I had me a baby…in my car

May 15th 2014

On Friday, May 9th I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in the trunk of my minivan in the parking lot of the Frankford Township Municipal Building in NJ. And no, I am not kidding. Turns out, my biggest fear of giving birth in my car actually came true. And everything worked out fine. She was born healthy, with no complications, into the loving arms of her father who caught her. Her birth certificate will be filed in the municipal office feet from where she was born.

Friends and family have asked my husband and I how we were able to remain calm during the birth. Truthfully, my two previous unmedicated waterbirths with my midwife group were my preparation. I knew what to expect. I knew that my contractions were so intense that we’d never make it to the hospital. I knew to pull over. I knew to get into my spacious trunk and get on my hands and knees to birth my baby. (I’ll spare you some details). But I also knew I could handle this. I knew she’d be born okay. My husband knew how to deliver her.

We got this.

I have to thank the NJ State troopers (Officers Cisko and Jacinto!!) who arrived on scene within moments of me climbing into the trunk of our car. They helped my husband clear out our baby’s mouth and wrapped her in my husband’s t-shirt. They warmed her up and assured me she was doing well. They coordinated the EMTs and were kind and friendly to my two boys (oh yeah, did I forget to mention my two-year-old and four-year-old were in the car the entire time, completely oblivious. Thank God). One of the troopers also drove my minivan to the hospital when my typically unflappable husband was too shaken up to drive.

Anyway…so that was my Mother’s Day weekend. How’d yours go?

Our baby girl

Our baby girl


39 weeks

May 1st 2014

I’m 39 weeks pregnant today. 39 ginormous weeks pregnant. I’m tired, cranky and uncomfortable. I have no motivation to write either which makes me feel like a bad author. On the fun side (besides anticipating my baby girl’s arrival), I’m having a blast planning my blog posts for the Grunge Gods and Graveyards virtual release party (scheduled for later this month). My CP, Leandra, and I have some creative blog posts cooked up for the day including 90s playlists, character fashion shows and graveyard photo blasts (I took a bunch of photos of my hometown’s historic cemetery).

In addition, I got inspired to write a cozy adult mystery series because concentrating on new projects distracts me from being uncomfortable. I really should be working on my two YA projects, but it’s hard to think when you feel like a blue whale.

If anyone has any good cozy mystery writing resources, please post them in the comments section. I’ll add them to my For Writers page.


Good mail day

April 16th 2014

Today was an awesome mail day. First, I found a small box on my porch (coated in a thin layer of snow) with my new bookmarks! Pretty jazzy, right? I designed them myself and I triple-checked for typos. But I’m still paranoid there’s a mistake, so if you see one, don’t tell me.

Mah bookmarks!

Mah bookmarks!

And then this afternoon I went to my mailbox where I found a big box full of new books! A lovely gift from my fabulous CP, Leandra. The girl is an angel. She won several copies of these brandy-new YA hardcovers and gave me a set. I’m going to read them and then donate them to my public library whose YA collection is in desperate need of updating. It’s the ultimate gift for a YA author. I feel uber blessed. Now which one to start reading first?

A present from Leandra

A present from Leandra


Writing charismatic characters: Guest post by Elizabeth Corrigan

April 15th 2014

I am uberstoked to have my publishing sister, Elizabeth Corrigan write a guest post as a stop on her Raising Chaos blog tour. She is the author of the urban fantasy series, Earthbound Angels. In Oracle of Philadelphia (Book One), Elizabeth introduced us to Bedlam, a charming and unforgettable chaos demon. And I’m pleased to say that he’s the main attraction in Raising Chaos (Book Two). [With respect to Elizabeth, I think Bedlam would be the kind of guy you’d love to date, just not the guy you’d want to marry.] Elizabeth has written an insightful post on how Bedlam became this magnetic, alluring character despite his many flaws. Take notes because the best characters are the ones you wish you knew in real life and I’d really like to have some sangria with Bedlam.

Raising Chaos (Book Two) in the Earthbound Angels series

Raising Chaos (Book Two) in the Earthbound Angels series

Writing Charismatic Characters by Elizabeth Corrigan

I’ve gotten a variety of reviews of Oracle of Philadelpia. People love it, hate it, or fall somewhere in between. But the lovers and the middlers often have one thing in common: They adore Bedlam. People have told me they want to date him, or at least be his new best friend. I gave one friend a poster of the Raising Chaos poster, and she said it rendered her husband irrelevant in her affections. (She was kidding. I hope.)

On some level, I find this puzzling. For one thing, Bedlam would be really annoying in real life. The demon of chaos is lazy and irresponsible, and my editor insists on describing him as a “man-child.” Yet somehow his wit, good looks, and almost complete loyalty to Carrie win everyone over. But I’m still pretty sure no one would actually want to date him. Even Keziel, the woman who’s been in love with him for centuries, doesn’t want to spend much time with him. And Carrie wants him around, but she is infinitely patient and has had 3200 years to get used to his foibles.

The other reason I’m confused is that I never intended Bedlam to be such magnetic character, or for him to take over the book the way he did. I added him because Carrie need immortal friends, and I gave her an angel and a demon, for balance. I didn’t even think I was being all that imaginative when I made him. But somehow he grew into a character who’s taken over the whole series.

So how did that happen? How did Bedlam change from a flat character concept into a well-developed and beloved character? I think I used the same process with him that I do with a lot of my characters—trying to see the story from their points of view. Oracle started out as Carrie’s story, but at some point, that version felt incomplete. I needed to know what Bedlam was doing when he left Carrie in the diner, both when he was angry with her and when he was just wandering. At one point there was an extra chapter from Bedlam’s point of view—and one from Gabriel’s as well—but extraneous POVs were removed during editing. Looking at the story from Bedlam’s viewpoint really made me see Carrie’s actions from a different perspective and, I think, made the ending more poignant. A side occurrence was that Bedlam’s motivations and actions became more compelling to me than Carrie’s were, and he jumped into a central point in the narrative.

Thinking in Bedlam POV makes it easier to get into his headspace when I’m writing his dialogue. Bedlam doesn’t think before he speaks. His thoughts are tumbling over each other—in conversation with each other, as we find out in Raising Chaos—and he just lets them come out. Consequently, I let his words pour out of my fingers and into the computer. Much of this is blather that I need to go back and edit into meaningfulness, but it’s usually accompanied by crystals of insight into Bedlam that are often unintentionally humorous.

Some parts of Bedlam are very deliberate, though. Specifically, the randomness. Often when Bedlam says something truly bizarre or out of the blue, it’s not something that came to me. I have to tell myself, “Think of something random!” and hope something good comes up. Usually it does. After all, it’s not too hard to think of anything.

I use Bedlam as an example here, but I do the same thing with all my characters. I invent them as vague concepts, then try to see the world from their perspectives. Some, like Siren and Bedlam, are pretty easy. Carrie is a little harder but not too bad. Michael I have to pay a lot of attention to, and I’m still trying to get into Gabriel’s head space.  Does this then correlate with character charisma and likeability? I’m not sure. Certainly I like Siren and Bedlam best, but Gabriel and Carrie have their fans, and I’ve had people ship Carrie and Michael. (People have also hypothesized a relationship between Carrie and Lucifer. I’m not sure what that’s about.) Regardless, I hope I succeed in making the characters come as alive to the reader as they do to me.

Elizabeth CorriganElizabeth’s website 

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20 years ago (April 5, 1994)

April 5th 2014

Twenty years ago today, Kurt Cobain killed himself. I was nearly 15 years old and a freshman in high school. I even remember where I was when I heard the news — in the backseat of my friend’s mom’s white Ford Taurus. Her mom was giving us a ride somewhere, to the mall maybe? The news must’ve broken earlier than that, while we were in school, but without cell phones none of us would’ve heard about it until we got off the bus around 3pm. Later, I remember listening to heartbroken Courtney Love read Kurt’s suicide note to a group of tear-streaked fans sitting in a park in Seattle. I remember these things. Not clearly, but they’re there in the back of my mind where I file away impactful historical moments that I was around for.

Truthfully, I liked Nirvana a lot, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I didn’t own one of their albums. When I was 15, I had a huge crush on Billy Joe Armstrong from Green Day (even stitching the band’s name into my Jansport with embroidery thread). I listened to Dookie on cassette tape until the ribbon wore out. I loved angsty chick music like Sarah McLachlan and Hole (who had released their album, Live Through This, less than a week after Cobain’s death). My music tastes eventually evolved when I finally got a CD player for my birthday and discovered Radiohead, The Afghan Whigs and Tori Amos.

To be honest had I not just heard a piece about Kurt Cobain on NPR, the anniversary of his death would’ve missed me completely. And yet, the minute I hear Smells Like Teen Spirit on the radio I’m transformed back to the early 90s. I’m back in high school. I’m thrashing my head back and forth and singing along like I’m 14 again and not a mom driving a white minivan.

There’s no question in my mind that the 1990s was the best decade for music. Even my favorite bands today don’t make albums as good as the ones they put out in the late 90s. And I could probably write a treatise on how downloading a single does not produce the same level of excitement as getting a new CD on release day. And don’t even get me started on the pity party I throw myself every time my favorite 90s band tours and I can’t go because I’m nursing a baby…

A reflection on Cobain’s death twenty years later feels like a reflection on who I am at nearly 35 years old. The 90s were my formative years. It’s the reason I set my novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards, in 1996. And why every chapter heading is the title of a song from that period, a band that had been influenced by Cobain’s genius. A band whose music influenced me in some way. Music that makes me feel like I’m 15 years old even when I’m driving my kids to an Easter egg hunt at the local park. That transports me to the past. That’s what Cobain’s legacy means to me. It’s a return to my youth no matter what age I am. Whether I’m 35 or 55. Hopefully, I’ll be able to thrash my head a bit when I’m 85 too.