Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Mac finally arrives!

Hooray! My new Mac is here. After a mildly amusing prank, in which my hubbie's co-workers carefully opened the package containing the laptop and successfully replaced it with a frosted, sprinkled donut, the MacBook Pro made its way home to our messy home office.

I won't slobber on about it too much, but it's awesome. The keys have a lovely, velvety feel compared to the clunk-clunk of the old one, and it's quick. The first thing we did with it ('cause stuff like that has significance in our house) was take some pictures. Then we watched Lady Gaga videos. Silly, but SWEET.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

More on Pagan Clergy

A little while back, I mentioned my interest in seminary training, and last week I had the opportunity to speak at the UU on the topic after another speaker canceled.

Not like I'm an expert or anything, but the idea that the diverse and independent family of earth-centered traditions could use some educated spokespersons is not new. It is, I think, getting more attention lately as the population of folks identifying as pagan grows.

You can listen here if you're interested in pagan ethics or my opinions on the need for clergy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The End of NaNoWriMo

It's over, finally. NaNoWriMo was highly motivational, with the online tools and forums and all that good stuff. Unfortunately (and you knew this was coming), I allowed life to run rough-shod over my goals for that little project, and I ended up with under 6,000 words in a month that was meant to produce 50K.


It was amazing what I was able to accomplish. A revamped, comprehensive outline of the entire novel is drafted out, and a prologue plus three complete chapters are written. I experimented with several point-of-view shifts before settling. I also did an analysis of several fantasy novels that provided me with new insight into how fantasy narrative flows. In short, I broke practically every NaNoWriMo commandment: don't plot, don't stop, don't look back, don't edit. But I still produced something I'm proud of, and I have confidence that I can build on that work. As the month went on, ideas for plot became clearer and made more sense, and characterization (which was my biggest stumbling block, really, trying to make my people do what I wanted them to do) started to gel. Overall, it was an exciting experience that pushed me to do something I didn't think I could do.

It taught me a few things about myself and my life, too. I've been saying for a long time that I'm over-committed to volunteer activities, and mid-month I had a reason and the gumption to call it quits on two major responsibilities. Several people are unhappy with me now, but I tried to quit in a graceful way that indicated to others that now it's someone else's turn to serve. That may be the best accomplishment of the month.

Thanks, Office of Letters and Light. Even though I not among the 19% who reached the goal, I still appreciate the lessons learned in the attempt.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How to avoid writing

I spent over an hour today creating a better outline for the novel, which makes me feel like I am totally back on track. I typed it and everything. I divided the general outline I had before into Part I and Part II, then outlined rough chapter divisions and scenes. Maybe a little too confining, according to some who would rather wing it all the way. However, I need something in between the chaos of total unrestrained creativity (which turns out to be less fun than it sounds) and controlled structure. I think I've got that now.

But then...

I went back and edited. I know! I'm not supposed to do that, but it's been very hard to avoid the temptation, so I gave in. I wanted to rewrite the whole thing in past tense, third person, which is where I should have started in the first place, but I tried in vain to plow on ahead and just change it later. Now it's all consistent --whew! Sometimes being an uptight grammar teacher stinks.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wherein She (Sighs) and Some Whining is Heard

I just need to get this out:

I'm really struggling with the NaNoWriMo novel. I'm making more time to write, but I keep getting frozen. Sometimes it's there, and I write for like crazy for an hour or so. Presto, a decent scene happens. Other times, I'm just staring at it, and nothing is working. I have an outline and everything! I'm not feeling it, but I know it'll come back because it has before.

I'm supposed to be at +15K, and I haven't quite rounded 6K. I've changed tense and recently, point-of-view. Both changes were good, and I did not waste time going back to edit in the new modes. I'm trying to be optimistic, to believe that the plot will snap into place and everything will flow the right way.

Admittedly, I'm distracted by other things (teaching three classes, homeschooling, rebooting our pagan group, gardening), but at least I'm putting the time in. I'm pleased to report that I've officially quit one of the committees I was chairing at the UU, and I'm working on letting go of two other obligations. Very liberating, although it was very hard to initiate. I hate letting people down.

I'm not giving up on what makes me happy!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Sample of the Novel

Kind of fantasy, the first of that type for me. In this scene, Ina, the protagonist, is recovering from a nasty knock given to her by her mother, the Queen Mother, while her bratty sister mocks her. Hopefully, it's not totally dreadful!

In the kitchen, Martik sponged at my head with a rough cloth and wrung it out over a pail of cool water.
"What's all the fuss?" my sister asked, using her foot to shove past the shaggy scullery dog that slept by the woodstove.
"Your sister bumped her head sparring, it's only a scratch," said Martik with a patient smile. He patted my throbbing head again, then handed the cloth to her.
"Here, Eresh, tend to your sister," said Martik.
"What? Where's Old Nish? I don't want to!" Eresh said.
"Mind me, dear one," Martik said in a gruff voice. Then, more gently to me, he said, "Ina, I'm heading to stables. Come back out when you've recovered a bit. Oh, I beg your pardon, Old Nish." He stepped aside at the door to let an old woman pass in through the door from the courtyard, then went out. Old Nish stomped the snow from her feet and unwrapped her gray head.
"What's this, then?" Old Nish said, glaring at Martik's retreat and the muddy footprints around the hearth. She strode over and snatched the rag from Eresh. Her wrinkled lips pursed into a frown as she inspected the wound. "This gash will need herballing. Oh, yes, that it will."
"Tsk, tsk. I thought it was just a scratch," said Eresh in a mocking tone.
Old Nish ignored her, and said "Fetch some clean water, there you go, Eresh," shoving the pail in my sister's direction.
"But it's cold out there!"
"Go now, girl, afore my boot finds your backside!"
"I thought fetching water was servants' work," Eresh said in a haughty tone reserved for those beneath her. She shot a significant glare at Old Nish's back but was paid no mind. On the way out, she slammed the door a little harder than necessary.
"Oh, my pet," crooned Old Nish, turning back to me. "What's happened to you now? Sit back there, I'll get your boots." Adjusting her skirts, the old servant crouched near my seat by the hearth and removed each of my boots in turn. "Ah, yes, oh dear." A sizable pebble fell from one boot.
"Just a bit of sparring, Nish. I'm alright."
"Sparring with whom? Looks like a Southern savage has beat you about the head!"
"And the chest!" I opened my shirtfront a button or two where purplish welts could be seen.
"A pox on the Southern savage," said Nish, smirking and busying herself with the second boot.
"Nish! Stop that silly talk," I said with a laugh, but laughter was painful. I winced and ran my hand through my tangled hair. Black like the Regent's and like the Queens of old. Black Goddess, they called my mother. My hand had a spot of blood on it. "I was sparring with Mother."
"Oh, child," Nish said. She straightened up and touched my hair tenderly, careful to avoid the injury. "It's not an easy life, is it?"

Alive and Humming

Back from FPG, and as usual, humming with extraordinary amounts of energy to DO something, almost to the point of being pained by it. I attended some amazing workshops and went to sleep at decent times, foregoing the crazy all-night pleasures of drum circle, at least for this festival. I enjoyed lots of intelligent conversation around the campfire, and I let my cellphone die (even while others were using theirs to obssess over Facebook and incessently check email). We roasted marshmallows (a lot), I unplugged! Except for the little bit (wah) of writing I did on the laptop, I didn't miss being plugged in.

I didn't take any pictures because attendees are really not allowed to, but you can see the photos the camp photographer took in Spring at the website; the ones for this past weekend should be up soon. Click the left scroll to see my ugly mug. That picture in the slide show is not the worst ever taken of me, but it ranks up there for my menfolk. That's the joy of dancing all night, sleeping on the ground and walking around with bedhead (uh, sleeping-bag-head) because you left your hairbrush at home.

Part of the reason I enjoy this festival so much is the escape it provides from daily responsibilities. I can think better, more clearly, I can just BE, for hours on end. This always leads to some change in my thinking and my life, which can probably be seen in the posts related to the Spring festival. This time, I came back with a strange desire to attend seminary (really!), a more grounded sense of what it means to be a parent, and more insight into how I can better serve the pagan community. Makes me wonder what insanity/brilliance I could get up to if I had more opportunity for solitude/reflection.

Anyhow, I wrote something like 240 words the entire weekend; in spite of all the personal progress and relaxation I experienced, this sucks. I knew it would be tough to miss that many days during NanNoWriMo, but I thought I'd write more at camp. Wednesday through Sunday night was shot as far as NaNoWriMo goes. Strangely, I don't feel too freaked by that, though. I spent some time working on the book last night and easily wrote over 400 words in about 45 minutes. It's a passage I feel good about, so it's not completely an issue of quantity over quality. For me, some words are better than no words.

At least I rounded the 3K mark! 47, 000 more to go. I'm doubling up this week to catch up.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Aggravation of Present Tense

Working on the NaNoWriMo story, I realize something about my fiction; I don't usually enjoy reading first-person present tense (for example, "Bring me the cup," she says, "and I'll prove it's not poison. So, I walk over to where she sits at the table and hand her the wooden chalice. She drinks deeply...), but I keep writing in it. One of my '09 Clarion submissions was written this way. I'm not supposed to be editing at this stage of the novel, but I had to go back and change to past tense before I went on ("Bring me the cup," she said, "and I'll prove it's not poison. So, I walked over to where she sat at the table and handed her the wooden chalice. She drank deeply...), and it simply seems more natural. I recognize that it works better this way; hopefully this is breakthrough stuff because I'm already feeling a little freaked that the story is trying to write itself in some awkward way that's not comfortable for me. But I am cranking some generally good stuff, I think.

Back to it.

To V or Not to V

Okay, that's really awful. I must be tired. So, I've spent a productive day tidying up loose ends so I can enjoy the rest of my week, stress-free, at Florida Pagan Gathering (camping+bonfires+hopefully, writing), and then I procrastinated the night away watching the pilot episode of the new "V."

Tiny review, with spoilers: not bad, but not great, either. I love the cast they've assembled, including Battlestar, Firefly and 4400 alumni, but that's no guarantee. Morena Baccarin as Anna the alien Visitor is dead-on, easily the best casting choice and acting talent. I love Alan Tudyk (FBI guy) and Joel Gretsch (a young priest) although lately Alan Tudyk's stint against type as Alpha on Dollhouse totally tagged him as potential baddie, which this episode quickly confirmed. However, the show's major problem, so far, is pacing. It felt like several episodes crammed into one: don't set up a crazy-sounding conspiracy theory group and reveal that they're legit in the same hour, don't try to make the viewer like your platonic-nice-guy FBI partner and then reveal him to be an vicious alien bad guy, don't hand us a likable priest who doubts the Vatican's word that the Visitors are a blessing from God and then have him joining a potentially violent resistance group. I like characters who with rounded corners and angsty hearts go through gradual changes of motivation, give up on their dreams or compromise their ethics for the greater good with lots mental hand-wringing. V just isn't capturing that.

Enough talk! Me write now.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Aahh! Progress?

I can't seem to hit my NaNoWriMo word count goal, and it's only the second day. Every time I sit down to write, I crank out a bit more, maybe a opening of a scene, then I start nodding off! What the hell? And, funny. I don't feel sleepy now that I've stopped.

Still, 2585 words for what amounts to possibly three hours of drafting is not bad. It's more than I would have done. The story isn't exactly taking the shape I want yet, but the outline is there. Maybe I will post of synopsis of the outline on Tuesday.

Going to bed to try again in the morning. That seems to be my best time to write, overall, even though I am not a morning person.

Check out my Mighty Novel Progress Log! Cheesy, maybe, but what can I say? I'm a visual gal.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

In the beginning...

In a little over an hour, I've managed 1557 words for the kick-off of NaNoWriMo. Admittedly, a portion was a prologue I wrote for this story a while back, but that's the story I want to tell right now. After a busy day, I think the progress is not too shabby.

Falling asleep over the keyboard, gonna head to bed. More reflective writing tomorrow, I'm sure.

Here We Go!

I had ambitions to stay up late and complete my first few hundred words for NaNoWriMo--haha! Too much Halloween fun. But I have been working hard all week to mentally prepare, and I spent a bit of time this evening trying to convince my friend Mark to take the challenge, for mutual moral support. He's a natural storyteller with three chapters down already, a synopsis of which I was happy to hear tonight (he's building a YA story, kind of a Prairie-Home-Companion-meets-Practical-Magic, with several points of view, not something I feel good about doing in my writing).

I've been reading everything but my outline and notes, with plans to set aside No Plot, No Problem as well as Novelist's Essential Guide to Creating Plot when the writing begins. Lots of how-to books on writing are terrible, but some are at least inspiring. Between the two (and I want it to be known that the latter was chosen without even a passing thought to the irony of the pairing) I've got a good feeling about the level of outlining I've done. I don't want to overthink it, and I don't want to work aimlessly.

One fun preparation activity suggested by the "NPNP" kit is called the Magna Carta I and II. Part I asks you to list novel elements you really love in novels (a few of mine were utopias, generation ships, forests and quests), and Part II asks for things you despise (such as rogues as love interests, bosom-heaving, evil children, and talking animals). Consider making lists like these for inspiration down the road.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Because I Have So Much Free Time

Wait, I don't.
Anyway, I'm taking the challenge, finally, of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Write 50, 000 words in one month! I need some buddies to do this, anyone game?

I'm also climbing back on the horse of perpetual preparation for Clarion Writer's Workshop 2010, and I feel especially motivated by the news that the admission window has been moved back to December 1st.

Life simply isn't busy enough right now, between gardening, homeschooling, UU-ing, teaching and academic publishing/freelancing (and pretty much in that order of priority). It feels oddly secondary to mention that my proposal for the Virginia Tech "Gender, Bodies and Technology" conference was recently accepted --I'd actually forgotten about that news until just now.

Let me know, gotta go! It's Farnham, ya'll!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Journey's End, Writer's Block

It's frustrating to see my blog sit fallow for 5 weeks, but it's a worse feeling when there's no writing to show for that time, either. Aargh!
I've just returned from upstate New York, where I attended my kid sister's baby shower and took a few photos. I bought some apples and cheese, ate some bad food.
It's a picturesque place, but I'm glad to be home.
The pic is from the old mill district in Little Falls, a few minutes from my sister's place in the dismal town of Herkimer. At least the foliage was colorful.
I'm alive. As usual, I close with empty promises to blog more often.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book Review

The Sparrow, by Mary Dora Russell

I finished this book a few weeks ago, and when I finally put it down, I exclaimed to my hubbie, "This is the best f'ing book I ever read."

Basic synopsis: A group of friends and colleagues, several of whom happen to be Jesuits, are sent to find the source of musical transmissions coming from another planet. The only survivor to return is a traumatized priest who can't bring himself to discuss what happened to the rest of the crew. The restoration of his battered body and badly shaken faith, and the story of the journey itself, are interwoven into twin narratives that kept me completely hooked.

I read this book on a recommendation, and I am so glad I did. It is a very slow burn, but haunting and extremely well-done. While several characters in the book are Jesuit, I would not call it a Christian book; I'm not a Christian (but I am a student of faith), and I enjoyed the book immensely. Faith is just part of who the people are.

However, this is a sci-fi book that is about ethics and character, not about action. Readers who enjoyed Michael Flynn's Eifelheim, which I can't suggest strongly enough, will like this book. Readers who dig on writers like John Ringo will dislike its attention to character and lengthy discussion about morality. The book's greatest success, I think, is convincing the reader that each character is unique and interesting. It's a tragedy, and the reader knows that from the beginning. I felt something for each character because they seemed like real people; I cried more than once. Not everyone's cup of tea, certainly.

From a writer's perspective, Russell's narrative technique is what impressed me most and kept me reading. I have little patience these days for crummy language and trite ideas. The dialogue is nearly flawless, and effortless for the reader to experience. Well worth a read for the student of technique.

Monday, August 31, 2009

About Plotting and Exposition

This is what I'm thinking about these days, stuff I never learned in the two years I put in as an undergrad with creative fiction and non-fiction writing classes.

One of the challenges of the fiction writer, especially in sci-fi, is presenting exposition on setting or backstory without coming off as tedious. It's what I've heard Cory Doctorow call the "info-dump," and apparently, a big chunk of it is something to avoid.

For instance, it's not a good idea to start off telling a whole back-story in a prologue just to set the scene. Or in the middle of a conversation, the main character should not ruminate at length to give the reader an idea of what's going on or the other character's past history, and so on.

So, how does this get done? The info has to be presented somehow. As I read (or usually, re-reading), I'm noticing how the author in question accomplishes the task. Use of flashbacks, the out-of-place or otherwise ignorant main character or secondary (who needs to have everything explained), or some other device.

Love it or hate it, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is an interesting example of this. I re-read this recently, and by the way, I'm kinda in a "wish-I-could-love-it" mood about it, but I don't exactly hate it. Make sense?

How to present big chunks of backstory about Harry's worst enemy while staying with the protagonist? If someone just told him, that might be dull. Instead, Rowling uses the Pensieve, which imparts the memories of others in scenes the reader can see. Harry and Dumbledore discuss the import of the memories before and after (it's somewhat less dull that way).

Presto. When it comes to sci-fi, devices may be cybernetic instead of magical, but the concept is the same.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mega Challenge

Aside from having a funky name, I like the 'tude over at flash site Brain Harvest, especially the mustaches. They're Clarion workshop alumni who wanted to make something happen. I like it. Plus, a contest deadline is always motivating, to me anyhow.

Thanks to Jamie for posting this.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


So, I'm alive, and in spite of the fact I haven't posted in FIVE FRIGGIN' WEEKS. Two unfortunate things have happened, causally relating to this:

My cat threw up on my laptop. Seriously, I am not making that up. Right in the middle of the keyboard, so now a bunch of keys don't function. Maybe I could have had some fun with synonyms, trying to work without those keys, but since one of them is A, another is W and another is Delete, I really couldn't manage. I must use Delete more than any other key (it takes the place of the PC Backspace).

Also, I have a high-maintenance guest in my home in the form of my mother-in-law. That might sound amusing until you hear that she has Alzheimer's. That condition is not without some humor, as anyone caring for someone like that can tell you, but mostly it's a pain in the backside (sorry, honey). I won't go into it here, but suffice to say, it's distracting, and six weeks of it is too much for me (four down, two to go). I haven't written much of anything other than lesson plans in weeks.

Stir in wacky offspring who resists sleeping and homeschooling plus the stress of three different not-fun deadlines on top of gearing up for Fall teaching. I was kinda close to mental breakdown at one point, but somehow recovered with help from loved ones, and I'm invigorated by the directed study I'm teaching. So, here I am!

In the interim, I got a rejection from Every Day Fiction, which I'm actually a little relieved by. After submitting, I started to think my piece really didn't fit in with what they do there, in terms of themes people seem to enjoy as well as quality (only sometimes, though). Not to sound sour grapes-ish, but I've been aggrieved by the appearance of typos and other issues with more than a few posts. That is really not snarky pseudo-superiority, that's just the English teacher in me talking. I've not been published yet, outside my freelance news features and academic stuff, so I can't gripe there. It's just that with some of the issues I've seen, it rankled a bit that my rejection note encouraged me to rework the story and submit to a "more forgiving" venue. But I'm glad for another reason: that story's been percolating a little in my head, and I think it could be a traditional-length piece with some work.

Look for more regular postings from here on out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This I Believe

I spoke about this recently at the UU in my area and thought other folks might find it insightful.

Have you ever been asked what you believe? It's not a very easy question answer. Before I came to this church a year and a half ago, I identified as a pagan and Wiccan, and I was asked about it frequently. People are generally curious because they've seen too many bad movies and TV shows about teen witches; many of these use pagan terminology like "rule of three" and "craft of the wise." It's also difficult for many people to imagine a religious life outside of their Christian upbringing, an upbringing I lacked. The most common question was, "SO, do you believe in God?"

I developed a rehearsed sort of answer that explained what paganism isn't (for example, not Satanism). Or I explained traditional pagan holidays and rituals, and that, YES, I do believe in god (just not with a capital "G"), and that to me, god is female and male, named in ten thousand ways across cultures, and present in all matter in the universe. That god is present within me, and that salvation, heaven and hell don't make a lot of sense to me. I explain that I think the gods love us and they're waiting for us to express our own divinity. That WE are the creators, who create ourselves in the world, everyday, and we are always evolving, whether we realize it or not.

Now I've become a UU because its principles align with my beliefs. This is also confusing to people, so I have to explain THAT, especially since I can be a UU and a pagan at the same time. But these explanations I give are pretty much everything a person could just as readily obtain by searching for the terms on the internet, if they cared to.

So I don't want to talk about what paganism is, because the definition of a faith or an explanation of its practices is not the same as what the individual practitioner feels inside.

And I feel connected, I feel alive, I feel joy. Most of the time, I feel the absence of fear. When I came to it, paganism was a homecoming. Wonder, if we welcome it, is a revelation, and the natural world presents so many opportunities for wonder. Scientific understanding of nature doesn't dampen my sense of spirituality, it heightens it. Matter is in motion, from the spiraling of the galaxy, to the revolution of our planet around a life-giving sun, right down to the motion of cells of our bodies. It's thrilling to know I'm a part of that.

We also have so many everyday gifts and wonders. I've read somewhere that Benjamin Franklin said that existence of "beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy." Well, I would amend that to say that the existence of bananas, black beans and avocados is proof that the gods want us to be happy. We've evolved in conjunction with so many delicious things.

I don't have to believe a literal truth like explicit creationism to appreciate it and learn an important lesson. I guess you could say I believe in conscious evolution. We call the earth our mother, and we call the goddess our mother, we call the sun our god, but we know it's a ball of hot gas. Without it, we would not be, and that is enough reason for reverence.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Making the Cut

This post is not about writing, and really, it's a rant about my inner life. But it could make my writing life better, so maybe it is about writing.

With me, it takes a crisis point to realize something's wrong. Or better stated, "nature has a way of restoring balance." Usually, I stress so hard that I make myself sick and have to spend a week in bed with a cold or something worse. Then, I realize that the world doesn't stop turning if I take a break from all my responsibilities.

Well, I got a big shove in that direction on Sunday. I was nearly frantic trying to fulfill all my obligations, and I just broke. I know my life is out of balance: the things I most want to devote my time to (writing, spirituality, family) are the ones I give the least to, in favor of activities that satisfy the least and best serve others. SO, I'm done!

A little prayer, to the Goddess: "Mother, help me. Mother, heal me. Please release me from all things worldly that do not serve me."

I know what needs to be cut. I need to be at peace in myself to do the work I most desire.

So mote it be!

Friday, July 17, 2009


As a teacher, this sale item from Publix supermarket (photo taken yesterday) strikes me as odd.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Crittin' Helps!

I am very pleased to say that I got a fresh eye on "The Conduit" yesterday, and it really helped. This story had been hashed over by yours truly so many times that it felt dead. I couldn't even read it anymore, but this reader helped me see some obvious places that needed strengthening. Many thanks to Aika, and all the other readers who've helped with this story so far. The revision effort I put into it today made me feel more confident about sending it out again to face another possible rejection.

Advantages of critique demonstrated! However, I still haven't decided whether or not to join an online writing group. Some of the candidates on my shortlist are getting mixed reviews from other writers. I think I need to focus on discipline at the moment, to get more viable pieces closer to completion.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ah, rejection!

I just happened to check my spam box and guess what I found? A submission rejection dated June 10th! Nothing good comes from the spam folder, I guess.

I've submitted this story, "The Conduit," to three places so far, and garnered three rejections : the Anspaugh Science Fiction Contest, Clarion Writers' Workshop, and recently, Strange Horizons. Not a particularly good record, but at least I'm getting the story out there instead of sitting on it.

Am I supposed to get the message that this story stinks? There are plenty of examples of authors who stacked up multiple rejections before selling a particular story. Then the story won an award, once it got into print where folks could read it. Sure, that's probably not me, but I still don't have to give up. Maybe just not quit my day job.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

What should I read now?

What should I read next? I'm a picky reader, but I've taken some risks this summer and tried books and authors that I knew little about.

I've recently put a few down after struggling through four or five chapters, notably Greg Bear's City at the End of Time. Feel free to chastise if you liked this book, but I can't get into a novel that deliberately keeps the reader in the dark about almost everything. I like a puzzle, but this was too convoluted for my tastes.

I just finished S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire, and I was pleasantly surprised. A good post-apocalyptic yarn hooks me every time, and while some of his dialogue falls flat, the man can write some action scenes. Sword fights, brawls, archery and battles were nuanced and knowledgeable. I may have actually learned a bit reading it. The big surprise was Stirling's interesting attempt to use Wiccan culture as a major part of his story. He doesn't always succeed (characters say things like "Well, Goddess bless me!" far too much), but it's one of the more even-handed and realistic depictions of pagans I've read in fiction. Nobody pulls out a fireball or some "secret knowledge," talks to animals, or anything like that. He also demonstrates some insider knowledge of the pagan community (lingo, religious activities) although I'm unsure if he's pagan himself. Anyhoo, I liked it well enough, but not necessarily for that reason. I'll resist the urge to read the sequels, at least for now.

Help me decide what to read now! Pick a random unread from my bookcase or suggest something different (I tend toward "classic" sci-fi, the post-apocalyptic, first contact novels, and "sociological" sci-fi such as Ursula K. LeGuin).

Any thoughts on this greatly appreciated. Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

News from the Front

You know it's bad when I get too busy to write. I'm sure "lifestuff" is the death of many a blog, but not this one, thank goodness.

Major developments include new responsibilities as co-chair of worship at the UU, and the realignment of my entire house to accommodate new housemate. Between these two, I've been a little pre-occupied.

Maybe I was also avoiding the blogosphere so as to shield myself from the amazing good-times stories of folks who are at this very moment blogging the writing life at Clarion Writer's Workshop. I want to know, but I don't. I got over the politely worded rejection I received a few months ago, and I've trained my brain on next year's possibilities and this year's publication efforts. Reading about the adventures of the "got-ins" may send me in the wrong mental direction.

I've also been logging lots of gaming time, which takes me out of my world and problems for a while and translates as quality time with friends and spouse. Big-time, late-night fun playing Spirit of the Century and Arkham Horror, eating junk food and laughing. On the downside, I've been driven insane and devoured by Yog-Sothoth.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Need for Speed!

My sweet little iBook, from whence all this blogging goodness emerges, can't keep up with me. It is incredibly frustrating to compose on a computer and have the words sometimes appear more slowly than I am typing. And it needs upgrades it can't handle (like Flash, grr, SLOW).

You can support my writing habit, er, career with the Smarty Pig widget on the right. Smarty Pig is basically a virtual piggy bank, and a set number of dollars goes into each month from my (our) account. My goal is to write at least ten times as many words each week as the amount of money deposited monthly. So far, doing pretty good (see previous post). Maybe I can get up to ten times as many daily, if this keeps up.

Every penny helps! Yes, I am shameless.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Finding the Groove

I don't want to toot my horn just yet (not too loudly, anyhow), but I am pleased that I seem to have settled on a writing routine that works. For the past four days (not counting Sunday), I wrote for at least an hour each morning.

This means getting up before my family at 5:45 A.M. and getting straight to work. Since I am not a morning person, this is challenging. Couple this with the fact that my family tends to keep me up late, and this is VERY challenging. However, the knowledge that the characters are waiting gets me moving after a couple of snooze-button mashes.

In this relatively short time, I've revised and submitted a short story to Strange Horizons. I also finished a new flash story (dream-inspired) temporarily titled "What's That Pinging Sound?" that clocks in at just under 1K, and I've added over 700 words to a story seed, as yet to be titled.

At the risk of sounding trite, routine periods of isolation are the most important gifts writers can give themselves. If writing is your job, or you wish it was, you have to set aside time to do it every single day.

I have shared outside the blog (and a little here) the value I'm getting out of Stephen King's On Writing. A few people have made disparaging remarks about the quality of King's work, but I am not deterred because his advice is solid and honest (and his success speaks for itself). It's not told me much that is radical and new, but it's given me permission to do what I know I should be doing. It's like having a mentor I can peek in on every few days, and when I do, he says "Try this," and "What are you waiting for?"

Routine writing, every day, AT HOME, is one piece of advice he gives. Stop hiding in the library carrel or at the coffee shop with your laptop. Your work needs to be housed in your space, as a part of your life, not away somewhere else.

I am happy that I've given myself permission to find this groove and stick with it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Where to Get Ideas

If I could stop procrastinating, I could write at least fifty short stories from all the story-starters in my "percolator," a big blue binder that houses my writing life. I used to make the excuse that "I would write if I just had some ideas." But I have gobs of ideas; they fly at me from everywhere. Sometimes I capture them right away (QuickVoice, people!), but some escape.

My best places to get ideas, if you need a few:

  • Random words I overhear: ("I'd be dead by now if not for her," "We just wanted a quiet holiday, I swear," "This tractor is a time machine" (okay, my kid said the last one, but it's still pretty cool)
  • Michio Kaku's weekly science radio show, Explorations, on public radio
  • BoingBoing, a usually interesting blog (especially Gadgets)
  • Wired Magazine (they're kinda snarky and sensational sometimes, and have permanent wood for anything gadgety, but ideas emerge)
  • Dreams (really!)
Obviously, my ears perk up to tech topics, and that's where the fresh fodder for sci-fi hides out.

I think the key is to write down anything vaguely interesting or catchy, even if it sounds absurd (especially if it sounds absurd).

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Yesterday, it rained so hard that the top popped on my rainbarrel. If you click on the photo on the left, you can see the water overflowing the spout and pushing up the lid. After several months of drought conditions, this is amazing to witness.

Garden is happy. Then it rained all afternoon again today.

Now, central Florida just needs, like, seventeen more inches to meet normal annual rainfall.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Flash Away!

Sent off a submission, finally. I hope Jordan and the other folks over at Every Day Fiction are nice to me (but not too nice). My thanks to Oso for pushing me forward in a better direction.

I thought flash fiction would be easier, but somehow it's not. If anything can be said to be "easy" about the form, it's the fact that word limitations force me (the wordy) to get to the point, advance the plot, and round out characters as much as possible in fewer words. These are NOT simple matters, obviously, but at least the form encourages me to make these things happen economically.

As an exercise, it teaches a useful lesson: if you don't know where the story is going, you can't get there. I'm considering writing "flash drafts" of longer pieces that are not coming together well.

Zombie Haiku Contest

Over 400 haiku written on the subject of zombies, over at Boing Boing.

One of my favorites (of course, I didn't read them all):

I have eaten of
The brains you left in the fridge
Forgive me: I hunger.

Even though the syllables are technically incorrect, it's clearly written in homage to the poem by William Carlos Williams entitled "This is Just to Say":

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I also like this one (#296), from "If Famous Poets Wrote Zombie Haiku":

Do not go gentle
into that zombie plagued night.
And take the shotgun.

Left to me, Thomas might instead write:

Grave men, after death
Their blind eyes seek only life
Rage, rage in the night

Edit: Thanks to Ben Blogged for the cool graphic.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Good Reason to Check One's Pockets

...before placing jeans in the dryer.

Check out the toasty color achieved, kinda like a perfectly roasted marshmallow.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

On Writing

This is more of a personal reflection than a book review, for what it's worth.

I know I'm not the only person out there indulging in reading about writing rather than doing the work of writing (you know, some of the time). Classic procrastination disguised as progress. On the same note, there are plenty of writers who are penning "how-to" books instead of producing fiction. Most are not that worthwhile, and folks would be especially wise to avoid books that have big promises on the cover, like "Jumpstart your creativity!" and "Write your novel in three easy steps!" and so forth. This is probably self-evident.

However, a few decent books exist that are thoughtful, inspiring and actually helpful to my process. Right now, I'm reading Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Now, before you say "Eww, not that guy," just hang on a minute. I thought that, too, before I picked it up. King is one of those writers that people seem to love or hate. I used to love his stuff, but I was a ripe old seventeen years old. Then I moved on.

But this book is not (obviously) horror, and King is successful for a reason. Primarily, I think it's his astonishing output. I admire that kind of work ethic, and many people suggested the book to me. I was able to overcome my initial reluctance, and I'm very pleased that I did.

What I've enjoyed so far about the book is King's "memoir" bit, which is a brief description of events in his life that he believes "formed" him as a writer (he doesn't believe that writers are made, BTW; they either have what it takes, and do something with it, or they don't). I found it fresh and funny. I was thrilled by his descriptions of everyday encounters that later coalesced into story concepts and characters. Write what you know, right? For instance, an amalgamation of hapless girls he observed in school became Carrie (he always disliked her), the main character in his first successful book. He also engages the struggle that plagues many of us, balancing personal life with the demands of our writing ambition/addiction (are you listening, Oso?)

I found this so interesting that I sat down, and as an exercise, wrote an outline of my adolescence and filled in key memories from those times in my life. Nothing comprehensive, just random thoughts, really. I am shocked at how little I recall about my own life. King expresses his amazement at memoir writers who seem to recall every detail of their lives with clarity; he just doesn't have that, and neither do I. In fact, I question the authenticity of those tidy autobiographies.

Then in the second section, King launches into a pleasant discussion with the reader about his personal sense of wonder concerning writing as "telepathy," a method of communicating directly with another person on the page. The result is surprisingly intimate:
"I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We're not even in the same year together, let alone the same room... except we are together. We're close. We're having a meeting of the minds." (106)
In the next chapter, entitled "Toolbox," he discusses ways to develop oneself as a writer. No discussion so far about plotting, or character, or any of that although it may come. A pleasurable difference from other books I've read about writing.

Somewhere, I think in a Nebula volume, Ursula K. LeGuin made a statement about writing workshops that went something like this: If we teach everyone tried and true methods for fiction writing, then we'll probably get a lot of stories that sound pretty good. But they'll all sound the same. We have to work on ways to help emergent writers find their own unique voices, or there won't be any ground-breaking new work(s).

I'm enjoying the process of finding my own voice.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I've Made Nerd!

So, who can guess what this depicts? The talented artist is Mr. B.

A while back, I met a woman at an academic conference who told me all about her proposed dissertation topic concerning nerd culture. Apparently, her anthropology department was not amused. Her argument was "culture" is that which is transmitted from parent to child, and so on, down the generations. Nerds teach their children specific culture, hence, "nerd culture."

There's been a bit of talk about what constitutes "nerd" and "geek," how they may or may not be the same thing, and so on, with quite a few unexpected people getting their geek on. Supposedly, geeking is cool now, so someone has to spoil it by co-opting it.

Wil Wheaton, who is a very polite and smart person with reliable geek cred, says a bit about this.

Meanwhile, keep transmitting. Somebody has to.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Proud Pagan

I've spent the better part of the week trying to hold onto the sense of peace and purpose I gained from attending Florida Pagan Gathering this past weekend. It's a twice-annual festival which always inspires me to better my life and take action.

I attended great workshops with cool presenters. I learned some absolutely beautiful songs for groups from Margot Adler (yes, the journalist from NPR). With my family, I learned about incorporating spiritual practice into daily life as a "family coven" with Lydia Crabtree. I gathered a good amount of perspective on the future of paganism as a growing world-wide religious movement, with folks like Gavin and Yvonne Frost (who are, BTW, very anti-Christian while I am not) and T. Thorn Coyle. Best of all, I watched my husband and child jump the Beltane fires and dance around at the fire/drum circle. Amazing levels of joy.

It's hard to come home after that, although finding ticks in your clothes and scorpions in your campsite are enough encouragement to leave! I have a refreshed appreciation for creature comforts and a renewed spiritual bond with both family and friends who attended with us.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Has it really been a whole week since I posted? What have I been doing?

I met this guy at the UU, and this guy at the UU in Clearwater, and those were very engrossing experiences. I have been actively increasing the size of my garden, which is now yielding tomatoes every day that my family can eat.

A bit of writing and some reading, but nothing remarkable. On Wednesday, I had a meltdown of sorts over trying to coexist peacefully with my Aspie offspring. It's very weird, driving down the road and sobbing at the same time. It feels oddly intimate and isolated at the same time when you're sitting at at traffic light, next to other drivers, with tears running down your face. Isn't that the name of a band, "Drivin' and Cryin'" or something like that?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Back on Track

Thanks to Oso Meurte and Sir Brian, I am back on track. One flash story now entering revision stage.

Thanks, guys. Still looking for other flash site recommendations if folks have any.

Meanwhile, for a taste of what kind of short fiction I like, I suggest Shimmer (it's not flash). A free issue is up for download (did I post this before?). One story in particular caught me, called "A Painter, A Sheep, and a Boa Constrictor," by Nir Yaniv. He's an interesting fella in his own right.

I turned and read this tale aloud to my hubbie as soon as I'd read it through. Very nice balance of bizarre, intriguing elements and the recognizable, as well as perfect pacing. I do so love a twist ending that really works well.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Why I Am Not Writing Now

At this very moment, at least.

I have been writing, but not completing stories. I get stuck and move on to another story idea. Even knowing that flash submissions are required to be short doesn't help; I take forever to get to the point.

Advice from my teacher-self says: Keep writing until the good part materializes, then chop. Only I'd say it nicer to my students.

Writer-self is whining.

What do you say?

Admirable Person of the Week

A youngish person with serious chops.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Albert 2.0

Chat live with Albert Einstein (sort of).

After a few minutes of chat, he asked what I was wearing. Hmm.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

For Fans of the Office and Religious Open-mindedness

I recently stumbled upon some interesting perspective on religion and the Baha'i faith from Rainn Wilson of The Office, who is apparently a pretty deep individual.

He appeared on Oprah's Sirius Radio show to talk about his brainchild, called SoulPancake.

While not big on Oprah, I am certainly a big fan of The Office, and of The Schrute, and now I like him even better.

Of course, I'm one of the "hippy-dippy" ones Rainn is not keen on.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Flash Fiction?

Now that I've cleansed the palate with a couple of silly posts... something completely different.

I'm collecting bookmarks for flash fiction websites, as I've recently learned of the idea and find it intriguing, at least as an exercise to tone writerly muscles.

Check out 365Tomorrows, Every Day Fiction and Vestal Review. Any other ideas?

I'll be ready to submit soon! One particular tale jumped out of the percolator and is struggling toward completion.

Ganesh says, "You can do it!"

Friday, March 27, 2009

How Could I Not Know About This?

Maybe this is completely insane or just borderline gender confusion, but I've had several opportunities to wear glue-on mustaches in my lifetime, and I enjoyed those experiences a bit too much (folks from the Lunch Bunch will know what I mean by that). Being a fan of both silly mustaches and tattoos, how could I miss a whole subcultural niche concerning cute mustache tattooing?

There's even social networking for these folks at

Oh, stop worrying. I'm not going to do it. It's very silly.

Coffee is Bad

A great cup of coffee is a joy. Hot, creamy, sweet and comforting. After drinking it, I begin to feel a sense of overall well-being, then a sort of euphoria, and then I experience a period of zippy, enthusiastic productivity. I can do stupid things faster, with more energy!

But apparently a really great cup of coffee makes me ill. After a while, I withdraw and feel awful for hours, woozy and even nauseated. Of course, I tend not to eat much because I'm feeling satisfied. Maybe it's the sugar, or the caffeine, or a combination of both. Another problem is that people look at me funny when I'm talking, as if I am behaving oddly or possibly speaking faster than I should for good communication. Maybe I'm even slurring like a drunk, who knows.

Enjoying and craving that sense of well-being makes it easy to forget the bad feelings that are sure to follow. I feel like an addict, I guess. Not that I know what that's like.

Anyway, I need to cut back.

On Fire

Woo-hoo! Ideas are brewing in the noggin!

I am very pleased with the fact that in spite of my busy life, I am creating. Mostly outlined and jotting, but new story seeds are being collected. I am also researching markets and have found three that I plan to submit to in the next month or so.

The freelance writing is also going well; I have two new projects.

Hopefully, a more substantive post will emerge a little later. Gotta go to see to that progress.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Had to do it!

This is so cool, I had to repost.

From E.J.'s blog over yonder:

“If I were an earthworm….”

“If I were a dragonfly….”

Over at the Sundance Channel website, you can watch Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno videos, in which she dresses up in colorful costumes and enthusiastically and accurately demonstrates the sexual behaviors of various invertebrates. Utterly fabulous.

Check it out, especially those folks I know are Rossellini fans.

Omens, Free Association and Writing

Yesterday, before the bad news, I went into a used bookstore to drop off some posters for a local concert. I happened to be waiting in line at the counter just long enough for my eyes to drift over the rack containing film novelizations (which I generally look down upon, bleh). The very top and left book happened to be The Affair of the Necklace, written by Elizabeth Hand, a Clarion workshop leader. Was it a sign? Not a good one, as it turned out, but I did receive news just a short time later. However, it should not surprise me to see an author's name, on a book, in a book store.

The day before that, I was in the bath, trying to relax and stop obssessing about acceptance/rejection, when the shampoo lather floating in the tub formed into the shapes of two fish. The smaller had a wide-open mouth poised to consume the larger. A sign? I don't even know of what, but I was distressed and dashed it away.

As a child (and even then I was an aspiring writer), I used to think that writerly work was mythically channeled from some great source, that the ideas burned writers up from the inside until they were let out. The whole notion was that writing is always passionate and exciting, and that great writers were like half-mad artists. When I was a kid, I wanted to be that. Of course, now I'm actually writing, and although at least one story kinda burned its way out, the work I'm doing now has more to do with craft. The difference is that writing craft is taught and learned and shared (and requires time-consuming self-discipline); it's not wild talent that madly creates in an isolated trance. Ideas come from everywhere, especially for speculative fiction, and random word association can springboard the writer into exciting new directions. All this has something to do with omens (random signs and symbols that are assigned meaning) that I'm not expressing very well here. Maybe you get the point.

Now that my summer has been freed up, I am hard at work on new writing, with the goal of two fresh subs before June in mind.

The current project, tentatively titled "In Like the Lion," is a short story I started during the wait. It began with a phrase of simple word association, and at the time, I thought of it as very goofy, but at least diverting from the stress of waiting. Now, it seems to be taking on a life of its own, as stories tend to do, and the characters want to go places and see new people. And there it goes, with me in tow.

I'm also shopping around for good online writing workshops to join, if anyone has suggestions.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Back to Normal?

Finally, word from Clarion, and sadly it's no. But also some encouraging words:

"The admissions panel feels that you (sic) work shows promise and says you came 'very close' to being admitted."

I'll keep working and try again next year. At least the process has motivated me to rethink my life a little and put me over the hurdle of first submission fears. In the meantime, I need to start subbing my work elsewhere.

And, my posts can go back to normal instead of just functioning as Clarion tweets.

A big thank you to everyone who sent me good wishes and support!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Go, go, gadget optimism!

I am occupied by other thoughts, and I am not, not, not freaking out! I am taking stupid pictures of myself (which I will have to add later because Blogger is acting stupid and won't let me upload).

I am harvesting collards that I grew with my own two black-thumbed hands, and cooking them for my pagan group's potluck (photo).

I am making out with my husband in the driveway in full view of my neighbors (no photo).

I am thankful to other people for their support and good wishes. I am not complaining.

Edit: Sorry the pics are sloppy, I really don't get what is going on with Blogger right now. But there they are, anyhow.

P.S. I May Develop an Ulcer

Dear Clarion folks,
Perhaps you are inundated with similar requests this morning, but I am writing to contact the program coordinator about my application as suggested on the Clarion website. I have not yet received notification of my application's acceptance or rejection.

Please clarify if possible. Many thanks for all your hard work.


Friday, March 20, 2009

And, so?

It is after 8:30 P.M. here, and still no word. I just keep telling myself that reviewers are probably on Pacific time, so it's early yet for them. Here, it feels very late.

I took a nap (I had a weird dream that there was a neglected dog living in my garage) and then went out for dinner, leaving my phone at home so I couldn't check email. After that, I took Cinder-Boo out for a long walk (see Sith's apprentice in earlier post), and then cooked her dinner. Yes, she is that spoiled (and/or I am that yuppy-ish these days). Then I checked the emails again. Still nothing.

Sigh. I'm not even going to speculate. Not out loud, anyway. I need a hug.


It's Friday, the 20th of March, and there is still nothing from Clarion. Yet.

Mr. B and I went to homeschool playgroup and to the farmers' market, and I checked my phone for email alerts about every fifteen minutes or so. You know, casually, trying not to seem disinterested in regular life.

I have cramps, it's the first day of spring, and momentous news should arrive any time now. I need a nap, but I don't know if I would sleep, as keyed up as I feel.

In other news, Mr. B is a Sith Lord.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What's Wrong With this Picture?

Because I teach grammar, I can't help myself when I see things like this. The mistakes are maddening!

I must look like a crazy person taking pictures of things like gas pumps with my cell phone.

But it's something to do while waiting.

No More, Make It Stop!

I've just been over reading posts on the Clarion West forum, where some familiar names are joshing around and wringing their hands in a nervous sweat. See, I was over there because Clarion San Diego, or East, as some folks are calling it, doesn't have a forum for applicants. Hence, a thread was started over on the CW form, and lot of folks there applied to CSD and CW, so it's relevant for them. All manner of second-guessing and over-analyzing going on. I realized that I can't take it, and I'm going to go completely crazy if I keep reading all that stuff.

I'll just hold my breath for the next 36 hours or so. That should be easier than trying to avoid the blogs and forums. Ha.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Obsessed or Determined?

I guess I'm thinking too much.

It occurred to me this morning that the Clarion acceptance contact I've been waiting for could be a letter in my PO box, which I haven't checked since Thursday, so I hitched the trail bike to my cheapo boardwalker, and Mr. B (my child) and I pedaled on down to the post office.

"Oh, my legs!" he wailed at some point. Anyway, no letter in the mail. I know that some lucky folks like Jordan Lapp have been contacted via phone call, but I'm thinking that may be a Clarion West thing. I have it in my head that the Clarion SD contact will be emailed/written. Correct me if I'm wrong!

But alas, nothing of note in the PO box so far. On the upside, while I was at the post office, I finally mailed the contract for the academic volume I'm editing to my collaborators so they can sign it, too. Nothing much is happening with that, so I keep forgetting about it.

Then back home to return to repeatedly checking my email in case there's a notification in there. I also discovered a tidbit that might appeal to other Clarion hopefuls who are sitting around biting their collective fingernails. Clarion's website suggests reading Kate Wilhelm's The Storyteller while waiting, and a large portion of it can be found for free here. Or you can pay $16 for it.

I also tooled around in my garden today and got my toes dirty, which always forces me to slow down. It reassures me, too, that life goes on, however cheesy that sounds. I went back and listened to the UU service about springtime that I did last Sunday, which you can listen to here if you like, mortified as always by the weird sound of my own voice. There's probably a scientific reason why we don't sound the same way to ourselves as we do to other people, just like a kind of body dysmorphia where we don't perceive ourselves the same way others see us.

Mentally rambling, that's been my day. Just trying not to think about it as much by keeping busy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quote to live by

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

Douglas Adams

What to do while waiting

The long, drawn-out period of waiting for news about Clarion has finally driven me to accept Vylar Kaftan's challenge: write a complete story before receiving acceptance/rejection. The point is to stave off anxiety by making it productive. I picked a random idea from the voice recorder app on my iPhone (good ideas come to me while I'm driving), wrote a hook and outlined ideas for conflict/rising action/development. I challenged myself further to write in third person, which I typically feel uncomfortable with. No conclusion yet, though. Is it normal to begin writing on a story before you know where it's going? I follow that method most of the time. It keeps me from procrastinating too much.

So, now I have until Friday to finish it, maybe. Unless the Clarion folks miss their own deadline for notifying applicants. I fantasize concerning the reason they still haven't notified me. I won't go into details there. These thoughts make my stomach hurt.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Haiku of the Day

Overcast daylight
trees bloom yellow pollen falls
good day for writing


I haven't posted in several days, and I just don't know where the time went. It got eaten by the zen-eating monster again, I guess. Lots of little side projects and articles, but no fiction. Gonna try to change that today, even though I'm under another deadline for an article.

At least it's kept me busy enough to keep my mind off the lack of response from Clarion. Apparently, I am not the only one. Like Oso Muerte, I am in a holding pattern on that part of my life. It's surprising how many opportunities have come up for that part of the summer, and how optimistic I can sound saying, "I may be at a writing workshop in San Diego then, I'll have to let you know." Maybe absurdly optimistic, I don't know. I get this sensation in the pit of my stomach when I think about Clarion. Whether I get in or not, the process so far has been a touch emotional, which has really taken me off guard.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Haiku of the Day

Black keyboard click-clacks
Cool breeze through open window
Another sweet day

Monday, March 9, 2009

Clarion reading

In between writing and making phone calls for freelance work, I have been jumping around the blog-o-sphere, reading what other applicants are thinking about (anxiety, anticipation, fear of failure, determination). Leaving a few comments, too. Trying not to be such a lurker. It's nice to feel like I'm in touch with other writers on this particular wavelength.

Also, I've been making the rounds on library websites for books by the workshop authors. Here's what I've come up with so far:

-- Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand, at public library (nabbed it)
-- Nebula Awards anthology #31 and 28 (1997 and 1994) which include shorts by Hand and Kim Stanley Robinson, respectively
-- The Year's Best Science Fiction 14th Annual Collection, with a story by Paul Park. He's the only person I'm having trouble finding (for free, anyway) on the shelf

I may get started on those later in the week or while I'm munching down snacks at work on Tuesday.

Haiku of the Day

Warm sun on the fence
Spring is in full bloom today
Happy sensations

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Haiku of the Day

Green garden outside
I slow down to look again
Aphids on the leaves

Waiting for Clarion

I have been thinking of how to say it for a few days now; I am SO anxious about my application to Clarion Writers' Workshop. I think about it constantly. The pleasure and sense of accomplishment I felt the day after applying (March 1) has worn off, and now I daydream about it and search the internet for advice and journals from Clarion graduates. The picture is pretty much uniform and coherent: it was amazing and stressful. Some of the things folks say they learned (for example, how first person present narrative is SO newbie) stress me out because I'm still doing those things. But I get to thinking that maybe those newbie mistakes are okay. I gotta start somewhere.

After reading about the experiences of others at Clarion, I don't know what I'm more afraid of: acceptance or rejection. Well, probably rejection. Of course, I want to go, for all the reasons that people state, like validation of my work, the experience of workshopping with other writers, producing work that has real potential, having the time to write and the motivation (at the same time) and so on.

However, I have anxieties about how I will handle the emotional part. I've done fiction workshops many times before, but the criticism there was not usually anything harsh. I want honest critique, but I don't want to cry like a little baby in front of my peers. I don't want to be sleep-deprived and snappy. I don't want to come home feeling depressed when it ends. I don't want to make friends and then mourn the loss of them when it's over.

Last year, Vylar Kaftan over at the Clarion West Writing Workshop forum challenged applicants to write a story while waiting for notification. That way, you write without knowing the deadline. It could be tomorrow, so you have to work hard. I may try that.

Friday, March 6, 2009

By the way...

Thanks, Brian.


I am finally reviving the old blog, after a long hiatus. Time slips away when I schedule it to the hilt, and that means I've finally realized something basic that anyone could have told me: I didn't lose my zen, and no one took it. I gave it away. I'm still doing that, but I'm slowly getting better.

I gave it away to:

--PCC, every time I signed a full-time contract.

--Waste, to where, I don't really know, but it went, and I'm unhappy about it.

--Television, a profoundly addicting escape.

--Time spent wishing I could write but not doing it.

--Volunteer work, which gratifies me but is also slowly sucking life out of me.

What I'm doing to make it better:

--saying no.

--practicing magick.

--gardening, which means slowing down.

--writing. Ah, writing.