The G-Chat Dispatch

You ever find yourself g-chatting* with a master?

You know what I’m talking about; you find yourself in a chat with someone who is really good at chatting; you just know that he or she cut their teeth on AOL Instant Messenger in school and has been honing those skills  – like Rocky, running up the stairs – by texting, ever since he or she got their first phone. I’m talking about someone who has a firm grip on grammar, an internal library of pop culture references and an impeccable sense of comic timing. Someone who combines the skills of typing, spelling and linking into one magical chatting skill set. Someone who is ready for the chatting Olympics, except that there isn’t one.

Sometimes I’m just sad that certain g-chats can’t have an audience. I was sad like that tonight, but then I realized that a chat can, in fact be witnessed by everyone, thanks to the miracle of blogging.

So without further ado, I present to you a new feature that I hope to post every few weeks: The G-Chat Dispatch. The first one is with MFA colleague Kate Gorton of Curses in Cursive. Kate is one of those people who has mastered the English language just so that she can smack it around and make it give her its lunch money. It’s only fitting that she’d kick off this series. Below is a short but sweet chat I had with her this evening.

It was prompted by my away message today: Meeting a very close friend’s baby today. Cue Elton John singing The Circle of Life.

8:04 PM             Kate: does your status mean you’re going to Simba that baby?
                             as in, hold  him/her out over the savannah? cuz…i approve.
                             …as long as all of the zebras and wildebestes bow.
                             me: I was going to do that, but I couldn’t find some guy to
                             sing “Naaaaaaaaaasivegna” or whatever it is.
8:05 PM             Kate: goddamnit. they should be on retainer.
                             me: You know, I’ve Simbaed every cat I’ve ever owned.
                             Kate: pshh, if you don’t, it’s just a waste of a cat.
8:06 PM             me: For serious. And everyone knows that cats loooove that.
                             Kate: it’s only their favorite thing. after baths and crinkly
                             plastic bags
                              me: And oral hygiene.
                             Kate: duhhhh
8:07 PM            okay. this 30 page paper is not going to write itself 🙂 Tty!
                             me: Laters!
*”g-chat” is Google’s chat program, if you’re not chat-savvy.

In which I bite the bullet and say what my upcoming book is about.

I often deliberately forget that I am having a novella published (in e-book form) in January.

The book is called “Beware the Hawk,” and it’s being published by Vagabondage Press and I really am very excited, but you’d never know it because over the Christmas holiday, I didn’t talk about it unless someone else brought it up. (Publishers, if you’re reading this, I am aware that this is not a viable marketing strategy.)

I think part of the reason that I push the book from my mind is this: people ask me what it’s about and – like Eminem in the opening scenes of 8 Mile – I choke.

I stammer something like “It’s about a girl, and spies. It’s funny. Well, I think it’s funny.” This is hardly the enthused, informative pitch I was taught in grad school to make. “What is it about” is a perfectly reasonable question; I’m the author and ought to know. But the question trips me up, maybe because I rarely think of a piece of my fiction as something that other people will read. For the most part, I doubt that the figments of my imagination will actually leave my hard drive and move out into the world.

I do have a couple of projects that are my golden children. If any of my work is published, I tell myself, it will be these privileged novels. I groom and prep them for publication. I submit them to my writers’ groups. I prepare myself to let them go.

“Beware the Hawk” was not one of these. I began writing “Beware the Hawk” when I was 23, worked on it with my very first writers’ group, and then – five pages from the end – abandoned the project when I was 25. I left it unfinished until this year. I was caught off guard by its acceptance this fall. To bring it back to the children metaphor: I expected it to grow up to be a drug dealer, but it’s surprised me by going to med school on scholarship.

Also there’s this – the characters and plot have been marinating in my brain for a decade. I’ve unconsciously built unmentioned back stories for each character. Like my houseplants, I neglected them, and they grew. The idea of summing up all of these thoughts and associations is daunting.

But not is not the time for such timidity. Now I must plot-summarize as if the devil himself were at my heels. The publishers tell me that the book will be out in the next three to four weeks, either on the 17th or on the 24th, and if I’m going to market it at all, I should learn how to describe it. The publishers have categorized it as a spy-satire, but I’ll need to be armed with a summary as I do the virtual book tour. With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of ways to describe the contents of my novella.

“Beware the Hawk” is about:

i. …a young pink-haired Brooklynite who is a courier for a secret anti-government group, called the Resistance. She’s sent up to Boston to pick something up one night in winter, and everything goes wrong from the moment she steps off the Fung-Wah bus.

ii. …a young woman who desires to live outside society and its rules and who learns that this is not possible (particularly if one is fond of life in the city.)

iii. …making choices young and having to live with them.

iv. …failure.

v. …50 (virtual) pages long.

vi. …a girl, her iPhone, an inept co-worker, a hot mechanic and a leg injury.

Put all those together and that’s what it’s about, although I feel like a lot is still left out. Which is funny, since the book is only a 50ish page novella. No wonder J.K. Rowling unveiled her Pottermore website this year. Seven books and eight films and she still feels like she hasn’t adequately described the contents of her Harry Potter universe to us. Not that I’m going to be unveiling any “Beware the Hawk” web portals anytime soon.

I will however, be sharing the cover art with you. I got a peek at it tonight and I’m excited. The publishers will be sending the image to me just as soon as it’s finalized.

Valentine’s Day at the movies.

It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m willing to bet a ton of cheap chocolate that a lot of people will be watching romantic films this evening. Rom-coms, tearjerkers, An Affair to Remember. The Notebook. Anything with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in it. All of that will be hot property on Netflix streaming video tonight.

But not in this house. We’ll probably be watching a film that features spaceships, dinosaurs, or a cunning combination of both. Still, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d post a list of lessons I’ve learned about relationships from some of my favorite movies. After all, love is everywhere. Continue reading

Quitting Taurus.

This week has provided me with my opportunity to jump ship and I am taking it. I quit Taurus.

As you may have heard, earlier this week an astronomer announced that the signs of the Zodiac have changed over thousands of years, thanks to a wobble in the earth’s axis. As soon as it was posted, the Internet exploded.

On Facebook, the statuses run the gamut of human emotion.


“Nooooo, I don’t wanna be a Taurus! Anything but that!”


“They can’t make me switch to Capricorn!”


“Yay! I’m still a unique Aquarius, and now I’m even more unique because there are less of us!”


“Leo, huh? That explains some things.”


“Shouldn’t have gotten that Scorpio tattoo.”


“OMG! I’m an Ophiuchus now? WTF?”

There were helpful people who attempted to use the Zodiac news as a teachable moment:

“Guys, this just proves that astrology is crap. God. You’re all so dumb.”

And other helpful people who’d taken a minute to do a Google search in order to allay our fears:

“This only applies to people born after 2009. So calm down, you don’t have to be a Taurus.”

I don’t get that last one. It probably took a long time for the Earth to change its orientation, so the Zodiac has probably been off-kilter for a while. But whatever. As someone who spent a lot of time in my 20s figuring out horoscopes and deciphering signs, I actually find the “change” freeing. I like the idea that we can pick and choose our signs. I can choose to be a Taurus, or I can decide to be something I like much better: Aries.

Unlike most of the above Facebook users, I’ve never really been attached to my sign. As a little kid I remember being appalled that my sign was the sign of the bull. Taurus.  Known for being the plodding, patient type who gets ahead through perseverance. Likes material things. Is stolid. Ugh. Stolid. What a word. I’ve read write-up after write-up on Taurus and, though I hoped to discover some of Taurus’s better traits in my own personality, I’ve failed to see myself in the sign. Not even the modifying factors of my rising and moon signs could make Taurus fit me. Taurus is good with money. I am not. Taurus is patient. I am not. Taurus can be dull. I should hope that I am not. I’ve exactly got two things in common with Taurus: I get a lot of sore throats and I have expensive taste. That’s it.

So I’m all too happy to leap on over to Aries, which corresponds much better with my personality. The ram. Needs to be number one. Likes to talk. Has a temper. Easily bored. Likes red. Wants to be the leader. That’s me!

So regardless of what the astrologers say and despite the fact that I spent a long time trying to champion the sign, I’m quitting Taurus. (Let the “tired of the same old bull” jokes commence.) From now on, I’m telling people that I’m an Aries. I’m reading the Aries horoscope. I’m going to (somehow) calculate my astrological chart as an Aries.

I’ll probably hold off on any ram tattoos, though.