Thursday, December 10, 2009

When the Process Doesn't Process

It's all fun and games -- until it isn't.

When I'm in the thick of things with writing - when I first discovered I could work on multiple short stories, moving from one to the other, picking up where I left off, going to the next when one stalled, and that they got finished and were good stories (at least I think so) - or when I first started working in the library south of town because Rick was off work and I do not have the discipline to write fiction when he's home - when I'm writing, writing, writing, I can't imagine it being otherwise. Of course every day I'll put words on paper (or pixels on a screen, or whatever it is). Of course some days will be more productive or more creative or just more fun than others. Of course I'll do it anyway, even when it's not as much fun.

And I really believe this at the time. Because I am gullible and can lie to myself. Or because when it's like that it's too wonderful to believe it will go away. Or because I got there by dragging myself to the writing until it became that much fun and I think I can do it again, conveniently forgetting the part I'm about to repeat - the not fun, drag-yourself-to-the-writing part.

Then there are times like I went through recently - no short story sparks or gets off the floor (the one on the space station I particularly loathe.) I can work on the novel, as long as I convince myself to, and when I reread it in six months I (probably) won't remember that I was having a bad day. The voice will sound the same. The plot points will track. Or I will have rewritten it so they do, probably not realizing it was because I wrote that section on a "Come on, you have time, so write" day.

And then there are times like these. Depression running very high. Panic close behind. No, that's not right, panic is leading. Rick is working nights, with a very long commute that takes about 105 minutes. There's nowhere for him to stay up there in Nowhere Very Much, California. Some of these nights -- which last a good 15 hours, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 or later a.m. (math not being my best subject, I think that's actually 14 hours) -- some of these nights I write. Not enthralled. Not in the zone. But I write.

Some nights? I vacuum the entire house and make stock out of the leftover turkey carcass and very old celery and the last of the farmer's market onions and potatoes.

When I would rather vacuum than write, things are not good in the Jennifer writing world or in Jennifer's head.

What causes your process to break down? And what do you do to beat it?

Friday, December 4, 2009


The picture is of Thud, one of the feral kitties born under our porch summer 2009.
Kaleidoscope Window went out the door (so to speak) and off to where hopefully there are readers who will like it. If it comes back, we have plans, it and I, for further work. If it sells, hurrah! I was convinced it's there, and I'm not convinced my plans for it might not take it past there and back again. Too much frillery around the edges.

Now to do the same with the other books I wrote and stored in the closet, and to go on with the current in progress novel, and to finish a handful of short stories that are in their teenage, argumentative stages. One I was working on, a little horror story, I thought, stalled out for the second time last night at something like 1500 words. Today when Rick was off buying more Christmas lights I wrote two entire sentences before finding out what its problem is: It's not a little horror story. There's meat that will go on its bones and a real character in it. Well, damn! I'm pleased, and happy there's more to it, I just had kind of expected it would be ending sooner.

Meanwhile, while placing an ad on Craigslist about my ghostwriting and nonfiction skills, which causes only really crazy people to contact me so far - no, seriously, one tried to sell me business cards, one led me to an infected site (I didn't go in and avoided problems) and another sent me email saying he wanted to tell me his story... and signed with two names, both sexual. Ah! This is helpful. But while looking to asnwer someone else's ad, I discovered a treadmill, a Precor, exactly what I want, and in my price rage (not completely: lately my price range is about $1.99, but still) and only 30 miles from the Nowhere we currently live (deeper into the Nowhere, actually.) So we went and looked at it and tomorrow I shall dig change out of sofa cushions and see if I can get anything for selling a really fat cat and Sunday we will go pick it up. Yay!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving on the Internets

Two a.m. and I'm only nocturnal tonight by choice. Rick's job is off for four days, and half of Monday till he has to leave for work at 2:30 p.m. and though we're trying to keep to the staying up till one or two a.m. and getting up later so as not to go back to normal diurnal life, we do go to bed earlier than the five a.m. when he gets home (job runs 4:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. but there's a 90 minute commute, which is just unfair).

But tonight it's not a contest. Tonight I'm working on Kaleidoscope Window, prepping it to go out the door after ignoring it for months and months. Apparently I had developed an urge to write novels and stick them in a closet. There are three in there, unedited, on first draft. And tonight KW starts the journey to the real world.

It's not as hard as I thought and, despite hating having lost that much time, the fact that I havne't looked it since whenever I finished it (which I cannot remember at all, the end of March? The end of April?) means I do not remember it clearly and have some distance, allowing me to kill darlings and change sentences that earlier I'd have protected for no other reason than I wrote them. Sometimes I write myself into not corners so much as cul-de-sacs and then unreasonably try to explain why rather than just xxx-ing out whatever it was. The distance changes that.

But what I really love? Sitting in my office in N NV and answering questions about specific locations in San Francisco, or the SFPD district breakdown, or what the executive director of a public access television statoin does - all by way of Googling. There will be phone calls, on Monday, to follow up on things, but for a lot of what I need, it's out there.

I, OTOH, am not. If I've reached p. 100, I'm going to bed. If I haven't, perhaps I can nap on the MS for a while. Though probably not as well as I napped through the exciting penultimate conclusion of "Angels & Demons" tonight... It may be me, but the movie was more about thinking and deducting (things I thought and deducted long before, but then, I had the advantage of not having the lives of 4 cardinals depending on my figuring out blatant clues - I'm sure that would make anyone nervous enough to totally miss saving 3/4 of those cardinals) and much less about action. And there's nothing wrong with a movie about thinking and deducting rather than actioning unless for some reason the music keeps getting louder and faster as if there's action.

Ah. I'm on page 100 exactly. I shall now sleep. Tomorrow is the second thanksgiving, the tradition Rick & I came up with years ago when we were in exile from Reno (well, it felt that way, we were homesick a lot) and couldn't come back on the holiday and cooked our own feast. We liked it so much we still do it. By 'we' I mean I will spend the day cooking and he will eat. Only fair, as he will spend the day decorating while I work on KW between basting and rising and pie-making.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Up the Nile without a Paddle

So the seasonal work ended up being six days in duration. And that was more than enough.

First of all, I had expected since I was scheduled to work 4 10-hour shifts a week and have 3 days off, that the nonfiction and fiction would happen on the 3 days.

It didn't. The 'fulfillment center' where I was temporarily ensconced (I went there voluntarily, but I still want to say temporarily incarcerated) was as dreadful as I anticipated. I spent the 3 days off dreading going back on and having physical reactions both to walking about 10 miles a day on concrete and to the stress of it (go faster, go faster, go faster... sure, there's a training curve, but go faster...)

On the days I worked, I had about 2 1/2 hours outside sleeping in which I was awake and Rick wasnt home and I wasn't leaving yet.

But the second of all, to go with the first of all, is that the nonfiction didn't necessarily pick back up, though it is, somehow, but that I realized how much I did have to do, and started doing it.

I've freelanced since September 1998. I've worked for myself since July '99. I've had two businesses now, the second ongoing. I have never, no matter how burned out or harried or stressed or desperate for work, not appreciated the ability to do what I love.

I've procrastinated. I've feared the blank page. I've put off projects that are well underway on any given day because starting might mean that day I fail. Starting for the day might mean that I got 5 pages an hour the day before and today I get 2 for 2 hours. I've found myself doing ficiton that doesn't have to be done right then because the deadlined nonfiction is too scary (and vice versa.)

But I've never not appreciated the ability to do it. And now, having worked six days in, I am amazingly grateful for my normal life and my writing. I worked Sunday the 8th, and Monday and Tuesday, all 8 hour nights, from 6 pm to 2:30 a.m., and that Wednesday there wasn't enough work and they sent us home after 2 1/2 hours and I hurt. I'm not in bad shape. I'm a runner. But I hurt from that. I then worked Sunday and Monday of this week, and quit before my third 10-hour shift, Tuesday (that week, for whatever reason, was scheduled to be only 3 days.) I still hurt.

My husband is driving 90 miles to get to a job now, and working nights. I have become nocturnal too, so that I can see him. He leaves at 3 in the afternoon, and I procrastinate and feel guilty and worry that the night's work will suck and everyone will know it.

And I'm grateful for all of it. And night before last I worked 7 hours straight on nonfiction, on something I'm not behind on, and every now and then surfaced from The Zone because I was so happy.

There's no lesson here. Maybe I'm wimpy that I couldn't do seasonal work for an entire season. Maybe I'm lucky to have found enough work to see me through. Maybe it will all dry up and I'll be left with no seasonal work and no paying writing. I doubt that, and the plus will be my feet won't have exploded and my knees won't have swelled up so that they don't bend and I won't still be lost in the warehouse as a computer tells me to go from where I am all the way across two sections to pull one object for shipping and then back again.

I can't even say at least I'm not taking something from someone who needs it - because (so to speak) is still hiring. For everyone starting there, I hope for the best.

But I need to write.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I believe, and I refuse to stop

The writing has slowed. There was a frenetic space in October, where I was determined to hit a variety of deadlines that frankly no one but me cared if I hit. I wanted to submit to various anthologies, and wanted the resultant short stories, and I got far more than I would have expected for a short, short period of time that was rife with other complications.

I also had those things that happen to stories that can't necessarily be fixed when there's no extra time. One story was intended for a 'terror on the high seas' type anthology. It came in at word count, and I like it considerably, and it was rejected promptly. I wasn't a bit surprised, since the terror lasted about half a page and after that it became a family-reunion-with-selkies story. I like it, but it's hardly what I was aiming for.

Meanwhile the novel goes in fits and starts. When it goes, it does over 1500 words at a clip, most of them pulled out of my head without too much blood and gore. When it stops? Full stop for many days.

The nonfiction is also fitting and starting. Two long paying projects, a third that is wrapping up, but nothing I can invoice on right now and many, many unnecessary complications from unnecessary angles. I'm lucky to have the work, and am actively looking for more, but in the interim, am taking seasonal work. It's the first time I've worked for anyone other than me in 12 years and it starts tonight. The amount of dread I feel is so intense that 1. I can't imagine using this for a character, as any editor would consider it the worst sort of overwriting/purple prose and 2. I'm calling it my execution.

Another writer who I adore and whose blog I read daily is now actively searching for part time work. She recently sold a couple new novels so I think she's looking for healthcare though I could be wrong. When I was at a master class for fiction on the Oregon coast in fall 2008, they talked about having to go back to the day job for a while. At the time, I still hoped it wouldn't happen.

Someone on one of the writerly lists I'm on posted that he thinks print is dead, and hence my title here. Because I don't think it is. Maybe Borders is closing a lot of stores (please, please don't close mine, our Other Major Chain in My Town is not up to making up the difference) but our Friends of the Library just held a 10-day big sale and the first weekend was jammed. People are reading. They want to escape. They want books. I understand this writer's point of view. He, too, is looking for seasonal work, and doesn't sound much happier about it than I am.

But isn't it possible we're looking at a slump, rather than an ending? I'm no expert, and with my new, rather savage time constraints, unlikely to research here, but it seems likely there were slumps in book publishing during the depression, probably during WWII, and at other times.

It's possible I'm just desperately hopeful, because I not only want to see my first (and second through fiftieth) book out there on the shelves, but I want to see it in print. I am not entranced by ebooks, in that a stack of books or bookshelves full of waiting books, brings me pleasure and invites me to dig in, where a hard plastic thing with knobs invites me to work, not relax. I'd be perfectly happy to have my novels appear on Kindles and Sony's and the rest -- after the print runs.

I believe books will survive.

I think the nonfiction will survive too. I'm not sure what will happen to magazines, and though they were my bread and butter, there were a lot of very narrowly-focused magazines out and about. I'm not sure how they're fairing (this whole post is from my pov, not from any sort of research, it's Sunday morning, after all, and I'm due to be executed at 6 p.m.) but a winnowing is probably to be expected any time there's so many of one thing. Not that it's good, just that it's not unexpected.

That said, I have a novel in progress which I'm finally liking a bit (it hit that 17,000 word mark and started acting like a 17-year-old and I was not liking its company), more short stories I want to write, a new article assignment, a couple leads on work, some sample chapters to write and three proposals I want to write on my own for nonfiction. I believe that print is not dead, and I refuse to stop believing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

To Do lists are easier than Doing

Woke this morning thinking about the future of the nonfiction part of my writing, about what I want to do and how to make it possible, about what I can control and about what I can't, and the fact that there is no money coming in right now which is more than a little alarming.

I also woke knowing where I was going with the project I'm doing, which is nice, because it takes away the panic part where the brain scrambles about trying to remember.

Only instead I saw the To Do list once of my favorite authors posts in her journal, and she'd updated. Because of her To Do lists on her journal, I've started keeping two erasable "white boards" (one is green and the other purple) of lists which has had the hoped for consequence that I no longer remake the same lists over and over in hope that something got done while I wasn't looking or in hope that by making the list I'll be overwhelmed by ambition and extra hours.

So I'm posting my own lists here, the Old that I just erased, and the New, which may just be rearranged Old... though I'm hoping not. Here goes:

Old List
Draft 2 Ghosts of Rag & Bone
Draft 2 Ghost of a Chance
X Finish writing Kaleidoscope Window
Write Shifting Sands
Revise Abandon
Redraft Dreamside
Write Listen
Write City
Write Southern Lights
Write Angelica's Room
Write Tet
Finish 4L&T
Finish Game Called on Account of Rain (story)
X Finish Shine (story)
X Finish Intervention (story)

Draft 2 Ghosts of Rag & Bone
Draft 2 Ghost of a Chance
Draft 2 Kaleidoscope Window
Novel contest information
Revise Abandon
Revise Dreamside

Write Shifting Sands
Write Southern Lights

Write Tet
Write Tet YA

Finish 4L&T
Write Listen
Write City

Write short stories (something like 12 by 11/30/09)

No problem. Just let me stall a bit more and I'll start the nonfiction for a few hours and then go do All. Of. This.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dust and Discoveries

I am cleaning my office, and have been for about a month now. I broke it down into 10 segments (closet, closet, multi-bookcases, desk, books on the floor, etc) in hopes I wouldn't become completely overwhelmed. We live where there are still dirt lots near us, and dirt, lots of it. My office is gritty. The dirt has texture, like ... gritty velvet.

Today I'm on the next to last book shelf, leaving one if I ever finish this and the books on the floor. The bookcases take forever because they're full of Disney collectibles and action figures and so on. And in the process today I found two things, ok, three -

1. I'm horribly allergic to dust. I suppose everyone is. I want to live in a dust-free bubble!

2. A check tucked into the spine of an anthology I was dusting! Seriously, I know I love the writing for the writing's sake, but when someone sends you money, it's polite to take it.

3. I picked up two blank books that I've filled (and thus, techincally, aren't blank anymore) and discovered in one of them that I had sold every story in there except, possibly, one, and I can't remember if it's out somewhere or what I've done with it. That's probably bad. I should probably be able to remember where my stories are. It's 1:30 p.m. - do you know where your stories are?

Now I'm going through a filled book that I didn't write the story titles on the flyleaf of and then, yay, only two more shelves of this case and I shall shower. No doubt mud will flow into the shower drain. But I'm finding things, getting excited about old projects (because of course I need more projects to be excited about) and my office is becoming a pleasant place to be again, as opposed to somewhere I race into, grab what I need, trip over my shoes that are placed stupidly in the path between door and desk, and run off to work somewehre else in the house. That behavior leads to my husband asking why these things (piles of books, papers, notebooks, blank books, pens and cats) can't be in my office? So actually cleaning my office makes the whole house nicer.

Now, back to those last two shelves, she sneezed...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Character. Traits.

I had this idea for a character who rearranges reality based on emotions of the moment. As if I need more ideas for things to write, still, I got all happy and excited before realizing James Thurber beat me to it by probably around 65 years. I cannot write The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. But Thurber felt much of what he wanted to write had been written better by Robert Benchley many decades before Thurber thought of it.

The upshot of which is that I want to spend the rest of the night reading Benchley and Thurber.
I am so appalllingly sleepy. This is when normal people who had been up since 4:30 after going to bed at 12:30 would take a nap, but I am not normal.

Last night I wrote the article due today. I'd only intended to start it, but all the interviews were fresh and recent in my head and it started so I did - 650 words too much of it, which I managed to reduce to only 125 words too much of it this morning.

Today I finished the novelette! 10,360 words, which is probably close enough to 10,000 and anyway, this is first draft stuff, not being handed in yet. But it does mean I wrote 4040 words yesterday and 1228 by 8:00 a.m. today, which I'm pretty pleased with.

But sleepy. Dreadfully sleepy. And listen, is it just me or is it rude in a 24-hour state to edge the lawn at 8:15 a.m. on a Wednesday? ... probably just me.

OK, I give. Brief nap. After all, I'd given myself till noon on the fiction today and that still puts me 3 and 1/2 hours to the good, which I want to use cleaning another bookcase in my office (office is broken into 10 sectors for sanity during a once-a-year sanity and cleaning spree which is now a year late) and starting another story and maybe previewing the nonfiction I'll be doing post-lunch date. All that, and, but wait, there's more! But not until after the nap.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pavlov loves me

Today was officially fiction (so far, and that's my point here.) It started late, because I started late, and even though I got in to my office at 8 (it used to be 7:30 I aimed for, and before that it was 7) I didn't leap into action as I'd intended, but did some email-y things. I'd meant to do the (billable hours) nonfiction bit until Rick left to go measure the roof his mother wants repaired and I'd start fiction. That didn't happen, though I did an interview for an article and cleaned up the transcripts, so that's something.

Rick left at 10:00 or so. By 10:20 I was writing. I wrote for four hours straight, getting up only to make more tea and, once, try to get the head-cold-snuffling cat out from under the bed so I could give him antihystemine and milk. He wasn't having any of it and I couldn't get to him.

So I worked on the under-contract novelette, due officially October 1, and I wrote 4000+ words in 4 hours and stopped at 2:30 to shower and run stupid windy-day errands (the day isn't stupid, it's just any day that includes a trip to Wal-Mart, the bank and the post office is.)

And when I got home, still needing to do 1. nonfiction 2. a different nonfiction project 3. a third nonfiction project 4. seal up article queries in the 9x12 envelopes I went to Wal-Mart for (dinner ingredients were an afterthought) Rick was home. He's been out of work for 19 months now, with odd jobs and seasonal and part time things. So what does my brain do? Fast-backwards 19 months, says "My husband is home! I'm done for the day!" Programming - I has it.

And now I need to work on the article and email varoius peoples and work on at least one of the two nonfiction projects. Tomorrow Rick is heading out at some horrible hour like 5 a.m. and I will be writing again. No point feeling sulky now. 4000+ words is a good day.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lunge for the Ending

Recently, a week or two ago, I lunged for the ending of Kaleidoscope Window, the novel -- and missed. Much like one of my cats doing something squirrely and flying across the room only to run into something rather than making some fantastic ballet-like cat move. I was surprised. Kaleidoscope Window remained unwilling to end. It's one of the first novels I've had to instruct that it was time to end - Yes, I know, we could go on with the build up forever, but I really want to get to the ending now -- instead of heading there on its own.

Wednesday night, we got there. I wrote 17 pages that night (11.5 handwritten in my sort-of speedwriting partial code, in gel ink, in a blank book, yep, that's the process) and got over 4700 words and found the end, at which point I went to bed giddy.

And? And yesterday I was irritated that the only writing I did was nonfiction and the fiction remained aloof, like a cat stating I sat on your lap yesterday. Don't be greedy. (There are many cats in this post.)

Today, having completed the typing and printing of this first so-full-of-holes draft of Kaleidoscope Window, the fiction came back and mushed on my calves and wound its tail around my knees and we wrote 5 pages or so of Angelica's Room, which is the Next-Novel-Already-in-Progress, since it was impatient and unwilling to wait and I've been toying with it (or, really, it's been toying with me) all summer. Five pages in that blank book is only 1500 words, not the 1875 it would have been in the Big Blank Book from Wal-Mart that supported KW. But we mustn't be greedy.

...Think I'll go see if the fiction wants to play s'more.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Once upon a time

Once upon a time I started at the beginning and kept going, fairly certain where stories were leading me (or where, sometimes, I was leading them.) If the middle and end evolved to make the beginning no longer make sense, I changed it later. Grudgingly, but I changed it. Names changed, habits of characters changed, precipitating events changed.

Now I've changed. I'm a bit boggled. Probably this is a step forward, some kind of improvement.

Or so I hope. Maybe it's just different. Different as in not the same rather than different as in somehow better.

The weird thing is? I don't mind so much. I am impatient. I have more novels and stories and even articles that I want to write than I will ever get to put on paper, because even if I have 5 ideas, before I finish the third, more have come and, impatient, I've rearranged the order of importance and am moving on to a new idea. I complete almost everything I start, for better or worse and ignoring the file on my computer labeled Lame Novel Starts -- those only got a paragraph or two or a description. They don't count. But only Harp's World and City remain from very long ago as unfinished novels. Southern Lights and Shifting Sands are both from 08, the later from October. They were simply preempted by something more pressing.

But the change? The beginnings. I think I'm figuring out stories earlier, having a better grasp of where they're going when I start, or at least what I want from the character or what the theme is or ... something. Because I'm starting beginnings further in, insisting things happen right away, not panicking that I will have a -- gasp! -- flashback if that serves the story. Learning how to get across the most information as quickly as possible, enough to say "Here's what you need to know to move on."

So I'm writing beginnigs over and over. Tonight I started a novelette for a market with a distinct deadline. Lot of words. Not a lot of time. I've written a proposal on it and I know the general story, but I had two different ideas for starting it. I tried to combine them. I tried them separately. I tried another idea that came from nowhere. The voice didn't hit me. It just wasn't there. There was nothing happening. A description in one version alluded to events that would shortly unfold, but not very interestingly and the situation left me not liking hte characters much, which I find untennable.

The fourth start (I think, thought perhaps fifth) fit. And it was from the other character's point of view. Didn't expect that at all. But I like it and I've got my usual 600 word start or so (at 600 words into a new story I apparently panic and have to go have tea and cat sympathy and, tonight, Advil. The next day I can write around 1000 to 1500 words much more calmly. Weird, that's all.)

And now I must go do some nonfiction and pay the bills and all that. Yes, it's 10 p.m. And yes, I'd actually rather sleep. But much of this day was lost to nonsense, oversleeping (because I was up till 3 and awake again at 5 and then out till 8:30 because either I slept through the world's most annoying cell phone alarm [not likely] or because I was tired) and driving and a run (! Not nonsense!) and lunch with a friend (very nice, and involved free writing) and not much that pays the mortgage.

And as a reward, after some nonfiction, I'll do my best to find The Very End of the current novel. And also, tea. And Advil.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Every writer has a story

Everyone I know is suddenly blogging. I think I hit the writers must have a blog trend at exactly the wrong moment. Two friends who write have recently announced they have blogs. Both are fantastic writers but we're all at about the same spot in our travels. I have a lot to say, but most of it is fiction (or assigned articles - anyone want to know about the state of unemployment in Nevada as of August 2009?) I'm not in a place where I can offer advice to anyone other than keep writing and ideas like changing physical location can jar a stuck writing project into motion, or that habit/routine/ruts can be both benefical and harmful to getting projects completed.

So I've decided rather than trying to sound like I know what I'm talking about -- because I do know what I'm talking about, but it's my writing and my talking about and it may not work for anyone else -- I'm going to use my blog to update my goals, challenge anyone who is reading who wants a challenge to match my word counts (or challenge me to match theirs), to track and celebrate acceptances and try to stoically accept rejections and if here and there I learn something of value that seems worth sharing, I'll post it.

There are enough blogs out there I learn from -- just reading the ongoing journals of writers who are out there day to day in the trenches is an education in persistence, victory, story and plot, writing and rewriting, success and failure, publishing, editing and life. Every writer has a story. Until mine is far more advanced (success! Advanced as in success, not years!) I'm going to sit back, watch and comment only on the things I really know how to do -- write and send -- and the results, goals, challenges, hopes and dreams thereof.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Process, Part II

Process, Part II – How and Where

By hand or by laptop? Desktop or netbook? Word or WordPerfect? Kris & Dean – Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, who present workshops Oregon Writers Network up in Lincoln City, highly suggest those writers looking to break away and break out and become full time writers have separate offices for marketing and writing if at all possible.

It's not, for me. Not only would I spend all my time hauling cats off two desks and out of two offices and finding things I've misplaced in each, I can't afford it and, my husband would claim if I were silly enough to show him this, I've already taken up most of the rest of the house anyway.
But I didn't start using Word until I started ghostwriting nonfiction books and, sorry Microsoft, I hate it. Loathe it. Despise it. I find it dictatorial and pushy beyond reason and, most of the time, wrong. But it's the standard for no reason I can think of, it and its blue screen of everything-you've-been-doing-has-been-lost death, so I use it for nonfiction.

And I use WordPerfect, which is cheery and has a sunny personality and is most polite about not intruding on what I want to do, for all things fiction, turning files to rtf for emailing or even into Word files when editors want. And that alone separates the fiction and nonfiction nicely.

Add to that I do a lot of the fiction writing under a tree at a picnic table with a creek full of runoff snow behind me and there I sit for hours, drinking lo-carb Monster and talking to magpies and crows and little finches and woodpeckers, squirrels and quail and the occasional marmot and growling territorially if anyone comes near my tree and picnic table. I write by hand, in gel ink that covers me in glitter (OK, glitter gel ink, did I mention I'm 12?) in blank books.

When I sit down at my desktop, at home, in my office and open WordPerfect, I'm either working on a second draft, or marketing. And you know? It works.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I've been trying to think how to introduce a blog – Hello, my name is seems uninteresting – and it's about the same I'm finding as introducing a novel or a short story or even a business article. Which is to say, hard and I don't know how I did it last time.

Not that there was a last time with the blog. But in May I started a novel called Kaleidoscope Window and during the process I wrote the same six pages or so about six times, each time a little more annoyed with myself and a little more certain I had no idea how to do this, despite having done it hundreds of times for short stories and sold 80 of those. In an attempt to explain everything I thought my readers would need to know about the main character and her situation right up front (first page, maybe first paragraph, maybe even first sentence and if I can get it long enough, who needs the rest of the book?) I found myself moving the character farther and farther back through time. Which is to say, farther and farther away from anything happening.

Which was frustrating, because it was completely backwards from what I wanted. I finally realized that, in the words of some writing workshops I've been to and loved, I was walking to the story.

My character walked across her porch and opened her front door.

No, I needed to explain the mud on the porch.

She walked up to the porch and noticed the mud.

No, she needed to be thinking something helpful to explain something else or maybe she was daydreaming so she'd trip over the mud.

I moved her back to the street where she parked her car because – well, because our garage is full of books and the driveway for reasons I won't explain here is full of 280ZX's that don't run, so I park in the street.

She parked in the street and walked up the walkway to the porch where she noticed the mud.
By now I hated the character and her muddy porch. I finally said hell with it, get her in the damn house. Then I wrote and rewrote trying to make the two enormous Maine Coon cats go away because I didn't want cats in the book.

The character took off her shoes. She flipped through her mail. She looked for voice mail. She –

Get in the damn kitchen, I yelled at her. Startled, she double-double spaced and stood in the kitchen and the next line was: It looked like blood.

Oh, I said when I started writing again. That's an excellent first line. And the pages before that, which had done nothing but introduce mud on the porch (there is no longer any mud on the porch, so at least she doesn't have to clean that up) and two cats that weren't actually welcome in the text (there's still one in the book and she won't leave, very cat-like) those pages are now gone.

So. To introduce my blog?

It looked like writing. And it was. Science fiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, YA of all sorts. I love to write and I love to read. I've sold 80 short stories, 700 articles on business and lifestyle and arts topics, ghostwritten eight books so far and am working on a couple nonfiction projects while working novels and short stories and catching feral cats on my doorstep. I'm married to my best friend Rick, and there are five cats in the house, or three cats and two pre-cats who never stop moving through the 100 degree Northern Nevada weather we're loving this July. I love to run, usually, though of late I'm in a running slump (possibly partly caused by a writing streak and deadline projects.)

And if you've found this blog, and you don't know me, how would you introduce yourself? If you've found this blog and you do know me, don't lurk! It's going to take encouragement to keep the words going here (and a sense of purpose. And readers. And, please, no more kittens!)