Alphabet April (Blogging from A to Z Challenge)

Ladies and gents, tomorrow I will begin Alphabet April. That is not the official name for it (it's officially the Blogging from A to Z Challenge), but it's what I'm calling it. My friend, author, and fellow blogger Colby is doing it and she said I should do it with her so I said ok.

Every day of the month, except Sundays, will be a different letter. I decided to go with a New York theme so I'll be sharing a lot of my favorite spots in NYC. 

Stay tuned!


Subway Sleeping

I love when people fall asleep on the subway. And it's not just a light sleep...

Yeah, girl, who cares what you look like. You just gotta get your sleep when you can get it.


My Bear Truth

Bears are terrifying.

I'm not one that scares easily. I've been over at friends' houses and had to be the one to kill a roach or a spider because I'm the one who doesn't panic. My favorite animals are whales, whose size and mass alone should cause fear but I only feel awe. Snakes are creepy and I'd rather not see one, but I would have no problem holding a pet snake or seeing one on TV. Bears though? Bears are of the devil and I will not tolerate them.

Sure, when they're little baby cubs, they look all cute and cuddly. But I know they'll grow up to be killers who are faster than humans and can kill you with one swipe of a claw. 

Most people see this and think "Awww, I want him as a pet!"

But all I can see is this:

Especially polar bears. Oh my god, polar bears scare the bejesus out of me. First of all, they're humongous and they have these weirdly long limbs. They are also master hunters - they hunt seals by freaking smelling their breath. Ok this is a slight exaggeration - they sniff out seal breathing holes in the ice, then lie in wait until they smell their breath, then they reach in and drag the seal out. Oh my god. They've also been known to prey on beluga whales, which is a big no-no! 

They're just super creepy...I leave you with pictures that confirm my fears.

I don't know why this is considered hilarious.


Weekly Wrap Up! 3.8.13

This week I got called for jury duty for the first time ever. I had no idea what to expect, considering how everyone complains about it, but I found it pretty enjoyable! The guy in charge (in my head I call him the emcee) was entertaining and funny, they showed movies (Night at the Museum and Die Another Day), and I basically just got to sit around and read all day. Pretty enjoyable, right?

I did get called for a panel and had to listen to 3 lawyers repeat the same stuff and ask the same questions over and over again, but it was still interesting. I find the whole process to be interesting actually. I was picked to be on a jury for a civil case and I'm pretty excited about to go through the whole experience. Plus, it's time I'm not at work - my days are usually 10 hours long, but even if I put in a full day at the courthouse, it's only been about 6 hours a day on average. Today I was only there from about 10:00 to 12:30, a great start to my weekend! I go back next week to actually start the trial.

Last weekend I had brunch with an old friend and we had a very...enlightening visit. She was once friends with a mutual acquaintance who unfortunately turned out to be a genuine sociopath. The unfortunate thing about sociopaths is that you rarely know what they are until they've already ruined your life and are attempting to get rid of you. It was nice to talk about that time and this person and correct all the lies we'd been told. Laura is an amazing person and I'm so glad we've reconnected and look forward to future brunches where Chris isn't the only thing we talk about! (If you have any interest in the sociopath story, including a couple of good resources about dealing with sociopaths, feel free to visit my friend David's blog post about it. He and Colby are open books when it comes to their former association with Chris.)

I enjoyed a night at Blockheads with my favorite Harlem girl, Molly (and Jayne showed up later too!). Blockheads has pretty good food, but mostly I LOVE their drinks. I had a Pink Bulldog, which was frozen vodka lemonade, topped with white sangria and then a coronita is turned upside down in it. It's delicious. I went for a second drink, which was a Black Flower: fruity sangria mixed into a frozen margarita. What a lovely night.


A Chat with Colby Marshall, Writer Extraordinaire

Hello, faithful stalkers!
Today I'm going to do something a little different (though this blog seems to be pretty eclectic as it is, so this post should really fit right in). For those of you who don't know, I'm a very avid reader. I'll read any piece of fiction you put in front of me. Living pretty far out in Queens means that I have about a 40 minute subway ride to and from work. Combine that with the fact that I'm a very fast reader and work at a job where I can sit and read at random times during the day, I usually end up reading an average of 5-7 books a week.

The only way I could be at Colby's first book signing!
My love for reading factored heavily into the bond I now have with my best friend Colby Marshall. I'd barely known her a few weeks before she started sending me pages from whatever book she was writing at the time. It's been so fun to be on the other side of the book, if you will, where I got to help Colby research weird questions and point out continuity problems. I also feel like it's been a huge privilege to be able to watch her journey from writing book after book until finally one got published - Chain of Command, where McKenzie McClendon chases after the story of a lifetime when the president and vice president are assassinated simultaneously. And now she's already in edits for a McKenzie sequel, The Trade, where a surgeon is providing infants to a black market baby trade and leaving helpless women to die.

As part of her blog tour, Colby asked me if I wanted to interview her and the answer was a resounding yes! Enjoy!

1. Do you work better during the day or at night?

Definitely at night.  I'm a night owl by nature, and it also just happens to work out for me right now because with a new baby, it's tough to settle down to work when she's awake and needing lots of attention.  So, since I'm a nocturnal beast anyway, I'm able to put her to bed for the night and get some work done before turning in myself.

2. Who is your favorite character in Chain of Command and which character do you feel you relate to the best?

It's so hard to narrow it down to one favorite.  I actually have three, I think, but if I have to pick, I'd say my favorite character is Uhlig.  I love him because he's quite badass, and I love how much he spices things up in ways you don't realize until the very end.  The close seconds are Pierce and Jig.  (Is it strange that my favorite character is the one who blows up things and the runners up are hackers?  Does that say anything bad about me?)  I relate most to McKenzie.  She's incredibly ambitious, and she wants to be known for her writing, something I can honestly say I have lived and am still living as we speak.

3. What's the most demeaning thing you've heard said about you as a writer or writers in general?

Wow!  That is a such a tough question.  The most demeaning thing I've heard about myself as a writer is one bad review I got on Amazon.com.  The particular reader did not  like the habit one of my characters has of making references to Jesus in "colorful" ways  (example: Jesus riding a skateboard).  She felt they were juvenile.  Everyone has their own opinions and personal preferences, and every person also tends to have his or her own list of tender spots they find offensive.  So, I appreciate her taking the time to review my novel and leave her comments even though I respectfully disagree with her take on Noah's "swearing."  I actually used this tactic in particular as a character quirk for Noah to avoid the need to have him swear as much.  He's a Navy SEAL, so it's only normal that he would use some colorful language, but I hoped this would be a nice way to get around a ton of f-bombs.  

As for what I've heard that demeans writers in general, I think the thing I think most writers find tough is when someone finds out you've written a book and immediately begins telling you about the book they would write if they had time.  Usually this statement is followed by the person telling you all about why they didn't have time, such as having a "real job," etc.  No writer on earth who has actually written a book has time to write it.  We make time, because it is our passion.  It's a little tough to stomach to have someone diminish what is your life's blood by saying, "Oh, yeah, I could do that, too, if I was as much of a bum as you are!" Ha!

4. Are all the names of your characters important?

No, not always.  Usually I feel like I need to come up with just the right names for main characters, so I won't name a large character something that doesn't feel right.  As you know, Elaine Covington in CHAIN OF COMMAND is named after you, but that said, if the name Elaine hadn't fit her perfectly, I wouldn't have used it for this particular character.  I know you know this, but for readers who don't, I do actually tend to have a character named for Ashlee in some way in every book I write, but Elaine's character is the first time it has worked out to be such a huge character.  Typically, if I name a character "for" someone, it is a small character that only appears for a scene or two (this is why so often if I name a character "for" someone, it ends up being a murder victim!).  Another huge character, Uhlig, is named after someone I know, but similarly, it happened to be a name of the sort I was looking for for this particular character, so I picked it for fit.

5. Do you ever wish you had an average 9-5 job instead?

I have moments where I do wish I had a nine to five job, mainly because it is very difficult for me to "leave" work.  If I'm at home with my laptop, I feel like I should be working.  In ways, it would be nice to be able to leave work and clock out for the day and come home and know my hours were over.  As it is, I end up being somewhat of a workaholic because I don't have that separation.  Even so, though, I do love the freedom of having an out of the box career, and for me, the benefits of doing things I love outweigh the problems.

6. We already know that McKenzie lives in NYC, though Chain of Command sees her chasing her story all over the country. I understand that in your sequel, The Trade, the bulk of the story is actually set in NYC. What led you to choosing the Big Apple, as opposed to the other big cities around the country?

CHAIN OF COMMAND was tough moving from city to city for settings, because I was dealing with so many time zones, I needed to time stamp every new scene to make sure the reader knew when things were happening all over the world. So I knew this time if the story would lend itself to it, I wanted to make it occur in one geographical area. I love New York so much so that I hope one day I will be in a position to move there. When Ashlee and JP moved to New York as well as when I started taking trips to the city to go to writer's conferences and conventions, I got to know the city better and better.   When I was in New York one of those times, ideas began to flow for me about particular spots in the city that would work perfectly for the scenarios I had in mind for The Trade. Having gotten to know the city well, I felt like that knowledge would only add to descriptions I could give of the scenarios and ultimately add a lot of authenticity and help set the tone for the story.

And now some fun random questions that have nothing to do with anything:

Crayons, markers, or colored pencils?
Markers almost always.

Favorite Harry Potter character?
Dumbledore.  No!  Snape.  No!  Dumbledore.  Or Snape.

Favorite alcoholic beverage?
White wine.

Vanilla or chocolate?
Chocolate. (unless we're talking frozen yogurt, in which case I like them to both be present and swirled)

Do you enjoy breakfast or dinner more?
Dinner here lately, though this seems to go in phases for me.

If you were deserted on an island, which 3 famous people would you want with you?
This answer probably changes on any given day I'd answer it, but today, I think it would be Whoopi Goldberg, R.L. Stine, and Ellen Degeneres, because they're some of the funniest people to me, so if nothing else, I'd be entertained! 

Oh one last thing: be sure to visit Colby's website and join her S.W.A.T. team for awesome giveaways, merchandise, exclusive materal, fun facts and trivia, even deleted scenes! You can join in the fun here.

Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic.  In addition to her 9,502 regular jobs, she is also a contributing columnist for M Food and Culture magazine and is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.  She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer and occasionally indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress.  She lives in Georgia with her family, two mutts, and an array of cats that, if she were a bit older, would qualify her immediately for crazy cat lady status.  Her debut thriller, Chain of Command is now available, and the second book in her McKenzie McClendon series, The Trade, is due for publication by Stairway Press in June 2013.


Rom Com Memorial Service

Recently my good friend Harper posted an article talking about the death of the romantic comedy. This is a truly sad thing to ponder - when did we, the movie goers of the world, stop clamoring for movies like You've Got Mail and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days?? These fluffy feel-good movies do their job well - just like romance novels (which I love), rom coms offer you a chance to escape the stresses of life and be transported to a fun romantic moment in time.

So to mourn the slow death of romantic comedies, Harper and I decided to get together and have a Rom Com Memorial Service by drinking wine and watching When Harry Met Sally because - horror of horrors - I'd never seen it!
We made frozen pizzas and I brought chocolate wine that we poured over ice cream in a Disney princess mug, because that seemed appropriate. Of course it comes as no surprise that I completely fell in love with the movie.

Oh, and meet Winston.


Weekly Wrap Up! 3.2.13

This week has been busy (i.e. JP and I have gotten caught up in the world of Minecraft, causing us to do almost nothing else). 

While there's not much to report, I will talk about my 'no poo' situation. I hate it. My hair has been so gross this week. So gross. It's possible this is that "transition period" that is talked about, but if it is I'm just not sure I can handle it. Not only does my hair feel gross and dirty, it feels and looks unhealthy to me. Also, I'm pretty sure it's making my color fade - I knew this was a possibility and actually set out to find out if that would happen or not. 

I really hate to give up, but my hair just isn't handling it well and I miss feeling clean. It's possible that it feels so bad because I'm having to train it to not be washed every day in addition to the new washing method.

I don't want to discourage anyone from trying this! Everyone's hair is different and your hair may respond better to it. You also may be better at pushing through crappiness than I am. If anyone tries it, I'd love to hear about your experience - I'm thinking I'm going to work on training my hair to not be washed every day, then try the no poo method again. We shall see.