Friday, October 28, 2005

Friday Links

Hi everyone,

I'm on a writing binge today so I'm just going to post a few quick links for you today:

Sabra Wineteer recently did an interesting analysis on sexism and dark, edgy fiction. She mentioned The Bitch Posse and the Amazon reviewer who said I was "sick and disturbed" and that the reviewer "threw the book in the trash." (It was one of the funniest things I've ever read. I want to ask if St. Martin's can use that quote on the paperback... Hee hee.) Sabra also discussed some reviews of Fight Club. Check it out!

I don't think I ever linked this interview I did with Heather Brewer at Bleeding Ink! Thank you, Heather!

I get a lot of emails from readers asking when they can read something else I've written. Well, I'm not quite finished with the Really Shitty First Draft of the Work-in-Progress, but if you're dying to read more stuff of mine in (or on) a book, check out Tasha Alexander's new novel. It's a Victorian mystery called And Only To Deceive, and I got to blurb it. Very elegant and smart. If you enjoy Jane Austen or Anne Perry, you will love this book.

And finally, someone please tell Cornelia Read she needs to start a blog. Cornelia wrote another book I got to read in manuscript form, and you all are going to love it when it comes out: A Field of Darkness. It's heart-pounding suspense with a heroine who would fit right in with the Bitch Posse girls. Anyway, Cornelia leaves these hilarious comments on other people's blogs all the time (mainly Joshilyn Jackson's), but she doesn't have her own. I cannot wrap my brain around why someone so entertaining does not have a blog. Plus, she's a lot of fun in person too. Hey Cornelia... Please start blogging. Please? You can set one up in about thirty seconds.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

From in the Shadow She Calls

Look look look at the pretty thing that landed on my blog today!

I am thrilled to be hosting the lovely Megan Crane here as part of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Virtual Book Tour. How do I know she's lovely? Because I met her at my booksigning in Los Angeles, that's how. Megan came out along with Gayle Brandeis and Ann Marie Michaels for my reading, and there are even photos to prove it.

This pretty cover is for Megan's newest book, Everyone Else's Girl. It's being launched as part of Warner's new Five Spot line and has been blurbed by MEG CABOT. As in, THE PRINCESS DIARIES. Megan, my daughter is going to insist upon meeting with you!

About the Book
Meredith McKay has gone to a lot of trouble to create the picture-perfect life for herself-- far away from her troublesome family, thank you. When her father's car accident forces her back to her hometown, however, she soon discovers that there's no running away from family issues-- there's only delaying the inevitable. Can anyone sort out a lifetime of family drama in one hot summer? Throw in a hot guy from back in high school with an axe to grind, a best-friend turned enemy turned soon-to-be-sister-in-law, and, of course, the sometimes irritating/sometimes delightful members of her own family, and Meredith is on her way to figuring out that sometimes a little trip through the past is the best way to move forward.
Early Reviews
Library Journal
"...In her second novel (after English as a Second Language), Crane shows a growing depth. Her characters are human and flawed... there is warmth without being smarmy and hope but no perfect solutions. And the humor we enjoyed in Crane's debut bubbles up here, too. Recommended for all fiction collections."

Kirkus Reviews
"Amusing, heartfelt and emotionally sophisticated chick-lit."
About the Author
(in Megan's own words)
I was born in Houston, TX. I have been informed that this means that when (not if) Texas secedes from the Union, I can live there.

I grew up in New Jersey. I never bore even a passing resemblance to Stephanie Plum or any character from the Sopranos.

I went to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. I wore a great deal of black and smoked too many cigarettes. Sometimes I also went to class.

After college, I lived in Hoboken NJ, Manhattan, and Atlanta GA. And also, my parents' house. I was, at various points: a customer service representative at a medical laser company, a temp at various industrial sites and one weird design firm in Georgia, a paralegal, a data entry clerk, a special events assistant, a bookseller (which means a drone in a corporate bookstore) and a donor relations coordinator for an alumni association. I distinguished myself at all of these jobs with my bad attitude and all the writing I did on the sly, using company resources.

After four years of this, I decided to go to graduate school. I arrived in England in the fall of 1998 and started an MA course at the University of York. In the fall of 2003, I successfully defended my PhD thesis and thereby completed my academic odyssey.

My PhD thesis was entitled: Infection, Fatalism, and Fiction: Representations of the AIDS Crisis in the Works of Larry Kramer, David Wojnarowicz, David Feinberg, and Tony Kushner. That and the rain nearly did me in!

I attended my graduation ceremony in July 2004, which involved parading about in a very funny-looking hat.

I sold my first book to Warner Books in 2003. English as a Second Language is out now!

Warner also bought my second book, Everyone Else's Girl, out now as part of the new 5 Spot line.

Now I live in Los Angeles, where, when not working on my next book, I am unreasonably obsessed with the good weather and where I am also becoming more and more blonde.
SEE, she's not just brilliant, but FUNNY, too! You can read an excerpt of Everyone Else's Girl here.

And onto the interview!

The Interview
MO'C: Welcome to the blog, Megan, and thanks for visiting.
MC: You're welcome!

MO'C: Your cover is quite striking. Can you explain the imagery that is used?
MC: I love this cover, too! I think they were experimenting with a bunch of different ideas, but chose this one after I said the title came from the Tori Amos song, "Girl." Particularly this line: "She's been everybody else's girl, maybe someday she'll be her own." I like the image of Meredith soaring above her hometown, quite literally jumping through hoops!

MO'C: In what ways are you similar to and different from Meredith?
MC: This is such an interesting question. Meredith tries so hard to do what she thinks is right, and pretty much falls flat on her face in a big muddy pool of her least attractive character traits. I haven't made the same mistakes that Meredith does, and I had entirely different lessons to learn, but believe me, I've been down in that mud just the same.

MO'C: The excerpt I read used a lot of humor. What do you like best about using humor and where do you get your ideas for humor?
MC: I never try to be funny-- I think I just approach things from a slightly sarcastic angle, and they take shape. I've learned that if I tell myself "okay, now write something funny" it NEVER works. It has to grow out of the material on its own, or forget it.

MO'C: Did you have a message that you want the readers to glean from your novel? If so, what?
MC: That life can be messy, and the only thing you absolutely have to do is be honest with yourself. Everything flows from there.

MO'C: Do you outline or use other graphical organizers for your work? Or do you let the story unfold and follow it wherever it takes you?
MC: I wish I was organized. Instead, I stagger around through the novel and never have any idea where I'm going. It's exhausting, frankly!

MO'C: What's your writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals, special tea you must drink, music that must be playing in the background, word count or hourly goal you must meet, tricks for warming up, etc., etc.?
MC: Nope. I procrastinate until I can take no more-- and I can take a lot, actually-- and then I write in a blaze for a while. I get pretty crabby, and left unchecked, suck down truly repulsive amounts of junk food. I have no rituals. I prefer silence, because I am easily distracted. And I like to pretend that blogging is a warm-up, when really it's a serious time-wasting tool. But somehow, it all turns into a book!

MO'C: Has your PhD helped you in writing your fiction? If so, how?
MC: I wrote my dissertation on AIDS literature in New York from 1980-1996. At first glance, this has nothing at all to do with chick lit. But one of the authors I concentrated on, David Feinberg, wrote hilarious novels/memoirs-- like Sex In the City if you happened to be gay, urban, HIV positive, and an activist in 1980s New York. That might not sound funny. The fact that it really, really is speaks to Feinberg's genius. His work has turned out to be a tremendous influence on me.

MO'C: What's the best ride at Disneyland?
MC: It's a toss up between Indiana Jones and Space Mountain. And why choose? You can do both!

MO'C: Any teasers on your Work-in-Progress?
MC: I think it's the best thing I've written so far. Is that teasing enough?
Thanks for visiting us, Megan! And don't forget to buy Everyone Else's Girl at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the bestest option of all, your local independent bookseller.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Cheryl Botzet Guilty of Murder

The woman I've been posting about this week (see below) has just been convicted of the charge of second degree murder in the death of her then-11-year-old son, Ariel, who passed away due to a complication from Diabetic Ketoacidosis. More on Court TV.

For Openers~First Lines

Let it be known that I am navigating the waters of Shitty First Draft Land, where every word stinks on ice and MY OWN opening paragraph reads like I mailed away for it using the coupon on the back of a cereal box. I'll need to hack it apart with a machete and use maybe one word from it in the next draft. (Maybe "a"... I seemed to use that word correctly.)

But soon I will be moving from Shitty First Draft Land to Mediocre Second Draft City, and so on, and so on.... And I hope that not just my opening line, but the rest of the novel, somehow becomes compelling!

So hello, Flusters McKnucklesby, the Tactical Tuesday Rodent... here we are to discuss opening hooks!

Tactical Tuesday~For Openers

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

"All children, except one, grow up."~J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

"It was a pleasure to burn."~Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451

"Call me Ishmael."~Herman Melville, Moby Dick

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."~Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongye taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta"~Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (Best. Book. Ever. Oops, sorry, that was me, editorializing....)

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."~Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”~George Orwell, 1984

Wow! How are we supposed to come close to any of these inspired gems?

It could be argued that your opening line is the most important line in the novel. One thing's for sure... agents and editors aren't going to go digging through your work looking for great lines. If there isn't something excellent right up front... fuhgeddaboutit.

In his writing manual The First Five Pages, agent Noah Lukeman explains that authors have five pages or less with which to get an agent or editor's attention. Five pages! Out of what... three hundred plus pages in your novel! And similarly, how many times have you read the opening to a novel, yawned in boredom, and put it away? I'll admit to being an impatient reader... I've done it many times! Life is too short to read boring books!

But how do we as writers come up with effective openings?

First, be conscious of WHAT A GOOD OPENING SHOULD DO. An effective opening should put questions into the reader's mind. The old reporter's list of The Five Ws and the H is a good start: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How?

WHO is Ishmael?

WHAT is Manderley?

WHEN were the times both so very good and so very bad?

WHERE on earth would you 'discover' ice?

WHY was it 'a pleasure to burn'?

HOW do clocks strike thirteen?

And of course, most all these "killer openings" evoke MORE than one of these "Five Ws and the H" questions.

Now, an effective opening LINE won't save a poor opening SCENE, and we'll talk more next week about writing compelling opening scenes. Often, though, an opening line that brings to mind the questions listed above ITSELF springs the author (and, we hope, the reader) into a fascinating opening scene.

In addition, opening lines ought to establish VOICE. It wouldn't do, would it, to follow the following opening line:

"Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were."

With a second line of something like:

"Ah wis jist sitting thair, focusing oan the telly, tryin not tae notice the cunt."

No, non, nein, nej, nyet!

(As you probably know, the first line above is the opening line of Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell; the second is the second line of Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting.)

In addition to posing questions and establishing voice, opening lines paint a setting or evoke a mood, which can be an effective, though slower, beginning to your novel, perhaps most appropriate to epic novels, fantasy or historical fiction (though not exclusively). [But PLEASE, please, PLEASE, PEOPLE, don't start a novel or a chapter with a "Weather Report"! The technique is overused, and while any rule can (and should) be broken, at least break it consciously... do it with a bit of irony or something... 'kay?]

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest offers prizes for the WORST openings. Here's the 2005 winner:

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual."

Dan McKay
Fargo, ND

Oh, PLEASE go explore that site if you're in need of some giggles. But it might be a good idea to save the rest of these until AFTER you've crafted your own effective one! Wouldn't want to hang around any bad influences, after all...

Ray Rhamey, Editor Extraordinaire at Flogging the Quill, discussed the "great opening lines" issue some time ago. I link it here for further reading. Although I wrote today's article before discovering his, we hit on many of the same points, which just proves great minds think alike, right, Ray?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Mother of Dead Girl Missed the Signs

More on this awful story.... By the way, sorry posting's been light this past week, I've been very busy wrapping up all the last details on our diabetes walk and I CAN SEE THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE FIRST DRAFT TUNNEL ON THE NEW NOVEL! As a consequence though, I'm writing nearly every spare minute. Bad blogger! Bad blogger!

Here goes.... This story is so tragic. Oh, and having dealt with DKA and having spoken with many others who have dealt with DKA, I can say the prosecution is correct. DKA develops over days, not minutes. Ketones can develop quickly, but not this. Not what happened to little Ariel. Here is the LINK.

Detective: Mother treated daughter's potentially fatal symptoms like the flu

LAS VEGAS — A homicide detective told jurors Friday that Cheryl Botzet treated her 11-year-old daughter as if she had the flu when the girl displayed symptoms that could be fatal to diabetics.

"She said she gave [Ariel Botzet] Gatorade and Pepto-Bismol," Detective Mark McNett of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police told jurors Friday.

Previous prosecution witnesses, including a doctor and a nurse, have all testified that Botzet was instructed several times that flu-like symptoms such as vomiting and nausea in her diabetic daughter could be signs of a potentially fatal lack of insulin in her system.

But despite that information, and instructions to seek medical help immediately if her daughter threw up even once, McNett said that Botzet told him she waited until the morning of Feb. 6, 2004, to take Ariel to a clinic. Even then, she didn't tell her own doctor.

"She said [Ariel] couldn't throw up anymore, so she took her to the doctor's," McNett testified.

After the Botzets arrived at a Las Vegas medical clinic, Ariel was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she lapsed into unconsciousness. She died three days later from a cerebral edema, a complication that arises from diabetic keto-acidosis, or DKA, a condition caused by insulin deficiency.

Prosecutors allege that Botzet effectively murdered her daughter Ariel, a Type-1 diabetic, by deliberately withholding insulin and proper medical care. Botzet is charged with first-degree murder and could face a life sentence if convicted.

Botzet's lawyer, Herb Sachs, contends that his client did everything she could for the child. He has said that Ariel was rebellious and often tried to avoid her insulin shots or ate forbidden food while at school.

Some of McNett's testimony seemed to bolster that argument. McNett said Botzet told him it took a lot of persuading to get Ariel to see a doctor even three days before she died.

"[Ariel] was fighting going to the doctors Friday ... she didn't want to go," McNett recalled Botzet telling him during the interview.

Botzet also allegedly told McNett that her daughter did not appear sick until the night before she was taken to the hospital. But a diabetes specialist told jurors that was not possible.

"I think probably she [Ariel] was sick for a few days," Dr. Francine Kaufman said.

Throughout the trial, Sachs has attempted to establish that DKA is like a "lightning bolt" that can strike diabetics nearly anytime.

But Kaufman said DKA happens over days, not minutes.

"It's not like a flash," she said. "It's usually days. If not four, then three."

Kaufman also testified that, while lack of insulin is the most common cause of DKA, stress in the patient as well as the common flu could trigger the condition and eventually lead to a cerebral edema.

Prosecutors are expected to conclude their case Monday.

Court TV Extra is posting testimony from the trial on the Web.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Trial Begins for Woman Accused of Killing Her Diabetic Daughter

Before I get into the story, let me make a correction on yesterday's post. I said that the title "A Clockwork Orange" was successful because it made the reader wonder what a clockwork orange might be. According to an English acquaintance of mine: "In England when it was published it would have come under your category of 'Using Slang'. The popular expression was as queer (in the sense of 'odd') as a clockwork orange."

Mea culpa.

Moving onward, this story is QUITE disturbing. When our son was first diagnosed, one of the first things I heard about was this story. Knowing that what we had just dealt with was undiagnosed DKA (since we didn't know he had diabetes and had endured a number of incorrect diagnoses by our ill-informed pediatrician), I was horrified that something like this could have happened to him.

Now, Cheryl Botzet is finally on trial. I feel very much for this mother who lost her daughter, but there are huge gaps in the defense's logic. My understanding is that serious DKA, coma and death do not just jump into being. They develop over several days. I hope I am right. I would like to think we parents have a decent amount of time to observe and treat these symptoms, for fuck's sake.
Cheryl Botzet's Ex-Husband First to Take The Stand
Oct 18, 2005, 10:45 PM MST

The case is underway against Cheryl Botzet the mother accused of killing her daughter by failing to treat her diabetes. Botzet's 11-year-old daughter Ariel died in Feb. of 2004. The state contends it was because her mother didn't properly regulate her insulin.

After opening statements Tuesday morning at the new Regional Justice Center, the first person to be called to the stand was Cheryl Botzet's ex-husband Randy Botzet.

Botzet became emotional remembering his last conversation with his 11-year-old daughter Ariel. She had wanted to go swimming in early February but because she sounded sick on the phone he forbade her to go.

It was days later that Ariel was taken to the hospital by her mother because she thought she had the flu.

Randy Botzet said, "She said she had the flu and she was throwing up."

Both the prosecution and defense pointed out to the jury that vomiting was a danger sign for diabetics like Ariel because it showed high levels of blood sugar, which turned out to be deadly in this case....{{more}}

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tactical Tuesday~Titles

No, this post is not about alliteration... *winky thing*. It's about something that's really difficult for me and for a lot of authors... coming up with interesting titles.

But before I get started on that, let me quickly discuss The O'Connor Lions and the stunning 2005 Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Walk To Cure Diabetes! It was a glorious Saturday morning in San Francisco... the fog and dampness burned off by 9 o'clock, and we had a wonderful sunny day on Crissy Field for our two mile walk. Eight adults and seven children walked two miles and as a team raised almost $4,000.00 for the fight to cure Juvenile Diabetes! This was not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE times our original goal. YAY, team!

Thank you notes and photos will be going out this week to those who donated. And if you're thinking of donating, it's not too late... donate to our son's walk here and our daughter's walk here. If I don't have your email address along with the donation, no photo (I don't post photos of my kids online), but smiles to all.

And onto the Tactical Tuesday post... let's give a big Martha-Land Welcome to Flusters McKnucklesby, our Official Mascot!

Title Tips

I read an interview with author Adrienne Miller whose recently published novel, The Coast of Akron, has an excellent title. Anyone who's been anywhere near Akron (I went to school in Bowling Green, so I know Akron well) KNOWS that Akron, in the middle of our great state of Ohio, HAS NO COAST. So Miller's title is intriguing and captivating. Anyway, the interviewer asked about Miller's WIP (Work-in-Progress). Miller replied: "I’m working on something that I’m privately referring to as my “thingy.” That’s the file name on my hard-drive, actually: “THINGY.”" I had to laugh. My WIP's current title is the first name of a character whose name I already know I'm CHANGING.

Titles tend to evolve, I find. When I submitted The Bitch Posse to my agent, it was called White Roses Red, a phrase that's pulled from a line in the book. Not a horrible title, but after a lot of discussion, we decided that The Bitch Posse was a more fitting title. Here's a link to an interview I did with Karin Gillespie on the subject so you can read a little more about how the title came to be. I know some authors who come up with a title first and then write a novel or story around it, but I personally couldn't work that way. I usually get a set of characters in my mind, and they take off running. At the end I'm left with 350 pages or so that has a title like "Fred" or "Martha's Book" or "Thingy."

Here are some different things that titles can do. I've chosen various book titles to illustrate my point, but be warned I haven't read all of these... these are not necessarily recommended books, only titles that caught my attention.
The Enemy by Lee Child
Predator by Patricia Cornwell

The Kite-Runner by Khaled Hosseini (What does a kite-runner do?)
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (What on earth is a clockwork orange?)

Wicked: The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory McGuire
I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe
The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

Executive Power by Vince Flynn (Political Thriller)
Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins (Hollywood Glitz)

In the Heart of the Heart of the Country & Other Stories by William Gass
gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg
Bet Your Bottom Dollar by Karin Gillespie

Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin : Writers Running Wild in the Twenties by Marion Meade
Brick Lane by Monica Ali

Whiskey Sour: A Lieutenant Jack Daniels Mystery by J.A. Konrath
In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner

The Little Women by Katharine Weber (spin on Louisa May Alcott's Little Women)
The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall (spin on Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind)
{Caution, this trick only really works with classics...}
Of course, titles often do more than one of these things. Adrienne Miller's title, for instance, both creates a setting and poses a fascinating question. The McGuire book both highlights the main character and provides a spin on The Wizard of Oz. The Marion Meade book both evokes a historical reference and conveys an interesting images. Etc. etc.

Now that I've got all these ideas for titles, maybe a good one will pop into my head today... I sure could use one!

Friday, October 14, 2005

What, Getting Up at 6 AM on a Saturday?

But it'll all be worth it because we are going to be doing the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Walk To Cure Diabetes at Crissy Field! Last year at this time, we were only a few months out from our son's diagnosis, and therefore weren't thinking much of fundraising. I will post pictures from the Walk and a full report after it's all over. As of this moment, our family has raised $3,210.00 towards the cure. I don't think that's too bad for our first year doing this! (Although little sis showed me up... see below, her report on the same day as my Jennifer O'Connell interview!)

This week was SO busy! Not only was I making 17 hand-dyed, hand-decorated Walk T-shirts for our team, but I also had been invited to be a part of the LitQuake literary festival in San Fancisco. On Wednesday night I got to perform as part of a reading group called "Loudmouths of Lit" at The Make-Out Room in San Francisco. I had very much, muchly fun. Everyone there was VERY nice, and they gave all the readers coupons for two drinkies. Loverly. And since I believe in authors promoting each other, here were the talented authors who read alongside me, with links to their sites, or articles about them, whichever Google popped up for me:

7:15pm -- Adam Johnson (Parasites Like Us)
7:30pm -- Dodie Bellamy (Pink Steam)
7:45pm -- Kirk Read (How I Learned to Snap)
8:15pm -- Tamim Ansary (West of Kabul, East of New York)
8:30pm -- Holly Payne (The Sound of Blue)
8:45pm -- Peter Orner (Esther Stories)
9:00pm -- Sean Wilsey (Oh the Glory of It All) (I am not sure this guy actually made it. I'm not sure, so I am including him anyway. I realize that this makes me seem like a space cadette. Ah well. We must suffer for our art.)

Everyone was so talented. (Even the guy who might not have been there.) It was really an honor to have been invited. Afterwards I got to talk to someone from the San Francisco Chronicle (sadly, I do not remember her name), and then I huddled together with Adam Johnson as if we were old, dear friends (I think he thought I was on speed perhaps since I chat a LOT when I get nervous, and I was nervous), for a picture by some photographer from some magazine. It was actually a pretty well-known magazine, which I again cannot remember. (See what those two free drinks will do to you?) However, if I get famous I'll let you know. Then you can say you read my blog way back when.

Also, an author I really like named Stephen Elliott showed up and stopped by to chat for awhile. He is supernice, supersmart and supertalented, so you should all buy his book, Happy Baby. Now. Because I said so, that's why.

PLEASE read Dee's story of Bailey's diagnosis, just over a year ago... and be sure to tell him how great they are all doing. What an amazing family.

Here's a really horrible story I read today (via Associated Press). I've got other crappy, evil stories to post for you, but I won't deluge you with them all at once. This one is sufficient to ruin your weekend:

Driver Allegedly Makes Ill Child Leave Bus

By Associated Press


SALEM, Ore. - A school bus driver no longer has his job after he allegedly told a sick child to get off his bus. The diabetic child was left several blocks from his house the morning of Oct. 7, according to his mother, Leigh Nowning.

The 12-year-old used his cell phone to call her. She picked him up and later took him to a hospital emergency room.

"If my son had not had that cell phone, he'd be dead," Nowning said.

The Salem-Keizer School District would not release the driver's name, citing privacy issues.

District officials declined to comment, and refused to say whether the driver quit or was fired. But school district officials confirmed the man no longer worked for the district as of Wednesday.

Nowning said she viewed a school district surveillance video from the bus Thursday. On the tape, she said she saw the bus stop as children told the driver her son was throwing up. Her son walked up the aisle to tell the driver he was ill.

"The guy just said 'Get off the bus, then,'" Nowning said.

She picked up her son about six blocks away from their home. She said he is a Type 1 diabetic, and a home test showed his blood-sugar levels were high. They went to the emergency room for treatment.

"He was passing out when he stood up," she said. "His metabolic system was in shock, and it doesn't take much longer for a person to go into a coma, followed by death."

Nowning said it was clear from the video that the driver did nothing for her son. She said she will consider a lawsuit and ask for a criminal investigation.

School district officials said they were investigating.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tasers and Diabetes

I pulled this attorney's comment to the forefront in the hopes that someone can help him out.. Although he doesn't explicitly say so, I am sure his client is diabetic. I am going to pass this to my diabetes email list as well. I hope someone can help him and/or his client (Gruver was shot and injured by a Taser some months ago because police thought he was drunk and disorderly--DESPITE THE MEDICAL ID HANGING AROUND HIS NECK--an incident which strikes terror into my heart, because, that could be MY SON, someday)~

I am an attorney representing a woman shot by a taser gun. The officer mistook her for being drunk and noncooperative when she would not open her car door after an accident. Never mind that he violated department policy because she represented no danger to him and was not willfully resisting lawful orders. She was in no condition to do anything.

Through internet research I found this other case of Gruver. What I am wondering is if such electrocution can cause any long-term medical effect, if that is possible. The client reports a decline in white blood cells and increase in blood pressure.

Can anyone answer this question or point me in the direction of someone who could render an opinion?

James Egan
Seattle, Washington

It's About Time...

I know people involved in this lawsuit. And it's about time, is all I can say. HUZZAH for the parents and kids involved. There is no way the schools will win, since their position violates federal disability laws. I don't see why they feel they have to draw it out in court, but apparently some people won't listen to reason. So, MANY congratulations and THANKS to the parents willing to make a stand, to create a precedent for ALL our kids in schools in California.

From the Contra Costa Times:


By Eric Louie


Three Danville parents, another from Fremont and the American Diabetes Association filed a lawsuit Tuesday to require California public schools to assist in insulin injections and provide other help for diabetic students.

The suit, filed at the U.S. District Court Northern District of California in San Francisco, claims the public schools those students attend will not provide such help, and thus deny the children an education to which they are entitled. It names the San Ramon Valley and Fremont school districts, the state Department of Education and the superintendents and governing boards of those agencies as defendants.

"This is a systemwide academic problem," said James Wood, lead attorney with Oakland law firm Reed Smith. The firm is representing the plaintiffs, as is Berkeley's Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, on a pro-bono basis.

The suit says one fifth grader at Rancho Romero Elementary, who is also bipolar and has dyslexia, was diagnosed with diabetes in 2002 and began using a pump to administer her insulin in 2003.

Because of her dyslexia and blurred vision when her glucose level is high, she needs someone to make sure she checks her glucose when needed and takes the right action to give herself insulin. The suit says the district refused to make sure she checks her blood glucose when she should and rejected her parents' request for someone to supervise when she uses her insulin pump.

The suit also mentions a kindergartner at Greenbrook Elementary who needs insulin injections. A school district nurse, who serves five schools, suggested she be the third option for helping with those injections, called only after the young student's mom and the parent of the third student in the suit. The nurse, according to the suit, said no one else at Greenbrook could be assigned to that responsibility.

As for the third student involved, the suit claims Greenbrook staff agreed to test glucose levels, monitor snacks and work her insulin pump but have not provided for that in a written plan or made adequate assurances that student will get insulin or glucagon injections.

State education department officials had not seen the suit by Tuesday afternoon and had no comment, said Pam Slater, a department spokeswoman.

Though Wood said a school staff member who does not have a medical background could assist with the proper training, just as parents with diabetic children do, Koehne said it is San Ramon district policy that is only nurses can administer insulin.

"It's a liability issue, mainly," he said. The district, which has 30 schools, has 4.3 full-time equivalent nurse positions, down from six three years ago.

Genevieve Getman-Sowa, associate development director of the Diabetic Youth Foundation in Concord -- which is not part of the suit -- said getting school staff to assist diabetic students has been a problem. She said the cost of training school staff members and having those people available for the students is a key issue; another is the potential liability of the procedure.

"Some districts think if they say 'no' to everyone, the liability will be off their hands," she said.

Reed said the growing number of school-age youngsters with diabetes means the issue needs to be addressed.

"The irony is there's an epidemic of children with diabetes," he said. "They really can't bury their heads in the sand anymore."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blame It On Your Third Grade Teacher

Well, we're back for another installment of Tactical Tuesday!

Please welcome Fluster McKnucklesby, our Tactical Tuesday Rodent, who will help us elucidate Part Two of Writing Effective Dialogue, or, as I like to call this part:

Blame It on Your Third Grade Teacher

I happened to be in a third grade classroom the other day... not my son's or daughter's, thank goodness. On the wall was a large poster with words like:


And beneath it was one of my favorite words. A perfectly good, sweet and useful word. A circle had been drawn around it and a line drawn through the circle, like on a No Smoking sign. That word was....


I nearly cried.

In fact, I had to bite my lip and stand outside for a moment. So this is where it comes from, I thought. Those Horrid Icky Embarrassingly Awful To Read and To Catch Yourself Writing dialogue tags.

What's wrong with the good old word "said," I say?


Strong dialogue needs no other attribution than SAID. If you're using words like hollered, hissed ( impossible to do with dialogue that doesn't contain the 's' sound, hmmmm?), whimpered, murmured, laughed (and it's hard to "laugh" ANY piece of dialogue... TRY IT. Try to "laugh" the phrase, "Try it"), snarled (see "laughed"), mumbled, blah blah blah.....

STOP. DROP your pencil. ROLL your dialogue through your head. And make WHAT your character says more compelling. Don't rely on cheesy dialogue tags to carry the weight and meaning that the DIALOGUE ITSELF is supposed to carry.

In fact, avoiding "said" and replacing it with silly verbs can become really irritating. Witness the example given by bestselling thriller writer David Morrell, in a question he answered for me on the Backspace Writing Forums:

"Jack, look out for the bomb!" Joe exploded.

Isn't that horribly distracting, even laughable? These verbs are the mark of an amateur. AVOID THEM.

Another annoying trend in dialogue tags is the adverbial dialogue tag.

"You'll never get away with it," she said icily.

Oh, COME ON. Again... THE DIALOGUE needs to carry the "iciness." Barring that, the heroine's ACTIONS should show her iciness. Not a two-bit adverb plopped at the end of the sentence. Remember the jokes called "Tom Swifties"?

"Wow, that sure is a handsome man over there!" Tom said gaily.

"I am not a Christian!" Tom said crossly.

"This is just like a fairy tale," Tom said grimly.

"Give me some more macaroni and cheese, and I'll tell you," Tom said craftily.

(And many more are available here...)

In short: Don't "Tom Swifty" your dialogue.

OH... and most egregious of all, PLEASE don't have your hero say something "cockily" during a love scene. Please. That is, unless you're writing a comedy.

On THAT awkward note, I promised I would fucking get into the goddamned profanity issue today. Simply, here it is:


This was true in my own novel, The Bitch Posse. I don't use four-letter words nearly as often as my three characters, but their diction demanded that I use them quite a lot. I remained loyal to the way my girls thought and spoke. BE TRUE TO YOUR CHARACTERS. There are some characters in fiction who'd never use four-letter words. Let your characters speak to you, and transcribe what you hear.

One of the most memorable novels I've read in recent years is Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. The novel chronicles the experiences of heroin users in Edinburgh, Scotland. Every other word in that novel, I swear (hee hee), is "cunt." When I had finished reading it, I headed to pick up the kids at school and nearly greeted my friends with "Fuck off, you doss cunts!" in the most AFFECTIONATE way possible. The dialogue just rubs off on you.

Director of the stage adaptation of Trainspotting, Harry Gibson, knew about the difficulties the profanity might create: "BBC Radio asked me ages ago to do an adaptation of Trainspotting. Then they looked at it. When they realised that landing on 'Planet Trainspotting' means you can't walk for two lines without bumping into a cunt, they bottled."

All right? If your character uses the word "cunt" a lot... SHE USES THE WORD "CUNT" A LOT, SO SHE SHOULD SAY IT A LOT. A WHOLE FUCKING LOT.

This is off topic, but amusing, so here you go...

Which Trainspotting Character Are You?

Remember, dialogue cuts both ways. You don't have to use "cunt" or "fuck" every other word, but you don't have to sanitize your dialogue for your Aunt Ethel, either. Just remember... It's all about the character!

And that's it from me today. I think. Unless...

"Did I forget anything about dialogue?" she whined forgetfully.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Speaking Off the Record...

Before I get started today, I would like to congratulate my sister and her boyfriend on completing the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in Asheville North Carolina! They rode 68 miles... APIECE! And, between them, they raised over $5,000 for the JDRF!

Unless lightning strikes, our Walk Team won't even approach that sum. Therefore, this confirms beyond a reasonable doubt that my sister's purpose in life is to make me look bad. JUST KIDDING!

Seriously, we are all so very honored that she and her boyfriend rode for Diabetes Research. That $5,000 brings us all that much closer to a cure.

And if you are wanting to donate, there's still time to sponsor our daughter's walk, or our son's walk, but don't give to mine at this point because I want the kids to get the Golden Sneaker Fundraising Awards...

I hope she will pipe in here on the comments section (below the detailed interview I have with our guest author today) to tell us more about it. But before I leave the subject, dear sister and boyfriend, here are a dozen roses for each of you!

On that note... it's Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit Time again!

This time my guest is the talented Jennifer O'Connell, author of the acclaimed Bachelorette #1 and the just-out Off the Record!


“Decadent fun … O'Connell makes this sweet treat go down smoothly.”
“Cleverly unconventional plot … O’Connell unveils the transformation with impressive skill and timing.”
“Rockin’ chick lit!”


OFF THE RECORD by Jennifer O’Connell (NAL; September 2005), author of BACHELORETTE # 1 and DRESS REHEARSAL, is her most rockin’ book yet. There's no way a rock star would ever write a song about Jane Marlow, the straight-as-an-arrow narrator of OF THE RECORD. She isn't the type to wear red garter belts or rhinestone butterfly thongs under her conservative navy blue suits. She's a true-blue good girl: a plain, predictable, and perfectly responsible estates attorney.

But then Jane's brother catches an episode of Music One's "Off the Record," and makes a startling discovery that threatens to take Jane out of the law library and into the spotlight. Former pop sensation Teddy Rock isn’t just a has-been rock star attempting to make a comeback, he’s actually their childhood neighbor Theodore Brockford...and his one-hit wonder twelve years earlier wasn't just a catchy tune that took the charts by storm - it was a song about Jane Marlow.

Jane can't believe it-especially since she's nothing like the girl in the song. Adamantly refusing to believe she’s the inspiration for the song Janey 245, Jane dismisses the proof as circumstantial, even if she does have to admit it’s more than a little coincidental. On the verge of making partner in her law firm, Jane’s not about to risk letting anyone find out. Her brother, on the other hand, decides to capitalize on the idea.

Convinced that Jane’s unknown celebrity is the key to turning around a family friend’s bar, he contacts the media and invites them to meet Janey 245 in person. And once Jane’s story gets out, there’s no going back.

As her law firm sees the dollar signs associated with a rock star’s estate, and Teddy Rock’s promoters see an opportunity to clean up his bad boy image for a spectacular come-back, Teddy Rock's reluctant muse is forced into the limelight and is given a chance to live life off the record - but is she ready for the changes it brings? And even if she's willing to take the risk, is she willing to face the music?

Read OFF THE RECORD and find out why the critics hailed BACHELORETTE #1, Jennifer O’Connell’s first book, as a “poolside page-turner,” and a “hot pick” that’s “filled with insight and humor,” and why Jennifer’s second book, DRESS REHEARSAL was called “perfect.”


Jennifer O’Connell received her BA from Smith College and her MBA from the University of Chicago. She lives outside of Chicago and is currently working on her fourth novel.


MO'C: Thank you for appearing on the blog, Jennifer!
JO'C: It is my pleasure.

MO'C: Let's start at the beginning... How did you get started writing?
JO'C: I had a dream I was on the TV show 'The Bachelor' and the next day I started writing my first book, BACHELORETTE #1, about a woman who's married with a kid and goes undercover on a reality dating show to write a scathing article about the women on the show. Up until that day, I never thought, 'I want to be a writer.'

MO'C: Were you ever the inspiration for a song, piece of art, poem or story? How do you think this might affect you?
JO'C: I was!!! Actually, I've been the inspiration for two songs, both written by my husband, who plays guitar. Both songs were written when we first started going out, and one has long since died a well-deserved death (with lyrics like, "my angel's got eyes that shine," you can understand why). The other song is absolutely fantastic, and my husband recorded it for our tenth anniversary. So not only do I have a song, I have a CD of the song. And, I must admit, it's pretty damn cool.

MO'C: Are you anything like the main character? Or any of the supporting characters?
JO'C: Like Jane, I verge on the edge of being a control freak (people who know me would probably say I have stepped over the edge and am in complete anal retentive free fall). Jane's idea that there is a right and wrong way to hang toilet paper (flap over vs. under) is actually my own neurotic idea. Also, Jane's memories of her childhood are very much like my own, and it was fun to go back there (the white painter's pants and AC/DC t-shirt are based on an actual guy from seventh grade). Unlike Jane, I wouldn't be so dismayed about a rock star writing a song about me (unless it was some angry raging song about how I did him wrong). In fact, I might relish the idea.

MO'C: What kind of research did you do for this book?
JO'C: Each chapter begins with an article from the past, newspapers and magazines that chronicle Teddy Rock's rise to fame and fall to one-hit wonder status. I tried to find as many articles as possible about real rock star antics so Teddy seemed authentic. Luckily, rock star antics are well-documented - paternity suits, arrests, sexual escapades - it's all there. I also had to learn the legalities of setting up trusts and how trusts are handled. In fact, Darcy's suit against Kitty is based on a real case.

MO'C: How did the Fictionista Chick Lit Tour get started and what benefits have you seen from touring with other authors?
JO'C: The Fictionista Chick Lit Tour was the brainchild of Josie Brown, whose first book was just published by Avon. The tour originally started out as just Avon authors, but when Josie and I were talking, we thought that having authors from multiple houses join together would be great for readers, and interesting for us. It's been so much fun getting to know other authors, sharing our writing and publishing experiences, and also informative. I think the benefit for all of the authors is that we get to be in front of readers who enjoy the genre, who have questions about getting published, and who want to hear about our books. Because we're in casual places, such as bars during happy hour, it's a different environment than a typical book store event. It's perfect for chick lit readers and authors, alike (we're a fun bunch).

Note: The Fictionistas will be appearing at the following dates and locales:
Washington, DC Monday 10/10 – 6:30pm @ Hard Rock Cafe
New York, NY Friday 10/14 - 5pm @ Sugarcane, 245 Park Ave S. (connected to Sushi Samba)
Chicago, IL Monday 10/24 - 5pm @ Liquid Lounge, 171 W. Randolph St.
Memphis, TN Tuesday 10/25 - 6pm @ Hard Rock Cafe
Atlanta, GA Thursday, 10/27 - 6pm @ Aiko, 128 East Andrews Dr.

MO'C: I have a feature on my blog, "Tactical Tuesday," with writing tips. Would you please give your own personal tips or thoughts on a) Character Naming, b) The Suckage Factor (very bad first drafts), and c) Dialogue?
JO'C: I LOVE dialog, probably because I also love to talk. If I could just write a novel with dialog, I would (of course, then it would be more like a screenplay, right?). Character naming - I needed a ton of names for OFF THE RECORD because every article beginning the chapters has a reporter it was written by, as well as people the reporter interviewed. My friends, their kids, are all over that book. It's fun when friends see their names. The suckage factor - I rewrote about 50% of OFF THE RECORD after it was finished. And while the rewriting itself sucked big time, I liked it so much better. Something the only thing to do is press the delete button.

MO'C: What's next on your plate, Jennifer?
JO'C: My first teen chick lit, PLAN B, will be published by MTV Books in March 2006. I'm working on my second teen chick lit right now.

MO'C: What advice to you have for aspiring authors?
JO'C: Write. It sounds easy, but making the time, forcing yourself to keep typing, can be the hardest thing. And you can't get published if you're not writing.

MO'C: Do people ever call you Jennifer O'Connor? Because I get called Martha O'Connell all the time.
JO'C: That is way too funny. Can I tell you that 99% of the time I'm called Jennifer O'Connor? I changed my name when I got married because my maiden name was difficult for people to pronounce and I thought O'Connell was a no-brainer. Apparently not. So I've always figured that O'Connor must be a more popular name because people confuse my name so often, but I guess not. You've proven me wrong! You know what else? I was sent something from MTV to review and approve and they had my name as 'Jennifer Connolly.' Um, that's an Academy Award-winning actress, and while I'm flattered that anyone would confuse me with her, you'd think they could get their author's name right! It certainly lets you know your place in the world.

I'm so glad Jennifer could join us here! You may visit her website here, and purchase her book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the best option, your local independent retailer.

See you tomorrow for Tactical Tuesday, where we'll continue our discussion on writing effective dialogue!

Friday, October 07, 2005

It's Not Too Late....

In just over a week, our family will participate in our first Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Walk To Cure Diabetes. Already, many blog readers have opened their hearts and their pocketbooks to help fund this important charity. THANK YOU to all those who've already donated and sent messages of support!

With just over a week left until Walk Day, we are busy making team t-shirts, recruiting last-minute walkers, and finding sponsors/donors.

For those of you who missed the initial announcement, no fear~there's still time to help out! Here is the relevant information:

Dear Friends,

This year, our family will be taking part in The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Walk to Cure Diabetes, along with one-half million other walkers across the country, as we try to reach our goal of raising $86 million.

Many of you have met our eight-year-old son. He was diagnosed with Type 1 (Juvenile) Diabetes on July 17, 2004. That morning he awoke vomiting, hyperventilating, and unable to speak or stand. We rushed him to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed and transferred via ambulance to UCSF Medical Center. We learned later he had been on the brink of a deadly diabetic coma.

Our son will be insulin dependent for life. Already he's endured over 3,650 fingerpricks and 1,825 insulin injections. People with Type 1 Diabetes face devastating complications, including blindness, kidney failure, stroke, amputations, and heart disease. Diabetes affects every organ in the human body.

Our son pricks his finger for blood tests 8-12 times daily, even when he is sleeping or playing. Sometimes he is unable to play with his friends or participate in PE or his favorite sport, swimming, because his blood sugar is too high or too low. And in addition to rigorous blood testing and insulin shots, he must measure everything he puts into his mouth and calculate the proper insulin dose. While insulin keeps our son alive, it is not a cure and doesn't prevent these daily nuisances or the frightening long-term complications.

In the face of all this, our son is a tough kid and rarely complains. He's full of jokes, giggles, and everything else you'd expect from a happy 8-year-old. He's done his own shots since two weeks after diagnosis! Truly, he is a source of inspiration.

His twin sister is brave as well. She knows that her risk for Type 1 Diabetes is now 10 times that of the rest of the population and she often worries whether she'll develop it, too. And, as you can imagine, it hasn't been easy watching her twin get all this extra attention.

In short, this disease has turned our lives upside down. The GOOD news is that science has made tremendous strides in a short amount of time and a cure truly is within reach. Donating to the JDRF is the very best way to make inroads into finding a cure. Over 90% of funds raised by the JDRF goes straight into research. It was recently named by Forbes Magazine as one of the nation's top 10 most efficient charities and has been honored by SmartMoney for its efficiency.

Now, more than ever, you can make a crucial difference. Won't you please give to JDRF as generously as possible? Together, we can make the cure a reality!

You may donate online at the following URLs:

To donate to our son's walk:

To donate to our daughter's walk:

To donate to Martha's walk:

Our walk is on October 15 at Crissy Field in San Francisco. Even small contributions of only a few dollars will add up! Everything is appreciated! Thank you so much for your time and for any help you can offer.

Martha O'Connor

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Buy a Friend a Book!

My book was among those featured in the inaugural issue of Buy a Friend a Book week. Basically, you buy a friend a book just for the hell of it... whatever friend you like, whatever book, and for no good reason.

October's Buy a Friend a Book Week is coming to a close. Here are a few books I've enjoyed recently, and I will be buying one or more of them for friends. In light of this week's posting about not reviewing friends' novels on Amazon, I'm only including books of people whom I DO NOT personally know:

Stop That Girl by Elizabeth McKenzie: (from Elizabeth McKenzie's Stop That Girl is a series of chronological stories that, taken together, uncover the life story of Ann Ransom, a native Californian who moves from childhood to adulthood with poise, intelligence, and humor. When we first meet Ann in the collection's title story, she is a spunky eight year old living with her mom in Long Beach. Featured characters include Ann's mom, her grandmother Dr. Frost, her sister Kathy, and three or four of her romantic interests. The state of California itself serves as an important supporting character, helping to keep Ann rooted in time and space as she moves through each chapter of her life.

While each story is unique in its own right, McKenzie's lyrical style makes it easy to string each episode together to form the consistent thread of Ann's life. In one of the early stories, ten-year-old Ann attends a neighborhood party on her own, apologizing to the host for her parents's absence while attempting to fulfill the family's social obligations with the grace of someone well beyond her years. ("I make it my business to look as enterprising ad possible, a team player, someone you can count on, someone who never lets you down...") As she gets older, Ann continues to play the role of "normal one" in a family of eccentric personalities, while simultaneously attempting to forge her own identity as a young woman. In one climatic story, Ann's grandmother pays her a visit at UC Santa Cruz on the same day as a monumental appearance by Allen Ginsberg. What follows is a car chase that culminates in a showdown between Ann, her boyfriend, and her grandmother that perfectly illustrates the push-pull dynamic which seems to define Ann's life.

For Ann, each step forward brings with it a reminder of a past that she doesn't necessarily want to forget. It is this haunting inability to escape her past, to in fact embrace her past in order to move on, that make Ann such an endearing character and her creator such a gifted storyteller.

The Discovery of Insulin by Michael Bliss: (from an reviewer) This fine book is perhaps the best single narrative account of a major medical breakthrough. Bliss's background is not in medicine or biology but rather in Canadian history, politics, and Canadian cultural history. Prior to writing this book, he wrote what is probably the definitive biography of Frederick Banting and more recently he produced a highly praised biography of William Osler. One of the best things about this book is the broad perspective that Bliss brings to the subject. The exciting story of the isolation of insulin is grounded in a well laid out explanation of the social and cultural circumstances of these events. The situation of Canadian society, the nature of academic life, and the consequences of a great discovery being made in a Canadian city are laid out very well. Bliss is excellent on the science as well. He is a fine writer explains the background and events of the isolation very well. He really shows the team nature of this event and of scientific activity in general. He is very careful to delineate the contributions of all participants and shows how a group effort was really necessary to isolate insulin. A signficant point of revision is his emphasis of the role of JRR MacLeod, the Professor of Physiology at Toronto. In traditional accounts, he is a scientific bad guy who hijacks credit from Banting and Best. In Bliss's account, he is an important contributor who was probably victimized by Canadian nationalism. Bliss is very good as well on diabetes as a clinical problem, the impact of the isolation of insulin, and difficulties of moving from laboratory work to mass production. A fun and informative book that can be enjoyed by specialists and the general reading public.

I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe: (from the Product Description, via Dupont University--the Olympian halls of learning housing the cream of America's youth, the roseate Gothic spires and manicured lawns suffused with tradition... Or so it appears to beautiful, brilliant Charlotte Simmons, a sheltered freshman from North Carolina. But Charlotte soon learns, to her mounting dismay, that for the uppercrust coeds of Dupont, sex, Cool, and kegs trump academic achievement every time.

As Charlotte encounters Dupont's privileged elite--her roommate, Beverly, a Groton-educated Brahmin in lusty pursuit of lacrosse players; Jojo Johanssen, the only white starting player on Dupont's godlike basketball team, whose position is threatened by a hotshot black freshman from the projects; the Young Turk of Saint Ray fraternity, Hoyt Thorpe, whose heady sense of entitlement and social domination is clinched by his accidental brawl with a bodyguard for the governor of California; and Adam Geller, one of the Millennial Mutants who run the university's "independent" newspaper and who consider themselves the last bastion of intellectual endeavor on the sex-crazed, jock-obsessed campus--she gains a new, revelatory sense of her own power, that of her difference and of her very innocence, but little does she realize that she will act as a catalyst in all of their lives. With his signature eye for detail, Tom Wolfe draws on extensive observation of campuses across the country to immortalize college life in the '00s. I Am Charlotte Simmons is the much-anticipated triumph of America's master chronicler.

The Torn Skirt by Rebecca Godfrey: (from Publisher's Weekly, via When Sara's hippie father catches her masturbating after school, he can't handle what he's witnessed. In one of this whip-smart debut's many surreal scenes, he decides to move out effective immediately. Godfrey's novel is full of equally disconcerting episodes, but its brash honesty gives them a giddily delightful spin. The departure of 16-year-old Sara's single father leaves her to fend for herself, and she quickly heads down the wrong path in mid-'80s Victoria, British Columbia. An obsession with Justine, a strangely alluring street girl, leads her into the red-light district, where she meets China, a teenage prostitute who persuades Sara to help her rob a john. As the new friends flee the crime scene, the deceived man threatens Sara, vowing to get revenge. Sure enough, just as she finally finds Justine again, she is accosted by the man, and Justine nearly kills him with a knife belonging to Sara. Though the book is a hell-ride through the lives of burned-out teens killing time in homeless shelters and drug houses, the scenery is transformed by Godfrey's angry cleverness: one character is "like the rising rowdy moment of a party just before the cops arrive and send everyone home." Though secondary figures like Sara's father and China don't get the thorough treatment Godfrey gives Sara, Godfrey's singular voice is a perfect barometer of teenage rage and insecurity.

Needles by Andie Dominick: (from As the title suggests, the author is graphically frank about the medical necessities of living with juvenile-onset diabetes, and squeamish readers may find her memoir harrowing. In its essence, however, this is a story of emotional growth and healing. Diagnosed at 9 by her older sister Denise, who is herself a diabetic, Andie Dominick spends her adolescence rebelling against her condition: "dieting" by skipping shots, undergoing a dangerous abortion at 17. When, at 21, Andie discovers 33-year-old Denise dead in the house they share, she begins to reexamine the reckless lifestyle that killed her sister and threatens her as well. The discovery three years later that she has diabetic retinopathy, which could lead to blindness, helps Dominick realize she cannot follow her sister's path: "Denise always told me having the disease didn't have to change my life. But now it has ... because I am finally facing who I am." Love and eventually marriage continue Dominick's process of self-knowledge and acceptance, though there is no facile happy ending. (She has a tubal ligation rather than risk passing diabetes to another generation.) Dominick's deliberately plain prose and gritty candor render her struggle accessible and real.

Buy one of these books for a friend! I guarantee they will nod in agreement, laugh, cry... maybe all three. Personally stamped with the Martha O'Connor Seal of Approval!

Many thanks and gasps of awe to Debra Hamel for pioneering the Buy A Friend A Book Week concept.

Are you the author of one of these books? Feel free to add this image to your website!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Teacher Banned after Ripping out Boy's Insulin Pump

Holy shit. I can't imagine the circumstances under which this occurred. I'll tell you this, though. Even if my kid was being a smartass, you don't touch the kid and rip ANYTHING out of his hands.... or BODY, for crying out loud.

How could this teacher not have seen the IV tubing attached to the boy's body? Hello, are most cellphones attached to people with IV tubes?


From the boy's local news station in Lake County, Florida:
Teacher Banned After Ripping Out Boy's Insulin Pump
School Officials: Teacher Thought Pump Was Cell Phone

POSTED: 4:24 pm EDT October 4, 2005
UPDATED: 8:25 am EDT October 5, 2005

A substitute teacher in Lake County, Fla., was terminated and banned from teaching in the county after he ripped out a student's insulin pump during class apparently thinking it was a ringing cell phone, according to a Local 6 News report.

Officials said a ninth-grade student at East Ridge High School, who is a Type I diabetic, was in class Monday when his insulin pump began to beep, indicating he was low on insulin.

Witnesses said the class teacher, Richard Maline, 51, asked the student what the beeping was.

School officials said Maline then grabbed the device, thinking it was a cell phone beeping and detached the tube that connects the insulin pump to the student's leg. {{MORE}}
Here's a photo of the so-called "teacher."

I'm guessing the pump was in the child's pocket or on a belt clip. There's no way this Richard Maline character could have yanked out the pump without touching the boy. If this was my child, Maline's head would be on a stick.

FreeStyle Deal at Walgreen's

For those of you who'd like a backup blood glucose meter, this week Walgreen's has the Freestyle Flash on special for $9.99 with a $9.99 mail-in rebate. Basically, you can get the meter for the price of a stamp. Woot!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Tactical Tuesday~Dialogue, Dialogue and More Dialogue

Fluster McKnucklesby is back!

Welcome to Tactical Tuesday, everyone, where we here in Martha-Land present you with yet another writing tip for your enjoyment. Today's topic is:

Dialogue, Part One

I just got back from coffee with a friend. For about an hour and a half, we talked about video cameras, sports injuries, diabetes, the war, health insurance, and an addition she's planning on her house. I had a fucking blast and laughed my head off.

But if I were to transcribe our conversation and reproduce it here, you'd be nodding, your eyelids would grow heavy, and soon enough your head would be on the desk and you'd be snoring away. Dialogue that copies reality is boring. Why? Because in real life, we repeat ourselves. For instance, my friend and I complained endlessly about how the clerks at certain mass electronic stores try to sell you things you don't need... and gave NUMEROUS examples. For awhile there, our conversation was going in circles. (Well, what can I say? We were upset.) In fiction, ONE such anecdote would do, or none, if electronics retailers didn't bear on the storyline.

And there's the rub. Your dialogue needs to either further the storyline or develop character, preferably both. Characters complaining about mass market electronics retailers are dull, dull, dull (of course, Pam and I are terribly exciting, but we're real people, not characters, and are allowed to complain boringly once in awhile). The exception would be if your story depends on a twist at the electronics retailer or it's crucial in some way to the character!

Real life can be helpful to you in writing effective dialogue, however. Sit in a cafe, or in a subway, or at the park by yourself sometime. Take a notebook and jot down interesting bits of dialogue you hear. THIS IS NOT EAVESDROPPING. THIS IS RESEARCH.

There is a site called Overheard on the London Underground which illustrates my point exactly. Some goodies:

"Wagamamas can lick my sweaty balls."

"I'm not posh, I've just had a decent education."

"Fuck. I really need some breakfast cereal. Crunchy Nut Cornflakes make me come alive."

"A brontosaurus could kill a stegasaurus... easily."

"Mummy, if there was a crash and I rescued you, would you say thank you?"

How fresh! How fun! How real! I'll bet this guy will come out with a damn fine novel someday. That's because a good "ear" for dialogue comes from one thing, and one thing only: SPYING. Remember Harriet the Spy? A writer could learn a lot from emulating her notebook scrawling, her listening in on others, her general nosiness.

Here's something else in real life that will help you write better dialogue. Observe, and you'll see that I'm right. If two people already know each other's names, they rarely drop the other's name into the conversation. It's only done to highlight a point or to get the other person's attention.

So it should be with your characters.

Don't repeat in dialogue something that's already happened in the novel. This is known as "rehashing the hash" (I just made that up!) and should be avoided at all costs. Let's say in Chapter 7, Pam and Martha robbed a bank at gunpoint. Then should Chapter 8 be them sitting having coffee and discussing their exploits? Um... no. THAT would be rehashing the hash.

That's it from me. Next week, Part Two of Dialogue takes on dialogue tags, profanity (oh, shut the fuck up), and developing character via dialogue.

Have a great day, all!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Monday Meanderings

Happy Monday, all! Y'all might have noticed I'm no longer posting on the weekends. I've made a decision that weekends are simply family time and unless some major exciting thing happens like Stephen Spielberg calls me up wanting to option The Bitch Posse for film, well, you're S.O.L.

So a few random thoughts~

My writer's board is discussing reviews. Someone on the board had gotten a bad one and felt horrible. Truth be told, I stopped reading Amazon reviews quite a while ago, when a reviewer said I was sick and disturbed and should never write another book! (Sorry, I've got news for you, honey: I'm well into the next one, so you might want to don your earmuffs and blinders, and go hide in the cellar...)

Rather than being offended by the review, though, I actually have rarely laughed so hard in my life!

Then there's that lunatic on Amazon who's been bothering Colleen Curran, filling up her page with the most vitriolic garbage, calling her a sinful slut, or words to that effect. But Colleen and I have gotten just as many reviews that said the exact opposite, so the only conclusion is that both novels are books that push buttons. Which I already knew. Conclusion? Amazon Reviews=Not To Be Taken Seriously. Long story short, I stopped reading them. When I did an interview with Colleen at Beatrice, she said she doesn't read them anymore either.

The problem with Amazon's review system is that it runs virtually unchecked. Any yahoo with a computer (even one from the library) can write an Amazon review. In the case of Colleen's book, it's really clear these reviews were almost all written by the same person.

A few years back, I used to write Amazon reviews for the friends who asked me. I found myself praising their books as if they were the best books I'd ever read in my life. Sure they were... they were by friends. It was a funny feeling, though. I also began to worry a lot about whether what I'd said was nice ENOUGH. Had I praised the book enough? Would the person still be my friend? And what if someday it came out that I WAS the person's friend? Remember the Dave Eggers brouhaha about HIS Amazon reviews for friends?

In addition to what happened to Eggers, some friendship fallouts and some other events caused me to reassess my Amazon reviewing habits. To wit: I no longer write them.

However, I doubt it matters much. Most people I talk to don't pay a ton of attention to these reviews anyway. After all, as they say, consider the source.... And most writers understand this when I explain to them why I don't write (or read) Amazon reviews anymore.

See you tomorrow for Tactical Tuesday!