The Blue Screen of Death

Last week, after much debating, I decided to finally buy a new laptop. My old machine frequently shuts off on me – the machine begins to hum and the screen turns an electric blue color (hence the title of this post). The machine was under warranty when this first began happening, but of course, the store said that it was a software problem and not a hardware issue, and therefore not covered (since then, I have never bought another extended warranty). I took the machine in to a PC doctor, who after a week and $130 could find nothing wrong with the machine.

I have been living in constant fear of THE BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH for almost two years, but no more. In another few days, I should get my brand new laptop, an HP dv1000t notebook. I won’t drown you in the details, but the machine has one of the new Intel Dual-Core chips, which should make it a much more powerful and efficient machine. Of course, being that all I usually do on my machine is listen to music, write and cruise the web, I probably don’t need a lot of power. But dammit, after skimping on the price on my current machine, I decided to go all out and get the laptop that I really wanted.

And no, Mrs. V doesn’t know how much I spent on it, and I hope she never finds out.

Essence Bestselling Author

Red Polka Dot is #6 on the Essence Best Seller List for Paperback Fiction.


I’m sure that many of you have never even heard of Essence Magazine. It is a lifestyle magazine that caters to African-American women. According to the website, it has a monthly circulation of over one million and a readership of seven million. And every month, it compiles the preeminent listing of best-selling African-American books.

This month, I’m on that list.

Before you rush out of the house to buy ten copies of the magazine (like I tried to) let me forewarn you: I’m not listed in the print version of the mag. The print magazine only lists the top five books in each category, while ten are listed on-line. I just missed the cut-off. But then again, maybe that gives me something to strive for.


I can’t tell you how many book sales this relates to. I can’t tell you if this means that I should abandon YA literature and stick to writing adult fiction. I can’t even tell you if anyone will really notice.

All I know is that for a least one month, I’m a best seller. And yes, it feels good.

P.S. – Monique, thanks for the heads-up on this. I owe you one.

Knocking on 30

I turned 29 last week, and spent the weekend celebrating with family (my twin brother) and friends (a fraternity brother from college). We had a good time just hanging out – watching tv, eating sushi and speaking of old times.

I’m not going to sit here and say that 29 is old, because most people I know would love to be 29 again. But with the big 3-0 looming around the corner, I do feel a lot older than I felt last year. There’s something about turning 30 that makes you realize that you’re an adult, whether you want to be or not. My body isn’t as limber as it used to be. My eyesight is getting worse every year. While at OU last month for my book discussion, one of the guys called me Mr. Johnson. I rolled my eyes and told him to call me Varian. It wasn’t until I did the math that I realized that when I was in college, this guy was in 3th grade.

FYI – I haven’t heard anything back from the Delacorte contest (which is good, I guess). I did participate in an online SCBWI chat with Krista Marino, an editor at Delacorte last Wednesday. She didn’t talk about the contest much, but she did give out a lot of good information about Delacorte and her personal tastes. If your an SCBWI member, check out the website for transcripts of the chat.

And to my Sister-In-Law: Yes, we watched Fantastic Four this weekend, and yes, Jessica Alba is BEAUTIFUL.

Life As A Pseudo-Bachelor

Early Friday morning, I dropped Mrs. V off at the airport for her two-week trip to China. Since then, I have:

1) Eaten food from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, and Arby’s,
2) Not shaved at all,
3) Not washed a single dish,
4) Admired some very “artistic” pictures while cruising the web (don’t worry parents, I won’t provide the links),
5) And have finished two chapters of my novel.

As much as I enjoyed Task Number 4, I’m really happy that I was able to get a lot of writing done. Maybe two chapters doesn’t sound like a lot to you, but for me, that’s monumental. I’m usually lucky to finish one scene in a week, much less two full chapters. If I can keep up this productivity rate, I can hopefully get up to 1/3 of the novel finished before Mrs. V gets back home. And as much as I like to write and as much as I complain sometimes about not having time to write when Mrs. V is around, come March 19th, that manuscript won’t even register on my To-Do list.

On to other news, it’s been two months since I sent in my manuscript to the Delacorte Contest, and I’m at the point where I want to scream. I’ll be honest – I’m not sure if my manuscript will even win. I’m not saying that the ms is bad, because it’s not. It’s just that I’m afraid it may be too edgy for the Delacorte line (I fear I have one too many of those pesky f-bombs scattered throughout the manuscript). But I digress….

The winner of the contest is announced at the end of April – a full four months after my submission date. I know four months isn’t a long time in the writing world, but it still sucks to wait that long to hear something back. And being that the submission is exclusive, I can’t submit the ms anywhere else until I hear back. The good news is that it doesn’t stop me from submitting my work to agents, which is what I planned to do during my four month wait in the first place. Which brings me to my next point…

The contest doesn’t stop me from submitting to agents, but agents that prefer exclusive submissions do stop me. Nothing against exclusives, but like the Delacorte contest, I hate wasting two months just to find out that an agent doesn’t want to rep my work. I understand why it takes so long; an agent’s first priority is his or her current clients. I’m not complaining about agents, per se; I’m just commenting on how much I dislike the process. (In other words, don’t hate the playa, hate the game).

I am a published author, and while I would love to believe that that gives me some clout, it doesn’t automatically get me a contract with an agent. At the most, my publishing status may help to get my work read at some agencies that are closed to submissions, but even then, that’s a stretch. In the grand scheme of all things literary, I’m about where I was five years ago, but at least I’m a hell of a lot smarter, and if I keep eating all this fast food, I’m gonna be a hell of a lot fatter.

Anyway, it’s off to bed…right after I say goodnight to Jessica Alba.

Sooner Born and Sooner Bred

As I stated a few weeks ago, I’ll be speaking at the University of Oklahoma (sponsored by the Black Student Association) next Monday. The info is a follows:

February 27th @ 7:00 PM
University of Oklahoma
Henderson-Tolson Cultural Center, Room A
Norman, OK

I graduated from OU five years ago and haven’t been back to campus in three years. I’m very curious to see how things have changed, and I’ve very eager to speak to some of the students. I’ve already got a small contingent of co-eds ready to beat me up because of the ending of Red Polka Dot.

Time Flies When You’re Preoccupied With Your Day Job

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I last posted to the blog. Looking back over the past few months, I’m amazed at how bad I’ve been at posting on a regular basis. Work has been killer for the past few months for me. The work has been extremely challenging (which I love), but by the end of the day, I’m exhausted. By the time I get home, the last thing I want to do is write. I’d love to quit my job and write full time, but as I’ve said on many other occasions, that’s not really an option right now.

I’ve been working on my novel, but instead of finding 2 hours a day to devote to it, I find that it’s more like 60 minutes broken into 15-minute intervals. Then, when you take into account my laptop is on it’s last legs (it shut off three times yesterday afternoon), you can see why I haven’t been so keen on writing lately.

March should be better, with two projects at the office reaching major milestones, and with Mrs. V going off to China for a few weeks. And no, I’m not exactly happy to see her leave, but I think the time alone may help me to refocus on the novel I’m working on. Maybe this sounds a little sexist, but it’s damn hard to write sometimes when you have a spouse that demands attention. And while I like giving her attention, I don’t like creeping out of bed at 5:30 in the morning to get writing done, just so I can spend my evenings watching Dancing With the Stars.

Sometimes, I think I’d be better off if I got an MFA and taught – THEN maybe I’d find time to write. Hell, I’d even go to school for 6 years to get a Ph.D. in engineering, just so maybe I could find time to write. Of course, knowing my luck, teaching would take up more time than my job does now. And I hate research.

Okay, so this post is really more of a rant than anything, but dammit, everyone deserves a rant every once in a while. Then again, maybe Johnny “Guitar” Watson can sing it better than I can.

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Mrs. V and I played hookey today and decided to skip church. Usually, my morality starts nagging at me when I think about skipping church, but today, I was surprised how comfortable I was with the decision. Maybe I was okay because I got to spend some much-needed quality time with Mrs. V. I was in Fort Worth from Wednesday to Friday, and then I came home just long enough to go to bed before I headed to Houston on Saturday.

This morning, I treated Mrs. V to breakfast in bed. I’m no gourmet chef, so she had to settle for bacon and cinnamon rolls. The bacon was a little on the “Cajun” side, but Mrs. V didn’t seem to mind. After breakfast, we watched Crash. I was surprised how much I liked this movie – I think it does a great job of exposing our problems with stereotypes. I highly recommend it.

We took a quick power nap after the movie, and then headed to our Salsa class. So far, it’s been very…interesting. We rotate partners a lot, so it’s a nice change-up to dance with someone different. So far, I’ve only stepped on my partner’s toes once. Unfortunately, she was wearing open-toed shoes.

Now, I’m trying to catch up on some much-needed writing. Things with the new manuscript seem to be going well, but I won’t really know until I have a few more chapters under my belt. I will say this much – it’s the first novel in a long time that I’ve attempted to write from a male POV. Peter/Isaiah/Joshua (I haven’t quite finalized his name yet) is a very interesting character. I really like the story that he’s telling.

Also, thanks to everyone that showed up the book signing in Houston. I really enjoyed seeing a lot of old friends. And Catherine and Catrina – thanks for being my cheerleaders.

Upcoming Author Appearances

For those of you in Houston and South Texas, please come out and see me at my upcoming book signing this weekend:

February 11th @2:00 PM
Borders – Meyerland
Houston, TX

In addition, I’ll be making an appearance at the University of Oklahoma at the end of the month (Feb 27th @7:00 PM, additional details to come at a later date).

I wish I had more time to list some of the things going on with me, but being that I have to get up early for a series of meetings and workshops tomorrow (I’m in Fort Worth for the next 2 days), I leave you all with 10 random thoughts of the day:

1) Cynthia Leitich Smith has a great (and newly redesigned) site.

2) I hate waiting to hear back from potential literary agents. I wonder if they’re aware of how much they torture us.

3) The NFL is starting to get a little ridiculous with their censorship issues. They blotted out a few lyrics from the Stones, but they show Seahawks Cheerleaders and Go Daddy Commercials?

4) I’m sick and tired of hearing about Jerome Bettis, and I’m sick of hearing played-out one-liners featuring some reference to “The Bus.”

5) I love hotel beds.

6) I still have to get Mrs. V a gift for Valentine’s Day. I hope she likes black, lacy clothes.

7) According to my father, eating cold poultry products will give you worms.

8) Coretta Scott King was a phenomenal woman.

9) Does anyone give a damn about the Winter Olympics anymore?

10) I really wish I could find more time to write.

Filet Mignon or Raman Noodles

I really wish I hated my job.

Things are really busy at the 9-to-5, so much so that I haven’t been nearly as committed to writing as I should be. I’ve been setting time aside to write, but I’ve been so mentally beat up, I can’t seem to focus when I’m sitting down in front of the computer. If I hated my job, it would be so easy to quit and to find something else less draining. But I’m good at what I do, I get paid pretty well to do it, and I really like it.

I wonder how authors force themselves to take the plunge and commit themselves to writing full-time. Some authors have turned away from very lucrative careers in order to pursue their real passion – writing. I must be a coward, because even if I hated my job, I don’t think I could abandon it to write full-time. I’ll be honest; I like a steady paycheck. I like writing checks and not worrying about if they’re going to bounce. Mind you, a lot of authors that write full-time make enough money so that they don’t worry about bills. But being that Red Polka Dot isn’t on anyone’s best seller list, I don’t see my royalty checks covering much more than a few combo meals from Popeye’s.

I may be a coward, but at least I’m not a hungry coward.

Mr. V’s new workout plan

I don’t see how authors do it sometimes. Work a full time job, spend time with the spouse and kids, work-out, handle miscellaneous chores and errands, AND still find time to write and read other novels.

In an attempt to try to monopolize all available hours, I’ve set a pretty rigorous schedule for myself. Starting this week, I’ve been getting up at 5:30 in order to get my writing done. So far, it seems to be working: although I haven’t gotten much done in the area of writing, I have been forcing myself to get up in the morning. Folger’s Coffee has become my new best friend.

I’ve also got time set aside for web browsing and blogging, for reading other novels, and for spending quality time with Mrs. V. It looks like television is the main thing that I’ve erased from my previous schedule. And, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. The only television show hardwired into my schedule is 24 (Jack Bauer is one bad mofo).

I just finished Ellen Wittlinger’s Sandpiper, and I’m currently reading Teach Me by R.A. Nelson. I’m a big fan of Ellen’s work, and Sandpiper did not disappoint. There are some mature themes in the novel, although it’s nothing new to most high schoolers. I thought I wouldn’t like the main character, but I actually found myself liking Piper (as she begins to call herself). And the Walker is a good, solid character. There’s a lot going on in this novel, but Ellen handles all of the themes very well. Some folks may want to call the novel edgy, but I prefer the term “realistic.” Highly Recommended.

My current work-in-progress is going pretty well. I got to Chapter 6, and decided to scrap the story and start over again. This sounds bad, but this is pretty routine for me. After 6 to 8 chapters, I usually find that I know my characters well enough so that I can go back and build on the plot. I’ve hashed out a better story while still retaining the essence of my characters; now I just have to start putting words on paper.