Memorable Spy Gadgets: What Would You Want?

My fabulous friends and authors Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes have just published a terrific novella called The Spy Bride, which is part of a Risky Brides collection.

In honor of their release, I got to thinking about some of the memorable spy gadgets from TV and film. Here are some of my faves:

Maxwell Smart’s Shoe Phone

Maxwell Smart holding shoe phone, from Get Smart

Sure, in the days of cell phones, transmitting messages over a shoe might seem silly. Plus, this baby would be caught in two seconds in a TSA security line. But when Get Smart aired in 1965, a portable phone was a swank idea. And hiding it in your shoe seemed pretty spy-cool. These days, I’d probably be happier if the bottom of my shoe had a different gadget, like maybe a Roomba so I could clean my floor just by walking around.

Men in Black Neuralyzer.

Men In Black, Agent J holding neuralyzer

This handy-dandy device erases memories with a flash, which can then be replaced by a different version of events. While useful for hiding the existence of aliens from the common citizenry, I think a lot of people would love to have this gadget to erase the memories of others in their lives who might not have seen their best side and could use a new perspective.

John Steed’s Umbrella.

John Steed & umbrella from The Avengers

John Steed, of the British spy series The Avengers, was known for carrying an umbrella which he used as a weapon. If needed, the umbrella contained a saber he could pull out in a pinch. Currently, my umbrella only protects me from rain, but I could come up with a few handy tools I’d love to tuck into an umbrella.

Mission Impossible Self-Destructing Tape.

Mission Impossible -- smoking tape player

Who can forget the way missions were delivered in the Mission Impossible series, and films following? An agent picks up the recorded message, listens to the instructions, and then hears, “This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck…” Yes, I know we don’t have tapes or players like this anymore, but the notion of self-destructing gadgetry is an appealing one. As a parent, some days I’d like to have a “should you not get off this video game and do your homework in the next ten seconds, your cell phone will self-destruct.” (Yeah, I’m fun like that! ;))

Chuck’s Intersect.

Intersect computer from Chuck

The Intersect from Chuck stores all the intelligence data the United States government possesses and recognizes patterns that help catch the bad guys. Unfortunately, this big pile of data gets shoved into the brain of one unsuspecting geek named Chuck. But this would be very handy for an agent, don’t you think? Or even for your daily life, to be able to shove everything you know or should know onto a drive, stick it in your brain, and access it at will? That sounds like a gadget I could use.

James Bond’s Aston Martin.

Aston Martin in Q's lab

The first car to be equipped with gadgets in a James Bond film was this beauty, the Aston Martin from Goldfinger. It had GPS, machine guns, smoke screen, tire slashers, and more — all the things I need to get around in my Houston traffic. (Kidding…just kidding!) But hey, a bunch of cool spy stuff in your car? And not just any car, but an Aston Martin? Yes, please.

So there are a few of my favorites. Hope you’ll share some of yours in the comments!

And now for a quick ROW80 Update! A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) is the writing challenge that knows you have a life:

1. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. I did some editing this week and worked on blurbs as well.

2. Read 12 books. Read The Best Medicine by Tracy Brogan. That brings me up to three.

3. Attend Immersion Master Class and follow-up. Attended a couple of weeks back and just got back comments from a valuable critique partner.

Also, I recently learned that I placed 2nd in the YA category for the New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book contest! Congratulations to the other winners, Jessica Ruddick and Ann LaBar.

Now what are your favorite fictional spy gadgets? And how was your week?

Risky Brides book coverEight novellas.

Great authors.

Wonderful price.

Barnes & Noble

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When Misspelling Compromises Our National Security

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can find. Recently, I learned from author Piper Bayard what words might trigger the Department of Homeland Security to monitor our social media.

After reading such unusual choices as “cloud” and “delays,” I decided to click over to the original source Piper had listed. The DHS Security Analyst’s Desktop Binder includes terms one should watch out for, sorted by category. The categories include Domestic Security, HAZMAT & Nuclear, and Terrorism.

But one of them is Weather/Disaster/Emergency. And reading the list, I found a slight problem:

DHS words list

On one hand, no big deal. Plenty of people misspell lightning (no e).

However, I began to wonder: Is our national security compromised somehow by a spelling error? Might we mistakenly declare a disastrous weather event if perhaps several people start tweeting about how their lamps are effectively lightening their rooms? Could catastrophe occur because a DHS security analyst is spending his time searching for the term lightening and completely missing a slew of lightning that could cause real damage?

Okay, fine. I’m a little OCD on stuff like this.

But it did perplex me that the people who managed to spell such things as “National Biosurveillance Integration Center” and “Viral Hemorrhagic Fever” managed to get lightning wrong.

But that’s the way it goes. There are errors so commonly made that it’s hard to even see them or worry about them. I swear that I misspell perseverance 99 out of 100 times that I type it.

So my suggestion is that with such tricky words, we simply double-check. One certainly doesn’t want our national security compromised due to a spelling error! Of course, I doubt that you’ve got so much riding on your spelling. But hey, maybe you do! Who am I to say?!

Here are a few commonly confused words to look out for:

Affect (to influence; to change) vs. effect (the result of a change)

Complement (to complete or enhance) vs. compliment (an expression of esteem or affection)

Defuse (to make less harmful or tense) vs. diffuse (to spread out)

Desert (arid land with sparse vegetation) vs. dessert (dish usually served at the end of a meal)

Pour (to cause to flow in a stream) vs. pore (to read or study attentively)

Principal (most important or consequential) vs. principle (fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption)

Lightening (making clearer or lighter) vs. lightning (flash of light from discharge of atmospheric electricity)

Stationary (immobile, static) vs. stationery (materials for writing or typing)

What words do you struggle to spell correct? Or get confused with another word? Do you think our national security has been compromised by a spelling error?

Words for the End of the World

Welcome to Amazing Apocalypse Words Wednesday! It’s a special edition for the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can find.

Let’s say you want to talk about the end of the world. Perhaps you’ve been watching zombie shows, re-viewing Terminator or Independence Day, or you’ve decided that the recent reports of spying by the NSA is a harbinger of government takeover a la Hunger Games and you want to make sure you’re ready to compete for your district.

What will you call this event that brings about “the end of the world as we know it”? Let’s take a look at some options and their origins.

Apocalypse derives from the Greek word apokalyptein, which means to uncover or reveal. Apokalyptein is the title of the last book of the Christian Bible, in which the end of the world is foretold. When the Greek New Testament was translated into Latin, the word became apocalypsis. In English, it’s now the Book of Revelation, but the word apocalypse was anglicized and became associated with the end times themselves.

Armageddon is not just a Def Leppard song title. Armageddon is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Har Megiddon, also known as Mount Megiddo. Megiddo has been the place of many historical battles, including one in World War I between Allied and Ottoman armies. Armageddon is mentioned just once in the Book of Revelation as being the place where a “battle on the great day of God the Almighty” will take place (see Revelation 16:16). Consequently, Armageddon has come to generally mean “the final battle”–whatever that final battle looks like.

Doomsday. “Doom” appears in the late 14th century, coming from the Old English word dom, meaning law, judgment, or condemnation. In Old English, a book of laws was called a dombec. So the last day, the “judgment day” would be a day of doom. At least for those who haven’t been behaving, right? Doomsday is simply a portmanteau of doom and day.

Judgment Day. Not much to say here. From the above, you can figure out where this came from. Revelation 14:7a: “[The angel] said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come.'” And then you get the rest: It’s a great day for some people, and a really bad day for others.

Reckoning. The use of reckon I hear the most is, “I reckon that” followed by the opinion of the Southerner about one thing or another. But reckoning appears around the late 14th century and means settling accounts. The Day of Reckoning crept into usage about 1600. Now I reckon the Reckoning is a good name for the end of the world as we know it–whether by zombies, machines, world war, etc.–because some accounts will be settled, one way or another.

Firelands. Here’s another fabulous word you should associate with apocalypse. Piper Bayard recently released her first novel, FIRELANDS. It’s a post-apocalyptic story, and it’s been causing some buzz. Here’s the blurb:

Firelands book coverEighty years in the future, America has devolved into a totalitarian theocracy. The ruling Josephites clone the only seeds that grow in the post-apocalyptic climate, allowing their Prophet to control who eats, who starves, and who dies in the ritual fires that atone society.

Subsisting on the fringes, Archer risks violation and death each day as she scours the forest for game to feed her people. When a Josephite refugee seeks sanctuary in her home, Archer is driven to chance a desperate gamble. A gamble that will bring down the Prophet and deliver seeds and freedom, or end in a fiery death for herself and for everyone she loves.

Seeds are life . . . Seeds are power . . . Seeds are the only hope of a despairing people. What will Archer do for the seeds of freedom, and what will she justify in their name?

Available from Amazon in Paperback and on Kindle.

Also in e-book at Barnes & Noble and Kobo,

and at iTunes for iPad and mobile devices.

Piper Bayard photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney with degrees in writing and law. She’s also a belly dancer from way back, and she currently pens post-apocalyptic science fiction and spy thrillers when she isn’t shooting, SCUBA diving, blogging, baking cookies, or chauffeuring her children to their various teenage immediacies. She blogs with her spy thriller writing partner, Intelligence Operative Jay Holmes, at Bayard & Holmes.

What do you call the “end of the world as we know it”? How do you think it might happen?

Etymology sources: Online Etymology Dictionary; Bible Gateway

10 Things I’ll Never Get Asked to Do (But Wish I Would)

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I pull out a thread of something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life. Today, I’m sharing things I wish I would get asked to do, and I hope you’ll share yours in the comments!

1. Smack the gavel in the House of Representatives. I don’t know why, but that big gavel looks like it would feel cool-powerful in my hands. The challenge would be fighting against the temptation to whack some sense into a few politicians in that chamber.

2. Sing the national anthem at a championship sporting event. I’m not talking local T-ball finals. I’m thinking Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, Super Bowl, the World Series, etc. I’m not the best singer ever, but since Roseanne Barr got to do it, how high can the standard be? If asked to belt out this pride-of-the-States song, I promise to get my voice in shape and give it my all.

Roseanne Barr singing national anthem

3. Travel to space. Even after seeing the presentation at Johnson Space Center several times about what living in space is like (and wondering how I could possibly pee into a vacuum and sleep while zipped in a bag Velcroed to the wall), I want to go to space. I blame Star Trek. Next time they need a 40-something mother of two with an arthritic knee, and the ability to perform no scientific experiments but to write something interesting about the experience, I’m in.

4. Smooch on the “Kiss-Cam.” I’ve been to several Houston Astros baseball games, and they have that “kiss-cam” that goes around focusing on a couple and waiting until they notice they’re being watched and deliver up a decent smooch. Not once has that lens alighted on me and the hubby! C’mon, I can give an entertaining kiss!

5. Be a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Yes, I realize that I don’t qualify because I’m not a “star.” But I grew up watching Gene Kelly movies and wanting to dance like Cyd Charise. Since I’m married to a marvelous man who’s had four knee surgeries (and I won’t discuss his sense of rhythm here), I’m not likely to get in a lot of ballroom dancing in my world.  If DWTS would just give me a chance, I bet I could get Len Goodman to (eventually) give me a 10.

Donny Osmond & partner in DWTS

6. Name a line of lipstick or nail polish. Whose job is that? I sort of envy those who labelled stuff like Pink in the Limo lipstick and Austin-tatious Turquoise nail polish.

Lipstick color - Pink in the Limo
Lancome Pink in the Limo
Nail polish color - Austin-tatious Turquoise
Opi Austin-tatious Turquoise

Given how much I love words, I could come up with some good ones–maybe Serendipity Spice or Rambunctious Red. Or perhaps I could use book titles for the hues–like Wuthering Heights Wine, Lord of the Rings Lilac, Canterbury Tales Coral, and–of course–Scarlet Letter Red. So Revlon, Maybelline, whoever, call me up!

7. Be a Bond girl. At this point, that would require several layers of Spanx, a botox treatment or two, and a team of cosmetic and fashion experts. But I promise to do my own stunts and deliver my lines with sass. Moreover, I have a few ideas for my name. For example, how about Candy Craven? (Got a sweet tooth, Bond?)

8. DJ my kid’s prom. It’s the ultimate way to embarrass my kids, right? But also, I have a wide array of musical taste and could put together a great jam. Plus, I’d use the mic to get everyone moving and grooving. Electric slide, anyone?

9. Be a slogan writer for the Bayard/Lamb 2016 campaign. I came up with Foxie with Moxie last time. I’m sure I could work up something worthwhile to help us finally get a pair in the White House.

Kristen Lamb and Piper Bayard
VP candidate Kristen Lamb and Prez candidate Piper Bayard

10. Write a grammar column. Okay, I know I’m not Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl). But anyone who has come to this blog much knows that I love words and punctuation and grammar and etymology and language. It could even be a “word of the week” feature with some of my favorites like kench and hairitude.

So that’s my list! Now onto more serious business.

ROW80 Update

  • Read 8 fiction books. I hit 10 books this week, finishing up The Darkening by Myndi Shafer and listening to the audio book of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher (read by David Tennant).
  • Read one craft book: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson. Only read more chapter. I’m a little behind on this goal.
  • Visit and comment on ROW80 blogs as a Round 2 sponsor. Done.
  • Finish writing GOOD & GUILTY, YA mysteryDone.
  • Complete round of edits of GOOD & GUILTY SHARING HUNTER. I’m about 1/4 through what’s essentially a rewrite/slasher movie sort of edit.
  • Write one short storyDone.
  • Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit. Not yet.
  • Prepare for and attend DFW Conference in MayDone.
  • Prepare for and attend Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson in June. The countdown is here. My main preparation is finishing the edit of Sharing Hunter.

How was your week? And what things would you like to be asked to do? (But you probably never will.)

Bond-ing with the Family

from Wikimedia Commons

Welcome back to Deep-Fried FridaySeveral months ago, my teen and tween boys asked if they could watch Goldeneye, the James Bond movie of the same name as a Wii video game they wanted. Since I grew up in a family of Bond fans, I simply wasn’t going to grab a 1995 Bond film and have my boys whet their appetite on that. No, no, that wouldn’t do! 

So these two young men were relegated to dealing with a Bond-fan mother who has also been accused of being a little anal-retentive (said charges are thoroughly denied–I’m a lot anal-retentive). We were going to watch James Bond from the beginning and in order.

That’s 22 films with the British agent known as 007. I have watched hours and hours of James wooing women, dodging bullets, and quipping double-entrendres that made me hope–often against hope–that my kids didn’t know what he meant. Here are some general takeaways about the series of James Bond films–those things the movie makers would have us believe:

Bad guys have poor aim; good guys land the first shot. James Bond has been shot at approximately 2,381 times. They all missed. You must not only suspend belief, but ship it to the far regions of the universe, to believe that 007 can outrun bullets over and over and that no sniper has managed to fatally wound him. But going in, we swallow whole the notion that bad guys miss, Bond doesn’t.

A few of the “Bond girls”

All women secretly desire a cad. Cad’s not a word we use often, but it is a man “who behaves in a dishonorable or irresponsible way toward women” (Dictionary.com). The message throughout the films is that Bond is irresistible to women–despite the fact that he  is clearly a playboy with little interest in a monogamous or continuing relationship (excepting Tracy and Vesper, who both come to a bad end). In Quantum of Solace, the “Bond girl” says after making love with James, “Do you know how angry I am at myself?”–showing us that even though she had every intention of not sleeping with the rascal, every girl is  inexplicably drawn to the charms of this cad.

Desmond Llewelyn as Q

Spies have super-cool gadgets. One of my favorite supporting characters is Q. I have been disappointed by his absence in the Daniel Craig movies (but I can discuss that later). Actor Desmond Llewellyn played Q through five different actors for Bond, and John Cleese took over in two movies with Brosnan in the lead role. Q’s role is to unveil what new gadgets the British MI16 has developed and to demonstrate their uses to the cavalier Bond. Of course, each gadget turns out to be exactly what Bond needs to complete his mission, even to the point of having an invisible car in Die Another Day. To which, most of us say, “puh-lease.” I can go for a skeleton key hidden in a wristwatch or a bullet-proof car with shooters in the front, but sometimes I had to tuck my eyeballs back into their sockets when the perfect and impossible gadget appeared and my eyes rolled back too far.

Chases are 40% of a spy’s job. I’ve seen James Bond in chases that involved cars, trucks, tanks, motorcycles, boats, skis, planes, helicopters, and more. If it moves, Bond apparently knows how to operate it–no manual or instruction needed. Destruction to streets, buildings, and nearby onlookers is irrelevant because all is okay if (1) James Bond gets away; and/or (2) James Bond nabs his target.

A well-made tux is easy to find. Has anyone ever seen Bond walk into a hotel with a suit bag? And yet, he always has a tuxedo at the ready for whatever posh event he must attend.

The world would end, if not for Bond. Remember all of that trepidation over the Mayan Apocalypse prediction for December 2012? Perhaps you didn’t know, but the end of the world really was eminent; yet, the destructive plot was discovered by MI16 and averted by the brilliant and athletic feats of secret agent James Bond. The battle was not covered by the news channels because it occurred on an unknown island where the evil mastermind had been building billion-dollar accommodations, researching and developing global weaponry, and housing scantily-clad women without anyone’s knowledge–that is, anyone except Bond.

I suppose I enjoy the Bond series for the same reasons I mock it: It is a rollicking ride steeped in fantasy and swagger. Action heroes do all of these things, but somehow Bond does it better. (Wasn’t there a song about that? “Nobody Does It Better”?)

And now, there’s the all-important question of Who is the best Bond? I will rank my preference:

  1. Sean Connery
  2. Pierce Brosnan
  3. Roger Moore
  4. George Lazenby
  5. Daniel Craig
  6. Timothy Dalton

If you wonder why Daniel Craig is so low on my list, I’ll give my take on his Bond movies. Craig is an excellent actor, but I am not convinced that Craig is Bond. He lacks the look, the attitude, and the line delivery. I understand that some of this is the choice of the film makers to reboot the series with Casino Royale so that it follows Ian Fleming’s character more closely. To me, however, that makes the last two movies I’ve seen with Craig great action films, but not the Bond I’ve come to know and love. I have yet to see Skyfall, but it is coming up as our last Bond-ing with the family activity.

Now in case you haven’t seen the whole series, here’s a list of what my family watched over the course of months as our schedule and Netflix rentals allowed:

When I asked Piper Bayard what my boys would think of Ursula Andress, she suggested, “Look at that big hunting knife.” Ah, sarcasm, Piper.

Sean Connery as Bond
Dr. No (1962)
From Russia With Love (1963)
Goldfinger (1964)
Thunderball (1965)
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Diamonds Are Forever (1971-Sean Connery)

George Lazenby as Bond
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Roger Moore as Bond
Live and Let Die (1973)
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Moonraker (1979)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Octopussy (1983)
A View to a Kill (1985)

Timothy Dalton as Bond
The Living Daylights (1987)
Licence to Kill (1989)

Pierce Brosnan as Bond
GoldenEye (1995)
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
The World is Not Enough (1999)
Die Another Day (2002)

Daniel Craig as Bond
Casino Royale (2006)
Quantum of Solace (2008)

What do you think of the James Bond series? Who is your favorite Bond actor? Or who is your favorite Bond girl? What elements do you find appealing and which ones are unbelievable?

What I Learned in DFW and #ROW80

NYT Bestseller James Rollins & Me

If you did not attend the DFW Writers’ Conference, you may be tired of hearing those of us who did talking about how AWESOME it was. Rather than go on and on about how everything is bigger and better in Texas, even writers’ conferences 😉 , how about some general take-aways?

  • As long as you aren’t stalking or incredibly annoying, you can strike up conversations with agents because they are real people, at a conference to meet writers, and like talking about what they do (see Top 10 Things to Do at a Writers’ Conference). At the 2011 conference, I spoke to one agent — the one I had a pitch appointment with. This time, I walked away with six different agent names to send my work to after personal contact at the pitch session and agent/writer reception. So chat it up! What have you got to lose?
  • When you attend a conference, you are paying for it. Don’t feel obligated to attend a workshop you don’t need or to stay in one that wasn’t at all what you expected. I attended a class that was titled one thing and ended up being something else. (That was not common, by the way.) Ten minutes in, I gathered my stuff and left the room as quietly as possible. The teacher has no idea why someone leaves early — a pitch? a phone call from home? sickness? I wasn’t dissing her; the class simply wasn’t a topic I needed after all. I walked into a class next door and was SOOOO glad I did.
  • You can learn as much from chatting with other writers as you can get from the conference classes. I gleaned so much knowledge from conversations with Jenny Hansen, Donna Newton, Kristen Lamb, Tiffany A. White, Nigel Blackwell, David N. Walker, Jess Witkins, Kait Nolan, Jillian Dodd, Piper Bayard, and others that my brain was tingling with electricity by Saturday night. Asking others about their writing process, publishing plans, and life in general enlightened me in ways that made my trip to Big D well-worth all those hours and money.
  • No matter who you are, you can always learn more. It was marvelous to step into a workshop and see several published authors in the class as well. Taking notes. Learning more. Improving their craft.

What workshops did I attend? In case you’re interested, here’s a quick rundown: How to Pitch to an Agent (Rosemary Clement-Moore); The Changing Face of Publishing (an expert panel); Writing Love Scenes (Roni Loren – incredible); Anatomy of a Book Launch (Laurie McLean-agent, Kristen Lamb, Kait Nolan); Fast Draft (Candace Havens); Inside Publishing (Jill Marsal-agent); Revision Hell (Candace Havens); Writing Emotion (Lori Wilde); Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction (Laurie McLean-agent).

Bayard/Lamb 2012: Foxie with (literal) Moxie

Links to some FABULOUS posts about the conference from fellow speakers/attendees:

Social Media Jedi Kristen Lamb encourages writers to push themselves in The Comfort Zone is for Pets, Not Professionals.

Romance author Roni Loren summarizes what agents like and don’t like in queries and first pages with What Will Make an Agent Gong Your Pages.

Writer (and my awesome conference roommate!) Jess Witkins discusses lessons learned in Celebrating My Writing Slump.

Jenny Hansen reports progress on her conference goals and teases us about Fast Draft (thanks, Candace Havens) with Bestselling Authors, DFWcon, and the Flu…Oh My!

Donna Newton makes me kick myself in How to Hook an Agent…The ‘SOO’ Publishing Way. How has this Brit managed to shoot so much stuff when I (a born-and-bred Texan) have yet to meet my goal of firing a real gun?!!

Jess Witkins, Me & Donna Newton

I also posted on Friday about What’s Next? The Hybrid Author, which was partially culled from my conference experience.

(I guarantee I forgot someone else’s wonderful post; I may update this later.)

One last pic: Me & Tiffany White

Enough already. Here are my ROW80 goals and progress report!

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft. DONE.
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. I started revising, using the notes from my class with editor Tiffany Lawson Inman and tips from Candace Havens’s Revision Hell workshop.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20). Did it! Pitched. Need to send my queries.
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Took a break from this goal until after the DFW Writers’ Conference.
  • Read through March/April issue of The Writer’s Digest. I can’t find the March/April issue, so I started working through the issue that just arrived in the mail.
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. Slowly catching up!
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. I have read six books so far: The Killer Inside Me; Getting Rid of Bradley; Graceling; The Man Who Was Thursday; The Heart-Shaped Box; One of Our Thursdays is Missing. Reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
  • Post ROW80 updates on Sundays. Keeping up.
  • Exercise three times a week — length of time to be determined. Skipped Zumba. May I count the four hours of helping with our church youth’s group car wash on Saturday? I know I burned some calories there.

So how’s your ROW80 week? Be sure to cheer on fellow writers HERE.

And if you are interested in attending the DFW Writers’ Conference in 2013, they are offering a super early-bird registration price of $225 (early-bird is $295) until June 1. The conference will be held May 4-5, 2013 at the Hurst Conference Center. I will be there!

Howdy from Big D and #ROW80

Inspired by Kristen Lamb and Jenny Hansen, I’m vlogging from Dallas today, where I am attending the DFW Writers’ Conference. I have been blessed to meet some of the fabulous fellow writers who have been my cyberpals and encouragers for over a year now. Here’s a quick hello:

And now for the weekly ROW80 update:

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft. I wrote 6,555 words on Monday and Tuesday and completed the first draft of SHARING HUNTER!
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. I’m waiting until I return from the DFW Writers’ Conference this weekend. While it’s tempting to try to get through an edit, I’d rather hold off that pressure and use my time to prepare for the conference.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20). I pitched this weekend. I give this experience a thumbs-up.
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Took a break from this goal until after the DFW Writers’ Conference.
  • Read through March/April issue of The Writer’s Digest. Now I can’t even find the magazine. *facepalm*
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. Working on the second assignment and plan to hit this hard next week, as it will help with edits for SHARING HUNTER.
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. I have read five books so far: The Killer Inside Me; Getting Rid of Bradley; Graceling; The Man Who Was Thursday; and The Heart-Shaped Box.
  • Post ROW80 updates on Sundays. Here I am!
  • Exercise three times a week — length of time to be determined. I went to Zumba twice this week, but one of those sessions was 1 1/2 hours instead of the usual 1 hour, so I feel pretty good about this.

I will check back with my fellow ROW80ers next week once the conference high dies down a bit. Y’all have a great week!

Tagged Again & Cool Questions

Welcome to Deep-Fried Friday! Yum. I’ve been tagged again to answer some questions, this time by The Midnight Novelist, Karen Rought.

I should warn people generally that I’m that girl who broke the chain in high school. You know, when someone sent out letters and you had to rewrite the whole thing and find seven more people to give it to or you’d have eons of horrible luck. Yeah, I threw away the letter.

Thus, I will never get oodles of good fortune, fifty-six pairs of panties, or the prayers of monks in Nepal because I’m a chain-breaker. Why? Chalk it up to laziness, I suppose.

Plus a good dose of curiosity. After all, I was promised in that chain letter that I would be bereft of joy, never experience the love of a decent man, and my girl parts would shrivel up before I reached age 30. I HAD TO KNOW: Would that all come true? I was willing to offer myself up as the test case, the guinea pig, the rat in the maze, the girl in the padded experiment room. All for the sake of curiosity.

Which is why I am not ignoring Karen’s questions, because they are curious ones. Cool ones. Wonderful questions that I’m happy to answer. So why not?

1. What book or series can you read over and over again without getting bored?

This is a hard question because I eventually get bored with almost anything over and over. That said, I might pick a children’s book. I could read Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hatches the Egg over and over or maybe Owl Moon by Jane Yolen or Animalia by Graeme Base.

If I had to pick adult fiction, perhaps I’d go with C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces — a fascinating retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche.

2. If you decided not to be a writer, what would your other dream job be?

I kicked around a few ideas and decided that my other dream job would be Communications Director for the Bayard/Lamb White House. I’d love to stand behind that lectern and explain the common sense approach to governance of the Foxie with Moxie team. Journalists, beware! I am quick-witted and ready to spar.

3. What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done in your life?

Have children. Don’t tell my kids, but I don’t always know what the heck I’m doing.

4. If there was one fad that you could bring back from when you were a kid, what would it be?

Leg warmers. Seriously, how cool were these?

5. Who is the one person that has singlehandedly inspired you the most in your life?

I’m of the “it takes a village” philosophy, so this one is so tough. Can I pick a Bible person? Sure, I could go with Jesus as the ultimate inspiration, but I can’t picture myself living up to the Big Man. But the Apostle Peter: I take heart from him. He had all this passion and a desire for a mission in life and chalked up numerous failures. But he never gave up. He screwed up, learned something, and tried again. That stick-to-it-iveness inspires me to keep going.

6. If you could take a trip to any foreign country RIGHT NOW, which one would you choose?

This answer has been the same for years: Israel. Yes, I know that seems crazy to many. However, having heard and read Bible stories since childhood, I do indeed want to see these places in person. I want to walk where Jesus walked.

7. What is one talent that you’re hopeless at, but you wish you had?

Sports. I’m a rather petite woman, so power has never been my forte. I wanted to be able to serve an ace in tennis or hit a home run in baseball. But I’m not that strong.

8. What TV show are you most addicted to?

After discussion with my husband, it was agreed that I would watch Gilmore Girls every day if it were on and I had time. I love the rich characterization, the brilliant scripts, and the quirkiness of the series. (Admittedly, the last season or two dropped in quality.)

9. If you were stuck on a deserted island, name three objects and three people you would want with you.

Thank goodness I have a family of four. I would take my husband and two children. As for objects, how about a deck of cards, a blanket, and a broad-rimmed hat? That’s a lame list, I  know. But every cool thing I could think of would break eventually or require batteries or an internet connection.

10. If you could be any animal, what would you be?

Black panther. Sleek, fierce, beautiful.

11. What is one trait or physical characteristic that you are proud of/love about yourself?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about describing yourself in Me, in One Word Only. The word I chose was passionate. I don’t have an opinion about everything, but when I do commit to something, I am passionate about it. I would have myself no other way.

Now comes the tagging part, which as I confessed earlier, I stink at. So how about 11 questions, and commenters pick 2-3 favorites to answer? (You can certainly answer more than that, if you wish.)

1. Do you like your own name? Why or why not?
2. What’s your favorite thing to shop for?
3. What was the best concert you attended?
4. What’s the last book you purchased to read?
5. Do you have any phobias? If so, what?
6. If you had to pick a color to describe yourself, what would it be?
7. What’s the strangest dish you ever ate?
8. Do you have a nickname for your beloved? Can you share it?
9. What’s something you did as a teen that your parents still don’t know about?
10. Compare and contrast the use of animals as symbols of deeper conflicts in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and George Orwell’s Animal Farm. 😉
11. Are you a chain letter keeper or breaker by nature?

So there you have it. Answer away! And check out Karen Rought’s blog. She came up with cool questions because she’s a super-cool writer and worth following. Thanks, Karen!

A note on another fellow writer/blogger: Jillian Dodd has a bet with CJ West that she can get 5,000 comments on his blog. If she does, West will make an appearance on an upcoming MANDay on Jillian’s blog. It’s a friendly bet and I think Jillian can do it. Let’s help her get to 5,000 by commenting HERE.

Bayard-Lamb 2012: Foxie with Moxie

As promised on Wednesday, I welcome Presidential Candidate Piper Bayard and her capable Vice-Presidential Pal Kristen Lamb to Deep-Fried Friday. Believe me when I say that their ideas have been beer-battered, fried for just the right length of time, and are juicy to the last bite. I’m sure you’ll find their campaign platform to be the political feast you’ve been waiting for.

Piper Bayard

Thanks, Piper and Kristen, for coming by on your worldwide blog tour. I’m so excited to interview you today. Let’s start with a question that’s particularly pertinent since the “Super Committee” should have those S’s ripped off their blue unitards about now.

In recent years, many special committees have been formed to tackle specific issues – such as military base closure and deficit reduction. What do you think about forming departments, committees, commissions, and other special groups to handle executive or legislative duties?

Kristen Lamb

Committees are nothing but a game of political Hide the Pickle. It’s a way of delegating things so that the “leader” never has to take responsibility for decisions. It’s the mark of incompetence.

Committees are grossly ineffective and are used to mask the fact that the leader is doing nothing. The saying “put together by a committee” is derogatory for a reason. Congressional committees do not come up with solutions, they come up with the legislative equivalent of Frankenstein. We’ll call it Frankenslation.

If we have to have a committee for any reason, we will lock them in a room and feed them nothing but MRE’s until they have finished their work. That way, they have to trade their M&M’s for Chicken A La King like the rest of us until they can show that they’ve earned something better.

What criteria would you use to nominate judges to the courts?

We’ll start with an EEG to make sure that the candidates actually have brain function. Then, we will check to see if they know the law and understand that it is the judge’s job to interpret laws that are passed by the legislature, and not to create law from the bench. Whenever judges create law from the bench, we will call in the Dog Whisperer to train them in pack behavior. We won’t reward them by letting them back in the courtroom until they are in a calm, submissive state and accept their relationship to the law and to the legislature.

How can we best develop and use our military around the world? What tasks should our armed forces take on?

As Piper stated in her original announcement, America is Simba the Lion. It is not Pumbaa the warthog’s cousin. In our administration, America will not pretend to be less than she is to bolster the self-esteem of countries that have not earned self-esteem on their own.

Our armed forces are for the protection of America and American interests. Under our administration, we will not deploy our troops and then tie their hands. We will allow our military leaders to fight any necessary wars as efficiently as possible with the approach that a fast knife to the jugular is far less destructive in the long run than bleeding out the enemy and the American coffers with a gut shots.

Do you have plans to curb the influence of special interests on governmental decision-making?

We have only one special interest, and that is the well being of the American people. If a special interest group would like to lobby us, it needs a transparent agenda simple enough to be understood on Facebook. No shady doublespeak between pages of legalese, and no monetary transfers. If they can get enough “likes” and prove enough people care about their agenda, we’ll pay attention to them. We’re here to serve the American people, and not the special interests.

Will communication and transparency be important to your administration? If so, how will you ensure them?

An administration is like a family. Some things are public, and some things are private, and it is appropriate that they be so.

There’s a difference between transparency, authenticity, and stupidity. We’re all about being authentic and transparent, but if the end result is to put American freedoms and safety in jeopardy, then it’s up to us, as leaders, to determine that and act accordingly.

Illegal immigration has been discussed at length in recent years. What comprehensive changes would you make to our immigration system and how would you deal with illegal aliens?

Unlike other administrations, we plan to enforce the immigration laws of this country, and we will start by cracking down on the employers of illegal aliens. Some big agricultural employers actively recruit illegal immigrants with promises of easy work, good pay, and beautiful living conditions, only to have them discover they are as much as enslaved and living in trash once they get here. That isn’t fair to them or to the honest Americans who need jobs.

It is illegal to enter this country without permission, just as it is illegal to enter anyone else’s country without permission, too. In so many countries around the world, illegal immigrants are shot on sight or jailed until Al Gore can come rescue them. We would not be that cruel. We would simply see that the laws that exist are enforced. It’s just common sense. You break the law; you get in trouble. You don’t win the location lottery.

If the laws need to be changed or interpreted differently, we will lock the appropriate Congressional committee in with their MRE’s, or, if necessary, we will send the matter to the judiciary as soon as the Dog Whisperer has them in a calm, submissive state.

Who is your favorite foreign leader and why?

Winston Churchill. He had serious cajones, and he was a brilliant speaker.

(Julie’s note: Winston Churchill also appeared twice in my post on The Perfect Comeback. Clearly, Piper and Kristen are able to deliver choice comebacks as well.)

How does your spouse or significant other feel about being First Gentleman? Or is it First Man? First Guy? First Dude?

They would like to be called First Mates. It has more military appeal, and it’s more comforting to them than being introduced as our First Husbands.

What will you wear to the inaugural ball?

Since it’s going to be a live, online tailgate barbecue party with America, we’re thinking flannel-lined jeans with some Patriot Panties underneath to maintain our shape after the pulled pork and pecan pie.

I toured the White House in 1993 when President Clinton was in office, and that place was glitzy and gaudy when I saw it. Any plans to redecorate?

We don’t believe any redecorating will be necessary as it’s rumored that Hillary Clinton took all that stuff with her when she left. We heard in that same rumor that we will be needing some new plates and silver, though, and that the rugs will need a good scrubbing.

Our deepest thanks to Julie Glover for inviting us to her blog for a campaign rally interview. We are honored to be here, and we’ve had a great time.

If you would like to host the Foxie with Moxie Duo (thank you, Julie, for that motto), please email piper at piperbayard@yahoo.com and set up a date. We would love to visit your blog. Help bring back some sanity to our nation.

Bayard/Lamb 2012 – Finally. A Pair in the White House.

Julie: Thanks so much to Piper Bayard and Kristen Lamb. What a thrill to have you stop your million-dollar tour bus candy van at my blog!

Readers, I’m sure you agree that we need this pair in the house – the sooner, the better. for more information about their campaign, click HERE. Also be sure to check out Piper and Kristen’s campaign slogans HERE.

What other questions do you have for Piper and Kristen? Are you ready to cast your ballot for Bayard-Lamb 2012?

Slogans: Do They Get You Elected?

This week we are focusing on Election 2012! Today’s Amaze-ing Words Wednesday topic is campaign slogans, and for Deep-Fried Friday I will be interviewing Piper Bayard and Kristen Lamb, presidential and vice-presidential candidates with a marvelous slogan and governing ideas you’ll want to hear.

So how about it? Do campaign slogans really matter? How powerful are words in getting a candidate noticed, taken seriously, and catapulted into the spotlight? Do we care what the bumper stickers say? Does it make a difference when we cast our ballot?

Some past campaign slogans do stand out in history as being particularly memorable. Let’s take a look at a few:

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too! – William Henry Harrison led the first modern-day campaign with slogans, songs, and a populist feel. Harrison was formerly a commanding general who led American forces in the defeat of Native American enemies at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. His running mate was John Tyler. The slogan conveyed confidence in a commander and had rhyme and rhythm.

Ol’ “Tippecanoe” indeed won the office as the first Whig president in his campaign of 1840. However, President Harrison served only 32 days of his term. He died of a respiratory infection contracted while delivering his 1841 inaugural address in chilly weather without a hat or a coat.

Give ‘Em Hell, Harry! – This popular slogan was never the official one for Harry S Truman’s 1948 presidential campaign. He was elected Vice-President alongside President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 but assumed the presidency when Roosevelt died in April 1945. The end of World War II only weeks later did not bring immediate peace and prosperity, but rather the difficult task of rebuilding after the war.

The slogan came during a 1948 speech which President Truman gave in Harrisburg, Illinois. As Truman decried his Republican opponents, a staunch supporter yelled out, “Give ’em hell, Harry!” Surprisingly, it stuck. Truman was not a particularly popular president, though, and it was predicted that he would lose the 1948 election. His victory was so unexpected that the Chicago Tribune had already printed the front page saying “Dewey Defeats Truman.”

I Like Ike – Irvin Berlin wrote the song “They Like Ike” for the 1950 musical Call Me Madam, starring Ethel Merman. The musical tells of the appointment of a Washington woman to be American ambassador to a small fictitious country. Dwight D. Eisenhower adapted the song for his 1952 campaign for the presidency. It was also a popular slogan on many campaign buttons. Here’s the commercial which was featured in Eisenhower’s successful campaign:

It’s Morning Again in America – Ronald Reagan’s election to the presidency in 1980 was not due as much to effective slogans as Americans’ sense that incumbent Jimmy Carter had been an ineffective president. In 1984, however, the reelection campaign focused on reminding people that things had gotten better in the few years since President Reagan had taken office. Thus, the tag lines “It’s morning again in America” and “Leadership That’s Working.” Voters agreed with these encouraging sentiments and re-elected Reagan in a landslide with 49 of the 50 states.

Putting People First – That was the official campaign slogan of Bill Clinton in 1992. However, the internal slogan which campaign manager James Carville posted in the headquarters was the one which caught on: “It’s the economy, stupid.” After a while of George Bush (Sr.) saying things weren’t so horrible, Clinton’s focus on the sluggish economy was refreshing for many Americans to hear. Along with Clinton’s assurance that “I feel your pain,” this slogan captured the attention of voters, and he defeated Bush to gain the presidential office.

Change We Can Believe In – Perhaps you don’t remember that full slogan, but Barack Obama successfully used the word “change” again and again in the campaign. For a nation that had lost confidence in the current state of things, change was what they were looking for. Obama also had campaign ads featuring his photo with either the word “Hope” or “Change” underneath. But these slogans don’t begin to compare to the more memorable chant that cropped up in the campaign and throughout candidate Obama’s appearances: “Yes, we can!” Barack Obama became our 44th president with a theme of change and a can-do attitude.

For more campaign slogans, there is a good list at Tag Line Guru.

What campaign slogans do you recall? Which ones have you liked? Do you believe these soundbites impact election results? What do you think would be an effective slogan for Election 2012?

Be sure you come back here on Friday to see the terrific campaign slogan for Bayard-Lamb 2012. I will be interviewing them as part of their Election 2012 blog tour.

Sources: PresidentsUSA.net, Miller Center – University of VirginiaInternet Broadway Database, Tag Line Guru, Wikipedia, The Living Room Candidate