World Cup & Father’s Day

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As long time readers of the blog know, I love soccer. And another 4 years have passed, so it’s World Cup time again! It always feels appropriate that the World Cup and Father’s Day coincide.

2014 USvGhana in Grant ParkI spent most of last weekend parked in front of my TV cheering and screaming and hooting. I’ve spent my work days flipping between XLS spreadsheets and Google to get a quick peek at the scores. God bless Twitter for the running commentaries, although I have to stay away from them when I’m on the clock or I’d do nothing but scroll.

On Monday, I even went to Chicago’s Grant Park to cheer on the US Men’s Team in their debut game against Ghana (2-1 US). I love that the sport has grown so much here — so much that I don’t think the organizers expected so many people to show up. There was one jumbo-tron and thousands of heads between me and that screen. I tried and failed to send a tweet because there were so many people squeezed into such a tight spot. But I loved being there, surrounded by fans. Chanting U!S!A! when I’m alone on my couch just doesn’t have the same feel-good energy as it does when you’re standing in the middle of a mass of people.

And being in the crowd reminded me a bit of my dad.

In 1994, the World Cup was held in the US. Most Americans were baffled, but FIFA was trying to bolster the sport here. For those of us who were already fans, it was a miracle. My dad and I road-tripped to Detroit and watched several of the games. We saw the US and Brazil. We sat next to a family of 3 who lived outside of Chicago and were traveling back and forth between the cities to get in as many games as they could. I remember the smell of stale, sloshed beer mixed with the strong, floral perfume of the Chicagoan mom. I remember the roaring crowd and beating drums. I remember the energy that crackled around the stadium, even when my team was losing, even when I wasn’t rooting for a team.

I couldn’t believe that not everyone loved this game like I did. I hated hearing sportscasters deride soccer players as silly little guys running around for 90 minutes…did they hear themselves? Running for 90 minutes. That’s not easy.

Dribbling, passing, juggling…none of it is easy, but when a player does it well, it’s fluid and graceful and, well, beautiful.

I grew up playing soccer, mainly because my parents wanted me in some activity. I’m not sure how soccer was picked. It was a fledgling sport that actually had a fairly big following in Lexington, KY thanks to the many international students and families at the University of Kentucky.

I remember not liking it so much at first. I didn’t get it and wasn’t good at it. Practicing wasn’t all that fun, so I didn’t do it and, shockingly, didn’t get much better as a result. But my dad was getting into the game. He joined an adult league and started reffing. To spend more time with him, I decided to ref, too. You can start as young as 13. I hated conflict and would rather have melted into the wallpaper than stand out, but I took the test and got certified.

I was terrible.

I only did it for one year, but I learned the rules and, to this day, my friends get annoyed when I agree with the ref on the field rather than join in the boos in the stands.

Even though I was never very good on either side of the whistle, I grew to love the game. Not because I knew the rules but because I was surrounded by it. I saw the good, the bad and the ugly of the players’ skill, parents’ attitude, and team-mate camaraderie. It really is the beautiful game – the power of the individual and the fluidity of the team working together.

If my dad and I ever drift into silence on a phone call (or at Christmas), one of us just has to mention soccer and we’re off like a whirlwind.

As of this writing, there’s a rumor that the US may get the 2022 World Cup from Qatar. Dad and I already plan on getting tickets and going together.

Supernatural Woman

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Recently, I started watching Lost Girl, a show about a succubus. I seem to watch and read my share of supernatural creature stories. This one is interesting because it’s a creature we don’t see much of and because their very nature (draining a human of life force while having sex with them) brings up a lot of questions about sexuality and morality that aren’t touched much on TV. But, another question popped into my head.

What’s up with all these supernatural creatures having to hide from humans?

Hiding their abilities/who they are is integral to story lines from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Twilight. I understand not wanting to, say, have the villagers come after you with torches and pitchforks. However, when the modern-day stories create their worlds, they create them with huge populations of supernatural creatures. While Stoker’s Dracula was alone, it’s not like Hogwarts is worried about a dwindling student population — because of extinction at any rate. Twilight has so many vampires that they have their own governing body. Lost Girl has factions and supernatural creatures spanning mythos.

Not only are their large populations, these creatures are supposed to be so much stronger and smarter and faster than us wimpy humans. They can snap our backs with a snap of their fingers, snuff out or life with a blink or the eye, or kiss us to death. Why are they so afraid we’ll find out? If they came out of the closet, so to speak, it seems like they’d be pretty well set to take over.

Are our pitchforks pointer than I give them credit for? Maybe I just don’t like the idea that we humans are so weak* we have to be protected or that, conversely, we’re just a mindless mob.

The idea of needing to stay hidden is so pervasive, though, that we rarely question it.

A few stories do, however, and that makes things interesting.The True Blood series starts right after vampires have a coming out.

The final seconds of last episode of the TV show Heroes showed one of the characters about to out herself. I wanted to see what happened after the camera faded to black. For me, that’s where the story got interesting.

I have no grand call-to-action or even a mini suggestion. I watch and read the stories that use staying hidden as a looming threat and I enjoy them. I enjoy the stories where super and natural are integrated. If I have any take-away, I guess that it’s I want take a look at my own stories and see what I’m taking for granted and why. I might leave it as is, or I may try to push some assumptions.

Importance of First Impressions

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After watching several First Sentence Challenges on YouTube, I’m convinced I would lose that challenge. OK, I really only had to watch one to come to that conclusion, but I kept going because YouTube is The Rabbit Hole.

The idea of the First Sentence Challenge is that someone reads you the first line of a book you’ve read and you have to guess which book it is.

I wanted to see how people did, and I enjoyed seeing the vloggers’ personalities come through via guessing (and which books they’d read). But in addition to that, it was interesting hearing and really listening to all these book openings.

Of the books that were in the challenge that I’d read, I did not remember any of their first lines. Of the books in the challenge that I hadn’t read, none of their first sentences jumped out at me. Most were vague. One mentioned the weather (rain).

The first lines that were guessed most quickly had first lines that included names or, in Harry Potter’s case, a mention of wands. Those sentences included something special about that particular story.

The purpose of a first line isn’t for people to guess the book after they’ve read it, but to entice people to read the story in the first place. However, the blank looks gave me pause.

When writing marketing emails one of the guidelines is to write the subject line last. Compose the email, find what the core of that email is and then construct the subject line (what entices the people to open the email in the first place) after you really understand what your email is about.

I wonder if that might be good advice for novels, too.

Here are a few First Sentence Challenge videos to get you started:

Jesse the Reader

Padfoot and Prongs 07

Fun Bonus
Here’s the first sentence to one of the few books I’ve read more than once (hint: it’s a favorite): Behavioral Science, the FBI section that deals with serial murder, is on the bottom floor of the Academy building at Quantico, half-buried in the earth.

What’s the book?

 

Mommy, Dearest?

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I recently gave my dad a birthday card which I chose because of the sentiment. It thanked him for always being there and providing a comfortable childhood so that I never even had to worry about food on the table or a roof over my head. Nice, right? But I almost put it back because the inside said “daddy.”

I’m an adult. I don’t call my parents Mommy or Daddy. In fact, it kind of freaks me out when anyone other than a young kid says it.

There have been a few pieces presented at my writers groups in which the narrator refers to his or her parent with the…diminutive. One particular piece I remember was a creative non-fiction (it turns out) piece about the narrator dealing with her dad’s Alzheimer’s. I felt the pain and sense of loss along with the narrator, but every time she said Daddy, I winced. My mental image of the narrator changed. Instead of a grieving adult, I pictured a woman who was childish and, frankly, not independent. While it shouldn’t have made my connection to the narrator lessen, it did. And when it came time to critique, I said so.

Of course, the writer said that’s how she really did refer to her dad. There’s really no backpedaling from that insult.

Several other group members jumped in and said how they thought referring to her father as daddy was sweet.

I did notice that those group members were older than me, about my parents’ age (although my parents never used mommy or daddy when describing their parents). Perhaps, however, it is a generational thing. Or a regional thing.

Mama makes me wince slightly less. While I do think of younger children, I also think of the South and historical books like Little House on the Prairie. I grew up in the South and I really liked Little House when I was a kid, so maybe I’m more forgiving because mama is something I’m more used to. That’s not fair, but I can’t help it.

Are there names or titles that creep you out or color your image of the person or character who uses it?

“How We Fall” Cover Reveal

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During my blog hiatus last year, I went to the Midwest Writers Workshop at Ball State.

The highlight of the workshop was being around people who got “it” and me. We were all at some point in our writing journey, and were supportive of and excited for each other.

One of those wonderful people was Kate Brauning. We attended the same Thursday intensive workshop. At some point during the day, she got the author running the workshop to pay her $1 for an answer. I wish I remembered her answer…or the question. I just remember the dollar and that, as he put the money on table in front of her, he told her that since she had made money off of her writing, she could claim the conference on her taxes.

I’m so glad I got to know her. She was warm and supportive and knowledgable…and now the book I heard her pitch is being published!

Kate also critiques and talks shop on Twitter (for where to find her online scroll down).

I’m excited to share with you the cover reveal for…

HOW WE FALL by Kate Brauning

YA contemporary
Publication date: 11/3/2014
Publisher: Merit Press, F+W Media Inc.
ISBN-13: 9781440581793
Hardcover, 304 pages

About the Book:

He kissed her on a dare. She told him to do it again.

Ever since Jackie moved to her uncle’s sleepy farming town, she’s been flirting—a bit too much—with her cousin, Marcus. She pushes away the inevitable consequences of their friendship until her best friend, Ellie, disappears, and the police suspect foul play. Just when she needs him most, Marcus falls for the new girl in town—forcing Jackie to give a name to the secret summer hours she’s spent with him. As she watches the mystery around Ellie’s disappearance start to break, Jackie has to face that she’s fallen in love at an impossible time with an impossible boy. And she can’t let Marcus, or Ellie, go.

The Reveal!

 

 

 

greenish-blue view of water from below the surface looking toward the light. A charm bracelet floats through the title as if falling to through the water

Sneak Peek Page:

Chapter One

Last year, Ellie used to hang out at the vegetable stand with Marcus and me on Saturdays. This year, her face fluttered on a piece of paper tacked to the park’s bulletin board. Most weeks, I tried to ignore her eyes looking back at me. But today, Marcus had set the table up at a different angle, and she watched me the entire morning.

The day that photo was taken, she’d worn her Beauty and the Beast earrings. The teapot and the teacup were too small to see well in the grainy, blown-up photo, but that’s what they were. She’d insisted sixteen wasn’t too old for Disney.

The crunch of tires on gravel sounded, and a Buick slowed to a stop in front of the stand. I rearranged the bags of green beans to have something to do. Talking to people I didn’t know, making pointless small talk, wasn’t my thing. My breathing always sped up and I never knew what to do with my hands. It had been okay before, but now—surely people could see it on me. One look, and they’d know. Chills prickled up my arms in spite of the warm sun.

Marcus lifted a new crate of cucumbers from the truck and set it down by the table, his biceps stretching the sleeves of his T-shirt. Barely paying attention to the girl who got out of the car, he watched me instead. And not the way most people watched someone; I had his full attention. All of him, tuned toward me. He winked, the tanned skin around his eyes crinkling when he smiled. I bit my cheek to keep from grinning.

The girl walked over to the stand and I quit smiling.

Marcus looked away from me, his gaze drifting toward the girl. Each step of her strappy heels made my stomach sink a little further. Marcus tilted his head.

He didn’t tilt it much, but I knew what it meant. He did that when he saw my tan line or I wore a short skirt. I narrowed my eyes.

“Hi,” she said. “I’d like a zucchini and four tomatoes.” Just like that. A zucchini and four tomatoes.

Marcus placed the tomatoes into a brown paper bag. “Are you from around here?”

Of course she wasn’t from around here. We’d know her if she were.

“We just moved. I’m Sylvia Young.” The breeze toyed with her blonde hair, tossing short wisps around her high cheekbones. Her smile seemed genuine and friendly. Of course. Pretty, friendly, and new to town, because disasters come in threes.

“Going to Manson High?” Marcus handed her the bags.

She nodded. “My dad’s teaching science.”

Finally, I said something. “Three bucks.”

“Hmm?” Sylvia turned from Marcus.

“Oh. Right.” She handed me the cash and looked over the radishes. “Are you here every day?” Her eyes strayed back to Marcus.

“Three times a week,” he said.

“I’ll see you in a day or two, then.” She waved.

I was pretty damn sure she wouldn’t be coming back for the radishes.
____

Pre-Order How We FallBooks-A-MillionBarnes & NoblePowell’s BooksIndieBoundBooks Inc., Joseph-Beth BooksellersBook DepositoryAmazon U.S.Amazon CanadaAmazon U.K.Amazon GermanyAmazon Japan.

Add How We Fall on Goodreads!

About the Author:

Kate's author's photoKate spent her childhood in rural Missouri raising Siberian huskies, running on gravel roads, and navigating life in a big family. Now living in Iowa, she is married to a videographer from the Dominican Republic, and still owns a husky. She loves bright colors, fall leaves, unusual people, and all kinds of music. Kate has written novels since she was a teen, but it wasn’t until she studied literature in college that she fell in love with young adult books. Kate now works in publishing and pursues her lifelong dream of telling stories she’d want to read. Visit her online, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

You Know You’re a Writer When: Stairs

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Front steps to a business and the surrounding sidewalk are torn up during construction, revealing the space underneath the steps.You know you’re a writer when you’re on your way to a restaurant for dinner, pass a mini-construction site and think not “ooh, I should avoid the yellow roped-off area” or “I’d better be on the look out for debris” or “gee, I’m really hungry, I hope we get there soon.” No, you think “I wonder what they found when they opened that up. Ooh, a body. No, a skeleton. No, a mummy. A mummified skeleton.”

I do tend toward the dead bodies, don’t I? I really should branch out my line of thought, or start writing mysteries.

Branching out, exercise 1:

Other things that could be found in the hole under the stoop:

Jacks

Treasure

An old lotto ticket

Barer bonds

Jewelry…engagement ring or locket with old photo.

Baby shoes

Key

What is my list missing?

Squatting: a Writing Break

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I‘ve noticed that several characters in Korean dramas like to squat. Waiting for someone? Squat. Breaking down by yourself in an emotional scene? Squat. Scraping gum off the sidewalk? Squat. Bench? Squat on it.

So, when I recently helped my sister paint and had to use the short-handled roller to get the lower walls, I thought, “hey, instead of potentially sitting in a wet paint drip, I’ll just squat.”

I’m dumb.

Really, really, painfully dumb.

Not everything is as easy as it looks on TV, kids. Excuse me while I go ice the back of my thighs.