Apr
29
2010
19

I Miss Star Trek.

I’d always hoped that the United States would one day grow up to be the United Federation of Planets. In fact, aside from a few practical details, I believed we were headed that way. (Yes, I was young and naïve.)

image But if you look at the nineties, you could believe it a possibility. If you look at today’s climate, it seems like we’ve turned our back on evolving into a better country and a more humane world.

Coincidentally, I noticed there are no Star Trek shows on.

There’s 24.

How reflective of our culture.

Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? Do shows like 24 bring about an acceptance of unethical, illegal, and ineffective techniques like torture? Or do shows like 24 succeed because they strike a chord with the beliefs of the current culture?

Don’t get me wrong, I loved 24. At some point, though, it felt like propaganda for Bush’s torture and invasion-of-privacy policies. The show and I had a falling out after that.

I’m longing for a show, like Star Trek, that dreams of an ideal future for humanity. I’m longing for a show that espoused acceptance for and curiosity about other cultures. And above all, a respect for all of our differences and the dignity of each being—whether “other” or alike, smarter, poorer, richer, or less smart.

image Even more than missing Star Trek, I’m missing the hope that we are continually evolving into a better species, that our political landscape will become more and more concerned with human rights and freedoms and less and less concerned with making war and being greedy.

Did Star Trek give me that hope? Or did I love Star Trek, because I saw in it the hope I had for humanity? For society? What about you? Do you miss Star Trek?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags: ,
Apr
26
2010
22

A Favor & Some Fabulous Books

April is quite the month for our corner of the blogosphere! I’ve listed some great books and short stories below. Also, I’m guest-blogging at Smart Pop Books today, asking, “Do You Dare to be Different?” Will you go leave a comment, please? Make me look good?

And if you’re interested, my essay is available for free, for one week: The Domestication of a Vampire Executioner. You can comment on that, too, if you like. The comment form is waaayy on the bottom. I joked on Facebook that they clearly don’t know my commenters are smarter than I am.

In alphabetical order, here are some reads not to miss out on:

Chimes: Charles Gramlich

Chimes is a short horror story, available at Damnation Books. About the book: She should have brought her wind chimes in, she thought, when she heard them ringing in the first gusts of the approaching hurricane. She was sitting on the edge of the bed with her feet fishing for slippers when she remembered. She had brought the chimes in. They were hanging downstairs in her living room, where there was no wind to move them.

Charles’ blog, Razored Zen, is not to be missed, either, and I just ordered his book on writing, Write with Fire.

Eight for Eternity: Eric Mayer & Mary Reed

Eight for Eternity is an awesome read! The history is just fascinating.q I’m almost done with it, so I’ll probably give a more extensive review later. For now, here’s the blurb from Publisher’s Weekly:

Reed and Mayer’s excellent eighth John the Chamberlain mystery centers on the real-life Nika riots, which nearly destroyed Constantinople in A.D. 532. When two prisoners escape police custody, each a member of the two main factions who supported the opposing chariot teams at the races in the Hippodrome, Emperor Justinian sends John, his trusted chamberlain, to investigate. John soon finds the young men’s bodies in the chilly waters of a cistern. Meanwhile, two nephews of a former ruler may provide a rallying point for General Belisarius should he opt to stage a coup as rival political factions wreak havoc throughout the city. Subtle, well-drawn characters, from the ascetic John to the capricious and enigmatic Justinian; deft descriptive detail revealing life in the late Roman Empire; and sharp dialogue make this another winner in this outstanding historical series.

The Tavernier Stones: Stephen Parrish

I just ordered my copy of The Tavernier Stones, by Stephen Parrish. If you’ve read his blog, you know it has to be good! Here’s a shortened bit of what it’s about, but go here for a better overview. And go to tavernierstones.com to win a real diamond!

When the well-preserved body of 17th century mapmaker Johannes Cellarius floats to the surface of a bog in northern Germany, and a 57 carat ruby rolls out of his fist, treasure hunters from around the globe race to find the Lost Tavernier Stones of popular European folklore.

The race spans two continents. The finish line is in Idar-Oberstein, the gemstone capital of Germany. There, in chambers beneath an old church, where unspeakable events took place in centuries past, winners and losers alike find answers to age-old questions about the Lost Tavernier Stones.

Managing Maggie: Kate Sterling

I feel rather unjustifiably proud of this book, because I convinced Kate to submit it in more than one place, LOL. (I’m sure she would’ve gotten there on her own.) Managing Maggie was a bestseller at Cobblestone when it was released!

Maggie was devastated when her husband divorced her because she couldn’t have children, but she eventually moved on and started her own graphic design business. When her business partner Jason indicates he wants their relationship to be personal, Maggie is tempted by the sexy young designer, but she thinks she’s too old for him.

Yet an unexpected encounter featuring fuzzy handcuffs and a pink flogger leaves Maggie feeling he may just be “The One”. She’s riding a wave of happiness until a younger woman shows up claiming to be pregnant by Jason. Can Maggie and Jason’s relationship handle the strain?

The Fallen: Mark Terry

I read The Fallen in an earlier incarnation and loved it. Mark Terry has recently been on a blog tour that’s worth checking out. Some of his greatest blogs ever! From Booklist:

A summit of world leaders convenes at a beautiful Colorado resort just in time to encounter a former government agent gone rogue. Threatening to kill a world leader every hour unless his demands are met, the madman and his team seem impossible to stop. It falls on Derek Stillwater, an agent working undercover at the resort as a maintenance guy, to stop his former colleague. Unfortunately, because most of the people he used to work for believe he is dead and was a traitor, Stillwater must work alone and avoid being seen by both bad guys and good. Tense from the first page, The Fallen maintains its intensity up to the very end, and Stillwater is both a sympathetic and believable hero. Readers of previous Stillwater novels will eagerly wait to see him in action again, and those new to the series will seek out his earlier adventures (including The Serpent’s Kiss, 2009). –Jeff Ayers

Have you read any good books lately? Any favorites?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Books | Tags: ,
Apr
22
2010
14

Living Outside

Even though I live in a camper, I feel like I’m living outside. I love that it’s permeable, most of the time. It’s a pop-up with hard sides, so it’s just like a regular trailer, but it folds down and is towable by my Jeep.

camper Because of that, air seeps through. They say that indoor air is unhealthy, but there are so many cracks for air to get in, that even if I have all the windows closed, I still have fresh air.

Sunshine also seeps in. The walls are an off-white (very hard) plastic material, and even if the windows were covered with black curtains, light comes through the walls. So now that it’s spring, the sun wakes me up at 5:30ish. And it being Arizona sun, it is BRIGHT. It’s like trying to sleep while laying out in a beach with no shade.

bedroom It’s not long after the sun sets that I start to fall asleep. Last night, I didn’t make it past 9:30. I am not a morning person, but I think when you’re practically living outside, nature takes over.

The other nice thing about this lifestyle is that you have neighbors, the old-fashioned kind—the kind that jump to and offer you a helping hand.

Yesterday, I went on a hike and Glenn ran errands, and wind gusts lifted my back wall (a pop-up likes to pop-down with any wind caesar gusts over 40mph) and blew in my side wall. One neighbor moved their truck to block the wind, another duck-taped my back wall down, and a third rescued Caesar.

Living mostly outside is pretty cool. Even the bad parts, like walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night (getting to see the stars) and the camper rocking wildly in the wind (learning one has neighbors) are pretty darn awesome.

What not-so-great thing has happened to you, lately, that had a great upside?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People,My Adventures | Tags: , ,
Apr
14
2010
24

A Day Off at Madera Canyon

One of the most stunning things about southern Arizona is that nature is so diverse. If you tire of it, just drive ten minutes for an entirely new landscape. (The area is also GREAT for birding.)

Bluebird Sunday, with great nervousness, I actually took a whole day off! It was wonderful, and it was so nice to get away from my computer for a day. I’m thinking of making this a weekly habit. We drove to Madera Canyon, in the Coronado National Forest.

snowmountains I wish I’d taken pictures a couple weeks ago, but you can still see the snow in the mountains, even though it’s regularly in the mid 80s. Temperatures drop to the low 40s at night, so I generally start out my writing day while shivering next to the heater, and then, as the day wears on, I’ll suddenly realize I’m way overheated, and have to throw open the windows and turn on all the fans.

The names of mountains fascinate me. The peak on the right is Mt. Wrighton, aka Old Baldy, and the dip in the middle of the two peaks is called “Baldy Saddle.” The left peak is Mt. Ian.

At the desert museum, I learned that taking a walk up some of these mountains is like walking from Mexico to Canada, nature-wise. It was mostly pine forest with a creek where we hiked, which blew my mind, LOL.

coronado

When we left, ten minutes later we drove through an area filled with Jumping Cholla Cacti. Little pods with two inch needles “jump” and stick in you. (Ouch!) They say they don’t actually jump, and that you really brush up against them, but I don’t believe it. I was five feet away, and my foot got stuck with two. (Painful, as I had sandals on.)

jumpingcholla

One came out easily with a stick, the other felt like barbed fish hooks. I wish I had taken a picture of the first time I was stuck with a cactus, but I was preoccupied. They are pretty cacti, though, aren’t they? They look like fuzzy little trees.

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of the cacti blooming and some wildflowers. It’s Spring, here! I don’t know what they’re called, but aren’t they pretty?

tallone yellowbudsorangebush

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: My Adventures | Tags:
Apr
10
2010
18

WIP is Finished!

Stand down Deadline Alert. Natasha has been reported to be both sane and approachable.

Thank goodness. This one was hard and it stressed me out, for some reason.

How are taxes? I finished mine in January, but I’m still waiting on a 1099. Yeah, I know. I know. I was just hoping to save the hassle. There’s still a chance I could be emailed the numbers, which would be fine with me.

Speaking of which, one of my other pubs put the numbers in the wrong spot. Annoying. Yeah, yeah. I know. Yes, I know.

I have five WIPs in the wings, and I’m hoping to get three of them done by the end of May. I finally want to try self-publishing: I’m not convinced I couldn’t have better royalties on my own, with a lower price point. But I have another one or two for one of my pubs, and then my YA to query agents/NY.

The YA is the one I most want to finish, but I’m anxious to get all of them done.

Wait.

Not “anxious.”

I mean, I am calmly looking forward to when they will all be done.

The only “craft” goal I have for the next month is this: I want to write without forcing an adrenalin-rush freak out in order to grind out my word count. I still want to write fast a lot, but I want it to be slow and steady throughout the day, like a turtle.

Slow and calm and relaxed like a turtle.

Ohhhmmmmmmm.

I might take a day off tomorrow. *waits for the world to come to a groaning halt* Probably not. I don’t know.

Do you take a day off between WIPs? What’s your foremost writing goal, right now?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags:
Apr
09
2010
4

Because It Makes Me Happy

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Uncategorized | Tags:
Apr
08
2010
22

What’s A Day Job Like?

Because I think I’ve forgotten. It cracks me up. I got drafted to volunteer for twenty minutes, because Glenn was volunteering for his friends, the campground owners, and his partner in crime wasn’t around to do his part of the cooking. But then the twenty minutes kept going on and on because they just didn’t have enough people, and his partner in crime was not doing any cooking.

I had not volunteered (this is not a charity; the owners are getting paid a ton for this), but when I got roped in, I said I’d stay until 5:30. One lady yelled at me because she wanted me to do something, and I was all, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, tell someone else. I was supposed to leave twenty minutes ago.”

And I have this idea in my head that when I establish a boundary, it will be respected. No, LOL.

She yelled something like, “I’m not telling someone else. You do it.” (I said no again, she yelled at me again.) She was pissed because she got sucked into working and it was her day off. (This campground works their camp hosts like CRAZY. The agreement is 18 hours a week in exchange for a site, but it’s more like 35-60 hours a week. And they all seem to put up with it, which is bizarre to me. They complain, but they all keep doing it. Is this a generational thing? They’re all 62-75.)

I should add that we are not camp hosts. We’re just paying customers. Glenn is happy to chip in because he’s friends with the hosts. I’m happy to volunteer to do water aerobics because I like my class. Otherwise, I’m too busy writing.

So I had had it, because I’ve been working from four a.m. to midnight, trying to get my WIP done. Slaving in a hot kitchen was not on the agenda, especially since I wasn’t getting paid and I hadn’t volunteered or committed to it in the first place.

So I walked away, because I knew if my body was there, people would keep asking me to do things. (I have no idea why they were asking me, since I don’t work there and I had not committed to doing anything.) And the other lady yelled, “I’m not supposed to be here, either!”

And I told her, “Then just walk away.”

She seemed rather astonished, as if this were a novel concept. And she continued working!!!

The whole thing is now hilarious. Is this what it’s like to work for someone else? You just have to put in extra time if they need it, even if they aren’t paying you extra and it wasn’t agreed upon?

LOL, that really sucks. Wow.

Now I truly understand why Zoe quit thirty-three jobs. I don’t mind working extra for myself (for even pennies an hour, evidently), but I’m not real good at the whole working-extra-for-someone-else thing.

Glenn, apparently, had a blast. He doesn’t mind, even if he got abandoned to do the job of two and a half people. That must be normal, too, what with all the downsizing and layoffs. He’s accustomed to working for people, and he just shrugs stuff like that off.

Fascinating. I feel like this was important research. It’s a side of the human experience I’d forgotten about; I’m completely out of touch with what it’s like to work for The Man.

So, if you have or had a day job, what is or was it like? Stories, please!

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags:
Apr
06
2010
24

I Feel Broad Already

imageMark Terry is guest-blogging today on my favorite subject: travel. The Fallen, in his Derek Stillwater series, just came out, and he also has his bestselling Joanna Dancing thriller, Dancing in the Dark, available exclusively on Kindle. Check them out! You can read more about his writing life at his blog.

Natasha and her SO packed up their belongings and hit the road. I envy them.

Oh, who am I kidding? You couldn’t pay me enough money to live out of a frickin’ camper! I prefer not to cross the great outdoors for my nighttime wee-wee breaks, thank you very much. As a woman I worked with once said, “If there’s not a mint on the pillow, it’s camping.” (Okay, I’m not quite that bad.)

But they say travel is broadening and although my doctor says imageI’m broad enough already, I do like travel. Most of my travel these days is work related. I edit a technical journal, and the organization involved hosts a technical meeting every year in a different city— this year it’s Phoenix, Arizona; last year it was Jacksonville, Florida. For this meeting alone I’ve spent a week in Cincinnati, Denver, Anaheim, Atlanta, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Houston. Other business trips have taken me to Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Tampa.

Series fiction is often built in a specific city—Robert B. Parker’s Spenser in Boston; Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, and Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware all in Los Angeles; Rick Riordan’s Tres Navarre, who may have retired, in San Antonio.

image My Derek Stillwater changes cities every book. In The Devil’s Pitchfork it was Baltimore and Washington, DC. In The Serpent’s Kiss it was Detroit (more or less my home town). In The Fallen, my latest novel, it’s a resort outside Colorado Springs. The next book, scheduled for September 2011, takes place predominantly in Los Angeles. And the Derek Stillwater novel I’m working on now takes place in Moscow, Russia.

Lee Child’s novels featuring Jack Reacher also have a different setting for each book. So, for that matter, do most espionage novels, which my novels more closely resemble than Lee Child’s Reacher novels.

But setting is important. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be going to Moscow to research this book. In fact, I almost didn’t start it because of that. I have a story idea that could take Derek to Jacksonville and I spent a very hot week there last year. After Russia, if Derek and I are still dating, I expect Jacksonville to figure in a book, unless something in particular strikes me about Phoenix.

So I’ll be curious to see if Natasha’s travels influence her work.

How about you? Do your travels affect your writing?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writers on Writing | Tags: , ,
Apr
05
2010
14

OMG! I Focused!

I could think today. I could even write in complete sentences, instead of words spotted here and there through a fuzzy daze, with a sentence happening only now and then under great duress. Days like this are always such a huge relief.

I had meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (I’d made pot roast for the crock pot.) And a mid-day caffeine nap (scientifically proven, I swear!). And I lit my St. Martin Caballero candle.

I think this is how writing rituals get started, and how writers get addicted to certain things as a crutch.

When you have a “flow” day, when the writing comes relatively easily, one wants to repeat everything about it, so one can have the same success again and again and again. When I performed often, I could snap into the zone easy-peasy. Not so much now, not with writing, but I’m always on a quest to control it.

And I’m wondering: how do you get into the zone? What things do you do to arrange your life for optimum writing? Food? Candles? Tea? A certain location?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags: ,
Apr
04
2010
24

Earth-Shaking News

We had an earthquake! A new Arizona experience! It came from Mexico, and by the time it got all the way to where I was sitting in the Borders cafe, it felt like someone was massaging my toes.

My last snowbird friend is leaving the campground in the morning. I am sad. I am very sad. I adore these people and can’t wait until next winter when they all come back. I have a mental list of who’s coming back in which months, so already I’m looking forward to November.

Yesterday it was in the high eighties. Glenn and I went RV shopping (didn’t buy anything), and I was hot and overheated and panting and dehydrated in shorts and a tank top. In Ohio, this is as hot as it gets!

Meanwhile, all the Arizonians were still wearing pants and long sleeves.

Yes, I’m staying for the summer. (90% sure.) No, we do not yet have an air conditioner. (60% sure we’ll get one.)

I want to say something interesting, but I can’t think of anything. And that is how my writing is going. So I am going to harness the magic of blogging and request of the universe that after I finish this thing I’m currently writing, that–

–my YA be a “gift” book. Fast and easy and quick.

Please?

If you had one thing to ask from the magical blogosphere genies, what would you ask? (Okay, don’t get all world peace on me, here.)

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

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