About Me

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J is an unpublished author, represented by Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency. J's first novel is a YA fantasy horror, regarding a siren who must choose between the haunting life and humanity. J draws on occasion, reads quite often, and is a founding member of the critique group 'Thoughtical Verbosity.'

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

'Round the Block

Quick reminder: This week's Requestion is open to responses until Friday's Weekend Shuffle, when I will shower my favorite answer with affection and as much free publicity as being spotted on my blog can afford.

Now! It's Wednesday, which means it's time to go

'Round the Block.

What does that mean? A little something different every week. The block may refer to a creative block, or it may refer to the fact that I'm kicking pebbles around the internet and seeing what rises to the surface.

Today, I'm not really sure what to talk about. My work-in-progress is going along well. The only real issue I have is in finding the time to get as much work done on it as I feel like I could if I didn't have other responsibilities and...if I wasn't so lazy.

I've redecorated my apartment. Switched everything right up. Got some fancy little hangers for all of my posters, which should prevent the pretties from becoming swiss-cheese-holed papers. Seeing them up now, though, I think I liked them better when they were all pinned flat against the walls, overlapping. I'm going to give it a few days for my eyes to adjust before I decide that the money spent on the frames was mega wasted. Because I do rather like the frames. I just liked the wallpaper effect of having the posters pinned directly better. But that might just be my eyes being dumb.

Plus, I'm sure my neighbors are sick of all the banging and thumping that comes from knocking pins into one's walls.

And that pointless little trip into J-Land is all I have! See you on Friday! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Requestion: Your Journey into Your Genre

Hello, and welcome to this Monday's

Requestion of the Week!

For those of you not in the know (at this point, that's everyone) here's the Requestion of the Week deal:

I, J Larkin, will begin with a little pondering about something. A question will be posed, and I will answer it for myself. Then, I will pose a follow-up request/challenge for you, my lovely readers.

All those who are interest, take up the challenge. Answer the question. Post your answer (or preferably a link to your blog where I can read your full, flowing, frabjuous response) in the comment section of the Requestion page. I will read and attempt to comment on all of your responses, and on Friday (which should give those interested plenty of time to procrastinate and then madly dash out a post in the last twenty minutes) I will put up a link or a quote from my favorite Requestion answer. For the moment, that's the big prize*. Free publicity.

And now, onto the main event! 

As I've mentioned, my current WIP is a fantasy horror. There are dead bodies, ghosts, hauntings, and a giant magical forest that wants to kill things a little. It's not all doom and gloom, of course, and I've tried to approach things in a more poetical fashion than the typical gorn (that's gore porn, for those of you not familiar with tvtropes.org) that is common in the modern horror tale.

This project is so completely different from 4th Leaf, and in fact is so completely different from what a lot of people would probably expect me to be working on, that I couldn't help but wonder how I arrived at it.

So let's take a little journey, back through my relationship with the Horror genre!

I originally had something actually horrifying here. Then I realized I wanted you to actually keep reading.

I learned to read when I was five years old, and once the door was opened there was no stopping me. It began with simple, typical five-year-old things, such as Little Elephant Turns 5, and the various Mercer Mayer books. I glommed onto every book I could find, and eventually started taking larger and larger paperback hostages, because I could. So I did. And before long I found a story that instilled in me a lifelong love of nautical adventures: Treasure Island.

"Who cares about that masterpiece?" you're asking. "I thought this was about Unpublished Author #999's history with horror?"

Too right. We have to remember, though, that I was 5-ish when I read Treasure Island. And some of those scenes were downright chillifying, and gave me the sort of delicious nightmares that leave you staring into space when you wake up, wondering how anything in your head could leave you trembling in the dark like that. It was my first experience being scared by the printed word, and it was exquisite.

Fast forward a few years. Before middle school, I latched onto and devoured most of the classic monster novels. Frankenstein. Dracula. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The works. I loved them all, and it never occurred to me that there was something odd about a preteen girl giggling over blood-sucking, body-throwing, life-leeching creatures roaming around Jolly Old England. They were awesome stories that made me afraid to step into the dark on my own, and that was sweet.

The problem with having a love affair with Classic novels, though, is similar to the problem with having a love affair with an elderly person (bear with me here): eventually, they expire. You reach an end number, and find yourself without any more dusty old spines to clamor for and--

You know what? Let's just leave that analogy there. The point is, there weren't any more classic novels for me to devour. So when I reached middle school I started trolling around in the Horror section of the library.

Crap. Crap. Crap.

It was all crap! Not even grade-A crap! Kids stupidly fooled around in the back seat of their cars in the exact same park where their friends got chopped into bologna fodder three days before. Lunatics sent vaguely threatening messages through newspaper ads because...uh...because they were the villains?

The final straw came after I read a book where the big 'EEEEEK' moment came from the fact that the heroine's boyfriend was cursed to be...ugly. Yeah. He can look like a normal human, but the fact is he's actually super ugly. Aaaaah. Shrieeeek. Oh nooooo's.

"Ugh, I have to take HIM to the prom? Oh, barf!"

That was it for me and the horror genre. Boo to the modern day horror authors! And a hiss to them, too!

Fast forward a couple of years. I'm at my Dad's house, perusing his collection of books because that's just how I roll. Medical jargon, medical jargon, clinical crap...Steven King? Holy crap, my Dad has basically every Steven King novel ever published.

Meh, I've avoided King ever since accidentally walking in on a viewing of 'It' which scarred my view of shadow puppets forever, but I'm a teenager and I am bored. This 'Green Mile' book is pretty short. It should entertain me for the weekend.

The Green Mile, which was released as a serial, took me about five hours to read. Then I stormed my Dad's book collection and gathered up everything else that King wrote, and may have sort of a little stuck some of them in my bag on the way out, because the weekend is only so long and the library was closed on Mondays.

Nom nom nom! Went my reading mouth against King's novels. I can't say that I've read all of them, because eventually I realized that King had a thing for random moments of extreme violence that simply did not interest me. But I was enchanted by the way King wrote. He cast out into the mind of the reader using voices--not just one voice--that were as inescapable as they were distinct. In a single novel, he could place the reader in the shoes of a runaway abused housewife, a psychopathic cop, and a monster in a painting, and not a single beat was missed. Part of the power of King's work was that the horror--the real flinchy stuff--wasn't about monsters or spells or space-age wizardry. It was about human nature. The terrifying part of the climaxes in his novels was that I could only bob my head and think 'Yeah, that's what would happen. That's exactly what would happen.'

When King was awarded with the title of Most Epicest Awesome Bigshot Author Evar a little while ago, I was not surprised. Even still, I had lost my taste for King and his dark chocolate stories. I thought, this time for sure, I am done with Horror. Even though I loved books with vampires and werewolves (real ones, not ones made from crushed disco balls) and all those sorts of bump-in-the-night things. But whatevs. That's just how I roll.

Then, within the last couple of years, my Broinlaw introduced me to this sweet book. Steampunk Zombie Horror set during Civil War times.

Look it up. Buy it now.

Um, yes please.

The book was Boneshaker. The author was Cherie Priest. And I. Was. Wowed.

I went all Amazon-stalky on Priest (meaning I bought all her books, not that I lopped off one boob and watched her from the bushes). Her first series was set in the south and involved a medium who has been stalked by ghosts and a crazy shooter all her life. Urm, okay, thank you, yes please, more.

I read the first book in this series, and it was one of those awesome experiences where you don't even realize you've done nothing but sat there for six hours with your nose buried in delicately crafted words. As I reached the end of the novel, I realized something odd.

I had the chills.

An actual, physical reaction to the tremor in my heart that Priest's story had given me. I was actually scared! WOAH!!

Priest's work sent me back on the path towards spooky things and nail-biters. It showed me that there CAN be elegance in the grotesque, and the horror genre is not something that has been destroyed in the modern day. Even though it can be hard to believe that, when you look it up on Amazon...yeesh.

Several months ago, after I made the difficult decision to, rather than work on a sequel as I was unsuccessfully querying 4th Leaf, work on a completely different project, I had a conversation with a friend. I was blocked and frustrated and everything I started was a dud. He suggested I work on a short story based on a favorite childhood experience I'd shared with him: my brother and I, running footloose and fancy-free through the beautiful woods of West Virginia, where my family used to camp.

I liked the idea. But the more I thought about it, the more it changed. The woods got darker. The trees more sinister. The children less innocent...and they were running towards a pool. A pool where they led wanderers, shoving them in, and when the wanderers crawled back out, they were children, too...children who wanted nothing more than to lure in more strangers.


And from there, I developed my current WIP: A fantasy horror novel titled Lorelei, Once.

And that, gentle friends, is my journey to my genre! Long and adventurous, wasn't it?
So now...tell me yours!

If you aren't working in a 'genre' situation, describe your journey into whatever medium, speed, flavor, or any descriptive term that you are working in or with or on. Any particularly eye-popping responses will be linked to on Friday's blog!


*At this particular moment in time, all cash and prizes take the form of free publicity. I'm an unpublished author working in a bakery, after all.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

But Why?

And thus concludes the longest break between blog posts that I have ever indulged in!

I promise, this Monday I have a brand new Requestion post already written up and ready to go, and from hereon out I will do my best to actually stick to the schedule. I even have a new theme for the vlog that will be a lot of fun! The Internets will be absolutely smothered in J.

Today, though, I have a muse-y blog for you.

It is graduation time, which means a lot of planning and prep and stress for some people, which translates readily into the bakery world. Dozens of cake orders that must be JUST PERFECT because dozens of people are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime moment that they have worked very, very hard for. Families come in from out of state, sometimes even from out of the country, and the last thing any of them need is a crappy cake to ruin the glorious moment.

Stress levels--and business flow--is high. That's just what happens around big events; holidays, celebrations, you name it. If you have lived long enough, you know this. If you have worked in customer service long enough, you know this.

Well, I'm 24 and I've worked in customer service since I was sixteen. So it takes a lot to surprise me.

Today was a fairly awful day at work. We were busy, which is fine because it makes the day go by much more quickly, and besides that three of my best friends were working with me, so the day could have just been fantastic. But throughout my shift there was a constant stream of uncalled for rudeness. This is also something you just sort of come to expect in customer service--when you have one person who is paying for another person to do something for them, there can easily be a sense of entitlement. Some people aren't built to handle that with grace. That's just the way it is, and it really does not have to be the end of your good mood, but it does tend to grind on you if you get enough of it all at once, and all throughout the day. Smiling and asking someone how they are doing should not result in them sneering at you to 'piss off' as they flick their wrist and march away with cookies in hand. That's just excessive. Somehow, it happened twice today.

One incident in particular jarred me. A woman came to the bakery and insisted that she needed a cake specially made for her by 5:30 tonight--which was kind of impossible, as the decorators were not only long gone, but left a giant stack of orders they had to do for the next day. Various suggestions were made--she could buy a kit and decorate her own cake (her idea, and $10), a cake could be written on for her (standard procedure, free) or a kit could be put on a ready-made cake and the price adjusted to fit (a hassle on any day, much less massively busy ones; $6).

I wasn't actually the clerk helping her. One of our new ladies was helping her, and unknowingly quoted the wrong prices. My friend was standing nearby and corrected her, unknowingly giving her a second incorrect set of prices. When I heard the incorrect quote, I hurried over, waited for a lull in the conversation, and explained what the actual charge would be. I smiled. I asked if there were any other questions. I went back to work.

A moment passed, during which the woman decided on having the new lady redecorate a cake for her. Then she came over to my side of the counter, where I was packaging bread with my friend.

"Excuse me?"

I looked up.

"I just wanted to let you know that that woman was very kind and sweet and helpful-"

She's smiling, I'm smiling. Good! Our newer worker is a good saleswoman.

"-and you were a complete SNOT."

The childish word and the absolute vitriol in the woman's voice takes me by surprise. She proceeds to snarl at me about how I barged in and I was so completely RUDE! She actually spits with some of her words, and points at me like I'm a dog that peed on the carpet. She rants at me for a bit more while my friend and I just sort of stare at her, slightly slack-jawed. I try to explain that I was just trying to help get the correct information out, and she slaps the explanation down with a couple more insults. So I apologize, and get back to work while she huffs back to talk to the lady working on her cake.

Later I explained to my manager what happened, in case the customer decided to lodge a complaint with an store manager.

That is all I am allowed to do. I can't defend myself. I can't fight back against name calling and insults that I got as a reward for doing my job. I just have to take it, and apologize for imagined slights, and get back to work. I try not to think about it for the rest of my shift, but my stomach is sour and my hands are shaking for a while after the outburst, and I spend more time telling myself that it doesn't bother me than I probably would if that were true.

Am I a snot? A rude person? Sometimes, yeah! I'm young. I listen to my music to loud. I'm intelligent enough to recognize when other people are idiots,  and snarkery is one of my favorite pastimes, hanging right below writing, and I am blessed because the two can mate and produce a beautiful baby in the form of snarky lit. But I need my job too badly to bring any of that out in front of customers. Because I know that one grouch could get me fired if they complained to the right/wrong manager.

But that's besides the point. I've met morons, and jerks, and irritants in humanoid form before. But I would never pin someone down and snarl at them about how much they suck just because I COULD. The only time I have ever given someone a tongue lashing was when they did serious emotional harm to someone I care about. Even then, I do it in private, and I let them have their say, and I try to remain respectful and calm.

And throughout the day, I wondered about this snarly woman.

What did she hope to accomplish by coming over, singling me out, and insulting me like that?

What's the next move for her? Does she go around and brag to her friends about how she told off some snotty rude ruderson at the grocery store, because they had the audacity to correct someone on a price?

What sort of life must she lead, that she derived so much pleasure in putting some nobody bakery clerk in Podunk, Montana, in their place?

Whatever has happened in my life--whatever magical series of events--that led me to becoming the sort of person who is not THAT sort of person, I'm grateful for it. If I ever become the sort of person who will verbally slap someone around just because they have to take it, and just because I can, may all my fingers go numb so I can never write again until I change back.

To my great relief and mild amusement, that woman sent someone else in to pick up her specially designed, late notice cake. With any luck I won't have to deal with her again. In the meantime, I'm taking this awful day and turning it into fuel for words. I wrote this muse-y, rant-y blog post, and because a coin flip turned out heads I'm posting it. The rest of the night belongs to my novel, which should benefit greatly from the 8-hour reminder of why I am not down with the day-job world.

Larkin Out!