Tuesday, March 31, 2009

We All Scream...

It's the end of March. The last day, in fact. And, as I look outside my window, I see SNOW. Yes, that's right. Several inches of it on the ground. And angry rain pouring down on top of it. Going "out like a lamb," indeed.

Thankfully, the warmer spring sun of yesterday melted away much of the bizarre blizzard that attacked us over the weekend, but I still have fantasies of a real spring. One that includes warm weather. Clear skies. And ice cream.

So, when I came upon this article on America's Best Ice Cream, I figured I'd link to it for inspiration. Some of you are in climate where you can actually enjoy an ice cream cone outside and have the satisfaction of seeing it melt if you don't eat it fast enough. For the rest of us, I'd like to think that day is coming. Soon. Like, preferably, tomorrow.

Also, being that it's the end of the month, I'd like to congratulate the two winners of my March drawing: Vesper & Leshia! You two win the writing journals and the Thoreau bookmarks--YAY!!--and I will get them out to you as soon as I have your mailing addresses. Please email me at marilynbrant AT gmail DOT com and let me know where you'd like them sent :).

There are lots of little celebrations coming up in my cyber world in April--my 2-Year Blogiversary, Easter & Passover, Earth Day (why not?!), the arrival of my book cover (rumor has it that it's on its way!!)--and I'm looking forward to sharing them with all of you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The finalist announcements are being made tomorrow for the Romance Writers of America's two biggest awards: The Golden Heart and The RITA. You'd think the fact that I'm not entered in either of them this year would make my anxiety over "the list" less intense.

Not so.

I am positively nauseous already. I know so many wonderful writers who are entered this year that I'm experiencing sympathy pangs of pre-announcement jitters (and the occasional cold sweat) on their behalf. Hurry up, RWA! Why wait 'til tomorrow? Make the freakin' calls today!

I'd entered the Golden Heart for several years--and with multiple manuscripts--before I found myself fortunate enough to be a finalist in 2007. I knew very little about the process and even less about the other finalists, but what a tremendous group my fellow "Bond Sisters" turned out to be! Getting to know them and sharing in the finalist experience was an unbelievable highlight of my writing career, and the gifts of their friendship keep on giving. (*Hugs to you, '007 Ladies!*)

I didn't start blogging until two weeks after that exciting phone call, so I never posted the story, but I remember the day it happened very, very well: My husband was sick and, so, didn't drive up to see my parents with my son and me. Nevertheless, we spent a lovely weekend visiting with them, enjoying the stirrings of spring (which, in Wisconsin--in late March--is truly just a hint of springtime :) and, if one were to ask outsiders, acting in a fairly normal manner.

Inside, however, I did not feel normal. I was hyper-aware and constantly on edge, waiting and waiting for a call I could in no way expect but couldn't help but hope for anyway. My young son, who'd recently begun collecting coins, had given me a "lucky quarter" before we'd left home, and I kept it in my pocket that whole weekend--less for luck, actually, than because I wanted a reminder that I was loved regardless of any contest outcome. I'd rub it every so often as I went about the day's activities. And when the time came for the phone calls to begin--when the first hour passed, then the second--and I'd still heard nothing, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that, really, it was all okay. No matter what.

About ten minutes before we were supposed to leave for the long drive home, my cell phone rang. The number had an area code I didn't recognize, so I answered with some confusion initially. Turned out to be one of the RWA board members. A very nice lady I didn't know who, for some reason, didn't seem to mind that I shrieked in her ear, "Oh, my God!! I LOVE you!" when she gave me the good news.

The call I got when I sold that same book was also very exciting--in a different way, though, not more so than the GH finalist call that day. I wish a similarly incredible moment of pure dancing joy for everyone entered in either contest this year. And, by the way, I still have that lucky quarter. It's on my desk--I'm rubbing it for you right now--and, no matter what happens tomorrow, my wonderful writer friends, just remember you're loved.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rockin' Redux

So, a funny thing happened at the Nickelback concert on Saturday night. My fantabulous brother and I went to it and--just like all the shows we've gone to together before--it was fun, fascinating and a chance for two reasonably mature siblings to act like the kinda reckless teens we never were.

This concert also happened to be especially LOUD, owing to the fact that both opening acts, as well as Chad Kroeger and the guys, really didn't skimp on the whole amplification thing. They made no apology for the soaring decibel levels. In fact, Nickelback came prepared to, and I'm quoting directly here, "blow shit up." They were as good as their word. Nothing short of onstage fireworks would please those Canadian boys, and the crowd (most especially the very drunk forty-something couple behind us) yelled their appreciation at every possible opportunity.

My ears were ringing all night (or "all f*cking night," as Chad would've said), and even residually into the next day. I hadn't experienced this degree of hearing impairment since Def Leppard's "Pyromania" tour in 1984. But that was okay because I had a seriously great time. Even though I hadn't had anything more substantial to drink than a Diet Sprite at dinner. Even though I found it ceaselessly amusing that so many people--a number of them way older than my bro and I, BTW--were jumping up and down with "devil fingers" (index + pinky) in the air, in time to the beat of every tune, and I'd have to periodically mimic them. Even though I knew only half of the Nickelback songs (but the half I knew were awesome!), and I knew none of the songs by opening acts Saving Abel and Seether.

Well, I should say, all but one.

In an uncharacteristically slow set for Seether, the lead "vocalist" (and I use that term with some caution), along with the group's lead guitarist, performed a tune that made my brother say, "Hey, I know this one."

And I got all excited because for, like, an hour already I hadn't known the lyrics to anything. So, I listened more carefully and said, "OMG! I know it, too. It's...it's...'Careless Whisper'?! Can that be right?"

My brother and I stared at each other in shock as Seether guy belted out, "I'm never gonna dance again, guilty feelin', I got no rhythm..."

And I stopped giggling and pointing my devil fingers at the stage long enough to sing along.

Damn. 1984 was a good year. Or, alternately, "a good f*cking year."

And the joy of great music never loses it's allure, does it? No matter what decade...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fashion 'n' Fiction

Writing craft presents 1001 challenges for me--there are structural issues to consider, character development, emotions and subtext... But, you know, I chose the writing profession because I like that kind of thing. The public persona side of the industry is a whole 'nother Monopoly game. And every time I need to deal with stuff like clothing, accessories and hairstyles, I cringe because I know I'm making huge fashion mistakes that no copy editor can fix with her red pencil.

So, I was equal parts excited and fearful when my local RWA chapter had Nancy Plummer as our guest on Monday night. Nancy is the program chair for the fashion design department at the International Academy of Design & Technology in Chicago. She's a member of the Apparel Industry Board, the Chicago Fashion Foundation and the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) where she serves as Chicago chapter president. She's also the author of Your Personal Style (2009, Fairchild Books/Conde Nast Publications). She owns her own business in the city, Fine Threads, Inc., specializes in wardrobe planning and, beyond all that, she's really nice!! (Huge kudos to Pamala , btw, for reeling Nancy in and organizing the event for us! :)

Nancy shared with us a number of terrific ideas for understanding how our differing body shapes need to be addressed with the right types of fabric and clothing lengths. She passed out a questionnaire with excellent things to ask ourselves about our sense of style (i.e. "What traits do my favorite clothes possess?"--in my case, the answer was Spandex). And she even showed us how to measure the proportions of our bodies based upon our head length. (Fascinating fact = our total body length, if in ideal proportion--which mine is definitely not--should be 8 head lengths from the top of our head to our stocking feet...) Most people, Nancy told us, don't have perfect proportions. Some of us are long-waisted, some of us are short-legged, etc., and that's all part of the reason why we need to learn little tricks for lengthening and trimming, and so on, where necessary.

And I have to tell you, this was one very helpful program for many of us. For those of you out in the Blogosphere who have no problem buying clothes that fit your body type, match your coloring and suit your personal style, you might not need the advice of an "image consultant." Me? I was the super-lucky member of the group whose name was drawn to win a copy of Nancy's book, and I more than suspect it was because the fashion gods--er, goddesses--were looking down on me, saying, "Do you see those ugly sweats she's wearing? And the hideous color contrast of her hair with those fabrics? This chick SO needs some help. Let's give her a reference guide--like, right now."

FYI, Nancy's got a Tip of the Month email thingy anyone can sign up for on the Contact page of her website. Oh!! AND she told me that some '80s fashions are coming back! (I was really relieved to hear this since I still have in my closet a number of applicable pieces...although, um, perhaps I shouldn't admit that... :-)

On another note altogether, a Cherry friend (Hi, Becke!) pointed me toward this post on "Confident or Delusional" authors by Chicago thriller writer J.A. Konrath. Some readers agree strongly. Others disagree just as much. Regardless, I found it to be a really thought-provoking piece.

And with that--since I was up until 2am with the copy edits--I'm going to take a nap!

Thursday, March 5, 2009


If someone had asked me last weekend if this week was going to be An Exciting Week, I would've squinted at that overly optimistic individual, mumbled something about how Mardi Gras was over and the Ides of March were still some days away and, also, that we were completely out of chocolate. (I'd searched through the cabinets and everything. All forms of decadence were gone, gone, gone like the truffles...) So, no. Nothing too exciting on this week's horizon.

But then I got a call from my editor. The copyedits for According To Jane were in! Would I be home to get them? (YES!) Would I be able to return them by St. Patrick's Day? (Sure! I'm not Irish. I have no plans.) Would I let him know if any questions came up? (Ha. When has anyone--ever--stopped me from asking questions?)

And so they arrived on my doorstep via Express Mail. They came with Book Specifications (trim size, tentative page count, etc.). A Design Memo (codes for the epigraphs, chapter numbers, lists or letters in the text). A Treatment of Quotations (i.e., "If a character, other than Ellie and Jane speaking to each other, is quoting someone else: roman/single and double quotes"). A Style Sheet (i.e., "No series comma" and "Spell out numbers in dialogue, except where awkward or confusing"). A List of Characters (my characters! their distinguishing features!). 376 Red-Pencil-Edited Pages (where a lot of my unnecessary ellipses met their death and a handful of awkward/unclear passages were outed at last--Bless you, oh wonderful CE!).

But, best of all, there was the Production Transmittal--complete with my very own ISBN number. OMG! Finally.

This book came into existence for me 4 1/2 years ago. It's been real to me for a long, long time. So today didn't exactly bring the novel to life, but it did do something. To it. And to me. Re-energized us, perhaps. Fused us closer. I'm not sure. But whatever it is, we jointly exist out in the world now. Or, as Rick would say, "Together Forever and Never to Part. Together Forever We Two..."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Even though I don't know the details of the deal, I am thrilled with the news that Bon Jovi got a recent book contract. I LIKE Bon Jovi. I'd happily read more about Bon Jovi. Bon Jovi has, IMO, contributed something creative and valuable to the world at large. And I believe this quite independently of my 2-decade-long crush on Jon the man and despite the fact that I've loved dozens of their songs from "Runaway" to "Who Says You Can't Go Home?"

I've purchased the group's CDs in the past and would have no problem purchasing their book if I came across it and felt it was well written, reasonably priced and offered some new insight into the history of a band that's been a force in popular music since I was in high school. And even though they've already made millions in recording contracts and royalties, I hope they got a huge book advance. Chances are they'd do something fairly worthwhile with it, but even if they didn't use it to rebuild homes devastated by Katrina or to help others in any way whatsoever, I'm okay with that. Because Jon and the gang, despite being humans in the public eye, have proven themselves to be pretty good guys. And because they, you know, aren't lying/cheating/stealing pieces of crap.

Last night's news that ousted Illinois governor and overall scumbag Rod Blagojevich got a six-figure publishing contract...well, now, THAT I have a problem with--a rather LARGE problem. I hate discussing politics, but I do believe I hate Rod EVEN MORE. And I truly can't imagine why anyone would (a) want to read what he has to say after hearing what he already said ON TAPE about trying to get a decent kickback on Obama's Senate seat or (b) believe anything at all that came out of his mouth.


And speaking of un-reality, "The Bachelor" season finale and "After the Final Rose" mockery was, at best, disturbing and, at worse, my newest reason not to watch TV again in 2009. (Although I do want to give next Monday's "Castle" pilot a chance.) Check out posts from Maureen McGowan and Reality Steve if you want to experience last night's horror along with the rest of us.