Friday, October 31, 2008


Fiction Outtake: Needing Candy (The Early Days)

Warning: This outtake contains lots of foul language and men in women's clothing. Happy Halloween!

"Trevor, you may not go trick-or-treating!"

"Aww, Mom, why not?"

Mitchell dove for the safety of his room. If Ma wasn't going to let Trevor out of the house in spandex pants and a vest, she sure as shit wasn't going to let him out. Not with his hair spray painted orange and while he was wearing one of Amy's old bras. Aim would kill him when she saw him in her only long skirt, too. Hopefully she'd stay up at school tonight and hit up those stupid frat house parties she'd been raving about. As if he'd go to college, let alone join a fucking fraternity.

Trevor showed up a minute later, looking glum. "Mom threatened to barricade the door."

"Did you ask if we can hand out the candy?"

Trev shook his head. "She's on to that trick, dude."

"So let's fuck with her and really hand out the candy."

"What are you going to do about your hair?"

Mitchell shrugged. "We've got a gig tonight, right?"

"And no candy to throw during it." Trevor sat down on the bed and dropped his chin into his hand.

"Eric'll cover for us."

Trevor sat up and snapped his head around. He narrowed his eyes at Mitchell, who raised his eyebrows in surprise at the extreme reaction and waited. "What happened to pulling our own weight?" the bass player demanded. He jumped up and started waving his arms around, occasionally pointing at Mitchell. "We're a band and we rely on each other but that doesn't mean we slack off. It means we all work our asses off to be the best fucking band we can be. That doesn't mean you sit on your pampered ass and wait for Eric to show up with the fucking candy. That means you use my escape route out that window of yours and we go fucking trick-or-treat so we have something to give our fans, dumbfuck!"

"Not in a skirt," Mitchell said calmly, picking at a fold. Really, he thought, these things weren't so bad, once you got used to them. It was sort of free inside there, not all caught up inside a denim casing like a sausage or something.

Trevor jumped up and down, his eyes screwed shut, his motorcycle boots thunking on the floor. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

"Nothing. What the fuck is wrong with you?"

"Fuck off. I'm the one giving a fuck around here."

"No," Mitchell said, sitting up and adjusting the bra. They'd stuffed it with socks, of course, although Trevor had sniggered and suggested using underwear. It didn't matter what was in there; Mitchell now had a much better idea of why they called them knockers. "It's not about whether or not I give a fuck. It's about how long we have to wait to pull off my plan."

"Oh, a plan," Trevor said with an exaggerated sniff and wag of his head.

Mitchell stared at the ceiling and asked whoever was hanging out up there
for some patience. "Yes, a plan, you dumbass," he said. "It's simple. We hand out candy. One to the kids, one to us. By the time we need to split, we're set."

"And how are you planning on getting that past Mom? You know she won't go for it."

"It's simple. Either we take it, or we eat it. Remember what happened last time you hit a sugar high?"


Mitchell laughed. He stood up and held his arms out. "So tell me. Do my boots go with the skirt?"

For more Scandalous happenings, check out this week's Sunday Scribblings. And, as always, I invite you back to my website where you can learn more about Trevor and Mitchell and where you can gain easy access to see more of them in action.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Susan's Music Talk and Cool Shit

Now, it stands to reason that anyone who grew up the way I did loves great music. That I love to throb with music. (Oh, shut up, you gutter brains!)

When I was little, my sister played the flute and piccolo. She'd practice for hours. Thus, music is something that's always been a part of me, something I miss when it's not around and like many musicians, something I hear in the oddest of places.

Too bad I can't play it worth a damn.

So of course I fell in love with the absolute brilliance that is Apocalyptica. A four-man cello band from Finland who got their start playing Metallica??

Man, that start was only the tip of the iceberg for those boys. I can not, listen to the song Burn from their newest album without humming and thrumming along. Sheer brilliance. Sometimes, depending on where I am and how sunk into listening I am, it brings tears to my eyes. (That link'll take you to a live version)

That's why, when #1 brought home a note from the school orchestra teacher inviting the kids to a free concert by cello rock group CelloFourte, I figured they'd have to call the cops to get me out of that auditorium. Live music? Good live music? I am so there.

Turns out it wasn't an issue. Heck, with that large number of kids from third grade on up, the powers that be at the school were probably quite glad to see us parents sprinkled in among the students.

CelloFourte only played for an hour, which was about right for those of us with younger kids. #1 sat a row in front of me with three of his friends, transfixed. Me, I fought the urge to go stand up somewhere. It's been way too long since I've seen live music and the sound of those cellos... oh, man. Soulful. Different from Apocalyptica, and different is good. These three men and one woman can certainly put their own stamp on the cello rock genre.

Afterward, #1 and his friend wanted copies of the newest CelloFourte CD. And this is when the Pittsburgh connection kicked in.

Turns out that the very coolly named Tate (uhh, he'd be the cello player in the band) works for a friend of mine. And when he's not doing that, he's playing with a band you might have heard of... Skillet.

My jaw dropped. Skillet? The same Skillet I hear (not often enough) on Squizz? The same Skillet who does the amazingly moving The Last Night?

Tate, dude, we gotta be friends. My living room makes a great practice space, ya know...

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Susan's Book Talk: WAY overdue!

I can't believe I haven't done a Book Talk since August, when I raved about The Kommandant's Girl. Granted, my reading's (regrettably) slowed since then, as I've had other things in the works and all of us adjusting to the new school year.

I've been reading great books, though. In fact, of the 14 I've read, there have been only 2 that I haven't finished. That's a pretty good ratio.

I'm not going to go through all 12 that I finished. I don't want to bore you -- I want to point you to the great reads. There have been plenty.

Let's start with George and the Virgin. This was my first romance written by Lisa Cach, and it's easy to see what everyone is raving about when they talk about Ms. Cach. I really liked the heroine, but even more, it's a good reminder of what can happen when our lives are ruled by fears.

Sweet Man is Gone is Peggy Ehrhart's fiction debut and a definite don't miss. I reviewed it over at Front Street Reviews -- look under mysteries. I've also swapped a few e-mails with Ms. Ehrhart and she's wonderful.

For a long time now, I'd heard mixed reviews of both War for the Oaks (Emma Bull's classic) and Parable of the Sower (Octavia E. Butler's classic), and had been dragging my heels about reading both of them. It was time to suck it up (see my comment about George and the Virgin for that lesson on being ruled by fear). I'm glad I did. Both books are incredible. Both have very dark visions of society, which is fine. I like a good dystopic society. Parable is perhaps the darkest book I've ever read. Oaks shows the power of music.

I reviewed Parable for Breeni. Check it out.

Time to change gears and finally take the plunge and read a book by Lauren Dane! I've been reading her blog for years and I like her. I won a copy of Making Chase in a contest held at her blog and while it took me a little bit longer than I'd intended to get around to reading it, it was worth the wait. Ms. Dane creates wonderfully real, complex characters. She's about to have a few new books released by a major publisher; look for them.

To tie the romance and the alternate society together, I finally picked up my very-badly-treated copy of Stray (really, the person who sent it shouldn't have, despite the vague rules at PaperbackSwap. This poor book can't be sent back out again -- and before you suggest it might be ME who treated it so badly, I challenge you to ask Bridget, who borrows all my books. She'll tell you how gentle I am with a book. She's been known to ask if the copy I'm handing her is the one I read.). Rachel Vincent's debut is another book I've heard negative things about. With one minor exception, I disagree. Read what I thought over at Breeni's. (It made me feel good to see the comments, where someone says they'd steered away because of the negative talk, but I'd changed their mind.)

And last night, I finished a humdinger. I've read Anita Diamant's The Red Tent. I've read Good Harbor (a book which continues to resonate with me, years later). I've even read some of her nonfiction books "about contemporary Jewish practice," as her bio describes them. The Last Days of Dogtown trumps them all.

The friend who'd handed me her copy said "Eh," as she handed it to me, but I loved this series of interlocking stories that collectively tell the tale of a small New England town (that actually existed, according to the back cover) as it breathes its last. Well-drawn characters it's impossible not to care for make this another book that'll stay with me a long time.

So there you go. Seven books -- that's half of what I've read in the past two months. I'm on a roll. I hope it continues; it's much easier to tear myself away from the screen (and impending burn out) when there's a good novel waiting on the couch for me.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008


Seven Braggy Things

My new bud, Beaded Tail, tagged me for that seven things meme. The last time I did it, Trevor took over. (Read it here.) Okay, he does a lot of my memes for me. He did this one, too.

Given that the Sunday Scribblings prompt this week is all about bragging, it seems natural to let Trevor do this one, too. No one loves to brag like Trevor Fucking Wolff.

But... I like being as unpredictable as my Trevor. And I got lots to brag about.

So I'm stuffing Trevor back into the tour bus and taking a rare spin at this blogging about myself stuff. (Although I suspect I do it more than I'm willing to admit! Do I?)

Know why?

Because I'm about to give you guys something many of you have asked for. Nope, not the novel you've been longing for. Not quite yet.

I've been playing with this idea for a year and a half now. I was advised to hold off doing it by a literary agent who offered representation ... and then disappeared.

Sometimes, things happen for the best. 'Cause there's not a person involved in the big business of books who'd tell you that what I'm doing has ANY commercial value. Let's prove them wrong.

What I've done is taken ALL the ShapeShifter fiction (minus anything Chelle wrote) from my blog's first year. I've organized it into chronological order, like you've asked for. I've edited each piece, more than once.

And I've uploaded it to

Nope, you can't buy it YET. Know why?

The first copy I made had some odd layout issues. And the font was too small. And it needed another edit.

The second copy I made had two Tables of Contents.

And you know what? I have a whole new, healthy appreciation for people who do this stuff for a living. Sheesh, we've learned a lot, the Tour Manager and me.

It'll be soon, though. As soon as I let the Tour Manager have the laptop back so he can finish whatever tech stuff it is he's got to do. Believe me, I'll let you know.

Now, because I'm doing this myself, that means I don't get any free copies that'll show up on my doorstep for people to promo and review, like most authors get. And while most of you groupies deserve your own free copy, you might change your mind when I spring this fact on you:

Most of my expenses after profits will go to various charities, hopefully a different one every three months.

I say "most" simply so I have some wiggle room. If I say "I'm giving ALL my profits to charity," I won't feel right about holding back money for expenses I know are upcoming. I'm not doing this to make a profit. I'm doing this for these reasons:

1. I have something you guys have said you want.

2. No one else seems overly willing to help me get it to you ("No one else" meaning any of the people in publishing I've approached over the years, except for the one agent who went poof.)

3. I can.

4. I've always wanted to be a great philanthropist. Growing up in the shadow of Andrew Carnegie will do that to you, I suppose. Or all those lessons from the rabbis about the importance of tzedakah -- charity -- sunk in. You pick.

5. I'm curious to know how many copies of this little book I'll sell.

6. It's not always easy to search a blog's archives. This way, you'll have at least a third (or so) of the ShapeShifter fiction that'll be easier to refer back to.

7. I have lots more outtakes we can do this with... Year 2 wrapped up last April, and we're in the middle of year 3 now.

So... there you go. Much better than listening to me rave about how actor Shemar Moore was featured in this month's Bicycling Magazine, right?

(btw, this is only the beginning... look for some fun stuff to wear and a few other surprises in the next few months, given the speed at which the Tour Manager and I move lately. If you have an idea for a t-shirt, give a holler! I'm sure we can work something out...)

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Thursday, October 23, 2008


BTT: Coupling

At first glance, this week's Booking Through Thursday is a great question:

“Name a favorite literary couple and tell me why they are a favorite. If you cannot choose just one, that is okay too. Name as many as you like–sometimes narrowing down a list can be extremely difficult and painful. Or maybe that’s just me.”

Well, of course my favorite couple is Mitchell and Kerri. That goes without saying. I created them. (And wait until you see the couple I'm working on now!)

But then I began to think a little more deeply about the books I've read lately. Know what?

I can't name any relatively recent couples.

There are a bunch of triangles -- and I like triangles -- roaming around out there. Colleen Gleason's got Max and Sebastian. I haven't read Stephanie Meyer, but it sounds like there's a triangle with Edward and some other dude.

Notice something else? Those are both series I've just named.

There hasn't been a great epic novel in a long time -- epic like Gone with the Wind epic. Those are the novels that let us really get to know a couple, to allow us readers to spend enough time with them that they become alive. So now we need the series novels to make that happen.


A lot of the series I've been reading -- Kim Harrison comes to mind, as does Rachel Vincent, although I'm not current on either series (and what does that tell you about how frequently books are being pumped out lately?) -- don't have couples in them, per se. They feature women and men and yeah, there's some attraction and chemistry, but the characters don't couple off. Not permanently, and at least not up through the books I have gotten to (so many series...).

Yet then there's Queen Betsy, and Sookie Stackhouse... (Although again, I'm far from being current on either series)

Another exception to this rule that isn't holding up worth a dedication page: Jennifer Estep's Bigtime series. These three novels all feature the classic romance formula: boy and girl meet, boy and girl make the long-term commitment. Boy and girl also return in the other books in the series, albeit in limited roles, so that we readers can revisit old friends. (But not, you'll note, continue to get to know them)

But as for couples like Rhett and Scarlett, I just don't think we're seeing as many of them anymore. Society's changed. Our wants as readers have changed.

Or have they?


Sunday, October 19, 2008


Fiction Outtake: Rusty's Place (Trevor's Song Era)

So this was it, Trevor thought as he followed Mitchell off the elevator and down the narrow, dark hallway. This was the other love shack, the one Mitchell bonked Rusty in when he wasn't doing her in his own place. Trevor wasn't so sure he wanted to go in. Hell, he wasn't sure why Mitchell wanted in Rusty, but the big idiot had never been the smartest thing around when it came to girls.

At least the door to Rusty's place was cool: floor to ceiling and on these rollers that made a great noise when Mitchell pulled it open. It looked old and industrial and was almost as interesting as his place.

The first thing Trevor noticed was the space. Huge. Empty. A few ugly couches, a few lights set around them like he'd seen at photo shoots the band had been on. And a drafting desk, white, facing the couches.

A couple of mismatched throw rugs on the floor. Rusty's bike by the door, and hooks for keys and shit. Not hooks, he realized as he looked closer. Carabiners. They made stealing her keys pretty fucking hard, the way they were rigged, there. It was almost a good idea.

Behind the drafting desk, he saw a couple of stools, one of which held Her Rustiness. Her shadow fell behind her on one of those screens for privacy that had some soothing nature scene painted on it. That must be her living space back there, but damn if Trevor could see any of it. Damn if Trevor wanted to see it.

He hated to admit it, but the whole place added up to some sort of artsy style. A little too serious to be a student's digs but at the same time it was obvious she wasn't on easy street. If this wasn't Rusty's place, he might even have been able to respect the person who lived here.

"Hey, you're here," she said from behind that drafting desk. She lifted her head and pierced him with those damn eyes of hers. Trevor still didn't understand how Mitchell had found a girl who had the famous Voss eyes.

"Yep," Mitchell said, crossing the couch area and going over to Rusty. He put his hands on her waist and kissed her like he was trying to crawl down her throat. All of him, not just his tongue.

Trevor looked around, wondering where the bathroom was. Just in case bad judgment got the better of him and he decided not to yak on her floor. Watching her clean up that mess would be sublime -- assuming Mitchell didn't make him do it himself, which the idiot would probably do. After all, Rusty might get her precious self dirty or something.

He jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder. It hadn't hit him; it couldn't be Mitchell. That meant…

He jumped again, away from Rusty this time. He gave her a quick once-over: paint-covered sweatpants that used to be grey and a sorta snug but not tight t-shirt. He couldn't deny she had a good shape. Even worse, the paint streaks brought that out.

That she was barefoot didn't surprise him. Mitchell would have to fall for someone who hated clothes as much as he did. It was that simple, until you got to the eyes. That was just fucking freaky.

"Hi, Trev," she said like he hadn't just handed out this insult by getting away from her touch. Sometimes, he thought she was clueless, but then he looked in those eyes and knew better. The Queen of Polite, that's what he ought to call her. Maybe he would -- except Rusty fit so much better. And it pissed her off.

Trevor realized he had no cranky comeback for her. Nothing about the lack of walls helping make sure she didn't get lost. Nothing about the high ceilings or those couches. Nothing.

Mitchell growled and stuck an elbow in his ribs. Trevor glared at him and reached for his cigarettes.

"Let's get rolling," Mitchell said.

"I need to change," Rusty said. She vanished behind the stupid screen.

"You can't change enough," Trevor told her and placed an unlit cigarette in its usual place at the corner of his mouth.

"How did I know you'd say that?" she asked. It was weird, talking to her like this. He couldn't see her but nothing was muffling her voice. It was like talking to someone who was invisible. Then again, life would be better if she wasn't there at all.

"Maybe you're a fucking clairvoyant or something."

"Maybe I'm just smart," she said, coming around the screen all dressed in jeans and another t-shirt, this one without paint on it. "We ready?" She held her arm out. Mitchell grabbed it and wound it around his waist.

Trevor tried not to gag. "I'm readier than you'll ever know," he said.
"Good thing," she said as Mitchell took a swipe at the back of Trevor's head. It wasn't hard; just enough to remind him to watch himself. Like he'd do anything else here in Rusty's lair. If she'd used it to snag Mitchell, there was no telling what she'd do to him.

So you've met Trevor, Mitchell, and Kerri over the past week. Now you get to see them in action, as part of the Sunday Scribblings prompt.

I don't know about this one. For those of you who're regulars, I'm going to drive you NUTS when I say this: it feels like it belongs right inside of
Trevor's Song. Sorry, but it's true.

Stay tuned for news on how to help get that book into your hands. There's a lot brewing behind the scenes here. And yes, you'll like it all.

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Friday, October 17, 2008


Fast Facts: Kerri Voss

In my fictional world, there are lots of triangles. One of them will only be seen when you finally get to read Trevor's Song.

One of the other triangles involves Trevor, Mitchell, and Mitchell's wife, Kerri. You've already met the boys here and here. So now it's time for the girl.

1. Kerri Voss left her hometown of Pittsburgh because she'd been accepted at the very picky Riverview Art Academy. Kerri was going to be an artist.

2. Although Kerri liked to turn her radio to KRVR when she worked, she couldn't have identified a single member of ShapeShifter even after the day she noticed the hot blonde in a leather biker jacket looking over the tomatoes in her favorite grocery store. And even then, it took a few weeks -- and a driver's license -- before she realized the hot blonde wasn't a struggling musician like he'd initially led her to believe.

3. Even though ShapeShifter fans are introduced to Mitchell's wife in a variety of ways (she'll play tech during his shows and help him switch guitars, and bands always need artwork, don't they? T-shirts, album covers, website design...), Kerri won't talk about her pre-Mitchell life, except to say she went to Riverview Art. Anything before that strangely doesn't exist.

4. Trevor's nicknamed her Rusty. Gotta read Trevor's Song to find out why. But in typical Trevor fashion, there's more than one easy reason.

5. The physical: she's about five-nine, which plays nicely with Mitchell's six-one. She's got a willowy, dancer build although she was too busy pulling pranks to do something as serious as dance. And she's got that deep red hair that fades to brown with age -- unless it's, as Trevor suspects, enhanced. Or is it?

Although Kerri doesn't have a huge role in this outtake, it's still one of my favorites. And it'll show you a bit of this triangle in action.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Fast Facts: Mitchell Voss

If you missed the other day's post, I'm offering a few quick notes about the main characters who run around this joint like they're real people. To many of us, they are.

I did Trevor first, of course. No, wait. We're talking about Trevor, so let me rephrase. I did not DO Trevor. I wrote about him. He's not real, remember. A real person can only fantasize. But then, so does Trevor. And so does his best friend.

Anyway, that brings us to...

Mitchell Voss.

1. Let's start with the physical: six-one. Keeps fit by spending so many hours in swimming pools, his silvery-blonde hair turns green. Hazel eyes that look right through Trevor and annoy him to no end.

2. Trevor's the closest thing he's got to a brother. He's actually got two older sisters. One's a doctor and lives nearby. The other is a mom and lives out of Riverview.

3. A large part of the ShapeShifter dynamic is the Frick and Frack, Heckle and Jeckle, Lucy and Ethel that goes on between Mitchell and Trevor. It's been this way since Mitchell dreamed of a band and Trevor decided to make it happen.

4. It's rare to find Mitchell without a guitar in hand. The man oozes music and for better or for worse, there's not much more to him than music. But does there need to be more?

5. Many of my long-time groupies have come to love Mitchell more than Trevor. He's moody, sensitive, and the calm in the face of Trevor's storm. He's also completely devoted to his wife, Kerri, in ways that all us married women wish our husbands really, truly were like. No matter how great our husbands.

(okay, now. Who was this post REALLY about? I told you that Trevor rules the roost around here!)

Want more Mitchell?

This link will take you to one of my favorite Year 2 outtakes.

This link
will take you to his bio page. Like with Trevor's page, there are lots of links for you to have fun with. Focus on those, not the bio. Looks like I need to rewrite it. Yikes!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Fast Facts: Trevor Wolff

There have been a number of new faces around these parts lately. In an attempt to bring you up to speed and help you understand all the fuss and hoopla, here are some fast facts about the (fictional) man known to many as Trevor Wolff.

1. He stands five foot ten. Really. Truly.

2. He weighs about 120. Soaking Wet.
Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but not by much. Trevor's one of those skinny guys, almost scrawny, with the flat, hollowed-out chest and a little tuft of chest hair dead-center over the breast bone.

3. His nose has been broken more times than he can count. It's ugly, misshapen, and has a hook in it. But it works and he'll take it.

4. When it comes to being a member of ShapeShifter, his value isn't in his bass playing. Far from it, in fact. In some circles, Trevor is known as the luckiest no-talent on the planet. Some say even hard work can't save him. But the band is Trevor's vision of Mitchell's dream, and no one can imagine a Trevor-less ShapeShifter.

5. Here at the Meet and Greet, Trevor often rules the roost -- no small feat for a fictional character. As we get closer to the annual Musical Hanukkah Celebration that ShapeShifter throws every year, you'll be seeing more of him again.

I know you groupies will be pleased.

Want to know more? Want to see Trevor in action? Use this link to be taken to his bio page. At the bottom of the page -- well, taking up most of it these days -- are a bunch of links. Click yourself into Trevor nirvana.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008


Pam Fiction: Pregnant Women

Okay, so I know I'm not the smartest girl who ever walked the Earth. I mean, if I couldn't figure that out in school, then maybe I am too stupid to live, like those rich bitches used to say I was.

But I'm not. Know how I know that? It's because I know something that a bunch of smarties at some university back East had to study for years to figure out. I'm a health professional. Them, they're eggheads. That's how I got to know this so much faster.

Pregnant women who exercise have less depression.

Like I didn't know that? Hello?

I can totally see it on the faces of my pregger students. How they walk in all achy and complaining and maybe sorry they've done this to themselves but of course they can't admit that. I watch them careful 'cause, you know, they're pregnant and all. As class goes on, those aches go away. Their bodies gear up and get in the groove. I see their faces relax. Their hunched shoulders drop. They smile. By the time they leave, it's all good and being pregnant is the best thing in the world.

It's simple. Exercise makes you feel good. It makes you feel like your body's under your control. I've never been pregnant but my students say that sometimes, their body feels out of control. That it's doing all these things and they can't stop it and they can barely watch because some of it's ugly. Their body knows what to do and it goes and does it and the heck with what their brain wants!

This is why I do what I do. I never feel as good or as alive or as sexy or anything as I do after I've worked out. I don't feel dumb when it's me up there leading the class. I'm not dumb when they come to me and ask why something hurts.

And I'm sure not dumb when I know that exercise makes pregnant women less depressed.

Now if only Mitchell Voss would see how not dumb I am. And that I'm only with Trevor until Mitchell notices. I mean, how much closer does a girl have to get? Hello? I'm right here with your best friend, buddy! Open your eyes. I'm waiting.

With Yom Kippur ending, pregnancy and kids are on my mind (see this post for why) and ... well, I felt like it.

If you'd like more of Pam, click here.

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Monday, October 06, 2008


Susan's Fashion File: The Promised Cool Shit

The cool thing about EntreCard is that I'm meeting some extremely cool artists who use their blogs to advertise their Etsy shop and their handmade goods. (And frequently, the handmade goodies of others, too.) I found a great bracelet from The Beaded Tail that I've added to the stack on my right forearm. It looks perfect.

The bad thing about Etsy is finding this. I don't wear a lot of rings, usually just my bridal set and either a pinky ring that began life as my baby ring or else my Mommy ring. But that? I'd make an exception. Whoo boy, that's for me.

The price is great, too. I can't say as much for the next line of clothing I found. Remember how we thought $67 for a hoodie was too much money?

Then do not -- DO NOT, I say click on this link for Yellowman clothing.

Yeah. You're as sorry as I am.

Hey, Yellowman people? Total Skull people? If you'll be so kind as to send me some clothes, I'll go have an author picture taken in them. The Tour Manager and I are revamping my website; we'll make the picture look good. We'll give you credit. Lots of it.

C'mon... publicity for the cost of a shirt. You know you want to!

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Sunday, October 05, 2008


Susan's Inside Writing: The Banned Book

I really shouldn't be surprised at the demand to find out what the banned book in the previous outtake was.

And okay, you caught me. There is a book in mind. The book that inspired this whole outtake, in fact.

I don't remember the entire story, as I've done my best to block out most of my high school years (despite running into a former classmate yesterday on her way to her wedding), but here's what I do recall:

It was senior year. One of the most popular teachers was the wrestling coach, who taught two classes for seniors: government, which was for the higher-thinking students, and survival skills, which was for the kids who weren't going to college. It was a class about how to get a car loan, how to manage a credit card... you know. Survival skills.

I took government and loved the teacher. Loved his style: energetic, demanding, and never ever humiliating. If you fell asleep in his class, he didn't make a big deal of it. He just handed you a detention slip on your way out the door. (although I remember him giving one to Gorgeous Jimmy during class. Woke the poor guy up, too, when that paper slid under his arm.)

So I took survival skills the next semester, even though it was "beneath" me, everyone said. Like learning how to be financially responsible is beneath ANYone? (Nope, not going to get all political here. Sorry.)

Anyway, it was this teacher who told me that our school district had banned ONE book in district history. ONE. And he had a copy of it. If I didn't tell anyone, he'd slip it to me and let me read it on the QT, at home. I wasn't allowed to tell anyone where I'd gotten it, how I'd heard of it, or anything.

I should feel bad about breaking this confidence, but it's been almost 20 years. (Yep, I'm that old) It's also something I've -- clearly -- never forgotten. The whole experience had this much impact on me. It's one of my few good memories of high school.

The book was Johnny Got His Gun. Here's how describes it:

Johnny Got His Gun holds a place as one of the classic antiwar novels. First published in 1939, Dalton Trumbo's story of a young American soldier terribly maimed in World War I — he "survives" armless, legless, and faceless, but with mind intact — was an immediate bestseller. This fiercely moving novel was a rallying point for many Americans who came of age during World War II, and it became perhaps the most popular novel of protest during the Vietnam era.

Let me tell you, if I hadn't been anti-war before reading this book, there's no way you can put it down and still be anti-war. It WAS disturbing, and that was the reason it had been banned (I believe that the school actually used to teach it, which is something I think SHOULD be done with controversial books. Informed minds and all...). It was also excruciating to read. I mean, there's little dialogue 'cause the main character has no face. There's no action 'cause the guy can't exactly walk around with no legs.

This story doesn't end here, though. You music fans may recognize the book title. It inspired a rather famous song (and a band's first music video, which set the entire world of videos on its ear and ushered in the Golden Era of Hetfield.). Yup, around the time I was reading Johnny Got His Gun, so were a couple of guys who played in a band you might have heard of: Metallica. The song? One.

You know, I've never been able to listen to One comfortably. It brings back memories of sitting on my mom's couch with that book, thinking all these angry thoughts about how stupid war is, and how powerless I was to change the world and get rid of war. It brings back memories of that excruciating reading experience.

Hard as it was, it changed me.

And for that, I'd like to thank that wrestling coach-cum-teacher.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008


Fiction Outtake: Banned Books (The Early Years)

Trevor stifled his smile and handed the list to Mr. Bautista. The English teacher gave it a quick glance and handed it back. "I know you hate me, but trying to get me fired is pushing it. Even for you."

"No one's gonna fire your ass. These are just books."

"Books which I'm forbidden to teach to my students."

"You said the whole point of this was for us to teach you something. So I'm gonna teach you why it's stupid to want to ban all these books."

Mr. Bautista stood up, looking down at his desk. He pursed his lips.

Trevor waited, curious. He'd either wind up in detention again or else he'd be doing a book report on Huck Finn. Either option was fine with him.

"I hate it when you put me in these positions," the English teacher said heavily. He looked up, and for a second there, Trevor identified with the look on the guy's face. "But I have to uphold the school's ban. Why not Tom Sawyer? It and Huck go together like best friends."

"Tom Sawyer doesn't put people's panties in a bunch."

Mr. Bautista held up a hand. "Language, Trevor. Restate that, please."

"It doesn't piss people off?"

He got one of those looks that told him he was trying to kid a kidder and it wasn't welcome.

"People don't object to it," he said in his most dramatic, sullen way. He even scuffed at the floor. No one seemed to care. Times like this, he really hated the English teacher. The guy almost never played along the way he was supposed to.

"Look, I know what you're trying to do," Mr. Bautista said. "You want to stir your classmates up and try to rally them to make a stand. You're right to want to do so. In some parts of the country, you'd be brave to be trying this because some parents would call to have you expelled for even showing me this list."

"This isn't some parts of the country," Trevor said. "This is Riverview, the city that tolerates everything and everyone. So what's so wrong with a stupid book?"

"Some people feel that books give students the wrong ideas."

"I'm not some people," Trevor said.

"Then you need to stand up and be heard. All of you," Mr. Bautista said, leaning to the side so he could see the class lined up behind Trevor. "Why are you letting nameless, faceless people dictate what you can and can't read? Who said those people are the morality police? Why are you willing to let them define which ideas are right and which are wrong?"

Trevor's classmates squirmed uncomfortably. It was up to Trevor, of course, to answer.

"You know, we all show up for the Gay Parade and love it. But we can't read a book with a guy named Nigger Jim in it? That's his name. What's the big deal?"

"I don't make the rules, Trevor. In this case, I don't even agree with them, but if I want to pay off my car, I've got to follow them."

"Don't you ever get tired of being a sheep?"

"Of course I do. When I was your age," Mr. Bautista gestured again at the class, "I wanted to read every banned book, too. So I did -- outside of the classroom, where no one could stop me. And you're right, Trevor. Once I read them, I realized they were no big deal. Except for one thing."

He held up a finger and every kid in the classroom, including Trevor, leaned forward to hear what their teacher had to say. "Those books were what made me fall in love with literature. They're what made me want to be a teacher. If you want to read these books outside of school and put together a discussion group at someone's house, please do! Expand your worlds, your brains. Read the books that were banned and the ones that weren't. Learn all you can about literature and then come back and tell me if you've learned to agree about the pointlessness of banning books. All it does is make every single last one of you want to read them!"

Trevor squirmed. No wonder he didn't like this guy; he got to all Trevor's great rants before he could do it himself.

"Look," Mr. Bautista said, "I'll make you a deal, Trevor. You do the report on Tom Sawyer. Focus on Tom and Becky and their relationship--"

"I'm not reading some sappy love story!"

"Read the book and see for yourself what I'm talking about." Mr. Bautista leaned forward and dropped his voice so no one else in line behind Trevor could hear. "If you do that, I'll share a book of my own with you. It's one I could get fired for even telling you the title of, the school board is that uptight about it."

Trevor's eyes sparkled. If it was that forbidden, it was for him, all right.

"Deal?" Mr. Bautista said, leaning back and nodding at the next few kids in line.

"Deal," Trevor said, nodding firmly.

Mr. Bautista pointed at the door. Trevor gave him a wild look. "What'd I do now?"

"It's not what you did, Trevor. It's what you're about to do. Go down to the library and get yourself a copy of Tom Sawyer while I okay everyone else's picks."

He hoped the nerdy kids all wanted Tom Sawyer. He couldn't wait to see their faces when he got up and made his report. That meant he had to put them to shame.

Those losers? It shouldn't be hard, he decided and headed off to the library, letting short little Carolyn take that final step up to Mr. Bautista's desk, her list trembling.

Trevor wondered if that was because she wanted to read Lady Chatterly's Lover. The quiet girls like Carolyn, they liked that racy stuff. She'd probably get to do it, too. That one hadn't been banned.

Trevor knew that. Trevor knew every last book that had been banned; he'd memorized the lists.

He could hardly wait to see which one Mr. Bautista was going to slip him. It better be good.

I know you want to know more about the mystery book. While I don't answer the question directly, here's a response that ought to satisfy anyway.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008


Susan Speaks: I've Escaped!

I'm so sick of Blogger refusing to acknowledge that I'm not a spammer (I've filled out their "take another look and convince yourself I'm right" form six times now. SIX.) that I've escaped and gone to visit other spots on the Web.

First off is a visit to my good friend Breeni. She decided to do a bunch of Halloween-themed books and like the usual non-traditional thinker that I am, I stumbled onto something pretty horrific. Go check it out.

And secondly is an interview I did with J. Kaye at her Book Blog. It started to be about my Win a Book blog, but I mentioned something that I probably should have shared with you guys first. And that's that I've got a neat little book coming your way. Go read all about Win a Book (and add it to your reader!) -- and my neat little book. After all, you guys asked for it.

There will, of course, be more about it soon. A LOT more. Breeni's so excited about it, she's decided to be my publicist. I hope you guys share her excitement.

So that's the news. I'll resume my mantle of Queen of the Not Spam Blog soon; Trevor needs to have his say about Banned Book Week, don't you think?

(oh, and do I have some cool shit to share!)

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Susan's Featured New Release: Cat and Mouse

Since it's October first, we're not going to mourn the loss of my favorite temporary XM Radio station. Nope. Not gonna do it.

Instead, we're going to focus on the good and exciting. Today, that means a new release from my writer bud, Shelley Munro.

The book is called Cat and Mouse. Here's a blurb from Shelley's website:

Every woman has sexual needs. Lana Sinclair, feline shapeshifter and widow, is more than ready for a fun night with a likeminded male. Hot lovin’ is compulsory because she’s determined to scratch the itch that’s driving her crazy. This time, career-girl Lana is picking a malleable male who won’t try to corral her into the housewife role.

Fellow shifter Duncan Ross is the perfect candidate. The cowboy follows the rodeo circuit and is only in Middlemarch for the bull riding. One night of mutual seduction, slick, naked bodies and pleasure then he’ll be on his way.

Duncan is astonished when Lana propositions him, but no one could ever call him stupid. He’s always desired Lana and now that she’s ready for sex, he’s all action. It’s time to lasso the woman of his dreams with some sweet lovin’ and charm, a sexy massage and ropes spliced together with addictive pleasure. He’ll seduce her to his way of thinking—a permanent arrangement. This is one go-round Duncan is determined to win.

Woo! Sounds like a good one, Shelley! (If you're over 18, you can read an excerpt by following that same link listed above.)

And since this is a Featured New Release, I HAD to ask the question:

What song makes you think of this book.

Here's what Shelley said:

When I think of Cat and Mouse I think of the Garth Brooks' song Rodeo. In Cat and Mouse the tables are turned because my heroine wants one night with the hero. She doesn't want the bother of having him around all the time and is happy for him to travel the rodeo circuit unlike the woman in the song. Duncan, however, has other ideas and he's a sneaky feline shifter. Lana doesn't know what's hit her...

Here's a link to YouTube and a video of Rodeo. Man, that opening riff is addictive...

Check out Cat and Mouse and think of Garth as you do...

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