Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Resolve; Absolve. Regrets; New Beginnings.

Getting ready to kick another year to the curb makes me self-reflect. Retrospection can be enlightening as long as it's viewed without regret. But, at times it's difficult to not regret just a teeny-tiny bit. Alas, do-overs in life never happen, but if I fail to see the lessons left behind then I'm bound to repeat the same mistakes that lead down regret-road.

All said, in 2010 more bad happened than good. I can change none of it, but I can resolve to create a plan based on mistakes of last year. If I could manage to develop a shield to protect me from the out of control happenings, I would. Instead I pray that the Fates go easy on me this year.

And now for my resolutions, also known as The Plan:

I resolve to be less grouchy. Yes, it's true. Sometimes I allow myself to fall into the pit of self-pity because I feel that everyday should be rainbow filled skies. Better to recognize the mood and work to wipe it out before it chews up my entire day.

I resolve to not spend ANY MONEY on writing unless it comes with a college credit. In recent years I've paid membership fees to writing groups that I never became involved with thinking that maybe it would help my writing. Disclaimer: I've spent money on certain courses designed to improve skills, such as grammar, synopsis and query letter writing and they were worth every single penny. But, to spend money thinking it would actually improve my writing was somewhat of an empty wager with the exception of college courses, which improved my writing, and in light of this aforementioned resolution -

I resolve to write without setting any goals. Yes, no writing goals. No word counts measured daily, no promises to write each day. I'll write as the spirit moves me. After all when I'm not writing I'm thinking about it. Truly, I do. That counts. For me it's not the quantity but the quality. Besides, when I miss goals I get all...well, see first resolution.

I resolve to read more and only read well written works. It's my belief that if I surround myself with greatness it truly rubs off. Thus, the better written books I read, the better my writing will become. (Listed to the right are books I consider really well written works.) That said, last but not least,

I resolve to post reviews of each book I read this year for I really enjoy writing reviews. Stay tuned for the first review of the year coming up this week.

Here's to a stellar Two Thousand Eleven. Eleven years later and the millennium still feels shiny and new. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'll Take Your Sour Grapes With A Grain of Salt

Truth: I don't read as many books as I used to, and one might think that as a stay-at-home human I'd have scads of time to devote to my once favored entertainment. However, a month has passed since I last read a book.

Lately, most of my reading is accomplished in waiting rooms. Yesterday, for instance, I took my daughter to the endodontist for a root canal. Upon leaving the house I quickly grabbed a book for company as well as a distraction. That's when I realized how pitiful my plight. And then I began wondering when and why I strayed from my favorite pastime. As a writer I feel that reading is a part of the beast. It helps keep skills sharp, all those words coming at me, the story unfolding without distraction...

As I hunkered down in the waiting room and began reading I began noticing the author's writing style. "How did he get away with that?" I asked myself. Run-on sentences an entire paragraph long. What was he thinking? How did that get by his editor? Several one-sentence paragraphs. Long run-on sentences.

That's when I realized that I was reading as a writer and not a reader. In the last eight years of writing I think that I've slowly developed that writer-self-editor eye as I read published works. This can be a terrible detriment. Reading with a judgmental eye is distracting.

And then it occurred to me that I know of several writers and authors who read this way too. For instance, I once attended a local RWA chapter meeting during the reign of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. Member said, "Oh dear, that was the worst book I ever read. Seriously, the writing was TERRIBLE." Years later I read an interview of a renowned author who said of another renowned author that she wasn't a very good writer. Both authors appeared in this years Forbes 400 as two out of three richest authors.

I have a code: Never diss fellow writers, EVER. It's bad form. Yet, an increasing number of published authors and neophytes feel it is their right to criticize in a public forum an opinion of other writers' skills. Could it be that these writers feel it's safe to assume the role of world-wide editor? And I've seen this in myself as happened yesterday while reading this book, which spent a week or so on some best sellers' list, but also received a few scathing reviews. However, as a writer I don't feel it's my god-given right to disparage another writer's work, especially when one, I'm not a reviewer by trade, and two, it's unbecoming.

Perhaps some authors are jealous of another author's fame. And for the neophytes, well, I guess they're jealous, too. I tend not to criticize success. I mean, seriously, Stephanie Myer IS one out of three authors previously mentioned who made the Forbes 400 for 2010. That's inspiration, if you ask me or even if you don't.

All said, there are two things that I'm always going to maintain from this day forward: Remove my self-editing-critique-hat when reading for entertainment and NEVER diss fellow writers, EVER, even if I make a gazillion dollars as a result (and even if they choose to diss me - cest la vie).

It's nice to be important, but really sucks to be self-righteous too. Self-editing while reading is hazardous to entertainment values, so adjust thyself accordingly, folks, and keep your unsolicited opinions silent, please.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fear: My Old/New Motivation

Inspiration comes in many forms. I'll see a banal television commercial depicting a middle-aged man carrying a surfboard and I immediately wonder, "What's his story?" That question grew into my current work in progress.

I see stories everywhere because I question everything I see. The difficult part for me is believing enough in my creation to see it to fruition. Is my story strong enough? Will it draw in the reader at line one and then keep them interested for the next four hundred pages? Fear spreads breeding chronic self-doubt, my self-inflicted Debbie Downer.

It scares me to the point of paralysis, keeps me from acting on impulse and trusting my ideas.

Lately it's been killing me and has let Ugly Inner Critic win...

And then something fabulous happened this past Wednesday, right on the brink of my angst. I received an email from a friend who had recently seen an interview of Broadway director Julie Taymor. Friend said it caused him to think of me. Intrigued, I tracked down the interview based on his comments.

In her interview she stated, "I love it when people say what a horrible, lousy idea. I think that’s great. I hate the comfort zone…I don’t think that anything that’s really creative can be done without danger and risk." When asked how scared she is, Taymor replied, "Oh, yeah, I'm scared. If you don't have fear then you are not taking a chance."

Julie Taymor is my new hero. She lets fear drive her. Her words shook me by the shoulders. I recalled the fear I felt when I wrote sentence one in my first manuscript eight years ago. Uncomfortable sitting at the blank page; my stomach squeezed like when you see the dentist's needle coming at you. Scared, uncertain, I wanted to puke. Yet, it didn't stop me, and thanks to Friend's thoughtful email, my drive has returned.

It takes a lot of nerve to believe in yourself I have found. It's important to listen to opinions and ideas as well as criticisms, but it's more important to clearly see your path and then stay on it. Keep on keepin' on for yourself, because if you don't believe in you, no one else can or will.

Special thanks to Friend for reminded me of who I really am. I owe ya one, pal.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sudden Impact

Although I initially sat down at the computer today in order to wrestle with my current work in progress, I first lolly-gagged (or is it "lally-gagged?). First I checked my emails, responded where appropriate, and then looked in my spam mail box. Usually I don't bother looking, just push the cursor over "empty" and flush away all messages without a glance.

But today I opened the spam, saw the usual ads for codeine and male enhancements, claims that I'm an heir to a vast estate, and other bull-shit enticements. However, a regular email somehow made it into the spam pile, and if I had followed my usual path, I wouldn't have gained verification that my life, my words, had a positive effect on someone else.

Snuck into the spam was a response to my previous blog post. It was from someone I've never met, either in person on via cyber-land. Her message read, "For what it's worth: this blog was inspirational to me. Your writing made a difference in at least one life today!" Two sentences that struck me as softly as a well intended embrace. Never in the seven years since I pursued the writing beast have I felt so...important. Worthy. Like I've left my mark, affected someone who perhaps was feeling as bluesy as I have lately.

For weeks I've felt less than into writing. I've questioned myself, looked for motivation, ate a ton of M&M's, and still no answer to my current conundrum came. The M&M's didn't offer their usual "feel good" high. Yet, a few kind words from a stranger have made all the difference. Call it the "Helper's High," something I learned in Sociology 101. Doing good deeds for others, in this case completely unintentional yet covert, fixes what ails, removes stress.

Sets ya right.

I thank you, Rebbie. I needed your words. Your crossing my path will never be forgotten.

Has anyone felt the "Helper's High" buzz lately? (It's better than M&M's...seriously.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

(Over) Analyze This

How it is: Writing ain't what it used to be. Not these days, at least. Some days I drag myself kicking and screaming to the page, using any excuse to skip looking at my latest work all together.

Some offer guidance or answers to my recent lack of enthusiasm. They say things like, "Everyone has a slump," or "Take time away." My favorite advice, which I lay on myself all the time, is "Maybe your story sucks." That said, I'll spend hours thinking about it, poring over the pages with a damn microscope looking for a fix to jazz up the pages.

Lately I've been recalling the days when I started my first novel. Seven years ago this month I completed my first manuscript, over 225k words spilled out in eight months (strange, yes. Back then, not so much). Nothing could keep me away. I literally wrote morning, noon and night, every day including weekends. I LOVED that story. The fact that I had no idea how to craft a novel never occurred to me. Not once did I stop to think about plot. I just knew the story in my heart - it was organic. Once I finished my first novel, I put it to bed and began another following the same process.

After the completion of manuscript three things slowed down. Blame the eye explosion - enduring four surgeries to repair a detached retina slows one down a bit. But it never stopped me. The day my goddess eye doctor recommended staying away from the computer, I picked up pen and pad and continued the writing process.

Today I have no physical excuses for not writing, it's all mental. The creative part of my brain feels like it has been scrubbed with a wire brush. Nothing comes. No love, no enthusiasm or ideas. I'm left to wonder. Where did the good times go?

With answers not forthcoming, or obvious, I've reviewed my personal writing journey looking for answers, anything to make sense of it all. Here are a few thoughts and/or reasons on why my muse has gone stealth:

1.) In the beginning I wrote with great abandoned, clueless to the craft. Publishing wasn't in my thoughts. My work went unseen, the first two months no one in my household knew why I spent so many hours on the computer. I loved the characters I created and to me, the story was a masterpiece. Due to a freak ice-storm that knocked out the power for days, I told my husband how I spent my hours, revealing the story to him. He was my first supporter and fan, saying that many people dream of writing a novel, but few actually do it.

2.) Fast forward to mid-manuscript number two. Husband asked if I considered publishing. That thought put into motion my quest, including research and finding out where to begin on such a path. This involved opening the doors to reveal what once was my private venture. One person's thoughts evoked a wide spectrum of roads, adding more eyes to the mix. I joined Romance Writers of America, not realizing at the time that romance not my genre. But hey, those chicas knew the publishing ropes - I credit my choice for advancing my muse as well as knowledge base.

3.) The RWA. If not for them I never would have shared my work, making it subject to strangers' eyes. Contests a-plenty, I entered. One thing I found helpful by entering RWA sponsored writing contests was that the contestant remained anonymous. No names, I became a number. That being the case, judges' comments were based solely on the writing. I had several great scores, and a few not so great. The process thickened my skin as well as improved my talent (I believe).

It helped that contestants remained anonymous. Praise for my work came honestly.

4.) Honest opinions. I forged relationships with fellow writers. One in particular I call the "perfect balance" - she always told it like she saw it - she didn't praise if not warranted, yet let me know when something rocked.

5.) Editors. I have found there are many forms of editors. Those who actually know the craft and can back up their expertise with strong credentials; ones who know the craft, etc., yet tend to over-criticize, using such buzz words as "not buying it" (God, how I hate that phrase); and finally there are those who say they can edit, period. I've had three experiences with editors. Two credentialed; two who used the term I despise; one who had nothing to back up the title. I'm a firm believer that every manuscript needs an editor's eye, but also believe editors need "perfect balance" and not become the Simon Cowell of editing.

Ultimately in these past weeks I've felt abandoned and have begun to analyze my situation. I've recently become reclusive, have strayed away from blogs, distanced myself from other writers and worst of all, stepped away from my manuscript. Although the above five topics depict my writing road, it reveals a common denominator: Other writers. The good of it was great, the bad of it horrible.

Without mingling with other writers my writing world shrank. Without other writers I no longer hear words of praise (and I heard a few along the way). Funny how one kind word strengthened my work ethic, erasing all the bad comments or contest scores completely.

Perhaps that's what I'm missing. Kind people possessing genuine praise (not my sister or husband). Is it time to rejoin the creative human race again? So many questions, so much angst, what is a girl to do?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Memento Mori

I avoid looking at my reflection in the morning. It tells the obvious, that I'm no longer in my prime. A horrible way to begin the day, negative thoughts the same as getting up on the wrong side of the bed. Yet, there it is. I'm fifty-six and with the number I view my life's accomplishments and goals.

To date I've completed three novels, which sounds monumental but really it's like a tree falling in the forest. Unpublished, all three, unpublished. The silently falling tree. I'd be lying if I said I didn't care, but I do care. Deep down I feel they're worthy reads, but as you have read, I'm now fifty-six. Publishing is for the younger writer, ones who have years left to produce...

Or so I've been told. In fact I once read an article written by two prominent New York literary agents who agreed that publishers look for youth and not writers moving to a retirement community in Florida.

So today, after avoiding the mirror, I made coffee, wrote in my journal and then opened the daily newspaper. Second page news, but worthy of this blog, I read that author Belva Plain passed away over the weekend. She was 95.

More newsworthy than her death is her life. Belva Plain published her first novel when she was 63. SIXTY-THREE! And as startling as that number, not only was her first novel made into a mini-series, buy thereafter she continued on the bestseller trail, her last book published in 2008 when she was 93.

Dare I thumb my nose at the naysayers, or those who feel youth has an edge in today's society? What's with those younger agents I mentioned above? I recall my feelings after reading their article (published in Writers' Digest, just can't recall the year), ones I shared with other writers, some younger than I. The young-bloods somewhat agreed with the agents. Apparently older writers aren't as marketable as the younger writers, or so their argument indicated.

Had these people ever heard of Belva Plain? Quite honestly, I had but never knew her back story, one that has since recharged my attitude on the aging process. Her life bolstered my opinion about youth, that it's wasted on the young.

Talent knows no age and if a person relies on the chronology of their birth then shame on them for giving up. Shame on me for buying into the opinion of others.

Today I thank the Universe for people such as Belva Plain. I cling to her example, her persona the life-line I needed reminding me that age is merely a number, not a credential.

Long live Belva Plain.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

First and Last

James R. Stoops
10/13/1945 - 10/09/2010

When I come to the end of the road

And the sun has set for me

I want no tears in a gloom-filled room

Why cry for a soul set free?

He was nine when I came into the world, me the little sister-new kid on the block, he the big brother master of ropes. His job title notwithstanding, lessons from him came subtly without conditions or disclaimers.

Nearly a decade separating us, he was always one heartbeat away. And in that quiet rhythm he flowed beneath my skin, sharing the same DNA - first in every way.

On the ninth day of the tenth month somewhere near the eighth hour of morning, he left me. But as I slept within my last dream of the night, I felt him sweep over me, pulling my eyes wide open, his final whisper flowing down my cheeks.

I will miss you older brother of mine - you were the other part of our secret bookends, holding it together for those in between. On the other side you now walk free, your great wings outstretched keeping yet another eye over me.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Peacefully Reflective

A wind travels from the northwest, pushing the chimes to play a subtle tune, leafs turning in the breeze their chorus, rustling between notes. This is the poetry of silence, the kind you fold into fours and place into your breast pocket.

It's a necessary background that unearths memories from my distant past. Ones that make me turn around and look, to smile and to grieve. It makes my age visible to those who've never met me, no need for a photograph. My dreams never fully realized, and with that I must make peace.

Current technology makes life easier, less cluttered. But where is the beauty in easy? I ask myself this, and more so today as I felt inner conflict rear its adorable head. Where do I fit in? How can I? My truth based on experience misunderstood by the young bloods - innocence lost.

Their way is so much better, they say, hardly requiring any skill at all. Why keep music CD's holed up in your closet when an IPod handles infinite music? And before CD's people would say, "Why are you hanging on to vinyl when you can play music in your car on a cassette?" And so on and so forth.

But there was something to be said for listening to "Stairway to Heaven" on a turntable, a tiny needle hissing, revealing that even a spec of dust has a voice.

Paper books? Growing up, that's all there was. Walks to the public library because Mom said it's better to read than watch television. Television. Three channels to choose from, all in black and white. Off I'd go to the library, my dog following at my heels. Inside I'd scan the spines, head titled, always in the new release section, sometimes not. Thirty minutes later I'd check out, walk down the steps to find my dog waiting right where I left her.

Curl up in a chair with book in lap, or stretch out beneath a shade tree, book balanced on bent knees, that was part of the experience. Flip the page, look at the date stamps, wonder about who wrote in those margins. Wonder about the author's path. Sitting beneath a lamp, roll a fresh piece of paper into the typewriter. Or write it longhand first, like Dickens or Alcott. Mistake free or several start overs. Tears spilled on ink.

Technology. Computer age. Spell check. Digital press.

My first job I worked in the local J.C. Penney. Manual cash registers. I learned to make change. Count back the bills and coin. Simple task that utilized gray matter. Mistake free. Onward to adulthood I went, jobs in law firms. Typing briefs, summons and complaints. Fifty-five words or more per minute, mistake free. No computer, but an IBM Selectric typewriter, which at the time was the new wave of technology. Still, no mistakes. Spell check - a dictionary a standard book on every secretary's desk.

Gray matter exercise.

So today I reflected on all of that and wondered about my three completed manuscripts. How I could cut, copy and past passages, or delete them entirely. Imagine Steinbeck looking down at all of that? Still, my heart-dream was to see my work in print. I hoped that it would sit on a library shelf and be plucked out, taken home and spent with a human curled up in a chair, the television gathering dust in the corner.

Memories serve a necessary peace.

I was fortunate to have lived in simpler times, every minute a poetic passage. My dream of seeing my work in print lost in the new technological wave, I have found solace in the fact that I lived my personal truth.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


My stomach shouldn't have to swallow my heart so early in the day. But after reading the newspaper and then sitting down to devour my favorite blogs, I'm left with that queasy feeling one gets right after hearing that they need a root canal.

Except root canals are necessary. They are something out of control and one has to suck it up and take it. Reading the news and blogs are a different beast. I am in control of how they make me feel.

But some days their content is just so unbelievable that my moral compass spins. Ignorance and corruption. Ridicule and deceit. Ignorance under the guise of liberal. Indeed.

Change is good, I keep telling myself. That without it there is no growth. But when the changes involve shifting truths near and dear to my heart, it's time to step back and, well, cry. It's not the growth I'm looking for. In fact, it's the type of growth that starts with just one microscopic bacteria, innocuous at first until left to its own device. And then it grows beyond a cure. It has found a way to defeat any and all antibiotics.

It's an evil too big for the good to fight. It kills the spirit before it has a chance to fly. The end of hope, the robber of innocence.

Not how I want to begin the day, and perhaps by its end I'll have seen a tiny ray of light that beckons me from the darkness. But for now it has a leg up and I feel beyond its control.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Invisible Embrace

Of late I've read the news, afterward feeling anguish rip its talons into my hide. People against anything Muslim near Ground Zero; hateful words against Obama; crazy people misinterpreting the First Amendment.

Of late I've read blogs on religion, politics and the crazy people "restoring honor" via gathering in D.C. on the hallowed date of Martin Luther King's infamous speech. Read the ensuing anguish filled comments.

I had to get away from it all. Get out of the house. Go for a ride before my head exploded.

To the mall I went, pair of jeans in a Gap bag for return; the need for new foundation; some wall frames for the cool art deco prints recently purchased. Shopping chores complete, I felt compelled to honor the sign - Borders Books. After passing through the front tables of memoirs and racing through the paperback aisles, I found myself in the heart of its Literary Fiction section.

And I had the book in mind, the one I so badly wanted, and stood before the "M's" searching, searching, suddenly realizing that many authors' last name begin with that letter. Book spines at eye level, I began pulling a few. Good, okay, oh, excellent! I heard myself say as I thumbed through the pages, yet, the one I looked for not present. I slowly turned to walk away when a faced-out book grabbed my attention. Bright yellow cover, a red and white sticker shouting $4.99, and then in navy blue, the title and author. I sighed.

Good Poems for Hard Times, Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor. As if the angel of stacks tapped me on the shoulder, or maybe she whispered in my ear, not really sure, there was the unplanned anecdote.

The inside cover says this, "Poetry is the last preserve of honest speech and the outspoken heart. It holds the cadence of common life. It has a passion for truth and justice and liberty - the spirit that has kept the American porch light lit through dark ages of history. And the meaning of poetry is to give courage."

Necessary words for my dire straits. Pages filled with 185 poems. Carver, Kenyon, Cummings, Keats, and my favorite, Billy Collins, to name a few. Poems for the ages. Meant to uplift the spirit when dwindling in the shadows, well received by this soul who unconsciously grasped for an invisible rope.

Live, laugh, love, my friends. Never underestimate the power of the pen, especially one that produces great poetry...

Never ignore the silent voices whispering in your head.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wonders of Time Slippage

Last week while at my bi-weekly nail appointment, the conversation at hand involved the passing of time. She remarked that she found her calendar from 1999 and was shocked to see that some days she booked appointments from 8:00 a.m to 8:00 p.m. "Can't believe I worked that many hours," she said. I reminded her that at the time she had only two kids.

She now has six, and not only works at her business four days a week, but home schools her children, takes care of a house, and, AND her children range in ages from one to thirteen, so there in itself a Herculean undertaking. Not to mention, she's begun this business, too. OY! She is fabulous! (She is So going to do my next profile picture.)

And I bemoaned, "Shoot, now that I'm not working you'd think I'd have scads of time to write."

She said, "Last year I thought to try something...I made a schedule. Stuck with it for a few months, and then slowly it shifted." But, she mentioned that it developed a habit that she maintains to this day.

Funny, when I worked full time I managed to keep the house clean, including laundry and raising a child. As the writing beast sang its teeth into my muse, I still managed to keep a clean house, raise a child and write each and every day for hours. HOURS. Like clock-work. Like I had a...

Schedule! Even back in my single-girl days my roommate and I had a set schedule. Monday nights, laundry; Tuesdays, vege-out; Wednesday, party night; Thursday, clean house; Friday through Sunday, party time.

Why can't I see the damn answer to my problem? Okay, I can, but it's going to take some major habit changes. Fall semester begins on August 30th; I'll be in classes Mondays and Wednesdays. This should be easy, right?

Not so easy. Discipline is a practice, one that eludes me but is an important cog in the scheduling wheel. I've had a reactive summer, putting out fires, starting house projects, the written word minimally squeezed in. Good intentions fallen as life controlled me.

It's time to take back control, but first it's necessary to picture the possible as well as entertain changes. And then there's the guilt to factor in. Many times before I've set out on a scheduled path, and when sidelined I'd waste time ruminating over it. This time I need to accept that life will intervene...

As well as the Evil Inner Critic, the EIC. EIC visits from time to time, either as a result of TMI, or my sudden lack of self confidence. I must accept that which I cannot change. (Apologies to the twelve step program for stealing their line. All things considered, I am trying to get rid of a habit.)

I follow others examples, writers I've met along this path who perpetually awe me, two in particular. This one has five children. FIVE! And still manages to meet writing deadlines, as well as help others along the way. Me for example. Five or six years ago as I struggled with a query letter, she offered a helping hand. Her words resonante still. "You can do it, Kath! You can!"

Kindness comes from those who brilliantly multi-task and pay it forward, I have found...

Especially with this author. I mention her often because she has offered insurmountable assistance as I march (sometimes sloth) down the writing path. Children, she has four, the youngest a wild child from another universe, I swear. Those who know her well also recognize her selfless determination to help people with non-writing problems. And through all her wild-child taming and the helping of others, she continues to meet her editor's deadlines.

There are so many other writers I know who juggle the seconds, minutes and hours, pledging time to write, such as this one, this one and this one (new mommy with a new book deal - yay!). I feel fortunate to personally know such talented and selfless writers who chronically inspire. Whenever I sit and wonder how I'm going to intermingle writing with school and household maintenance, the lifestyles of these writers first come to mind. They have mastered multitasking. Inspiring, indeed.

For me the major component in finishing a project is sculpting out the time to accomplish it. Habits form, good and bad, although the bad so much fun and evilly distracting. This upcoming week I shall make a concerted effort to create a schedule that will meet my needs. I can do it! But would love any and all advice offered in my quest.

Bring on the advice. Cheers!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Blessed Bovines of Blogging

"We all know things are bad -- worse than bad -- they're crazy." Howard Beale's "Mad as Hell" speech from the movie, Network.

This is how I feel about the chronic rhetoric attacking the blog waves regarding the face of today's publishing world. So many opinions, blame-pointing fingers, and the how's and why's publishing isn't like it used to be.

Enough already! Or in the words of Howard Beale, I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. Might I suggest the real reason publishing has gone the way of Kodak film? It's not because digital self-publishing is going to be the new trend and that soon all books will be self-published...

It's because more and more people are NOT READING books. There. I said it. Excuses as to why publishers are closing are like those that have affected any other business. If no one is buying your product, then changes have to be made. In America reading has taken a back seat to video games, texting and the watching of television.


Yet the part that angers me the most are those going "indie" (better known as self-publishing) bashing and putting down the publishing world as if it killed itself. More and more blogs are featuring the reasons why self-pubbing is so much better than traditional publishing. They'll say that writers can skip the heartache of rejection if they self-publish. True. It's a direct route to seeing your name in lights. It's also a slippery slope to the devaluation of good writing.

Point to consider: Through traditional publishing, a writer's work is given an unvarnished edit by an editor. Yet, I have recently learned that even some larger NYC publishers have had lousy editors. But I'm willing to wager that those editors aren't maintained on the payroll for very long. And I know there are writers who think they know more than editors do and therefore find them needless.

Another point to consider: Read this article. Just the first few paragraphs, it's about Harper Lee. After reading it you'll then perhaps see the importance of not only good editing, but having a good agent as well.

Something else to think about: The Godfather. If you've seen the unedited version you'll recognize the importance of an editor. They are the people behind the scenes that help take the film to Oscar winning levels. Same goes for music recordings. After the artist spends his/her time in the studio, a sound engineer goes to work, and long before the artist enters that recording studio, a music arranger has played a hand in making the product better. And sure, critics will have at it once the movie or CD is out, but that's their job, not the editors, sound engineers or music arrangers. Some of the biggest grossing movies have had the worst reviews, and vice versa.

And another thing. Editors aren't there to hold your hand and tell you that you are a genius after they read your manuscript. Their function is to make the manuscript a better read, one that readers will want to buy again and again. A really great editor has studied writing and possess writerly credentials. They don't have a day job at the local hospital, legal clinic or the elementary school down the street. Writing IS their living. They are the guardian angels that take the soul of your work and escalate it.

Recently I received my first experience with this editor. Long story short, she mentioned wanting to show an example of what an editor does for her blog. I said to myself, "Self, volunteer your pages," thinking what the hell, free editing, I'm in. Thus, off went two pages of my WIP. Many know this editor better as an author, but there are some who don't realize that she edits as well as ghost writes. She is an all-around writer. And let me just say that I was a bit taken back when I received her remarks on my two pages. She took me to school! Hit nearly every single line indicating ways they could improve. She offered no words of encouragement and none of discouragement. It was a "Just the facts,ma'am," experience. After reading her remarks, I'll be honest, I wanted to barf. And then I told myself to GROW UP, sat down and followed her lead. I returned the pages to her. That's when she wrote back and said, "You nailed it!" I viewed that as a compliment.

She not only lifted my writing skills to a new level, but broadened my understanding of the importance of an editor.

Yes, the many going the indie route will say that they don't need an editor because they have a crit-group.But for those who don't have a crit-partner, or perhaps realize that sometimes crit-partners don't always have the skills of an editor, the self-pubbing route might deplete the self-esteem worse than the standard rejection letter, just saying...

One final point and then I'm done: I'm good with digital publishing. It saves trees. But I'm not good with the bashing of the traditional publishing model (digital or press), by those who believe that in the future all books will be self-published.

Nothing personal. Nothing against self-publishing. I'm merely offering something to think about without degrading anyone or the genre of their choice. For me it's about understanding all sides and using sound critical thinking before drawing any conclusions.

Lastly, this is my last blog...Not! School begins in two weeks - things will slow down in my blogoshpere.


Chronic Happiness

What can one say about spending fifteen years with the same person,

day in and day out?

Never have I done anything for that amount of time continuously.


I'm a person who lives for change - hair, clothes, wall paint –

it never stays the same.

So how did this one person enter my life and stay in it for so many years?

Matter of trust.

My life in his hands, at the end of the day he's the solid one ready with open arms and kind words.

Voice explosions? Occasionally. Rarely.

He bites his tongue, perhaps.

But in this life it's rare to find anyone who will be there throughout my serial mood changes.



Days filled with laughter.

He's there to wipe away tears, hold my hand, offer the best advice.

Level headed.

The calm to my wild surf.

How often does anyone see that in one lifetime? In the disposable tendency of the current generation, he is an oddity.

The perfect fit for me.

How many can boast that about anything in their lives?

Yet, if I only have one life,

when I leave it I'm assured

that regrets don't exist.

Kath Calarco

August 12, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Puzzle Me This

Sudoku. Either you love it or can't wrap your brain around it.

I'm a former "Can't wrap your brain around it" person. I'd look at its grid each day a new puzzle appeared in the local morning rag. A box with nine boxes with nine boxes in each. Objective: "Complete the grid so that every row, column and 3x3 box contains the numbers 1 though nine (no repeats)." Did I mention that some of the boxes already have numbers? They do. It's the job of the masochist puzzle-doer to fill in the empties. Daunting task? It was for me, but one that kept my curiosity piqued at an all time high. I had to master this damn thing, or die trying. Thus, I started out slowly - luckily the puzzles came in varying degrees of difficulty. I began with the lowest level. Once I mastered those, I moved on up. Once I achieved the highest level I skipped the easier ones.

But I never gave up. Never let the easy ones, which at the time were akin to deciphering the Rosetta Stone, stop my perseverance. "Never say can't - tossing in the towel not an option," my motto, I kept up the struggle.

For the past six years I've actively sought publication, in fits and starts. Beginning with writing contests, I put my work into the hands of strangers. Was it difficult? Hell yeah. Did the "constructive criticisms" hurt? Of course, once I learned how to view them. Did they stop me? No.

Only I can stop me. And like mastering Sudoku, I've kept at it, learning the process along the way, seeing my failings as learning tools, and seeking out answers from qualified sources, such as this person and this person. I connect with example setters, such as this person, this person and this person, people who have forged their own path. Most of all, I continued to write even when a part of me said, "You will never see the publishing light of day."

And I can control whether I see that "light of day," by either choosing to listen to good advice, or choosing the path of least resistance - quitting. Is it a difficult path, this publishing road? For me, it hasn't been easy. I don't do easy simply because for me, cutting corners robs me of valuable lessons. Education. Learning the craft and continually polishing the product.

Perhaps my analogy to Sudoku appears to some a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Yet, it speaks of who I am. The thrill I felt in mastering a not-so-simple puzzle exemplified my character. I am not a "can't do it" person.

Success comes to those who try, the ones who never give up.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Who Am I?

"I've often though that our main reason for being is to rediscover who we really are." LaDonna Paulette

Writing novels was never my dream. However, within the past seven years I've completed three. But in my entire life leading up to the first word of my first manuscript, I'd have to say that writing novels wasn't on my list of things to do before I die.

I often think about what pushed me toward the moment I decided to write a novel. Admittedly, I had never written anything other than quick little poems here and there my entire life. So what possessed me to write a novel? Why is it that one day I sat before the computer with no experience and pounded out the first line?

I've always been a dreamer, a chronic addiction, one that kept me sane. I'd conjure up stories and play them out in my head as sort of an escape hatch from reality. Make-believe was my favorite game as a child. "Let's pretend we're living in a big city and have lots of money," or "Let's pretend we live on a big horse farm and can ride every day." Those are how most of my conversations began with childhood friends, and they'd go along with the idea. Naturally, with aging I stopped beginning conversations with "Let's pretend," but I never stopped doing so in my mind. Soon they evolved into the aforementioned escape hatch. When I wanted to close myself from the day or shield myself from the ugly truths I faced, I'd slip into the subconscious "Let's pretend."

Years later an idea stuck. It played in my head on an endless loop. Something about it said to put it in a more permanent format. "Why not type it?" I asked myself. And as easily as opening up MSWord, the blank page arrived and I began to type. Non-stop.

It was my biggest secret. No one knew what I was doing holed up in the "computer room" from early morning until late at night. Housework begged for my attention. Meals were hastily made. Daughter wondered when it'd be her turn to use the computer. And then the ice-storm hit. No power. I lost some of my work. The report was that it would be days before power restored.

So as I sat huddled in front of the fireplace I finally revealed my secret to my husband. Not only was he amazed, but incredibly supportive. I remember him saying that many say they want to write a novel, but few have the guts to partake. Encouraging words that made me feel accomplished. He's an amazing guy. I'm so lucky.

Thus, I became eager to tell others, and when I did, more encouragement came. Many of my close friends planned an Oprah appearance. One picked out a red dress to wear, certain she'd have a front row seat. They are dreamers, too.

In retrospect I feel as if my life had been in some weird chrysalis, shelled in a cocoon until the real me was ready to spread beautiful wings. I now can't imagine life without writing...

Without giving into self-curiosity and overcoming fears, the joy of accomplishment, the relationships that came thereafter.

If not for embracing the nagging urge to do something more with my life, I don't think I'd enjoy the complete comfort of who I am today. Happy. Content. Ready to learn more. LaDonna Paulette's words have profound resonance. Its insight not lost on this eager life traveler.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

I've been silent long enough. If not for the fact that I'm in a "reward-thyself" mood, I'd still be working on my manuscript. But, an extremely eclipsical organic event took place in my writing that forced me to fire up the Internet.

And there it was, in big Internet headlines: "Mel Gibson demands sex. Threatens to burn house down in fourth released tape."

Now I ask, who cares? Perhaps the reality show types might. They're into the dirty dregs of the famous, as if learning that celebrities are human gets them through the night. However, it does give pause in the aspect of perception. Mel Gibson, heart-throb in his youth turned well acclaimed movie producer-director, is making me feel as if I need a shower whenever I hear another despicable story about him.

And truthfully, I wouldn't watch another of his movies, nor would I star along side him in one if I were the only actress on earth, if I were one. At the rate he's going we'll see him on the next VH1 Rock of Love.

I wouldn't watch him there, either. There's only one Brett Michaels - beyond all his tattoos and wild-child ways, he has an honorable heart, one I can dig.

I'm just saying that it's very sad to learn the dark underside of the once stellar stars, our perceived heroes. Think about Tiger Woods, for instance. I admired his golfing prowess, but his one with the ladies, not so much. Perhaps if he had handled his disgrace with a little more dignity, hadn't made a fool of his wife in the process, I might forgive and move on. But seeing his return to the limelight is for me another one of those "I need a shower!" moments. Thumbs down, dude - way down.

This is why I've always admired my crushes from afar. In fact, my husband has given me a free pass out of our marital vows if, by some strange freak of Universe, my crush crooks his finger and says, "Come on, Kath, let's have a go (hello Sting, are you listening?)." Fortunately my choice crush is a do-gooder in real life, someone I can admire up close, too, if only.

Same goes for authors, writers and the like. On my bookshelf sits several books by authors whom I adore, some of which I haven't read having bought them out of admiration for the writer, people whom I've met along the cyber-highway. And then I own every single book Christopher Moore wrote. Please God, don't make me find out he's an asshole - I am so in love with his work.

And then there are books weighting the shelves written by a very popular horror writer, one book in particular will make a great door stop because after purchasing it I read an interview of him. In it he dissed a new popular author, saying she wasn't a very good writer. Not cool, Stevie. But thanks for saving my future book dollars. They'll help pay for my new Kindle and all that comes with.

So it goes...

It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice. This writer will not waste time and money on arrogant assholes. After all, I've dated many in the past - paid my dues big time. No matter how brilliant the writer, whether a debut novelist, or multi-published. Reveal the asshole card and you've saved me time and money. You are dead dirt to me.

All said, it's not only important to be nice, it behooves one to always keep their best foot forward because Karma can be a bitch of a mistress at times.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Oops, I did it again...

And again...

And, returning to write new pages but revising instead. Over and over again. Even when writing every single day, I look back a few paragraphs...okay, pages, to review the story. Anti-productive, right?

Sigh. And then I was away for a few days. That said, today when I finally sat butt in chair and got back into it, I sort of forgot where I left off, and therefore where I wanted to go, so thinking that reviewing was a good map and starting point, I did. To top it off, over the weekend I had a brilliant notion for the story (okay, so maybe that counts as writing) and I knew where to put it. So today I just had to find where that was. However, while returning to the insertion point I took time to re-read and revise along the way, again.

Stupid, stupid, stupid thing to do. And I can't use being away as my excuse. I always tweak the past, removing a chance of moving the story along (even though today's fixes were brilliant!). I've always returned to re-read, revise, etc. No matter what tricks I come up with to stymie this very bad habit, I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm A CHEATER and do it anyway.

There must be a way of breaking bad habits. Look at those who cold-turkey smoking. True, it's also the healthy thing to do, so maybe that makes it easier to kick the habit. Perhaps what I lack is will power such as the one needed when attempting to diet. You know, that bowl of M&M's looks very tempting out there in the open like that. Easy solution: put it where I can't see them. This technique has worked. Truth: I have not had one piece of chocolate in two weeks. I am not lying. I put the candy bags where I can't see them. After five days I noticed the difference in my waistline.

If only there was a way of not seeing the words. Funny statement coming from a half-blind person, right? But there they are. All those words. How do I NOT look at them? Does anyone have a special device that covers previously typed brilliance? This inquiring mind NEEDS to know.

Am I the only one who can ignore chocolate when it stares her in the face, but can't stop reading her words? I want to move it along. I need a plan. I need HELP! (Is there an eight-hundred number for this?)

Monday, June 7, 2010

'Tis What It Is.

Today I said, "I don't care!" And I don't. My new attitude for writing is that if I feel the spirit then I will seek publication, but in the meantime I'll write because I just like doing it.

You know, too many authors/writers sit down and gnaw their fingernails with the hope that they'll cough up a brilliant best seller. I used to think that way, too. And then it began. Insults from other writers (not meant to be, but to me they were). "Not buying that," one person said regarding my particular story line. Another said, "You're writing is very passive." Not sure if she meant passive in a grammatical sort of way, or passive as in not much happening here.

But still, the point is it all affected my personal style. Soon I grasped for ideas that were new and different, ones that might sell, be numero uno on the best seller's list. No more of that complete crappy way of thinking. Counter productive. Nothing against those who write for their career, for me though it's about the art and not so much about the publishing end game. Better to write for me and remain happy than write for the masses and let suicide creep into my next piece.

Killer piece of works not for me. Not so much. Beauty for me.

I think I'm a great writer - maybe the greatest to ever push a pen. That's all that matters, really. The rest is just gravy, or fodder, depending on your point of view. Point of view - so subjective; so misunderstood.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I Dare You!

A really, really good cyber-friend gave me this link. I've made it my home page. The object is to curb my appetite for cyber-surfing while steering my focus immediately to writing. (If you don't feel like looking at the link, it's a page with a blank timed "tablet." As soon as the page opens the timer immediately begins with five minutes. You free-write in the blank tablet. No pondering allowed!)

It's a great way to warm up the exercise muscle, and an extraordinary device that challenges the inner critic. In an attempt to amaze myself, I've created a new blog for their safe keeping, a sort of cyber-journal.

Care to take on the challenge? Then check out the link in the first paragraph of this post. Remember, it's not about thinking. It's about free-writing.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gold Finger(s)

"Think of it as the James Bond principle of writing assignments. The closer you get to zero hour, the more surefire and exhilarating your writing--like Bond's day-saving solution--should be." Kyle Morrison

I grabbed this quote directly from my Facebook pages, made by my good friend and awesome furniture mover, Kyle Morrison. It was his response to another one of my whiny comments regarding writing, and why I was procrastinating via Facebook when I should have been pushing the pen.

After I glared at the comment for all of ten seconds, the solution to my angst materialized. Whenever faced with an actual deadline, in my case, writing assignments for college credits, I always waited until a week to a few days before its due date. Rarely did I begin thinking about it when the professor dictated the assignment. Sure, I'd mull it over for a bit, and maybe commence cursory research, but never sank my teeth in until the calendar closed in on the date. I'd then hunker down behind closed doors for an entire weekend, gathering research and pounding out a draft. Usually by Sunday night the final paper was ready for turning in on its due date, which was usually that week, or on some occasions, the next day.

Did I mention that I've never gotten less than an A on any paper I wrote for college? My U.S. History professor remarked on a piece I wrote about Thomas Paine that it was above college level writing. It took about eight hours the previous weekend to complete. (Seriously. I'm not making this up. If I knew how to use my new scanner, I'd provide a copy showing his comments. But alas, I don't, so you all will just have to take my word for it.)

In my English Lit. classes the professor always had us free-write for about five minutes at the beginning of every class. Sometimes he used prompts, others he'd just let us wing it. The idea, he would say, was to release your conscious and feel the words from your gut. It was an amazing exercise for me. My pen moved like it was filled with grease for ink.

Buzzer shot writing, that's what I called it. And now that I've been in this slump, and thanks to Kyle's brilliant analogy, I can see the problem I faced. NO GOAL. NO DUE DATE. ZERO-ZIP-NADA-DEADLINE. Believing that the magic would reappear, well, magically, was merely an excuse for not writing.

The magic never died. My motivation did. I've whined about this on and off at this blog, in particular, this one. This person, who, because that's just her wonderful way, ran to my rescue. She hooked me up with a writing group that focuses on writing one hundred words per day for one hundred days.

One of my biggest excuses for not writing was that I needed a huge block of time in order to write. The theory behind writing one hundred words a day for one hundred days is that it takes minimal time each day, therefore it's easy to carve out a small bit of time in order to accomplish this goal.

GOAL: The magic word missing in my writing repertoire. Even the smallest of writing goals, in this case, one hundred words a days, not only keeps me connected to my writing, but magically multiplies into more. One hundred words isn't a big challenge. Since beginning this regime on May 4, I've written 1,881 new words, which translates to seven and a half new pages. Like eating M&M's, I couldn't stop after the first hundred. Gold! I struck gold! (And thank heavens I can stop eating M&M's after the first hundred.)

Another day. Another one hundred words and more.

What motivation is lacking in your writing life? What gets you back on track?