Friday, April 30, 2010

Bitter Truth - Live

I promised a while back that I'd let you see me vlog a new song I wrote. In all honesty, I never practiced much, but here it is: (Also, I apologize for the sound quality, but hopefully, you'll get the picture.)

If you don't see all of me (full screen) here, feel free to click on the YouTube video link.

Here are the lyrics:

When I first saw you, I knew it was true
My heart would always be calling for you
"Sleep with me, darling, I'll always be true...
All our tomorrows, we'll see through"

We were happy, blissful, and free
Our souls were blended just you and me
But then a mystery called in the night
A blackness followed and took flight

I once upon hurt you so badly, it's true
Hard to imagine what I put you through
I never thought that the plans that we drew
Would lead to something... bitter truth, bitter truth

And time keeps flowing, thoughts ever new
Moving us forward wounded and bruised
But time heals over the pain that we knew
Leaving an open view

Once upon darkness came in the night
It tried to harm us, make us take flight
Yesterday's calling, tainted and wise
Reminding us always... love never dies
Reminds us always of bitter truths

Debra L. Schubert aka Jamie C. Keys

For those of you who know what's been going on in my life lately, I imagine you'll "get it." For the rest of you, I hope you'll love it for your own reasons and relate the song to your own personal stories.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Thursday night I went to the Rock Bottom Remainder show at the Electric Factory in Philly. First, let me say, I was mildly devastated that my only idol besides Stevie Nicks, the effervescently brilliant, Stephen King, was not there. According to Mitch Albom's wife, he's not been touring much since his terrible accident a few years ago. That said, it was a fun evening. [When life hands you Stephen King-less lemons, you make Amy Tan lemonade.]

Here I am in the car on the way to the show. Can you tell how nervous I was? No? Okay, well never mind. [I was a nervous wreck. At that point, I still thought Stephen King was in my immediate future.]

My sister, Sharon, who had flown in from Denver at the last minute to help me through a very difficult time [can you say, "understatement?"], along with my awesome son, Adam, joined me in this adventure. Adam's a punk-rock drummer sporting a brand new killer tattoo, so he fit in perfectly with all the geeky writers in attendance.

The pre-party included an open bar, passed hors d'oeuvres [don't ask me how long it took to google the correct spelling on that], as well as a nice spread of food including chips, salsa, guacamole, and an assortment of chocolate goodness. To give you an idea of how crappy my week's been, I didn't eat any chocolate. Not one bite. Crazy, right? I did, however, have my first cocktail in nearly a year. I sipped it slowly over three hours, so no buzz occurred, but it was more of a declaration of independence than an attempt at getting drunk.

I'd hoped to meet Jen Weiner, but she arrived a bit late and went straight up on stage. (Sorry this picture of her is so dark - my camera takes horrible far-away-in-the-dark pictures.) She rocked it big time, and has a terrific sense of humor. Also on stage were Scott Turow, Mitch Albom, Ridley Pearson, Dave Barry, Roy Blount, Jr, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, and Amy Tan. They are a funny, talented, group of writers masquerading as musicians. Actually, a few are pretty damn good musicians, like Mitch Albom, for example, who in his early years played in numerous bands and attended the Berklee College of Music.

Their best songs were the few originals they threw in. One was called, "I'm In Love with a Proofreader" she's got a big dictionary, real good grammar, and never says between you and I and a song where the chorus was, all you reviewers can kiss my ass!

Amy Tan and Scott Turow get the award for most outrageous. Amy came out in a big, blonde, Debbie Harry wig and performed "One Way or Another" (you can see her in the pic above on the left). She also did a hysterical dominatrix version of "These Boots are Made for Walking." Scott Turow did a few songs in a clown wig and Cubs baseball shirt that hung past his knees (next to Amy in above pic). The guy is certifiably hilarious. Mitch Albom did an Elvis impersonation good enough to score him a job in a chapel in Vegas.

Here are a few pics of me and Amy Tan (above) and me and Mitch Albom and his lovely wife, Janine, who also has a terrific voice.

Speaking of Stevie Nicks, when I met Mitch we kind of got into a friendly tiff over the talent of the lovely Ms. Nicks. I said (and Mitch's astute wife agreed) that no musician is more talented. He disagreed but, in the interest of not being pummeled by two devout Stevie fans, let the subject go. I turned to my sister and said, "I can't believe I'm arguing with Mitch Albom about Stevie Nicks." [Life is full of unexpected strangeness these days.]

I told AA that, besides selling my book for enough money for me to cohabitate with Rick Branson on his private island, I also want to be a part of this band in a couple of years. When I told Mitch's wife I was a singer/songwriter for over 30 years, she told me I couldn't be in the band because, "only people who suck" can join. I told her I'd work on that.

All in all, given the week from hell I've had, it was a great night. And the best part was that the proceeds went to the Philadelphia Free Library. Music and writing together; it doesn't get any better than that.

Monday, April 19, 2010

SUBLIMINAL MONDAY: It's Party Time! [Writers are masochistics. Pass me a Valium]

Cue your favorite music - it's PARTY TIME! Why? Because I finished Draft #4, baby!!! [Nobody cares.] What a freaking relief that was! The key was definitely the simmering. I may not have a clue in the kitchen, but with my story, I can simmer like a rock star. ["May not have a clue in the kitchen" = understatement of the millennium.]

I will read through my finished novel once more out loud to my kitties and my muse, and then I'll send it off to Awesome Agent for her praise and compliments. [My name is Debbie, and I am delusional. I haven't had a delusion in, oh wait, never mind.]

Now that I'm done trudging through the Valley of Pain and Suffering, I can say this without hesitation: Writing is fun! I can't wait to do it again! It's easy; everyone should try it! [All writers are masochists. Pass me a Valium.]

Since Draft #4's in the history books, I no longer have to spend every spare moment banging my head trying to figure out how to bring the plot together or how to tie up loose ends. I'll read through once more with only the lightest of edits [see above SM re: delusions], and pass it along to AA for her shimmering stamp of approval. ["Hmm, pumpkin. It's good, but you're not quite there yet..."]

Then, we'll sell it for big bucks and I'll retire to a chalet in the south of France, or perhaps a mega-large beach-front cottage in Tahiti, or a penthouse suite in NYC's Upper West Side., or maybe Richard Branson will sell me his island in the Caribbean, (or at least time-share it with me). I'll become one of the "beautiful people" hobnobbing with the rich and famous, and will have to wear shades and a baseball cap just to get my mail. [That is SOOOO unrealistic! DUH!!! I'd HIRE someone to pick up my mail.] Anyway, you get the picture. I'll have it made in the shade, become a fat cat, be sitting pretty, or INSERT FAVORITE CLICHE HERE.

Back to the Land of Reality...

When I finished the fourth draft, I asked myself this deep, philosophical question: If you were a trust fund baby &/or won the lottery, would you continue to write? Surprisingly, the answer was, "Yes!" [Liar, liar pants on fire.] But not because of the usual writer BS of, "ohmygod, I couldn't live if I didn't write!" Hell, no! I'd live, and I'd be just fine. I might even have a tan, get rid of the fat ass I sit on every day TO WRITE, own clothing other than sweats, and try to get me some "class." [And right after that, I'd join the Tea Party and campaign for my girl, Sarah!]

And what would I do with all that "extra" time? Read, which would make me only slightly less boring than when I write. [Impossible.] So, what's the point? I may as well write, right? [Wrong. Pay close attention: NOBODY CARES.]

So, what about you? What would you do if you were a gazillionaire? Would you still write or would you do something more fun and less frustrating, like say, watching the grass grow? [And don't say you have to write or you'll die, because unless you're Stephen King (who I'LL BE MEETING IN PERSON THURSDAY NIGHT!!!), no one believes that crap.]

I've got VIP tix to see Stephen King and The Rock Bottom Remainders this Thursday, which means, I get to meet the band for an hour & a half before the show starts. My son, Adam, will be my date. Oh yeah, there will be a blog post!!!!!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Writing Through the Fog

As you probably know, I've been working on the fourth draft of my YA novel. The change in POV from 3rd person to 1st person has been a blessing in that it has done much to bring the story brilliantly to life. However, it has also been a curse.

Why a curse? Because I thought it would be a breeze, I mean, I know the story, right? What I didn't realize is that this change requires not just edits, but an entire rewrite.

Rewrites are good, right? (Try saying that fast five times!) I'm a writer - I write. What's the big deal?

And yet, it's been a very big deal. It's been difficult. I've been resisting the process. It's been harder than I thought. Wah. Wah. Wah. (Yes, I would like some cheese with my whine.)

Why? Because I'm a Type A, Control Freak. I need to know exactly how the latest rewrite is going to end, AND I thought I did. After all, I've written the story three times already, right? So, how come I'm having trouble?

Because I'm forcing it and am convinced I already "know" how it should go. I should be able to whip this baby out in no time at all. I'M NOT GIVING THE NEW REWRITE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE NEW! I'm moving forward as if I know something I don't.

And then it hit me...

I'm not "being" with the fog, with the fuzziness, with the unknown. I'm not allowing the process to continue to naturally take shape. The story is exactly where it needs to be, I'm just too stupid/control-freak-ish to realize it.

As with all writing, I need to step boldly into the uncertainty that is the creative process. Expect the unexpected. Admit defeat before I fight. That way, I may be less likely to wage an necessary war.

Now that I can see the fog of resistance being lifted, I'm going to move forward and embrace the creative process again. I will no longer endeavor to put words into my character's mouths. I'm going to let them do the talking, and the acting, and whatever it is they do. I'm going to move my brilliant ass out of the way and let the real magic take place.

Just like I did with my hair recently, I'm going to let my story straighten itself out until it falls beautifully into place.

What about you? Have you had an "aha!" moment lately? Have you been forcing your character's hand because you think you know better? Are you resisting the magnificence and mystery that is the creative process?

BTW, the outdoor pictures posted here are of my backyard Wednesday morning (fog) and afternoon (no more fog - how appropriate!). The hair pics are me "before" and "after" my keratin treatment on Tuesday. ;-)

Monday, April 12, 2010

SUBLIMINAL MONDAY: Writing Without a GPS or Where's My Confounded Muse?

This past week has been tough on me as a writer. [Cue violins, sad faces, and crying babies.] As you may know, I've changed my book from 3rd person POV to 1st. For the most part, I've been thrilled with the change. That is, until I got stuck.

During this, the fourth draft, I've done a great deal of rewriting vs editing. In other words, knowing the story from beginning to end, I've taken on rewriting it from the perspective of my main character (mc). I love her to death, but she's one tough cookie. [Writing Tip: Never use cliches in your novels. Only on your blog posts. *grin*]

Turns out, she had other plans for the direction of the story. Not a totally different outcome - I mean she and I were still driving to the same destination - she just decided it would be fun to take a detour. (Some people prefer the back roads to the highways.) Problem was, she didn't give me any warning and I didn't have a GPS. [And, according to my darling husband, I suck at all things electronic.]

My mc grabbed the wheel, turned the car, and left me at the controls.
"Wait!" I screamed, "I don't know where we're going!"
She laughed. "I know. Too bad for you. Guess you better figure it out before we end up hopelessly lost, or worse yet, crash the car!" She laughed again, put her ear buds in, blew a giant bubble, and tuned me out completely.

Damn teenagers.

So, what did I do? [No one cares.] I picked my husband's brain, emailed Awesome Agent, and prayed to My Mysterious Muse. [Twist on Led Zeppelin's THE CRUNGE: I'm just trying to find my muse. Has anybody seen my muse? Have you seen my muse? I ain't seen my muse. Where's my confounded muse?]

What were the results of all my worry? Nothing. Nada. Zip, zero, zilch. I begged my mc [in lieu of Jesus] to take the wheel, but she wasn't talking. Her lips were sealed. If nothing else, she's an expert at keeping secrets. So, I put my faith in the process.

At four o'clock in the morning, I woke up and sat straight up in bed. I had my answer. I clicked on my computer and started writing. I went back through my ms and changed what I needed to in order to make the story work. My Mysterious Muse had come through. [It sure as hell wasn't my bratty, teenage mc! Oh, no, she was having WAY too much fun laughing at me and watching me suffer. Beyotch!]

My point? When you have a problem with your ms, when you hit a wall, run out of steam, want to cash in your chips, etc, [God, I love cliches!] let it simmer. Think about the problem every which way you can, and then let it go. Trust in The Universe - trust in The Process. Most importantly, trust in yourself and your talent.

And to my mc I say, "Sorry, babe, but my maturity trumps your teenageyness every time." [Okay, what I really said was, Neener, neener, neener, you can't catch me!]

Thursday, April 8, 2010


The lovely and talented Jody Hedlund had a great post recently that got me thinking: what is proper etiquette on Twitter, aka, Twetiquette!

First of all, a quick look at my journey into Twitterville. From the first moment I heard of Twitter, I was dead-set against it. Who needs another form of social networking? Not me, that's for sure! For [not] the first time in my life, I was dead wrong. Last June I went kicking and screaming into heaven.

As some of you know, I partially [totally] owe my finding agent representation to Twitter. Awesome Agent aka Bernadette Baker-Baughman of Baker's Mark Literary Agency liked the back and forth banter we were engaged in on Twitter, checked out my blog, and the rest, as they say, is history.

There are many different reasons people fly the bird [not to be confused with "give the bird"] to Twitterville, but most go to find people who share common interests. For the purpose of this post, I'll limit my discussion to the writing community, since that's the one I'm most familiar with. (I dabble in politics on Twitter, but that's a whole 'nother conversation!)

So, what's acceptable and what's not? Here's my take.

DISCLAIMER: These are MY OPINIONS only. (Spoiler Alert!) You may love spouting the "eff" word in Twitterland, and no one can/will stop you. They may unfollow you, but they can't stop you. Why? There are no hard and fast rules in Twitterville.

Let's start with what IS acceptable:

1) Be positive!
Give encouragement and acknowledge the accomplishments of yourself and others. Spread the cheer.

2) Be informative.
Tweet and retweet things that matter to the writing community. Examples include new agent announcements, Publisher's Marketplace articles, pub dates for yourself and others, and links to other writer's blog posts you find interesting (hint, hint). What you find interesting, others probably will, too.

3) Direct Message.
Direct Messages, or DM's, will be seen by your eyes and the eyes of who you are tweeting only. It's basically an email. Use DM's when you have something to say that is private, or if you're having a conversation and you don't want to "bother" all of the Twitosphere with it. Not everyone needs/wants to hear everything you have to say.

4) Tweet News, etc.
Earthquakes, election results, publishing-related news, music, TV shows, pictures of your cat, Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey breaking up - things of utmost importance that no one can go another minute without knowing. These are all appropriate to tweet. People like to be informed and entertained.

5) Updates on Your Progress.
It's fine to tweet updates on your writing progress such as word counts, agent representation, if you're on submission, book sales, interviews, etc. Just don't overdo it. Twitter isn't your personal stage. It's a community.

6) Bring on the Funny.
Jokes, You Tube videos, and back and forth banter are all okay. Just keep in mind different people have different ideas of what funny is. I, for one, don't think passing gas, in any context, is funny. But that's just me. Obviously many people feel otherwise. Laughter is the best medicine. Let's keep each other healthy!

7) Be Polite.
Say please, and especially, thank you. As in life, there are many opportunities on Twitter to show your gratitude. Don't hold back. Let people know you appreciate them and their many talents. Building people up is one of the greatest gifts you can give. Public acknowledgment is a beautiful thing.

What NOT to do on Twitter:

1) No Whiners.
Do not whine, at least, not excessively. We all have our bad days, and it's okay to request support every now and then. But if you complain frequently about your life circumstances, you may find yourself losing followers. No one likes whiners!

2) Use DM's for Self-Promotion or Welcoming New Followers.
The only thing more annoying than spambots are people who DM to tell you of their new blog posts and pub dates or who "welcome" you as a new follower and "invite" you to go to their website or blog. This is TOTALLY ANNOYING! Use DM's for personal conversations you are sure other people want to have. Period!

3) Language.
Keep your curse words to a minimum. The "eff" word is, for the most part, inappropriate on Twitter, though clearly not everyone agrees. Curse words, in general, are not necessary. I'm not prude, I was born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island. However, you take a big chance of offending folks if your language is often sprinkled with profanity. You've only got 140 characters. Why be raunchy?

4) Dissing Others.
Never, ever, EVER dis someone on Twitter. If you've got a personal gripe, find some other way to deal with it. Of course, this doesn't include truly evil people like the KKK, Neo-Nazis, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sarah Palin. They deserve all the grief they get. Be kind to others, otherwise, you're the one who ends up looking like the fool.

5) Bodily Functions.
We're not doctors and nurses, we're writers, agents, and editors. Keep the bodily functions to yourselves, whether they're you're kids or your own. (This expounds upon previous "passing gas" comment.) This definitely falls under the category of TMI. No one wants to be grossed out!

6) Just Say "No" to ALL CAPS & EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Need I say more?

7) Don't Twitter Stalk.
Don't stalk people on Twitter. It's probably illegal and just plain weird. We all have our faves, but give people space. The world doesn't need any more paparazzi!

So, folks, there you have it. Twetiquette by Debra L. Schubert. Here's the Cliff Notes version:

  • There are no hard and fast rules in Twitterville.
  • Spread the cheer.
  • What you find interesting, others probably will, too.
  • Not everyone needs/wants to hear everything you have to say.
  • People like to be informed and entertained.
  • Twitter isn't your personal stage. It's a community.
  • Laughter is the best medicine. Let's keep each other healthy!
  • Public acknowledgment is a beautiful thing
  • No one likes whiners!
  • Use DM's for personal conversations you are sure other people want to have. Period!
  • You've only got 140 characters. Why be raunchy?
  • Be kind to others, otherwise, you're the one who ends up looking like the fool.
  • No one wants to be grossed out!
  • Just Say "No" to ALL CAPS & EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • The world doesn't need any more paparazzi!
What did I miss? What are your likes and dislikes on Twitter?

Monday, April 5, 2010

SUBLIMINAL MONDAY: Moving Forward or Avoiding a Series of Unfortunate Events

All we can do in life is move forward, right? I mean, it's hard to move backwards, unless you're doing the backstroke in a pool on vacation in Cancun. [Which sadly, I'm not.]

So, what are you moving towards? Wealth? Fame? Happiness? A thinner waist? A nicer house? A better car? The invention of fat-free chocolate? [If so, I love you, and for God's sake, hurry up!]

I'm moving towards publication. I'm committed to getting the YA novel I'm working on sold this year, hopefully before the end of the summer. [No pressure, AA.] I've had the goal to be published since I first declared myself a "serious" writer in 1995. At that point, my writing wasn't quite up to par. [Okay, it sucked. Big time. Hugely. Was laughable. It was horrific. Really. Super bad. The worst.] So, what did I do? I kept writing. And writing. And writing. [Good God, we get the picture. You don't need to write the same thing over, and over, and over, and over again for us to get it. We're not idiots. Sheesh!]

Don't get me wrong, I'm no writing robot. I did plenty of other things besides writing over the past 15 years. Here's the short-list:
  • I wrote lots of songs; [Selfish, angsty lyrics = BORING!]
  • Survived my honey's medical school and residency; [Had his pic by my bed so I'd remember what he looked like.]
  • Ate lots of good, healthy food; [Mostly chocolate, gained 10 pounds]
  • Raised my sons; [Do you see the gray?]
  • Moved from Colorado to Connecticut to Pennsylvania; [I'm Sagittarius. We love to travel];
  • Went on four cruises; [See previous SM]
  • Went from a Pontiac Grand Am to a Nissan Altima to a Hyundai Santa Fe to a Lexus RX300 and back to a Nissan Altima; [I heart cars. My next one? A baby blue, 2-door Mercedes. Again, no pressure AA.]
  • Settled into my dream house; [cookie-cutter McMansion in the burbs that I pretend is a real mansion]
  • Became a slave to six, feline captors. [It's true. Here's the proof. Here's more proof.]
All the while, I kept checking back in with LITTLE PEARLS, adding bits and pieces to my semi-autobiographical comedic masterpiece,[NOT!] editing it to within an inch of its life. This work, no matter how strange or discombobulated [use "discombobulated" in a sentence - CHECK!] started me on my "professional" writing journey. [If you're ever sneaking through my computer files, promise you won't read it. If you do, you'll be sorry. That's all I'm going to say.] [Threatening people on the internet is a federal crime. Of course, so is sneaking through other peoples' computer files. Think about it.]

Along the way, I had my moments. I sent my first queries in 2002. The next time you're drunk, text me and I'll send you one of these queries. You. Will. Not. Be. Able. To. Stop. Laughing. [Not sure why I wrote that last sentence in separate words. Must be my muse's fault.] In fact, it might kill you. You think, "I died laughing" is just a phrase? That's because you've never read one of my original queries. [It will kill you, and it won't be pretty. It'll be funny, but not pretty.]

A bigger publishing thrill happened [on the way to the Forum] when I met Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, at a charity event. I have pictures, but I'm afraid if I publish them, he'll sue me. I thought it might be my big break. Instead, I created my own Series of Unfortunate Events.

Like an idiot, I handed him my incoherent manuscript in all it's incoherent glory. [Did I mention it was incoherent?] He sent me a thank you card, no doubt after having the biggest belly-laugh of his life [and he's friends with Jim Carrey, so that's saying something]. Because, trust me when I say, the full ms was like, ohmygod, a bazillion times funnier than the query and, like I said, reading the query, you could easily die laughing. [Um, yeah, I think we've covered that.] Shockingly, nothing ever came of it. If I ever meet him again, I'll wear dark sunglasses and say my name is Cecelia Fernandez. [He must never know it was me. Never, do you hear me, never!]

The good news is, all that work on LITTLE PEARLS eventually resulted in my completing three non-discombobulated [use "non-discombobulated" in a sentence - CHECK!] novels and work on two more. Now, I'm moving forward in my quest for publication. I'm excited, nervous, and even a bit proud. [Pats self on back.]

After all, moving confidently in the direction of your dreams is a big part of what makes life kick some serious bootay.

[Thanks, H.D. Thoreau. I couldn't have said it better myself.]

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What Do You Stand For?

My soon to be 21-year-old son just got his first tattoo. He's been dreaming of it and planning for it for a couple of years now. He's a musician, like his parents, so he wanted it to be music-related. He's also a self-proclaimed "Peace Punk" a punk rocker who is all about non-violence. (Didn't know there was such a thing, did you?) Picture Kumbaya performed by the Sex Pistols. (FYI: His band, Combat Crisis, are huge in the Philly area. Google them. You'll be amazed how much comes up. My baby, Adam, is the drummer.)

Here's a picture of his new tat: In a couple of weeks, there will be color added, but I think you get the picture. The text? "I will not fight your battles, I will not die on your battlefields," lyrics from the peace-punk band, Anti-Flag.

This got me thinking. What do I stand for as a writer and as a person? I like to believe I stand for peace, honesty, integrity, harmony, charity, and great shoes, but do I really? Do my actions meet up with my tenets? Do I walk the talk? (My shoe collection screams, "Yes!")

As far as my writing goes, I weave greater meanings into my intimate stories: What goes around comes around; treat people how you like to be treated; forgiveness; being human means making mistakes, growing, and moving on. Messages of hope and humanity, peace and love. (Yes, I'll always be a hippie at heart.)

As far as what I stand for in life, I'm all about truth, justice, peace, compassion, family, and letting people live their lives as they see fit. I contribute monthly to my favorite charities and give huge bags of clothing to Goodwill, but I don't go to the soup kitchen or participate in the Race for the Cure (my mom's a breast cancer survivor). I interrupt someone if I hear an off-color joke, but I don't give my time to mentor an underprivileged child. Is being kind, writing checks, and using less electricity and water enough? Are those actions letting the Universe know what I stand for? Are they making a difference in the world?

From this point forward, I'm upping my game. I'll look for opportunities and take them, rather than thinking my plate is full. When I publish this post, I'll find a charity I like and volunteer my time. Writing those words sent shivers up my arms. Why? Because I'm comfortable. Very comfortable. But, you know what? I'm going to break out of my comfort zone in order to make a difference in what I stand for.

So, what about you? What do you stand for? What would you be willing to literally or theoretically tattoo on your arm?

Like Button