Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 - Yours for the Taking

Sadly, resolutions are made to be broken. And "goal" just sounds so weak, unless it's being stretched into a breathless, 64-minute shout by a futbol announcer. So this year, rather than make a limp pledge to do or not do something all stinking year, I am giving myself a mission.

That's right. A mission AND a choice of whether or not to accept it. Sound familiar? (Please pretend it doesn't.)

My 2011 mission, should I choose to accept it is: To Write A Good Novel.

That's it. I know, I know. It sounds boring, or like I'm sandbagging. It's not, and I'm not.

Over the course of the next year, I will likely start three novels, write a novella and three short stories, critique the equivalent of four novels for five distinct humans, blog irregularly, jump in and out of forums, take part in at least eight monthly blog chains, read twenty-five+ published books and twenty+ published short stories, work forty hours each week minus eight holidays, up-bring my toddler, frequently think about working out, occasionally actually work out, go on vacation, (possibly) attend a writing workshop, go outdoors at least once, lunch with friends, cook dinners and dine with family, and maybe - just maybe - write a good novel.

I believe I will choose to accept this.

Now, before this message self-destructs, what's your 2011 mission?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Incognito

I've been attempting, with dubious success, to slip unnoticed into next year. This is my son, dramatically reenacting me creeping about in my disguise. I think we both need creeping lessons.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays

'Twas the night before the night before Christmas
and all through the house
not a creature was stirring
but that might have been due to the wine and the two giant cheese balls we ate for dinner...

It's that time of year, folks. I will be backing off from the blog. No, no...this is no time for tears, dearhearts. It's only temporary.

We are leaving the aughts. Or the "oh-oh's", as I prefer to call them (though that only really applied in 2000), and entering the twenty-teens. I will see you there. With bells on. Big, shiny bells.

Happy Holidays. And to all a good night.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday Random

An excerpt from the note I found in my pocket while prepping laundry:

Celery
Pickled Asparagus

Fed up and desperate and vibrating in the dark

You

I cannot tell whether I captured a quote from Elizabeth Hand on a bloody mary-centric shopping list and then trailed off in mid-thought, or if I've started unconsciously devising poetic bullying notes for vegetables.

Do you people ever find things like this, something clearly in your handwriting, but utterly outside of your memory?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Synopsis in 12 Simple Steps

For many writers, finishing a novel is an arduous process. For those who prevail, have a novel in hand, and decide to try to get it published, perfecting the query can be a drawn-out battle, each word and phrase under constant siege until only the strong remain. And then...then comes the *$!K#@G synopsis.

For those who have not experienced it, following is a simple 12-step process for writing that most nebulous, infuriating and vilified of all marketing products.


1. Realize you need to write a synopsis
2. Denial Part I - Ignore that realization
3. Start querying agents who don't require a synopsis
4. Feel good about yourself
5. Get a partial request from an agent, including the requirement for a synopsis (!)
6. Set aside a night to write your synopsis
7. When that night comes, cry vicious crocodile tears (place hyphen in the spot of your choosing)
8. Die a little inside
9. Denial Part II, aka "Screw this. I just won't respond to this agent's request" - moments later you will deny this denial
10. Discover there are exactly one hundred specific lengths a synopsis "must be"
11a. Spend weekend hammering out ninety-nine drafts of synopsis, each a different length
11b. Die a little more
12. Respond to agent request, and begin querying agents who require synopses between one and ninety-nine pages in length

And there you have it. Easy-peasy. Go forth and synopsize, good readers.

In all seriousness, I do recommend that you complete a synopsis prior to querying a novel. It is not what I'd call a "fun" activity, but it can reveal pacing issues or help you to distill your story into a query or one-line pitch. It's also a bloody slow process, one I don't recommend saving until you've had a request for one of these buggers.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What Does It Take?

Ask me to take care of a small, urgent matter, a ten minute fix when there are only five minutes left, and I'll do it. With a grim smile and glittering eyes, I'll right your ship.

Ask me to plan a party with ten guests and give me six months to plan, and don't be surprised when I fall down on the job. The food won't get ordered. The cake won't get baked. The napkins will terribly and obviously not match the plates. I won't hand the task back, mind you. I'll fret over it, worry at it in my head, and Do. Nothing.

Getting the idea?

I'm good at the quick fix, putting out the small fire. I fall apart when faced with something large, a wall instead of a window. Time cures nothing. The pressure just mounts, but it's not enough to motivate me. It's only enough to paralyze.

So how, you ask, can I ever complete a novel?
One Hundred Thousand Words.
Four Hundred Pages.
Easy-peasy.

A novel breaks down into pieces, myriad movable parts. Some are bright and shiny and hard to let go of. Some are slippery. Or hot. Or so vague they're invisible and impossible to grasp in your hand. But those you can see, more importantly those you can see the end of, those are manageable.

Chapters.
Scenes.
Themes.
Conversations.

Look at your story as a single solid entity, but look at the novel - at crafting the novel - in parts. Finish one chapter and then the next. Tweak a single scene, brighten up a lonely conversation. Easy, right?

Ask me to write a novel and I'll be overwhelmed. Ask me to tell you a story, and I'm there, man. With freaking bells on.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AW Blog Chain - Couldn't Love You More

This month's AbsoluteWrite blog chain theme is Hint Fiction. Hint Fiction is a story of 25 words or fewer that suggests a larger, more complex story.

If you want an idea of how difficult it is to write this short a story, please note that the two preceding sentences exceed 25 words. Getting the idea?

Below is my story, followed by the entire talented blog crew.

**

Couldn't Love You More

Her warm brown eyes and sweet-sketched smile.
Your hands on her bare bronze skin.
This poison isn’t painless, but
If I can’t have you…

**

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

a sharp wind is a-blowin'

Sitting in the cold under flickering lights, writing and revising to the swishing sound of crystal-sharp grains of ice splashing against the window.

Strap in, folks. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Just Another Monday

Following are comments I overheard while doing my very best to fall into a trance (also known as sleeping standing up) as I washed the dishes.

"Stop biting my pants."

"Those are my pickles. They're always all my pickles."

"That angry beaver hurt the monster."

"Did you just drink that? That's two days old. Why would you drink that?"

"The baby broke the house."

"Don't floss Juno." (Juno is the cat)

Now guess which lines were spoken by my husband, and which by my 2 1/2 year old son. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Congratulations!

Aaaaaand...the winners of the first ever Impudent Hatchlings Fantastic Fantasy book giveaway are:

Heather Webb - The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Diane Amy - Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
William Wood - Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
JN Duncan - Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane

Congratulations, all! And thanks to everyone who entered to win these wonderful books. We'll have another contest after an early 2011 readathon, so do stay tuned.

Winners, please email me with your mailing addresses. Email to right.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Day in the Life (of Revisions)

11:00 AM - Wakes computer. Drinks coffee
11:01 AM - Opens Twitter, Pandora, AW, the local news, the distant news, made-up news, and news about new forms of news
12:00 PM - Opens Work in Progress. Gets another cup of coffee
12:01 PM - Looks at revision notes. Scowls
12:30 PM - New coffee, same scowl
1:00 PM - Laughs hysterically over a baby monkey riding backwards on a pig
1:30 PM - Clatters away at keyboard, muttering about the limitations of first person POV
2:00 PM - Eats leftover dinner for lunch, eyes laundry and the fortifications the dust bunnies have built in the corner. Considers opening a bottle of wine. Shakes head. Considers opening a bottle of whiskey. Gets dreamy look in eyes
2:30 PM - Checks stats on blog, performs intrinsic background check on new twitter followers. Tweets aimlessly
3:00 PM - MIA
4:00 PM - Stares in disbelief at an entire paragraph containing nothing but dangling modifiers. Tweets about it. Commiserates with other revisers on twitter
5:00 PM - Revises four chapter in quick succession
6:50 PM - Builds a new playlist in Pandora. Gets angry at low level of intuitive artificial intelligence in free application
7:30 PM - Eats dinner. Reintroduces self to spouse and offspring
8:00 PM - Plays with aforementioned offspring, then puts it into its resting box
9:00 PM - Washes dishes by hand, building an entire steampunk-on-Mars plot in head
9:30 PM - Watches seven minutes of television. Steampunk-on-Mars plot evaporates from head
10:00 PM - Revises furiously, competently, and with great joy
12:00 AM - Looks up, eyes bleary, realizes it's Monday. Keeps revising

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Check It Out (It = Me)

Because I am too sick to blog, someone kindly blogged for me. Actually it was a coincidence, but please check out writer pal Regan Leigh's blog interview (blinterview?) with me.

And here ends the shameless (mostly shameless, a little shameful) self-promotion.

P.S. Please note the stellar song dedication I got. Can you say "stoked"?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Always. Follow. Up.

I've been cleaning today. Cleaned out two email accounts, my desk, a couple of bathrooms. And, I went to clean out my electronic file for the first manuscript I queried and discovered that I'm still waiting on three responses. Two agents who say they respond to ALL queries have not yet responded. And one agent who has a partial, and who said she would respond in eight weeks, and again within four weeks when I followed up.

So, 10% of the queries I sent for MS#1 went e-wandering and were never received. And what have we learned from this? We've learned to follow up with agents who have not responded within their specified timeline, because sometimes emails get lost. Could those two agents have been my golden ticket? Probably not. That wasn't the tightest story. And besides, I'm very happy with the agent I have, thank you very much.

What else have we learned? That sometimes agents make your day by asking for pages, thrill you again when they take the time to reply to follow-ups, and then ignore you.

Or...or...maybe that reply was lost as well. I just hope it wasn't an offer of representation because I'd hate to think an agent fell in love with that poor, neglected manuscript and has been sitting at her computer, fingers crossed, since March, hoping I'd get back to her. Heehee...as if anyone has time to wait for anything.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fantastic Fantasy Giveaway

The time has come, the walrus said, to give away wonderful things...

I hereby declare the First Ever Impudent Hatchlings Fantastic Fantasy Giveaway. Behold four books, each the first in their series, all of which I enjoyed immensely.



Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane

They could be yours, to have and to hold, to clutch and stroke in the darkness of night, muttering "precioussssss". The rules of the contest are simple, because I have no stomach for complex maths.

1. Simply leave a comment indicating your desire to win a book, and you will be entered once.

2. (Provided you do step one) Follow this here blog, and be entered once more.

3. (Provided you do step one) Follow me on Twitter, and be entered yet again. (I know, I can hardly believe it!)

4. Please mention in your comments if you're a follower of either Impudent Hatchlings, me on Twitter, or both. (That saves me having to calculate, for which I will be eternally grateful.)

This contest will last for one week. Entrants can only win one book. I shall draw winners on December 10th, via random.org, in honor of St. Crocus, patron saint of readers of urban fantasy, and thieves of cold breakfast meats.

Tell your friends and tweeps.

Winners will be asked to email me (there is no need to include your email address in your comment), SO CHECK BACK IN ON THE 10TH OR JUST AFTER. I'm sorry to say this contest is open only to people with addresses in the United States or APO addresses.

(The rules of this contest are subject to change or amendment at any time. )

Monday, November 29, 2010

#AmWriting

Well, it's Endo-NaNoWriMo Eve. I've put out a plate of cookies and glass of absinthe for the NaNo Fairy, though I don't think she'll make it to my house this year. For, you see, I am not a winner. I cannot haz a little patchwork sign of success.

And I'm alright with that.

I knew going in that I wouldn't have enough time during the august month of November to generate 50,000 of the right kind of words. I think my goal was something like 25,000. I had a solid outline, and now stand right around 28,000.

Shortly after I acquired an agent, I developed a deepseated terror of revisions. I can do them, mind you, and they inevitably make the story delightfully bettah. But my first reaction upon receiving notes is to sprint for a (metaphorical) knife so that I can commit (metaphorical) seppuku stat.

So I took my time this year. I cranked through Act I, then stopped. I backtracked, chopping excess words with the editorial machete in my right hand and tweaking characters and phrasing with the polishing wrench in my left. I've written about 45,000 words to date in this manuscript, and currently stand at 28,000. But they're a good 28,000, and they're going to roll me into another good 28,000. And, hopefully, by the time I get the last third of the story set, I'll have a draft 1.5. No zero drafts for this girl.

So, my dears, how are you going to be celebrating Endo-Nano? With a bang, or with a whimper?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

When I Love It...I Set It Free

I went to the bookstore tonight. You know, a brick and mortar store in which they sell...Nooks. And board games, greeting cards and calenders. And, way back behind those, some books.

I went to pick up Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue, which I sampled on my kindle after hearing wonderful things about it from many people, most recently the lovely Margo. And, while I was there, I picked up a book I had ordered.

I am now faced with an odd situation. A couple of weeks ago I downloaded Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim on my kindle. It was free (LEGALLY SO), presumably part of the publisher's marketing of the sequel, Kill the Dead. I really liked the book. Nay, I loved it. I loved it so much I drove to a bookstore to buy it. And, when it wasn't on the shelf, I was so determined to show my appreciation to the author by buying it that I ordered it.

So, now I've got it in my hand, a book that I love, that I recommend to anyone I think might enjoy it, and a few people who might not, but should. And I don't want to read it. I mean, I just finished it and I've got other books stacking up on my nightstand at an industrious rate, including the oddly-sized sequel, plus I own another version.

So, what am I to do?

I think I'll give this copy away in one-a-them new-fangled contest thingamajiggers. I might actually drive back down to the bookstore (not tonight - we have a second glass law in my house), purchase a few other books that have delighted me over the years, and then give them away to blog followers. Probably I'll limit it to U.S. states, territories and possessions because my local post office is staffed by two hard-working ladies and one Gorg. I always end up with the Gorg, and the Gorg doesn't know shit. (No offense, Jim Henson)

So, stay tuned...contest a-coming.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving (or November 25th, if you don't partake)

I'm thankful for good health, entertaining family and friends, the people in the world who are better than me (you know who you are - give yourselves a hand!), the people of the past with their fantastic fashion and wordsmithing, and excellent food, which makes me go like this.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Looking Forward

Thursday I'll be focusing on things I'm thankful for. I like to think I do that more often than a single, designated Thursday per annum, but on Thursday especially. Today, however, I'll focus on things I'm looking forward to.

MOVIE
Sucker Punch Blimps and dragons and swords, oh my! Showgirls and mental hospitals and isolation, oh no! March 25, 2011

SPORT
UFC 124 St-Pierre vs. Koschek. If you're not into it, that's fine. If you are, this should be a good one. December 11, 2010

BOOK
Angel Town by Lilith Saintcrow. I'm looking forward to dozens of books in the coming year, some of which I haven't even heard of yet, but Angel Town will be the finally installment of Saintcrow's Jill Kismet series. The series has been a beautiful, raw challenge of a read, and Saintcrow ended the fifth book, Heaven's Spite, with an actual to be continued... followed by the most amazing snippet.

So tell me, readers and passers-by, what are you looking forward to in the coming months or years?

Monday, November 22, 2010

What Do You Do When the Love is Gone?

You loved it. It consumed your thoughts, got you up in the morning before the sun rose and kept you up at night. You'd sit down to your favorite t.v. show and realize with both embarrassment and excitement that you preferred your own characters, maybe even your own story, to the beautiful people and emotional travails that used to keep you riveted.

But that was last month.

This month you can barely get the document/notebook open before your attention slides off to this forum or that blog, before you finds yourself scanning for atmospheric music or fighting/geographically-specific landscape/dramatic chipmunk videos.

So, what do you do when the love is gone? When you've lost the spark that drew you back to your story at every conscious moment and a few surreal, unconscious ones.

1. Think About Time. Like, in a cosmic sense. You have a limited number of years on this planet. Do you want to spend them watching sitcom reruns or wearing a barstool smooth? Do you want to pour all your sweat and soul into your employer's bottom line? Do you want your years to drift by in a haze of Playdough in your hair and toes stubbed on floors full of children's toys? Do you want to achieve the highest post count on your favorite online forum? Is that how you want to mark the passage of precious time? Or do you want a handful of hours a week to be dedicated to creating something? Something that is all yours. Something that, in spite of being seemingly limited to flat paper and plain, black ink, can live and breathe inside of the mind?

2. Think About Hard Work. After the age of about four, very little in life is easy. You have to work to feed yourself. You have to work to keep your home sanitary. You have to work to keep relationships healthy. You have to work your ass off to keep house plants alive/put up drywall/or make a really good paella.

Sometimes writing isn't easy. Sometimes you have to write through distraction or sickness. Sometimes you have to write scenes that are intensely emotional or technically difficult. Sometimes the muse doesn't leave the perfect line of dialogue or plot twist under your pillow and you have to tear the thing out. Extracting a tooth with pliers and no painkiller would be more pleasant. But you'll feel a damn sight better when it's out.

3. Think About The Scene. I used to hike with my dad and at some point, usually about 1/2 way in, I started hating it. Dad can hike for 13 hours with a Cliff bar and 12 oz bottle of water. He won't even finish the water. I'm pretty sure he's part machine. I am not part machine. I am short-legged, easily distracted, and adamantly opposed to sweat.

When I got tired, he had me focus on the next hill. Or that copper-stained boulder in the middle of the ridge, not the pile of them at the end. The moral of this ramble? Don't stand up in the middle of chapter four and look for the end of the book. It's obscured by clouds. Do look for the start of chapter five. It's just around the bend, and there's a refreshing creek there.

4. Cut Yourself Some Slack. Nobody wakes up a great writer and, even if they do, that doesn't make them a great storyteller. Practice might not make perfect, but it will make you a whole lot better. So you've written three novels and nobody wants to represent them. So what? Stick them in a shoe box under the bed. Start on number four. Use the lessons you learned writing the first three.

(ASIDE: I'm assuming that you had other people read the first three novels, and that those people weren't related to you. Or, if they were, that they know what makes a good story and can clearly articulate things. I'm assuming that you spent time polishing those stories. I'm assuming, in other words, that you did the work beyond merely hitting a word count. If you're finishing NaNo novels, spell-checking them and querying them, then maybe you need to take some time off from writing and learn a bit about how to write for publication, if that's your goal. END ASIDE)

So, to sum up:
Decide that writing is something you want to do. For some, there is no decision; it's a fundamental need. Either way, make the time.

Admit that it's not always going to be flowers and double-rainbows, that you will not astound yourself with your own closet genius every day.

Set achievable goals, and recognize that sometimes even small progress is a big success. And, when the going gets tough, feel free to take a break. Writing is hard, but it shouldn't be miserable. Having to take "me" time from the characters you've invented seems odd, but sometimes you even need separation from the fictional people. Don't tell non-writers this. They will not understand, and might to try to commit you. Maybe just tell them your wrists or eyes are tired, or something.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesdays with Freakshows

The place: Urban Chain Grocery Store
The time: 5:10 pm, on a Tuesday

Me: (internal monologue) Should I buy regular sour cream or Mexican sour cream? What's the difference? Or should I buy low-fat sour cream? Maybe that's the question I should be asking.

Guy: (stomps up to the dairy case, stops beside me) Really?

Me: (looks up, then around to be sure he's talking to me. apparently, he is)

Guy: I told you this was my store.

Me: What? (internal monologue) What the fuck, you short, skinny lumberjack-looking psycho? Am I going to have to take you out using nothing but this Mexican sour cream?

Guy: (looking perplexed) Oh, I thought you were my ex-wife. (looks me up and down) But if you were, you'd look sluttier.

Me: Awesome. (walks away, muttering to self about how, when I put my hair up into a hot-librarian bun, I seem to attract all the weirdos)


Monday, November 15, 2010

What I Can See From Here

I have an entire thumb drive filled with ideas that are too large or too subtle for me to confidently write. It's a strange thing to conceive of something you don't have the skill or finesse to create.

When I finished my first novel-length manuscript, I felt like I'd created something singular and phenomenal. (My bookshelves advised otherwise, but I was juiced and a little amazed at my accomplishment, so I didn't listen.) It was an urban fantasy with a reluctant heroine and a beta male as the leads. It was poorly paced, occasionally risky, and decidedly unlovely. Also, I believe I mentioned Funyuns. It was not what the market was looking for in late 2009. A couple of scenes will likely reincarnate in other works, but I doubt I'll ever try to resurrect the thing. I still love it, but for what it was (my beloved first), not for what it has the potential to be.

When I stopped three-quarters of the way through my second novel-length manuscript (75,000 words in) because the story wasn't coming together, I felt okay. I told myself I'd circle back to it when I figured out what was wrong. What was wrong was that I was stringing words together and forming, instead of a novel, a really long piece of crap riddled with clichés. I'd tried to fit it closer to the accepted (and well-selling) tropes of paranormal romance, and failed miserably. Or maybe I was succeeding. Anyway, I didn't like it.

My third manuscript landed me an agent. I tried to execute a certain style, found it really couldn't be sustained for the length required of a contemporary novel, re-envisioned it, and came out with something unexpected. The story still makes me laugh out loud on the eleventy-billionth reading, and my heart actually beats faster through a couple of chapters. In previous incarnations it was more disturbing, more philosophical, sexier, and flatter than champagne left out in the rain. My agent believes she can sell it, and I believe in her ability to.

I love these characters, in this world. I want to write them through adventures and losses, surprises and betrayals, and that one failure that I'm pretty sure will earn me a slap from an angry reader one day.

But more than that, I'm writing now so that I can one day be the writer capable of doing justice to those worlds that are too bold and too tragic for me to fully realize now. I want to grow and innovate, to become capable of nuance and wordplay that I haven't yet mastered. It was only a few years ago, after all, that I wasn't even able to finish a novel.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Twitter Speak

An odd tendency has slipped into my spoken communication lately: the desire to add a punchline in the form of a hashtag. For those of you who don’t use/don’t pay attention to/hate with a burning passion all things Twitter, let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

A hashtag is this: # (the sign formerly known as “pound”). It’s a way to unite tweets in the twitterverse. For instance, the hashtag #followfriday (or #FF) is a way for people (on Fridays) to suggest that other tweeps follow the same people they follow. #moviesinmypants was a trending topic in which people could take movie titles, add the phrase “in my pants” to it, and laugh until they peed themselves. I think the movie Shaft (in my pants) was the frontrunner, but personally I preferred my entry Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (in my pants).

The hashtag has evolved, though, into a way for individuals to punch up a joke or reveal irony in their tweets. Remember you’ve only got 140 characters, and sometimes you have to condense your thoughts to convey them in a single tweet. A couple examples:

@NicolePeeler (Author of the awesome Jane True series from @orbitbooks)

I feel like my sex scene lacks rhythm #whitegirlscanthump

@michaelianblack (Comedian and author of several acclaimed children’s books, including A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea)

I have no cash on me so I stole one of my daughter's dollars to put under her pillow after she lost a tooth last night. #true #shithead

So now I find myself in conversations where I have something funny to say, but it will only be really funny with a hashtag ending. However, unlike “air quotes”, hashtags don’t yet have an off-the-page equivalent. At least, nothing that doesn’t resemble throwing out gang signs, which are frowned upon at our office.

I assume that, somewhere out there, a university is in the process of applying for a grant to study this phenomenon (the etymology of hashtag humor, not my ignorant and probably offensive use of gang signs). I look forward to the results of the study.

For the time being, I will clasp my hands firmly in front of me while speaking, and work on my comic timing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

AW Blog Chain - A Dear John Letter

This month's AbsoluteWrite blog chain was a challenge. The theme was not a theme so much as a concept: a drabble. A story in a hundred words. I am generally not known for my brevity, but I hope you can pull a story out of these few words. I give you:
~~~
DEAR JOHN~a drabble
~~~

“I’m not good with art,” John says, squinting at the note.

I look down at the crisp white paper, the even black script.

“It’s not art.” I point to the three distinct words. How can he not see? “It says…”

He makes an impatient sound, a sound of finality. The world is suddenly blurry and I blink to clear my eyes.

“Sorry. You know I can’t find the meaning in this creative shit.” He scuffs out of the room, drops into his ergo-set and links into the feeds.

The words droop, the ink bleeding away. “It says ‘I love you’.”


Please check out the other fine and varied participants:

Bettedra direct link to her post.
FreshHell direct link to her post
CScottMorris direct link to his post
AuburnAssassin direct link to her post
Aheila direct link to her post
Bibbo direct link to his post
YOU ARE HERE.
Orion_mk3 http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com/
Proach http://desstories.blogspot.com
jonbon.benjamin http://jonbonbenjamin.blogspot.com/
rmgil04 http://writersinprogresswip.blogspot.com/
Madelein.Erwein http://madeleineirwen.blogspot.com/
PASeasholtz http://paseasholtz.com/

Regypsy http://regypsy.wordpress.com/

Thanks to Bettedra for hosting!



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Some of My Favorite Things

I'm a little light on easily imparted intelligence these days, so I thought I'd share a few of my favorite lines. Some of these I've read recently, so they're sparkling on the old brain. Others are classics, permanently ingrained. I hope you enjoy.
~~~
We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. - Percy Bysshe Shelley, To a Skylark

He had a face like a collapsed lung. ~ Raymond Chandler, The Long Good-Bye

Clean of living things. ~ Robin McKinley, Sunshine

One part of me wanted to puke quietly, but thoroughly, in a far corner of the room. ~ Richard Kadrey, Sandman Slim
~~~
Out of the context of their killer stories (or poem, in the one case), these might not mean much to you. To me, they were unexpected, clever, or simply and perfectly suited to the moment. The impudent hatchlings that climbed into my ear, subtle as a song, and then just never left.

But I've saved the best for last. Here, dear readers is my favorite knuckle-cracking, one-sided grin of a line:

And now I'm going to tell you something really cool. ~ Attributed to Stephen Brust (A storyteller's creed)

So tell me, dahlings, what are your favorites?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I Didn't Know It Would Be So Hard/I Didn't Know I Would Love It So Much

I just finished cleaning my office (read: spare bedroom). And by "finished" I mean I became equal parts distracted and frustrated and gave up.

Twice this week I’ve put laundry in the dryer and then walked away without starting it. This is an obvious (to me) sign that I’m overtaxed. Stretched to the point of being rice-paper thin. I used to lock my keys in the car when I was in such a state…while it was running. I don’t do that anymore, but only because my current car does not allow it.

It’s November. My work is gearing up because we’re busiest at year-end. I’ll be traveling later in the month, so I’m trying to get ahead. I have to pull out my ever-expanding Christmas shopping list and get my shop on. I hate getting my shop on.


Coworkers and friends have noticed my frazzled distraction and, in an effort to help, suggested that I pull out of NaNo. Inside my head, this sends me off into peals of hysterical laughter. In the real world, I plaster on a sincere smile and say: “Oh, that’s not the problem.”

Because, what they don’t understand is that I was writing almost every night and weekend before NaNo. I didn’t have as high a daily word count. Sometimes I counted making it into the chair and staying awake while the laptop whirred to life as a success.

Quick Aside: In Defense of NaNo

I’ve heard NaNo decried as a self-glorifying way for a bunch of talentless hacks to crank out loads of crap. Believe me, talentless hacks don’t need to be encouraged to crank out the crap; it comes naturally and inexorably.

NaNo gives people who toil alone a chance to be part of an energetic, enthusiastic community. It gives the writers who haven’t been able to get past the 10K, 20K or 40K mark just enough positive pressure that, this time, they might make it.

Will NaNo2010 result in a lot of very bad stories? Of course. Most will die unfinished deaths, or wither from the writer’s priority list during the revision process, the beta reading process, or the query process. That’s the natural order of things. Some beautiful novels have come out of NaNo. I’ve seen the sales of two intriguing novels within the last year, and I’m sure there are many more I’m unaware of.

End Aside.

My problem isn’t that NaNo is wearing me out. It’s that life is getting in my way. My employer, like many others, is pushing higher profits without providing more shoulders on which to balance the work. My child is fully aware of the time his mother spends away from him, so I’m trying to shift more of that to his sleeping hours. I’m also trying to add two hours of workout time to my week since coming to realize that, despite all the science fiction I read, this is likely the only body I’m going to be allowed.

So, where does this leave me? In a half-clean office but, more importantly, sitting at my computer, about to start writing again. Because, you know what? I have to. I have to go to work because I have bills to pay. I have to clean because, even in the far north, we get vermin in unsanitary environments. But I have to write because, if I don’t, I will go stark-raving mad. It’s my escape and my entertainment, and the effort I put into it is returned tenfold in satisfaction. It is, dear readers, worth it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

My Worst Nightmare, Light

I just spilled champagne on my computer, and now I'm terrified that this might happen.

I don't want a life full of malevolent electronics, bad hair, weird speech cadence, musical montages and dot matrix printers.

Also, why the hell do people fall down and make out so much (not necessarily in that order) in that trailer?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

5 Tips To Be a Better NaNo-er (or Writer in General)

It's November; you can't expect much from me.

1. Stop eating all the time. You're not even hungry! (That's a life lesson. You're welcome.)

2. Make sure all your characters want things and do things. Existing for the sole purpose of engaging in clever dialog does not count. (It's not as clever as you think it is anyway.)

3. Don't spend your time watching other writers' vlogs (unless it's this one or this one). They make them in order to distract you so that, on a universal level, they will be better than you because they focused while you were gawking and giggling over their vlog. (Not sure how I feel about the created-word "vlog".)

4. Stop searching the interwebs for startling and amazing photos of yakuza tattoos. (This might just be a personal issue. Note how I didn't include a link, so that now YOU will be forced to search for them. See point #3. Mwaahahaha.)

5. Do not reenact classic battles from the days of yore (like the hatchet gang ambush from Drunken Master II) using army men, live cats (the army men were little, green and plastic-not live), and emery boards. Just...just don't.

Good Night, and Good Luck.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A New Ring of Hell...I Mean: Time for NaNoWriMo

I'm starting to feel like the Dunkin Donuts guy. Gotta blog. Gotta tweet. Gotta comment on blogs and tweets. Gotta feed and bathe and educate the toddler. Gotta prep a piece for that blogroll. Already prepped that piece for the blogroll! Gotta put in my 40 hours a week at the day job. Gotta polish and submit that short story. Gotta finishing editing manuscript and get it back to Madame Agent. And now, the King Rat of gotta-do's: Gotta get ready for NaNoWriMo.

I know, I know...I don't have to do it. Just like I don't have to change my clothes every day (this will be reduced to once a week starting tomorrow...sorry in advance to all who encounter me). But I'd like to at least try.

As the days grow shorter and darker, as my body assumes it's time to hibernate and tries to take my brain with it, 30 days of frenetic chaos amidst the exalting cheers and miserable groans of my fellow writers sounds like bliss. Or one of the rings of Dante's version of Hell. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

NaNoWriMo gives me a clear word count goal, a strict deadline, and NO ROOM FOR EXCUSES. Facebook? What's that? Forums? Don't exist during the month of November. Twitter? Well, I'll probably still dink around on twitter.

But the point is, this is the month for hard focus, quick showers, strong fingers (and coffee), and writerly mania. For those already in the ranks of NaNo, I salute you! For those who will be sitting this out or have no idea what I'm talking about, I'll see you in December.

Now, excuse me while I prepare to UNLEASH FIRST DRAFT HELL!

P.S. If you'd like to buddy me for NaNo, I'm hjacques1.

P.P.S. Even if you're my buddy, don't get in my way while I UNLEASH FIRST DRAFT HELL. kthanksbye

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Writer, The Warning, and the Judo Hobo

You know that image of The Writer? It's black and white, and he's maybe wearing a button-up shirt under a thin sweater (either expensive cashmere or scratchy, threadbare wool). He's near a typewriter, a stack of cool, white pages turned neatly down beside it. He's either sitting cross-legged and smoking or standing, kind of slouched, one elbow leaned against the bookcase, a cigarette dangling between elegant fingers? Yes, my go-to image of The Writer is a thin, middle-aged man in the late '50s, looking somehow both roguish and refined.

Is he sensitive? Only to the troubles of his fellow man. Does he ever second-guess himself into paralysis? Not so long as there's a single swig of the hard stuff left anywhere in his country estate/cabin/loft.

So, why the hell can't I be that guy? The obvious answer is that I'm not a guy. Also, that image is a snapshot. It doesn't take into account months of agonizing brain block, rejection, or the sneering, leering disappointment of family. If I hear "real job" one more time, I will start stripping. Just kidding. I am, after all, someone's mother now. Side note: the image also doesn't take into account the fact that The Writer may very well have WRITTEN IN THE NUDE.

I used to be very well-adjusted. And by that, I mean I didn't give a shit about most things. If you define "well-adjusted" as anything else, I don't need to hear it. But now, when I've actually written a few novels AND gotten an elusive agent, I'm a freaking mess. I tremble when I can't twist my words into fine images, swoon when my dialogue arrives flat, and spend literally eighteen hours a day pogoing through the interwebs trying to entice followers and hoping they like me. (read: not literally). Worst of all, I've had to take on a diplomatic mildness in order to not offend. And, believe me, my natural state is one of offense.

There's that old wife's tale that artists are prone to mental illness. Well, it may be more than a tale. But I swear I didn't start out like this. I think that the road to publication is making me crazy. Not interesting crazy. Not awesome crazy. Just stupid old batshit crazy. I'm a failed submission away from joining the hobo army (FYI, this awesomeness comes up when you google "hobo army": Judo Hobo) that occupies the wooded area behind my office. And even if they let me join the army, I'd probably only be a private, maybe a corporal on account of I have all my teeth.

So, let this be a warning to you. Lose the image of The Writer. Practice your craft. Share opinions. Read a lot. Always tug your ear twice when passing through the Hobo Wood, once for luck and again as a sign of respect. And don't let the crazies take you down.

Monday, October 25, 2010

SiWC Round-Up

I got back from the Surrey International Writer's Conference (SiWC) late last night. It was, as would be expected, located in Surrey, B.C. (Canada). For those of you who don't know, Surrey's town motto is "The Future Lives Here", which they say isn't meant to be a threat. I'll be the judge of that.

I attended something like thirteen hours of focused classes and one kick-ass blood spatter workshop put on by Dan (A thousand apologies if I misremembered your name. I was crazy giddy from the blood!) of the Vancouver Police Museum. I met some fantastic authors, listened to a couple of brilliant key note addresses (thank you Ivan Coyote and Robert Dugoni!), and met some fabulous writers, a couple of whom I "knew" from online forums/twitter and many of whom I did not.

If you get a chance, I suggest you check the conference out. It's not cheap, but it is a great value. Thoughtfully and comprehensively organized, with ample opportunity to pitch to agents/editors, receive critiques, and network 'til the break of dawn (not suggested, as the workshops start pretty early).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Status, It Is Quo

I'll try to post the next installment of my "journey" soon. But I've gotten back into the swing of writing (I was beaten down by a couple of impudent hatchlings, and have only just climbed out of the muddy pit they threw me in), so I'm gleefully putting words on page as quickly as I can. I was so excited that I bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate, but I'm afraid to pop the cork since I've heard it's not wise (at least for some urban fantasy authors) to drink and write.

I'll also be traveling abroad at the end of the week. Relax, it's just Canada. Not the part adjacent to Alaska, on account of my husband getting us blacklisted in the Yukon Territory. I'll be attending the Surrey International Writers Conference, or SiWC, which has a phenomenal line-up of workshops and speakers.

And, finally, I have to get ready for my dreaded nemesis, I mean NaNoWriMo. I allowed myself to be peer pressured into it, and think I might actually be fired up enough after this conference to participate with some chance of success.

So, fear not, my pretties. I will be back soon, hopefully with awesome stories of how I did not spend all my time flowered to the wall or hiding under the table at the conference.

Listening to: Echo and the Bunnymen - Bring on the Dancing Horses

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Full Circle

For those of you not currently agonizing over it, we're turning off our electronic devices and returning our seatbacks to their original, uncomfortable positions as we prepare for our descent into NaNoWriMo 2010. So, "once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more", for National Novel Writing Month is upon us.

Which brings certain thing full circle for me. Late last year, I quit my job. I knew when I quit that I wouldn't be able to get the same kind of job, which I very much liked, for at least five months. The economy was still bad and still uncertain, and the job is not common in this part of the country. So I had some time.

I had plans, big plans. I would work out daily. I would change out our ugly, brass light fixtures for brushed steel. I'd paint the master bedroom and caulk the bathrooms. And then, one night, I sat down and started writing a story, something I'd done since I was a kid, but only "when I had time". I kept writing. And then I found out about NaNoWriMo and thought, hell, I've got time. I'll try to write 50,000 words of a novel.

I did caulk a toilet and a sink.

My NaNoWriMo novel clocked in around 95,000 words. I was in love with finishing a novel. In the middle of the night, I'd wake up and smile at the fact that I had written a book. I adored my main character. I marveled at the plot. It was fresh and bright and shiny and I was pretty sure that nobody had ever written anything like it.

I spent two months editing. I sent my manuscript to two readers and assumed the Thinker pose when I read their comments. I discovered the strange little beast known as "the query". I happened upon a godforsaken piece of crap called "the synopsis". Having read a few books in my day, I knew that authors had agents and that the agents were beautiful, generous, helpful creatures that said authors thanked profusely in the first few pages of their books. I knew that books were published by mighty, esteemed publishing houses that most certainly were not in financial turmoil, because everybody needs lots of books, right?

I decided to get an agent. (Please hold your laughter until the end.)

I spent a week researching agents, hopping from informative websites to agency websites to blogs. I built a spreadsheet of sixty agents currently accepting queries in my genre, all of whom had recent sales and none of whom charged their clients up-front fees. (That last is actually important: write it down)

I sent out my first batch of queries, a blinking, huddled gaggle of five.

And I waited. What have you been doing since your last NaNo? What have you been doing instead of WriMo?

Listening to: Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Design Revamp

The Impudent Hatchlings conspired to achieve a new look. They had been receiving comments that the blog was difficult to read on handhelds and, also, that it might be riotously ugly. I happen to like orange, but I would never deprive fascinated readers from the opportunity to blame my blog for rear-ending a stranger in traffic.

So, ta-freaking-da...here is the new look. But don't get too, too cozy with it, because as soon as I track down a bearded web genius who takes payments in sweat pants and sushi, all this will change. Again. For the better.

Cheers.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I swung my chair around, giving him my back. "I never wanted this," I muttered.

He whirred away, oblivious, persistent. Making important statement and rambling senselessly, all at once.

I hunched over my notebook, writing against the cramp in my hand.

I glanced back. I couldn't help it. It wasn't like it would turn me into a pillar of salt.

He had something to tell me.

I ignored him. Finished a page. Rubbed at the ink staining the callous on my middle finger.

I looked back. He had seven things to tell me. I bit my lip. Surely one of those things was something I wanted to hear, something I needed to know, something that would make this worthwhile.

I put down the notebook, turned toward him, and refreshed.

I smiled. "Oh twitter, you've done it again. I could never stay mad at you."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Autumnal Blahhhhs (and Cure for:)

I appear to be suffering from late-autumn burn out.

Winter comes early here. High winds have relieved the trees of their leaves, and we've had a couple of heavy frosts and wimpy snow storms. Thick snow marches down the mountainsides, stealing color from us each night as we sleep. This after a "summer" where we set a record for consecutive rainy days. And I've been sick for something like a month. All and all, a bad fall for yours truly.

So how do I combat this? What little steps do I take to keep myself writing despite the fact that my brain has ceased functioning, either due to illness or medication? How do I stay inspired when I realize, 60,000 words into a story, that I made an essential error in plotting in the first 10,000 and will now have to undo each and every stitch, rewire the entrails, and zip it back up? (Yes, I do recognize how utterly un-smooth that analogy was.)

This is when I dive back into my "Ideas and Starts" files. The sterling story ideas that never took off, the characters that talked smart but hadn't found anything to do, the glorious worlds I'd conceived but then left unpopulated. I realize that I don't have to have a great idea today. I just have to sit here long enough to bang out an ending for the great idea I had last year. Blog chains help, because they obligate me to create something, and because reading all the other posts helps on the inspiration front.

So tell me, how do you overcome the blahs?

Friday, October 1, 2010

AbsoluteWrite October Blog Chain

This month's theme is "masquerade". Our host is the - let's hear it for her - AuburnAssassin. Thanks! My contribution comes from a work in progress.

Poor Elizabeth Starling. Her life is defined by "if only's". If only she hadn't been struck with a terminal illness before modern medicine. If only her father hadn't been a third rate wizard. If only his spell, meant to transfer her mind into an able body, didn't keep repeating...and repeating...
***** CONTAINS SOME ADULT CONTENT IN A JUVENILE CONTEXT*****

EDIT: THIS POST HAS BEEN SNATCHED BACK AND HIDDEN DOWNSTAIRS, UNDER A CUP, BY THE AUTHOR.
*****
Please check out the other fine and diverse participants:
Auburn Assassin http://clairegillian.wordpress.com/
YOU ARE HERE
Aimee Laine www.aimeelaine.com/writing/blog
Ralph Pines http://thewonderingswordsman.wordpress.com/
Veinglory http://erecsite.blogspot.com/
Laffarsmith http://www.craftingfiction.com
PASeaholtz http://paseasholtz.com/
Madelein.Eirwen http://madeleineirwen.blogspot.com/
Amy Doodle www.mindovermullis.com
CScottMorris CScottMorrisBooks.com
Orion_mk3 http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com/
FreshHell http://freshhell.wordpress.com
IrishAnnie http://superpenpower.blogspot.com/
Dolores Haze http://dianedooley.wordpress.com/
Aidan Watson-Morris http://mangaka-tales.blogspot.com/
WildScribe http://polyspace.wordpress.com
Hayley E. Lavik http://hayleyelavik.com/
Bettedra http://bettedra.wordpress.com/
Aheila http://thewriteaholicblog.wordpress.com/

Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Drive-By Thought Brought to You by Monday

I was walking down the street today carrying a cutting board (Don't ask.)*, and people were looking at me oddly. I would have understood if they'd appeared amused by my small, lime green accessory. But they didn't. In fact, a few people noticeably deviated course to avoid me. I looked a little tired, and my hair was a bit scruffy, and I was dressed all in black, but it was a Monday. That's par for the course.

And then it dawned on me. Carrying a cutting board probably conveys the same kind of threat as visibly carrying a knife, except it's worse. Carrying a knife says you think you might need to cut something (or, egads, someone). Carrying a cutting board says you're planning to do some cutting and you're going to be fastidious while you do it. And, as everybody know, fastidiousness is terrifying.**

So, learn from my mistake, unless you enjoy terrifying strangers (terrifying is a verb here). That is all.

* No, wait, do. I'd taken a loaf of Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread in to work and wanted to ensure there was an appropriate cutting surface. It was moderately well received (the bread, not the cutting board).

** X-Ref: Hannibal Lecter.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Announcement of Brief Respite

Alright, folks. Quick update. I probably won't be posting for week or so. I know, whatever will you do with yourselves? I'm about to dive into revisions again, and I'm trying to be serious about it. Which means I rise at dawn for a five-mile run through thigh-high snow, then eat unsalted porridge, then chop down trees, then do sit-ups in a barn...wait. That's the training regimen for Rocky IV.

I'm just going to hunker down in my tiny, FREEZING office where cold air inexplicably pours in from every corner, and revise and polish. I can't listen to music when I polish, because when I do, I end up with embarrassing typos, particularly related to pronouns, as in: "He bent her arm at an unnatural angle, gritting its teeth against the pain." What?

I will be available on Twitter, where you can catch updates on things like:
 -What kind of alcohol I want to drink 15 minutes into the day job. Answer: Just one beer - now who do we know that makes a 64 oz beer?
-And,  #todaystypo: "I acknowledge your clam" - meant to be "claim". Acknowledging another person's clam is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay personal.

Keep on keeping on,
Hillary

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Great SSSS of 2010

Just went on a spree...a submission spree. A short story submission spree, to be precise (and because I can now refer to this throughout the remainder of this post as The Great SSSS of 2010). Two short stories got a spit polish, pep talk and a little checkered kerchief filled with pemmican and cans of beans to tie to a stick and carry over their shoulder, before being rudely thrust back into the world. (FYI, if you google "hobo children" under images, you get some really weird pictures, including a movie poster for "Hobo with a Shotgun" and whatever this is.) They are, respectively, one-time and two-time rejects.

A third short is going out for the first time, all wide-eyed and nervous about its new outfit. It's an odd one, written to a high-context anthology prompt, and I had a big, red devil of a time writing it. It's set in the 1920s, and I wanted a contemporary sound in the prose, especially the dialog. I think I might have captured that. At least, it moves to a different rhythm in my head when I read it. I also wanted modern urban fantasy events portrayed with a noir fiction sensibility that didn't feel too dark. The anthology asked for "fun" stories, and while I consider dark noir fun, I don't think that's the universal consensus.

I think one of the reasons I love reading noir is that it's not intuitive to me. I don't have an innate talent for writing it well (I know, I know - we could say that I don't have an innate talent for writing anything well, but we won't, because that would be colossally rude.) which makes me appreciate it that much more.

So, off my three little pups go. I hoped I packed enough beans to get them through the journey.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Parent's Log, Star Date Oh-5-90

Starring:
Mother - Played by Me
Son - Age 2 - Played by some spastic alien-monkey hybrid masquerading as my offspring

The scene: Wednesday Night, Dinner Table

Son (speaking through small Frankenstein toy): Where's my mommy?

Me: You don't have a mommy. You were created in a lab by a mad scientist.
Internal Monologue: I then think better of this. Perhaps one shouldn't tell one's child, even through a toy, that he is the motherless son of a crazed genius. Perhaps that's what leads to kids sucking their thumbs until they are 24, or going up on to water towers with Kalishnikovs. Perhaps in this one moment, I have just destroyed his sense of security for the rest of his life.


Son: Oh, okay. (resumes eating enchilada)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Let's Get Physical! or The Sounds of a Dying Sparrow

In an attempt to combat the condition I have named "Writing Seems to be Making me Fat", tonight I stepped onto a treadmill. It was not a treadmill at a gym, since that would require me to find the time to drive back and forth to the gym and also, you know, not be home. Neither of those things seem plausible, though I optimistically maintain a gym membership in case one day my forty-hour a week job and the care and maintenance of my two year-old suddenly take less than eleven hours a day. I'm thinking it's unlikely, but I've always been known as a dream-stealer dreamer.

But back to the treadmill. This small, black "machine" showed up a few weeks ago, conveniently contrived to fold up when not in use so that it doesn't dominate our ridiculously small abode. And fold up it did, like a champ. What it failed to do was mill the tread. Oh, the motor came buzzing on, sounding very serious and like it was in one of those bizarre world's strongest man contests. And the lights came on, and the console beeped approvingly when I increased the speed. But it didn't move. The belt just sat there, reveling in the harsh, constant groan of the motor. It was a hand-me-down from my grandmother, who weighed about seventy-five pounds and never walked more than five minutes a day on it, so I'm pretty sure she didn't wear it out.

I sent it back home with my father, who was just as angry and perplexed as I was that it didn't work. He's something of a fitness maniac advocate, and has been as concerned as me with my WSMF condition. So he took the contraption out to the workspace of a friend, an engineer. And he and the engineer, and possibly a couple of diesel mechanics (judging by the giant, dusty footprints on the belt when it came back) took it apart, fiddled and swore, and finally fixed it.

So, after a few weeks of some kind of zombie flu, I finally had a little energy and a few minutes to myself and decided to jump on and feel the burn! Well, the motor is louder than before. As in, I had to close all the windows even though it was almost 80 degrees in the house, because people kept peering up at the house as though they expected it to take off before their very eyes. And the whole thing rattles and creaks like it's made of wood from some recently-recovered Spanish galleon, plus intermittent noises like I'm crushing small birds. Sparrows, maybe. The cats circled me the entire time I was running walking meandering, and then I was terrified that they would (ever so slowly) be sucked into the belt and I'd lose a hand trying to extricate them.

Anyway, I stopped after twenty minutes, mostly because of a terrible zombie coughing fit (I think a boot came out of my lungs), and because I was afraid I was suffering permanent hearing loss.

What's my point, you ask? I think I've made plenty of good ones. However, the main one is that I suggest that anyone who is going to make time for writing also make time for exercise. At least get up and stretch occasionally. You don't have to "invest" in broken-down pre-WWII exercise equipment, but your body will thank you if you work/stretch it out in between blogsurfing working on your story.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

PSA - Can You Spare an Hour?

We've had a terrible summer here in Anchorage. A couple of brilliant, unseasonably-warm days in May devolved into a record-breaking stretch of consecutive rainy days. *Unenthusiastic Woohoo*. It was not the kind of record you wanted to experience. It's beautiful again. A couple of days of blue sky, the sun's warmth tempered by that bite that tells you it won't last long. It's time to finish up your harvests, empty the outdoor pots of the stunted flowers and bring them inside, and pull out hats and gloves for the little ones.

It's also time to think about those who don't have homes to pull the pots into, and who don't have hats and gloves for the little ones. As you're cleaning out the closets of the items your kids have outgrown, don't throw them out. Take the extra hour to clean and bag them up and drop them somewhere where they can be used and will be appreciated. I
'm not good at rallying people to a cause, but in this case the cause is so good I hope I won't have to convince you, just remind you of good intentions you no doubt already have.

Following is a list of a few of the organizations around Anchorage that provide help to those in need. If you're not in Anchorage, a quick Internet search should yield a similar list. I'm partial to Clare House, which provides temporary and emergency shelter for women with children, and expectant mothers. I discovered it when I was pregnant, and couldn't imagine not having a warm, supportive house to come home to. 

If you have clothing and housewares donations, you can take them to the Catholic Social Services facility. The folks there are very friendly, and you can choose either to donate to a specific organization or have them distribute according to the programs with the greatest needs.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Baby It's Cold (AW Blog Chain)

Inspired by the intrepid Ralph Pines, administrated by the bold and blue (haired) Aheila, this month's AbsoluteWrite blog chain is dedicated to: Seasons. Methinks I must stay true to my climate.
- - - - - - -

“You can’t stay out there forever,” Boy Whatever said. “You’ll freeze to death.” Maura snuggled her neck further into her coat, pressed her fingers into the seams of her pockets, searching for warmth in the gaps. She got nothing. She was used to that. Chelsea, the black-haired girl who was always at the center when Maura got sent back, said that freezing to death didn’t hurt. She said it felt like going to sleep and just never waking back up. Chelsea’s mom died from carbon monoxide. Her dad from a knife. She knew about things like that.

Maura rubbed her knees together, and the bright blue denim of her jeans felt thick and stiff. Maybe because they were new. Maybe because they’d already frozen, gone to sleep on her legs.

“Maura!” Mrs. Whatever now calling for her. The moms usually tried to play good cop. “Why don’t you come inside? Dinner’s ready. You might like it.”

Maura twisted away, her tennis shoes shuffling snow into the hole she tried to hide when the social worker dropped her off. The snow wasn’t melting any more, just piling up like a soft, white hat on her big toe. She peeked around the side of the shed. Mrs. Whatever had her arms crossed and was peering around the yard, her big, bright house behind her. They had a tree up, a big sucker covered in gold bows and red and white ornaments. Maura turned away. She shivered. Her butt had been wet, but was now just numb. Her butt and her big toe, abandoning her.

The yard, covered in rolling waves of downy soft snow, ended in a patch of skeletal trees, the branches bowed down by – you guessed it – more snow. It wasn’t white, not away from the lights of the house. The silver moonlight painted it pale grey. Maura shivered again, and this time couldn’t stop. Her fingers ached. Her lips felt raw. She didn’t feel like she was just going to sleep. She felt like she was going to shake apart, one layer at a time. She'd never seen snow before, never been sent to a family that lived this far North.

“Maura?” Mrs. Whitacre said, so close she was probably just on the other side of the shed. “Why don’t you come inside?”

- - - - - - - CHECK OUT THE OTHER FANTASTIC PARTICIPANTS - - - - - - -