Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The End

I came up with five thousand things to write about in this, the last day of 2008, but am keeping the status-quo of what everyone does New Year's Eve: Make resolutions for the upcoming year, all to be broken by January 31, 2009. This year, however, I'm keeping it simple as well as realistic, and not going the "resolution" route. Rules rule, therefore, I give you

"Kath's Simple, Realistic Rules For A Happier Next Year"

  1. If it's easy then it's not worth my time. I've been down the beaten path enough to know that not only is it not fun, but breeds frustration.
  2. Take the path less traveled. See number 1 for explanation.
  3. Promote my writing friends' successes because frankly, nothing makes me happier than seeing their hard work pay off.
  4. Not let any more health issues stop me, unless, off course, they kill me first.
  5. Face each day with complete abandon.
  6. Take nothing for granted.
  7. Believe that I'm always doing the best I can.
  8. Rely on the universe for guidance 24/7.
  9. Remember that life really is too short.
  10. Take more naps.
There you have it. Simple and fail-safe. May you all have a happy, ambiguous, New Year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Write Gift

Another Poem

by Grayson Czarnecki

lost for a few
frantic fleeting seconds

suspended in stasis
withholding the flow
ideas that dangle above cohesion

sudden comprehension
my pen, found anew

How many times, as writers, do we sit before the blank screen, or let our pens hover over lined paper, and as we do so we dig deep into the brain looking for that first word? And that small, invisible voice screeches, "You're no good! Don't quit your day job.”

Maybe I'm just speaking for myself, but somehow, I don't believe I'm alone.

In late summer of 2007 I decided it was time to enroll in college. Fifty-three years old, it seemed like it was time, and I was feeling a "what the hell" moment. Several hours after that major revelation, I was a fully enrolled part-time student.

Long story short, I was placed in Honors English. I had no idea what that meant, except that after the registrant asked me what I'd been doing lately, I told her I had written three novels, and she crossed something off my schedule and said while she wrote, "You belong in Honors English." I said, "Well, okay."

The one and only place where I never felt at a loss to write. The crazy, taunting inner critic went mum every time Professor Curt said, "Okay, let's start the day with a free write...write anything that comes to one's gonna read it. This is just moving your pen and getting the flow going." And then one day he decided that, yeah, let's all read what we wrote... out loud. This he mentioned after we finished writing. Curt's nothing if not a seat-of-your-pants kind of professor. He says, "Who wants to go first?"

A couple of hands went up, or maybe someone just said, "Uh, I'll go?" Anyway, that's when I knew I was at the right place in my life. Mind you, I was THE oldest student, as in, all the others were fresh out of high school. Fresh. Their words as they merged into sentences and onward to paragraphs, were fresh. Like that first footstep on the moon, fresh.

The effect was virulent. No room for envy - each writer unique yet equal in talent. Yet there was one who stood out. I think what grabbed me was one of his free writes about a fly sipping from a can of Red Bull that he had seen earlier in the student lounge. A simple, empty can left by some slob who thought that maybe his mother would be by later to clean up after him.

The story was off-the-cuff brilliant. Just a few sentences that had the effect of an atomic bomb, without the nasty fall-out. Recently this student friended me on Facebook, which is where I snared the above poem (with permission, of course).

It affected me on impact. At Facebook I commented, "Subtle description of writing angst and how it's never-ending, but never forever." And he replied, "It started out as a poem about actually losing my pen for a couple minutes. When I found it, I wrote this poem. Afterwords (sic) I read it, and realized what it was actually about."

Completely off. The. Cuff.

Brilliance deserves its place in the Universe, or at least a featured spot at my blog. There are no further words I can say to describe Grayson’s talent, except that I hope to live long enough to see its fruition, maybe in the form of U.S. Poet Laureate.

Just a hunch.

Enjoy the holiday! Merry Christmas to all and to all, well, you know...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dead People On the Move!

Well, she went and did it again. The talented Ms. Edie Ramer, through her brilliant writing, made it to the next round of Romantic Times' American Title Five contest.

From today, December 15, to December 29, the voting will be open. And it's so simple that you and all your alter-egos can handle it. Merely send an email to, with the title, "Dead People" in the subject line. Oh, and you can read hers and all the other entries at the Romantic Times web site, but I'm telling you, Edie's is the best one. All my alter-egos think so. Soon we'll be referring to her as La Edie. That's my prediction. This contest will launch her career and next thing she'll know, she'll be sitting on a best sellers' list, and remember:

A vote for Dead People is a vote to keep Edie's dream alive.

Just DO IT!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Can't Take The Heat?

How do you take your truth? Sugar-coated, sweet through and through, or like a shot of freezing water, not what you want, but getting your attention?

My beautiful daughter came home one day, her once striking blonde hair dyed black. Before I could open my mouth, she asks, "How do you like my hair? Isn't it cool?" Her smile beamed as she flipped her hair over one shoulder. Well, what could I say? Obviously, she loved it. I knew I had only a few seconds to answer, and in that time I debated between honesty or telling her what she wanted to hear.

I went with diplomacy. I said something like, "Looks good," and she said, "You don't like it, do you?" She pushed for more, right? I said, "It's not that I don't like it, it's just that I'm used to seeing you with blonde hair, yada-yada..."

She expected raves. "Everyone at work LOVED it!" she said. So I guess that meant that I didn't know what the hell I was talking about, or, maybe the people at work realized that hey, they had to work with her everyday, so they just kept it unreal. Better to hide true thoughts than upset the work place.

I suppose it's always easier to tell a person what you think they want to hear. But, on the other hand, when asked "What do you think?" I take it as a person looking for an honest opinion.

Or are they just fishing for compliments?

As a writer who thinks her work is Nobel worthy, I, too, like to hear accolades. However, over the years I've developed a thick skin. I had to because not everyone thought I deserved a Nobel. What I've learned over the years is that whenever you seek out opinions, be prepared to accept them all. ALL OF THEM.

The first time I entered a writing contest I received some "in my face" comments. At the time I was flabbergasted. Crushed. How dare that person say such a thing?

Did I want to smack that person up the side of her head? Yep. Did her comments stall my writing? Only for a day, and then I got back on my bike and decided to view it as a challenge. I worked harder. I had something to prove, not to the contest judge, but to myself.

As time went on and after several contest entries, I learned that if you want to play in the big leagues, you have no choice but to take the harsh with the good. Contests were a great lesson in developing a thick skin. They prepared me for the next step: being viewed by agents and/or editors.

I believe that to achieve greatness you have to take the bumpy path. The pain of it all. Small steps first; one toe in testing the waters. Little by little the writing improves until you hear more nice things than bad. And with every step the skin gets thicker in preparation for the day your book ends up in the hands of a reviewer.

Thick skin is a by product of honesty. Criticism can be a harsh mistress, but it's the nasty tasting medicine that makes you better. It's all part of the process. As writers, we know this.

Then why is it when asked for our opinion, we take a step back and worry about hurting feelings? Shouldn't the writer asking for the opinion expect honesty? Maybe not. Perhaps the writer just needs their ego stroked. But does that do him/her any favors? It's only human to want to be great and to think your work is the next Nobel winner. But if the story you've been requested to read barks, what favor are we doing the writer by saying, "Oh this story is fabulous! Pick out a new dress, honey, because I hear Oprah's people calling your name."

No favor at all in my opinion. Just speaking for myself, but if the story I want to submit to agents or editors has some in-your-face issues, I want to know about it. I'm not turning my work over for opinion just so my ego gets a stroke. Hell no. I can handle it.

In fact, I recently was subject to scrutiny in the form of a writing contest. One of the judges first pointed out what she loved, and then she got down to the nitty-gritty, pointing out the flaws. And she was spot-on with her observation. Valuable advice that I'll always adhere to.

That particular judge was akin to Randy Jackson of the American Idol judging panel. You know the types. They'll give you props for the good, but not hold back on telling you what needs work.

Yet, in my experience over the years, I've found many writers can't handle the truth. One writer once told me that she quit writing for ten years as a result of bad comments from a contest judge. Said judge indicated that in her opinion, the story wasn't any good. Maybe that writer would rather have a Paula Abdul on her side. You know Paula. She always slurs some sweetness, never saying anything critical because she's afraid of destroying "The Dream."

Ten years of no writing only tells me that the person wasn't serious about it in the first place. Tell me my story is bad, and I'll first ask for another opinion, and then rip it apart to make it better, not toss my entire dream out the window. Only the weak do that.

And in the writing business, weakness has no business.

Sure, criticism's effect has a lot to do with its delivery. But I'll say this, and I've given it plenty-o-thought, if someone credentialed in the business tells me my story sucks ass, I'll take it.

But I'd be kidding myself if I said harsh words don't bother me. They do, but if coming from a reliable source, I can take it. And like I said, harsh hurts and it used to really hurt, but I started getting over it when I began studying Simon Cowell closely on American Idol. His words, that is. Okay, I sort of like looking at him, and I hear his girlfriend dumped him. Hello, Simon...if you're free I got a manuscript needing some ripping apart, maybe over cocktails...?

Back to my point. American Idol's three judges' opinions differ in every degree. Each has a different way of pointing out flaws, and no one does is with as much zeal as Simon Cowell.

Simon Cowell. The man is a mega-mogul in the music industry. The credits to his resume could fill a ream of paper, maybe two. His comments are, at times, caustic. He makes artists cry. But the ones who never shed a tear, took his comments, sour as they were, and learned from them. Maybe at times he forced some to want to quit all together, and if his words had that sort of power, then maybe the artist was in the wrong business all together.

Because if you can't take the heat from someone who knows what they're talking about, it's time to re-think your profession. That's the nature of the beast - taking the bad with the good and knowing the difference. Cowell is harsh, but he also gives props where due. His sincerity is as strong as his digs.

I like that in a person. But then again, I'm a person who prefer honesty over omitting the truth. If I know my potential, I'll most likely agree. But I'll only take harsh truth from a person who has been in the business, has more knowledge and credits to back up their claims, than I do.

And I'll take any other opinion, thoughts, criticisms, etc., that are given by people whose opinions I value. I want to succeed. And I want do it with eyes wide open, taking the harsh with the good. It's a valuable part of reaching my dream, and I want to get there based on hearing the utter truth from whomever happens to view my work.

It's essential.

Thoughts? How do you take your truth?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Back At Ya!

My blogging friend, Robin Bielman, has come up with a provocative and heartwarming idea in order to bolster the so called "floundering" publishing industry. That Robin is full of it - ideas that is. ;)

So, with the best interests of our industry at heart, visit Robin's blog today!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Got Lemons?

Is happiness really a choice, or is it just all relative?

Today I read Mark Terry's blog wherein he cut to the chase on publishing cuts, slicing every writers' creative aorta with the bleak news of today's publishing picture. It was an icy blast fit to peel the skin right off your face, painful but necessary.

Earlier I read a piece in my local news rag that ABC Daytime is cutting actors' salaries. They (ABC) could have just axed the characters, because you know in soaps, that happens every so often. An actor gets the itch to rush out to Cali during pilot season and try his/her luck, and next thing you know, they're Lazurus back from the dead. But is ABC killing off Erica Kane, or maybe sending her off to an exotic spa for a face lift? Hell no. They know what their viewers want, and that's to see sixty-one-year-old Erica Kane try to look thirty.

And the actress accepted a cut in pay as opposed to standing in a casting call line.

Still earlier as I brewed my coffee, I listened to my morning radio talk show where in the news portion it was announced that a sportswriter for the local rag just got the ax. The guy had been with the paper maybe twenty or more years (I'm guessing). Offered a pay cut? I don't know. I sort of doubt it. I'd have to say that given the local market, which is small, the reporter might have jumped at the chance to keep a job since it'd be hard to find work locally as a sportswriter.

We hear it everywhere. Job loss is nothing new, but recently virulent. But still, job cuts, cutbacks, etc., aren't new. It's just harder to find a new job because, well, there aren't many out there to be had.

Unless, of course, you're willing to do what it takes to stay solvent as opposed to doing what you love, or what you thought was best suited for your talents. McDonald's perhaps? A greeter at Wal-Mart? Here's the rub: Jobs don't define who you are. That's something people seem to lose sight of. Basically we work to put food on the table and keep a roof over our head. Maybe it's just me who thinks this way because I never got paid to do what I love. I worked to live, taking jobs that picked me, as in, I could type therefore I got to be a secretary. That led to more specific secretarial jobs such as a slave to lawyers. Next thing I knew I worked in a mediation program via Family Court.

You do what you gotta do.

It sucked. I burned out. People sucked. It was them or me. I picked me. I'm lucky enough to have survived the thirty plus years doing what I didn't like, but it kept me out of hock and fed my kid. Luckier still, I was able to self-retire.

And now I try to write, which I love, but the publishing world is a nasty mother-hucker even when things are good. Not so much now. Am I thinking of jumping out my raised ranch second story window because my chances of getting published have gone from slim to none to fat chance in hell? Hell no.

I still have a roof over my head, food on the table and a solid marriage. We can survive on one income. That's lucky in more ways than one because if I need to re-enter the work force, I'll need to find a job that accepts partial eyesighted secretaries. Oh, and let's not forget my age. I have that against me no matter what I try and do - even getting published for the first time, or so I've been told.

So, hell yeah, life can suck. I could make mine even suckier by fretting over the economy and how it's ruining Christmas, yada yada, but let's not forget the Wal-Mart employee killed in the line of duty because shoppers didn't want their Christmas ruined by not getting a deal on that 42" flat-screen for their teenage meth-head kid.

I'm just saying that we need to embrace the beauty where we feel it. Things could be worse - we could have Grandpa Munster as our president-elect, right? What could be worse than that? If president-elect Grandpa Munster croaked, that's what. Think about that scenario, and then get back to me about how horrible life is.

Meanwhile, remember to stoop over and sniff a rose, or indulge in whatever simple pleasure strikes your fancy. Life is good when we view it from the simplest vantage point.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I'm Not In the Mood!

So what it's the first of the month, the beginning of a week and I have time on my hands to get back into my wonderful next best-selling novel. I blew the doors off my writing barn last week (just before turkey day), and said to myself yesterday, "Self, tomorrow you got to get back in that groove because, you know, if you don't, they'll be no first contract, let alone the next best-selling novel."

Did I listen to myself? Hell to the no I did not. Instead I slept in (8:05 a.m.), made coffee, read the paper, thought about exercising, and then remembered that the Maytag repair guy was coming. I have a dryer on the fritz and ten loads of wash to do, so at 9:30 a.m. Maytag guy shows up. He says after examining the dryer, "Yep, it's broken. Gonna cost you an arm and leg to fix..." OK! He didn't say that, but did say it was broken and would cost close to $300.00 to fix it, so next thing I know, I'm on my way to buy a new dryer. (And by the way, does anyone know the origin of "on the fritz." Did some guy named Fritz break a lot of stuff?)

Six hundred dollars and change later, I get back home. Dryer gets delivered tomorrow afternoon, so now that I don't have to do wash until then, I have the afternoon to write. No problem. I can get right back into it. Wrong! I turn on the laptop and see I have emails. After deleting the ads, I answer a few and decide, since I'm on the Internet, to look at blogs. Wouldn't you know it, today all my blog haunts interested me, thus, writing comments was next on my agenda.

Yada yada. Phone rings, daughter calling. More yada yada. I look at email again, receive one from announcing 20% off on all shoes. SHOES! Other than dark chocolate, shoes are my crack. Of course, I have to check out each and every pair on their goddamn website.

Give me a heavy sigh, because now it's closing on 4:00 p.m. and I am no longer IN THE MOOD. Don't bother lighting the candles, chilling champagne, or massaging my feet. I'm done for the day.

But, I did get me a really cool pair of shoes. What do you think? And while you're marveling over my hot find, care to share how you force yourself back into writing when not in the mood?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Joyful Gratefulness

What goes through a turkey's head that split second after it leaves its body and is falling from the stump? "Did I turn off the stove before I left the pen?" or how about "Why did God give me wings, yet I can't fly?"

But turkeys don't possess skills, although the one pictured to the left seems to be in take-off position. Sort of a clunky poultry version of a 747. And aren't turkeys hard on the eyes? So is it any wonder that their only function is to take up room in the freezer?

What an obtuse life. Glad I'm not a turkey...I am so grateful not to be a turkey.

And since I've segued right into the grateful mode-roll, I can't stop.

Kath's Thanksgiving Gratefulnesses for 2008 (in no particular order)

  1. My bones ache, I use eye drops that feel like acid and at times I look like that Tales From the Crypt guy, but at least I can walk around the block, still have a spare eye that works, and a hairdresser who works miracles.
  2. January of this year I had a publishing contract; June of this year, the publisher disappeared like Elliot Spitzer after a panty raid, but, I gained stronger self-confidence in my writing and in my heart know that my work belongs with a major NYC pub.
  3. I may have nightmares, but my dreams outweigh the fright.
  4. I live like a recluse, my car stays in the garage all week, but that's one less carbon foot-print on the world.
  5. I live like a recluse, but thanks to modern technology, I have a wealth of cyber friends.
  6. I don't go out on the town anymore; no longer can I look for Mr. Goodbar, but for the last thirteen years I've lived with the same knight in shining armor.
  7. My dogs make me go out in sub-zero weather, but at least I'm not walking on wet spots or cleaning up poop.
  8. I'm thankful to have my health, even though lately I've been visually challenged, my fingers still find the keys, my imagination still runs with hysterical abandon. I still plan on seeing publication, no matter how hard it is to see at times.
  9. Lastly, I'm grateful to have survived my past with as much grace as I could muster, without one ounce of regret.

There's more, but I'd rather see what my followers are grateful for - whom I am so very grateful for as well as fortunate to have.

Happy T-Day!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Twinkle, twinkle, little star...

In today's mailbag, a/k/a, my Yahoo email, was one from my pal, writer extraordinaire, Edie Ramer (whom you better vote for - time's awaisting). The subject: I Love Your Blog! She was awarded it, and then passed it along to me, and six others. As recipient of the award, I need to pass it along to seven other blogs that I love.

But before doing that, I have to say how truly honored I am because I know Edie visits plenty-o-blogs. She knows good when she sees it. :) Her reason for choosing my blog assured me that I'm on the right path to my goal.

I believe that in order to achieve success one has to surround themselves with like-minded people, thus visiting writers' blogs that bestow great wisdom and insight into the writing beast's mouth. It's what keeps us afloat as we swim against the tide, which at times feels like a tsunami. And through the blog-hopping mambo, I have found that writers are stars in their own right - a galaxy imploding with a constant glimmering pulse.

Sure, maybe I'm making writers sound like a bunch of self-righteous ego maniacs. I'm just saying that it's necessary for writers to view themselves as the next best selling novelist. That each time they look at their work in progress, they should hum the tune depicted above. (And if you haven't played it yet, do it so this makes sense to you.) I used to hum it all the time, then got out of the habit, or the tune slipped away in the black hole known as my brain, but thanks to Edie, it's back now, baby!

And without further adieu, here are seven blogs that I love:

1. Magical Musings, a group of four talented women's fiction authors. It's a one-stop blog hop extravaganza filled with not only mind boggling ideas, but really cool author interviews and book reviews, too.

2. Erica Orloff, whose blog intrigues me with its constant diversity. I admire Erica's ability to produce a new blog every day while juggling her writing career while chasing a three (?) year old. She's the Wonder Woman of the writing world.

3. Spy Scribbler. She hooked me during the Presidential Elections with her constant YouTubes and insightful viewpoints. Now that the confetti is all but colorful garbage in some landfill, Spy still continues to inspire my thoughts, as well as prop me up when I'm feeling weary.

4. Robin Bielman. What can I say except her blog makes me laugh and laugh and laugh. Not to mention, she's about the only other person I know who loves "Dexter".

5. Mark Terry. I ran across Mark via Erica Orloff's blog. His comments had me rolling on the floor, and also hinted that we share the same tortured souls and sick humor. I'm now his blog stalker.

6. Jude Hardin. Another guy I admired from afar at Erica's blog. One day he posted a comment at her blog suggesting to visit his blog, so what the hell, I did. He hooked me with granting permission to cuss in my posts. Gotta love a guy who lets me do that.

7. Last but never least, Marcia Colette, my twin sister. No one on this writing planet has done for me what she has, such as garnering me a scholarship to attend an RWA Conference by writing a heart wrenching letter to whomever gives out the scholarships. Why did she do it? Felt sorry for my half-blindness, perhaps, but I later found out it was because she wanted to meet me in person, and figured that was the only way to make it happen. Suffice it to say, she gives great letter, so it's no wonder why she's also a fabulous writer.

So there you have it, folks. My Magnificent Seven, making up the brightest constellation any galaxy has ever seen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Art says he don't get art....

Several blogs I've visited this week have had an artsy theme to them. Erica Orloff compared herself to a Jackson Pollock painting, while Jude Hardin posed a question regarding books as works of art.

And since I can't resist any conga line that weaves by, I'm hopping on, today's blog inspired by my desk calendar, a pseudo art book featuring daily quotes, some by artists. November 20th's featured art was "David Plays Before Saul" by Rembrandt. The accompanying quote, well suited to the week's blog-o-sphere theme, is as follows: "Whenever I see a Frans Hals I feel like painting, but when I see a Rembrandt I feel like giving up!" Max Liebermann said it, a reputable artist in the German Impressionist circles. To the left is his piece called, appropriately, "The parrot-man".

Don't you just love a man who can handle his bird?

Liebermann's quote jumped up and smacked me hard, similar to the way Edie Ramer does whenever I whine (whom you should have voted for by now). I think Max expresses what some writers might feel at one time or another. Certain authors have a style that humbles us into submission, while others kick our muse into overdrive.

I know after I read a Christopher Moore novel, I can't wait to jump into my work, his irreverent style similar to mine. Lolly Winston, author of "Good Grief" and "Happiness Sold Separately" is another. Her subject matter deals with broken relationships and emotionally bankrupt characters similar to mine. I just love them!

But I've never read a book that made me want to give up writing entirely. Sure, I have my days where I whine incessantly about the business and want to slit my throat, but I've yet to just up and quit. You'd have to poke out both my eyes to stop the constant feed of inspiration. It's next to impossible to entirely kill the spirit that drives us. Will I ever get a Pulitzer or Nobel? That's a when-hell-freezes-over rhetorical question, but my writing world doesn't collapse after I've read books by those who have won either or both.

I like to think of writers as snowflakes - looking alike in a group, but up close, entirely individual. No matter what the book or whom the author, each has followed the same haphazard writing process as the next - an invisible club where self-angst threads us all together in a beautiful tapestry of words, worlds and characters.

Writers are self-motivated machines, always able to pick up where they left off no matter how large the block that plagues us all at certain times. Yesterday I read part of my manuscript to my monster chihuahua, Lola, as she napped in my lap. I didn't take it personally that it put her to sleep, but reading it out loud juiced me up and got the motivation flowing again. That's what writers do. Subconsciously we're always able to unplug whatever has clogged the flow. Reading to Lola did that for me.

So if reading my own, unpublished, work motivates me, it stands to reason that reading someone else's published book will kick my muse into overdrive, and not be so humbled by it that I can't write another word. Hell to the no it won't!

How about you? Ever get tangled up by someone else's prose, or does it juice you up?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Warning: Don't read if you're feeling lofty. Why do I...

...write? I used to tell myself it was because I'm a tortured soul and that's what all tortured souls do - (other than abuse alcohol/drugs - a writer's right). It's our excuse for cutting open a vein and bleeding all over the pages, right?

Maybe not. I'm just guessing, but I feel that anyone who set into motion the first paragraph of whatever story, did so with dreams of creating the next great American novel. And you can't have a "Great American Novel" without it seeing light of publication. Otherwise, it'll sit cold and lonely on the hard drive. So, naturally, every writer has dreams of, and actually seeks, publication at some point.

And then at some point, the road gets a little weary, at least it has for me. Hearing about changes in the publishing industry, the fact that many talented authors' contracts are getting eighty-sixed because their work isn't "this, that, or the other thing," sort of makes me go, "HUH?"

And so I have to ask myself: "Self, why are you bothering?" After all, if publishers are dumping their talent, why would they look at someone new to the market? Those unfortunate ones who lost contracts were fabulous writers. How can I top their brilliance?

It gets worse, all those things that got me to thinking about this entire writing gig. I hear tales, via industry blogs, of writers constant query letters receiving rejections without comments, or never hearing back one way or the other, that some agents are just "too busy" negotiating deals for the authors they represent to even bother sending a rejection letter. Maybe I shouldn't pay attention to all that shazit, but still...

It goddamn sucks! I'm not implying that I have the next great American novel on my hard-drive, I'm just saying that with all the dark information looming about the publishing world, what's the point in my bleeding all over the pages, other than for the therapeutic aspect of it all?

Is it crazy to hold onto hope that maybe things will change? One day will all the madness die - the pendulum swing back in my direction (if I had one)? If I had a dime for every time I thought to give up on the writing I'd be Bill Gates. But each time I consider tossing in the towel, another story idea slams a fly into the ointment.

When does one determine it's time to throw in the towel for good? How does one keep hanging on to hope after seeing so many really good writers dumped? I think about those authors who got axed and wonder why their editors/agents, whomever, didn't give them some direction, such as giving a clue as to what they're looking for. After all, these are seasoned writers with several thousands of words and pages published - surely they can create something that will sell, right? They're writers! It's what they do for a living (at least most of them).

It's like working for a company that's cutting jobs due to financial straits. Management says you can keep your job, but only if you move to India, or take a cut in pay, etc. Options are offered. Why do editors/agents dump a client without giving them a shot at something else that'll keep them afloat? It just seems like the right thing to do, offering a choice, an option.

Maybe there was choice offered. This I don't know for sure. The one author whom I know well and was recently dropped had thought her next release was a go. I said to her, "You got that next book ready to go?" and she replied, "Been ready, but my publisher dropped me..." I'm paraphrasing. It was one of those moments that I found so incredible that my memory banks misfired.

My point? Basically, why bother writing toward the publishing goal if many of the really awesome writers have been kicked to the curb? I'd like some answers. I already know that the publishing business can be brutal, and that said, why jump in without that life-line called hope? Is hope lost on the publishing dream?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Stranger Than Fiction

I have a friend, Edie Ramer, (pictured here) who is a finalist in the American Title V contest, which is similar to American Idol, except it doesn't have any weepy, semi-sober judges. And now that I've mentioned it, you, too, can vote for my friend. Just send an email to and put in the subject line "Dead People" (that's the name of her book - Dead People - an instant winner). She'll win a contract with Dorchester Publishing after all the votes are in.

But I'm not bringing the American Title V contest up so you will vote for my friend, Edie Ramer, writer extraordinaire, or so that you will check out the American Title V contest, which has launched the careers of many fabulous authors, such as my friend, Edie Ramer, whom you should vote for.

No, no. Today's blog is about me, yet inspired by Edie (whom you should have voted for by now). At a blog I frequent, Spy Scribbler, Edie pimped herself on Thursday, November 13. At the end of her guest spot, she requested of posters to list their favorite "first line" of any of their works. Right away, I went to each of my manuscripts, eager to post one of my favorite first lines. I love it when asked to pimp myself. The only problem was, my first lines sort of made me want to barf, but that's okay, they're drafts. I'll fix them... some day.

Where to find a great first line that won't make anyone else barf? I wondered. Far be it from me to create a cyber-vomitorium. So I continued sweeping my works, finally clicking onto a folder marked "Honors English." Still no great first lines, but I went with a great second line that could have passed for a first. It came from a creative non-fiction essay, and was my first college level A.

Edie loved it. Edie knows good when she sees it. For me, it slapped me up the side of my head and said, "Hello? Shouldn't you be registering for next semester?"

(Rewind: I started my college career last year - the world's oldest Freshman.)

I was supposed to return to school this year, but had to withdraw due to the damned eye malfunction. At this rate it'll take me five years to complete a two year program, but I'll do it even if it takes six. Today I took the first step - I picked out three courses for the Spring semester which I'll register for on Monday (because that's when registration starts). They are as follows: Stress Reduction Through Exercise - 2 PE credits (God knows, I really need that one); Creative Writing II- 3 English credits (I really need the help); Women in Contemporary Society - 3 Honors credits (fits me to a tee).

Credits already under my belt: 12
Credits assumed to get next semester: 8
Credits remaining for my Associates in Liberal Arts: 44

Hmm, 44 doesn't look like a lot to conquer. I could cram a few more course in during the summer. Wow! I might actually obtain my degree in three years! I just have to buckle down somewhere along the way and take some science and math, which of the latter I deplore. But I can do it, because...

I'm perpetually inspired my successful friends, such as Edie Ramer, whom by now you REALLY REALLY should have voted for via an email to, in the subject line, DEAD PEOPLE.

So my stage is set, subliminally put into motion by my little friend, Edie. Thanks, Edie. May your expected success rub off on many, but especially me.

Now go vote for my friend!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Proud Happiness

The smoke has cleared, tears have dried, but the utter joy I feel with President Elect Obama still endures. Why? Because finally we have a true leader heading to the White House. And for the first time in my life, I'm proud to live in America.

May the Universe stay on this roll - keeping the Pres-Elect safe, and listening to my wishes when whispered to the sky, granting each one.

(I'd blog further, but am back to limited computer use. *sigh*)

Monday, November 3, 2008


WOW! I just realized that I haven't written a writerly blog in a very long time, and I'm gonna stay on that roll...

I blame it on ELECTION 2008.

I've been unable to function properly ever since a certain bespeckled brunette took the stage for a possible No. 2 spot in the White House. And all those debates had me enthralled. So much better than the usual prime-time shows. I mean, only on Dexter will you see the horror such as the likes of waiting for John McCain's carotid artery to explode. I mean, really - his face looked like he just had a chemical peel; his eye twitched like someone hid his Prozac; and did Joe the Plumber ever show up at whatever berg McCain put the shout-out to him? I think he wanted to buy old Joe a beer, or maybe offer him a high level cabinet position if he happens to win.

Oh God, please don't let it happen! I know I said Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada is only a two hour move from here, but I can't be held accountable in a city with that many casinos. I was just kidding. Really, I was. (But I do love Labatts Blue and hockey...)

I want to stay in the shiny new United States with Barack Obama at its helm and not a wrinkly has-been former POW who only has that going for him.

So please, all my blog readers who are at the same end of the spectrum (the left end), say it out loud so the Universe will hear you: Give the job to Barack Obama! And make sure everyone gets out and votes!!!

(Stay tuned for writerly blog after the election...)

Monday, October 27, 2008

This Makes Me Sick Beyond Words...

Don't Be (A) Fool(ed)

If you follow the polls, you've already noticed that Barack Obama has a hefty lead. But since when are polls the crystal ball? Already some are saying it's a slam dunk - that no way will John McCain win. But have you ever come home after a hard day, loosened the neck-tie, unleashed the bra, changed into your comfy clothes and settled in to watch some tube, when something crazy occurs ruining your relaxed state?

Remember Watergate? Ever hear of election rigging? It can happen, but worse than that are the folks believing in the polls. You know the ones. They shrug and say, "Hey, my one measly vote doesn't mean diddly-squat," and they take the day to go shopping, hunting, or just being a lazy ass because it's easier to sit home than go stand for two seconds inside a voting booth.

Don't be a lemming. The polls are a good indication of what might happen, but YOU HAVE TO GET OFF YOUR FAT ASS AND VOTE! If you don't then don't come complaining when certain rights you've enjoyed are suddenly history. Don't go talking trash about the President, no matter who gets to clean up the spill in aisle Bush. If you don't VOTE than you can just shut the hell up and suck it up...

Because it's never, ever over until the Fat Lady sings it like her last Whopper depends on it. SO GET OUT AND VOTE! NOVEMBER 4! If you can do it sooner, then JUST DO IT! And don't be fooled into thinking that you can vote beyond NOVEMBER 4. It's either VOTE before November 4 or on November 4. After NOVEMBER 4 it's all over. Just don't make it all over by not VOTING.

If you do nothing else in your life, be the one to make a difference because you exercised your right to VOTE.

VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! On or before November 4!

P.S. My eye is still in the healing process, according to Dr. Goddess. The good news: I read beyond the big E! The bad news: there is none. I return for another look on, would you believe, November 4. ELECTION DAY! Voting and eyeballing all in one glorious day. How much better could it get?


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Changes and Adaptation

There are some things in life we can't control - curve balls that mess up plans, bringing regrets or new found endurance. The more it happens, the better we cope. But always we look back and realize that even though we survived, if we had previous knowledge of the curve balls, we'd have balked, because who chooses the tougher road? As it stands, hard times find us.

My resolve will be put to the test again this week. Yet another eye surgery that'll sideline me for two weeks. I'll have to take it easy - skip working out (and I was on a roll, too, drat it!), let someone else carry the laundry basket to the basement, and last but not least, no computer time. Zero. Zip. Stay away or risk major setback in healing.

I'm good with all of that. No big deal. Yet today I thought about curve balls, and how we never see them coming, and if we did, what would we do? Duck? Say for instance we could have looked into our future before the curve balls were pitched. Would any of us have chosen the bad times? Speaking for myself, if told I'd suffer a torn retina, I'd first have said, "A torn what?" and then when told the procedure for repair, I'd have said, "Are ya fuckin' kiddin' me?" If I knew that I'd be facing a six inch needle close-up I'd have barfed profusely and asked how I'd get out of that one. (Let's just say, if I had considered the literal meaning to the phrase "stick a needle in my eye," I'd never had made any promises ever.) And if I knew I'd lose sight in my left eye I might have downed a bottle of Valium with a Stoly chaser.

You get my drift. Shit happens that we can't run from. Time and again it does, reshaping our coping mechanism. Mine is now a finely tuned instrument that would put the Ferrari engine to shame. And I'm not the only one on the planet whose faced sudden life changers. I know more people who have than have not. Many I've met through writing. They know who they are.

Isn't it funny how birds of a feather not only flock together, but do it so brilliantly?

My eye explosion was one of my worst life changers to date, but if not for it I might never have returned to college. I'd never have expanded my horizons. I'd never have met my newest Rock Star, former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins. I heart the man.

And without further adieu and in forced segue, I'm sharing the YouTube to the right. It resonates with what me on levels too numerous to list. Listen to his words, and those of you with good eyes, read along as he recites "The Last Cigarette".

The Last Cigarette by Billy Collins

There are many that I miss
having sent my last one out a car window
sparking along the road one night, years ago.

The heralded one, of course:
after sex, the two glowing tips
now the lights of a single ship;
at the end of a long dinner
with more wine to come
and a smoke ring coasting into the chandelier;
or on a white beach,
holding one with fingers still wet from a swim.

How bittersweet these punctuations
of flame and gesture;
but the best were on those mornings
when I would have a little something going
in the typewriter,
the sun bright in the windows,
maybe some Berlioz on in the background.
I would go into the kitchen for coffee
and on the way back to the page,
curled in its roller,
I would light one up and feel
its dry rush mix with the dark taste of coffee.

Then I would be my own locomotive,
trailing behind me as I returned to work
little puffs of smoke,
indicators of progress,
signs of industry and thought,
the signal that told the nineteenth century
it was moving forward.
That was the best cigarette,
when I would steam into the study
full of vaporous hope
and stand there,
the big headlamp of my face
pointed down at all the words in parallel lines.

Enjoy and reflect! For two weeks I'll be reading things from my "To Be Reads", one of them Billy Collins' newest book of poetry titled, "Ballistics". And upon my return to cyber-land, I'll want to read all the comments in response to this weeks question: How have you grown from those curve balls in life?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Talkin' To Myself: What's Your POV?

Something strange occurred to me today, or maybe it isn't. After tearing apart a manuscript and re-writing it from the ground up, I've noticed something: It's all in one point of view.

Good thing or bad, that's the question. On one hand keeping the story strictly with one POV limits length. After all, with only one person's view, it cuts down on what everyone else is thinking, right? But then on the other hand, the reader might want to know what the other characters think.

Yet another dilemma writers face, at least, this writer. As if we don't have enough to think about already. Oh well. Such is the nature of the beast.

I never thought much about how many POV's to add to a story before, mainly because I used everyone. No wonder my manuscripts hovered around 150,000 words. And now that I think about it, if I revise any of them it might not be a bad idea to shave off a few POV's. But, I find that writing with only one POV is a lot like talking to yourself, which feels a little lonely in a weird sort of way for the character as if he's invisible to all the characters surrounding him.

This POV dilemma surfaced recently while reading Jeff Lindsey's "Dexter" series. Each one is in Dexter's POV only. I never got a strong grip of anyone else in the story. Showtime developed a series based on "Dexter" but the story was expanded to include the lives of other characters we met in the books. Of course, if they hadn't it might not be as wildly successful. It might not fill an hour every Sunday night.

But as far as writing the story, when does one know how many POV's to include? Now that I'm considering the question, other novels I've read recently come to mind that had only one POV. And now I wonder if editors might suggest eliminating certain character's POV as a way of making the story pace breeze along. I have to admit, the one I'm writing now does move along, but the question remains. How to decide what to do?In a way using one POV doesn't make the reader feel involved. And what if the reader doesn't care for the main character? They have no one to fall back on or otherwise endear them to the story.

I'm sure if I looked in one of my handy "How To Write a Novel" guides, I'd find the answer. But, this is more fun. I want others to consider the POV situation. Anyone write all their stories with just one POV, or do you alternate? One thing for sure, when writing in one POV there is no danger of head-hopping.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Un-reality TV Redux

Does this picture look anything like John McCain? If you think it does, then either you're eyesight is worse than mine or you weren't born during the Jurassic age.

To the left is actor James Garner, star of the TV show "Maverick" which ran from (gulp) 1957 to 1962.

Sarah, my dear, I hate to burst your effervescent bee-hive, but there was only one Maverick, and he sure as hell isn't John McCain. If you said it once (which was plenty) you said it five thousand times. But I'm not surprised. It must have been hard to remember all your lines.

And that's why some think Sarah Palin did a stellar job. She proved to be a wizard at memorization, but did that also prove that she possesses the knowledge and understanding to back it up?

Of course not. When she couldn't come up with an answer, she resorted to back-pedaling. And when that didn't work, she spoke of her illustrious career as mayor of Wasilla and governor of Alaska. Let's not forget her "folksy" charm. Was it necessary to wink at the TV audience? Was she trying to impress us with her beauty pageant poise? Seriously, if I want to see those antics, I'll tune into TV Land for the Beverly Hillbillies Marathon. Gosh darn right I will.

Way to show her statesmanship. Treating the debates like she was vying for Miss Alaska just didn't endear her to my heart.

Nothing against the woman. I'm sure she's a real charmer at all the cocktail parties. I just wouldn't invite her to any of mine. There's something evil about a person who refers to gay as "choosing" to be so.

Admitting that she only had five weeks to get up to speed as the V.P. candidate, topped off with whining that she's not a "Washington insider" only further proved how under qualified she is.

This woman has hardly ventured outside of Wasilla, except for occasional moose hunts. This is not "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Has she ever seen a city after all its industries closed because all the jobs went outside of the country. Has she heard of Detroit? I wonder if she's ever driven through an intersection of Wasilla and had her windshield washed by a homeless dude?

Has she ever seen a homeless dude? Has McCain the Maverick?

If McCain were truly a "maverick" he never would have bowed to the pressures of the party and picked Sarah Palin. This is a man who survived the Hanoi Hilton. Surely he could stand up to a few Republican blow-hards.

Sorry to burst your bee-hive, Sarah, but your Maverick has done been gelded, by golly.

In summary, the debate proved once again that Joe Biden is a gentleman, a scholar, and most of all, in touch with the human condition.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Un-reality TV

There's only one TV show I've looked forward to more than the new season of "Dexter": Tonight's Vice Presidential debate. I call it "Unreal Reality TV."

This will be the train wreck to beat all, and I'll be front and center for the sublime. My prediction is that Sarah Palin will either speak while Joe Biden still is, or forget well rehearsed answers because she'll be too worried about trying to remember them all.

I've wondered if the Republicans had a specialist sit up with her cramming on foreign policy, the economy, how to pronounce "Iran," and most importantly, how not to look like a frightened moose in the cross-hairs. Let's face it. She wasn't prepared for Charlie Gibson or Katie Couric. Unless she's secretly miked, I can't imagine her keeping up with all she's had to learn.

Cramming never works. Only crib-sheets do. And since this is to be televised in real time, there's no chance for the dubbing in of answers later by someone in the editing booth. And I really doubt her palms are big enough to have written all the knowledge she lacks.

And that's the point everyone enthralled with her, both male and female, seems to miss. She didn't have an "A" game to bring when accepting the invitation to run with J. Mac. All she possessed was an ego that wouldn't allow her to say "no." Being a mayor of Wasilla, population 7,000, and governor of Alaska, population 650,000, is not a credential. It's just dabbling in small politics. A blip on the radar, not the experience necessary to be number two, and without the necessary experience and knowledge, then the country will literally be number two if she's called into action.

It's like being asked to pilot a 747 when you only have a drivers license. Would you say, "Hell, yeah. I can do that - straight to Uranus and back! Last night I slept at a Holiday Inn?" Wouldn't you consider the passengers' safety? Would you risk innocent bystanders just for a shot at the impossible?

Sure, she's a woman, so every member of that sex should be grateful that she's been chosen to run along side Grampa Munster. Hello? I am woman, hear me roar, "Hell no!" To me a self-respecting leader would recognize their potential and lack thereof. A self-respecting woman knows her limitations and doesn't sacrifice the greater good just to satisfy her ego.

So tonight I'll be front and center for the sublime abomination known as the "Sarah Palin Ego Stroke." If this is the ticket that wins in November, then I hope Canada has room for an increase in population.

Get your exit strategy ready, learn "O Canada", or load up on the Prozac. The J. Mac-Palin Ego show will be the beginning of the end of America as we know it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Feng Shui: If I Rearrange Will the Story Come?

To the left is a painting by Maurice Prendergast, American post-impressionist artist. As you can see, no details are detected in the subjects. They are faceless; the tree limbs blotchy. Only the theme is obvious - people gathering by a lake.

In April of this year I viewed my first Prendergast in the flesh, or oil as it were. It was part of a class field trip for Art History to the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester. My sister-in-law tagged along and when we stopped at the Prendergast collection I said to her, "See this painting? It's exactly how I see things with my left eye."

I'll never forget that day because up until then, it was hard for me to describe the vision in my left eye and the lack thereof. Eye doctors have no idea what it's like - they usually have clear vision. (Believe me, I wouldn't want a doctor working on my eye if he had vision like that in my left eye - uncorrectable vision.) This has always been a frustration for me because with the left eye in such a state it affects the right, which has 20/20 vision. So when I look at something the subjects are a bit distorted on the left.

I'm not trying to gain sympathy for my eye plight. Been there - got all the "Oh you poor things" I can take. But today I revisited the Prendergasts and realized that my writing is exactly like the paintings, at least lately. Now that's a frustration. The theme is obvious, but the details are missing. Not the five senses thing. It's this: I can feel the story; I can see it unfold in my mind. It's just that when I sit down to write it my pen stutters. Everything is haphazard, scampering across the paper in a nonsensical mambo.

Could it be that my mind is taking up with my left eye? Perhaps it's showing support for the handicap by crippling my creative edge. Or could it be how my office is arranged? I've whined to my friend Marcia and she suggested writing in a different part of the house. She always gives the best advice, and I follow 99% of what she suggests. So, I did. I sat in the living-room, pen and pad in hand, and coughed up a scene which at the time looked brilliant. It smacked Nobel! Pulitzer! Or at least something that might have been written by a published author.

I took hand written work and plopped down at the computer. That's when my work looked like something the governor of Alaska might have written. Two words: It sucked. I kept at it, but throughout, my heart beat a sad cadence. It all looked like shit. All the energy I felt in the living-room somehow leaked out as I walked to my computer.

Is it the room? Do I need to re-arrange? Why is it that the story is clear in my head, but when I spill words to the paper, they skitter around and make no sense?

Is my inner critic on crack?

The BIG question: Is it just me, or has anyone else felt this frustration? Chime in. I have a story to finish.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Slightly Shifting - Addendum

Today's horoscope; dateline September 21, 2008, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: Taurus (me) - You're about to get wildly busy doing something you've never done before. This whirlwind will invigorate your life. The first signs that it's coming happen this afternoon.

After reading that I sat back and pondered what the hell it meant. Will I finally get the lucky scratch-off lottery ticket winning me one million dollars a year for life? That would certainly propel me to "get wildly busy doing something," such as planning a tour of Europe, or maybe looking for a residence in another country (who knows what's in store for the future after the November elections?).

But, for one fleeting moment as I pondered "The first signs that it's coming happen this afternoon," I imagined the contest coordinator from San Francisco Area - RWA calling me to say that I won their "Heart to Heart" contest (it was a Sunday afternoon when I learned I had placed first in the category I entered, so I assume since today is Sunday...). Yep, for one silly moment I imagined my reply to her:

Me: Do you speak French?
Her: Sort of...
Me: Get the f**k outta here! I won?

So as you can see, although my previous blog post revealed my new calm about writing, I still desire the feeling of knowing that, at long last, my efforts have come to fruition. And it only makes sense that said contest win would bring me an agent, because I'll be "wildly busy doing something," because the manuscript entered needs a TON of work, and if Ms. Agent asks to see more, well, I better get my writing ass in gear. "This whirlwind will invigorate (my) life." Hell yeah it will!

Perhaps writing doesn't define who I am, but, I'll admit, the feeling of accomplishment will bury the needle on my happiness meter. Just imagining it nudges the needle toward the "I feel really good right now" segment of the meter.

What buries the needle on your happiness meter?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Peacefully Centered

Listen and watch, if you will, to three of my favorite things. It is all I need to remember who I am in this lonely writing life, for I'm not sure I could have enjoyed this video as deeply before I recently reclaimed my center.

My Center. Lately I've run off course. Lately as in the last three years. It began with the eye explosion and slowly from there life as I knew it, splintered in every direction, taking my writing life along with it, for before then, I was doing pretty damn good. Before that I'd completed three manuscripts in three years. Blissfully happy with myself for accomplishing such a feat, it was thereafter that my focus got a little warped. Not the focus that comes with having two fully working eyes; that was a feat in itself to overcome. It was when the completed manuscripts started looking like two out of three had a shot, in my very ill thought out wisdom, to see the light of publication.

So there I was, pre-eye explosion, prepping myself for greatness, making sure that I learned the art of the query letter, synopsis, networking, hanging with those-in-the know. Each day I'd work toward the big goal: a contract with an agent or publisher. And right on the cusp of eye explosion, I made headway into a new manuscript, for that's how I did things, writing my ass off each day, keeping my eyes on the prize.

And then "it" happened. Torn retina with a detachment chaser. My time at the computer became more and more limited. I got more and more frustrated seeing my prized goal sinking further from sight, like a oar-less boat on a strong current - I wasn't on board. Four in depth eye surgeries later, my energy dwindled. I wondered if I'd ever see that publishing dream come to fruition.

I grew increasingly frustrated because I no longer spent each day writing. I thought that's what writers did. They sat and pounded out word after word, letting them snowball into sentences and ultimately the "great American novel." For isn't that what everyone in the writing business did? Isn't that what every blog I visited talked about? All involved in the road to publishing made sure to share how they did it. "They" sat before a blank page each day, and to paraphrase an infamous romance author, "to start is to just begin with one word."

As if it all flowed endlessly from just one word. It used to for me. And then it stopped. And then I had to stop. The doc said, "Step away from the computer screen, give your eye a break for about a week, if not more."

How could I possibly do that? No way, I said to myself. No fuckin' way. So I grabbed a pen and notebook and did it like Twain. I pushed that pen and the story came - there was no way I was not going to write. Writing is my life! I said to myself.

Writing is not my life. It does not define who I am. Yet, I was determined to make it so, and with that my wrists never saw so many close calls to a straight edge. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.) Up and down, day in and day out. I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning because I wasn't in the mood to write, and without that I didn't want to...

Have you ever heard the sound of a hockey skate screeching toward the blue line? Maximize that sound by five thousand and that's what I heard exploding between my ears. I dared to put all my happiness eggs into one basket. What if the basket dropped? What if best case scenario, I got a publishing contract and then, worse case scenario, my book got so-so reception? Or, I got a three book deal and suddenly the publisher decides, "Your books aren't selling because no one is into YOU anymore?"

The straight edge swings like a runaway pendulum over my wrists. All the eggs in the happiness basket are now a very undercooked omelet. I forgot to stop and smell the roses because I had to make sure to write, write, write in order to feel writerly.

Not so much now, folks. Kath has risen to a brand new day and smelled the Costa Rica blend, for if happiness is based on one thing, then utter disappointment can't be too far off. Writing stopped being fun. My life stopped being fun. Writing defined me all right - I started to look like a Bates Motel resident, only more fashionably dressed.

It's been over a week since I last wrote a word in my manuscript. Somewhere five agents have looked, or are looking, at a sample of my writing skills. I could sit here and chisel away a fabulous manicure worrying, but do you know what? I'm not. One out of five agents might like my work and want to see more. Do I have more for said agent to see? Not completely.

Do I care that I might just blow a shot at getting an agent? No, I don't. I'm through with making "getting published" the center of my universe. Only I can be the center of my universe, for if I'm not, I'm missing various other happy moments, as well as developing several holes through my stomach.

I have felt a certain calm this week, like those I'd get as a child sitting by the small creek that flowed along side the house. It'd gurgle over the stones as the sun sparkled like gold coins riding on a tiny surf. Nothing could ever be wrong; all was innocent; I was happy without cause. That was my peace.

The publishing road is still one I'll travel, but these days it's just another satellite orbiting around the sun. I'll not let writing define me - it's just what I do, same as breathing.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Funktified Aftermath - The Power of Friendship

Marcia Colette is my confessional. Yes, that's right, although I don't enter a booth and wait for her to slide open any door; I don't say, "Bless me, Marcia, for I have sinned..." Nope, I just send her a rambling email expressing my writing concerns.

The latest rant consisted of my recent writing slump. Somehow a brick wall grew around my muse over night. It was tall and wide, and really really thick because whenever I called to it I got nothing in return. No mumbled inspiration, just plain dead air. So I zipped off an email to my friend, Ms. Colette. It went like this: My writing has slacked off this past week. At this rate I'll never see light of publication. It doesn't help that I'll be out of commission for a few weeks, either. You'd think I'd start cramming in as much writing time as possible, but I'm just not feeling it and that's a problem. My focus isn't there. I can only hope it'll come back. Maybe I need a visualization wall depicting a finished book.

Her reply: You have a right to be as funk-tified as you want.

There was more, but that one line shouted in my face because it gave me this: permission to feel the angst - that it is okay to have the off days. Feel the pain and move on.

As writers we lead a lonely life. It's a solitary profession. We don't show up to the office and sip coffee with co-workers; no one to chat to about how drunk we got over the weekend; no "I might have made a real ass of myself, I think..." before diving into the job routine. It's just our minds, eyes and fingers facing that keyboard or pen and paper. ALL ALONE. So when we feel the walls going up around our muse, hell yeah, hyperventilation rears its ugly head. How are we going to get over it? Who's there to keep us from dragging that WIP over to the trash bin? We stop writing, stop thinking, even stop envisioning our books on the best sellers' list. And the angst evolves into guilt.

Oh how I hate it when that happens, and I'm really good at self-imposed guilt. I spent years in Catholic school back when lay teachers were a novelty. Yes, nothing but hell bent nuns eager to teach shrinking self-esteem.

I'm preaching to the choir, I'm sure. I'll bet that most every writer has felt what I've felt, and I hope that those who've been in this position have someone who will listen to their rants - someone they trust with their entire heart and soul.

Sharing my angst with Marcia lightened my load, and right after I sent her my "Saturday Funk" email, I received an email from WriterU announcing a new class called "No Plotters Allowed". It stated the following: "Are you having problems in your WIP?" That hooked me, and more so as I further read: "Everyone gets stuck at one point or another."

DING! DING! DING! This couldn't have happened at a better time. Ranting to my friend Marcia was like putting a message out to the Universe that said, "HELP! I'm drowning!"

Today I awoke feeling the focus return and I attribute that to two things: 1.) Sharing my angst with a trusted friend, and 2.) giving myself permission to wallow in self-pity, because if you skip the wallowing it's an eternal pity party and you'll stay firmly planted on square one.

I treasure my friendship with Marcia. She pulled me out of the funk on numerous occasions, and I hope I do the same for her. Without her I think I would have tossed my entire collection of manuscripts into that dreaded trash icon on the desktop.

We all need a Marcia in our lives. She's like having a good cry; the next day everything is all shiny again. Everyone should have a confessional buddy. Care to share yours?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lost In Space

Ask anyone. The milkman, your librarian, the kid at the Wendy's drive-thru, my kid, your kid, grandmother, aunt, uncle, favorite singer/songwriter, just to name a few. They all have them:


So I signed up and got one, too. I like to be part of the pack and so I hopped in and followed all the lemmings. There we all are! Who knew I had so many friends? I didn't. I've even gained a few I'd never known, but that's cool. The more the merrier, right?

Yet trying to figure out the "how-to" of it, well, one needs a PhD in HTML. For all the exposure it touts you can get as a result of MySpace, the damn thing is about as friendly as a hairy-assed tarantula.

Like I need one more distraction in my writing life. And that's what it has become because I won't rest until I've figured it out. That's just how I am. Give me something new and I'm intrigued beyond mystery and go on a quest to master it - take Sudoku for example. When it first appeared in the daily newspaper I dug in. I wore out a few erasers, but damnit, I won! I now skip the easy ones and only do those appearing later in the week - the ones with three to five stars beneath them (difficulty level: the more stars the harder the puzzle).

But MySpace? ARRRRGH! What evil person developed it and why? That's all I'm asking here. And is there a "MySpace For Idiots" guide somewhere on this planet? Most likely not. Most likely I'm the only one on the planet who hasn't mastered the mother-hucking, "everyone has one" thing. You know what else everyone has? Think real hard, and if you don't know, send me an email and I'll forward the answer to you privately.

MySpace. It's not fun; it doesn't improve my day. Why in the hell did I get one? Oh yeah. Because everyone else has one. Well, everyone else who has one, is your life better off now that you have a MySpace?

MySpace, huh, yeah, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing - uh-huh.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What's Up, Cop?

A cop approaches, sits down and says to me, "Hey, can you write a story about me?" I tell him, "Not a problem," and dig in, or should I say, he digs in. Because that's how it's really gone since said cop paid me a visit, and by the way, this all took place in that vast gray area located between my ears.

Since 2003 this cop has told me his story. But his isn't a story about life as a cop. His is a story about life. Cop doesn't define him, and therefore doesn't define my story in which he plays a major role - he's not young and ripped, doesn't have a great head of hair and dazzling smile. He's just an older, emotionally bankrupt, guy.

So how do I sell this story to the genre fiction world? Ever since I created the story it's come under scrutiny for not depicting a cop by whatever the cop standard is. I've had comments such as, "I've never known a cop to act like that? Shouldn't he be retired by now? That doesn't follow standard cop procedure."

"Fine. You're all right," I say, but then do what I want anyway because it's not a cop story.

Follow my drift, please. I write about the human condition. The characters are based on people whose paths I've crossed somewhere in time. These characters come to me from deep in my subconscious where aspects of several personalities have accumulated. Cops, doctors, stockbrokers, artists and cowboys, to name a few. All people whose paths have crossed mine, leaving a bit of their blue print tattooed to my gray cells.

Yet, this could possibly impede my quest for publication because as soon as an occupation makes itself visible, then somehow scrutiny tries morphing the story into a play-by-play of the job description.

I do so hope that I'm wrong about that. To date no agent has rejected me because the story wasn't cop-ish. They seem to find other reasons for rejection, such as, "Not selling now; love your voice - hate the character, etc."

Another impediment that concerns me is that my stories have a strong male point of view. And again I face where to market my gems. Women's Fiction? I don't know. My current finished, but still a work in progress, has both hero/heroine, yet, it's the hero who gets the first part of the story. Her point of view doesn't come into play until much later.

Writing novels can be so baffling. At times I think that maybe I should stick to essays or poetry, but always there's a character popping in to say, "Hey, write my story." Doctors, cowboys, cops and artists, to name a few, all come knocking and sometimes so loudly they shake my cranium loose.

How can I ignore them all? How can I not allow one story to pigeon hole my career into several more of the same thing? How can I convince others that I don't write about cops, doctors, artists and cowboys, but that I prefer sticking to who they are an not what they do for a living?

For in my world what one does to make a living doesn't define who they are. There is no one personality that fits all cops, cowboys, doctors and artists.

It's the heart that defines my characters, their soul a back-up. Is there a genre for them? Must all my stories be about ones life occupation rather than pre-occupation with life?

Put on your agent hats and tell me how you'd market my work.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

And the Tumblers Fall, the Dice Rolls...

I've wondered: which is better to have? Luck, skill, or both. So many times I see rather "meh" stories land on the best sellers lists or gain some other worthy prize. The "meh" stories to me are those that don't exactly rock my world, but then my world is a little out of whack most times anyway.

Yet, just because my world is whack, it doesn't mean the "meh" story is a bad read. I have to believe that the lucky writer submitted it ad nauseum until the planets lined up correctly. Could have been for a number of reasons, that it slid across the slush pile just as an agent or editor was in the mood for that particular story - that on that particular day the trends changed in the writer's favor. Who knows?

Luck vs. Skill vs. Both. I've given this plenty-o-thought lately because finally after entering contests willy-nilly, I got a win. Mind you, I haven't won the entire ball of wax, but I did place first (see previous post) and the next step is five pairs of agents' eyes leering my work.

If not for the preliminary judges liking what they saw, my entry wouldn't be under the scrutiny of agents' eyes. My work has been in that position before. I came tenths of a point to making the finals of several contests, one the prestigious RWA Golden Heart, yet it fell short by the few tenths of a point because not every judge was wowed by my entry. Same goes for the other contests. I'd review the final score sheets, and there was always one who didn't see things the way the others did.

But this time was different. Three out of four (or was it four out of five?) preliminary judges of SFA-RWA's "Heart to Heart" liked it. They gave it rave comments, which completely floored me - I was all digging my toe into the ground and saying, "Oh shucks. Really?"

Yes, I've done nothing but marvel over this recent adulation. Little old me who submitted the same damn thing over and over...hmm. Luck, skill, both? I truly believe that luck plays an important and large role in every passing life event, but it sure as hell helps to have great skill when the lucky moment arrives. It's imperative to be prepared to take it to the next level, because surely it was more luck than skill that got me through the first level of judging.

Prepared for the next level? That's what I'm striving for. I won't be one of those American Idol contestants lucky enough to get sent to Hollywood, only to crash and burn under the pressure. You know, partying instead of concentrating on the next goal.

Let the partying come after the big one, that's what I say, and party I will if I get a win, request or sale. If none of the above, then I'll keep on keepin' on because sooner or later it'll all fall in to place - lucky seven, safe opens.

What's it gonna be for you?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Information Overkill

You know, since I haven't written in my blog in close to a month, several ideas squirmed around in my brain itching to barf all over a blog. But, I choked them back and honed in on a topic brought up in a post I read today at another blog.

The poster stated that they'd read something that made them feel gloomy. I imagine it was an article about the publishing business, because Publishers Marketplace Lunch was mentioned.

I've never read the aforementioned mag. These days I limit my knowledge base to reading only Writers Digest. Oh, I know that seems extremely narrow-based of me, but sometimes too much of something really is a bad thing. At least it was for me. I used to surf the internet, read blogs about writing, the publishing industry, agent blogs and the like, but I found myself so saturated with information that I let it remove the joy of writing.

Too much how-to, how-not-to, what to say, what not to say, here's what so-and-so market wants, was too much. After three years of immersing in it all, I was ready to vomit on my manuscripts because every time I thought I was writing the next Greatest Read, I'd read a blog, article, or other informative smack and BAM! my writing went down the toilet. It got diluted, turned into drivel like yesterday's gruel.

What fun is there in writing with a focus on "what's hot?" None as far as I'm concerned. I've come to realize that by the time I finish my absolutely fabulous manuscript, send it around to the lucky agents dying from reading all those "what's hots" they'll see mine and say, "Hot damn! Something fresh! Let's sign this girl up pronto!"

So if I let every article, blog, etc., influence what I'm writing like I have been, I'll never see the lights of New York City. I'll be chasing my own tail trying to keep up with all the how-to, what-not-to-do, don't stop at Go and collect $200.00.

To me it's important to keep it real based on my interpretation of reality - and reality is different for everyone. And to let those somewhat negative articles/blogs have their way with me just ain't gonna happen.

I already allowed that to happen. It's one reason I sunk to new lows and drifted away from blogging for a bit. It was implosion time - I was eying the straight edge, just one slice away from the pearly gates. And then I woke up one morning (after griping, whining, etc. to my hubby) and mysteriously felt better. I like to think that by unloading on my hubby, the Universe listened, too, and ran to my rescue.

And do you know what? Strangely on the day I was starting to feel that "pink cloud" of euphoria, I received notice that I placed FIRST in the Single Title category of a writing contest (The San Francisco Area RWA's Heart to Heart). Stranger than that, I had forgotten I entered. I'm viewing it as an unexpected gift, or maybe it was a sign from the Universe telling me that I'm going to be a-okay, to get off my ass and be the fabulous writer that I am.

Too much information about publishing and all the other do-dads of writing mucked up my days. Now I take small bites because I think it's important to sniff around and stay up on the latest what-nots. Writers Digest once a month - that's all I need. That's all I'm allowing myself. And if too little information keeps me out of the game, so be it. Better to keep my personal edge than eye the straight one.

Thoughts, remarks? Too much information good or bad?