Thursday, January 28, 2010

Crunch Time


I have a book due in a few months and I am so far behind it’s not funny.

My mother fell down the stairs and broke her right arm a few weeks ago, and that has complicated things. She’s doing great and will hopefully make a full recovery. But she needs constant help, which means that I won’t be able to go to the lake for the sessions of intensive writing that normally help me get through these crunches.

I’m trying not to panic. I’m trying really, really hard not to panic…

Monday, January 25, 2010

Who Dat?

Let me begin by saying I am not a football fan. I was born without the team gene. But...


Hey! The Saints won! They're going to the Super Bowl! I didn't watch the game but I knew the instant they won because the entire city errupted into a roar that lasted about an hour, complete with fireworks. This battered, bedraggled, clinically depressed place just got a much-needed boost. There used to be a saying around town, that hell would freeze over before the Saints went to the Super Bowl. Well...


(Thanks to Sphinx Ink for the image).

Friday, January 22, 2010

In Which the Author Is Dragged Kicking and Screaming into the Modern World


I blame Charles. He might blame Xavier, but I blame Charles.

You see, nudged by Xavier, my friend Charles created his own Facebook page and posted the link on his blog. The problem is, if you’re not a Facebook member you can’t access someone’s Facebook page. Since I had recently been frustrating in trying to view Seun’s Facebook page, I though, Fine! The modern world wins; I’ll join. I don’t need to actually fill in any of those fields or put up my picture. All I have to do is type in my name and join. Right?

First problem: Join under what name? I chose CS Harris. Except the Facebook wizards changed it to Cs Harris and I didn’t even realize it until I’d already gone live. So I went back in and tried to correct it to C.S. Harris, except they told me, “Too many periods in first name.” So I took out the periods and they told me, “Too many capital letters in first name.” So I put the “C” as my first name and the “S” as my middle name, and they told me, “Full first name required.”

By this point I was seriously regretting having tried to join the modern world. Unfortunately, given the way the system works, I already had oodles of my friends who had already joined the modern world (aka Facebook) suddenly wanting to be my “Friend.” So, rather than chucking the whole thing, I tried to change my name back to Cs Harris, except the Facebook wizards wouldn’t let me. So in a burst of exasperation, I changed my name to Candice Proctor. So there.

You know, this is way more trouble than it’s worth. Bah humbug.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Name Game


It’s a simple rule: don’t give a character in your book a name that is in any way similar to another character’s name. Why? Because it confuses readers. When you confuse your readers—when you make them stop and think about anything except your story—you jerk them out of the alternate universe you’re creating. And anything that jerks your reader back to reality is a Bad Thing.

I was reminded of this last night while reading a mystery/thriller by a long-published, NYT bestselling author (in other words, someone who really ought to know better). About a third of the way into the book, our author begins a scene by introducing his hero to two new characters, Parker and Paterson, in the company of another character named Barker whom we’ve met just once before. That’s right: Barker, Parker, and Paterson.

It gets worse. The love interest in this book is a woman named Madison. About half way through the book, the hero—followed by the bad guys—heads off to Madison, Wisconsin. A fairly big chunk of the book takes place in Madison and everybody keeps using the town’s name. I tried to give the author the benefit of the doubt; I mean, maybe—just maybe—he didn’t notice there was a wee bit of a problem with the name of his locale and his heroine’s name. But then at one point the hero is thinking about Madison, and our author helpfully ads, “The woman, not the town.”


Now, this isn’t enough of an irritant that I’m going to stop reading. I am actually enjoying this book; in fact, I’m having a hard time putting it down (not a problem I often have these days). But I have to wonder what was going on in our author’s head. There is nothing in this segment that requires the action to take place in Madison: any state capitol would do. So why didn’t our author have his hero go to Hartford or Tallahassee or—anywhere but Madison? Conversely, if our author really wanted the action to take place in Madison, then he could have changed the love interest’s name. But no. He obviously really liked the name Madison, and he really wanted the segment to take place in Madison, and so to hell with his readers.

And that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

An Inspiration to Us All

This is the story of a remarkable person.

My daughter’s best friend at Yale Law School was a guy named Seun Adebiyi. Seun (pronounced so that it sounds pretty much like “Sean”) was born in Nigeria, but came to the States as a child. A competitive swimmer, he represented Nigeria in international competitions for years and only just missed qualifying for the 2004 Olympic summer games by a fraction of a second (although he doesn’t say why on his blog, it’s because he was still recovering from something nasty, like a broken back). He’s one of those people with boundless energy and endless talents. He has a pilot’s license. He is a certified massage therapists who likes nothing better than giving his friends massages. He sky dives (okay, I’ll admit I’d have been happier if he hadn’t introduced my daughter to that particular passion). He campaigned hard for Barack Obama. He is inspiringly dedicated to his yoga and meditation practices.


After graduating from Yale Law, he took a job on Wall Street, started training to swim the English Channel, and embarked on a new ambition: to make history as the first Nigerian delegate to compete in the Winter Olympics. His sport: the skeleton. As Seun describes it, “First imagine the luge. Now flip over onto your stomach, and put your hands by your side. With no brakes and minimal steering, you careen precipitously down a bobsled track at nearly 80 mph. Headfirst.”

And then, out of nowhere, came the unbelievable, heart-stopping news: Seun discovered he has both stem cell leukemia and lymphoblastic lymphoma. His only hope for survival is to find a donor for a bone marrow transplant. But here’s the problem: very, very few African-Americans are enrolled in the national bone marrow registry. As a result, 83% of African-American patients like Seun never receive a transplant. Seun’s situation is made worse by the fact that he isn’t your typical African-American: he’s 100% Nigerian.

Of course, with a guy like Seun, what comes next isn’t much of a surprise. Seun has launched a massive drive to recruit 10,000 new potential donors to the national registry, with a special emphasis on encouraging African-American donors. All it takes to register is a cheek swab. Of course, if you’re found to be a match, you need to be committed to the donation process, which can be done in one of two ways. Both are outpatient procedures and neither is especially grueling. You can learn more about becoming a donor or register online at

To learn more about Seun, watch his video…


See the support he's receiving from people like Justin Chambers and Rihanna here. You can also read his article at the Huffington Post, and follow his inspiring story on his blog, Seun's Skeleton Blog.

And please, consider signing up for the national Marrow Donor Program. As Seun says, “in 2014, when I am racing down the Olympic slopes in Sochi, Russia, you can say you helped me make it to the finish line.”


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A New Year

I normally like new years. They’re an annual—if artificial—chance to start over, to reassess and try again and throw ourselves with renewed dedication and hope into the endless quest to make ourselves, our lives, our world a little bit better.

Yet I find myself approaching this new year with a strange sense of detachment somehow lacking the enthusiasm with which I normally embrace this ritual. Perhaps it’s because New Orleans is wrapped in a deep freeze that is killing my garden with an icy wind howling straight from the arctic to whip at my hibiscus and palms and the bare stems of my frangiapanis. Perhaps it’s because I’ve just said a stoic goodbye to my youngest, off for a grand adventure in London. Perhaps it’s because I’m watching my 92-year-old mother fail a little more with each passing day. I could blame the economy, the endless beating of war drums and the greed of politicians, but that will always be with us. Maybe I’m just in a funk. Maybe this year I’ll focus on the Chinese New Year, coming February 14. It’s going be the Year of the Tiger. Time to start practicing my roar.

In the meantime, I’m stealing this New Year’s wish from Steve Malley, because Neil Gaiman has managed to capture the spirit I’m finding illusive at the moment:

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books, and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art. Write, or draw, or build, or sing, or live, as only you can.

“May your coming year be a wonderful thing, in which you dream both dangerously and outrageously. I hope you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it; that you will be loved, and you will be liked; and you will have people to love and to like in return. And most importantly, because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now, I hope that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind. And I hope that somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

Cheers, everyone.