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26 posts from June 2005

June 30, 2005

Why I Got Rejected

You may have noticed I am stuck in Wait and See mode—hanging around while my agent and editor decide my fate.  The other Book Tarts have contracts, deadlines and actual pages produced, while I listen for the phone.  Today I tried to focus on wallpaper for a bathroom to stop myself from writing, my compulsion.

Nail biting is part of the writer’s life.  I imagine all manner of rejection.

I wish I could say I’ve been plenty rejected just to make aspiring writers feel as though they’re not alone in the struggle, but I haven’t.  Sure, I’ve been given a few passes. I did not weep.  Did not go running off to self-publish because I felt I had Something Important To Say. Nor did I delude myself that my golden words deserved to be published. I didn’t keep sending the same material to a zillion other editors because, honestly, in this day of conglomerates, a handful of publishing professionals pretty much speak for the rest and don’t bother telling me about some now famous writer who was rejected 100 times and finally triumphed on the bestseller lists.  The odds are not in favor of that happening often. So I re-write or put the offending pages in a drawer, and I move on.

I am driven to write (not wallpaper) but I must sell, too . . . or start looking for a job where the voices in my head are forced to behave themselves.

Maybe I’m different from most writers, but I’ve learned to be heartless about rejection. After 25 years, I’d be a mess if I didn’t find it . . . educational. I believe rejection makes me stronger.  It certainly makes me smarter. And anyway, it’s not me who’s getting rejected, it’s only some work I produced that should have been better. Each book is harder to write than the last one—I must analyze that statement sometime, I suppose—but when I fail, I want to learn from my mistakes.  I want to hear what’s wrong so I can be a better writer.

I once heard Nora Roberts talk about Author Paranoia.  She advocated embracing the constant, nagging feeling of inadequacy we writers endure, because such self-flagellation makes us work all the harder--to re-write and polish until someone tears the manuscript from our hands. I like that kind of thinking.  My neurosis controls my destiny.

Here are some reasons I’ve been rejected over the years. Maybe some of this stuff will ring your doorbell, too:

  1. My story wasn’t new or interesting or “fresh.” Heart-breaking, but true:  Trends come and go in commercial fiction.  If it takes ten years to write your first book, the ship has probably sailed by the time you submit it. So? Write faster. Or put the first manuscript in a drawer and write the second, more creative one in nine months. Not “fresh” enough? That’s publishing speak for out-dated, unmarketable, or not a sufficiently unique slant on a classic form. “Not right for us at this time” means the same thing. Your reader found it old hat.  It wasn’t good enough.

  1. My writing was boring.  A distinctive storytelling voice is probably the single most important quality editors are looking for right now. Everybody who’s ever written a letter home from summer camp thinks they can write, but it ain’t necessarily so. Good wordsmithing is still essential for success. The goal is to build your facility with language until you can evoke emotion in a reader.

  1. I thought I could break into another genre because it looked easy and I didn’t bother to read extensively or learn what the conventions of that genre were, so I ended up creating a string of clichés that deserved to be tossed out a window in confetti form.  This happens a lot in the romance genre, which looks simple to the uneducated and the overly confident. Fifteen years ago I figured I could write a time-travel, outer space horse opera.  How hard could it be? I’d seen Star Wars and read Lonesome Dove, right? And I was highly entertained by what I wrote.  But then I picked up a few books and realized I had assembled a string of ideas that had been done more times than the kid next door has seen the Sith movie—which is almost uncountable.  Fortunately, I never showed it to my agent.  Whew. 

  1. My query letter was lackluster.  Now, really.  Shouldn’t your query letter be the best damn writing you’ve ever produced? Smart? Engaging? With a great writerly voice? Funny if the book is supposed to be funny? Clear about the basic premise? Specific about the plot? It took a while, but I finally realized:  It’s advertising, Stupid! Some writers dash off their query letter when the envelope is already addressed and the manuscript stuffed inside. C’mon, that’s just begging for rejection. And here’s one of my career epiphanies: Assembling my query letter is often the time when I realize there’s a major story element missing in my book.  (It’s usually The Ticking Clock.)  Which is why I now write my query letters early---when I’ve got, say, 100 pages written in the usual tumult of first draft excitement and there’s still plenty of time to re-work the whole damn thing. At this stage, I hone my story idea down to a Hollywood-style log line.  Once I’ve got my premise expressed in simplest terms, it’s a lot easier to make sure the manuscript delivers.

  1. I sent to the wrong person.  Going down the alphabetical list in Writer’s Digest is absolutely the dumbest way to find an agent.  (Ever meet Dominick Abel?  Considering he’s the first choice for a million wannabes every year, I can understand why he’s such a grouch.)  Ye gods, do some research!  Attend some conferences! Subscribe to PubLunch.  Network with authors.  If you suddenly decided you wanted to become a brain surgeon you wouldn’t just wander into a hospital and ask for a scalpel, would you? You’d get yourself educated first.

  1. I chose Dullsville for my setting.  Or didn’t fully utilize my setting.  Or it wasn’t a viable marketing element.  If you’re getting rejected, ask yourself why you chose the location for your story.  Yeah, everybody says write about your own backyard, but if you can’t make it exotic to someone who lives on the Upper West Side, you should do some research and chose another locale.  Make the “world” of your story vivid and integral to the story. In some genres, this dynamically depicted world is more important than the plot.

  1. My protagonist was a bore.  Or too passive.  To get published in genre fiction today, you must create a compelling, active person with a genuine problem, a distinctive voice, a clear motivation, and a full life populated by friends and family who also have lives and don’t just exist to serve the plot. When my protagonist is the least interesting character in the story—which can happen when you’re happily creating quirky suspects in a mystery--I know I’ve got a problem.

  1. Nothing happened.  Rule of thumb:  New writers should probably throw out the first three chapters of a pop fiction manuscript.  Those pages are usually backstory that is important to you, but not the reader. Get to the action.  Engage and surprise your reader as soon as possible.

  1. No drama.  A simple telling of events isn’t a story.  Good books take the reader on an emotional Jack Rabbit (the roller coaster http://www.kennywood.com/    you sex-crazed maniac, not the sex toy!)—culminating in that much-discussed satisfying ending.  (I’m not going to dignify the RWA edict about what makes an ending satisfying. For gawdsake, how juvenile is—okay, okay, nevermind.)  You decide what’s the best payoff for your reader, then set it up and deliver. Likewise, learn to dramatize the small moments, too.  Michael Chabon is a god at this.  Read his work to see how he crafts each dramatic beat.

  1. My story lacked ideas.  Sure, you can write about a woman who’s trying to rescue her kidnapped kid (just don’t expect me to read it!) but unless the book is about something else, too, it’s one-dimensional.  Can you write about substance abuse? Infertility? Something that will help snag reader interest, sell your book and appeal to reviewers? I know, this sounds like plot-by-numbers, but layers will lift you out of the slush pile.

  1. I didn’t entertain.  My first goal is to surprise and delight my reader. On every page. When my manuscript is “finished,” I go back and ask myself what exactly is on each 81/2x11 sheet to entertain my reader.  If there’s nothing there, I re-write.

  1.   I didn’t have an X-factor.  The X-factor is some unique element that makes your work outstanding.  And it takes outstanding to be published these days. 

Here’s my thinking:  Everybody who wants to publish commercial fiction must come to terms with rejection.  I choose to intellectualize it, I guess. When my work is turned down, I evaluate what I’ve learned from the experience and write something new. Something better.  That’s harsh to hear if you’ve still got the tender heart of a newbie or were never cut from your little league team, yes, but nobody ever promised publishing would be easy.  I aspire to the big leagues.  Which means I let stories unravel from that strange place inside that won’t let me be happy doing anything else.--But I must always dispassionately examine the results and make improvements wherever possible.

Except right now I’m waiting for the phone to ring.  So I’m trying to think about wallpaper.


June 29, 2005

Bad Car-ma

Bad Car-ma

Caustic Ever have one of those days that should come with a warning sign?  Full of little things gone awry which push you toward the brink of crying, “Enough already!”  When you’re sure if you step off the curb the cross-town bus will appear and mow you down?

Is there anyone who does feng shui on humans?  Who’ll tell you, not where to place your sofa, but if you should part your hair on the other side or stop wearing purple in order to get your karma back in whack?  If there is such a person, give her my number, please. 

I have lots of “one of those days.”  I’m chronically dropping things, tripping on sidewalk cracks, dripping toothpaste on a new shirt, losing an earring down the drain.  Yeah, I know, trivial stuff, but irritating nonetheless.  An example of recent molehills:

  • My AOL crashed yet again, requiring a call to tech support, which is akin to instant hypertension. Clearly, the inane recorded voice offering options to press buttons did not comprehend my cries of “Give me a human, dammit!”  I finally talked to “Chip”—whose Indian accent sounded a lot like “Bob,” the Dell tech support dude, whom I’d chatted with last week. Thankfully, Chip’s instructions worked, and I could get online again before the cold sweats hit.

  • My MSWord shut down mid-work, so I lost everything I had not saved.  If I never see another error message, I will die happy. Word does this to me on a regular basis, and Windows isn’t much better.  If Bill Gates didn’t live so far away, I’d egg his billion-dollar mansion and TP his trees right before it rained. 

  • My geriatric cat (let’s call him “Barfmeister”) spewed all over my freshly made bed, right as I was about to crawl between the sheets.  So as not to feel left out, my younger cat (let’s call her “Spaz”) pretended I was a piece of furniture, climbed up my leg, and left me bleeding.  (Sarah, can I nominate them for “Dysfunctional Pets of the Year”?)

But, hold on, this is my favorite:  the most expensive car wash ever.    

The day started out pretty well, so I almost figured the bad karma was over.  My mom and I went to Harrah’s, and I had $15 of free cash (I know, it’s never free) and a coupon for food.  We gambled on the penny slots, and each came out ahead by $30 or $40 and celebrated with free lunch at the Voodoo Lounge.  Afterward, I ran errands in the 97 degree St. Louis heat, seemingly without incident.  Hit the dry cleaners, the bank, and the Shoe Stop where I found a pair of deep-pink slides that match my Arden B. jacket (I’ve been looking for weeks).  I was feeling kinda lucky.

And then it happened.

I stopped for gas at the Mobil on Olive, because I love their brushless car wash.  I filled up the tank, pulled into the car wash queue, and took my turn inside the tunnel, singing along to Switchfoot’s “Your Life” as the blobs of bird poop vanished from the windows.

As I pulled out—and spaced out—I got a wee bit too close to the left side of the exit.  Caught my rearview mirror and heard a cracking sound.  Which is when I realized the mirror wasn’t retractable.  I backed up, straightened the nose of my Saturn coupe, and drove out to find the side mirror dangling from a cable, the screws that held the bracket to the car snapped like green beans. 

Though Harley forbids her kids from saying this word, I can’t help myself:


Driving with my window down and my hand clutching at my wounded mirror, I sped to the Saturn dealership, like an ambulance with a cardiac case that needed urgent medical attention.  Two folks from the service department dashed out to examine the injury, ultimately declaring it’d be $250 to order a new part and have it painted to match. 

Excuse my foul language again, but:

Double poopyhead!

It’s okay, I told myself.  The car was due for an oil change anyway, so we scheduled that for the same day as the repair job.  With utmost care, they duct-taped the mirror so I could use it while I drove home.  Which would’ve been great—albeit ugly--but the tape came unstuck in the heat, leaving the mirror hanging helplessly above Highway 40.  I’m sure other drivers stared and shook their heads, scoffing, “Look at the fool who broke her mirror in the car wash!”  I should just wear a T-shirt marked with a “B” for “birdbrain,” sort of like Hester Prynne’s “A,” only not as much fun to earn.

Friends wonder why I don’t have sharp knives in my house.  It’s because I’ve cut myself once too often with the dull ones that come in the flatware set.  I won’t take the risk.

But it’s nothing new.  My lack of grace is long-standing. As a kid, I played jump rope with a dog’s leash tied between a chair and a marble coffee table, ending in a trip to the ER.  I still have the scar on my forehead.  I was the “girl line leader” in first grade who got her thumb caught in the hinge-side of the door when the idiot “boy line leader” slammed the damned thing shut.  Yet another trip to the ER, where I almost lost the tip of my finger.  Caution_1

My being a writer is probably safer for everyone.  I work at home.  My main equipment is a keyboard.  I’m not flying a plane, driving a bus, or operating heavy machinery where I could take other people down when my karma heads south.  I deal with words, which are only as harsh as I make them and can’t draw blood unless a reader gets a paper cut from turning the pages of my books.

Might it be good feng shui to surround my desk with CAUTION tape?  Possibly. Or perhaps I could drape the tape across my chest, like a beauty queen’s sash.  Because I do believe I’d make a really good “Duchess of Klutz.”  Just don’t give me a tiara.  Those things are sharp. 

Suehouston_5 Cheers,


P.S. My mom suggested insulating myself in bubble wrap.  The FedEx guy suggested I use Saran wrap, but that's another blog entirely.

June 28, 2005

dysfunctional pets

Pets. They meow outside my bedroom door sometimes, I suspect, just for perverse kitty kicks. They’ve dug up my flowers, nibbled holes in various electrical wires (thereby endangering my entire family to a rapid house fire) and, of course, barfed right in the middle of brand new carpeting. So why do I have them?

Specifically, why do I have this misfit, ragtag bunch? The lineup includes a grumpy, insanely overweight cat who would serial kill dogs if she could just get up the energy; a hairy, smelly St. Bernard/border collie/malamute/kitchen sink mix who has some weird nose problem and, perhaps saddest of all, an egotistical parakeet suffering from an undiagnosed sexual disorder. If there were an ascot for parakeets, Calvin would wear it. Preferably with a purple, silk smoking jacket.

As I'm waiting for my agent Heather to get back to me about my latest proposal (HEATHER!), now's as good a time as any, I figure, to plead for advice on the homefront. Dear Abby - Help me. My pets are psychological basket cases.

First, the cast of characters:

BEN: Scared of a Mouse.

He weighs in at 130 lbs and smells like a combination of old socks and overcooked broccoli. Strangers live in fear of him. UPS throws packages at the top of the driveway at the sound of his deep bark. Little do they know that every night he goes to sleep with his “dolly” which he has licked and drooled on to doggy perfection so that after years of slobber it is stiffer than granite. If a human is hugging a human in our household, he will insinuate his malodorous body. He likes to smell flowers, delicately sniffing the lilacs.

The Ferdinand of big dogs. Yahooben

We got him for free, of course, what they call a VFD – Vermont Farm Dog, a quaint term that I wished I had marketed to New York city slickers - but which really means mutt. A few years ago his black nose disappeared and was replaced by a raw red one. Collie nose, they call it. It has made him shy, very insecure and timid. What it is, is doggie lupus and to some people that’s just made him the more terrifying.

My husband – who tends to be more holistic and trusting than I – took Ben up the road to the “alternative vet.” Yes, in Vermont there are such things conveniently up the road. The hippie vet suggested a “chicken diet” – raw chicken – and Charlie came trundling home with a box of chicken carcasses and a recipe for “dog slurry,” which, I am here to tell you, could serve as special effects for the Exorcist. Next I knew our downstairs refrigerator was filled with bags and bags of raw chicken, the blender was whirring greenish brown dog goop and cod liver oil was a fixture on the kitchen counter.

Still, the red nose.

What breaks my heart is how Ben fears the dog next door, a barking, yipping Doberman Pincher name Mouse. So named Mouse because it is a specific kind of Doberman Pincher. A Minipin to be exact, about the size of Ben’s right paw. So small that when he barks his whole body jumps off the ground.

Ben runs and hides whenever he gets loose.

JANEY: Shut up and feed me, human.

There are two things Janey’s good at – eating and sleeping. Occasionally at the same time. (Memories of my narcoleptic eighth-grade World Studies teacher come to mind. No, no, no!)

We’re not exactly sure how old Janey is, seeing as how we got her from the humane society, but we know she’s at least 14. She used to be a relatively happy cat, liked to go on hikes, lunge at baby birds, even kick a little rabid raccoon butt. Once we got Ben though, it was all downhill. Kitty depression. No reason to get up in the morning. Comfort eating.Yahoojaney

She's tipping the scales at eighteen pounds and I'm pretty sure that if there we such a thing as kitty cigarettes she'd be up to three packs a day. For six years she's been going through this existential crisis with no reason to go outside except to lie in the sun, eyes closed to the cruelty of it all. Did I mention that I have a chipmunk living in my car?

Existential cats are lousy mousers.

CALVIN: Hey, baby, what's a chick like you doing in a cage like this?

Finally, I understand the term trying to get a little tail. Calvin's been trying to get a piece of tail for six years, ever since we got him for our daughter's eighth birthday, and yet no girlie action. In fact, there are quite a few similarities between Calvin and Mick Jagger, aside from the obvious that Mick can get laid with the snap of his fingers and no matter how much vomit (parakeet aphrodisiac) Calvin spits into his cage-mate's beak, he still can't get it on.

Both Mick and Calvin strut. They puff up. They sing nonstop in rather unmelodious tunes. Clara, Calvin's pretty blue girlfriend, seems enchanted. She takes the vomit. She lets him pay and drive her home and then slaps him if he so much as places a foot on her rear end.Yahoocalvin

As if this weren't bad enough, I had to take care of my sister-in-law's parakeets for two weeks, one of which is a male. Clare mooned after him, flying over to his cage, throwing herself against the bars like a groupie at a Bon Jovi concert. Calvin, meanwhile, kept staring at himself in the mirror, telling himself what a hot stud he was. Jumping Jack Flash.

So if anyone out there is a pet therapist, either professional or amateur, I'm all ears. That is until my proposal is approved - then the critters will have to fend for themselves. Ascot or no.

June 27, 2005

Johnny Depp's Bathrobe


I have no idea how to write a book. I’m fascinated by how other people do it, but there is clearly no
consensus. So here’s my method: three pages a day. Today I’m on page 36.

My first book took me eight years to write, and the second one took 15 months, and both experiences
were completely different, and now I’m on book number three, which I need to have done in 13 months,
which for some writers (Susan McBride) would seem like a piece of cake. I am not of their number.

So I get up every day around 5:40 a.m., my Inner Clock yelling, “Wake up! The house is quiet!” and I
drag myself out of bed, promising myself a nap later in the day and then I head downstairs and turn on
the coffee machine and computer and fight the urge to clean the kitchen. Then I write.

My goal is not to write beautifully. My goal is to write 3 pages. I might get on a roll and write a flowing
paragraph or a long conversation (dialogue is great because it uses up a lot of room) but usually it’s a
sentence, a refill on the coffee, another sentence, take out the garbage (which isn’t exactly cleaning the
kitchen), another two sentences, empty the dishwasher (getting close to cleaning the kitchen), half a page
of dialogue, wipe off the counters (which looks a lot like cleaning the kitchen), then a sudden and
possibly exciting chapter ending, something I try to do near the top of a page, so I can put a page break
in, which is like getting a free page. I can say I wrote three pages that day, when, if you want to be
picky, it’s actually only 2.3 pages, with a lot of white space. Ending with the words: To Be Continued . . .

If all the stars are aligned, I get these pages done before the other creatures of the house arise and
start talking and/or whining (if I’m lucky, the humans talk and the dogs whine, and if I’m not, they all
whine) and demand breakfast, help with diapers and buttons and the tying of shoelaces. Plus the locating
of important legal documents and stuffed animals (Author as Divining Rod). Later, when our beloved au
pair starts working, I return to those pages, and if they’re still not done, I’ll return to them again late in
the day, when everyone’s asleep.

3 pages. That’s it. While it’s not drudgery, it’s not always fun. Because most of my Inner Genius, when it
comes out at all, comes out in the 6th or 7th draft. Or the 11th or 12th. So I have to suffer through some
really pedestrian, maudlin, cringe-inducing, or just plain dull writing while I get the first draft cranked out.

Why 3 pages? Because with my last book I did 2 pages a day, and it worked fine until 3 months before
deadline, when I was on the 5th draft but it was still a big mess and then I had to hide from my children
--at Christmas time--in an upstairs bathroom to wrestle it into shape, and I came out looking like Jack
Nicholson at the end of The Shining (or Johnny Depp in Secret Window)(there was a bathrobe involved,
and really scary hair). I don’t want to spend next summer hiding in the bathroom, so I’m upping my early
production quota to 3 pages a day. I’d try for 4 pages, but then I’d look like a Stephen King character

Because it’s not just those 3 pages, of course; there’s the research, revision, and plotting (also known as
outlining, but I try to avoid the “O” word). There’s daydreaming and night dreaming and doodling.
Nancy’s partial to Post-its. My weakness is dry erase boards. It’s the preschooler in me. I need pictorial
representations of this mess that will eventually run into the hundreds of pages. I do have a 3-page
document ambitiously entitled “Plot” that starts out as a detailed description of what I’ve written so far,
then decomposes into “and a bunch of other stuff happens and then whatsisname shows up, someone
else dies, and somehow they find the thingie.” (As you’ve figured out by now, my editor does not, like
Nancy’s, demand book proposals. Synopses. Plots. Outlines. There is a God.)

Lee Child, who writes fabulous thrillers, told me, when I was in my Jack Nicholson/Johnny Depp bathrobe
phase last year, that everyone’s second book is the hardest, but that the third book writes itself.
It’s possible he was being kind, throwing some rope to a drowning woman. He’s that kind of guy.
It’s also possible that his books write themselves, but that my books, if left alone, would take
themselves to the movies and binge on popcorn. In any case, I’m not taking chances. I’m slogging
onward at my 3-pages-a-day pace, 7 days a week. In spite of the Inner Witch that cackles at me,
saying, “it’s all shit! You’ll be deleting it all tomorrow! Hahahahahahahaha!”

. . . To Be Continued . . .

Harley Jane Kozak

June 24, 2005

Just Shoot Me


Gunbang_1 Wow, somehow, I thought a picture was just a picture.  Boy, was I wrong.

Earlier this month (see “Mirror, Mirror”), I talked about my consultation with the top photographer in St. Louis because I sorely needed a kick ass author photo.  It sounds silly, but I’m tired of book club ladies telling me how much better and younger I look in person than in the back of my novels.  (Maybe that’s what I get for using freebies.)  Really, I’d love a shot so fabulous that no one recognizes me in person, or so they have to squint to see something familiar in the shape of my nose or the earrings dangling from my lobes.

So, after doing some upper body workouts, using an Aveda Intensive Hydrating Mask, shopping with a stylist, and having a manicure and pedicure, all at the photographer’s request in order to be in ship-shape for the shoot, yesterday was the Big Day.  I showed up at her studio in downtown St. Louis with my hair stylist in tow--after he’d opened the salon early to fix my hair (it was his day off, and I bribed him to help).  I had my four fabulous outfits picked out by the stylist in the Banana Republic zipper bag, my shoes in a tote, and other odds and ends stuffed in my purse. 

The makeup artist was there to greet us, and, after some chitchat, we realized we knew each other.  She was a Pi Phi from KU, and we’d lived in the sorority house at the same time, though she’s a year younger.  Talk about a small world.  So we were yakking like old pals by the time the photographer arrived to check my makeup and hair.  The makeup rocked—I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror.  I’m figuring Narcissus had a makeup artist work him over before he glanced at his reflection and fell in love with himself.  I was sorely tempted to ask myself out for drinks, at the very least.  It’s amazing what a little spackle and paint can do to a girl whose normal routine is eye pencil, zit cover-up stick and lip gloss.

Only the photographer didn’t like my hair.  It was too styled, too perfect.  I looked like Nicole Kidman in “The Stepford Wives.”  (God forbid I should look like Nicole!)  They literally spent hours messing with my hair, eventually giving it a high fashion look, straighter and feathery on the ends.  I have a Polaroid test shot, where I come off a little like a pissed off rock star.  But, still, it’s a better photo of me than I’ve ever seen.  So I was pumped.

For eight and a half hours (yes, from 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.), I changed outfits four times, had my hair re-done, makeup retouched, and I posed in a million different positions with music blaring and the photographer prodding, “Don’t smile so big!  You look like a cheerleader!  Give me dangerous!  Channel Angelina and give me sexy!  You’re too intense!  Your eyes are too wide…you’re looking scary like someone from Star Trek!”  I guess, “Say cheese!” doesn’t cut the brie anymore.

By day’s end, I was physically exhausted.  My body felt like I’d either completed the Iron Man Triathalon or survived ten rounds with Tyson (before he went mad and started biting off ears).  It took 15 minutes in a hot shower and two shampooings to get the gunk out of my hair and a fierce scrubbing to get all the makeup off my face.  Removed the fingernail polish, too.  Ah, yeah, there she was, beneath it all.  The girl who writes books.

I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, had only had a single potty break during my session.  I used to think of models as airheads gifted with spectacular bods and little else; but now I have a new appreciation for them.  Maybe being able to elicit a particular expression on cue and move your body like a dancer, giving the photographers exactly what they want without having to stop the shoot every five minutes to explain, is truly an underappreciated art.  My hat’s off to Giselle, Naomi, and Tyra anyway.  I wouldn’t want to do it everyday.  God bless 'em.

I should have the proofs by next week, so I'll let you know how they look.  My hopes are high that I'll find the perfect shot, or several of them.  But now that I've had my brush with high fashion photography, I think I'll get going on the fourth Debutante Dropout Mystery.  Nothing like a job where you can go to work in your jammies.



P.S.  Thanks to Sheridan, my favorite cop in Houston, for this pic from my signing with Eric Stone last weekend.  No makeup or hair people required.

June 23, 2005

I Agree With Janet E

I am a writer without a contract.  I finished the last Blackbird book a couple of weeks ago.  Then I wrote up a new proposal and sent it to my agent. And now I wait. It’s summer, and the publishing industry goes on vacation, so catching all the players in their offices in the same week is tricky. But because I am who I am, my imagination has gone into overdrive.  What if it’s “game over” for the Blackbird mysteries?  Is it back to the drawing board for me?

So I’m trying to come up with a new idea, something other than the Blackbirds. You see, I agree with Janet Evanovich. (See yesterday's NYTimes  http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/22/books/22jane.html?pagewanted=1 ) These days, a successful author must treat writing like a business.

Therefore, in a business-like fashion, I’m looking for material to please the people who actually pay money to be entertained. I am looking for ways to “meet consumer expectations.”

I flip through magazines I’d never buy if I weren’t seeking ideas.  I slowly browse bookstores.  I listen to the radio.  I watch television.  (Do you have a clue about the Gastineau girls? Ye gods.) Newspapers, Amazon reviews, blogs by unhappy infertile women, self-absorbed young men, earnest world travelers, and lots of snarks who think they’re wits.

And I analyze the Monday morning box office reports.  What movies are successful?  Which ones flopped? Why did BATMAN BEGINS succeed where CINDERELLA MAN failed?  How did MR & MRS SMITH out-gun THE PERFECT MAN? Why doesn’t anyone want to see CRASH even with Sandra Bullock in it?

To this writer, the answers matter.  Because for me, the combination of marketing plus the story elements factored into the total number of tickets equals understanding how Americans like their entertainment. 

And I’m in the entertainment business.  My stories must sell tickets—er, books. If not, I’ll have to get a job making coffee for Trevor down at the BMW dealership.              

When I speak such blasphemy, many writers look aghast and say, “Oh, no, writing is art! I have to write the book of my heart!” They make me sigh.  Yeah, honey, go ahead and write what’s in your heart. But unless the story also speaks to the hearts of a hundred thousand readers, I hope you have a day job.

I’m not talking about literary writers, those exquisite wordsmiths who think in brilliant metaphors and write movingly about the human experience.  And who are probably pulling down a salary and benefits teaching at a nice liberal arts college that encourages publication as part of the tenure track. I’m talking commercial fiction writers—those of us working stiffs who are trying to put kids through college on royalty checks.

Here’s my theory: To make a living, pop fiction writers need to pay attention to the constantly changing tastes of consumers. It’s not by chance that Ms. Evanovich chose to write about NASCAR guy. It was a business decision.

Memo to Hollywood:  We’re sick of boxers.  My reader doesn’t care about teens or superheroes either.  That coming Jodie Foster movie they’re plugging so hard this summer?  The one where she gets on an airplane and her little girl disappears, so she has to tear the plane apart—in the air---to find the child?  Does that story appeal to anyone, or do you just groan at the idea of another over-wrought tale about a missing kid while there’s a real girl with real, grieving parents, who has disappeared in Aruba?

As I try to decide what will please my reader, there’s another even more discerning audience lurking at my shoulder.  My agent and my editor--not to mention their colleagues, sales force and the marketing staff they will no doubt consult before offering me a contract--are the ones who get first crack at my ideas. Everybody wants input now.  Publishers can’t throw money at a writer and hope a marketable book will result. I get that. I’m a team player.  I value their input. They’re going to save me from doing a face plant on the sidewalk outside Barnes & Noble. While my work must appeal to those wonderful women who buy my books in Charlotte, Grand Rapids, Buffalo, and Austin, it must first amuse and entertain those savvy New Yorkers.  So I think about their tastes, too.

You’d be surprised how much we think alike. 

We all want a story about a woman who’s smart and appealing with a clever “voice,” who’s in a compelling situation, with friends and family who both help and hinder. A character who becomes increasingly desperate to solve a complicated, emotionally-engaging problem.  We want a story set in an interesting place where we can taste the food, smell the trees, and see the people on the streets who make the setting come alive.  We want a story that moves fast, but makes us feel as if we know the characters as our friends. We want to laugh.  We want to get choked up.  We want to ache for the characters and to root for their success. 

But it’s the flesh on those bones that I research and even test market among my friends.  Today I’m reading The New Yorker, In-Style and the Coldwater Creek catalog. I just read a blog by a woman who wants a baby so badly she’s taking her temperature every hour for a month.  I’ve got Oprah on the TV in my office, and Keith Urban’s crooning on the CD upstairs.  My house is vibrating with pop culture.  I’m synthesizing material. I create a jillion Post-it notes and toss them into the huge, hand-painted bowl I keep on the dining room table.  I’m looking for ingredients—ideas, issues, teaspoons of culture I will fold into the batter of my plot, because that’s what it is at this stage---a sort of oozing mess.

Then, still in business-like mode, I’ll pull out a legal pad and write an outline.  I think most men plot differently than most women. (I attended the Robert McKee workshop a year ago.

If you don’t agree with me, pay your money and go. Then take the few girls in the room out for drinks later.) But I know the writing process will be less agonizing if I create a solid outline, so I consult Donald Maass’s books and the hero’s journey stuff. I know that “character driven story” can mean, “I don’t have a plot,” so I construct a careful, well-structured outline that would make Mr. McKee proud.  (Well, probably not, since he doesn’t—oh, never mind.) It will look very professional.  Tidy.  With neat margins. I’ll send it to my editor for her approval, and we’ll talk by phone.  She has good stuff to contribute, and I take notes as I listen.  Although we laugh a lot, she believes I’m a responsible adult who can be trusted not to blow my advance on a two week trip to Angkor Wat.

But when I hang up the phone, I’ll turn off the TV and the music. I’ll throw away the magazines.  The house gets quiet, and I start slapping those Post-its all over my nice, neat outline.  Scribbling in the margins.  I wake up in the middle of the night and scratch notes to myself on paper scraps, careful not to wake my husband. The story evolves from that outline as my characters start to talk to each other via 3M products. I mutter in the shower and speak to imaginary people in my bedroom. If my editor could see me now, she’d be worried about that advance money going to pay for mass quantities of Lithium.

Every morning I’ll rush down to my office and spread all those messy pages onto my desk. Emotion gushes. My fingers and forearms ache from pounding the keyboard. This house and my office once belonged to a federal judge, and his bookshelves line the walls, still labeled for his library.  I wonder what he’d think if his ghost paid a visit during this phase. The sensible businesswoman is gone, gone, gone. 

I can’t explain this part of the process.  Maybe it’s just chemistry-- left and right brain secretions. Or is it . . . and I use this word with a blush for being such a dope…magic? It’s as if all those Post-it notes get caught up in Dorothy’s tornado and whirl  in my head until it all somehow crash lands on the page in story form. My form.

Sure, writing commercial fiction is business.  It’s making marketing decisions. Home-made focus groups. It’s careful, by-the-numbers plotting. Outlines with neat margins. It’s processing current trends into fiction.

But that isn’t the whole story. In the end, it’s something messy and crazy.  In the meantime, I have to prove to my agent and editor that I’m a sane, responsible adult who deserves another book contract.  Wish me luck.


June 22, 2005

The Book Tarts' Reading List

Books_1 You were probably wondering, “Hmm, what do those Book Tarts have on their nightstands besides lotions, potions, a stiff drink, and satin eyeshades?” Well, it’s books and lots of them, and we’d like to dish on the latest titles with you in case you’re in the mood for some summer reading ideas.


AN INCOMPLETE EDUCATION by Judy Jones and William Wilson. My college roommate from NYU gave me this book for Christmas a hundred years ago, and I’ve been reading it ever since. I’ve spent longer on this than I spent on ULYSSES and THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV combined. I’m on page 487 (out of 638). I adore this book. It explains everything in the smartest, funniest way—the precursor to the DUMMIES and COMPLETE IDIOT’S books. (Note from Susan: Harley, I’ve had this book for ten years, and I still haven’t gotten all the way through it, though I keep swearing that I will.)

Speaking of which, in researching my own novel, I’m reading THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY, 2nd edition. (My protagonist is painting a mural on Greek gods.)

Then there’s SONNETS TO ORPHEUS by Rainer Maria Rilke. I’m pretending this is research too, but in fact, I just love poetry. It’s in German and English, so I guess I’m only reading half the book.

MOSAIC by Gayle Lynds. A great thriller. Disclaimer: I love Gayle Lynds. I’m reading this in preparation for a panel I’m doing in Santa Barbara in the fall on thrillers vs. mysteries. It’s got it all—international intrigue, politics, bad rich people, good rich people, bad CIA agents, good CIA agents, and lots of erotic stirrings while on the run from contract killers—plus that old soap opera staple: temporary blindness.

And I just blurbed a perfectly winning book called HOW TO SEDUCE A GHOST by Hope McIntyre. I dread blurbing, because 1. I’m a slow reader and 2. I can’t say no to anyone, but this was pure pleasure. Watch for it in the fall.


Like most writers, I read all kinds of stuff, especially in the summer when the wicker rocking chair on the porch is my favorite spot to get away from my computer. (Except on hot nights when we can sometimes hear gunfire in the adjoining neighborhood--ah, the joys of city living!) In descending order, from high art to fun beach reads, here's what I'm reading this week:

MODEL WORLD AND OTHER STORIES by Michael Chabon. One of my favorite writers of all time. (His WONDER BOYS, no doubt in my mind, the best book about writing there is.) This collection of his short stories (most of them published in The New Yorker) got past me somehow. I was thrilled to find it recently. His prose is blow-you-away excellent.

HYPOCRITE IN A POUFFY WHITE DRESS by Susan Jane Gilman. I loved her KISS MY TIARA, and this memoir of growing up on the Upper West Side, the smart kid of bohemian parents is observant, charming, sometimes poignant. Some reviewers liken her to David Sedaris, but I don't exactly agree except that she managed to survive growing up and now pokes some loving fun at her family. Clever writing. Good for an airplane.

SEX, A MYSTERY by Fiona Quirina. I wasn't prepared to like this one. The heroine of this NYC-based mystery is a sex surrogate--which is a kind of medically approved prostitution, I guess--and that whole concept turned me off. But it's a good mystery, and I like the author's voice a lot. I'm still reading. Good vacation fare.

THE RIGHT ADDRESS by Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman. Okay, the cover snagged me--little black dress, pearls and pink handbag. Cover blurb from Vogue magazine put me off a bit--I'm not a big believer in blurbs, especially from magazines where I suspect the review has been bought--and by the time I got home I was ashamed of myself for buying the book. But I started flipping through and reading a few pages here & there to get the gist of language--which I do a lot when I don't think I'll enjoy the book. Big surprise--it's well-written! Vaguely SHOPAHOLIC. The story is kinda Sidney Sheldon-esque or maybe Dominick Dunne-ish, but very cleverly told. The voice and the characters pulled me right in & I started reading the story for real. Airline stewardess marries well and ends up trying to break into the social scene of the Upper East Side. Social climber vs. socialites doesn't do the book justice. It's a funny, gossipy, insider tour of a world in which the good guys win. Perfect for the beach.

I'm looking for something to take on a weekend getaway. Any suggestions?


Just finished THE YEAR OF SILENCE by Madison Smartt Bell, which I’d snagged for $1.99 from the bargain books section of BN.com while trying to squeeze every penny out of a gift card. It’s so interestingly told, like short stories strung together by a theme involving the suicide of a woman named Marian. Each chapter is told from a different perspective by someone in Marian’s orbit and covers a year, both before and after the tragic act. The writing is first rate, a rare example of multiple points of view used brilliantly, each voice so believable and well done. A lovely accidental discovery.

HIS EXCELLENCY GEORGE WASHINGTON by Joseph Ellis was my book club’s June read. I’ve always loved history and thought I knew plenty about our first president, but Ellis’s thorough research and readable presentation gives insight into the life of a man who was truly destined to be “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” I didn’t realize George had screwed up big-time in the French and Indian Wars, but his reputation survived and even flourished. After the Revolutionary War was won, he was treated like a rock star. I only wish Martha hadn’t burned all their correspondence, as it surely would’ve provided a glimpse into George’s softer side as a human being, not just a commander in chief.

THE LIVING ROOM OF THE DEAD by Eric Stone. I started this on Monday after signing with Eric in Houston this past weekend. He’s lived quite a life, working for many years as a journalist in Asia, the setting for this, his first novel. It’s a raw, compelling tale, and the writing style is meaty and graphic.

At the top of my TBR pile:

EVA MOVES THE FURNITURE by Margot Livesey. My book club’s July pick (okay, I picked it), and I loved it the first time I read it, so I’m looking forward to re-reading it. Eva’s mother dies the night she was born, after six magpies congregate in the window during childbirth, a bad omen. Eva is raised by her father and an aunt, though they aren’t the only ones looking out for her. She’s visited early on by a woman and girl, apparitions that no one else can see, and they come and go in her life as she grows into adulthood, initially benevolent, then merely interfering. I adored the rich prose, emotional and touching.

STILL RIVER by Harry Hunsicker. Harry’s debut into noir. I loved his short story, “The Color of Home,” which I read while judging the Edgars, so I’m anxious to see what he does with a whole book.


I am ashamed to say that I fell for the hype and bought THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova. It sounded soooo good. A literary novel about Dracula promising an encounter with a real live - well, real dead - walking Vlades Tepes. Plus, Kostova got a $2.05 million advance for this debut novel and I had see if it was worth it. I'm 250 pages in (the book is 642) and while the suspense is finally building, it is told in a rather convoluted story within a story within a story way. Plus it kind of reads like Let's Go Eastern Europe! Should I be worried that the New York Times in its not-so-flattering review noted that the best thing about THE HISTORIAN was that it was long? Should I wade through it to the end?

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger is what I put down for THE HISTORIAN. I may return to it except there are two things that turn me off and I know they're silly. One is Niffenegger's photo. Smile, for heaven's sake, you're on the cover of a bestselling book! I keep reading and turning to it. Isn't that stupid? The other is The Today Show's endorsement because...yuck. And finally - did I say three? - there's the sniff of writing school. Still, it's a cool concept - a guy who suffers from Chrono Displacement Order - and I do think the love story is very sweet. Time travel and love...I think I'll go back to it.

Unless I get sidetracked by Sophie Kinsella's CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? I have to admit that I'm a closet Sophie Kinsella junkie. I whipped through all the Shopaholic series and, unlike other readers, never got tired of Becky's spending and debting and I Love Lucy hi jinx to get out of trouble. So far I'm not as thrilled with CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? but that might just be separation anxiety from Becks. Like Nancy, I can't resist a girly girl pink cover.

June 21, 2005


Of the writing process…there are two phases I despise the most: writing proposals and begging for blurbs.

This week, as is always my fate, I am doing both. Luckily I was spared in not having a root canal, too. The funny thing is that I’m not sure either matters (proposal and blurbs, not the root canal). Or does it? Maybe you can help me out.

First the blurbs. Blurbs are those quotes by other New York Times bestselling, much-more-famous-than-you authors on the back of books attesting to the brilliance of the pages within. Bookwire (or some such entity) once noted that book consumers spend something like five seconds reading the front of a book and eight seconds reading the back of a book before deciding whether to buy it.

Thirteen seconds. That’s all I’ve got. Thirteen seconds to convince a casual reader that THE SECRET LIVES OF FORTUNATE WIVES, an updated Peyton Secret_cover Place about the sexual antics of rich Ohio housewives, is worth shelling out $20. So those blurbs have to be darn good.

At this stage of the game, however, I’d be thrilled by any blurbs at all. The manuscripts went out about a week ago and I’m still waiting. Is this a bad sign? Or does it mean that the author is so consumed with her own work she hasn’t gotten around to reading mine? (This is what often happens to me when I’m asked to blurb and it breaks my heart when I look down, see the manuscript lying on the floor next to my desk, and realize – too late – that I should have read it.)

A girl can drive herself insane mulling over all the possibilities – that the book sucks the whazoo, that Jen Weiner laughed as she tossed it in the trash, that Candace Bushnell got to page five and groaned, rolled her eyes and made gagging motions with her finger.

Okay, Sarah, chill. Deep breaths. Concentrate on what you can control. Concentrate on the proposal.

Ah, yes, the proposal. I might be more motivated if it were a proposal that would land me a contract, but it’s not. The proposal serves as, essentially, the rough outline for the second book in my three-book contract and it must be approved by Brian Tart, my editor at Dutton, before I can begin writing. The concept has already been signed off by Brian. He’s not the issue. My agent is.

My agent, a diminutive pistol of rejection, is all that stands between me and peace of mind. Heather is like Cerberus at the gates of Hades Cerberus with the same temperament, though I’m pretty sure without all the frivolous heads. This is good, I suppose, since we wouldn’t want to be turning in ideas willy nilly, especially to a guy who is not just my editor, but also president and publisher of Dutton. A kind of Apollo, if you will, who could snuff out my career with the flick of his pen.

On the last book (Secret Lives) it took two months for me to rewrite the proposal to Heather’s satisfaction. Several hairs went gray. I bawled openly at the keyboard. I hand painted a bathroom in yellow stripes. Then, finally, Heather’s enthusiastic (or was she just frustrated?) “I like it.” Followed by Brian’s lovely and clever advice in four typed pages. After that, I was on my way.

Don’t get me wrong about Heather. She does her job exceptionally well, consistently above and beyond. Heather took me from being a slave at a daily newspaper to a multiple-book career. She and her agency, ICM, have sold a ton of rights – foreign, audio and even film. She’s willing to be the bad guy when I’m a wimp. She’s always thinking of my career in the long term.

Still, she intimidates me even though I, like an ice-cream-loving Apollo, could crush her teeny tiny body with my sheer girth. In a discussion the other day, she opined how a character in said proposal should be a “big healthy woman.” I was thinking size 16. She was thinking size 8. You get the picture.

Already she’s rejected this latest proposal once – though, to my relief, she liked the parts I liked best. Plus, as always, she was right. After putting the proposal away for a week and occupying myself with other tasks (such as being entertained by the lovely Susan McBride in Houston), I have returned to her suggestions and realized, as always, that her criticisms were spot on.

This is what I like to think of as the magic of the editing process and for anyone who has had their manuscripts slashed apart by agents or editors (I’m not too sure about writing instructors and/or groups) take heart. It all comes together if you just let it jell for awhile. In fact, it’s kind of neat what a good agent or editor can see needs changing right off.

Thanks Heather.

Now if she could only snag me some kick ass blurbs for SECRET LIVES. Sarahstrohmeyer_1Candace? Jen?…are you out there?   


June 20, 2005

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I first went white water rafting in 1994. It was a spur of the moment thing; I was avoiding L.A. and a guy there who’d just dumped me. The guy had called me the night before, to “check in,” a post-breakup-ritual that is almost never useful.

“Where are you, anyway?” he’d asked.
“What are you doing there?”
“Getting over you.”
“Yeah? How’s it going?”

It ended up going well. I remember nothing about the raft experience except that no one fell in the river, and everyone was really nice, so I was glad no one fell in the river. After the rafting, I spent an afternoon in a helicopter, exploring a glacier, an apt metaphor for that failed romance. It was a great trip. If your heart is broken during the summer months, I highly recommend Denali National Forest for recuperation.

Two days ago I went rafting for the second time. I was with my husband and 14 lawyers from his law firm, along with 5 significant others. I enjoy being a law firm significant other, where my only responsibility is to remember people’s names (which, in the case of summer associates, I’m not even expected to succeed at). I was happy to have a 31-hour break from laundry and diapers, including 4-hour bus ride (each way!) and a night sans children, in a motel called the Bare Wood, or, as I thought of it, the Bare Bones or the Bare Minimum, and even, for my husband and me, for half an hour before dinner, the Bare it All.

But here’s the deal: due to record rainfall this year, the Kern River, near Bakersfield, is experiencing a lot of white water. And record low temperatures. So there I was, colder, wetter and more nervous in California than I’d been in Alaska. Happily, I’d brought along an REI arctic outerwear jacket, purchased just weeks ago in Chicago for no reason except that it was on sale, and looked cute in a sci fi sort of way. I packed it, not for the river, but in case it got chilly at night in the Bare Bones motel, yet in the end, it’s all that stood between me and my-idea-of-hell cold on the Kern.

During our river guides’ preliminary “What If?” talk, about getting ourselves and 4 rafts down 12 miles of river (which was running at 3300 cubic feet per second or something. Whatever. Fast.), peppered with words like “danger” and “ life-or-death” and “worst case scenario,” I actually began to think about having my will in order. I spent the next hours with five people, synchronizing my body movements to Andy, the first year law associate directly in front of me, my ears plugged into Tony, the river guide in the back of the raft, yelling instructions (“Left back two! Forward one! Stop!”) Occasionally we’d paddle over to the side of the river so Tony could hop out, study the rapids and strategize with the other guides. Tony would return and share with us the strategy, along with the name of the rapid and its degree of difficulty. (“‘Pinball.’ Class 5. We’ll avoid the monster hole in the center by hugging the left, then do a fast right to bypass the flip rock at the end, but there’s a good chance we won’t make it, so prepare to swim.”) Like lawyers, river guides use insider jargon, some of it sounding like civil codes. Unlike lawyers, they eschew euphemisms and don’t bother putting a positive spin on things.

I didn’t care about Tony’s strategy. I had my own strategy: Stay in the Boat. I did this by keeping my focus 6 feet in front of me, and rowing, no matter how much water was attacking us, no matter how many people around us were dropping out of their rafts. As long as Tony kept yelling, I kept paddling.

The upside is, my strategy worked for me. The downside is, it didn’t work for everyone. One out of four people ended up in the river, dropped their paddles, swallowed water, were swept into holes, got caught under boats, were seriously scared. And I didn’t save anyone, didn’t pull anyone into the boat by her/his lifejacket, didn’t even notice who was missing in our raft when I counted heads and came up short, until I looked out onto the river and saw my husband’s face, bobbing, like our three-year old son arising out of a bubble bath.

So here’s what I learned this weekend, which may or may not have real-life applications: Don’t stand up in the river. Swim away from trees. Don’t leave half-eaten sandwiches in the woods because rodents follow food and rattlesnakes follow rodents. Hold onto your paddle. Stay in the raft (unless it’s heading for a waterfall) but realize that the people who make life worth living might have fallen out of the raft and that it is therefore a good idea to look up from the wave in front of you once in awhile and get your bearings, take in the big picture, and try to haul them back in.

And finally, when REI is having a 50% sale on outerwear, even if you have no plans to scale Mount Everest, buy.

Happy trails. Stay warm.
Harley Jane Kozak

June 18, 2005

I Slept with Howard Dean!

it's true! He nodded off in the window seat and I in the aisle.

Go to fullsize imageAfterward I bent his ear about not turning milquetoast. He promises me there's no way. (And he wouldn't lie to a woman he just slept with, would he?) He says there are 447 core constituents in the DNC who want him to speak out and that, therefore, Joe Biden can't touch him. If he weren't with the DNC he'd have stronger words for Biden.                                                     Go to fullsize image

He was all smiles and babyface and I wanted to slap him. Don't play coy with me, Howie, I said, I knew you when you were a prick to all reporters, including me. He batted his eyes and said he didn't know what I was talking about. Then I reminded him about his rudeness to me one election night long ago and then he remembered. Said he hadn't changed, the press had.

That's a lie, but I let it slide. This isn't the first time Howard and I have flown together. There are limited # of flights in and out of Vermont and so we tend to cross paths a lot. He too is in Houston, though I am still in Cleveland.

Oh, and I hammered into him to make hay with the Downing St. memo and to ignore the NYT and the Washington Post's stories this morning, which he hadn't read - shock! - and to run with the ball. He promised he would.

So if you hear Howie making any inflammatory Downing St. memo statements, you know whom to blame.

Sarah, on the road.                   Go to fullsize image

ps.  I told him that I was gonna make up bumper stickers for him: If You're Not Screaming, You're Not Paying Attention.

Go to fullsize image