Sunday, January 31, 2010

Preditors & Editors Readers Poll Results Are In!

I'm really proud and humbled to share this year's 2009 P&E Readers Poll results with you.

My short story collection, Metamorphorsis, finished in the top twenty five in the Best Anthology category and 17th in Best Cover Art.  Congratulations to my fabulous cover artist Renee George for that cover, which is one of my all time favorites.

Lovely, isn't it?

The last book in The Asphodel Cycle--Apostle of Asphodel finished fourteenth in Best Sci Fi/Fantasy Novel.  The Asphodel Cycle as a whole, then, has finished high in the polls for three years, garnering two top ten finishes in Best Sci Fi/Fantasy and a top five finish in Best Novel.  The absolute loyalty Asphodel fans have shown over the past three years is a humbling thing to witness.

And, finally, the first book of the Covenants trilogy, Breaking the Covenants,co-written with Rob Graham finished in fifth place in the Best Erotica category.  I now have a new banner to add to my collection:

So over the course of the past three years, collectively I've amassed five Top Ten finishes in the P&E Readers Poll and eight top twenty five finishes--all due to you!  Thank you, thank you, thank you--I cannot adequately express how amazing it is to me that I have readers who consistently appreciate my work enough to shower honors like this on it.

Thank you.

And one more bit of news--I will be attending the RT Book Lovers Convention in Columbus, Ohio from April 28-May 2. I'll be signing books, giving away e-books and lots of other goodies.  Drop by and see me at the Book Expo or just flag me down if you see me!  I'm looking forward to having a great time!

And now...I'm off.  This is moving week in the Summers household and I have to find a way to somehow get all of my books into portable receptacles.  I'm planning on spending tomorrow afternoon settling my books and getting my kitchen in order--the two things I love most about moving. After that, it's all drudgery.

And again, thank you. Get ready, though--there's going to be a lot of fun news this week from me!

Friday, January 29, 2010


Contentment is...

...writing for most of the day with a cat on my lap asleep and the rest of the house quiet.  The kind of day where I can take a long bubble bath, while reading a new book, and then get all my laundry done in between writing sessions.  The sort of afternoon where I exceed my word count for the day and just keep going because the story is flowing so well. The phone isn't ringing like mad with perceived crises in five states. My email is oddly empty, considering I've been averaging thirty real emails a day for the past few weeks.

What a fantastic day.  The new 76" cat tree I ordered even came in today.  Unfortunately, the box weighs a ton and I can't get it into the house.  Oh well. That means the cat on the lap contentment for another afternoon until the husband gets home, carts it in and puts it together. 


It's bitterly cold outside--like maybe 10 degrees--but the big snow and ice storm is tracking south and we'll only get sideswiped by it. Maybe a couple of inches of snow, that's all.  That's great anyway--it makes the silence out here in the middle of a national forest reserve a lot more crystalline and pure.  It means I'll go outside tonight, bundled up in my coat and gloves and scarves, and actually be able to hear the whisper of snow sifting down upon the trees and the ground.

One of my favorite sounds in the world. Some people would call it silence; I call it symphonic.

So now a nice big cup of hot chocolate, a piece of vanilla cake (because I'm just like that) and back to a writing surge that reaffirms my love of telling a story.  Let's see where my afternoon of near perfect contentment leads me.

And to the weather gods--if you want to send the storm further north, that's fine by me.  I can assemble the cat tree and hang out right beside it while they perch on it and play on it and stalk the birds on the other side of the window glass who are gorging themselves at the bird feeder.  I'll strike you a deal--I'll make sure the birds are fed and you can dump a foot of snow on my house.  That way, everyone's happy.

I won't even let the cats out after them.  It's a promise.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Clearing Out My Vision

Yeah, I know.  The post title sounds like I need to get new contacts.  That's not what I'm talking about though. First off, I don't wear contacts. Twenty twenty vision, thank you very much.

Second, I'm talking about writing.

Sometimes, you get so caught up in the story that you're writing that you almost become willfully blind about it.  Yeah, the words may have rolled easily from your brain onto the page, but you can't really see the whole picture when you're writing that first draft.  I know I can't. Building a good story is like baking a great loaf of homemade bread--you have to let the dough rest for a while so that it can rise to its fullest potential.  Something I'm noticing a lot in manuscripts from new writers (and even some not so new writers like myself) is that overwhelming urge to rush that story into the oven, to serve--continuing my culinary metaphor--a half-baked loaf of bread.

Let me explain.

Once you've written that first draft, put it away. Don't immediately turn around and start editing it.  Let it sit for a few days. Write something else; outline a new project or revise an old one.  Once that daily dose of the completed story wears off from you, take the first draft back out.  Go to your favorite reading chair--someplace away from where you work--sit down and read what you've written. Read it like, well, a reader would. Someone other than you who might have come across the story in a bookstore.  Don't make notes on it, don't start editing with your red pencil.  Just sit down and read all the way through without stopping.

Then, you need to come face to face with what you've written.

Is it enjoyable? Did it hold your interest? (Here's a hint: if your fingers start itching to rearrange sentences, the answer to these first two questions is 'no.') Is the main character credible.  Do you like him or her? Do you care about what happens to her? Is the conflict tense? Is it easy to figure out the solution to? (especially important for mysteries.  If you send me a mystery and I peg the bad guy within the first few pages of his introduction to the story, then it ain't much of a mystery if you know what I mean.)

You have to be totally honest with yourself. If you're not, you're not doing yourself any favors.  You'll send your poor manuscript out to someone like me who will give you all the honesty you never wanted. A writer has got to teach themselves not only to take the cold, hard facts an editor or agent would, but to recognize those flaws first and correct them.  If you have even the smallest niggling doubt about how something is working out, don't wreck your story's future and send it out.  Keep it at home, work on it some more, entrust it to some critical (and brutally honest) eyes other than your own.  Learn to not only accept criticism, but to yearn for it.

Clear out your vision.  Sure, it's your baby but you have to be able to look at your baby with wide open eyes and say, "You know--I don't think it's ready yet." Then take it back to your desk, open the file back up and work on it some more.

Before you think I'm just spouting off advice because I think I'm entitled to, let me correct you.  I'm spouting off this advice to myself more than anyone else.  I am not infallible.  As a matter of fact, I have numerous, grievous flaws as a writer.  And every time I think I have one hell of a story and get excited about shopping it around, I've sent it out too soon and watched it die beneath a pile of rejections and a surplus of 'unfortunatelys' in my inbox.

Trust me. I know of what I speak. Don't make the same mistakes I make--do better than me. Clear out your vision about your manuscript.  It's a hell of a lot easier to do that before you send the story out than to try and disinter it when it's almost--but not quite--too late.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Picking Yourself Back Up After That Rejection Email

Every writer has at least one of these days--you know, the horrible days where you check your inbox, see that agent or publisher's name on an email and excitedly open up a message that begins with some version of "Although your writing shows great promise..." or "While I enjoyed your writing immensely..." or "Unfortunately, I just didn't connect with your protagonist/hero/heroine/conflict/plotline/narrative style/sneakers/chia pet/favorite television show..."

You get the picture.

Rejection is something writers have to deal with every single day.  This isn't a business for the thin-skinned. Sure, those rejections hurt--especially the one that starts off with "Dear Author" or has your name misspelled on the form. Believe me, I've seen every variation of the name "Celina" that's possible: Celena, Selina, Selena, Saliva, Sleestack--you name it, I have a rejection with that name set on the wrong line, in a different font and bigger than the rest of the form typed out by some unpaid intern ready to make it big in the publishing industry. Yep, I get it. It sucks. It sucks badly.

But, are rejections necessarily a bad thing?  See, I don't think so.

Every rejection teaches me something about my writing.  All form rejections? My writing didn't stand out enough in the agent/publisher's mind to warrant a personal rejection. It just plain wasn't ready, or the entity I submitted it to wasn't the best source to turn to.  Lots of requests, no offers? Those rejections hurt the worst. It means my query letter was good and did its job and my first two or three chapters were really strong--strong enough to get someone excited about the work. But, in the end, the story didn't sustain itself for a full read for either the agent or the publisher--and that means it probably wouldn't keep a reader's interest either. Rejections off requested manuscripts indicates there's something wrong with the story--but that it's probably fixable. And then there are the personal rejections, the ones where you know the agent/publisher really wanted to like your work but it fell just short.  And in these times, that tiny bit of shortness was an acceptance or a revise/resubmit letter.

When I first started writing with the goal of publication, I created my Wall of Shame.  It started off as a joke: I wanted to see how many rejections it would take before I got that first acceptance. (It took over 80, by the way) But since then, I've printed off and tacked up rejections that were either particularly helpful (ie-the agents I would query again) or particularly funny. (The lovely mistakes one can make with a form rejection--like sending one to Mr. Celina Summes. Those are always hysterical) Every once in a while, I go through and weed through them, getting rid of ones that have lost their charm and re-reading the personalized ones for clues as to what I need to be concentrating on. Those rejections never fail to cheer me up in a perverse sort of way.  Maybe it's because I'm a masochist. Maybe it's because I'm reinforcing my drive to continue.  Who knows?

But it works.

It's easy to get discouraged.  It's even easier to use those rejections as a sort of weapon, battering the entire publishing industry and thinking that it's 'unfair' or 'biased' or 'stupid.' It's not. Writers--all writers, including myself--have to learn eventually that rejections are actually tools you can use to gauge the market, evaluate your writing and determine which agencies or publishers are most amenable to the way that you write. So instead of getting depressed because you got that rejection in your email, get off your ass and get back to work.  Write something new or rewrite what just got rejected.  Search for a new market for the story or query the next agent on your list. Never allow yourself to get so depressed that you just can't bear the thought of one more "I'm sure another agent will feel differently and best of luck" email. Use it as a spur to perfect and hone your craft.

Because in the end, that's what it all boils down to. Success, in the end, depends upon your ability to persevere in the face of rejection.

Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."  Good ol' Rough and Ready was absolutely right. If you want to be a career writer, you've got to recognize failure as your greatest teacher.

Success won't come to you; you have to go after it.

Now, if you'll excuse me--I have a novel to rewrite.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Recharging My Creative Batteries

Yep. I really need to.

That could have been the entire post, honestly.  I'm producing words--quite a few of them in fact.  I'm kind of stuck on determining what my next big project is going to be.  I want to focus on fantasy, maybe, or perhaps another paranormal.  Whatever it is, it's not the things I'm working on at the moment.  I want the project that's going to get me excited, the one that's going to crank into high gear and drives me to produce.  I want the idea that takes over my life and forces me to write about it.

Yeah, I know--I want, I want, I want.  It's all about what I want.  That's not what it should be about. It should be about what wants me to write it.

I think I need a vacation.

Sometimes, even seeing something new can get the creative juices going.  That's what I need. Something to stimulate that one great idea.

So, I think I'm going to take a virtual vacation.  I need to look at some new places, maybe read something that jogs some sort of inspiration. If that doesn't work, maybe I'll take a real vacation and see what that does.  The one thing I know for certain is that I can't sit around and wait for that next great idea to take me.  I need to go after it and find it.

Google images, here I come.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Heroism in Silence

I saw something very unusual today and I thought I'd share it with you.

My mother in law and I were on our way to lunch when we saw a whole mess of flashing lights on Memorial Drive, which is the main thoroughfare through Lancaster, Ohio which is were I live.  My mother in law, noticing that the police had blocked off the entire road, turned onto a side street, went a couple of blocks up and started on a path parallel to the one we were originally taking. We hadn't gone two blocks when a patrol car pulled into the intersection one car ahead of us, lights flashing, and stopped. 

My first thought was that there was some kind of dangerous situation. And then, I saw the first fire truck, draped with black gauze buntings and with a firefighter's protective jacket on the front grill and I knew what was happening.

On January 2, firefighters in Lancaster responded to an apartment fire. While supervising the crews battling the flames, Lt. Joseph McCafferty collapsed.  He was taken to the hospital, and eventually passed away on January 16. He was only 59. He was the first Lancaster firefighter to fall in the line of duty since the days of horse-drawn fire engines.

What we were witnessing was his funeral cortege.  And even then, it took me a few minutes to recognize the magnitude of what was happening in front of me.

The funeral procession, including the fire engine that carried Lt. McCafferty's casket, stretched a mile in length.  It was comprised of fire engines, ambulances, emergency squads and fire chiefs from all over the state of Ohio--some from as far away as Canton and Dayton. All along the funeral route, flags were lowered to half staff--not only at government facilities but also in the front yards of private citizens.

Those private citizens also lined the streets.  School kids watched in front of their schools.  Police officers who were cordoning off the route stood at attention and saluted.  The cars before and behind us all shut off their engines--and so did we.  And we all watched as fire truck after fire truck passed in front of us.  The fire chiefs in their red-painted cars looked out at us, rows of gold braid striping their sleeves.

There was a store on the left corner of these shops with a big display window, and the store employees stood in a row, witnessing the procession from indoors. And still the fire trucks kept coming.  Some of the firefighters I saw were older men, salt and peppered hair brushed back neatly.  Yet others didn't look old enough to drive much less drive a fire truck or carry people out of burning buildings.  While there were many trucks from Lancaster and I saw lots of firemen I know, the majority of them were from other counties.  They couldn't have had more than a passing acquaintanceship with Lt. McCafferty, but still they came to pay their respects to a man who'd literally given his life in the course of doing his duty.

The last time Lt. McCafferty had seen a rescue squad, he was a patient. Now they drove behind his casket to honor him. It got me thinking.  We all remember (and probably always will) the incredible courage and gallantry of the first responders in New York City on 9/11.  That bravery is now indelibly tattoed upon the men and women who serve in our fire departments or police departments all across the country, no matter where they serve.  It doesn't matter if it's in a huge metropolis like NYC or a small town like Lancaster, we still look at our first responders the same way, a way that has changed since 9/11 and strengthened our respect for the people who risk their lives in order to save ours.

Lt. Joseph McCafferty didn't die while rescuing people from a burning building.  He wasn't shot by a criminal. But still, his death is tragic.  He is not a hero for how he died.  He is a hero for how he lived.

The local newspaper, the Lancaster Eagle Gazette,  related the final tribute to Joseph McCafferty in their article this afternoon about the funeral. The 911 dispatchers sounded the tones for the fire department three times.  Three times they called for Lt. Joseph McCafferty.  Three times, they received no reply.

Finally, the dispatcher said, "For all fire personnel, this will be Lt. McCafferty's last call."

Rest in peace and good voyage to you, sir.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Driving In The Fog

A few nights ago, I was driving from Ohio down to Louisville, Kentucky.  It was one of those dark, misty kinds of nights--not raining, so windshield wipers were of no use and yet still wet enough to pixellate the windshield with water.  It's been a long time since I've driven that far by myself at night.  On top of that, I was in my new car (did I mention my new PT Cruiser yet? No? Well, some other time) and wasn't that familiar with it yet. So, I was driving tentatively--both hands on the wheel, moderating my speed so I did just the speed limit and not an MPH more (something that would never have happened ten years ago) and being very careful around other cars. 

One of the bad things about that particular stretch of road (71 to Cincinnati, 75 to Louisville, 65 to the exit closest to my daughter's house) is how difficult it is to find a good radio station. And, being too stupid to live, I neglected to take any CDs with me.  So, I had two choices: I could either listen to static, or I could use the long, quiet trip for contemplation.

Contemplation wins out over silence every single time.

Then, only about an hour into the drive, fog settled in.  It wasn't even that late; it was just after sunset on a very gray day, but the fog that gathers in the river bottoms around the Ohio River extends all across the southern quadrant of the state.  It was thick fog--yellow tinged in places from the streetlamps--the kind of fog that clings to everything and makes it clammy and almost morbid. The fog suited my mood perfectly.

I think I've been driving in a fog for a long time.

There's a miasma hovering over my life, concealing my way down the road my life's journey is set to travel.  Whereas once I thought I was going to be driving through a flat, open expanse where all the pitfalls could be detected far in advance and where the horizon was far away and level with the stretch of road I was traveling, I know now that I'm not.  My life's journey has never reached that plain--you know the plain I'm talking about: the one where you can set the cruise control to ten miles above the speed limit and open the sunroof (did I mention my PT cruiser has a sunroof? No? More on that later) and just drive, thrilling in the prospects before you. The road is level and well-paved, offering the traveler a smooth ride and comfort. The end of the road is nowhere in sight, but it will be soon. That last exit, the one you're going to get off on, is the one with a sign that reads "Your Ambition Begins Here; 80 mph" and that sign is so big and so prominent that you can't miss it on this vast plateau. It's the only guidepost there; it's the only guidepost needed.

But that's not my life road.

My life road began in a small valley, one with hills just tall enough on either side that I couldn't see over them. All my life, as a child and a young adult, my only goal was to get over those hills and see what was on the other side.  But when I did, I found more hills. And after those, even more.  And as I drove on, desperately seeking some avenue with purpose, some road that led to the plain I'd always dreamed about, the road grew more treacherous.  The curves were difficult to negotiate, the traffic was bad but moving fast and recklessly and the road itself was pockmarked with pits and cracks, the hills became heavily forested mountains and bulging, baked asphalt that sent my car flying over them.  Big trucks would suddenly change lanes and veer into mine, never knowing that I was there, and I had to manuever my car onto the bern and execute a video game driving trick to keep from wiping out. (This really did happen to me the other night, by the way. Damn truck. Did I mention how fabulous my new PT Cruiser handles the road? No? More on that later) And now on that road I'm trapped upon, it's night.  It's a moonless night, with nothing to light my way, and then the fog rolls in over the mountain tops. So I drive quicker, all the while keeping one anxious eye on the road (looking for more big trucks) and the other on the fog that is creeping down the faces of the mountains on either side of me.  It seeps through the trees, clinging to the fungus-spotted trunks, continuing its inevitable crawl toward the road with thickening fingers of mist.

All I can do is slow down.  All I can do is to take the steering wheel in a firmer grip and try to keep my vehicle on the road. As the night strengthens, the fog grows whiter against the pitched color of the skies and woods and mountains.  My headlights only illuminate the road a few feet in front of me.  I'm driving slowly, so slowly that if a car is one curve behind me and speeding, it will plow into the back of my car and knock it off the road into the steep ravines now on either side of the road. I'm terrified now and I don't know what to do.  I can't stop; there's nowhere to pull over.  I can't go back; there's nowhere to turn around.  All I can do is drive on, ever forward, always praying I make it around the next bend, over the next mountain, through the next stretch of road. The windshield wiper blades rocking back and forth sound like the toscins in Paris the night the Bastille was stormed, pounding out my death sentence in rhythmic squeals against the mist-draped glass.  And then, I glance at the fuel gauge and a new worry materializes. I have less than half a tank left.  What if that's not enough gas? What if there's no service station before I run out? If I do run out, what will I do? My cell phone doesn't work in the mountains (or, apparently, anywhere near my daughter's house.  I had it plugged up to the charger in the car--did I mention that my new PT Cruiser has two power sources? The standard cigarette lighter style one and a regular plug in kind of outlet? No? More on that later) and there's no one I can call for help.

So my only option is to keep on driving. In a little while, I'll gain the courage to take these curves and mountains at regular speed, trusting to my abilities and my vehicle to keep me on the right road.  Eventually, I'll find a gas station. I'll stop there, fill up with gas, call someone on my cell phone and get directions to the closest hotel. I'll get to that hotel, get a room and finally pull up in front of it.  Then I'll turn my car off, wait for the lights to turn themselves off (did I mention that my new PT Cruiser has those really cool halogen headlights? No? More on that later), go into my hotel room and get some rest.

Then the next morning after a good night's sleep (despite the recurring nightmarish dreams of fog and homicidal 18-wheelers), I'll get back into my car. I'll turn it on, open the sunroof, crank up the stereo system (did I mention that my new PT Cruiser has a kick-ass sound system? No? More on that later) and jam to some really good music--Pearl Jam, maybe, or old REM. I'll put on my sunglasses and light a cigarette and drive out of the hotel parking lot with one hand on the wheel and a smile on my face.  I'll be able to face those mountains better in the daylight, for all the fog will be gone. I'll appreciate the beauty of the scenery and congratulate myself on not taking that boring old road across the boring old plain. And as I drive, all the fear and uncertainty of the night before will fade in the glare of a new day's sunlight.

Driving in the fog makes you more alert. Driving in the sunlight makes you complacent. Or, as Robert Frost put it:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Oh, by the way, I got a new car.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

News! News!

Well, I told you this was going to be a busy year for me so let me clue you in on something.

I have a new series coming from Aspen Mountain Press.  No, it's not another Asphodel series.  The series is entitled Mythos and it's a collection of reimagined Greco-Roman mythology.  You all know how I love my Homer and my Ovid. Well, now that love is bearing fruit.

Allow me to explain.

When I was in high school, I learned Latin and the classics from probably the best teacher I've ever encountered in my life--Grady Warren.  Because of Mr. Warren, I went to four state championships and three national championships and placed (or won) in the category of mythology.  I loved mythology. I adored it.  I was the mythology specialist on our certamen (quiz bowl) team and my nickname was Fauces, which is Latin for Jaws.

Yeah, I was a meek, shrinking flower even back in the day.

At any rate, that love of classics has stayed with me to this day.  Asphodel was a reimagining of the Trojan War. Mythos is comprised of modern retellings of classic Greek myths.  I wanted to write a series of novellas about some of the forgotten romances in mythology, the love stories that might not be as well remembered as the big ones like Helen of Troy and Paris or Odysseus and Penelope.  I wanted to look at minor deities like Persephone and Amphitrite, at surprising love affairs like Pygmalion and Galatea or Peleus and Thetis.  And above all, I wanted to breathe new life into these myths.

I wanted them to live again.

And so, Mythos.

The first book in the series is entitled  Bride of Death. It's the story of Hades, the god of the Underworld, and Persephone--how he abducted her and made her his Queen.  I always thought it was fascinating that a goddess of Spring could morph into a goddess of Death. I also thought it was such a lovely story in many ways--how the Spring Maiden could bring light into the realm of Death and its lonely ruler. 

And so--the big announcement: Bride of Death will be released by Aspen Mountain Press on Friday, February 26th!

These reimagined myths remain true to the original classical sources but they are definitely told in a modern narrative style.  A little bit smartass, a little bit elegant at times, but always told from a tight perspective and somewhat true to their original forms in that these myths are decidedly spicier than the classical sources the Victorians and medieval monks cleaned up beyond all recognition.  These are most definitely NOT teaching aids for children. The myths are R rated beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Which, of course, makes them a hell of a lot of fun to write.

So, keep an eye out for them! I expect to release a Mythos story every month this year.  I'll keep you posted on this blog and my website Shoot The Muse! about more pertinent details. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Organizing Like Mad

Just when I thought my life couldn't get any crazier, it has.  Naturally, my body's response to this was to shut me down for about forty eight hours, huddled under every comforter in the house shivering with fever.  I feel better now--weak, but better.  So now, I have to get myself ultra-organized if I'm going to survive the next few weeks.

My writing schedule is heavy already.  It's been suddenly made heavier, however.  I have no more time to play.  My five hour writing blocks are not only sancrosanct, but scheduled almost to the number of how many words I need to crank out during those times.  My editing schedule is, fortunately, well under control.  I've got my writers' books spaced out well at the moment and I'm ahead of schedule.  The ultimate fly in the ointment, however, is going to be the books of mine that will be going into edits soon.  I can't permit myself to get so caught up in those that my schedule suffers.

And all of this is because of why, you may ask?

Let's just say that Aspen Mountain Press will be making a big announcement soon and after that announcement, every bit of spare time I have will be sucked up like a dust bunny into a Hoover.

I'm excited; I'm worried; I'm chomping at the bit. I've always said I like to be busy and that's the God-honest truth. Hopefully, I'm up to the challenge. We'll find out soon, I suppose. So for now, I'll get my boxes and drawers and shelves and paper completely organized and spend the remainder of my evening writing.  After all, it is my first love.

And oh--by the way. I've had a very interesting thing happen.  The Ameican Editor blog has had some very good things to say about me in the past few weeks, especially this new post that came out this week.  I'm flabbergasted and flattered and ridiculously terrified all at once.  Go check it out if you have a mind to.

Then come back and tell me if I should send this kind gentleman a fruit basket or some chocolates.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An Open Letter To Lane Kiffin With a PS to The University of Tennessee

Dear Coach To Whom It May Concern:

Most of my friends and one of my daughters expected me to be absolutely livid today when the news came down the pike that Lane Kiffin, erstwhile football placeholder for my beloved Tennessee Vols, had proved the depths of his insane belief that everyone accepts the crap he does and done a shameful, Cleveland Brownsesque bolt in the middle of the night for the warmth of a NCAA-probation ready USC Trojans.

I wasn't.

I'm so glad you're gone from Knoxville.  It means I can now go back to a city I love without running the risk of hurling all over my orange and white patent leather sneakers.  It means I can take a drive by the Rock, where I can read various forms of graffiti that basically boil down to F*CK YOU KIFFIN, take a deep breath of that mountain-scented air and know that my University is back.  It means I can walk down Phillip Fulmer way with the absolute conviction that a loud-mouthed punk isn't sitting behind his desk.  As a matter of fact, I couldn't have been happier at the news that my athletic donation dollars are no longer going to pay your entirely-ridiculous salary.

And then I realized.

You bolted three weeks to the day before National Signing Day.

What a piece of crap.  You misled a slew of young football players. You misrepresented your commitment to the program. You flat out lied about your loyalty--not only to the school, but to their development as players and young men.  Who gives a crap about the fan base? Next year, Neyland Stadium will still be full of Rocky Top singing Volunteer fans and in a few years we won't even remember your name--until we beat you in a bowl game. We, the alumni and fans of Tennessee, will get over it.

But what about the kids? Huh? Did you think about that before you slunk out like a Smoky Mountain polecat clutching your son named Knox and hiding behind your Barbie doll wife? Did you spare them a thought before you called your dad to drive you to the airport in the hopes that no one would throw a molotov cocktail at an old gentleman's car?


You see, as long as everything is about YOU, a team will not prosper. The story shouldn't be Kiffin, Kiffin, Kiffin. Maybe you should spare a thought for the players on your team, the athletic department that stood behind you and your stupid mouth, and the kids who were just yesterday really excited about attending a quality program like the University of Tennessee and now are floundering with a commitment they may or may not want to follow through on.

I hope you're happy. You've screwed over people on so many levels with this move that you've made Nick Saban, Rich Rodriguez and Brian Kelly look like freaking Girl Scouts. Congratulations.

Here's hoping that your level of success will continue to be what it has been as a head coach. That record is what now? 12- 21?  Good luck to you.



You know you guys screwed over Phil Fulmer, don't you? This is karma coming back to bite your ass and you deserve it.  When you threw over one of the greatest, winningest coaches in college football for a loud-mouthed punk who nearly dragged the program into probation disaster, this is what you deserve.  Seriously.

Unfortunately, the kids don't.

Do yourself a favor--do us all a favor: Call Coach Fulmer. Ask him to come back for ONE YEAR starting tomorrow. I don't care how much you have to pay him--do it.  Get him in the office and after our committed recruits TONIGHT. Save our recruiting class for God's sake!  Coach Fulmer loves the University of Tennessee.  He will do anything to save our football program and face it--you freaking owe him at least that much. 

Coach Fulmer will represent our school with class and dignity. He's also a hell of a coach. He can save our season and those recruits.  Just eat the crow. Beg him to help.  At the end of the season, you can judge his future based on what he's accomplished with the team. You'll have the opportunity to run an extensive and thorough head coach search and not land us with a bipolar publicity maniac next time.  But at the very least, there's only one coach that can save our football team, our season, and our recruiting class right now, which is exactly what has to happen.

Call him.  Call him tonight. And then pray that Coach Fulmer will be gracious enough to save your ass.

Throws Down The Gauntlet

Okay, you pigs. You spam-saturated slugs who keep leaving ridiculous comments about weight loss programs or Malaysian funds frozen in US banks or questions about what size of male anatomy I prefer. Because of you, I now have to moderate the comments left on my blog.  Why is that? Because you are all pigs.  Satan-spawned pigs, I might add, grubbing through the trash for some other poor blogger to run into.  Yeah, I know--you left me alone for the most part over the last few years but now that you've found me, that's it.

This calls for a declaration of war.

WAR I tell you! Seriously!  No more advertisements.  No, I don't care how white your teeth are, that there are hot girls in my town or that you have Super Bowl tickets you're giving away.  *Yes, that's right. You just heard me turn down Super Bowl tickets. That should tell you how pissed off I am.*

And I am ESPECIALLY not interested in hearing from any of your fly by night vanity presses masquerading as legitimate publishing companies and hoping to scam some poor ignorant writer into thinking that you'll publish sight unseen my fabulous magnum opus that will send me to dizzying heights of success just like Stephen King.  Don't know what you tools think you're doing, but you're not dealing with an idiot here. I'm not a high school kid locked away in her room sighing over the millions of dollars I'm going to make when I write my book about the Jonas Brothers.

Trust me. You're wasting your time.

So now I have to moderate comments and I'm pissed.  I shouldn't have to do it. It shouldn't even be a remote possibility.  But because some jackass decided to leave a comment on my blog about WRITING to tell me about all these great Iphones and Ipods I could buy for him for a fraction of the cost (cause, you know, I'm obviously all about stolen goods too) that means the rest of you have to suffer through the inconvenience of it too.  I'm sorry.

Blame it on the pigs.

Snowball, you have met your Napoleon. (Sorry, Orwell)  Minimus has been banned. And Squealer? Well, Squealer walked over here on his hind legs and farted in your face. 

That's it for this blog. No more spam.  And, if someone tries to get around it, there'll be pork in the treetops come morning and sausage and ham for lunch. (Sorry Goldman, but it is one of my favorite lines ever)

NO. MORE. SPAM.  Got it? Good.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Two Thousand Words A Day...or Lowering my Expectations

I have a huge contractual commitment this year.  I have to crank out all sorts of manuscripts in order to keep up, while still editing for my authors, editing previously submitted materials, continuing to submit outside of the contracted work and maybe even eke out a few minutes of my day for my family and home.  For the past few weeks, I've been putting a lot of pressure on myself to meet--or exceed--my obligations. And, for the most part, I'm doing well.

But I think I want to follow my own advice.  I think I want to step back for a little while. It's like this:  the Mythos series I'm working on is comprised of novellas.  Those need to hit anywhere between 30,000 and 50,000 words when complete.  Now then--when I do writing challenges, I average about 2,000 words per hour. So, thinking logically, I can complete the first draft of one novella every seven to ten days simply by sitting down for an hour and writing straight through.

So now, I need to figure out how to accomplish that.  If I work at my desk, I'll see all my plot outlines and worldbuilding notes tacked to the walls around me.  It distracts me easily and I'll get sidetracked very quickly, like I did last night.  I looked over at my husband in the middle of writing and behind him was a picture of a coral reef I'd tacked up on the board for use when describing a setting.  All of a sudden, I said, "Damn~! I don't even know what the name of that yellow fish is!"

On to Google.  The yellow fish question led to the "does that blue starfish have a name?" and from there to "where do dolphins like to be scratched?" and from THERE on to "are dolphin's young called calves or pups?"

Boom. Forty-five minutes down the tube.  I emerged from them wiser about all manner of affairs oceanographical (the answers are sunfish, no idea, anywhere but near the blowhole and calves) but vastly unproductive when it came to actually putting words down on the paper.

So working at the desk is out.  So is the living room and the bedroom.  Why? Television and the phones.  My daughter LOVES to text message me.  I love talking to her so I'll text message her back.  Before I know it, I'm typing my ass off--but on the cell phone and not the keyboard.  As for television, well, what can I say? I love paranormal shows and I have a TIVO. Diligence FAIL.

I swore when I got my new laptop that I was never going to hook it up to the internet.  My reasoning was that I'd used my old laptop for web surfing and keep this one pristine (and virus free) by using it only for writing and editing.  Well, that idea was flushed when my other daughter's laptop broke.  Now, every time I get on the computer, I always have to go check my email--which usually leads to an email I have to answer, and then I just cruise by Facebook, and then I just run to check my standings in the P&E Readers Poll, at which point I feel the need to go promote and push people to vote for me and...well, you get the picture.

I could always write longhand, but I can never find a good pen.

So here's my plan: I'll do that mandatory 2k at night, after all humans in the house have gone to sleep. There's never anything good on TV in the middle of the night, I won't get text messages from my daughters who are busy being new and sleep-deprived mothers, there's no one to hang out with online and even the people who need me to buy something from the 5k check they're sending me from Malaysia and oh! I can keep the change! won't send me more junk mail until seven am Eastern Standard Time.  You know--right before the banks open. So, I'm going to make it a rule: I'll write my daily blog entry first, then run off and do my two thousand words before I go to sleep.  If I stick to my schedule, I can reasonably produce a novella every two weeks and still have time to write on my big WIPs as well as edit the rest of the time.

Okay. Whew!  Glad that problem's solved.  Off to write.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Are You Freaking Kidding Me?

Every once in a while, I find myself getting annoyed at the rank idiocy of complete strangers.  Today was one of those days. That'll teach me to go to Wal-Mart on a Sunday afternoon again.

When we got there, a straggle of young women and small babies were exiting the building.  In front was a girl--probably no older than sixteen--smoking an almost-gone cigarette that was dangling out of her mouth a scant inch away from her infant's face.  The baby couldn't have been more than two or three months old.  What killed me was that she walked out of the store doing that and apparently no one stopped her and said anything to her.

Now, I'm a smoker. I trust that I'm a courteous one. I obey regulations about smoking when I'm out in public. But even when I was young and dumb, I never NEVER smoked a cigarette while holding one of my children! Christ on a stick--I didn't even smoke in the same room with them. And even then, I never walked around a store with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth!  No one can do a damn thing about what this...erm...woman is doing to that poor baby, but surely someone in the store could have said something to her about smoking so obviously in a non-smoking (by law) establishment?  Hell, when I was tending bar and someone fired up a cigarette (certainly understandable, in my point of view) I would kick them out of the bar to finish their smokes in accordance with the law.

What a world we live in!

Then, on the way home, a car full of teenagers decided it would be fun to pass in the median.  There was only about half a foot of solid ice on it, after all.  Hitting that at about sixty miles an hour would be jolly good fun, right?

Especially when they did a 360 and--much to their invincible dismay--ended up in the ditch.  Fortunately, no one was hurt and the kids walked away, but the testimony given to the cops by the witnesses probably bodes nothing but ill for that young driver when his parents came to pick him up.

And then, much to my horror, the kids next door stole a march on us this year.  Instead of our anatomically correct snowmen being the featured frozen display on our street the new kids that live next door spent much of the last two days constructing a snow fort. It's a damned good one too, bidding fair to be a sizeable igloo just as soon as they figure out how to make the roof stay up.


Makes me glad I'm staying at home tonight, especially after watching my beloved University of Tennessee Volunteers shock the #1 team in the country (Kansas) by beating the crap out of them with our second string. And good on you, Bruce Pearl, for placing the integrity of the program above the pressure to win. 

As you can see, we didn't need the alleged law-breakers on the floor to take down one of the most powerful teams in the country.

Yep. Topsy turvy everywhere.  What's next, I ask you? Pete Carroll bailing on USC for the NFL right before the NCAA wipes out about six years' worth of records? The Baltimore Ravens finally beating the Patriots in the wildcard game? The government penalizing citizens who can't afford health insurance?

Ha!  Thank God there are some things in life I can always, absolutely count upon.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Taking A Step Back

You know, I think writers need to take a step back every once in a while.

Hold on--before you get all riled up and think this is a pronouncement from the muses or whatever, let me explain myself a bit.  This has been coming up a lot lately, both in my editing work and my writing so I think it's worthy of exploration.

One of my writers (yep--I have the editor hat on at the moment) and I were talking about her latest WIP.  She was ready to bang her head against the wall (figuratively) because she felt the manuscript needed some major revisions but couldn't figure out exactly where.  Now, I've been there.  I've been there a lot.  Hell, I bought property there, so I could makes those moments more comfortable with some plush furniture and a few well-chosen but soothing pieces of art.  Oh, and a margarita machine. Margarita machines make everything better.  At any rate, I told her to send the manuscript to me and forget about it for a few days. I would look at it as a reader not an editor (the distinction there is important) and get back to her with my thoughts on it.

So then today, a thread shows up on Absolute Write about turning off your inner editor.  My response was simple--the inner editor (a mythical beastie if there ever was one) doesn't need to be involved in the act of creation.  If you get distracted by all those squiggly WordPerfect lines in your first draft, shrink your window down to only a few lines and just keep on writing.

This is easier said than done.  There's a lot of pressure on writers these days to be better technically. We need to know our grammar, spell words correctly (and according to common usage in your native form of English), punctuate appropriately and avoid passive tense.  We have to keep from head hopping, keep our narrative voices distinct and precise and for God's sake, avoid all those darned adverbs and exclamation points!

In other words, we're putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to write perfectly...erm...well. 

Yet, the whole purpose, the raison d'etre of a first draft isn't to write perfectly, it's to tell the story. Plain. Cold. Simple. Tell the story. Not tell the story while minimizing participial clauses, but to take a character or set of characters from the beginning of the story (better drop them right into the action) through the conflict to the ultimate resolution of the plot and, if you're me, killing a few Elves along the way for fun and profit.

Nowhere in the directive "tell the story" is there anything mentioned about grammar or point of view. You know why? Because those issues are addressed in revisions. Because the first draft is not the final draft. Most writers (at least the ones I know) revise and edit obsessively after their manuscript is born.  It may only take me a month to write a 150,000 word manuscript, but it'll take me at least half a year to get it done. When it's done, it will have lost a ton of words--mostly adverbs. I confess.--and the words on the page are *hopefully* better than the original ones.  All those dialogue tags with adverbs?  Those become sentences of action. Instead of "he barked angrily" after a snippet of conversation it's "He slammed his fist into the trunk of the closest tree, oblivious at first to the nasty mixture of bark and blood on his knuckles." There's nothing really wrong with "he barked angrily" but in order to give the story more life, the active sentence is better.

Writers are stressed out enough as it is.  Few people will ever understand the sense of accomplishment one gets from typing the words "The End" on the final page of a hundred thousand word novel. Unfortunately, writers think that all one hundred thousand of those words have to be perfect at the moment they are written instead of at the close of an exhaustive and thorough revisionary process.

That's simply not the case.  It doesn't matter what the words are in the first draft. No one sees that draft but you, the writer, and maybe a really trusted beta reader.  What matters is that the first draft tells the story, from beginning to close, in such a manner as to engage the reader.  You don't get cast in a play and open the next day; you have a lengthy rehearsal process.  What writers need to realize is that the first draft is the rehearsal process for a novel.

So take a step back. Ignore the little voice that's arguing with you about the best way to write that sentence. Just get the story down. Then, when the first draft is done it's time to catch your breath.  Close down that file (save and back it up first!) and take a few days off. Then, and only then, go back to it, read it all the way through and then--and only then--whip out the trusty red pencil and rip it to shreds.  Trust me. You'll be happier and probably healthier if you remove the pressure for perfection from that first draft.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Frustration and the Snow

For some reason, my biggest frustration days in writing coincide with nasty weather.  For example, here I am--stuck in Ohio while another half a foot of snow piles up outside, my husband stranded and snowbound in a hotel two counties away because it's illegal to drive and I find I'm at a staggering impasse with my daily writing/editing schedule.  I just can't write.

Why is that?

It may be because the last few days I'm been struggling with my writing, trying to figure out what's 'wrong' with it. It's not technical.  My first drafts are MUCH cleaner than a lot of things I've read from the slush pile.  That much, at least, I can be self-congratulatory about.  Could it be my premises? Are they just...eek!...not that good?

Somehow, I don't think so.  My submissions garner enough positive feedback (ie--requests for manuscripts) that I think the premises must be fairly sound and interesting.  So, weeding out the two big factors there, what am I left with?

Characters. Plot development. Plot resolution. Credibility.

But here again, no. The feedback I get from my various stories, is conflicting.  Some love my characters; some people don't.  Some readers are totally involved in my plots, to the point of sending me hate mail when I (joyfully) kill off one of their favorite characters.  I have a special folder in my inbox for those emails--they are simultaneously enjoyable and terrifying.  My continuity lines are very intricate for just about any story I write, but I make damn certain I resolve everything without using any evil deus ex machinae in the process.  And are my characters credible?

I hope so. A lot of them are me--or people close to me.  Disguised, of course, but still.  Writers are supposed to write what they know, right?  Well I write the people I know. 

Maybe it's my narrative voice.  I tend to write in first person a lot, and assume an extremely casual narrative style when I do so.  Maybe I should stick to third person and a more formal narrative voice?

But I tried that and got panned for it.

Hell, I don't know WHAT the problem is. Unless...

Unless there's not really a problem.  Unless I'm injuring myself by second-guessing my choices.  Maybe I should just toss all that self-doubt in the bin and barge full steam ahead. Maybe I should just pull my next storyline out of the hat and get going on it, make it work, invest everything I am and feel and think into it and just let the words fly.  Maybe...maybe...

Maybe I need to stop worrying about 'maybe.' Maybe now it's time to set those worries aside, put my fingers on the keys and just. write. the. damn. story.

Go ahead.  You can take this and run with it.  If you're one of my writers, you've heard me say it before.  If you're my poor unfortunate editor, you can run for cover.  It's a mantra, a way of life, a way of thinking.

Just write the damn story.

Just write.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Okay, so I'm currently trying to compile a list of review site options for Aspen Mountain Press.  Compiling the romance/erotica list was easy.  What's NOT so easy is finding genre fiction review sites.  Oh sure--there are the big, sparkly fantasy reviewers with all the bells and whistles on their sites--like fantasy name generators...are you serious?--but many of them have some variation of the following line:

We only accept commerically published authors.

Okay, let's stop and analyze that statement.  Many of these review sites mean "We only want to review books that are published by the big fantasy houses like Dell or Tor." I'm sure their purpose is to keep self-published authors and those with vanity presses (like the one who shall not be named who is scamming my mother-in-law despite my repeated pleas for her to run as fast as she can) from swamping their inboxes with low-quality stories and badly refurbished fan fic.  Yeah. I get it. I'm down with that. I don't blame you.

But what about the small, independent publishers?  What about e-publishers?  What happens to them?

Some of the large romance review sites, like Love Romances and More or Night Owls Reviews saw the need for e-book review sites and opened their doors to a flood of submissions. That's great and vastly appreciated, but not what I'm looking for.  I'm looking for a genre specific site for fantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery ebooks.

It's frustrating.

What's even MORE frustrating about it is that I'm sitting here thinking to myself, "Well,heck I'd do it if I didn't already have too much time allotted to writing/editing/worldbuilding/review submitting/moving/cat care/husband care/daughter dilemma dealing/house cleaning/house restoring/snow shoveling/cooking/sleeping/lovemaking/bathing/eating/et cetera as it is!"  Surely there's someone who'll do this, right?  Right?

Not yet. I'm moving through a humongous list of alleged genre reviewers and I still keep running into a definite 'we don't read e-books' mentality.  I'm going to keep looking.  Maybe I'll find one. I'm searching in the "L's" at the moment and it is 3:11 pm on 1/6/10.  Let's see how long it takes.

4:04 pm. -- I'm starting to think that this many bored housewives who have review blogs have lucked into a good thing.  Maybe I'll have time to review books too...just in case I had a bookshelf that was needing filled.  Good grief--some of these sites!  But, alas, even bored housewives have e-book prejudices.  The search goes on...and I'm only in the N's.

4:29 -- Well, that's a new one. Never heard of someone refusing to review e-books because of DRMs. Nah...don't need to be hardballed just to get a book reviewed.  Still looking.

4:54 -- I'm finding some sites, but ones that either don't seem appropriate (ie--adolescent run) or are too obviously in the give-me-free-books-scam. I have now noted 2--that's right TWO--sites in between the letters A and R that might be outlets for submission.

And success comes in the unlikeliest of places...and well into the S's I might add. Hurray. Someone to pester.

So why the prejudice? With the latest e-readers garnering favorable reviews and the quality of e-books going up, what's the problem? My best guess is that reviewers are inundated by self-published or vanity-published authors and, to be quite frank, there have been some e-publishers (now mostly defunct) who have been guilty to rushing not-quite-ready-for-any-time books to the e-reading public. There are some really good stories out there in e-pubbed genre fiction and not all of it is erotic!

Somehow, some way I will push my foot into the door of these sparkly bastions of reviewing. Either that or I'll create a nom de plume and start my own site.  Why not? There's no such thing as too many books, right?


Monday, January 04, 2010

Blast From The Past Blasts Into The Present

So every once in a while, I get sideswiped. Not often--it takes a lot to confuse me. But when something happens that shocks me, I get really shocked.

For example:

I got an email this weekend from an old friend I haven't heard from in years.  Turns out she'd gotten a hold of my first book (The Reckoning of Asphodel) and really liked it. So she bought the rest of them. Granted, that's enough to make me excited.  After all, we've all had dreams of going back to high school and having someone completely random tell you, "Yeah, I've read your book/seen your movie/danced to your album/been to one of your games." Right?

Well, she took it a bit further.  She had emailed me to inform me that having read my blog and my website and noting all the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll nominations I've gotten in the past, she thought she'd go vote for me this year.  And, when she didn't find my stuff on the Readers Poll yet, she nominated me.

So, allow me to announce the following:

Apostle of Asphodel, the concluding novel of my fantasy series The Asphodel Cycle, has been nominated for Best Sci Fi/Fantasy Novel of 2009.

Metamorphosis, the collection of my spec fic short stories published by Aspen Mountain Press, was nominated for Best Anthology.  Also, in a complete coincidence as best I can tell, the cover art by Renee George was nominated for Best Cover Art.

Breaking the Covenants, the first book of the Covenants gothic vampire romance series co-written with Canadian author Rob Graham, was nominated for Best Erotica.

And, strangely enough, I was nominated for Author of the Year.

This is my third year in a row with nominations in the P&E Readers Poll.  Last year, the second Asphodel book, The Gift of Redemption, placed in the Top Ten for Best Sci Fi/Fantasy Novel while its sequel Temptation of Asphodel placed in the Top Ten for Best Novel. So now all four Asphodel novels have been honored with readers' nominations on the P&E poll, which I find very exciting and gratifying. As I've been proofing the print galleys for Reckoning, I've allowed myself to get caught up in the editing side of things.  But this has changed my focus, quite properly, back to where it should be--the reader.

And I figure that if I'm entertaining someone who is reading my work, I must be doing something halfway right. 

So Oxford commas and serial adverb abuse aside, please let me thank you, the people who read my stories, for allowing me the very great privilege and honor of sharing my worlds with me. Hopefully, the stories I write in the future will get better.  Hopefully, I improve in my craft.  Hopefully, one day, I may actually get one of these stories right.  But until then, thank you for bearing with me as I follow the writers' path.

If you wanted to check out the 2009 Preditors and Editors Readers' Poll and or something, follow this link.

I'm off to go shovel more snow from the driveway.  And thus does the mundane burst my little bubble.  Then, maybe some football and perhaps...the tiniest little amount of shameless begging for votes.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Not Sure What This Post Is About Yet... I'll just wing it.

I've been working a lot today--not on anything new (as I should be) but on the print galleys for The Reckoning of Asphodel. My very first book in the Asphodel Cycle will be available soon in trade paperback.  As soon as I have more particulars (release date, et cetera) I'll let you know.

But right now, I find myself in a peculiar position.  I haven't really sat down and read the first book since right after it was released (August 10, 2007--here's the link). So today, as I'm going through the print galleys, my editorial ren pencil finger is itching like there's been poison ivy on my keyboard. You know what I really want?

I want to revise the whole darn thing.

Now I realize I can't do that.  Doesn't make me want to do it any less. I actually spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to hack into the adobe program and fix things myself. (Didn't take long to dissuade me; I can turn on my computer and that's about it.) It's amazing how much a writer's voice can change in such a relatively short period of time.  I've noticed this with some of the writers I edit, but I was almost traumatized by how much my own voice has matured.  I mean think about it--Reckoning  came out a little less than two and half years ago and to my eyes the narrative voice is almost unrecognizable.  Removing the high narrative style I chose by design for the books (mostly so I could mature it throughout the course of the books) the differences between then and now are staggering.

I love adverbs now. I really loved them then.  Dialogue tags make me gag a little now; not the case back in the day.  And comma addiction? I had it. Not so much anymore.

Hell, I even used the Oxford comma back then whereas now I would rather gnaw off my arm at the shoulder.


A lot of these changes, I attribute to my editors. The common usage mistakes I made, they've trained out of me by this point. Every manuscript presents some other new quirk they have to strive to eliminate.  And now, as I work with the authors that I edit, I contribute this new-found knowledge to correct the same mistakes in their writing. 

Kind of whacked.

For example, lately I've been harping on my writers that separate their readers from the action by using sensing verbs.  "I saw someone do something" as opposed to "someone did something"--basically, making the action more pertinent by sinking the reader deeper into the narrative point of view.  The reader knows whose point of view they're reading; if the narrative states that "someone did something" it's assumed that the narrator saw that.

Yep. You guessed it.  "I saw" and "I felt" and "I heard" litter that story like confetti in Times Square on New Year's Day.

So this has made me think about the role of the editor in the writing process, and I've realized that there's a quite definite and traceable chain of editing which sifts from editor to writer to editor.  Quirks that I identify in my writers' work will, in turn, become quirks they self-identify in their manuscripts or, if they become editors too, in the work of the writers they critique or edit themselves.  These quirks are essentially what instigates the ever-progressing evolution of language.

That's probably why passive writing became passe, why the exclamation point was poo-pooed and the ceaseless argument over the Oxford comma was begun in the first place.

Makes the role of an editor seem a lot more important when you look at it that way, doesn't it?  I'm not saying this to give myself a big ol' pat on the back, but as an observation of the inconstancy of the English language. The rules we have now are not the same rules that Faulkner followed, or Wilde or Dickens or Austen.  Each age of literature was different from the one that preceded it, and the next one will kill off some of the contemporary and fashionable quirks we employ today--quirks that future writers and editors will call cumbersome and old-fashioned.

(Jst plz--not txtspk, I bg u.)

I'm hoping this will give me a little more perspective as I move into a new year of both editing and writing. I'm also hoping that on these upcoming manuscripts, I'll remember to keep my quirks to myself so my editor will stay off my back.

Vain hopes, but what the hey?  I have to use all the ellipses I can before they go out of style, editorialized into oblivion...

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful...

You know, I am a child of the South.  I am used to having two or three snows each year and the coldest day getting all the way down to freezing, maybe. But, I have always hated three things about the South: June, July and August.  100 degree days?  Not my style. I hate sweating.  So in an effort to avoid perspiration, mosquitoes as big as my arm and always-frizzed out hair from the humidity, I moved to Ohio.

And was promptly greeted by winter.

You'd think after fifteen years in Ohio, I'd be used to winter by now.  I'm not.  I don't mind snow; having had relatively few snow days when I was a kid (except for the winter of 77-78 when we were out of school from before Thanksgiving until after Valentine's Day AND were still in school on the Fourth of July) I kind of like snow.

I do NOT like single digit temperatures.  Not at all.

We had a little bit of snow last night--just enough to blanket the yards and cover the roads. It's so cold outside that salt doesn't melt the snow; it turns it into a big slick of ice.  You'd think the road crews around here would be smart enough to realize that but--oh, no. They keep salting the ice and it freezes almost instantly.  My husband is off in Columbus today doing his Micrsoft certification school and I am stuck here, watching an endless stream of salt trucks parade up and down the hill in front of the house, refreezing the ice slick that once was a road.

I could be a spectator sport.  I could run a betting pool. Just think about it.

"Hey, Bob, what odds are you going to give me on how long it's going to take the road department to figure out the ice isn't working?"

"It's supposed to snow again Tuesday, right?  Ummmm....I'll give you 3 to 1 odds they won't figure it out for a week."

"That's a little steep? You sure about that?"

"Yep. 3 to 1; seven days."

"Done. Here's my g-note. I'll be back in a week--provided the dogs are ready to get hooked up to the sled.  Heck, I'll even buy you a beer; we can snowshoe to the Fairview."


You have to love sheer, dogged persistence in the face of meterological common sense.

Friday, January 01, 2010

My Mantra for 2010

"You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist." -- Isaac Asimov (1920 - 1992)

I very rarely bother to follow the advice of other writers.  Usually, it just annoys me; every writer's journey is different, after all.  Some got their lucky break because their wife pulled a manuscript out of a trash can; others got their break because of their family's connections; still others sent out manuscript after manuscript for decades until they finally hit upon the right combination of story-agent-editor-publisher and found themselves inexplicably at the top of the field.  But Asimov's advice is one that really resonates with me.

In a nutshell, he claims that persistence is the secret of success.  If there's one thing I've got, it's persistence.

Now granted--I have had some small measure of success. And yet--I dream of more, of bigger, of prolific production of quality manuscripts that entertain the majority of people who read it.  I find that lately in my work, I'm getting bolder--I'm exploring issues and relationships and conflicts that once had no place in my creative mind.  I, who was once inordinately fond of the tropes of genre fiction, am now looking for a way to break out of them.

And still, the weary round of submissions goes on.  Every time I hit "send," I'm sending a little bit of my soul out to be examined and judged.  Now that bit of soul is twisted, warped perhaps from my comfortable, familiar world of fantasies and romance and long-dead honor into something where faith is questionable, where romance is an obstacle and where fantasies grow darker and more intimate.  Am I doing the right thing?

Who knows?

It doesn't matter.  I'll still keep working on them, wrenching them into a condition where I can sit back and say, "I trust this story on its own. Let's see what it can do."

I woke up this morning infused with a new, stronger sense of purpose.  I feel empowered, like something is waiting just around the corner for me if I have the guts to reach out and take it for myself.  I went through my works in progress briefly, analyzing them, looking at them from glasses that are no longer rose-colored, but more of a steely grey.  And you know what?

I like what I'm seeing.

So aside from the Mythos  and Covenants books, I'm going to dedicate a great deal of my focus and attention on the darkest work I've ever written. Terella is my new pet, rising in all its onyx glory to push past my other work. I think I've finally matured enough to really explore the depths of that work and the ideological horror it emerges from.  It's time to give it the attention it deserves.

If Asimov is right--if persistence is what leads to success--then well, I've got that in abundance. All the trepidation I've always felt when submitting to agents or publishers has vanished.  Now I'm looking at it as a challenge and not the soul-sucking agony I've felt in the past.  While Deception is still alive and kicking on a few desks across the country, its successor will be polished and shined until it's like obsidian--shiny, stygian and sharp.  Then we'll see if my currect instinct about my work is correct--if I'm more suited to creating the darker side of speculative fiction than the heroic side.