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Smile Therapy

Having a big sister who married into the Movie Moghul family of Burlington, Vermont means that I’ve had almost unlimited access to free movie posters for the last thirty years. They covered my room growing up — all over my walls (Die Hard II, Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade) and, much to my mother’s chagrin, all over my ceiling. I saw them every time I laid back to dream: Crybaby, Sidekicks (RIP Jonathan Brandis), Enemies A Love Story, Pure Luck, Twins, and Taking Care of Business. I hadn’t actually seen all of the films, but I loved the poster art. What drew me to Taking Care of Business was the tagline: You are who you pretend to be. It just had this amazing ring of truth about it.

In my twenties, after I moved to Tennessee, I started watching that show Ally McBeal, where Peter MacNicol’s character introduced the concept of “Smile Therapy.” It’s a real thing — studies have shown that if you force yourself to stand up straight and smile like an idiot, you’ll actually feel happier. Happy is as happy does, essentially. MacNicol had great fun with this on the show…but who says life can’t imitate art?

When I started girling-up — wearing dresses and makeup and acting the princess that I am today — I first thought about it as a costume. It was easier that way. I pretended going to work was like going to a convention — something I did all the time. I never hesitated a moment to walk out in four-inch corset boots or full Neil-Gaiman’s-Death makeup…how different was a skirt and some eyeliner?

I remember the first time I effectively took Smile Therapy on the road — it was the very first Hypericon. I was in the throes of exhaustion and only days from taking myself to the doctor (a rare occurrence, to be sure). In my bag I brought two sets of clothes: one set to wear if I just felt more horrible than horrible, and one set if I decided to be cute and act the part.

The jeans and t-shirts never saw the light of day, and I had one of the most memorable weekends of my life.

Several years later, at the same convention, I remember riding down to the lobby in the elevator on Sunday morning in my maroon halter-top dress and having someone ask me where I found the energy to be so consistently cute and amazing. That’s not to say that I never crashed — oh, I did and still do (especially after Dragon*Con) — but I just put on the attitude with the outfit. Call it Method Acting or Smile Therapy or whatever you will…it certainly does the job.

This all occurred to me last night, at part one-of-two of the Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers concert last night. (Last night they performed the Glassjaw Boxer album; tonight is The Bear.) Happily, one of my favorite songs is on Glassjaw Boxer — it’s called “In Front Of The World.” Stephen wrote the song for his little brother before he went off to college to impart some worldly wisdom (which, Stephen told us last night, his brother summarily ignored). The song starts out:

Well, it’s hard to live in front of the world.
There’s only so much that you can pretend.
Write down what it is you’re thinking.
Take each day as it comes.
You never know what’s hanging ‘round the bend…

I’ve been feeling a bit in the doldrums lately — I’ve had nothing but major changes in my life for almost nine months now, and the hits still keep on coming. Nothing particularly impossible, and plenty to look forward to, but every step has been pretty darned life-altering. Some days I feel like I’m drowning in a state of exhaustion from which I’ll never surface. Like last night, for instance. I broke out the big guns — curled hair, cute dress, Alice in Wonderland shoes. I ignored the rude people behind us who talked to their kids through most of the show (thank you for leaving before the encores), and when we were allowed to get up out of our seats and dance, I be-bopped my little heart out and sang (when I knew the words) with my Fairy Goddaughters until my voice got husky.

I felt cute and wonderful (and very warm) all night long, and I had a great time. But when Stephen sang the first verse of that song, the pathetic little me underneath all the Smile Armor perked her ears up and listened. It is hard to live in front of the world and, coincidentally, I keep an ongoing list of things I need to do beside me at all times. The only thing keeping me from marking things off that list is me (and timing the DMV so I don’t have to renew my car tags until August).

If I can put on the smile and go to a concert, I can certainly wake up in the morning, put on that same smile, and get my ass to work. I’m not one of those folks who “needs to be inspired” or “needs to find my Muse” — the Muse is in the momentum. But nothing started is nothing finished, and the less I get finished, the longer this pseudo-depression might last. You guys know me enough to know I’m not a big fan of that apathetic crap. I’m more of a “take each day as it comes” kind of girl. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.

Tomorrow there’s a Kontis-Mitchell family reunion (the Greek side). I haven’t been to one of our reunions (when they’ve occurred) in five or six years. I now live close enough to attend. It’s been so long since I’ve lived so close to family…I miss them all immensely. I can’t wait to see them all. But that’s tomorrow. For now, the sun’s rising, and today has come. We’ll take this one first. Happy Friday to you all. Smiles on, everybody!

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Here’s My Beef

There is a serious grammatical pet peeve of mine in this poster.

Of course I’m not going to come right out and say it…what’s the fun in that?

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While I Was Out Partying at Necon

While I was out, Jason Sizemore left one of those pink post-its on my desk that said “APEX HAS A NEW ONLINE STORE. GO FIX ALL YOUR LINKS.”

Sure enough, there is a new online store. Click here and go check it out. It’s snazzy. I’m looking forward to getting my wicked new alien t-shirt. It’s the least Jason can do for making me go through all my bibliography pages and change the links. Well, that was the least he could do for ME. What he did for YOU was host a 40% off sale for all his in-print books (all digital & physical, no preorders).

That’s right — pick up a copy of Dark Faith (did you get on at Necon? I’m in it!) or Harlan County Horrors (because you’ve become obsessed with the show Justified and want to creep yourself out for Halloween) or Beauty & Dynamite (because you’ve dropped your copy in the tub. Admit it).

Just type in NEWSTORE40 when you check out to get the 40% off. This offer ends July 23, so you should just hop on over there soon. Now sounds good.

In the meantime, I’m going to go snag those links I just posted and fix my website…

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One Guy Can’t Ruin It For Everybody

I have seen a couple of double rainbows in my life, during very important times in my life. It’s one of those signs I feel the universe gives me to remind me that it hasn’t lost track of me — I’m on the right path, doing exactly what I’m supposed to do with my life.

And then some dorky guy posted a three minute cheesegasm to YouTube that everyone made fun of and turned this beautiful majestic freak of nature into a joke. I’m not even going to link to it. If you haven’t seen it and want to find it, you will.

Double rainbows remain awesome and magical to me. Especially after coming back from an awesome and magical convention like Necon, to the awesome and magical place where I’m supposed to be.

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Necon 30

Pics are up — slightly out of order, but amusingly captioned.

Definitely a weekend to remember.

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Dear Padawan

Ariell likes being called my Fairy Goddaughter far more than she likes being called my Padawan…but “protege” is so passe, isn’t it? I mean, once there’s a car named after it, the word doesn’t quite hold the same oomph.

You might remember Ariell from her fabulous contribution to Kill Brian Keene Day. Since then, I’ve taken her under my wing and given her what I wish I’d had at her age — a fairy godmother who knows a thing or two about writing.

So far, she’s far more prolific than I am (which makes her a GREAT writing partner because I feel shameful if I am not producing SOMETHING). We’ve just finished our first collaboration and I’m very excited about it. (News about that coming shortly.)

While going through her work, I find myself pointing out little bits of wisdom I’ve learned along the way. I thought…why not pass these bits along to other aspiring writers? Some of it is common sense, but all of it is good to keep yourself aware of. I’ll be tagging these posts “Dear Padawan”, so they’re easily searchable.

  • Don’t have two main characters with names that a.) start with the same letter or b.) rhyme. This can confuse the reader.
  • It is not imperative that you describe the skin, eye, and hair color of every character as we meet them.
  • Watch out for crybabies. Nine times out of ten, it makes a stronger scene if the character does not cry.
  • Watch for a proliferation of –ing words (and everything else in passive voice). It separates the reader from the characters.
  • THEN is implied. Use it very sparingly, if at all. The reader knows the order of what is happening, because they’re reading it in the order you wrote it.
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Not the Last, Just the Latest

The lovely Sara Larson recently pointed me in the direction of this video from Discovery of the birth of a fabled unicorn.

I wonder how Unicorno’s doing now. He was born a few years ago. Anyone heard of a follow-up? And more importantly…did the horn he shed have healing properties?

***

Discovery News: Legend met reality recently as Italian researchers discovered a deer with a rare abnormality – a single antler growing from the middle of its head. Rossell Lorenzi tracks the find.
Air Date: 6/17/10
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A Princess for All Seasons

I worked as a book buyer for nine years. We typically bought books at least 6 months ahead of publication date. Titles that were specific to a holiday or theme (SAT prep, summer reading) we called “seasonal titles.” So for nine years, I effectively celebrated Christmas in June. In September or October I’d bulk up our inventory for the winter holiday purchasing season…and then before midwinter, I’d send all the excess back.

One of the reasons I started making my famous annual holiday CD was to remind myself that December was still a time of celebration, and that the holidays weren’t really over and done with. It got myself–and others in my situation–in the spirit. A tougher job than one might imagine, or so I realized when I discovered how many of my friends had come to depend on it.

This year, the tables are turned and I’m the author on the other end with the seasonal Halloween title. Like the four other titles before this, I marked the release date on the calendar. I made plans to dress up and take a posse of my friends on a progressive bookstore run so that we could dance around tables and make pretty signatures and sell beaucoups of books.

Oooooor not. The only thing we discovered was the street date for Suzanne Collins’ new book, and that the air conditioner in Books-A-Million was broken. There was not an AlphaOops in sight.

My inner ex-buyer patted my depressed inner author on the back and told her not to be surprised. It’s July. Kids are still basking in the glow of summertime and picking up firework detritus off the lawn. And we can’t have Halloween until we have Back-to-School — it’s just a fact of life. Sooner than later — probably right after I come back from Dragon*Con — my book will be all over those shelves, awesomely front and center, and I’ll be the most-demanded author in the English-speaking world.

Until then, I need to cool my jets, keep my nose to the grindstone, and rest easy in the knowledge that all the fans who pre-ordered it and all the librarians who need to process it get first dibs. I kind of prefer it that way. For all of you in the know it’s waiting for you, wherever you want, whenever your little heart desires.

Buy AlphaOops early. Buy often. Be prepared, because when October comes around, H is for Halloween is going to smash through the walls like the Kool-Aid Man.

Oh, yeah.

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It Takes One To Know One

As I’ve said before, I am merely *a* princess of this world, not *the only*princess. There are many of us out there. Some call ourselves such, some merely shine from the inside. But if you look deep down into a princess’s soul, mark her manners and her bearing. You’ll know the real gold from fool’s.

The Park Avenue Princess, Royal Reviewer of children’s books extraordinaire, has deigned to review this fellow princess’s newest release over on her blog. (AT the very least, click over to check out the look of her site — it’s very posh. I approve.)

I won’t give it away, but I’ll let you know that AlphaOops: H is for Halloween is given a FIVE tiara rating. Woohoo!

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A is for Princess

You might remember Steven Saus from the “Year of Steves” blog earlier this year, or from my interview with him back in March about the story he had in the Timeshares anthology.I did all these things ’cause I just think Steve’s a cool guy. I certainly didn’t expect anything in return.

However, true to form in this beloved SF genre of ours, Steve sent me a few questions about my involvement in AlphaOops so that he could post it on his blog when AlphaOops: H is for Halloween was released. And so he did.

Here are his very lovely questions, and my very silly answers. Thanks, Steve!

I do want to add one thing…it’s not something I would have thought to put in the interview, because it didn’t occur to me until I saw the official post, and the picture of me that Steve used from when we met at Millennicon. I remember that dress I wore (also pictured here, doing the Time Warp with Scalzi). I remember it vividly because when I walked into the art show I was asked for the second time that day what my costume was. Completely unprepared for the question, I think I blushed, shrugged it off, and replied that it was just a pretty dress.

I should have told them I was Princess Alethea, Fairy Godmother Extraordinaire, of course. What do you mean you’ve never heard of her?

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