Thursday, February 28, 2013

Back From The Future Bloghop

(Dear Readers:  Please suspend disbelief now…)

You're up before dawn on a Saturday when the doorbell rings. You haven't brewed your coffee so you wonder if you imagined the sound. Plonking the half-filled carafe in the sink, you go to the front door and cautiously swing it open. No one there. As you cast your eyes to the ground, you see a parcel addressed to you ... from you.
You scoop it up and haul it inside, sensing something legitimate despite the extreme oddness of the situation. Carefully, you pry it open. Inside is a shoebox -- sent from ten years in the future -- and it's filled with items you have sent yourself.

What's in it?

 I pried open the lid of the box to find two envelopes and a very nicely knitted crème slouch hat:  The first letter was plain, white simple stationary with “Jill” written on the front and “Read This First” scrawled across it in what I recognized as my own loopy script.  The other envelope was a rather dusty and dirty business sized affair, with a cancelled stamp and other markings signifying it had made its rounds through the mail. It was addressed to me. 

Curious, I opened the envelope marked “Read this First!” and began to read.  It said:

Dear Jill.

I found this letter stuck behind the fridge and thought it looked important.  Being the superstitious type, I thought perhaps its contents might change our future life so with great effort I sent it to you through time and space.  I’ll not tell you anything I know about your/our future lest you screw it all up except this:  Under no circumstance should you get that pixie hair cut you are considering!  And since you never take anyone’s advice, I’ve sent along the hat.

Take good care.  Your family is well.
You/ Me

I regarded the other letter.  The return address was smudged and faded, though I could just make out the words “New York”.  It was from February 26, 2013.  What news could it hold?  Would it really change my life?  I opened it and read.

Dear Ms. Haugh,
Thank you for your recent query regarding representation, which we have now had an opportunity to consider.  Unfortunately, I don’t think our agency is going to be a right fit for your manuscript.  Many thanks and good luck in your endeavor.

Betista Readmore
Bigdeal Literary Agency

I picked up the phone and made a three o’clock appointment for a haircut.  I brought the hat—just in case.

~Just Jill

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Prankish Poem Published

I did not win a coveted place in the agent’s round over at Cupid’s Literary Connection.  C’est la vie.
However, I will forever be known for the “cockroach incident”, which is something at the very least.

Today, for your reading pleasure, I am going to post a poem I helped to "write" back in the dark ages in college.  Well, actually, a quartet of drunken English majors came up with it.  After a night of drinking wine and hob-snobbing our local college literary magazine for its rather “modern” taste in poetry, someone came up with the idea to publish our Scrabble game we had just finished, in order of words played, (and our scores) to see if it would get accepted and published.
It did.

Here it is:

Marla’s Voice
Bar )(
Bad Mad Yarn
No Gem Gag
Our Gave Hem.
Help! Snotty! Mint?
Queen Snot-Rag:
30, 22, 69, 26…Date!
At The Oil Spit Is Wed: Scar, Cruel, Woe, Sex.
Cuz Art We Knife. Zip.

We also contrived a bio for the author, who went by the mysterious one-name of “Dunkirk” .  This was obviously before the time everyone was hooked up to the nines through the internet, otherwise this bird would never have flown.

We even went so far as to send in a recording to be played at the poetry reading. (Someone knew someone in New Orleans who mailed it in for us.)  One of the Scrabble-poets (who does a bang-up Scottish accent) read it, and the recording speed was slowed down to sound like a 45 record played on 32.  (This will mean nothing to many of you.)  I recall it sounded a wee bit like Sean Connery on downers.  We were polite enough not to attend the reading.
We owned up to the prank via a phone message a month after graduation.  My apologies again to editors Rob and Carla.  It was nothing personal.  Just college high-jinx.  And who knows, perhaps it was—in its own odd way, a literary achievement…of sorts.
Well, that’s what I gotta do to get published, apparently.  Any crazy blue-stocking stunts in your closet?

~Just Jill

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Versitile Blogger Award and Spreading the Luv!


Well I’m just pickled tink!  Linda King over at “Excuse me while I note that down” nominated me for a most versatile blogger award!  This is my first and only nomination since I started blogging a few months ago, and it felt just loverly to find my name on her list.  Many thanks to Linda for the nod and I’m glad you have enjoyed my little nut-tree. 

So, the task at hand is I need to share seven things here-to-fore unknown things about myself?  Hmmm. And, they must be interesting? I shall try.
1)      I am quite possiby the worst typits on the palnet.  See?  I left that for proof.  I think my right hand is faster than my left.  I have typos in almost every sentence I write. I shall blame Mrs. Longway and all those piano lessons.  I always type “Blooger” and often call my own “bloog” "my little nit-tree."  (scratch-scratch)

2)      I met my husband in typing class in high-school.  He is still married to me—typos aside. I must have other talents... 

3)      We have two girls (11 and 3).  I had the three year-old when I was forty-three.  (C’mon.  You can do the math.)

4)    My current WIP is a MG fantasy novel about a young girl named Gia.  It involves time-travel, "dreamwalking" and takes place in Glastonbury, England--presently and in 1895.  It originated as a story I used to tell my oldest daughter before bedtime.

5)      Once, while working in a restaurant, and under pressure to help a rather snarky bee-yatch wrap up her lunch, pay and go, (all in ten seconds or less) I noticed there was a cockroach in the to-go container I had grabbed for her, but I dumped her left-over Thai salad on top of it anyway.  Bon Appetite!   (It was a little one and that was over twenty years ago.  Does that help?)

6)      I love to sing and I teach toddler music classes at our local library. (Videos for my under-five-year-old fans.)

7)      I’m a shameful Anglophile and love anything to do with England.  I annoy people often with my faux British accent, and oft use "whilst" whilst writing my blog.


Now, for my fifteen.  Hopefully you will find being nominated a warm fuzzy as I did, and not a chore.  Please know you have been chosen for versatility, moxie, and flair. I admire greatly what each and every one of you dutiful bloggers do and find your posts inspirational, thought-provoking and often-times high-larious.   I know several of you are very busy as of late, and might groan at having to put up fifteen links, but tough titties.  (Although if you really are too busy for such biggie.)

Alison DeLuca at “A Fresh Pot of Tea”
L.G. Smith at "Bards and Prophets"
Deborah Osborne at "The Wicked Queen's Mirror"
Julie Kemp Pick at "Empty Nest Insider"
Cathy Olliffe-Webster at "Life on the Muskoka River"

Joylene Nowell Butler at "A Moment in Time at Cluculz Lake"

Alex J. Cavenaugh at "Alex J. Cavanuagh"

David Haugh at "Musing from where I Sit, Stand & Sleep"

Julie Flanders at "Julie Flanders"

Jessika Fleck at "The Typewriter"

Johanna Garth at "Losing Sanity"
 Rosi Hollin Beck at "The Write Stuff"

Now get busy!

Monday, February 11, 2013

"Fortune" Stands on Her Own

Alas!  Today I leave behind titillating topics and scintillating stories for a bit of self-promotion.
(Collective groan and weak smattering of applause…)

Feel free to exit the theater doors now in a singular, orderly fashion.

My genre-crossing, much-queried (and much rejected) MG historical novel “The Play of Fortune” is up for perusal at Cupid’s Literary Connection, a blog which is graciously hosting a “Blind Speed Dating Contest” for writers and agents.  Today entries are open to the public for comments and the like.  My query, plus the first 250 words are listed as entry # 139.

Winners from this round are chosen by a preselected panel of esteemed writers and readers.  If chosen, the story shall move along to the much coveted agent round, where something marvelous is assured to happen.   Public comments only serve to bloster a nervous writer and share warm fuzzies.
It’s funny—in a way.  Since I’ve started this love-affair with my current WIP, “Gia”, I’ve rather left “Fortune” in the dust, discarded.   It’s not her fault she’s a niche book, too smart with her own good, with all those historical notes, Elizabethan language and talk of (gasp) a play?! 

I entered this contest just to throw her a bone—so to speak.  And since “Gia’s” Chapter Nine is like pulling a train uphill with my teeth, this will have to serve as blog-post for today.

My most sincere apologies and until anon,

~Just Jill

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"Two Tense for Words" or "Tense and Tensibility" (I can't decide.)

 Greetings to Insecure Writers everywhere!  Thanks for taking  time to stop by the nut-tree.

As of late I have been pondering the use of present tense—specifically in fiction, and would value greatly hearing your opinions and expertise on this matter.
I admit I have (ahem) some trouble with reading a novel written in present tense. 
There.  I’ve said it.
If any of you lovely, dedicated writers have been slaving away for years on a fiction book written in present tense—my apologies for being so pedestrian and please don’t start over on my account. It’s me--not you.  I know I should be more open to different styles, and focus more on the writing--but I just can’t handle reading a whole novel in present tense!  It stresses me out!  I always feel like I am hanging by my britches, apprehensively suspended, hovering mid-sentence.  I can’t live like that! 

I began examining my "intense" feelings regarding this subject, pondering present tense’s merits, and trying to figure out why it usually gives me the twitchy-eye.  And surprisingly, on closer examination, I find I do actually enjoy some aspects of present tense--in small doses.  It’s just that when expertly done—one hardly notices.

 Louise Erdrich’s “Love Medicine” made quite an impact on me as a young reader and writer, with her chapter by chapter switcheroo on tenses.  (She does it with such grace and aplomb.) It works well for poetry too, and for discussing literature, or writing an essay.  I also  like it when a Midwesterner tells his story in present tense, as in, “So I say to the guy…”.   This week I  read a most delicious, brilliant short story by blogger and writer Jessika Fleck called “Stolen”, written in—you guessed it, present tense.  “Stolen” is the perfect example of how present-tense can be used to create a sense of immediacy and anticipation in a story.  I also recalled something from those hazy college years about present tense and like, stream of consciousness writing, Dude.
Then the idea struck me.

I went and rewrote two dream sequences in my current MG novel (which is written in third-person past) and put them in the present tense.  The results were... interesting. I felt it made for a stronger sense of dream-like awareness.   I may even keep it that way.  I often eat my words and quite enjoy the taste of them when the realization benefits me in some manner.  (Then I don’t feel like such a hypocrite.)

Do you enjoy one tense over the other, or does the whole thing just make you tense up?  (You knew that was coming, right?) Do you have a favorite book told in the present, or do you rest easy in the past? Please let us know your feelings on the matter.  Nothing says lovin’ like somethin' in the comments section.

~Just Jill
P.S.  If you would like to read more about this techno-weanie-gearhead subject, here are two articles I found interesting.  The first, entitled “Unearthing the Bones” is from Michael Nye, the managing editor of the Missouri review, and second is an article from Salon, called "The fierce fight over the present tense" by Laura Miller.


Friday, February 1, 2013

The Rebirth of a Book Discarded

“Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.”
When a book started off with this epigraph, I just knew it would be wonderful.  But, I am ahead of myself.  Let me begin at the beginning.

Last week I stood talking with our local librarian as she sat, rummaging patiently through the “L”s in the children’s fiction section.  Opening each book, she assessed its overall shape and merit, when it had last been checked out, and then, she would either put it back on the shelf for further readers or put it on a cart next to her to be… discarded.
As a writer and an aspiring author, this was a painful process to watch.  This "culling of the herd" understandably must be done so that other, newer books would have room to call their own but--Oh!  The humanity!  The time, the craft, the process that went into the creation of each and every one of those books!  True, perhaps some of them were worthy of discarding, but “The Red Balloon” by Albert Lamorisse?  Certainly it was not the books fault that no-one appreciated it!  Philistines!  I quickly snatched it up and brought it home to read to my three year old—who adored it! 
It did not go beyond my recognition then, when later that day I should happen upon a book in a free library at my local coffee-shop.  (This is a small bird-house offering of books—free for the taking whose contents usually consist of “How to Microwave Anything in Thirty Seconds” or other such rot.)  Imagine my excitement when I should pull from this inglorious collection a book entitled “Keturah and Lord Death” by Maritine Leavitt. 
I do know I should not judge a book by its cover, however the shiny silver National Book Award Finalist medal caught my eye, as did the sumptuous lilac silk Renaissance dress adorning its front.  The inside cover was stamped, “Discarded”, though the back proclaimed it was a Junior Library Guild Selection, and it was chosen as one of the 100 Best Books of the Year, Children’s Fiction, by Publishers Weekly.   I quickly stuffed it in my purse lest someone should come upon us and snatch it from me.  Like a pure-bread puppy from the pound, I liberated it--and brought it home to cuddle in the dark of night.
I was enraptured. 

My eleven year old daughter and I rank all books we read on a scale of 1-10, and I knew, as I slowed my reading to savor the lyrical, thoughtfully chosen prose  within the pages, though I wanted only to consume it faster and faster to reach the climactic ending-- Ahhh… a ten.  A delicious ten.  No doubt about it.  Though I have never written a review, (and feel this is truly more of a strong recommendation) I thought  I must share this book—this neglected trove of hidden treasure with others who might find delight within its pages.

Here is the synopsis, which I wouldn’t dream of butchering.  It is from Indiebound.

Martine Leavitt offers a spellbinding story, interweaving elements of classic fantasy and high romance in this National Book Award Finalist. Keturah follows a legendary hart into the king's forest, where she becomes hopelessly lost. Her strength diminishes until, finally, she realizes that death is near. Little does she know that he is a young, handsome lord, melancholy and stern. Renowned for her storytelling, Keturah is able to charm Lord Death with a story and thereby gain a reprieve--but only for twenty-four hours. She must find her one true love within that time, or all is lost. Keturah searches desperately while the village prepares for an unexpected visit from the king and Keturah is thrust into a prominent role as mysterious happenings alarm her friends and neighbors. Lord Death's presence hovers over this all until Keturah confronts him one last time in the harrowing climax.

What the synopsis does not explain is the tension felt by the reader, who is put in the position of rooting for the heroine, while simultaneously hoping for her death.  Curious.  I’ve never before been put in that position before and if someone mentions a certain vampire series I shall scream.

So there you have it.  Yet another book to add to your lists upon lists. What about you? Have you ever found any such jewels amongst the dung-heap?  Have you ever found a discarded book lying in wait for you in an unexpected place? 

Now you must excuse me for I must pen a strongly worded email to the Verona Public Library and find who is at fault for this injustice wrought to “Keturah and Lord Death”.
~Just Jill

P.S. This must suffice for the Celebrating Small Things blog-hop for now.  More to come on that next Friday!