The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

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Links: What’s Steampunk, Sleepy Hollow preview, and more

I didn’t get all of my freelance work done before the weekend, so I’m having to work today. It’s mostly my own fault for not managing my time as well as I could have, but then again this was a pretty hectic week that involved more errands and more reasons to leave the house than usual (including a second trip to Bixby to pick up Pete’s meds from the vet because she didn’t have them stocked when we were there on Wednesday. Let me tell you, that is quite a long way to drive for such a simple errand), so I’ll go ahead and cut myself some slack.

The plan is to get this last article written before lunch, then I’ll be free the rest of the weekend. Except I also have a couple of short things I need to write for a Fiverr client by Monday evening. I’m still dithering on whether to buckle down and get those done today so I can take Labor Day off, or just wait and do them Monday so I can enjoy most of my Saturday. Considering that “enjoying” my Saturday involves laundry and vacuuming the house, I’ll probably hold off on the extra work until Monday.

Also on today’s agenda: trimming my unruly hair (still debating whether to give myself straight bangs or keep them longish and side swept, even though I usually regret straight bangs because they never lay down like I want them to, and yet I never seem to learn), fiddling with the outline for the new novel, and pulling my horror short story collection together for beta readers.

And now I’ll leave you with some links that are open in my browser that might be of interest to you:

On discipline — or the lack thereof.

Lately, I have been suffering from a lack of discipline in my life. And I do mean suffering. As if my sporadic attempts at growing my WIP’s word count weren’t bad enough, I also keep failing to do basic good-for-my-health things like establishing an exercise routine or eating enough vegetables or getting to bed at a reasonable hour. All of this failure is leaving me feeling run-down and foggy-brained and blah, and it’s certainly not making me want to write during my allotted writing times, so of course you can see how it’s a whole vicious cycle.

Just as I keep starting out the week with good writing intentions and some actual productivity, I also start every week with excellent health intentions and manage to make myself work out and eat salads and avoid sugar or too much caffeine. But then I blow it on the not staying up too late part, after which I’m too tired to exercise and I need extra caffeine and I start craving starches and sugar.

Ostensibly, when I stopped going to bed super-early with my husband and started keeping later hours, it was to give myself more time to write and work on writing- & publishing-adjacent  tasks, and also to read before I turned in. Originally, I set myself a strict 11:30 bedtime, and it was all working out pretty great. But then my night-owl proclivities started getting the better of me, and I started going to bed later and later.

Part of the problem is that I started catching up on my “just me” shows — the ones Matt has no interest in watching with me — after he turns in, instead of trying to cram them all in on the weekend. At least this shouldn’t be a problem much longer, what with the TV season winding down. Half the shows I watch are having their season finales next week, and the other half will wrap up the following week. Then maybe I’ll be able to get some work done in the evenings and get myself to bed on time. Unless I cave into temptation to start marathoning some new shows. Or some old ones. I’ve already got my eye on a summer re-watch of both Buffy and Farscape.

At any rate, today I worked out AND ate my vegetables AND added just short of 500 words to Radium Town. Except about half of that was recreating the part of yesterday’s word count that somehow got eaten by Scrivener. I’d post a snapshot, but Scrivener still keeps acting wonky and freezing things up, and besides, I’m still on the dinner party that doesn’t end, so I’ll wait until I have something more novel to post than Agent Blake’s sparkling dinner conversation.

Now I’m going to see if I can watch my shows (Warehouse 13 and Agents of SHIELD) and get myself to bed at a decent hour for a change.

Any day that involves a sonic screwdriver is a good day.

Today I added 486 words to Radium Town — 182 this afternoon plus another 304 just now. That brings the grand total so far to 6,919. I’m frustrated that it’s going so slowly, but considering that up until this time last week I hadn’t written anything on it in over a year, nor had I written any fiction whatsoever in several weeks, I guess I’ll cut myself some slack. I’m still figuring out this world and these characters. I’m confident that I’ll pick up the pace once it’s all more familiar to me and the plot gets rolling along.

Here’s the rough, non-spoilery snapshot of today’s output:

Betty shifted in her seat. She wasn’t accustomed to being the center of conversation. That was uncomfortable enough without having attention called to Will’s regard for her. She could sense Will fidgeting uncomfortably in his seat, as well. She braced herself for the joke he was certain to make, but to her surprised he simply said, “Nope. Not surprised at all.” She turned toward him in time to catch him looking at her, a mixture of pride and wonder on his face. Betty quickly looked down at her plate and took a bite of her roast quail.

Matt and I both felt better today, and a mix of cabin fever and spring fever made us antsy to get out of the house for a while. We went to Gardner’s Used Books, where we scored a beautiful set of second edition Lord of the Rings trade paperbacks in really good condition.

I also nabbed the next Dark Tower book (Wolves of Calla; I’m currently making my way through Wizard and Glass) and the latest Rizzoli and Isles novel (spellcheck wants to change Rizzoli to grizzly; considering what a scary mama-bear book Rizzoli can be that seems appropos). And being that I’ve been reading all this dark stuff lately (House of Leaves, scads of Stephen King, The Ocean at the End of the Lane which is lovely but not exactly the happiest of Neil Gaiman’s books), I also grabbed Maybe Baby by Lani Diane Rich, because I’m starting to crave something light and fluffy to cleanse my palate, and also because Lani is awesome.

And speaking of LDR, I’ve also finally begun listening to the Story Wonk podcast she does with her husband, Alastair Stephens. You should listen to it, too.

The first 182 words today were added from a booth at the coffee shop at Gardner’s, where I dorked out when Matt showed me the LotR set he’d found, and then dorked out again when I got up to the coffee counter and saw a replica of Eleven’s sonic screwdriver sitting next to the cash register. The barista (who might actually be the shop’s owner) let me hold it. It was shiny. I want one.

Came home, fed the dog, apologized profusely for leaving him and the kitties so long, took him and the turtle out in the back yard to soak up the sun, came back in and fed the turtle, wrote some freelance website copy, fed myself (well, Matt fed me) and watched Wolf Creek 2 before Matt turned in and I got busy writing.

Not at all what I’d call a bad day. And now I’m going to go dork out over Supernatural and SHIELD before I turn in.

Farewell, Tubey.

So NBC Universal is shutting down Television Without Pity (normally I’d link that, but I guess there’s really no point, since they won’t even be keeping an archive online). I haven’t actually been on that site in over a year (I think the last show for which I kept up with the recaps was Fringe), but even so, this announcement is stirring up a lot of nostalgia and remembrance. It’s funny how what began as a snarky little website that featured a handful of friends riffing on Dawson’s Creek every week grew into something so big and influential, and how many lives were affected and careers were launched because of it.

I started hanging out on the site when it was still known as Mighty Big TV. I visited it here and there for various show recaps, but I didn’t really get into the forums until Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, specifically right after the episode Fool for Love aired, which marked the point where my fondness of the show (and the character Spike) ramped up to full-on obsession. My burning need to discuss it with somebody who wouldn’t just nod at me with glazed over eyes led me to the MBTV Buffy forum, which led me to several friendships. Most of those have, sadly, dissolved since then, but not before they led to me travelling to places like Nashville and Louisville and Chicago and San Jose and San Franscisco to meet up and have adventures and form amazing memories with some awesome and hilarious women.

The Buffy forum also launched my former fanfic career, so if you’re here because of my Spuffy fic, we can all thank TWoP for that. I still get more feedback and fan mail for my fan fiction than I do for any of my original novels, which is equal parts flattering and frustrating. Would I be a fiction writer now if not for TWoP? Certainly. I was already a writer when I came to it, so I can’t give it credit for that. But writing all that fan fiction, and having it vetted and beta’d by those aforementioned awesome women, taught me a lot about plotting, pacing, characterization, dialogue and other useful mechanics of building a novel. I might have still learned all that stuff by writing in my own sandbox with my own characters, but I wouldn’t have had half as much fun in the process.

Eventually, though, the forums devolved into a lot of drama, and I think I even got banned from them. If I recall correctly, some of my friends got banned, and then all of the rest of us flamed out and got ourselves banned in solidarity. Looking back, I know we all took both the show and the forums and the whole fandom (not to mention the whole Spike vs. Angel debate) just a wee bit too seriously. At least, I know did. But that’s fandom for you.

Which is all to say that, like many People On the Internet, MBTV/TWoP was a pretty big influence on my life, and because of this I’m sad to see it come to an end. Somewhere around here I’m pretty sure I’ve still got a Cafe Press mug made just for the Buffy forum that says “Snark, Snerk and Scoobie Snacks.” I think tomorrow I’ll dig it out and use it to drink a toast to Tubey.

Are you a former TWoPer? If so, I’d love to hear your TWoP memories in the comments. Also, if you’re still addicted to the recaps and this news has hit you especially hard, you should check out Previously.TV, a new iteration created by the original TWoP founders (they just opened a forum, even!). And for hilarious recaps by good-natured people who just really love TV, check out Hey, Don’t Judge Me!

Rediscovering Stephen King

I’m still in an odd place where I don’t really know what to write about here. I think it might help remedy that if I can stop thinking of this as my “author blog” and just see it as my blog. I also think the creative part of my brain largely went into hibernation for the winter. It seems to be starting to awaken, as gradually and as grumpily as my box turtle, Matilda, as I try to prod her out of the hole she’s burrowed in and into the light.

My creative mind hasn’t been in total hibernation — and neither has Matilda; she wakes up a couple times a week to eat and bang around her terrarium before burying herself again. Similarly, my imagination has woken up a few times a week, long enough for me to bang out a few hundred words on my current novel before it slips back into slumber. I started in in January, hoping to have the first draft done by my birthday, but eking out time to write my fiction is as difficult as mustering up the energy has been. As of now, I’ve got about 5 chapters done, just short of 10,000 words.

What it is, by the by, is the follow up to Restless Spirits, tentatively titled Intruder. If you’re signed up to my mailing list, then you’ve already been shown the first chapter.

So as my creative brain is trying it’s best to drag its crusty self into the sunshine, I’ve been trying to feed and water it and give it vitamins and exercise to get it energized again. I’ve been doing this mainly by reading, and what I’ve mainly been reading is Stephen King novels.

I was a huge fan of Stephen King when I was a kid. We’re talking teen years, probably 13 or 14 to about 18, the ages they market YA to now, which is why I can’t get too bent out of shape when somebody complains about a YA novel having content that might be too mature for their 15 year old. I mean, I was reading The Stand at that age. The unabridged version, even. I loved many books before my Stephen King phase, and I’d done some creative writing by then (I actually think I wrote my first short story in first grade — it was about a sentient, anthropomorphic football, I think), but I think it’s safe to say that King was the author who made me decide I wanted to be an author, too.

Back then, it was all horror. I was a pretty big horror fan in general (that also went back to surprisingly (disturbingly?) early in my childhood), so King’s stories fit right in. In addition to The Stand, during those years I read It (or tried — I was too scared to finish it), Pet Semetary (ditto), ‘Salem’s Lot, Misery and, among others, Danse Macabre (not horror, but it was about horror, so that was alright; what wasn’t alright was my twelfth grade English teacher assigning us book reports on nonfiction and then sniffing haughtily when I turned in my paper, insisting that Stephen King never wrote any nonfiction and giving me an automatic F without even looking at the book). I devoured them every chance I got.

Once I got into college, I decided I needed to diversify my reading more, so I read less of Stephen King, and even less as I progressed through my twenties and into my thirties. The newer books I’d read, including Dolores Clayborne and Rose Madder, just didn’t pack the same punch for me, and I wasn’t sure whether I was just outgrowing him or he was losing his touch. At any rate, by the time I got around to picking up a beat-up copy of The Gunslinger at a used book store about four or five years ago, it had been years since I’d read any of his work, not counting On Writing.

I read it then, and I enjoyed it well enough, but as far as epic fantasy series go I was too mired down in one of my every-so-often rereads of  A Song of Ice and Fire to commit myself to another one. So it was another couple of years before I found the second book, The Drawing of the Three, at the same book store and gave it a read. Of course, that was around the time A Dance with Dragons finally came out, so I forgot about Roland and company for a while. Last year I picked up the third book, The Waste Lands, and added it to the big stack of paperbacks on my nightstand to wait until my life settled down enough to allow me time for leisure reading once again.

If you read my last book post, then you know getting through that big stack of books was one of my goals for the new year. I finally made my way through the stack to TWL last month. Since then, I’ve pretty much been on a Stephen King binge. I devoured The Waste Lands, and now I’m speeding my way through the fourth book, Wizard and Glass. In between (because I had to wait until the bookstore got a copy of book four in stock, and because it was already next in my big book stack anyway), I breezed through Stephen King Goes to the Movies, a collection of stories that have been adapted for the big screen. This includes 1408, The Mangler, Low Men in Yellow Coats, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and Children of the Corn.

While I enjoyed the horror stories, particularly The Mangler (which reminded me a little of my short story Snack Machine), I’m finding that at this point of my life I much more enjoy his fantasy works and his more realistic dramas like Shawshank Redemption (in which the book’s narrator being described as a white, red-haired Irishman did not prevent me from hearing Morgan Freeman’s narration in my head as I read it). I particularly enjoyed Low Men in Yellow Coats, on which the movie Hearts in Atlantis is based, and which is part of the greater multiverse revolving around the Dark Tower.

I think what’s surprising me as I read these stories is the quality of the writing. I remember King being a great storyteller, but I don’t recall his prose being such a joy to read. It’s fairly straightforward, as he tends to get to the point and not linger more on description than he needs to, but at times it’s almost poetic without being flowery. The other thing is, although these stories still have their little moments of horror and squick and punches right to the gut, they’ve also got a lot of heart, and characters who are loveable despite being complex and complicated and at times downright despicable.

And that’s how, after a gap of more than a decade, I can go back to labeling myself a huge Stephen King fan. And now I’m going to go back to reading Wizard and Glass.

Eight(ish) Questions About Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow

Or, Jean is thinking way too much about this show (minor spoilers through Episode 10):

18 Years Ago

18 years ago today, I was working as a retail clerk at Dillard’s department store. I had just started my lunch break, and was passing through the electronics department on my way to the break room. Sales clerks and customers alike were standing around a big screen TV, staring in shock at scenes of chaos. First responders rushing to and fro, small children being carried by firemen and paramedics, the federal building with its face sheered off behind a mountain of rubble and smoke. I had never seen anything like it before, at least outside of the movies, and I never thought I’d see anything like it again.

How wrong I was.

It’s fascinating to me, the way the Internet and social networks have evolved the way we deal with things like this. In 1995, we didn’t have text messaging or Twitter or immediate access to the Internet in our workplace. As news of the bombing spread through the workplace, everyone was shocked. How does this happen in Oklahoma? Oklahoma City is not a major city. Apart from oil, Oklahoma’s not really that important on a global or even national scale. We thought we were safe from that kind of attack. But our illusions of safety and insignificance were shattered in the blast, and the only ones we had to talk to about that, at least until our shifts ended and we could go home and be with our loved ones, were each other. In the meantime, we relied on the Electronics department clerks to keep us informed about new developments.

On 9/11, the Internet had grown up a bit, and my world had gotten somewhat smaller. I had friends all over the country now, and we kept in constant touch via group e-mails and a Yahoo! list. I found out about the first plane from one such e-mail, sent to the group by a member who worked in downtown Manhattan. A plane had crashed into a nearby building, she said, and her building was being evacuated. I was attending college then, and was late for class, so I fired back a response that I hoped she’d let us know when she made it home okay, and went to class, assuming that it had been a freak accident and nothing more. I didn’t find out that the nearby building was the World Trade Center, or about the second plane, until I got to class. A while later, someone came in and told us about the Pentagon. In my next class, there were rumors about a fourth plane headed for the White House.

All of this information came to us from faculty who were listening to the radio. It was also on the radio, on the drive home, that I learned the fate of that fourth plane, and that the first building collapsed. I got home just in time to see the instant replay on TV. I spent that day glued to the TV, and exchanging horrified and frightened e-mails with my group of distant friends.

On Monday, we had been home from running errands for about half an hour before I saw the first phone pic a spectator had taken of the bombing site re-posted on Facebook. I clicked over to Twitter, and saw a stream of confused and horrified tweets from people wondering what was happening. Those were followed by tweets with helpful information: the best way to find out if your loved ones were okay; where to find free WiFi in Boston if you needed to check in; where to hang out and get free drinks until authorities said it was safe to go home. There were messages of support, offerings of prayers, and, later in the day, more practical help: people offering up their homes to stranded survivors, people offering to buy pizza and takeout for that first group of people to help them feed the survivors. The world had gotten very small, and suddenly, for a while, the nation was one big community, taking care of each other, making sure those who needed it were taken care of.

That was not something I had ever even imagined 18 years ago when my fellow employees and I felt isolated and cut off, completely helpless, constantly taking turns going upstairs to Electronics to see if there was any new news.

We live in a different world now. After such a tumultuous week, it’s nice to be reminded that, in some ways, it has changed for the better.

On the Versatility of Spaghetti Squash. And Some Minor Publishing Plans.

Today is groceries & Bible class day, so no time for writing. The grocery shopping’s done, and I stocked up on vegetables in an attempt to get myself back on the low GI wagon. I bought a big spaghetti squash to stand in for all the noodles I’ve been eating lately, and I actually picked out some recipes from my Low GI board in Pinterest and lined up a menu for the week.

I’m mostly looking forward to making (and eating) this Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai (or at least, my own version of it). For the leftover squash I picked up some pesto mix and I’ll just toss it with that and some chicken and Parmesan and pretend it’s pasta. This avacodo, cucumber and tomato salad is on the lunch menu. Hopefully this week will remind me that vegetables can actually be delicious and cleanse all that starch and sugar out of my system so I’ll stop craving it so much. Of course, not looking at Pinterest so often would also help with that.

Later: lunch, then client projects, then Bible class and giving Sasha the rest of her meds. Then we’ll get in bed and watch Justified. We started the first season last night. So far it looks like a keeper.

Weekend plans: I need to give my current book listings some attention and make sure all my author profiles everywhere are up to date, and I need to add some content to the pages of this here blog. I might do a new cover for Restless Spirits, since my graphic design skills have improved so much since the last cover, and also because I’ve been told by male readers that they loved it but were reluctant to read it because the cover is too “romancey.” I’m also thinking about experimenting with changing my pen name from my full name to just J. M. Bauhaus to see if that helps to lure in more male readers (and isn’t it a shame that that’s even something I have to consider in this day and age? Sigh. Boys.), but that might cause me to lose my reviews on Amazon, so we’ll see.

Other Writer Wednesday Open Thread – with CORGIS!

Well, I thought I had a spotlight author lined up for today, but he never gave me his info. So here are some corgis pulling a tiny sleigh.

Corgi Sleigh

And while we’re at it, go ahead and have an open pimp thread.

Friday Five: Top Five Zombie Flicks

It’s the last day of the Holiday Bog Hop, which means it’s the last day to visit all of the blogs and enter to win some amazing prizes! If you haven’t already, be sure to check my main giveaway page for your chances to win my book and an amigurumi zombie hand-crocheted by yours truly. And keep reading to see how you can grab another chance to win a free e-book copy of Dominion of the Damned!

I’m a fan of zombie movies, which you might notice if you read my latest novel. I’ll pretty much watch anything with zombies in it, and I’ll be the first to admit, there’s a lot of bad out there in zombie-land. But there’s some greatness, too. Here are my five favorite zombie movies, in no particular order:

1. Shaun of the Dead – Billed as “a romantic comedy, with zombies,” there’s  really not a better way to describe this movie, except to add that it’s British. And if you’re a fan of British comedy, then I don’t need to tell you that Shaun of the Dead is freaking hilarious. One of the best things about it is how straight it plays the zombie apocalypse — it’s not really a parody of the genre as much as it’s a genre-mashup. The zombies are quite frightening. It’s the “You can’t really be serious about this” attitudes of the protagonists toward everything that makes this probably the funniest zombie horror movie you’ll ever see.

2. Return of the Living Dead – This 1980s classic actually is a parody of Romero-style zombie movies, and it’s pretty brilliant. Although hilarious, it also has some genuinely frightening moments, along with a significant amount of gore.  It also gets credit for adding zombies’ unyielding hunger for “braaaaains” to the genre.

3. Dawn of the Dead (2004) – Here’s where I have to confess that I still haven’t seen the original, so I don’t know how it compares, but this is a pretty frightening flick. There’s not a lot of humor to be found in this one, but it is a fascinating study of human nature in a dire situation, when it all comes down to survival. And the zombies in this are of the fast-moving variety, which makes them all the more frightening.

4. Night of the Living Dead (1968) – The movie that started it all is a classic, and for good reason. Its low budget only adds to the realism and feelings of claustrophobia and paranoia, and although some of the performances are pretty far from Oscar-worthy, there’s also some stand-out acting from some of the unknown actors in the film. It’s the film that set the standard for all modern zombie movies, and I still never get tired of watching it.

5. Pontypool – This is kind of a controversial choice. I debated giving this slot to either Zombieland or Fido, both of which I liked better overall than Pontypool, but I realized that I have more to say about the latter. It’s kind of an obscure movie, about a morning radio shock-jock and his producer who are locked in their basement radio station when an apparent zombie-like outbreak occurs in their small Canadian town. It’s one of the more creative approaches to the genre that I’ve seen, and it’s almost like listening to a radio play, as most of the action is heard rather than seen, leaving a lot to the audience’s imagination. I do have to say, though, that the ending almost ruined it for me, which I found to be almost insulting in its pretentiousness. But up until then, it was a pretty entertaining and original take on the zombie genre that had me on the edge of my seat.

Do you have a favorite zombie movie, or do you steer clear of the genre altogether? Tell us about it in the comments — and for this last day of the Holiday Hop, I’ll randomly select one winner from among today’s comments on this post to receive an e-copy of my zombies vs. humans vs. vampires novel, Dominion of the Damned!

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