Monthly Archives: August 2012

Not to be LEFT Out: A Mighty (Strange) Minority



For about ninety percent
of the population today is just another Monday. That’s because most righties
don’t pay attention to National Lefty Day. Most don’t take heed of their
handedness at all. After all, it’s a right-hander’s world. For those of you who
are rolling your eyes right now, take a minute and answer the following

Which hand do you need to
use to start your car? To shift gears? 

Pick up a handled
travel mug. Which hand is it meant to be held in so that you can drink from it? 

What side has the
(painful) metal spirals in your kid’s notebook? 

Ever have class in a
lecture hall? What side were the desks on?

Have a lefty accountant?
Where’s the numeric keypad on a keyboard?

We won’t even get into
scissors, vegetable peelers, and power tools. Okay, these seem like minor
inconveniences, but add up all the little things and being a lefty can be a
real pain in the…hand. So I think we deserve a day of recognition where the
rest of the world can waste a few minutes learning about their left-handed

Here are some interesting
facts about left-handers (and my pithy commentary on them).

Lefties make up about 10
percent of population, a number which scientists say hasn’t changed since the
time of the Neanderthals. If left-handed clubs had been more readily available,
this number would have spiked. (Keep reading to find out why.)

Lefties are more likely to
suffer from dyslexia and stuttering, especially if they were forced to use
their right hands. Religious leaders saw that first fact and figured if
evolution couldn’t kill us off, perhaps Christianity and its belief that
lefties were possessed by the devil could.

Lefties are more likely to
be men, making female lefties an especially rare breed. Perhaps this has to do
more with the fact that woman have historically been delegated to kitchens full
of right-handed cookware, rather than a fluke in genetics. Just sayin’.

Five out of seven of the
last presidents were lefties.  Four
out of five of the creators of Apple were lefties. So the same minority we have
to blame for Monica Lewinsky and the recession, we can also thank for the
iEverything. That’s an even exchange in my mind.

We’re known for being more
creative, but earn 10% less, unless we attend college. Left-handed college
graduates go on to become 26% richer than right-handed graduates. So how do we
account for Bill Gates who’s a left-handed, billionaire drop-out?

Then again, Gates was just
living up to lefties’ bad rep. The word for left in various languages is
synonymous with everything from weak and broken to sinister and evil. Give
someone a left-handed compliment and you’re actually insulting them. Then
again, if they had anything to do with language development, maybe they deserve

All this discrimination
might explain why we’re such a moody lot and are embarrassed more easily. It at
least explains my excessive blushing. We also have a higher risk of ADHD and schizophrenia,
but a lower risk of ulcers. Apparently we’re nuts, but not overly stressed
about it. I’m cool with that.

Then again, we also like
our booze. Yup, lefties are more likely to be drinkers. Well, if you made up
some of the world’s greatest artists, scientists, and inventors and still
couldn’t peel a damn potato, you might be driven to drink, too.

In more
violent societies, researchers found that lefties thrived. Apparently a
surprise left hook packs some extra oomph.
So if survival ever comes down to fight-to-the-death combat, lefties
would win. I volunteer as tribute!

But good news, righties,
barring that apocalypse, lefties die younger. This could this be from the
drinking or the mood disorders. Or maybe it’s the fact that we exhaust
ourselves daily in a right-handed world. But for today, at least, the world
belongs to the lefties! 

Sources, for the facts. The commentary is my own!:


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(Over-)Sharing is Caring



For someone whose friends had to create her Facebook page
because she was too afraid to bare her mundane life to the world, particularly
to her twelve-year-old tech-savvy students, I’ve come a long way. In the last
year I’ve blogged about my hideous dating life, tweeted my love for the newest
erotica trilogy, and confessed my soft spot for bad boys in an article for a
literary magazine. With little left to hide from the world, I was only too
happy to respond to fellow writer Kelly Johnson’s request to share my guilty pleasures on her blog.

Kelly and I met in NYC at the Backspace Writer’s Conference
when I basically invited myself to lunch with her to avoid eating alone or with
some of the more outwardly eccentric attendees. Like me, Kelly writes urban
fantasy, and having had a chance to read her work, I can say confidently she’ll
soon be published. While you’re checking out my post, be sure to read the post of Kelly’s which inspired it. Then poke around the blog to read a bit more of Kelly’s writing;
you’ll be glad you did!

Here’s a little introduction she provided:

Hi! I’m Kelly Johnson, self-assessed story addict.

I love stories, be they epic or mundane. Regardless of form,
I like to soak in them until my fingers get all pruney and then rinse and
repeat. So, I read, write, watch, listen and occasionally try my hand at
artwork (almost always with disastrous consequences) to celebrate the story.
Along with my roomie, I cohabitate with two lady turtles, Willow, who has some
rage issues, and Xander, who was diagnosed with mild PTSD due to an unfortunate
run in with a plastic pirate ship. And I like cheese and raspberry cordials.
But not together.

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Dining Dilemmas: Probing the Pros and Problems of Prologues

Over the last three years, I’ve spent hours researching my craft. I’ve read agents’ websites, blogs of established authors, and books on writing and publishing. I also attended conferences and workshops run by writers and agents. I learned early on that tastes vary. In the same conference an agent will espouse the importance of doing something one way, and a writer will enter the room and tell you to ignore everything you just heard. However, study enough and some general consensuses begin to emerge. One area most agree on is the use of prologues, or rather the misuse of prologues.

The biggest problem with prologues is that they come before the rest of the book. Yes, this is inherent to prologues, but the problem is that in today’s market, when consumers are flooded with choices, most writers and agents agree that a writer has about two pages to sell a book. Those crucial first pages need to establish setting and tone, introduce an interesting main character, and have enough action or intrigue to hook a potential reader. If the first two pages are prologue, that doesn’t always happen.

So as readers should we kiss the days of prologues goodbye? As writers should we avoid them like dream sequences or dialogue tags? Is this too a matter of taste or a hard and fast rule? Well, in my opinion, while most meals are best eaten course by course, there are times when it’s not just okay, but downright decadent to break the rules and devour a meal or a book out of order.

Deciding when a prologue will work starts with determining what type of prologue you’re writing. By definition, the events of a prologue take place prior to the events of the main story. I call this an appetizer prologue. Depending on your server, appetizers can be served long before the meal or just before the main course arrives. Appetizer prologues usually provide backstory about the main character, some from years earlier, others from seconds before the story begins. As a reader, I love characters’ backstory, but, most of the time, I agree with the agents and other writer’s on this one. Backstory is usually best when worked into the plot later on. If it’s important enough to the main character’s life, they’ll think about it at some point in the story. That’s the place to put it in. If it’s not important enough for the main character to think back on it, then the reader doesn’t need to know it, especially in the opening pages. In this case, Mom was right, you need to let the readers’ save room for the main course.

Plenty of books, though, have prologues that don’t actually fit the traditional definition of describing events prior to the start of the story. Many writers use a prologue to introduce the conflict, often through the eyes of the antagonist. As a writer, the pull to do this is strong. Everywhere you read says to start with action, hook the reader, set up the tone. What better way to do this than to drop the reader into a scene with the bad guy being bad? It’s like giving the reader a taste of a spicy side dish. I did this myself in one of my drafts of my first book. Writing it was a great way to really get to know my antagonist, so naturally I thought reading it would have the same effect. The problem is that it draws the reader away from the main story and the main character. It’s also hard to write without giving away too much, too soon. You might pull the reader in with that zing, but then when they start chapter one, that first bite might fall short. Better to build expectation and intrigue with a taste of the main dish. Make their mouths water with your main character. Save the heat for after they’ve whet their palates. Unless…

Hey, there are exceptions to every rule. I think books later in series and even sequels can successfully start with a side dish prologue. Readers of a series or sequel already know and, if they’ve continued to book two or beyond, presumably like the main dish. They know what to expect. Tone, setting, and characterization have been established in previous books, and although those things need to be further developed in a new book, readers can be side-tracked for a few pages without being overly jolted when the story returns to its main course. In these cases introducing a character who is new to the series piques readers’ interest by assuring them something different is in store for the main character.

Finally, we have dessert: it is by far my favorite course. As a reader, the climax is the triple-layer chocolate cake of a good book. Let’s face it, dessert is the real reason most of us go out to eat. So why not give readers a little dessert before the meal? Some writers do just that in their prologues, which aren’t actually prologues at all, but rather an excerpt from a crucial point later in the book. These dessert prologues are really teasers. They’re included to make the reader’s mouths or minds water for more. Stephanie Meyer did this in her obscenely successful Twilight series. As a reader of these books, I enjoyed this type of teaser, especially in the later books in the series. Since I knew from reading book one that the prologue would appear later, I remember reading the teaser/prologue of the final books and trying desperately to predict how the story would enfold. I think that’s the key if a writer wants to use the dessert prologue. The passage picked must only hint at what’s to come. You can’t actually hand the reader dessert first, or they’ll never eat their meal. But pass an artful dessert tray under their noses a few times and you’ll have them zipping through those other courses in unbridled anticipation.

So, to prologue or not to prologue? Readers’ tastes in books and beginnings vary as much as their tastes in food. You’re never going to please every reader with every decision. Some, like me, are happy to see the dessert tray first. Others like a little appetizer. Still others, which apparently include most agents, are purists who like to start with a well-presented main course. Frankly, I think if what you put on the plate is appetizing enough, it won’t matter to readers or agents what course you started with. Any great beginning to a book, be it prologue or main story, is a writer’s way of telling their reader “bon appétit.”

*This week’s blog was inspired by my latest read, The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch (Author) and Lee Chadeayne (translator), which, as you’ve probably guessed, included a prologue. Check my review page, On The Nightstand, later in the day for a review of the book. I promise I’ll include whether or not Pötzsch’s appetizer prologue worked for me!

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Interview With the Voices in My Head

Instead of blogging this weekend, I was enjoying time with my family and all the best the Cape has to offer, sipping Magarita’s outside and licking raspberry Oreo ice-cream off my fingers. Meanwhile my main character Alex Crocker was doing some book promotion by giving an interview to reviewer and book blogger Laurie, at Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews.

My book club is now contemplating beating me senseless with our next book selection for breaking my promise not to act like my characters have a mind of their own, but I have their attention. As a big fan of character interviews, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try one myself. Being the first time I’ve attempted this, I’m sure it’s a little rocky in places, but it was fun to write. Moreover, it was a great writing exercise. Writing in first person, trying to capture the character’s voice in such a short span of time, and trying to hint at the events of the book without giving too much away were all challenges. Making it even trickier was the fact that I was in the mind-set for book two, yet trying to promote book one. Hopefully, the Alex answering these questions is a nice combination of her character at the end of Unforeseen and the beginning of Unveiled

So whether you’ve read the first book or not, this ought to give you a taste of Alex and the books in general. Enjoy and thanks again to Laurie for the opportunity!

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