Wednesday, November 9, 2011


This Saturday I am performing my first marriage ceremony. It's actually quite easy to be able to do this. Well, I mean to become a legal officiant is easy. What's not easy is getting up in front of the family and friends of the bride and groom and quite possibly botching one of the most important days of their life (I hope they don't read this).

How did this all come about? I think it started as a joke. "Hey, why don't I do it?" "Yeah, that would be fun." "Haha." "Haha." And then somehow I was on the computer, ordaining myself at and ordering my official certificate to take to the notary and parish clerk of courts. About $100 and a few trips to the Sears for their notary services, and I was able to perform weddings in Orleans and Jefferson Parish.

That all happened months ago, but now... Now it's real. I am possession of their marriage license. I have a black leather binder with the ceremony printed out in big font. I have a dress to wear -- I decided to skip the vestments. And on Saturday at 3:30 I will stand up in front of some people and perform a marriage. One of the most sacred acts in all of human ritual, and I am permitted to do it.

What does that say about the state of our culture?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Use of Verb Hierarchy

One of the best things we can do to improve our writing is focus on verb choice. My sophomore English teacher, Mr. Binder at San Luis Obispo High School, did something that changed my view of verbs forever. He made us write twenty-one, one-to-two page "treatments" on various senses. First the basic ones like seeing, smelling, etc... Then we got into more complicated ones, like irony. The big deal with these activities, though, was that we couldn't use any "to be" conjugations.

This set me on the road to stronger writing. Throughout my writing career, I've tried to write entire short stories without any use of "to be." "To Wade Alone" started off like that, seven pages without a "to be" conjugation. This allowed me, in later edits, to be lazy, using weak verbs to fill in based on what the eiditor wanted.

So today, I'm going to go over the best ways to write sentences as dictated by verb choice. I'm going to start with the worst and work up to the best.

  1. Weak verbs. What are weak verbs? Weak verbs are verbs that need a state-of-being descriptor after them to make sense. "I feel angry." Feel is weak because it wouldn't make any sense without angry behind it. The worst weak verb to use is... You guessed it, any form of "to be." "I was happy" shows me nothing as a reader. What does happy look like to you? It's different for everyone, so we need to use active verbs to show rather than tell emotion. Not only that, but "to be" can be used for so many things -- I even just did it there -- that it's easy to overuse it in a paragraph. I've even read professional writers that have it ten or more times in one paragraph. Oi! Some other weak verbs in certain situations are seems and looks. Writers should avoid these whenever possible.
  2. Passive verb construction. This is, essentially, when the subject of the sentence receives the action rather than performs the action. This construction often utilizes a "to be" conjugation as well, but it can also use "got," which I don't think it technically correct. For instance, "She was hit by the ball" or "She got hit by the ball." The ball does the hitting; it is the active participant in the interaction. She is passive, because she let herself get hit by the ball, but she is, nevertheless, the subject of the sentence. Passive construction works in some cases, like if who or what did the action is unimportant, or in business letters when we don't want to point fingers. "The door was left unlocked at closing yesterday" would sound more polite than "Whoever closed up last night left the door unlocked." However, in creative or fiction writing, we want to try to avoid the use of passive constructions because they tend toward wordiness. Back to the original example: "The ball hit her" uses less words and is active.
  3. Ho-hum but active nonetheless verb choice. Run, jump, play, look... These verbs make me sigh. We use them way too much. I'm even guilty of it. And adding an -ly adverb to them doesn't make things better. Just...wordier. In this case, we need to head to the thesaurus. Find synonyms with the right denotation or connotation. Use a more specific, rarer verb instead.
  4. Active, vibrant verb choice. This is the highest realm verb use. We need to shoot for this. This is choosing "sprint" instead of "run" or "purloined" instead of "stole." If you put yourself in the right frame of mind when you write, you can garner great satisfaction from picking the right words. Not only that, but your writing will improve immensely.
She was hit by the ball, and she was angry.
The ball sailed across the arch of heaven on a direct collision course with her head. The entire crowd heard the crack of rawhide to skull. She fell to the dust, tears already springing forth. By the time the coach arrived to check on her, her cheeks burned red, and her eyes had narrowed to determined slits. "I'll get them for this," she muttered. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Organization structure for the persuasive letter

Here is the organization structure for our class theme persuasive letter.

In paragraph one, please discuss the relationship you have with the song. Where did you first hear it? What does it make you think of? Why is it important to you personally?

In paragraph two, tell us what the song has to teach us as a class. This is the paragraph you should quote your lyrics in.

In the final paragraph, please convince your reader --  me -- why I should pick it above all others. Here you will use three of the persuasive techniques from the the packet you received at the beginning of the unit.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to Quote Lyrics

If it is one to three lines of lyrics:
  • State name of artist and song title immediately before if you have not already.
  • State from which part of the song the lyric is from (verse and number or chorus)
  • Embed the lyrics in the text.
  • Enclose with quotation marks.
  • Add a / between lines if necessary.
One of the most inspiring lines from the song, which comes in the chorus, is "I'm beautiful in my way/ 'Cause God makes no mistakes."

If the quotation is four or more lines:
  • State name of artist and song title immediately before if you have not already.
  • State from which part of the song the lyric is from (verse and number or chorus)
  • End the line right before the quote with a colon.
  • Set the lyrics apart from the text by indenting a half inch for the entire quote.
  • Do not use quotation marks.
"Born this Way" deals mostly with self-acceptance. In the first verse, we get these lines from Lady Gaga:
There's nothing wrong with lovin' who you are
She said, 'cause He made you perfect, babe
So hold your head up, girl, and you'll go far
Listen to me when I say
They tell us that...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Six Things Sunday -- movies on TV

I'm a bit wonky when it comes to certain movies. I have to watch them if they are on TV -- even when edited for time and content. No matter what, if I'm flipping stations and I see one of these films is on, I have to stop and watch it. So I thought today we'd do a "six things Sunday" of my must-watch movies.

You may question my taste, but these are all great for procrastinating the weekend away. I don't own any of the DVDs, nor would I rent them. There's no need, because they are all on some sort of Spike/ FX/ AMC rotation, it seems.

These are in no particular order.

  1. Pitch Black. Damn good sci fi, really, and you haters can keep quiet. I do put my fingers in my ears and say "Lalala" whenever the term "Furian" comes up. Really? That's the best they could do when coming up with a name for a people know for their, well, fury?
  2. Chronicles of Riddick. It's got Dame Judi Dench in it... and you know you want to know how Riddick did with his five-year plan.
  3. Hellboy. One of the best comic concepts turned movie. Plus, I'll watch anything with Ron Perlman in it. Problem is, he's in everything! (Tangled is great, by the way)
  4. Hellboy II: The Golden Army. See above.
  5. Constantine. This has been the longest running must-watch movie on the list. Even Shia LaBeouf couldn't ruin this for me. I love Tilda Swinton as the androgynous, really evil angel. I was excited to see on IMDB that a sequel is in the planning stages.
  6. Serenity. This one is even on Watch it Now on Netflix, but I'll still watch it on TV. I kneel at the alter of Firefly.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


When I first bought my house, I took a picture of the front. On later inspection, I saw perched on one of the wires -- phone or cable -- a green bird. I treated it like some sort of cryptozoological study. I had a jeweler's loop out in moments, saw it was some sort of parakeet or maybe a lovebird. I assumed at the time that someone's pet had become free.

Later I learned that New Orleans has a population of parrots. My bird book suggests they are monk parrots, a feral population established from escaped pets.

For the last decade, I've treated my occasional sightings of them with joy and wonder. I would see them in palm trees, hear them as they perched on wires or squabbled in the neighbor's magnolia tree. Most of the time, I saw them up around Elysian Fields, near UNO, in the palms that lined the median, bright flashes of green midst the dark foliage.

This year, though, it seems a population has finally made the permanent move into the Bywater. I see and hear them everyday now. I love it. It makes me feel as if I'm truly in a tropical setting. I munch on my pina colada snow ball and watch them dance on the power lines and try to invade the purple martin nesting boxes. They eat dates from a laden tree. Their shrieking -- not as articulate or ensnaring as a trained macaw's -- fills the air.

I know I shouldn't enjoy invasive species, but could something so cute and comical really deserve my rancor? I'll save it for the starlings.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Moving forward

I wrote a short story this week, which is great because I haven't written anything in a while. It's part of Magpie's story, and can be added to that book when I get back to working on it, but it stands alone. I just need to up the magical realism a smidge more before it's done.

Tomorrow is my first day back at work after a pretty good summer vacation. Coincidentally, I just started watching season four of The Wire, in which Pres has become a middle school math teacher in the Baltimore Public School System. Watching what he goes through reminds me a lot of my first two years in Orleans Parish. It's also making me nervous about my first day with kids in a couple of weeks. I spent the last three years with the same class of students, moving up with them, so it's weird having a new group.

I hope to get back to work on some longer writing soon. Hopefully finish Magpie one of these days. The second book is really the hardest, I think. It's taking me forever.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'm in Silverthorne, Colorado right now for a work trip. Going from about six feet below sea level yesterday to about ten thousand feet was a bit of a shock to  my system. I could have probably gone to bed at about six thirty, but we had to do introductions and what not.

I had a dream last night that for some reason crying blood was a sign of altitude sickness. Of course, I was crying blood. It was not a nice dream.

The setting here is beautiful: rushing rivers, waterfalls, snow-capped mountains all viewable from the bus on the freeway here. I'm sleeping on a rollaway bed right under the hotel room window, and I opened the drapes this morning to golden sun streaming through silver clouds. The effect has finished, but it was nice while it lasted.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Haven't posted in a while

I've been busy, and it seems my summer is just slipping away from me. I had planned to revise Storm Summer and maybe finish Magpie, but neither of those things happened. I did go to the Gulf Coast twice and drink rum drinks. I did help build a fence and finally finish painting my bedroom. And I'll be in Colorado for a week coming up.

Still, I don't feel as if I wrote as much as I could have. I started a short story and didn't finish it, and more disappointing, a journal I was in closed and won't be publishing one of my short stories. In fact, I'm not really sure when I'll publish something new.

In the meantime, I'm writing a workshop on grant writing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Our nation's capital

Our tour guide got in a fight -- it did not come to blows, but seemed close -- with a woman today because he directed our bus driver to park at a city bus stop. The lady was waiting for a ride, apparently -- though not for a bus -- and she took offense to the tour guide's attitude. There was much cursing and talking to the hand. I wanted to use this as some sort of metaphor for my trip here to Washington D.C., but my mind  is too melty and has stopped functioning. I can think of nothing apt or apropos -- look, I'm even writing redundancies.

The gift shops are filled with trinkets made in China, for the most part, many of the same items you can buy in Pensacola Beach or on Bourbon Street, but emblazoned with D.C. instead of N.O. Another metaphor there for another time.

Tomorrow we get out of the city to visit Mount Vernon. I'm hoping for a bit more history and a bit less flash there, but we'll see.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Spring Break

I listened to this book during my walks this spring break. I found it hilarious, sad, and motivational in turns. The audio book has its bright side -- in that Tina Fey actually narrates it. The book, I'm sure, would have its bright side -- in that the pictures she references are right there. I would definitely recommend this book to pretty much everyone. It's great to see inside her development as a performer and writer.

I'm sure people in my neighborhood think I'm crazy. Not only because I walk around with a dog tied to my waist -- it makes sense, believe me -- but because I've been laughing and crying aloud and completely ignoring them as I go by. I'm sure they can't see my uber chic iPod buds and the brilliant white wires, so they think I'm just rude. Or crazy.

Listening to this made me want to write comedy. I wrote one stand-up routine once, but never delivered it. Fey's background is in improv, which I loved in theater class growing up, but I feel more comfortable with the whole memorization thing. I've been thinking of a comedic novel, though. What would that look like coming from me? But then I look at the list of WIPs and sadly slink away from emulating Douglas Adams or Tom Robbins.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Roller Derby...Again

Last night I volunteered at the opening of the season for the Big Easy Roller Girls. Right this moment, I'm shopping for street wheels for my skates -- the ones I had custom made four years ago, the first time I wanted to do derby -- so I can start to get my chops back up before try-outs for "new meat" positions in the fall. There, I ordered them: purple wheels and cheap bearings so I don't ruin the good ones I already have on my skates.

Sacrifices will have to be made to make the practices and what not, but I think I'm finally ready to make it happen. I'll spend the summer working the bouts, learning the ropes, meeting the people I need to know, and skating all over the place. After that, maybe I'll be ready to try out. If not, well, I'll have fun getting to that point. Now to go dig up all my gear.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Fairhope Revelations

I went to the creative writing teachers' conference in Fairhope, Alabama this weekend. This is always an interesting and sometimes nerve-racking experience. I often leave with a different perspective on what I'm doing with my life and how I'm getting there.

Fairhope is a beautiful town, almost Stepford perfect, which is why it was hilarious when I tripped and skinned my knee and both palms on its Stepford-perfect sidewalks after having a few drinks at the pub down the block. The irony being that I can come home from the corner bar, or all the way from Markey's even, managing the holes, dips, rises, and all the other inconsistencies of a New Orleans sidewalk, but I can't walk on a perfect sidewalk in a perfect town?

I guess that fall -- which was witnessed by a shop owner who told me "I do it all the time" -- is something of a metaphor for my entire weekend. How I can traipse along perfectly well in my own sort of damaged, psuedo-successful publishing world -- small press horror anthologies, ebook short stories, sci fi web zines -- and feel good about everything and like I'm doing fine. And then -- BAM! One hundred thousand dollar advances from Random House that other people are getting hit me in the face like the concrete sidewalk. I'm left bloody, sore, and -- worst of all -- embarrassed.

I was wearing flip-flops after all.

We'll make this something of a six things Saturday.

  1. I have realized if I want to write a novel -- a real novel, not a collection of short stories like I already have, not a novella like the several I've churned out and sit on -- that I need to A. sell a novel to get an advance so I can work on another novel (something of a catch-22, since I can't get the first novel written). B. Win a grant to finish my first novel so I don't have to work while doing it. C. Get a part time job that pays enough so I have time and money to finish my novel. Short of working as an escort or exotic dancer, I don't think that job actually exists, so it's not an option. So instead I sit here, one of those English teachers who has "the great American novel" inside her but just can't find the time. Sheesh. Maybe this summer, right?
  2. I should have spent more nights hobnobbing after workshops when I was in the MFA program. But I always had to get up the next morning at 5:30 to go to work, so it seemed an impossibility at the time. Now I realize I might not still have to be getting up at 5:30 every morning if I'd gone to network back then, so you see my problem. It's hard to make up for lost time when you only see those people once a year.
  3. I hate palmetto bugs. I wish someone would pay me to write a chapbook rant about how much I hate them. I know that's a bit off topic, but I had to get it out there. Heck, I'm going to do it and put it on Smashwords. Maybe I'll work on it tomorrow. Would you pay ninety-nine cents for that? I wouldn't, because I hate palmetto bugs.
  4. In my defense, genre fiction is a perfectly fine way to make enough money to buy groceries and pay car insurance while still working on "the great American novel." Really. It is. Did I hear you say, "But if you spent that time writing the novel, it would get done"? Maybe, or maybe I'd want to write about space pirates instead. I like space pirates. There's nothing wrong with space pirates. Really.
  5. I'm pretty certain I can't actually write a novel. I've blamed it on my attention span, wanting to always move on to the next thing, but I think instead, once I get up to twenty or thirty thousand words, I start to doubt the worth of what I'm doing. I need to get over that.
  6. Finally, I have the best friends, family, and fans. Y'all have given me opportunities and feedback that I am completely and utterly grateful for. I walk solid on broken sidewalks because of you.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


I've been walking the streets of my neighborhood quite a lot lately. Two or more miles each day essentially. I've seen some interesting things, like today in the dumpster behind Studio Inferno was an orange feather boa. I had to wonder how it got there and why someone would throw something so lovely away in the first place.

I also found twenty dollars today which, though not nearly as whimsical, is pretty damn awesome.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Script Frenzy!

April is Script Frenzy month. This is the screen writing equivalent of NaNoWriMo, except each participant only has to write 100 pages of a screenplay instead of 50,000 words.

I've decided to do it this year as an exercise to help me with one of my novels. I've sort of fizzled out -- partially do to lack of information about the details surroundings women in Louisiana prisons in the 1920s -- but also because I had some shaky plot points. I think pounding through all of that in screenplay form, like a glorified outline, might help me see things a different way, so that's my plan.

As always, I try to get other people around me involved. Any takers? No? I didn't think so. Anyway, wish me luck.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Screenwriting Coming Up!

My students will be starting screenwriting right after LEAP phase two. I'm really excited because this year, I actually have done it! I completed my first official screenplay just this month, so the information is quite fresh in my head.

Kids really need to visit this site to start looking into the info and getting a feel for how everything works:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New short story posted

Coupon code for free copy: ZB59X (expires 5/31/2011)
I've posted a new short story on my Web site here. If you want to get the Smashwords version advertised there -- and linked to the picture at left -- wait until 23 March. The first version I uploaded had a glitch with the cover image. The new one should be up by tomorrow. If you like it, please leave a comment at the bottom of the page, or rate it on Smashwords.

This story started as an exercise in modeling mystery writing for my eighth grade students during our fiction unit this year. I've been told it was "well written," but it was an odd bit of speculative fiction which was hard to place.

I do see myself writing more Langston Pierpont stories. He's sort of a Kolchak character in my head, so maybe there will be more unexplained or odd cases for him to tackle.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I've been playing around with Smashwords for the last couple of weeks, and hope to have a few decent short stories up there in a bit, stuff that editors said was "well written" but didn't fit in their anthologies. I figure why not? List it for ninety-nine cents, throw a few 100% off coupons around, then compile them all into an anthology. That's my plan anyway. We'll see how it goes. I should have my first submission vetted in a few days.

Despite the guide they offer, it's still sort of difficult to perfect everything so that it works on a computer, an ebook reader, smartphones... It's a lot of work to play with pictures sizes and everything.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I sent off the third version of my screenplay today. I think it works as a short feature. As a writer, I feel like there are holes in screenplays that need to be filled, but I know if I put every nuance and interaction in there that I thought it needed, the thing would run for hours. I guess that's why entire pages are pulled by directors, and still film is left on the cutting room floor.

It feels good to have one set of major revisions done, and I'm actually looking forward to getting feedback on this version, knowing that I can make more changes and keep getting it closer and closer to shoot-ready.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Krewe de Vieux

I went to the Krewe de Vieux parade last night. Lots of biting commentary this year, as always. My favorite sight was a sperm on a stick meant to be trumpeter Kermit Ruffins. I guess you'd have to have been there to get what I'm saying.

Yesterday I also made an appointment with a new tattoo artist who works three blocks from my house. I get the sketch this week, and go in next Saturday for the work. If everything goes well, maybe he'll do everything for me from now on. I like to support local business.

Finally on my list of weekend's accomplishments, I sent the (hopefully) final revised synopsis of the screenplay I wrote to the producer. If he okays it, I'll start revisions and finish it by Mardi Gras weekend. Some partying will definitely follow!

And then more writing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Racy, Upcoming Weekend

I will be going to my first burlesque show this weekend. I've watched documentaries and Youtube videos about it, but I've never gone to a live one before. I'm definitely a fan of the concept. The art, the athleticism, the humor. I thought once I might try writing jokes for burlesque acts, or creating some kind of monologue act, but, well... This writer gets up at 5:30 every morning, works four jobs, and fitting in another thing that would require rehearsal and late nights just doesn't seem to be part of the plan right now. Same reason I never joined roller derby. I'm probably going to have to supplement my evening with a little caffeine tomorrow night, to make up for the lack of sleep I'm bound to experience.

Saturday night is the Krewe de Vieux parade. This is the only Mardi Gras parade I go to, mainly because I can walk to it and parking is not an issue. Household tradition dictates we carry Irish coffee in a travel mug, and then stop at Markey's on the return trip. Krewe de Vieux is one of the more daring parades, I think, with lots of politically themed floats. I'm sure BP will be a target this year. They also still use mules to pull some of the floats, which I think is outstanding.

So, all in all, I probably won't be getting a lot of writing done this weekend, but I should be having fun!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hellbore and Rue releases tomorrow!

Hellbore and Rue will finally release tomorrow and hit Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as being available from the publisher here. I just got my copy today, so I can't comment on any of the other stories, but I know "Trouble Arrived" is pretty good because I wrote it.

Having something release sort of makes me want to crawl out from my winter hibernation and put some more stories out there, but the weather... sheesh. My brain is on lockdown or something until we get back into the seventies. Come on, April. I need my brain juice circulation back.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lovely Dishwashing

I worked two shifts dish-washing, busing tables, and taking to go orders at a restaurant this weekend. I haven't worked in a restaurant since 2004, and then it was only for two nights. Before that, I'd last done it when I was nineteen, way back in the nineties, a surly goth girl coming onto shifts in stained Beatles T-shirts and a leather jacket, smelling of clove cigarettes and complaining about my community college English teacher.

I noticed last night -- it sort of came as an "Oh, yeah, I remember how that works" -- that there is a special "kitchen time" in restaurants. At other jobs, you may get bored, you look at the clock, and time crawls by. The afternoon in a cubicle with nothing to do can seem endless to the unimaginative mind. Or you get a lot of work done, and bam! The day's over. Out for cosmos with the friends.

Kitchen time, though, is wholly different. In kitchen time, you bust your ass washing dishes, clearing tables, answering calls, refilling drinks, and then you look at the clock. You fell absolutely certain that an hour must have gone by since you last checked. How else had you managed to do all those things? But sadly, according the the clock which measures the pace of the world outside the kitchen, only fifteen minutes have gone by. Then you ask yourself how in the world can you survive this for the hours of your shift that still remain.

In those circumstances, you can kind of feel like the Flash, moving so fast that those around you seem to slow down. The world slows down. It's like being a super hero.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sweet, Sweet Forward Progress

My last blog was my 100th post. No one gave me free tickets to anything, or a glass of champagne, or key chain. A key chain would have been nice. In fact, I didn't even notice it until just now when I logged in to my make my weekly contribution. To celebrate, as soon as I am done with this, I'm going to have a rum punch. I was going to drink one anyway, but now I will put a slice of orange and a little umbrella in it to make it special.

Yesterday's landmark was this -- I sold out of my first box of All Along the Pacific copies. All the money I made on those is going to buy more copies. I suppose it's a little optimistic to think there are more than twenty-five people who want my book, but I will find them. I will, dammit.

Another landmark today -- Sugar Park has reopened. There are some places you miss when they are gone, and lament each passing day that they remain gone. Sugar Park was one of those places. Maybe I look back on those years the bar was at 800 France Street as particularly special because they sandwich either side of Katrina, and Sugar Park was a place we all gathered to trade news, offer help, and generally feel normal. The place has changed -- not a bar anymore, more of a cafe -- but the faces and the food remain the same. The location link on this blog is their new address. Friend them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. It will be worth it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cyber Launch Today

In case you missed the earlier annoucement, I'm over at today, officially lauching All Along the Pacific. If you'd like to win a copy of an anthology I'm in, leave a comment or a question. Thanks!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Yorker

There's been a lot of controversy this week about the balance of male to female writers. Women appear to be tragically underrepresented by the literary magazine, and some subscribers are returning their editions and requesting refunds or extensions until a more equitable mix is found.

I've never considered myself a New Yorker caliber writer, but last night, over a bowl of mussels and after a vodka and cranberry, I decided I would give it a shot. I thought maybe they'd be in the market for female writers once they see the error of their ways.

I started on the story today. I'm not sure exactly where it will end up, but I think I have a fairly good concept that will fit in with the fiction of the magazine I've read in the past.

My chances are not good. At Duotrope, out of 201 submissions, 0.5 percent have been accepted, so roughly one. I don't see that as awful. Maybe I'll write two hundred stories. They've have to take one of the eventually, or at least the odds would have me believe.