I'm working on a new novel, tentatively called Mindkiller. The protagonist is an assassin with supernatural abilities. I'm trying to give a pretty extensive backstory, inspired by Middlesex.

She needed a first boyfriend and I made him a punk rocker. I did that because I was a punk in the eighties--down with Raygun!--so it's a culture I'm familiar with, plus that part of the book--her youth--is set in the eighties.

But it didn't work. I realized he can't be her age, he can't be an awkward inexperienced punk, he can't be unemployed or an artist. He's gotta be a yuppie! A pretentious yuppie from a working class background, so he's got something to prove. And he's older than she is. Kinda like Patrick Bateman but not a psycho killer. So I went back and changed it all--even changed his name. I'm only fifty pages in and the boyfriend doesn't show up until page 20, so it wasn't that bad.

But I wondered if I could have avoided the extra work by doing character sketches. I normally don't do them--or even that much planning or mapping out of plot. I have a loose idea of where I want the story to go, and then I let the characters guide me and sometimes they change the story. I do some work in notebooks, but it's usually freewriting when I'm stuck. That or I do dishes. For some reason, doing dishes helps.

Any suggestions on mapping and sketching? Does anyone out there do extensive plotting? Does it change anything or do characters do what they want anyway?

Okay. Back to work!
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I'm not a matchmaker

I have an adorable couple in one of my writing classes. They sit together and flirt with each other and are in love. Well, they were.

Yesterday I was joking with them, and I said, "What will happen to this class if you guys break up? Not that it'll happen, it'll never happen, but it would certainly change the dynamic."

Guess what. They broke up that night.

I'm bad luck. Stay away from me, couples. Or don't take my class, at least.
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review of Exquisite Corpse reading in the style of Bill Lavender

i went to the bear's den at 6 with bill and nanc and mark and we met jennifer there and her husband is out of town so she was lonely. we had pizza and wine and beer buckets that came with ice and four beers in them. At 7 andrei and laura came in from the holiday inn and everyone hugged and laura has an email address now, she's gotten connected, her life has changed, and she showed us pictures of her dog wearing a red sweater. she gave me a pair of earrings from florida which i put in my holes which are still open even though i haven't worn earrings in years.

then mark got up on stage and read a poem about fish and then another one about the religious right and then terry came into the den. turns out he and bill knew each other years ago when they both played in punk bands but they're in their fifties now and aren't punks anymore but they still got attitude. they were students together in Fayetteville, and it was funny because they each had new wives, but each thought the new wives were the old wives they once knew, which of course couldn't be true, so it was a little awkward. and then andrei got up and read some poems and there was trouble with the PA, the bar was getting loud and he was talking soft and there was feedback, but then sujith walked into the den and he didn't stop to order a beer or get a table, he went straight to the PA and set to fiddling with knobs, and he stayed there all night, sensing we needed him and and we did.

bill read--he and nanc drove from hot springs but they live in new orleans and they told us stories about katrina, how they stole their neighbor's boat and paddled to the superdome because their house was an island, everyone else was under water but theirs is raised up off the ground so was spared but they were trapped. they didn't leave until the plumbing stopped working and when they left they took another neighbor plus two dogs and a cat in a carrier. they hit dry land and abandoned the boat and later gave their neighbor a kayak as compensation, and their neighbor didn't mind, who would? it was self-preservation.

so bill read some great poems wearing his skull cap and then more people read and drank and the bar got loud and you couldn't hear the poetry or stories anymore, it was just noise and the roaring in your ears. and then andrei left, they were tired, and he gave me a nice long hug and told me i was a fox, which i liked to hear, because what woman doesn't? and i hugged laura too and they went back to the holiday inn to take a bath. and then john read a story no one could hear and the reading was over.
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Dead Duck

Arkansas is the only state where yo-yos are legal. Or so I hear. For those not in the know, yo-yos are fishing lines you hang from tree limbs and just leave there. They're spring-loaded, so if a fish bites, the yo-yo reels it in like magic. When you paddle out to check your yo-yos later on, after a good night's sleep or some beer, the fish is there waiting for you.

We've caught a lot of big catfish this way--but a few days ago, there was a duck on the line.

The poor thing. It drowned dive-bombing for the bait. Mark brought it in to the house with the intent to dress it. Our neighbor, who is an authority on ducks and deer and fryin fish and all things natural and southern, said that the breasts are good eatin.

Mark set it on the kitchen counter. The cats meowed at our ankles. And my inner goth teenager came out. Here was death, staring me in the face, the stiffened corpse of a duck who died for nothing. Like all of us! Doomed!

It was the dead of winter, with snow on the ground in Arkansas. The trees were bare; ice hung from the gutters; the duck was dead.

I took pictures. We decided it'd be too much trouble to extract the breast. Mark threw the duck back into the lake. I ran upstairs to put on black eyeliner.

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zombies and toys: Claymation Zombie Video

Excellent video from Zombies and Toys.
Reminds me of Dead Alive, but with blue brains!

zombies and toys: Claymation Zombie Video
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Youth in Revolt(ing Cocks)

My mother-in-law sent us Youth in Revolt because she thought I would find it funny. It's a movie out now with Michael Cera, who seems to be in everything these days; I don't mind that. I loved Arrested Development.

I started the book a few days ago and it's funny, but I have one major question: Are teenage boys really that obsessed with their penises? The main character's concern is constant, bordering on pathological. Dick jokes galore and other things not appropriate for a family-friendly blog!

I need to know if it's an accurate portrayal. I'm a girl; I don't have any sons; and my husband won't give me a straight answer. Is it an exaggeration for comic effect or is this the way teenage boys (who grow up to be men) think?

If it's true, it sure does explain a lot.
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Valentine's Day Chainsaw

I found what I want for V-Day. Is anyone listening?

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Zombies invading literature

The other day I came across this short story. It's called I Am a Zombie Filled with Love and it's about a zombie, a thinking, feeling zombie--one who, you know, loves. And then I saw that it's being made into a movie--without the book even being published.

And I was like damn, you go Isaac Marion. You go, I Monster Zombies who think and feel. There's hope for my own zombie hero. Brains!. There's hope for all of the misunderstand shamblers out there. They are more than automatons. They are leading actors, movie stars, heartthrobs!

Gurgle. Moan. Unnnnh.
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Big Foot Foot

My husband is chasing Big Foot. First it was gar fish. He bagged that. Good, fine, wonderful. But now he's after a creature supernatural.

So we went Big Foot spotting on Sunday. And it was snowy but beautiful up in the Ozarks. The whole time I kept asking myself: Can I be with a man who believes in Big Foot?

(I believe in My Pal Foot Foot, by the Shaggs. But that's art! Not myth and legend.)

I'm not a believing woman. I want a spaceship to land in front of me and take me on board, examine me. I want to see the Virgin in the tortilla. Like Mulder, I want to believe. But I need proof, evidence. Last week my husband interviewed some old-timer who told him about foot prints and Big Foot screams and Big Feet living in hippie communities and that was enough for him. Now he's blowing distressed rabbit calls in the snow hoping to attract a yedi:

It was cold on Sunday. The snow was white and crunchy. On the way down the mountain, the Jeep bounced and slid in the rutted, icy road, and I looked through the pines. I squinted, I conjured, I clenched my stomach. I wanted to see Big Foot. I willed him to exist. He wasn't there.
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Brains on sale now!

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