Holiday Reading

Did you know you can buy any of Michelle Davidson Argyle's books on Kindle or Nook for .99 for the entire month of December?  Any one of them would be a great holiday traveling read.  And if you don't know who Michelle is I suggest you get to know here.  She's awesome!


For Fun

My awesome friend, Sara, recently printed up a copy of my book to read on the train and designed a cover for it.  Then she sent it to me! It was so fun to get a copy of my manuscript in book form with her cover design.


 I love how she combined space with the eye.  Both are such important elements of the story.  Sara, you made my week!

Some of my family members (mostly my parents) have been asking for a printed copy of my books .  So I decided to follow in Sara's footsteps and design a cover for my book and print out a few copies. Thanks to my sister for providing me with the pictures.  I told her to send me some of her high resolution, professional pictures, but wouldn't say why.  Fortunately once I was done she agreed to let me share the result.

Here's what I started with:  

  (I know, isn't she beautiful? Not fair.)


And here's how I combined the images and added the title: 

I had so much fun incorporating symbolism into the cover. The straight lines, black and white coloring, and blue eye, all have meaning.  I'm so happy with the result.

On the Lookout for Superheroes

I'm always on the lookout for superheros in disguise.  I figure the fact that we believe they're made up is really the only thing keeping them concealed.  Because let's face it, Clark Kent is not a great cover for Superman.  Glasses, really?  If glasses were enough to conceal your identity everyone at my son's school would think he had two moms.  The I-can't-be-bothered-to-look-like-a-human-this-early mom and the moderately-put-together-because-today-is-a-gym-day mom. 

And what about all those suspicious behaviors, like disappearing every time there's an emergency.  Do any of you remember watching He-Man and how all the other characters mocked Adam for being a coward and running away every time there was danger?  Put two and two together people.  If the blonde bob and rippling muscles aren't clues enough (again with the poor disguise), surely the fact that he runs away seconds before He-Man appears ought to tell you something. 

In my superhero book, JADED, the characters have all done away with their alter egos.  They're too impractical and let's face it, being a hero all the time gets you more attention.  I think if you've got super powers you should just go with it.  Maybe that's why I love the Old Spice Guy.  He's got it all: talents, good looks, sexy smelling body wash, and the ability to do everything.  But most of all he doesn't try to hide who he is.  He says he's exceptional, and I, for one, am inclined to believe him.  You GO Old Spice Dude.  You're my superhero of the week, this time discovered in plain sight.

Do you think Brad Pitt has stale,coffee breath?


This morning on my way to the Y to swim (see previous post on J-E-L-L-O).  I was thinking about this totally pointless, fluff article I read on my home page about crazy things stars have done (yes, sometimes I read gossip, don't judge me).  Anyway, the article said that Brad Pitt purposely chipped his two front teeth for his role in fight club and then had them reconstructed after.  To be honest I thought that was a super-duper stupid thing to do, but who I am to judge the lengths one will go to for their art?   Then my mind started wandering...

Brad Pitt is pretty darn good looking when he's cleaned up, but then there's this major gray-bearded, stringy-haired side of him that shows up occassionally, and I started wondering, does he smoke?  A lot of stars do, like his ex-wife Jennifer Aniston.  And I wonder if he has nasty smoke/stale coffee breath because he doesn't brush his teeth as often as he should (because clearly he can have as much dental surgery as he wants and his teeth aren't that important to him).  Suddenly I was sure he DID have stale coffee breath and number of other unattractive features that don't come across on screen.  I had totally reinvented a real person into a character and was sure I knew him.  Am I the only one who does stuff like this? Just curious.

And now you've read your totally pointless, fluff article for the morning.

Like Jello

I've discovered something important: life is like Jello.  I'm like Jello.  My new all-encompassing life philosophy came to me after swimming laps this morning.  When I went to get out of the pool my arms felt like Jello.  I actually ended up walking over to the ramp because I don't think I could have hoisted myself out.  It was a long ramp and gave me ample time to consider the irony of the situation.  I work out because I was beginning to feel like Jello then I get done working out and I feel like Jello anyway.  Either way...Jello.   But one type of Jello makes me feel better than the other.  It's like the lime of Jellos (which is my favorite).  The good type of Jello happens because I worked hard and accomplished something.  The bad type happens when I do nothing.  So if I have to be Jello for the rest of my life I might as well be lime.

Writing is the same.  If I work hard, my brain feels like Jello when I'm done.  But I have a shiny exciting story in front of me.  If I don't work at my writing, I lose some of my groove and writing skills.  My brain turns to Jello.  Or even more Jello-y than it was to start with because according to my husband our brains are sort of the consistency of Jello anyway.  

Hello Internets

(Imagine my title said in the soothing voice of the Old Spice Guy.  And yes, it's suppose to say Internets, because that's how he says it on his Youtube Channel.)
Long time no see.  No, really, really long time, no see.  I have officially been without the internet in my house for SEVEN (unlucky seven) WEEKS!!!  During that time I learned something interesting: my brain requires WiFi to function.  So much so that I camped out in the McDonald's parking lot on many a morning. (Sidenote: My son now owns an "action figure" for nearly every smurf known to man).    I don't even like McDonald's, but I've eaten many fruit and yogurt parfaits over the past month and a half.  Mostly because I felt guilty for mooching off their internet and not buying anything. 

The good news is that apparently, the WiFi has an opposite effect on my manual labor abilities.  I get a lot done around the house when I'm not connected.  Brain off--housework on.  Take for example my basement storage room.  Two days ago I cleared everything out of it and painted all the walls and bought lots of new shelves.  I also scrubbed the concrete and bought epoxy to paint it.  I was halfway through painting the floor when the internet guy showed up today.  Now two hours later, the floor is still half painted, and I have a feeling the storage room contents will be in the hall for quite some time.  But my brain is positively buzzing.  WiFi.

Now to hook up my home phone (our cell service is terrible in the mountains) and soon I will be connected to my friends again.  Equilibrium is being restored in my universe today.

A Guide to Reading J.R. Johansson



Illustrated Guide to Reading Jenn Johansson's Very Awesomely Scary Book



1.  Before starting Jenn Johansson's psychological thriller, INSOMNIA, give your concerned-look facial muscles a good work out.  They're going to need it.

2. Grow your nails out really long so you're not forced to gnaw off your finger tips when things get really scary. 


3. Figure out how to read while covering your eyes.  And when you do, share the secret with me because I'm the type who always covers my eyes during the scary scenes of a movie or I'm a mess by the end.

4.  Hide if necessary.  

5. Learn German!!!!!!! Because she's going to be a German superstar.  Here's the proof:

Publisher's Weekly Announcement

"Germany rights to INSOMNIA by J.R. Johansson, a debut YA supernatural/psychological thriller, about a teen boy who thought spending every night trapped in other people's dreams was bad, but discovers that losing control of his own body and mind is so much worse, sold to Heyne Flieght in a TWO-BOOK deal at auction by Agence Hoffman, on behalf of Taryn Fagerness Agency and Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency."

Also, some really cool German's stopped by to congratulate her.


"Brialliance = Jenn x A2 Book Deal"


"Insomnia is a Symphony of psychological thrills."


"I may not be German, but they love me there.  No, really, I'm a German mega-super-popstar.  And I can tell you they love Jenn in the Deutschland."   

Guess what David, I love her too!! And I couldn't be happier for my dear friend.   Ich liäbä Dich, Jenn!!

Life as a House

You would think after overseeing four remodels and the construction of a new home I would be a pro at that kind of stuff.  The reality is I am much better than I used to be at handeling projects.  I don't get flustered when something unexpected pops up as often as I used to, but every new project brings new challenges and problems.  The metaphors are pretty clear, don't you think?   But for those of you who want my take on them, here's what I've learned from writing and remodeling.

1. Prepaparation is EVERYTHING.   The right tools, a clean surface, a level floor, a solid foundation... the basics of good storytelling, plotting, grammar, and practice.

2. Don't rush.   Make you paint lines straight and clean.  Measure your flooring before deciding where to cut the planks.  Let a new story idea ruminate, write down a major outline.  Flesh out your characters on paper or in your head.

3.  Get help from friends and professionals!! You need it! Don't attempt to redo major plumbing or electrical repairs on your own.  Make sure you have two people for two-man (woman) jobs.. Find great Beta readers, make friends you can help and who can help you.  Establish genuine and mutually beneficial friendships.  Accept critique and feedback (especially from agents and editors).

4.  Enjoy finished projects.  Ignore the flaws for a while.  Wait a few weeks before attempting to redo anything.   If you're not sure about a paint color, look at it in all lights and at all times of the day.  If you LOVE a paint color, look at it in all lights and at all times of day.  Insert the word "scene" or "chapter" or "book" instead of paint color and the rule is pretty much the same.

These are my basic rules for remodeling and editing.  Yours might be different than mine, but either way I believe it's important to have them and reevaluate them from time to time until you find what works.

Yet Another Reason to Love Superheros

Those who know me or have followed my blog for very long, know I love superheros!  I also love Broadway musicals (my favorite CD in Jr. High was Phantom of the Opera).  It therefore follows that I have a new, New York dream (one that comes after getting an agent and publisher, but only slightly).  My second New York dream is to SEE THIS SHOW:


This show is pretty much the ultimate compilation of everything I love.  Just for fun I'm going to make a list.
1. A classic, awesome superhero with one of the best supersuits ever.
2. Music by Bono and the Edge!! Hello.
3. An actor who looks a lot like I picture my MC from Immaterial.
4. Flying acrobatics
5. Broadway.
6. Rise Above (the song released on the finale of American Idol) is playing on my itunes right now and it was released on AI.  You also know how much I love that show. 

Just to prove my point I'll share the video with you.  You'll love it too! If you don't, just pretend like you do.  I will not tolearate opposing points of view on this blog post. :)

Enjoy!

I cannot walk and chew gum at the same time



Anyone who knows me is not surprised by the title of this post.  Aren't women supposed to be the multi-taskers?  I heard that somewhere sometime ago from someone who I can't remember (but must have known what they were talking about, otherwise why would they say it?). 

I guess I was just born without the multi-task gene. Except, I do have a lot on my plate right now (figuratively speaking, and maybe literally speaking too, but I'll never admit it), so maybe I am a multi-tasker, just not a multi-tasker-er.  The point is, my blog suffers when I am writing and editing and coordinating a mountain of remodeling stuff with contractors.  I didn't even draw my own stick figure for this post.  What is the world coming to?

Twitterpated


I finished my first draft of Immaterial and #amediting (how is it Twitter tags are seeping into my everyday thoughts and grammar?).  I can only imagine what my communication will look like  in a year or two.  Probably something like this:

(Warning: If you don't speak Twitter, this will be gibberish)

Dear @lifelongfriend,

It's been way 2 long since we #YALitChatted.  Things have been hectic #Kidsoutofschool #BuyingaHouse #EpicEverythingFAIL.  By the way, did you catch #TheLastestRealityShow last night? Wasn't @FamousFemale so #annoying?  Good thing they have @FamousMale.  His hair looked AmaZING!! <----- I <3 him soo much!!! #stillhappilymarriedmomwithacrush  Glad we could catch up.  I #missyousomuch (#FF @lifelongfriend #TT @lifelongfriend #WW @lifelongfriend #MM @lifelongfriend )

@CandiKennington

For Fun!

Jenn did a fun post this morning in which she shared random dialogue from her characters.  I told her I was going to steal her idea and post a random excerpt from my WiP.  I don't think I've posted anything from this book before, but since I'm celebrating it's almost-completion,  I thought I would share a random passage I like that gives you a bit of a feel for my MC.  She is robotic and stilted in her thoughts and dialogue, yet very observant of the world around her.  (At least that's how I see her.)


Two-hundred and forty-three questions determine my fate.  Six hours and twenty- two minutes flashes at the bottom of my tablet.  My time is adequate.  I know my results will be sufficient to choose my duty station.  I wish to rest my head while I wait for the others to finish.  I sit up straight in my chair.  I look to the front.  P3111 sits before us.  A red curl protrudes from the tight knot at her neck—a single strand of rebellion in a world of compliance. 
My hair does not curl.  It is straight like the edges of my tablet.  P3111’s curves like the wind across the fields, the hills behind my home, the clouds in the sky.  There are no true straight lines in nature.  I look at the white walls, the black box, the rows of Prospects in metal-colored suits. Survival does not require curves.  It does not require color. Neither must I.
The seconds pass in silence.  I miss the tick of the round clock in my mother’s kitchen—perfect miniature sections of time marked by a soft tock.  No one can control a single second.  Yet, a lifetime of bondage is made up of them. 
I look at the blinking numbers on my tablet.  One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight...  For a single second I have chosen to be free.  For one miniscule moment of my day I withhold my compliance.
The prospects have all finished their tests, except one.  P7027 sits next to me.  Her pen taps the tablet in an outbreak of convulsive movements.  I know she is filling in answers randomly, trying to finish the test in the allotted time.  A small beep sounds.  Unlike the blaring horns of the mines, it is unobtrusive, yet I see everyone stiffen.  Next to me I hear P7027 whimper. 
The door at the front slides open.  P3111 stands up.  We all follow her lead.  Envoy Sharp enters flanked by two Sentinels.  His sausage fingers hold a tablet.  “Sit down,” he says.  We obey.
“I have the result of your testing.”  He pats the tablet screen with his free hand.  “Some of you received adequate scores.  Duty stations will be assigned tomorrow.  That is all.”  He looks at his tablet, then up at a P7027.  He points to her.  “That one,” he says.
A Sentinel walks to where she sits.  “Come with me P7027.”  His voice is like sheet metal, strong and thin and sharp as a razor around the edges. 
P7027 cannot stand.  The Sentinel reaches down and lifts her trembling form.  A cry rises up from within her and erupts into the empty space above us.  It is visceral, instinctual.  It betrays us all for what we are—caged animals.  The Envoy has known all along.  We have only been hiding the truth from each other.

The finish is in sight!

I interrupt this extended blog neglect to say that I am just two chapters away from finishing the first draft of a book I have been working on for over a year!!   Hence my absence from the internet.  I'm focused, people! Focused I tell you.  Characters need to get injured and healed and be heroes and die.  This is the point in every book I write where I begin to feel like the master of the universe I've created. (It goes to my head, a little.) I walk around the house with my hands on my hips and bellow, "I am the CREATOR!!! Worlds begin and end at the behest of my keyboard." At least I bellow in my mind.

The Zombie Apacalypse *contains spoilers*

Apparently everyone is feeling a little extra protective of their brains these days.  There is so much talk of the impending zombie apocalypse that I thought maybe I should prepare myself. 

This is what I came up with (thank you random person for modeling my zombie defense gear).

I posed this idea to some of my brilliant friends (read: appetizer,bait,deterrent).  They suggested my preparation may be a bit short sighted (read: idiotic, naive).  Here's what they came up with instead...

Jenn has already thought this through and a has a zombie-defense closet in her panic room. She says if I want to model her plan, I'll  need a bank vault, a garden hose, steak knife, underwater river, and garlic. It all seems so clear when you lay it out like that.

Renee has outlined a schedule for the event (the main item being the end where we all form a human ring around her).  She even proposes we have a party to celebrate our imminent deaths. I admire her devil-may-care style of dealing with the end of the world.  Well played, Ren. Well played.  
     Side note:  Before agreeing to Ren's plan Jenn feels it is important to know if it will be preceded by an impromptu dance party. That's why I love Jenn; she always knows the right questions to ask.

Chantele is all for the party and even suggested we dress like zombies.  Camouflage...it's an oldy, but goody.  You can't disregard the tried and true war tactics when the end of the world in marching slowly toward you with it's hand outstretched.  If this doesn't work, she will throw in the towel and just go with the flow.  The old "if you can't beat em, join em" tactic.  I like Chantele's retro style.

Kasie is low on ideas right now (this may or may not have to do with the fact that her brain is completely wrapped up by the impending doom of her two book deal with Harper Collins which will never come to pass if the world ends).  This probably explains her assertion that "we are all going to die."  


In the end Jenn summed up the situation well when she tweeted: <--ruthless leader of the revolution <--first victim <--have popcorn

She then invited us all to her panic room.  She then uninvited us all to her panic room (true friend).  Which led me to the final conclusion of the zombie apocalypse: <-- last human alive.





A Message to Kasie West from THOR, God of Thunder

"This book, I like it! ANOTHER!!!!!"

 "I must return to my own planet to save my father and do many other Norse-godly things, but I swear to you I will return to read the sequel!"

"The pen is mightier than the hammer, and this book is mightier than them both!"

Wow, Thor sounds just like Harper Teen!  They must've heard how much he loved Kasie West's book and decided to buy it and the sequel. 

Thanks, Thor.

A Character Developing Mother's Day

This year for Mother's Day my son brought home a handmade booklet from school in which he filled in all kinds of information about me. He was right on the basics: eye color, hair color, age (okay, so he said I'm twenty-one, but he's within a dozen years of right). What really cracked me up about this document were all the things he filled in about my favorites, because they were actually all his favorites. It tickled me that he thought McDonalds was my favorite restaurant and Star Wars was my favorite movie.



I do go to McDonalds and I do watch Star Wars, so he definitely knows me, but what he doesn't realize yet is that I do those things for him. This really got me thinking about my characters. I wondered how often I only look at their actions without taking time to develop an understanding of their character.

Sometimes I think I understand a character without developing their backstory (because it never directly comes into the book), but inevitably I reach a point in the story where I need to know that backstory because it affects that character's decisions, outlook, actions, speech, well basically everything. I can't skip character development even when I think it doesn't matter.

I once hear JK Rowling talk about Seamus from Harry Potter. She knew everything about his family and loved his story, though she never put any of it into her books. I also loved that Neville's story was so beautifully woven into the series and just as tragic and triumphant as Harry's, though he was a more minor character.

What do you think? Is it important to know all your character's stories? What about minor characters, do you know theirs too?

Gut Writing

When I first started writing I wrote purely for the love of writing.  To be cliche, I wrote from my heart.
"Oh beautiful manuscript, where have you been all my life?  You are so special, and I love you so much.  It doesn't matter if I don't know anything about writing a book or the publishing industry because my love is enough.  My love will make everyone else fall in love with you.  It will make them overlook your glaring plot devices and pages of exposition.  I <3 U!"

Then I began studying about writing and publishing and plot arcs and effective dialogue.  I read agent blogs and Publisher's Weekly.  My next book was going to have all the elements of a best-seller. I put my brain firmly in charge!
"My character is so relatable and my hero is flawed (but hot), and there is action and romance and comedy and unexpected twists. My dialogue is realistic and my plot is tight. I am a WRITER (insert heroic roar)!"

Then I calmed down a little bit.  I had a few reality checks.  The mystery of the writing world became less mysterious.  I took time to read more.  My voice became much clearer.  And a funny thing happened.  My brain and my heart sort of began working automatically in the form of my gut.  I began to trust my writing instincts, but know that I was always going to have work hard and edit alot. (I know, the picture is kind of creepy.)

"Dear manuscript, thank you for giving life to my inner voice, while still sticking to the rules of good writing and editing.  And thank you for giving me permission to trust my own style and instincts. I have high, but hopefully realistic, hopes for you.  But even if you don't work out I will always be thankful to you for helping me discover what kind of writer I really want to be."

The interesting thing about writing only from the heart or mind is that my gut always told me something wasn't quite right.  But when I'm writing from my gut, my heart and mind are automatically engaged.  I know I still have a long way to go, but I hope that means I'm finally getting the hang of all this.

Someone Interviewed Me

Chantele asked me if I would be willing to answer some questions for the aspiring author post she does each week.  I readily agreed to as long as she knew up front that I had very little writing wisdom and a whole lot of silliness to share... You can read it here

Thanks, Chantele!

Has the age of digital books and queries changed who writes?

Writing has changed a lot in the past several years. Most agencies have "gone green" and hi-tech with their submission process.  This has brought down costs for submitting manuscripts and for querying widely. 

And

Which means we have all gone a little more green at home too.
The point of this email is not the "go green" aspect (thought conservation is never a bad thing), but rather the fact that all of these developments have led to, what I consider to be, an even bigger shift in writing.  Which is that the proverbial, reclusive, pipe-smoking, writer in the cabin in the woods...
...is actually much more likely to be the spit-up-cleaning, diaper-changing, dish-washing, mom in the kitchen.  Granted, this has opened doors for many others, career men and women, working parents, teenagers and countless others.  The prevalence  of the stay-at-home mom demographic has just struck me recently (perhaps because I am one), and I have a feeling this demographic has grown astonishingly in the last five years.  I don't have any data to back it up, but it sure seems like that is the case. 
How have the changes in technology and the publishing world affected your career choice to become a writer?

The Winner! There Will be Brevity in This Post

And the winner of The Brevity of Roses by the fabulous Linda Cassidy Lewis is.............. Darlene!  Darlene is lucky number 16 in our drawing (as chosen by Random.org).  Darlene, please send the address you would like your signed copy of Brevity shipped to to my email, Candice_Kennington(at)comcast(dot)net .

The rest of you can buy your own copy of Linda's book or ebook by following these links:



Buy the E-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.
Buy the print book at Amazon.

Thanks to everyone who entered and to Linda for her gracious responses and willingness to sign her book for us! 
Happy Monday!

For Someone I Love

Someone dear to me requested a blog post this morning.  I think she wanted something funny, like a rant to say, "Poop on the world!" You know, that kind of thing.  And I could do a rant.  I've been wanting to do one about cliche phrase for a long time.  It would go a little something like this:

When life gives you lemons throw them at all your breakables.
or
Stick a fork in it--literally! (Long time readers of my blog know I don't use that word lightly)
or
When push comes to shove, fight dirty.
or
There is light at the end of the tunnel, but you're probably dead if you see it.
or
My bark is actually smaller than my bite.

I could seriously go on and on.  And that would be a fun blog post, but I decided to post something serious.  Those of you who had fun with the first part can turn back now, or go enter my contest to win a free signed book in the next post, or leave me a comment telling me a cliche phrase you hate and how you would change it.  This next part is long.  And it's serious.  And it's personal.  I only feel I can post it now because it's about something that is quite definitely in my past.  And it's something the person who this blog post is for helped me through. This is not advice or me telling anyone else what to do.  I'm not trying to say just do this and everything will be okay.  I hate it when people say "just" (another rant for another day).  This is simply my own personal journey to healing.

Love you, You-Know-Who.  

The Empty Doll


For the last little while I haven’t been able to shake an image from my mind. It’s a strange picture, not that I’m a stranger to the strange, but this time it’s personal, a self portrait of sorts. In my mind’s eye I see a version of my face painted in thin, skilled brush strokes on the upper portion of a Russian nesting doll. From the outside I notice that I look like any other nesting doll, brightly colored with floral patterns in smooth, flowing brushstrokes around my face and along the lower portion of my rounded wooden body. I’m not too old, my paint is still shiny with only a few small chips and a bit of dust and dirt on my outer layer. For the most part I think you could say my doll has been well cared for.  To any passerby or casual observer it would seem that nothing is amiss. But when I look at my shell in the proverbial self-portrait, I know something that most others don’t. For though the seam in my middle is thin and barely visible now that it has been tightly shut, not too long ago it came apart, spilling all of the interior pieces and mini me’s on the floor. Since that time I’ve been slowly picking them up again, and discovering that some have been lost, damaged and even discarded in the process. The result is a fact that has been staring me in the face for a while now, but it’s a fact that I’ve been trying to resist: I’m not the same person I was a few months ago, and try as I will to pretend that I am to the outside world and even myself, I can’t deny there is an emptiness that didn’t exist before, and it’s left a hollow feeling in my chest.

I know I’m not alone in this feeling. Not a person has lived on this earth without passing through sorrow. Yet, I also know that despite the shared human experience each individual’s pain is unique. I’m not ashamed to say that for quite a long while I’ve been focusing on my pain. The only thing that seemed to give me any relief from the void I felt where I had been broken, were mindless and often pointless distractions, distractions that seemed preferable to the questions that filled my mind in their absence. Questions like, what am I supposed to do with a broken doll? Or, How can I ever get back to who I was before? And, Am I worth anything to anyone this way? I’ve felt angry and sad and resentful, feelings which all led to the biggest question of all, Why? What is the purpose of suffering? At times over the past weeks I’ve been truly contemplative, but often my question have been desperate, angry and hopeless, and though I tried to fool myself into thinking they were inquiries, I knew often they were rhetorical , more statements of bitterness than anything else, and I couldn’t see how things were ever going to get better. But then something unexpected happened while I was sitting in church, only half listening to the speaker one Sunday. As I often did, I again went through my many questions, when a single thought came to my mind. You choose what fills the void. That one sentence changed me or at least it changed my perspective. Suddenly I could see what had happened as a fork in the road and a potential turning point in my life.

I believe we all have some sort of metaphorical container that represents who we are and we fill it up day by day with activities and beliefs and priorities. When life runs smoothly it’s easy to get full on what is frivolous or temporary, amusements, social events, shopping, television, things that don’t require as much effort and seem to make us happy. Then something happens that turns our world upside down and we watch as all the things we filled our lives with fall out on the table or floor. We see it all laid out clearly and for some reason it no longer seems as appealing. But we know the emptiness isn’t right either. A vessel’s purpose is to hold something inside otherwise it is susceptible to mold and dust and cobwebs or any number of opportunistic inhabitants. So we stare at the components of our life, realizing some of them are rotten, broken or maybe just outdated and we have to decide what to do with them. Do we pick up the pieces of the life we once knew, put the same objects back in that were there before? If they are broken do we replace them with light fillers, more tv or video games, more socializing, more internet, and other sources of entertainment, only to have our lives become less solid, less stable, easier to topple, until the cycle starts over again. Only the next time we get knocked over the pieces on the table or floor seem more bleak, less varied, less fulfilling. Or do we take our blank space, that feels like an unbearable trial and see it for what it really is, an opportunity, a new start, a chance to fill up with something solid and lasting.

My grandmother passed away a few years ago and after the services were completed the estate needed to be taken care of. I was given the opportunity to request a few items that were meaningful remembrances to me. I looked around her room and thought of the graceful and refined woman she was. For every outfit she owned there were coordinating shoes and purses. She was always very elegant and polished when she went out. So I choose a fancy clutch, it was gathered pink silk with a small, tailored bow across the top. Then on an impulse I looked inside to see if she had left anything in its folds. Nothing spectacular met my eyes, in fact the contents of the purse were quite ordinary, a handful of wintergreen mints and a folded cloth handkerchief, yet both were meaningful to me. They reminded me of all the times she’d snuck those very same mints to me while sitting next to her at church. Then while I sat enjoying my treat she’d roll up her handkerchief in her special grandma way and turn it into a baby doll for me to hold. Much like the elegant purse she was beautiful on the outside, but what really mattered was what she chose to put inside, devotion to her family, her faith, her principles and unconditional love.

My personal vessel has been knocked over recently. I realize some of what it contained is unsalvageable. It will never be the same again. It would be impossible to expect that it could. I’ve spent time denying that fact, while I passively let sorrow, anger and fear seep into all my empty spaces. But I know now that my heart was not the only thing broken in my recent fall. So were many of my habits and my old way of life. All around us there are examples of demolition for the purpose of rebuilding. A forest must pass through fire for seeds to be released and regrowth to begin. Muscles are broken down by exercise so they can be rebuilt stronger. I have a chance to rebuild now, to make my life better than it was before. Faith, family, friends, service, hard work, and so many other things can take up the space that seemed like an irreparable hole. But first I have to see my experience for what it really is, a chance to deliberately choose what will fill up my life.

Signed Book Giveaway and Author Interview

I am so excited to be able to introduce you to one of my favorite writers and critique partners, Linda Cassidy Lewis.  Linda and I met three years ago when we both attended the same writer's group.  She immediately stood out to me because she was always so well-spoken and her critiques were amazing!  I loved getting them (I still do).  She is one of the most (if not the most) flawless writer I know.  Her words are beautiful and just make you feel good while you read them. After I moved away from California, we continued to correspond and critique each others work despite the fact that we write in different genres. I value her input greatly and am thankful to have her as a Beta reader and a friend.  She graciously agreed to let me interview her for my blog and to sign a copy of her novel,  THE BREVITY OF ROSES, for a giveaway. 

Here's the back of the book blurb:
Jalal Vaziri has looks, money, women—and a habit of running from reality. When he abandons New York and reinvents himself as a poet in a California beach house, he thinks he’s running from a father who hates him, a career mistake, and endless partying. A fresh start is what he needs. And after an intriguing woman enters his life, he believes all his dreams are coming true. But that dream dissolves into nightmare, and Jalal flees again. Only this time, his retreat is blocked by a woman who challenges him to face that it’s himself he’s trying to outrun.


Who or what inspired you to be a novelist? Reading and lots of it. We’re all required to write in school, and I didn’t suck at it, so eventually I started writing on my own. Then, one day, I realized my job as full-time mom was done and I decided to start and finish a novel.

Is The Brevity of Roses the first novel you've written?  No, it’s the second. The first was a paranormal romance that wasn’t. A romance, that is. Someday, I may resurrect it as neither.

Your main character, Jalal, has Middle-Eastern roots and there is a sprinkling of Farsi in your novel, how did you do your research and was it difficult?  My husband has Middle-Eastern ancestry, and I’ve always been fascinated with that culture. Bits of what I’ve observed is reflected in Jalal’s family. After I’d written the first draft of Brevity, I read a memoir by an Iranian-American, and after the revision I read another to make sure what I’d written was true to what these two memoirists experienced. I don’t speak Farsi, so I had the online help of two Iranian contacts to translate the few words and phrases I used to a phonetic spelling.

How did you decide on your cover and how long have you been painting? The cover image is actually a multi-layered drawing, a technique acceptably called painting. I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon; I just never stopped like most children do. Follow up question: Whatever happened to that awesome drawing of Jalal you did? I searched your site and couldn't find it. Sorry about that. I took it down quickly, when I realized that it was not my true image of Jalal. I’d allowed my familiarity with a couple other faces to corrupt it. I want to try again, but maybe just for myself. I’m not sure my readers would appreciate me imposing my vision on them.

Well whoever he was, he was not hard on the eyes.

Your writing is so smooth, and when I read it, it makes me feel like I'm sitting in a hammock gently rocking back and forth while a cool summer breeze rustles in the trees (Dear Readers: You have to read this book if only to experience the hypnotizing trance of Linda's writing). Do you have some hidden magic? Are the pages perhaps sprinkled with fairy dust? Because I still don't know how you weave your magic spell. Thank you for those lovely words about my writing. Do you have a source for fairy dust? I’d like to try it. Seriously though, I just write. I don’t mean that to sound flip. Most of what happens when I write is subconscious. I let a story gestate in my head for a long time before I put fingers to keyboard. So, when it’s going well, I write in a sort of dream state. I see and hear my story like a mental movie and try my best to transcribe it. When I revise, I can usually spot where I wrote “blind” and then I have to fix those clunky spots. I do that mostly by listening for the rhythm of the words. A good sentence has a perfect number of beats.

When Linda reads other people books she sees them like movies in her head too.  This means that if your character puts toast in the toaster and it pops up a line later, she's going to call you out on your five second toasting. Her superhuman editing vision misses nothing.


It may just be my imagination, but it seems to me a lot of authors have cats. Do you have any pets? I do have a cat, but she’s snotty and regularly bites the hand that feeds her. I had a gentle English Springer Spaniel for years.

Aren't all cats snotty?

Sunrises or Sunsets? Oh my, I have to choose? I associate sunrises with hope and sunsets with loss, but I love the beauty of them both.

Coke, Pepsi, or Dr. Pepper? Coke, and not diet, which explains why I need to diet. To me, Dr. Pepper is dessert.

I'm so with you on the Dr. Pepper dessert classification. Even better, a Dr. Pepper float.  mmmm...

Thank you, Linda for your time and insight into writing.

To win a copy of Linda's superb novel all you have to do is leave a comment by Sunday.  I will choose a winner via random.com  and announce it next Monday.  You can also pick up a copy for yourself on Amazon.

*For those of you who are used to the books I talk about being YA or MG, please keep in mind this is an adult book with adult themes, situations, and language.

Jenn Gets an Agent!

What? Another friend got an agent?! Yep that's right.  My writing friends are super awesome (I only hope it rubs off on me someday)!! And Jenn is no exception.  You should see the way this girl can write a query letter. It's pretty much mindblowing how fast she creates querying perfection. Have I mentioned that she also writes amazing books?  Creepy, psychologically-thrilling, amazing books!! Seriously Jenn, you rock!! And to top it all off, she has the most amazing hair.  (I know that's not writing related, but it's the truth and it must be said.) So go congratulate her, and share in the jumping up and down and partying that is going on over at her blog.



Jenn, I love you!! And as you like to say about other people: "You are made of Awesome!"

Road Trip

I just got back from ten days of vacation and four of them were spent driving. It's funny how many interesting things you come across when you're on the road for a total of 48 hours (the gas bill on the other hand, not so funny).  Here's a tally of the more interesting sights.

Accidents - 3
Accidents with bloody man walking on the road - 1
Pieces of tire littered across road - I forgot to count
Whole tire bouncing and rolling down the freeway while cars swerve right and left to avoid it - 1
Deer and elk lining side of the road - hundreds
Deer standing in the middle of the road - 1 (which also translates into near heart attacks -1)
Fast food restaurants - billions
GuadalaHonky's Americanized Mexican restaurant - 1
Crazy bumper stickers - hundreds
Ginormous, entire-car decal proclaiming, "His Body, His Choice. Just Say No to Circumcision." - 1

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say I've driven across the country three times in the last 18 months and every trip is an education.  I'm just glad to be home.  Maybe I 'll post something useful after I recover a bit.  Happy Monday!!

Question for the Universe



Why do a million things pop up when you're trying to go on vacation?  No really, a million! Already this morning by 7:30 I had called the bank (who was on east coast time, thank goodness), the motor vehicle licensing department, put in two loads of laundry and moved an entire entertainment center/ large TV in order to unwire and rewire my internet so that I could have internet access on a day when I most needed it... I'm not complaining (okay, maybe a little) but, really, I'm just posing this question to the Universe:

Is it me or is it you?

Am I the one who subconsciously puts everything off until it's absolutely necessary at which time I suddenly "realize" it has to be done, or are you the one throwing these boulders in my path?  Because if you're the one who makes me drive way far away, just to fix a small clerical error with my health insurance so that I can get my prescription refilled before leaving town, well... that's just so mean.  Please stop.  That is all.

The Books I Could Put Down

Sometimes I read a book like this:
And Sometimes I read a book like this:


And lately there's been more of this:
Than this:
Which leads to this:




I never used to put down books, but lately, I don't waste my time.  I'm not sure what changed.  Maybe I just became a mom and lost my patience.  (That didn't sound right...) Maybe I just became a mom and lost my patience for anything that wastes my time.

Are you a die-hard, must-finish, book-reader or do cut your loses and move on?


Immaterial

I added a "My Books" page to my blog with brief descriptions of my books.  There's not a lot there, but as I do more I'll add more.  Who knows, maybe one day I'll even get ambitious and add some homemade trailers or something. 

If you follow my blog, you've probably already seen stuff for my first two books, but for the first time I'm revealing a bit about my third book, Immaterial.  I hope the picture* and tag-line give you a little preview of the flavor of the book. 

*The images I collaged to get the picture are not mine

Just Relax

Doing yoga with a kindergartner running around in the house is not a practical (or relaxing) endeavor.  I don't know why I thought that things would be different this morning simply because said kindergartner was in the bathtub.   My meditation time this morning went a little something like this:

*Sitting Pose**Deep breath*   in with the good out with the bad...
"Mommy, the water isn't touching my toes!"
*Forward Lunge**Stress levels rise* "There is plenty of water in the bathtub. Just wash your hair."
*Garuda Mudra* Activate blood flow, increase circulation, listen to my breath, calm beating heart.
"Mommy, I need you to come in here!"
*Ignores**Downward Facing Dog*
"Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy..."
*Warrior One**Stress levels rise to twice what they were before starting yoga* Just keep breathing. Maintain relaxation and focus.
"Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy..." 
*Pauses DVD* *Walks into bathroom*
"What do you need?"
*Son looks up and thinks for a second*  "Are you exercising?"
*Deep breath* in with the good out with the bad...

Sometimes keeping balance in my life can be tough.  I feel an urgency to finish my books, acquire an agent and get published.  But I know from experience I am better off when I take the time to do the other things that are important, like exercising, taking care of my family, reading and giving service. In the end I believe I accomplish more than I would if I just ignored everything and wrote all day long.  Yoga is just one of those things that helps me find that balance.  Some days are just more "balancing" than others. 
What do you do to keep your writing life in balance with everything else?

Writer Reality



We've been sick around my house this week.  Consequently, I've been doing a lot of something I rarely ever do: watch TV.  For some reason, despite the queasiness, I've been drawn to Food Network.  They have several reality shows that pit chefs against each other in timed contests.  My favorite is "Chopped."  You may have seen it.  Chefs are given a mystery basket with three or four items that they have to use to create an appetizer, main, dish, and dessert.  They're given a new basket each round and only thirty minutes to finish each course.

It's intense.  Or maybe I'm the only having an anxiety attack watching Food Network. 

The show got me thinking, why are there no reality writing shows?  There totally could be.  Picture it:

Round 1:  Four computers, a panel of agents and editors and an envelope containing a setting, a character and a genre. Thirty minutes on the clock and ready, set, TYPE! The person with the best flash fiction wins the round. 

Round 2:  The writers have thirty minutes to write a synopsis and query based on their flash fiction.

Round 3:  Thirty minutes to prepare a verbal pitch and marketing plan which they must then present.

I'm tired just thinking about that show.  Maybe instead we should just throw a bunch of writers in a big mansion with their finished manuscripts and one agent.  Then we could send them on dates together.   Some of the contestants would naturally click with the Agent who would then ask about their manuscript.  Other contestants would carry their MS around with them wherever they went, shoving it under the agent's nose when he was talking to other contestants or relaxing in the hot tub. 

At the end of each episode we could line all the contestants up and the agent would give bookmarks to anyone he wants to stay in the mansion for another episode.  There would be crying and hissy fits and ripping of paper. It would be a runaway hit! (Are you paying attention Mark Burnett?) 

Yep, that's TV I would watch.

Poetry of a Beatnik Housewife

Integration

Slippery
Slimy
Segregated oil covering all
Powerless water
Rushing
Rising
Scalding metal and skin
Plunge deeper
Work faster
Fruitless labor
Only soap can break the barrier
Ah miracle of lemon scent
Rubbing
Scrubbing
Bubbling to a higher plane of existence
Clean!
Clean!
Hands softened in the watery basin of life's long day
Emerge calloused and cracked in the dry air of brief reprieve

Why I Haven't Queried My Books

I don't talk much about my writing on this blog (weird, since it's a "writing blog"), but today I'm going to.  I've had a couple of people ask me if I'm querying recently.  And the answer is well, no, I'm not.  I'm actually finishing up my third novel, and I've never really queried (I've sent out like five really novice queries).  Does that make me weird?  Maybe.

If you were to ask me why, I'm not sure I could give you a clear cut answer.  The timing just never felt right.  I did love my first novel, a YA contemporary fantasy.   I loved the story.  I loved the characters. I didn't love the writing.  So, I revised it over and over and over and over again.  Somehow it just never reached the standard I wanted it to. 

The writing in my second novel was much better.  Again, I loved the story.  The problem was it was a tough genre to market.  I had unwittingly written myself into a literary corner with a college age character in a Chick Lit Superhero Romantic Comedy (say that five times fast). 

Now I'm finishing up my third novel.  A YA SciFi Dystopian.  It's quirky. It takes place on the moon. There are lots of made up words. It's written a strange voice and my character is withdrawn and and counts everything around her (as in literally counts everything).  I LOVE it! I will definitely query it when I'm done. 

So, I've been around in the blogging/writing world for about three years now.  Most of the friends I started with are agented.  I've seen their struggles and learned a lot.  But I've never experienced it. I guess I just wasn't ready.  But now I definitely am.  So in the next few months (as soon as I finish my book) I will be putting myself out there and getting my poor little writing heart trampled on like the rest of all you brave souls.  I would love to hear about your querying journey.  

The Origins of the Stickfigure Blog Drawings

There are two reasons I draw stickfigures on my blog:

1.  I like to have something visual on my blog posts, and I can pull up Microsoft paint and do a drawing with my mouse in 30 secs flat!

2. My only other alternative to "drawing" something is to use an actual picture.  Which means I would either have to take one (I am not a photographer or a model), or find a random google image that may or may not be copywrited and stick it on my post. The problem is that even if I do find the perfect Google image and paste the url into the picture link, it could change.  Then when I print out my blog and look through it I may realize that in place of an American flag on my July post there are two random guys, wearing stocking caps under a street light, doing who knows what.  And now when my kids grow up and look through my family blog album they will forever ask why I have a picture of two shady dudes smoking a doobie. Hence the need for stickfigures (even though I'm clearly not an artist either).

I thought this drawing stickfigures thing was something new I created just for my blog, but then I was looking through my old college stuff and came across a few things that told a different story.

At first, these may just look like pictures of my extremely messy dorm room (Mom, look away).



But upon closer inspection you will find the poster my roommate had of a hot guy with his shirt off .  I was young and overzelously idealist (as college kids are prone to be) and against the objectification of women, which meant that I was there for equally against the objectification of men (because I was no sexist!),  so I decided to modify the poster to meet my standards.

 In case you're wondering what that lovely cursive writing says, I'll decipher it for you.  "& He has to have sexy nostrils."  What can I say.  I had high standards for my perfect guy.

So it appears I've had a penchant for random, skilless drawing much of my life.  If I were to look through my other memory boxes I would bet money that the stick figure phenomenon dates all the way back to my early toddler days.

*Here's the real poster.  Just in case you were wondering what lies under the stick figures. Clearly I'm not as idealistic as I once was.  Though I still do object to objectification (most of the time). ;)

Buss-a-me Mucho (or Conversations with my Husband)


Fellow blogger friend Chantele likes to find obscure and fun words and post them on her blog for "Weird Word Wednesday".  Then she challenges people to make up a sentence with them.  Well yesterday the word was, buss.  She posted the definition which in essence said, to kiss, especially with a smacking sound (at least that's how I remember it).  I thought it was a cool word and left this sentence in the comments, "If Buster bussed a bus full of babes, how many babes on a bus did Buster buss?"

Later that night as I was getting ready for bed I thought I would ask my husband if he knew what the word meant since he's the kind who always remembers random trivia (as in the man has only ever lost Trivial Pursuit twice in his entire life.  Before we go married I made him play me every night for several weeks straight, but that's another story for another day.).  Anyway, the conversation went a little something like this.

Me: "My blogger friend Chantele (proceeds to explain blog)... So do you know what the word buss means?"

Husband: (thinks for several seconds...) "Is it some kind of stick?"

Me: (overly pleased that I've stumped him for once and still ticked about losing Trivial Pursuit hundreds of times)  "Nope!! You're wrong. You're wrong. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah." (Okay, I didn't actually say that, but my eyes did. I then told him the definition and my sentence.)"Wasn't my sentence a clever tongue twister? Are you sad that yoooouuuu didn't know the word?"

Husband: "Buss my Butt!" 

Me: (Feigning shock and indignation and then laughing)

Husband: "or better yet, buss off."

Me: "Hey!"

Husband: "I'm sorry, was that the buss of death?"

Me: (Laughing, again)

Husband:  "Here let me make it up to you." (Begins to sing) "Buss-a-me, buss-a-me muuuuuuuchooooooo..."

Me: (Yep, still laughing while pushing him and his smack-kissing lips away)

Husband: "Oh man, now I've got a song stuck in my head...(silence)...a song by BUSS!"

Me: "You are now officially the topic of my blog post tomorrow weather you like it or not."

Husband:  "Won't that be stealing Chatele's blog post?"

Me: (climbing into bed) "Not really, because I will link back to her blog and give her all the credit for finding the word and make sure everyone knows how much fun we had with it and it will all come back to Chantele."

Husband:  (turning off lights and getting into bed) "You're such a buss-up." *



*No actual marriage was hurt during this conversation.  In fact  it was probably strengthened due to the extreme silliness and craziness of both participating spouses.

Since we're on the topic of superheroes...

I actually fancied myself one yesterday.  You see, snow had been falling all weekend long, but yesterday was beautiful and sunny and a holiday, so we decided to take our son sledding with some friends.  Because kids love sledding.  And since we will only live in South Dakota for a few years I thought we should take advantage of all there is to offer. At least that was my reasoning when I planed the outing.

Then I really thought about what we were taking our little child to do, and suddenly I saw less fun and more stitches, concussions, and broken bones on the hills that were once covered in feet of soft fluffy snow, but after much use had turned into steep tracks of solid ice.  I realized if I was going to let my son do this (because I can't hold his childhood hostage to my neurotic ability to see the worst possible conclusion to any given situation),  I was going to have to bring my A-game to the slopes.  Just in case.  Nevermind the fact that we were going with friends from my husband's work which meant there were no less than four military doctors and pilots present.  Clearly none of them would have the right kind of training for an emergency.  So I donned my old Marvel T-shirt, the one with Ironman, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk and Wolverine (yes I really do own this shirt and I really did wear it), and I stuck my first aid kit in the car (just in case one of the doctor bags was missing something), along with fruit snacks and juiceboxes for those hunger/whining emergencies.    I then found my sweetest pair of sunglasses for surveying the slopes with my super-tuned, paranoid mommy vision.  I was ready!

The slopes were crowded, very crowded.  Good thing I'd come prepared.  I was vigilant! Rarely taking my eyes off the scene, only allowing myself to be mildly distracted by the other women there and --"Oh what's that you say?  You're throwing a baby shower? Ooo, can I help?!"  CRASH !! Yep, it was a big one, but by the time I noticed it there was already a doctor on scene checking for concussions and stanching the bleeding.  Fortunately the only resulting injuries were a bruises and scrapes.  I am happy to report that I did save the day later on when I warmed up my sons little hands.  They were freezing, and he was crying.  That is until I sacrificed my own warm hands  to cover his little popsicle ones.  Then I gave him a juice box and patted his head, pretty much saving the day and the entire trip.  Ah the life of a superhero.

When we got home my son, or Spidybatwalker, as I like to call him (because he likes to mix and match his superhero dressups), asked me to draw a superhero for him.  This is a common request, and I usually just draw some generic muscled man and let him color and fill in the details.  Earlier in the day he had completed an orange Batman.  But this time I was feeling a little heroic, so I decided to draw a woman which may or may not have had similar coloring and features as me, though I did take a little license with the flat stomach and toned arms.   I also added a Tinkerbell tutu (because I would not be caught dead in only spandex) and colored in the picture for him.  I was curious to see what he would think. He made a few additions to the drawing and told me he loved it.  So I present to you Vry ("Varee" he says).  She is twenty years old (woohoo) and has purple powers (not powers that are purple, but the power of purple! I hear it's a great one.).

Cover Design

I decided to design a cover for the last novel I wrote, JADED.  I thought I would post it just for fun! Happy Monday!!
Excerpt

Jade spent enough time around Superheroes to know there was nothing super or heroic about them.  The Supers she knew were more like super-egotistical jerks.  Sure a lot of what they did saved lives, and on occasion, one had been known to save the world, but they were all about the glory.  There was no higher cause motivating them to great deeds, only an insatiable desire to feed their already inflated egos—one more notch on their utility belt or one more feather in their bullet-proof, metallurgic cap.  She knew the truth; their noble deeds were more about self-promotion than self-sacrifice. 
As she drove up the windy, mountain road to the designated meeting place, a refurbished castle, of course, she couldn’t help but dread the forthcoming weeks.  When she agreed to take her position with the International Bureau of Remarkable Genetic Assets, or IBRAG as she preferred to call it (though her boss always chided her for using the unbecoming, unofficial, acronym around the office), she had expected to be working behind the scenes, not directly with the Assets. 
Her fingers tightened on the wheel as the road narrowed.  She rounded the final curve and let up off the gas until the car slowed to a near stop, which afforded her the opportunity to take a good look at the castle. 
The main structure had a single, high tower on the west end, and spread out on the east side into a long rectangular row, three stories high.  There were several outbuildings that had been converted into garages, and a high, modern wall encircled the entire property that sat amidst the rocky green landscape of Ireland.  Though it was at least ten feet high, she knew it was merely cosmetic, since an invisible force field covered the property like a dome. 
She pressed the gas again and pulled up in front of a wrought iron gate, the only opening in the field. 
“Here we go,” she muttered to herself when a tall muscled man in black pants, high boots and a long overcoat stepped out from the guard house to greet her.  She rolled down her window.
“Hey green eyes, are you lost?” The man leaned down to rest his elbows on the window.
You knew it would be like this.  Keep your cool.  Jade grabbed her badge and did her best not to look like she was shoving it in the man’s face.
“My name is Agent Jade Markston. I’m with
I-B-R-G.”
He raised his eyebrows in a look that plainly showed he wasn’t impressed. Then he focused his eyes on the I.D. card.  She saw his pupils flicker as he scanned her credentials with his X-ray vision. 
“You must be Rex,” she said when he finished.
He nodded.  “It’s always nice to meet a fan.”
It took all of Jade’s self-control to suppress the sarcastic retort on her lips, but offending the first Super she’d met on her team was hardly the best way to start off a mission.
“A bit of overkill don’t you think,” she said, changing the subject and gesturing to him and the guard station.  “Where’s the regular security?” 
“I volunteered to use my skills to man the guard station.  You can never be too careful at a gathering like this. But now that we’re all here, I’ll hand the job back over to security.”  He stood up and squared his shoulders as he spoke.  She saw his eyes flicker again as he gave her entire body a quick once over.  This time she made no attempt to hide her scowl.
“Is that really necessary?” she snapped.
“Just doing my job.  We can’t have anyone smuggling in weapons.” He smirked, and pushed the button to open the gate.
“Jerk,” she mumbled under her breath.  Her foot hit the gas like a lead brick, and she heard Rex chuckle behind her. 
Sports cars of every make and model covered the long drive and parking lot in front of the castle.  Most of them were customized and painted to match the colors of their owner.  There were emblems and logos on them, many which she easily recognized, and a few she didn’t.  She should have felt right at home, after all, her father had been the president of the largest advertising firm in the world.  She’d spent her life surrounded by Supers since every hot shot champion in tights had walked through his office doors at one time or another to sign a lucrative sponsorship contract.  Jade had been up close and personal with the world’s “best,” and she was not impressed.  Her prolonged exposure to the elite race had steadily eroded any respect she might have felt for their heroic feats. 
She pulled her rental car alongside a black and gold Aston Martin with a lightning bolt pin stripe, and rolled her eyes as she stepped out of the car.  Volt was among the guests.  She had known he would be there for weeks, but that didn’t stop the unmistakable knot from forming in her gut.  This was going to be interesting, she thought.
The crunching of gravel drew her attention away from the expensive car and toward a golf cart coming down the drive.  Rex was behind the wheel.  She hurried toward the entry at the front of the castle before he caught up to her. 
A double wood door, large enough to drive a delivery truck through, stood before her.  It looked too heavy to open.  She reached for the antique iron knocker, but before she could grab it, the door swung open without a sound. 
A short, thick man with black, curly hair and small brown eyes stood before her, grinning.  From his physique, Jade surmised his powers were mental.  The tight, silver unitard with a brain emblem across his chest reaffirmed her conclusion.  There was no mask on his face.  She wasn’t surprised, the trend of late seemed to be to dispense with secret identities. She supposed that some Supers still considered them a necessity—the smart ones, in her opinion—but an SI didn’t get you a lot of day to day attention, and so the majority of Supers had forgone their double life, even the ones that still wore masks.  And she had a suspicion many of them only continued to wear them to cover the fact that their faces were the least of their sensational attributes.  Perhaps the man standing in front of her had once worn a silver mask to match the rest of his shiny costume. 
She stretched out her hand toward him.  “I’m Agent-”
“Agent Jade Markston.  I know.  I’m Deja View,” he took the outstretched hand and pumped it up and down with his own small, sweaty one.  “You can call me DJ or D-man if you’d like.”
She realized she was looking at the future-teller of the bunch and the owner of the castle.  She supposed making a fortune wouldn’t be difficult if you always knew what was about to happen.
 He smiled and tapped his head with his forefinger.  “I saw you coming.”
“So I gathered,” she said dryly, taking back her hand and resisting the urge to wipe it on her suit.
“The meeting’s this way.”  He gestured to their left.  She stepped inside and followed him.  His short, stout legs moved quickly, creating a swishing sound as the taut fabric of his suit rubbed between his thighs.  He’s going to start a fire with that kind of friction, she thought as they passed through the opulent entry.  
To her right, two large staircases descended from the upper levels.  They joined together and formed one grand staircase at the bottom.  Above the marble-covered steps an immense, crystal chandelier was suspended from the top of the third floor.  It illuminated every niche and corner of the room, all which held replicas of Greek and Roman statues.  Her eyes wandered to the area behind the staircase, near a row of French doors leading out to the back patio, she could see a fountain.  In the center was a larger than life sculpture of Atlas, bent under the weight of the world he carried on his shoulders.  The water emerged from a hole in the top of the globe and then cascaded down the chiseled shoulders and abs of the burdened Greek god.  Jade groaned inwardly and continued toward the door that D-man now held open. 
“You choose to sit in the red seat over there,” he said, obviously pleased that he could give her a preview of the future with his powers.   Jade looked across the room, where a dozen of the world’s elite Supers had gathered and stood conversing, to the red velvet chair. 
The future was about to change.