This is the blogfest in which you list your favorite movies, music, books and so forth for each year from 2000 to 2009. Ah, a bygone era! (Visit Dave for more info.)


This seems like so long ago. It was the year matchbox twenty’s Mad Season came out, and I remember the first time I listened to it thinking, What the hell is this? Because it didn’t sound anything like their first album. But I continued to listen to it; it fact, it was on almost constant rotation as I wrote my thesis. I also got to see them play in Amherst that year.

Also the movie State and Main. To this day it’s one of my favorites.


Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Right? Came out just before my birthday, and what a treat. I grew up listening to my dad tell the stories of the Hobbit and Middle Earth (I had only read The Hobbit, never the others), so this was special to me, to see it come to life in such a wonderful way.

Also: Alias. Loved that show. I want Victor Garber for an honorary uncle.


Okay, I’ll go for something less obvious here. The Mothman Prophecies. That movie was seriously creepy. Oh, and the book Batavia’s Graveyard. More mainstream: The Two Towers, which is my favorite of the trilogy, and matchbox twenty’s More Than You Think You Are.


Runaway Jury. I really enjoyed that movie (and not only because I was in New Orleans for some of the filming of it–more that I love John Cusack). And of course, in television, this is the year Arrested Development debuted.

Notable concert: matchbox twenty with opening acts Sugar Ray and Maroon 5.


How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2. The Other Boylen Girl by Philippa Gregory. Also saw Rob Thomas play a special charity concert at the China Club in NYC, along with Jewel and Darryl Hall. Saw Jimmy Buffett play at Fenway Park. And got some of my first written works published.


Rob Thomas’s . . . Something to Be. I saw him live again at Avalon in Boston and also saw U2 live in concert for the first time. Jude Morgan’s Indiscretion. Robert Downey Jr’s rising star with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And the return of Doctor Who to the television schedule, as well as the premiere of Bones.


At this point I had an infant and did not have much time to watch or read or do much of anything, but I did go see V for Vendetta. And I read Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story.


Hot Fuzz is a classic, is it not? And I loved Alison Weir’s book Innocent Traitor as well as Jude Morgan’s An Accomplished Woman.


Cloverfield. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Weir’s The Lady Elizabeth and Stephen King’s Duma Key.


A year for books: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, One Day by David Nicholls, and Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby.

Also, Sherlock Holmes. And Rob Thomas’s Cradlesong (saw him in concert again). And OneRepublic’s Waking Up.

Bonus Bad Movie

I can’t believe I forgot to put Lady in the Water on my list from yesterday’s Worst Movies blogfest. Or as my husband calls it, Ron Howard’s Daughter Is in My Pool. I love M Night–hey! we have similar names!–but this movie was just . . . It was awful. Really. A cute idea in theory but hamhandedly executed.

Or maybe I just really hate movies with so much water?

Worst. Movies. Ever.

It’s another blogfest! Courtesy of Alex J Cavanaugh: the ten worst movies I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch.

Now this list is supposed to be theatrical or DVD releases (no made-for-TV movies), but that’s all good since I don’t watch made-for-TV movies. I won’t attempt to put these into any real order; they were all awful–though I’m sure plenty of people might disagree. Without further ado:

  1. Vampire’s Kiss. Okay, so in the interest of full disclosure, I have an issue with Nicolas Cage in general. But even if I didn’t, this movie was terrible. For a long time I used it as the ruler against which all other bad films were measured, asking myself, “But was it as bad as Vampire’s Kiss?”
  2. Queen of the Damned. I love Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, which is why this movie pained me so terribly. It was an incoherent mishmash, and Stuart Townsend was all wrong for Lestat–I mean, they couldn’t even bother to try and make him blond? And yes, I do understand that as Aaliyah’s last big moment, this film has a special place in many people’s hearts, but let’s face it: it’s bad.
  3. Daredevil. So bad vampire movies can be followed by bad superhero movies. I cringed my way through this one, almost ending up curled under the theater seat in a sort of duck-and-cover move designed to save myself from its atomic bomb of bad.
  4. Van Helsing. Yeah, okay, more vampire stuff. Either I watch a lot of vampire movies, or a lot of vampire movies are just really bad. Or both. But this movie . . . They kept ending up in the water, for one thing, which got irritating after a while. And it’s such a shame because I do love Hugh Jackman, but ugh.
  5. Jackie Brown. I know a lot of people love this movie, but I’m not sure why. Then again, I don’t remember anything about it except that I absolutely hated it. My brain has wiped out all other memories related to this film, probably for good reason. Which is why I won’t tempt fate by ever trying to view it again.
  6. Atonement. Another movie with a lot of water. It was supposed to be all artsy and whatever, but it just ended up beating the audience over the head with its, well, artiness. I hate movies that do that (or books, or anything); it’s like they’re proselytizing or something. A movie shouldn’t have to work that hard to make its point.
  7. Underworld. We walked out of this one. That’s how stupid and bad it was. Just an utter waste of time.
  8. Borat. Another one we walked out of. And it wasn’t that we were offended; it just wasn’t funny.
  9. Cradle Will Rock. Oh my God, I’m such a big John Cusack fan. Seriously. But this movie was awful. Such star power put to such bad, bad use.
  10. The Secret Lives of Dentists. Also a big Denis Leary fan. But not here.

That’s ten. The first ten that come to mind, though I’m sure if I kept thinking, some of these might be replaced by others. I have a film degree, after all; I’ve seen a lot of movies.

I know that a few on this list are generally considered crowd pleasers and/or cult favorites. Meh. I can’t help the way I feel about these things.