Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I just signed up for an online workshop on Everything You Need to Know About Publishing. The workshop is presented by Maya Reynolds. I’ve followed her blog sporadically for the past year or so. She’s a consistent great source of information about things happening in the publishing industry.

The workshop will cover the three branches of the industry:

  • Publishers
  • Agents
  • Booksellers

I’ve done some research on my own, but I still feel that I have a long way to go.

On the short fiction front, I’ve been submitting something each day to the e-zines and have started tracking submissions and rejections. I think that it might be a good idea for me to create a couple of databases, one to track short fiction submissions and one for agent queries for my YA novel.

Actually, I am having a total geek-fest today. I started a subversion repository through my web host and downloaded Eclipse. Now, I'm backing all my writing up using this version control software. This was prompted when my laptop sort of wheezed the other day. I realized that I haven't been backing it up. Yeah. Me, not backing something up. So, I tried to ftp the major folders to the server where I have my shell account. The ftp software they use, well, she don't work so well. Then I noticed that they have subversion. Heh, heh, heh. I thought, that's how I'll do it, treat it like a software development project. Well, it is a development project of sorts. So, there's nothing to compile. It's a pain setting it up, but I'll always be able to keep the lastest versions backed up now, and I'll be able to revert if I need to go back to an earlier version. Cool beans.

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Problem Turns Out to be My Head…Again

I’m having a little problem concentrating. Whenever I sit down to write, I’m all over the place. The one place I’m not is on the page. I can’t seem to go into The Zone no matter how much I want to.

So, typical me, I try to analyze why this is so. If I could just figure out the source of the problem, I could break through and get back to the bliss of writing.

Yesterday in my meditation class, the topic centered around being in the Now. As I was meditating and sat firmly centered in the Now, it came to me. My head, as usual, is the source of the problem. It thinks that it can solve problems by going into the past or effect outcomes by dancing off into the future. Oh, gee, Nancy. Stop struggling with publishers, and write the friggin book. That struggling with publishers part is purely in my head. I haven’t had any real exchange with publishers. Sometimes the focus is on finding an agent. Slow down, partner.

I’ve written one novel, which is now languishing. The YA one. I’ve decided that I need to let it settle for a bit. I think it may have some sex scenes that are too explicit in places for a YA audience, but I’m not ready to turn it into a mainstream novel either.

In the meantime, I have a new novel to work on. The outline is semi-complete. The characters are starting to talk amongst themselves, and I am missing it because my head is spending time anywhere except here and Now. When Marsha said yesterday that our creativity resides in the Now, I thought, Oh.

I shouldn’t be surprised to find out that my head is the source of the problem. It always is. I once heard a speaker talk about it and say that his head is convinced that it can kill him and keep on living. Anyone who understands that, as I did, knows how dangerous it is to let the head be in charge.

Okay, so time to regroup. As always, the answers come when my house is in order. Being here Now, not in the future, not in the past. Here Now. Proceed.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Meaning of Sun Day

It’s a beautiful day outside. What am I going to do about it? Here in the Seattle area, a blue sky is something we catch like surfers catch waves. Especially this time of year, we go through our days, waiting for our set. Rain, rain, rain, rain, sun, rain, rain, sun, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, sun, sun, rain…. When the sun comes out, everyone gets perky.

I’m in a complete fit of excitement and stress because there are so many places I want to go while the weather is nice, and I just can’t decide. I want to go somewhere and write. It can’t be too far out there because clouds could roll in at any moment and obliterate the sun. But it can be somewhere away from the sound of traffic.

  • Spenser Island?
  • A bike ride to Redmond for lunch and a sit by the fountain?
  • Bike ride to Snohomish for a sit at Wired and Unplugged?
  • A jog around the lake and a trip to the pool before sitting lakeside with a notepad?
  • A hike up to lower Wallace Falls to sit near the roar of the water at the covered picnic table?
  • A drive to Deception Falls for a walk in the dewy woods and a sit on the bench in a fairy forest?
  • That bike ride Terri told me about that runs between Gold Bar and Index, where there are flat rocks by the river to have a picnic?
  • Those cliffs by Deception Pass with a view of the San Juans and all the way to Canada?
  • That cafe by the water on Whidbey Island with the wonderful lobster bisque?
  • My back yard?

Okay. Gotta go. Writing to do.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Does It Ever Get Easier?

Okay, time to break out the big guns. I’m not working at a day job right now and so have all kinds of time to write. But am I writing? I’m doing a lot of thinking about writing, but not much actual work. I have the idea, the outline, the characters are starting to whine, so what do I do?

Here’s the deal. It comes down to making a commitment. I’ve written a novel, and now I know what it takes. I know that a big piece of myself went into my first novel. I’d love to see it published, but, even if it never is, I am so glad I wrote it. The novel was a journey into my imagination and was full of magic. But it’s also a piece of me.

This next novel will command an even bigger piece of me. I already know it. I’m frozen because I am afraid. Can I tell this story? Can I tell it honestly, without regard to the audience? Can I bind and gag my internal editor long enough to let it flow and get it out?

Quite simply, I must.

I need to keep moving. I need to do two things. First, I need to finish cleaning and organizing my house, create a space to write. I realized today that the clutter around here contributes to my inability to concentrate. Or am I just making another excuse? No, I think it does.

I was having my hair done today. For me, hair dressers are all better than the best of therapists, and they’re only about a third the price. So, I was having my hair done today, and I was trying to explain this to her. She didn’t get it, but she listened. I said that to start a novel and not finish it would be like starting to build a structure in your backyard but never finishing it. Every time you go outside, the friggin thing is out there. You have to walk over it every time you go to get in your car. It’s big, it’s messy, and it’s loud. As I was talking, I suddenly had a flash in my head of the clutter of my house. There are papers everywhere. I’ve started to clear it up and organize it, but I haven’t finished. It’s in exactly the same state as the outline of my novel. The outline is well underway but it’s lying in files and in my head like the fragments of paper all over my house.

I told Terri to cut my hair short, and I resolved to go home and move through the tasks in front of me. Debbie Strom always used to tell me to just do what's in front of me. Amazing how simple that is and how well it works.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Boycott Amazon

Because of the Amazon/Booksurge ultimatum, I have elected to boycott Amazon. Here are some great places where you can order books online and live an Amazon-free life just like me:

Third Place Books
Elliott Bay Book Company (also a great site for book browsing)

I know that there are tons of other private bookstores in the country that warrant our business, have userfriendly web sites and will ship books anywhere. These are the ones I know and have used. I am pleased by the thought that Amazon may just be the force that prompts us to return to the small, private booksellers. I know, I'm a daydreamer. Nice thought, though, huh?

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I came across a film telling the story of Truman Capote’s research and writing of In Cold Blood, Infamous. The film was excellent and had an incredible cast. Signorney Weaver, Gwyneth Paltrow, Isabella Rossellini.

Sandra Bullock plays a wonderful Harper Lee. The movie is sprinkled with documentary-style interviews. She has two is serious, tear drawing monologues that are the best performance I’ve ever seen of her. She isn’t staged to look beautiful or glamorous, but, of course, she still is, with those clear eyes that will make anyone believe anything she says.

Toby Jones, who has played small parts in so many countless movies, is a picture perfect Truman Capote. The movie is geared to show how the writing of In Cold Blood broke Capote’s spirit, and Jones makes the perfect model for this. He begins light and caricature-like, but finishes as a tragic, broken, but very real figure.

It’s impossible to see this movie without comparing it to Capote, which came out just the year before. I, personally, liked Infamous much more. The cast, the acting, the depicting of the story, the focus on Capote were all better. Both were wonderful, but Jones comes in with no need for a photo finish. Combined, the films show us that there is more than one way to render horrific vulnerability.

But why did they make this movie on the heels of the other? There must be some kind of bizarre Hollywood story behind this. I didn’t know about this film when it was in the theaters. Yet, Capote had excellent press. Strange.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

On the Road Again

Life can turn a corner any time. Mine just did. My contract job has ended, and now I have time to write and read and do some of the things I love to do. I also have to find another job. The challenge is keeping the wolves at bay well enough so that I can write and make some progress. I have millions of things that I could do with this time, and I can’t afford to let fear of the future take over and rule my thoughts and energies.

Ideally, I’d love to find a job that doesn’t take 50 – 70 hours a week of my total focus. The last one did, and my personal life and interests fell off the edge.

While I’m looking for a job, I can also work on the following:

  • New novel
  • Queries for agents for completed YA novelSubmit flash pieces and short stories to various pubs
  • Write flash
  • Create application package and curricula for teaching writing to WA State schools
  • Book reviews
  • Blog

No shortage of work. I want to maintain a healthy daily schedule to include the list items above, as well as exercise and organizing my home. I’ve already started with my office. I have a mountain of paperwork to organize. I can’t use any of the information I have unless I can find it. Once my office is organized, I can revisit things like the information I gathered from the retreat I attended last July in New Mexico. I have contact information for the people who’ve dropped off my radar, and lots of good direction on a variety of things.

I sense that this could be a turning point for me and my career. I can see it as an opportunity rather than a hardship.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

24-hour Short Story Contest

I’ve signed up for the 24-hour short story contest, put out by

The story topic is announced at noon, central time, April 26th, and we’re off! Only 500 applicants are allowed. There’s a $5.00 entry fee. The 1st prize is $300 bucks and publication on writersweekly.

Why am I doing this? Because it’s my idea of fun, that’s why. I can’t resist the challenge of writing to a prompt. Being prompted or pushed is sometimes the best way to get something on paper. I love, which has a quarterly prompt of a first sentence from which writers must create a story. I’ve only submitted one, which was summarily rejected. But I’ve written stories to several of their prompts. I love that they say their inspiration for the first line prompt is from the movie Out of Africa. In the movie, Meryl Streep/Isak Dinesen says that she likes to tell stories but someone must always supply the first line, and it can be absolutely anything. One of her dinner guests concocts a twisty, incongruous line, and she runs with it, mesmerizing them with the way she can create something of beauty from something meant to stump her.

This 24-hour short story prompt will either be a romp or a pile of rubble, as these things to. We’ll see.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Candy Store

Oh, happy day. I’ve found the candy store.

This is the place to go for all of those books I’ve always meant to read but have never gotten around to. I’ve always meant to read Jane Austen. I’ve never gotten around to reading Little Women, either. And I can always revisit some old favorites like Jayne Eyre. Good stuff!

I’ve noticed that the Gutenberg project frequently comes up in searches for references from books. For example, the other day, I was googling around to find the passage from Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio about the sweet, twisted little apples. Google handed me the Gutenberg copy of the book. Whereas Google’s own online book project hands over only portions of books, Gutenberg consistently provides the entire text.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Ruins the Movie

I reviewed The Ruins a while back on this blog and blimey if they didn’t make it into a movie which is showing right here in my own Monroe, Washington!

I’ve never tried to write a screen play and haven’t even thought of doing it, but I love to see how books have been adapted. This one hits the cliché status of book better than. The book wasn’t written for deep thinkers. No one will ever publish discussion topics on it for book clubs. It’s a quick-read horror story.

Nevertheless, in my review of it earlier in this blog, I did present what I thought were a couple of interesting angles. The movie didn’t have them.

Even though I’ve never thought of writing a screen play, I have to admit, I’ve thought about whether or not my novels or stories could be adapted. I can see my novel in my head in a cinematic way. I can’t think of a bigger compliment than to have someone say that they want to invest the time and trouble to make my book into a movie. Well, I guess the biggest compliment someone could pay me at this point would be to publish the sucker. No lack of rich fantasy life here!

I met Robert Ferrigno at a conference once, and he said that he didn’t regret that none of his books had been made into a movie. He was satisfied that the studios had offered, saying that they give him a big fat check while they went off to think about it for a bit. He gets to keep the money whether they decide to get in bed with him or not. That’s movie talk.

I suppose I could live with that too.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Perchance to Dream, Perchance to Write

I love to sleep because I am mesmerized by my own dreams. I don’t like leaving the dream world where everything is so vivid and seems so real. Memorable people bubble up to the surface from hidden deep pools only to be forgotten by noon. The dream world seems more real and makes more sense to me than the waking one some times.

I think that writing is a world that touches the same place as dreams. Sometimes when I am unable to write, when I feel blocked, I think that it is because the similarity between writing, really going into that zone and dreaming are so close. But going there while awake feels like losing some kind of control over wakefulness. When we sleep, we’re not self-conscious about our dreams. We don’t say, it’s okay to lose control and drop our guard because we’re asleep and this is a dream. Yet we do let go in order to sleep. Somewhere in me, I trust that I will wake if danger comes my way. After all, we don’t have any choice about sleep. We must do it. And to sleep means to dream. Perchance. So, dreaming doesn’t have the same thing to overcome. We don’t say, I’m having dreamer’s block. But with writing, it really depends on what’s going on in my waking world. When I’m stressed about money or work, it’s a supreme challenge for me to let go of the conscious world and go into the zone. In the zone, I don’t see what’s around me anymore. I see the story. So on days when going to the zone would be the greatest relief, it becomes a big challenge.

It’s the most wonderful place in the world when I can let go and enter it. But it’s also a great risk to enter this place. I do not have any control in there. Anything could happen. What if I’m in there with my subconscious, and it indiscreetly blurts out something I’m not supposed to know? There’s no turning back from knowing. Yes. There’s great danger and great pleasure in the zone.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ya Got Trouble in River City

Has Indiana always been so morally, um, confused?

Indiana has a new law that requires bookstores to register with the government if they sell what is considered "sexually explicit materials." The new law, H.B. 1042, was signed by Governor Mitch Daniels on March 13, and calls for any bookseller that sells sexually explicit materials to register with the Secretary of State and provide a statement detailing the types of books to be sold. The Secretary of State must then identify those stores to local government officials and zoning boards. “Sexually explicit material” is defined as any product that is “harmful to minors” under existing law. There is a $250 registration fee. Failure to register is a misdemeanor.

My first thought was How do you spell unconstitutional?

Who gets to decide what is harmful to minors? And how is this determination made? What about magazines, TV, movies? Is sexual material evil but violence okay? Geeze, Indiana, get a grip!

Then I thought of that song from The Music Man, Ya Got Trouble, and am now wondering if this musical might have been making a joke about something to which I have spent my life being ignorant. Re-reading the lyrics of this song, where the singer warns against the dangers of allowing a pool hall into the town so that he can introduce and promote his desire to start a marching band, I thought, hmmm. Has Indiana always been morally retarded?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Technical Writing or Writing Technically

Is technical writing really writing? I'm looking for a new day job, a new contract, and I am targeting technical writing jobs. When I was writing a software manual a while back for a major software company in Washington, I asked myself and others whether there would be anything left for the real writing. I found that there was. I always have room for real writing when I am excited about a project. Bottom line...writing is what I do. I read books, and I write about them. I write flash, short stories and novels. I can also write technical manuals, training materials and the like. But are those writing. When I worked at Microsoft, I decided that it wasn't. At least writing there wasn't writing. Every sentence, each keystroke was scrutinized and edited beyond recognition until the work I did became the antithesis of mine. I couldn't claim it, I couldn't see me in there anywhere.

Real writing is mine. I can claim it and see myself in it. The characters are me and not me at the same time. I feel charged and motivated. Even though I am the writer, I can't wait to see what happens next. That's writing.