Friday, September 5, 2008

Short and very sweet

Yesterday was my birthday, and I had a wonderful day. Remember how it used to take Niki Media days to get a story up (and then it was all wrong)? On my birthday I met with a dashing computer wizard named David Albert who put up in one day, a forty-four page story and my introduction to it.

Soon I will be blogging there as well as here.

Is life getting better or what? God bless you, David, and long may you reign!

So, at last, for Jez and Morgead fans (or anybody who wants a free taste of what the Night World is like) Jez and Morgead’s Night Out is up. Um. Don’t expect it to be like any other couple’s night out, as they’re both vampires.

Let’s see, for my birthday I also got a Judith Leiber purse, a Kindle, and an iPOD, thus bringing me more fully into the modern world (including the purse, which I can exchange for this dried yak bladder I’ve been carrying).

Oh, yes, and Night World I is back on the NY Times bestseller list—and I first heard on my birthday.

Again, for anybody skimming this, the WEBSITE’S BEEN UPDATED and there’s a JEZ & MORGEAD STORY there.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Velociraptor sisterhood -- LOOONG but so important to me

I get asked a lot of questions about my writing, but there’s one that I find very exciting, and that hardly ever gets asked.

It’s the question: why do I love to write about strong female characters, or shy girls who grow out of being shy and become leaders?

The main reason I do this is because I was a shy girl when I was young, and went through all the pains of being teased and of only remembering in the middle of the night that perfect cutting remark I should have made to the jerk who was bullying me the previous day at lunch.

Now that I can create my own worlds, and get them put into print, I can strike a blow for myself and all the other shy girls as well. My shy girls manage to think of cutting remarks at just the right time. More, they discover that they are really heir to some great magical legacy, and that they get more powerful every day as they learn to trust themselves and believe in their instincts.

One of these is Cassie, heroine of The Secret Circle—which should be out any day now, if it isn’t already. Cassie is probably the epitome of a shy girl, suddenly thrown into a new school, unable to make new friends, and bullied by the local popular clique, a group known as the Circle.

But then a freak accident happens and Cassie finds she can draw power through the earth itself. She also learns that, just like all the other members of the Circle, she is a witch, the daughter of a witch, the granddaughter of a witch, and so on, all the way back to good old Salem.

At first Cassie doesn’t really have control over her powers, but when things look darkest not only for the Secret Circle but for the entire town, it’s Cassie who finds the courage and the strength to go up against the enemy. I love to write about a girl who discovers the courage sleeping inside her.

Of course, equally, I love to write about strong girls. Elena Gilbert, the heroine of The Vampire Diaries is about as strong-willed as they come. And although she learns some humility and some more worthwhile values than using boys as toys as the story progresses, she never loses her bravery or her quick wits.

Not only that, but she has two very strong friends: the lively and high-spirited Bonnie, who is always eager to try something new, and Meredith, who is cool and self-possessed in almost every situation.

The three of them—and eventually Cassie from Secret Circle and her witchy friends, demonstrate something that I’ve dubbed “velociraptor sisterhood.” What does this amount to? Well, if you saw velociraptors in Jurassic Park you’ve seen how smart, fast, and utterly scary they are. (I know, I know, they really should be called Utahraptors, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.) You also saw that they were pack hunters, like lionesses, who rely on each other for their very lives.

Velociraptor sisterhood is not as nearly drastic and bloody, and doesn’t require you to wear a dinosaur costume. Here’s a quote of the first mention of it in the book I’m writing now, Vampire Diaries V: Nightfall:

(To set the scene, Matt Honeycutt indicates that he’s not feeling well.)

“I was going to say, you don’t look right today,” Bonnie said anxiously.

“Thank you,” Matt snapped.

Tears pooled in Bonnie’s brown eyes. “I didn’t mean—”

But she didn’t get to finish. Meredith and Elena drew in protectively around her in the solid phalanx of what they called “velociraptor sisterhood.” It meant anybody messing with one of them was messing with all.

I like the idea of velociraptor sisterhood, of standing up for your female friends and sisters when they need you most.

It’s not that I don’t write about “catty” enemies of the heroine (but I try not to call them “catty” or any other buzzword that is used for women but not for men, like “spunky” or “feisty.”) I don’t always succeed, and, what’s more, my efforts are often not noticed. But I do try.

I also like for my main characters to have careers in mind or strong interests so that they have another choice besides just being mothers. I spend a fair amount of time researching so that the girls can be prepared to take on a career they enjoy.

And then . . . there’s the great matter of “he” “he or she” “s/he” and so on. Of using “he” to mean both male and female people. For example: “An astronaut must be vigilant. He never knows when something may go wrong with his ship . . .” The two solutions that I like best to this problem are 1) using a plural so that gender never is an issue: “Astronauts must be vigilant. They never know when something may go wrong on their ship,” and, 2) using “they” as a singular personal pronoun: “Occasionally a Night Watch officer would beat his baton against a wall” becomes ““Occasionally a Night Watch officer would beat their baton against a wall.” So easy. After a while, you don’t even notice it.

There’s a third solution. In this one, women use only the female personal pronouns, and men use only male ones. This actually can work just fine, but there are already more men than women with jobs out there, so we’d still be hearing a lot of “hes” purportedly meaning he or she.

We “girls” and “co-eds” have come a long way in the last century. In the next century, dare I imagine equality?

I dunno, but it would sure be nice.

Live free!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cute? FAKE! The Olympics take a sudden downturn

I still keep a diary (maybe that was why I found the diary entries in Vampire Diaries easy to write). And for maybe twenty years I’ve called it “A Very Minor Song” which is supposed to be a pun because of all the poetry—songlike stuff—inside it. But just now I found out that the Olympics’ very major song—the one where elfin Lin Miaoke sang “Ode to the Motherland”—was a fake. Actually, it was Yang Peiyi singing, an adorable little girl who just happens to have slightly crooked teeth.

There’s a lot a blah-blah out there about how Lin (fake) represented the Chinese heart and soul and Mom’s home made dimsum, but to me this is simply an outrage. What she represented was Cute. Yang (Real Star) must have represented all of the other good stuff in order to be able to sing what people all over the world are calling one of the most mesmerizing moments of the opening ceremony, yes? And yet Yang (Real Star) didn’t even get a moment on stage. Which is more fun? Lip-synching in front of the world or singing somewhere where no one can see you or acknowledge you (maybe in one of the boxes used to spell out HARMONY.)

One girl with an extraordinary voice is denied her chance in the (midnight) sun . . . because she’s not cute enough. I didn’t see anyone worry whether many of the male big honchos were or weren’t cute enough. Hey, maybe we should replace Bush with Obama right now. There’s something to be said on both sides of the debates in our bipartisan country, but I think most people would agree that Obama was cuter. Yeah, let’s do it, now! Only Cute people may apply for jobs of any kind. People with crooked teeth may do the actually work, but the Cute ones get paid. An idea like this could revolutionize a nation.

I could spend another hour working on this, making it Cuter, but I’m not going to. I’m giving the honest-to-goodness first draft because to hell with Cute, and that’s my opinion.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I Ought to Make a Real Blog

I really ought to make a real blog somewhere--either here on on my website. I'd planned to do it on my website but I keep making announcements instead...sigh...I broke off right in the middle of a story to write this.

Also, I should read a number of blogs to find out how to blog. I'm so uninformed that I don't really know. Should I just talk about what I do? That's boring. I write. I write. I write some more and when It lets me off the leash ("It" is the thing in my head that says I really ought to be writing) I go looking for a new house. I'm in an in-between-houses-house now and it has only the basics of my furniture. I need a new house, but it has to be the right house. I don't think the details of my house-that-turned-out-to-belong to the Russian mafia would be appreciated here.

I guess I could write about how much I miss my mother. She died--it's so funny, but even as I write the words I don't believe them--she died just over a year ago. If my whole family isn't in therapy after that, they should be. Strangely, it's very hard--still--to take in. I guess everyone who's had a loved one die feels that way.

In the beginning I had a hallucination. These were days when I wasn't sleeping well, due to the funeral rush and my own memory of that last night holding her hand. I thought I saw her in our (my family's) house. It was just for an instant, and out of the corner of my eye, but I did have that. I wonder just how many other people do?

Now, I still wake up and think, "Oh--I've got to tell Mom...." or during the day I think "I want Mom's opinion on this." And for a second I'm just really confused before I remember. I don't know if that kind of thinking is really okay, but I've heard that the second year is the hardest. That's kind of scary. I just bless her and the Universe and God and whoever else is up there for allowing me to write again. That was the greatest gift, and however I grieve this year, I've been too busy to get really morbid

Thank you, Mom. Somehow I know that you had something to do with this.

Well, today's Super Tuesday, but I'm not going to write about politics here! Besides, I worry so much that the winner, our next President, will go down in history as the woman or man who couldn't fix all our foriegn polictics problems. I wouldn't take the job myself if you begged me, but I guess I'm not qualified to have a solid opinion about it. I just worry that things will never come out right in the MIddle East.

I guess I've blogged enough for somebody who doesn't know how.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

My favorite quote

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting. — e. e. cummings

This is my favorite quotation of all time. I lost track of it for a while, and then couldn't find it again because there are no words which are particularly unusual, and I didn't want to misquote it completely. But whether you remember the exact words or not, I think that the message is the most genuine I've ever heard. It's a bit sad that the world should be like this, but it is. The world is trying to make everyone into a pod person, part of a herd. (By "the world" I mean society, the media, advertisements and such, not the world of nature). The one thing I would add to this quote is that "This is the only thing worth doing in the world, hard as it is."

So.... Fight!

And come visit me sometime, or let me know what's on your mind. I'm busy but I read every letter and email I get, and I answer them all...eventually.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hello again,

It's a new day, and I guess Amazon came to mind because books were on my mind. And I've just remembered a quote by Louisa May Alcott, who was, and is, one of my favorite writers of books for young people:

"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead."
--Louisa May Alcott

I think it's a lovely little inspirational saying. My favorite poet is Emily Dickinson, followed by...well, I guess A.E. Housman, W.H. Auden, and Robert Frost, Alfred, Lord Tennyson (just for the Idylls, really), William Blake, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning are all in a dead heat for second place. And e.e. cummings. Oh, and A.A. Milne! Seriously! (That must come from my child-heart.) And Lewis Carroll! I think that one quatrain of his is worth hundreds from some of the others:

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away -- -
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.
--from The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits, by Lewis Carroll

I would love to write a short story titled "Not All Snarks Are Boojums." (Or maybe "All Snarks Are Boojums Under the Skin." Whatever. It just tickles me: the name and the poem.)
And I think Lewis Carroll would have been tickled by "quarks," even if the name came fraom James Joyce. I honestly hope that something, someday, in quantum theory is named a "boojum."


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hey, everybody!

This is the first time I've posted on Amazon so forgive me if I'm excited over the experience! I thank God, the Mother Goddess, the universe, and whoever invented Amazon for Amazon! I remember times when I really, really wanted a book and could find it nowhere else but Amazon, and times when I was amazed to get a rectangular brown Amazon box in the mail that contained a book I'd ordered only a day or so before.

But I'm not here to tout Amazon, or anything else really. Just happy and delighted to be able to post to anyone who is looking at my books. If you're looking at anything besides Vampire Diaries, you're probably a dedicated, faithful old-timer, so I thank you! Oh, and if you don't know, I have a website up at http://www.ljanesmith.net/, and an e-mail address: info@ljanesmith.net, so if you'd like to visit me or contact me, I'd be very pleased to make your acquaintance. If you're looking at Vampire Dairies, you may be a new reader, so hello! I'm pleased to meet you! Next time I'll think of something truly inspiring or beautiful of my own to say, but for now, I'll just whisper:

"Be happy. It's one way of being wise." --Sidonie Gabrielle