Writing is a journey, not a destination.

Search This Blog

Thursday, September 30, 2010

No Travel

Self-Loathing Week, Day Four

Thank the Lord this week is almost over. It feels like the longest week of my life.

WARNING: this post contains graphic content. Do not read further if you suffer a weak stomach.

As I've been reading all the glowing reports and gushing enthusiasm pouring out of blogs about the recent ACFW conference, I've sought the warm comfort of my bed. Three bloggers wrote about their airplane companions, layover time and ticket-booking.

I don't travel.

I suffer from debilitating motion sickness. Family legend has it I threw up breast milk at 3 months on a trip to Kansas City (1 hour from my house). I suspect this was the Turtle Christmas gathering, although I've never asked. But the timing would be right.

I grew up in the glorious 70's, the golden age of the Chevy Station Wagon. You remember them. Mustard yellow with faux wood paneling? Pile 14 kids in the very back to breathe exhaust fumes on their way to the pizza parlor?

I begged my friends' parents to let me ride in front, but no one listened to 8 year-olds in those days. Too bad. It meant they got to clean up the mess that inevitably occurred, and my parents got to come pick me up before the pizza arrived. I have never left a station wagon with my stomach contents intact.

When I was 12, my family traveled a bit. I have puked on every plane from Kansas to Hawaii to Guam to Micronesia and back over the course of a year. Oh wait. There was one plane I didn't throw up on. I made it to the gangway before I blew chunks.

As I've aged, I've gotten worse. I've gotten sick while I'm driving. That's no good.

It's not just the throwing up. The last bout I suffered had me in bed for 48 hours afterwards. A specialist once told me motion sickness is a form of migraine. I thought that meant I would develop migraines. Not so. I just get all the symptoms. Vomiting, dizziness, light intolerance, physical weakness. Even if I go somewhere, I'm not assured I'll be in any shape to do anything when I get there.

Let me tell you, you wouldn't put up with it, either, if you could avoid it. And I can. By not traveling.

Oh, people have recommended all kinds of things. Bracelets. Patches for behind my ear. Pills. Even immersion therapy where they subject me to continual motion until I finally get used to it.

Yeah, that sounds great. Let's do that.

I don't fly. I don't even like to drive, but at least in a car when the moment comes, you can pull over. Unless you're my father driving Hwy 7 in Missouri, and you're mad, and you just want to get off. Then you drive faster. That's a post I will never write.

To misquote Joshua from War Games, the only real cure is not to move.

Writers' conferences don't come to Topeka, KS. They go to Colorado, Florida, Indiana, apparently, but not Kansas. Which is too bad. Kansas is a pretty State, if folks would try driving it during the day when they can see it. What's a turtle to do?

Well, this turtle is inclined to sulk and throw pity parties. Which is silly, considering I'm not even a member of ACFW yet. However, seems CathiLyn Dyck of Scita Scienta heard a rumor the next conference may be in St. Louis. I could drive to St. Louis.

The real question is will I continue to wallow in the muck of self-loathing, or will I make plans now and stock up on airsickness bags?

I suppose the answer depends on whether you ask me during the week or on a weekend.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Insanity Defined

Self-Loathing Week, Day Three

(I'm starting to enjoy these. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I don't think of myself as a masochist...)

Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

I've been insane once. I had a nervous breakdown thanks to a six month stint as a foster care caseworker. Seems I'm not designed to practice insanity as defined by Albert Einstein and the State of Kansas. Had I come from a different family, I could have been institutionalized and medicated for a bit.

Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

Being a trained therapist, after experiencing my first three-hour crying jag, I pulled out my copy of the DSMIII-R (that's the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Third Edition, Revised for those not therapeutically trained. It's a huge book and useful only for insurance billing purposes. Go figure) and diagnosed myself. This was many years ago, but it was something like "Acute Depressive Disorder with Depressed and Irritable Mood."

Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

Turns out extreme stress can cause nervous breakdowns. Who knew? Since all the stress emanated from my job, my next choice was blissfully simple. The upside was I quit my job, found a new one and after two and a half years of self-treating with over-the-counter St. John's Wort restored some semblance of sanity to my life. The downside is it broke me in places I suspect will never heal.

Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

You've no doubt heard what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Load of organic compost, that is. Sometimes what doesn't kill you weakens you forever. Remember Frodo after his stabbing on Weathertop? The wound that never healed? He carried it with him onto the Gray Ship decades later.

Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

According to Native American tradition, I am of the Frog Clan. Frog lends me strengths and weaknesses. I considered making the frog my brand, but I don't actually like frogs (I knew one. Turns out, they aren't nice). Anyway, I admire a frog's lack of memory. Frogs don't have the ability to learn. They are insane, according to Einstein, but it doesn't bother them at all. Now me, once I've been burned even a little, I go out of my way to avoid whatever caused that pain.

Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

A writer is insane. Not only for writing in the first place, but for submitting. Consider. Write a book. Research a publisher. Write a proposal. Submit. Wait 6-8 weeks. Get rejected. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

Case management taught me insanity is not my normal condition. To seek publication is insane. Therefore, every time I try it, I reopen that wound and experience again all the joys of Acute Depressive Disorder with Depressed and Irritable Mood.

Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

You might wonder why I would admit such a thing on a public blog future potential editors might read. I could argue any editor willing to work with me after reading this will earn my undying loyalty (should he want it). I could argue I suspect other writers somewhere feel this way, too, and I want to know I'm not alone. Sometimes taking the risk is the only way to get the reward. Hmm. Didn't I just write about that?

Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

The truth is it's part of my self-destructive nature, silly reader. My attempts to sabotage my own success. See, I will never be published because I fear it. I fear the change more than I want the change. Until I deal with that fear, I will never get anywhere.

TT: I have considered just writing books and letting one of the nieces publish them after my death. That might work.

And that's why I loathe myself on weekends when I read about other writers striving for publication with gazelle-intensity and seemingly without fear. I wish I could be one of them. On weekends, I doubt I ever will.

You see, I am not insane. And a writer must be.

Fortunately, the other five days of the week, I'm fairly optimistic. It's generally when I'm awake in the dark holding a sick cat fear shows up and smothers me. God seems very far away at those times, even though He isn't. I suspect He's holding me as close as I hold her.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Curse of Natural Ability

Self-Loathing Week, Day Two

Some people are born with "natural ability," often called "talent." A talent for singing. A talent for drawing. A talent for piano. A talent for puppeteering. A talent for writing.

Yes, I have talent in all those things. Switch to distancing third-person.

Talent can be a crutch. It allows someone to do a hard thing slightly better than someone else without effort. When compared with the average Joe, talent makes a person stand out.

This is dangerous. It means with almost no effort, someone can be praised for doing what comes naturally. Unless that person has a teacher or parent who recognizes what she could do and accepts no less, she could get away with doing very little and achieving above average results. Almost my entire school experience proves this.

An example: I was forced to enter a state essay contest in seventh grade. I got second place. I was furious. I didn't want to write the paper, I put in as little effort as I could, and I got second place. How unfair is that? Somewhere in the world is a former child who gave his all and lost. To me. Just because I had a talent for writing. If ever you read this, unknown competitor, I am sorry. Adults made me do it.

Where was I? Oh, yes, talent among the average.

But, put that same talented person in a group of other similarly talented people, and she fades into the background. She becomes one among many. This can be quite an emotional blow to one accustomed to being the big turtle in a small swamp.

If someone is competitive by nature, this leveling of players will drive her to hone her talent, to become a better turtle. Practice is the difference between the talented amateur and the skilled professional.

If she is not competitive by nature, or is prone to fits of self-pity and day-long naps, she does not hone her skills. She goes somewhere else, where the swamp is not so full of other turtles and she is once again unique. In short, she becomes a shrew and a slug, not a turtle.

If she is very unlucky and gets caught on a bad day, she envies other turtles who are competitive, who have put in the work, and whose passion has driven them to succeed.

I discovered such a one just last night. Someone with whom I was in ignorant competition earlier this year. I want very much to hate her in a general sort of way, even if doing so is silly. Why should I hate someone just because she knows what she wants out of life and pursues it? That makes no sense. It's also highly unflattering and damaging to me. I have enough of that in my life.

Now, some people are very talented. They stand out even among their peers, but such folks are rare. They are not me, no matter what Mom thinks. And even those people need to practice.

Were I in a better mood, I would no doubt end with a glowing resolution to become a better person by reading a book a week, connecting with one new writer every month for the rest of my life and churning out a book a year. But the chemical depressant wash has fully coated my brain, and I can only promise to wake up long enough to go to work.

I will say sometime last week before the Self-Loathing started, it did occur to me I might benefit by reviewing my old grammar handbook on a more regular basis. It's not glowing, but it's a kind of resolution.

We'll call it a start on the road to recovery.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Weekend of Self-Loathing (or Why I Will Never Be Published)

Forgive the self-indulgent nature of today's post. I'm lacking sleep, and hope, and any kind of moderating influence on my mood. I have a cat I think is dying, and that tends to skew my perception, no matter how often it happens.

I intended not to post because of my mood. But, I've set myself to chronicle my journey toward publication, and this is part of that journey. Stop reading now if you also are prone to melancholy. Or irritation with negative thinking. I have nothing positive to write this morning.

I tried to find this quote online, but it has multiple permutations. I doubt I would recognize who said it even if I stumbled on the answer by accident.

"You can tell how great a person is by what it takes to discourage him."

Well, by that measure, I'm about as small a person as you can find. This may come as a shock considering some of the things I've posted here, but I hate myself for being so easily discouraged. I suffer from what behaviorists call "learned helplessness."

I am not a fighter. If a door closes, I don't look for a window. I sit down. I figure God knows me. If He really wants me to go a certain way, He knows I need a wide open door with flashing neon arrow lights and, just to be certain, a tour guide assuring me, "yes, you're really supposed to be here."

Perhaps it is my Scorpio nature of "deep water" that makes me so willing to stop at the first obstacle. Many of my friends are Cancers -moving water- and they never seem to get discouraged. If a door closes, they find a way around it. Or over it. Or under it. They keep pushing until the door breaks and never a care for whether they should.

TT: Some of my readers will recoil at the use of Greek Zodiac mythology in defining myself. Please do. I never encourage anyone to get involved with such things. I do not read horoscopes, and I do not consult mediums. I researched the personality traits in my younger years, and as is so often the case with me, once learned, always applied. My apologies.

So much of publication is overcoming obstacles: our own insecurities, multiple rejections, mastering the business side, which is generally contrary to the right-brained nature of fiction writing.

TT: It occurs to me writers who write "for a living" may use their left brain to do so. I've never considered that. I suppose there's a post in there somewhere.

I do not naturally overcome obstacles. Therefore, I will not achieve publication.

If my current mood continues, this will be a week of self-loathing posts, and tomorrow's will focus on "The Curse of Natural Ability." 

I suppose I should try to end with something positive. How about God loves me, whether I'm published or not?

And this mood will pass. It always does. I just wish it wasn't visiting quite so often lately.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Alpha Redemption by P.A. Baines

Let me begin by saying...Unfair, Paul. Not cheating. But unfair.

I should continue by saying I won my copy during a chat room book launch session. I didn't have to pay for it, but I would have. I was rearranging my budget for the month to leave out a few meals when I got the happy news. Huzzah!

And now, Alpha Redemption, a book in three courses.

Let us set the table.

Brett Denton is a broken man. He's lost his wife, his children and his will to live. He exists day to day, drink to drink, waiting for death to end his suffering.

He retains just enough sanity to avoid outright suicide, but when an opportunity arises to test pilot a dangerous mission into outer space to scout the Alpha Centauri system for habitable planets, he doesn't flinch. Our story begins as Brett takes his first steps into his spaceship home.

The first course is cauliflower soup: savory, satisfying and smooth. We settle into Brett's new life on the ship. We join him in eating, sleeping, training and interacting with the ship's computer, Jay. Brett's life will consist of one month awake and two months in hyper-sleep as the ship alternately accelerates and decelerates from light speed.

We hurt when Brett hurts. We marvel as his age begins to reverse. We pay attention as memories of his former life bubble to the surface like fragrant basil, sweet shallots or spicy ginger. It is a simple story well-told: a man, his past and a machine interacting together in space.

I enjoyed every moment of this course and licked the bowl when I was done.

TT: Originally, I thought this would be the only course. I intended to compare it to homemade garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes. Easy to swallow, imminently satisfying and with just enough surprising bits to make a reasonable meal. I was as surprised by the change as I was by what happened after the change.

Course number two is a salad of exotic ingredients. Mysteries await at Alpha Centauri. Immediate danger sets up camp within the ship. Jay the computer is becoming more erratic and...well...human. More memories surface and we see a life story told in reverse. Fascinating.

I crunched my way through this course, delighted with each new flavor. Only once did I encounter a peppercorn that tasted out of place, but the salad moved on and so did I.

The third and last course is a kind of pot pie. Bubbling ingredients hidden under a layer of flaky pastry. No idea what hearty bit would come up next, but each one delicious and infinitely chewable. I gulped my way through this course, burning my throat on occasion (Oh, wait. Those were tears). And then The End.


I have some gripes. I always do.

1) The peppercorn. Hopefully without spoiling anything, I was a bit surprised at what they found in the Alpha Centauri system. I would have liked to spend more time there exploring. But we didn't. Perhaps that is something I'll read in a sequel. Perhaps it is simply an unexplained mystery. I moved on, but I had to pick my teeth to do it.

2) The lack of dessert in this meal. I was hoping for something rich and bittersweet. I would have accepted cheesecake, as long as it was creamy and topped with cherries. What I got was a table of licked bowls and picked-over plates, and the waiter announcing I would have to come back another day and start over before I got dessert.

That was unfair, Paul. Please don't do it again.

It's possible I'm being harsh. Truth is, I was enjoying the story so much, I may just have been annoyed The End came, and not specifically with the form it took.

Ocilla's Mommy likes to give her favorite quotes from books. Here are some of mine.

"A conversation is headed his way and there isn't a thing he can do to avoid it." I have so been there.

"...although the words enter his retinas, they are not intercepted by his brain, and so drift off to wherever it is things go that are not understood." I have quite a few things hanging out in that place.

"...as often happens when you get to know people in positions of authority, he has realized they're actually idiots..." For once, I'll avoid launching into a political statement.

And possibly my favorite because it took me straight to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (a place I often go when reading Paul's blog posts):

"Not again."

So, on the buttercup scale of style, plot, humor, consistency and heart, I'm giving him four and a half buttercups. I'm holding that half back just because of the peppercorn. And maybe the lack of dessert. I do like dessert.

Before someone asks, I will post some smaller reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, hopefully this weekend. Well done, Paul!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Observances on a Spiderweb

While walking between buildings at work, I noticed a spiderweb. This is not unusual for me. I'm always looking for such things.

This spiderweb was suspended about 20 feet in the air, bridging the gap between the building and the nearest ornamental pear tree. The webmaker -a big, black garden spider- hung in mid-air above the path I must take.

Some of you just shuddered at that thought, but spiders don't bother me. My brain didn't even go there at the time. Here's where it did go.

That seemed to be a wonderful place for a web. She is a large spider. She probably needs larger prey, and those kinds of insects tend to fly higher. Up there, her web wouldn't get destroyed by some blundering mammal. Pretty smart, for a bug.

But she spun that web at night when a black spider can hang in mid-air without being noticed. In the daylight, she was quite visible. And vulnerable.

A big, black spider would make a nice snack for a barn swallow. We have lots of those around our office. Or a thrasher. We have one of those, too.

A spider has to eat. She builds her web where she hopes to catch the most food. But did she really need to hang there during the day, daring something bigger and hungrier to take its best shot? Could she not have waited on a leaf or under the guttering until her web was triggered? Was it arachnid arrogance or innocent ignorance that put her in such danger?

I naturally compared it to writing. A writer must spin webs where she is most likely to catch what she needs. But does a writer have to take stupid risks to find a payoff? Is there a "safe" way to achieve writerly goals?

I don't know the answer. I'll be thinking about it a lot.

The spider survived the day. She even caught something. You can bet I'll be looking up this morning.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pineapples and Pomegranates, or When Nerds Don't Collide

I was forcefully reminded last night at a work-related event even those who should have everything in common don't always.

TT: That's a weird sentence. Does it make sense to the rest of you?

I was talking to a fellow nerd. I know he's a nerd from previous encounters.

See, nerds have certain innate qualities we recognize in each other. A tendency toward organizing our hobbies (he has a spreadsheet of all the video games he wants to play arranged in order of preference; I have a spreadsheet of FV crops with the same prioritization). An ability to discuss unreal topics to the exclusion of any other real-life event taking place at the moment (such as the 4 people staring at us while we talked about the emergence of the 3-D trend in movies).

Let's just say, nerds have a secret handshake and leave it at that.

He told me he'd been to Comic-Con recently.

"Really? Who were the featured guests? Nathan Fillion?" Why I would think he'd be at a St. Louis Comic Con, I don't know, but a girl can dream.
"Who?" he asked.
"Nathan Fillion. Firefly."
"I don't watch sci-fi."
Evidently. "Okay. How about Castle?"
Blank stare.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the last season villain?"
"I never got into that show."
What kind of nerd is this guy? "How about Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog? It has Doogie Howser in it."
"Oh, I like Doogie. I've heard he's pretty funny in that."

Deep breath. It is a testimony to my therapist training I didn't wander off at that point and chalk the whole experience up to the "Too Much Work" category.

We kept trying, and finally I let him tell me about his newest love-affair with The Walking Dead and...oh, puckernuts, I can't remember the title of the other. It starts with an "I." Interceptor. Interloper. Intruder, maybe. Something like that. The same author wrote both comic books. It sounded kind of interesting, a coming-of-age superhero story.

My point is, even though we're the same type of creature -nerd- our interests and obsessions are totally different. He loves comic books and video games (not FV. I asked). I love fantasy books and TV sci-fi.

But, with a little effort on my part, we still had a good chat about some fairly interesting stuff.

A few years ago, I wouldn't have persevered in the connection process. But an experience with my second dad changed my perspective.

He and I couldn't be more different in our areas of interest. He's a farmer; I'm not. He sells insurance; I don't. He's never read a fantasy book, except the ones Mom has read to him since their marriage.

One day in their kitchen, I was talking about Star Trek. I don't remember the exact topic. He was asking questions about Klingons. It occurred to me this was a man who literally couldn't care less about Klingons, but he was making a real effort to learn about them just because I was interested.
It touched me. It shamed me a bit. I've been trying to follow his example ever since.

Even when a topic has the potential to bore me to death, I now try to find a way to be interested in it. More importantly, I try to find a way to be interested in the person who expresses the interest. That is the point of connection, right? To find common ground with our fellow humans? If some ground is harder to work, perhaps the resulting crop is more satisfying.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Fountain

That I would rant about the annoyances of needing people and the annoyances of being alone in the same week is perfectly reasonable to me. The rest of you may form your own opinions.

I have twice watched the movie The Fountain starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weiss. I spent the first time with head cocked, brow furrowed and lip curled as I struggled to figure out what was going on.

The second time was no better. I've given up trying to understand what the writers intended. I will now express my thoughts and draw my own conclusions.

The movie tells 3 stories in completely different settings using the same two people and possibly with the same point. I'm not sure what that point is but it seems to involve love, and death, and rebirth or "life from death."

Anyway, we bounce around from a Mayan jungle temple to a cancer research laboratory to a giant bubble in space with a bald Hugh Jackman and a tree with human skin as its only occupants.

Let's pause at the bubble a moment, shall we?

This is where the big SPFX are expended. Jackman, dressed like a monk or Hari Krishna (is that the right designation?), is trapped inside this bubble with a tree, a pool and some grassy mounds. He has nothing to do but write on himself (something we didn't allow our foster care charges to do at day school) and meditate while floating in the air. Judging by his arms, he's been doing this for some time.

The part I find fascinating is the idea of traveling through eternity in a little bubble, taking with you only yourself. It reminds me a bit of P.A. Baines' book Alpha Redemption, but more on that later this week. I'm almost done reading it!

I find myself occasionally wandering through my house, considering whether it would accurately represent the bubble of my consciousness should it be ripped from its moorings and shot toward a dying star.

Yes, I do think these sorts of things. It's why the nieces call me "weird."

Do I have everything I would need to keep me occupied on such a long journey? Would I get to keep the critters? Would I want to? What if my bubble doesn't have adequate sanitation facilities? That's something the movie doesn't cover. I'd want that answer before I spend an eternity with litter boxes and dog droppings.

I think the movie was trying to say nothing ever dies, and if we want to move forward, we have to let go of the past. You know, typical reincarnation, New Age nonsense about self-actualization and eternal self-sufficiency on the soul's quest to rejoin the Universe.

It does make me realize as much as I like being alone, all eternity is a bit long to be friends with only myself. I can't imagine it just being Me and Me forever. I get tired of me, more often as I get older.
Oddly enough, it's been in my later years I've learned how to make and be friends. I blame college and all those communication classes.

This is why I will eventually embrace the concept of "networking," no matter how much I fuss at the moment.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Ray of Hope

Not about networking. My annoyance with that concept continues.

No, I had two glimpses of good in the last couple of days. Here they are.

Jeff the Publisher contacted one of last year's contest authors for a manuscript review.
Curse my metal body, I can't remember who. It only happened yesterday! You'd think my silly brain, which latches on to any kind of Star Trek trivia, would be able to recall this simple bit of relevant info. Alas, no.

This is why networking frightens me. I can't remember real stuff about real people.

I thought it was The Hall of Masters, but I can't find that title in the listings at the Anomaly Forum. Maybe it was Hall of Secrets, which doesn't help me a bit if I can't remember who the author is. We're FB Friends, I know that much. Obviously not good ones yet.

Well, I'm happy for her. If anybody remembers who she is, please let me know. I'll write it down this time. Sheesh.

It gave me hope that maybe all of us contestants are not forgotten. Perhaps our stories may yet find a place Somewhere Out There. It would make me even happier if the story was from the Premise Contest, but I don't think it is.

My second bit of good news was in the post "Trouble Choosing a Niche? Start a Personal Blog." Here's the link: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2010/09/21/trouble-choosing-a-niche-start-a-personal-blog/. Now I just hope that link doesn't move around. I'm still learning some of this stuff.
Which is the point of the post. The author Darren Rowse explains his blogging journey. I saw some of me in him. It gives me hope that the last year online has not been a waste of my life.

Being such a linear person has its drawbacks. I focus on the "now," forget the "then," and often totally miss the "soon."

I need rays of hope. Maybe these can spread a little sunshine in your day.

Is that networking?

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I hate networking.

That's a bit harsh. Let me try again. I despise networking. Um, I abhor networking. No...uh...I loath networking.

Hmm. How about I return to the beginning?

I hate networking.

As an Island (explained more fully in my post "Bridges and Islands") I can safely say the effort expended to leave my forest (I'm a temperate Island, not a tropical one) and step out onto my gravel beach (I don't like sand) to build signal fires to the Islands across the social sea, though undeniably worthwhile, is also absolutely resented by me.

I complain about this now because of my continued study of Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. Chapter Two has been one long argument for the divine endorsement of mutual obligation, both as an act of service and a wealth-building tool.

I'm aware of the power of networking. I've listened to experts in various fields espousing the necessity. I've listened to various practitioners espousing the necessity. I'm reading the good rabbi's explanation of how it is a reasonable act of service to my fellow humans whose side benefit happens to be good being done for me in return.

I just hate it.

It's as though being an Island dooms me to either doing something I hate (being personable) or becoming something I'm not (a Bridge). As though my own innate personality type is insufficient to promote my general welfare, which may very well be true.

Any chance you're seeing the point of my rant? I have more. Shocking!

I resent mutual obligation. I don't care to be beholden to anyone, and I don't care to have someone beholden to me. This is, according to Rabbi Lapin, selfish and unrealistic on my part. He doesn't accuse me personally. His point is all people are designed to give to one another. When we actively seek to do good for our neighbor, we will have good done to us in return, if not by that neighbor then by another.

He also says the best place to build wealth is in a city surrounded by people. The more people you know, the more good you can do for those people.

I am not a social person. My idea of Heaven is a small house in the middle of a thousand acres.
Topeka is too big for my taste, and it's pretty tiny for a state capital. I don't want to live in a city. I don't want to attend social functions and service clubs and chat up the locals with a mind to help them out. I can't even help myself, which should be obvious by now.

It's not that I don't agree with him. He is not telling me anything I haven't heard already, except the Jewish cultural rationale for these beliefs. That's new to me and remains fascinating.

My hissy fit (and don't doubt it is one) is a direct result of not wanting to hear this. If I hear it, I will eventually do it. That's how I'm built. And I don't want to do it.

I suppose I'm having a Jonah moment. Leave me alone, Lord. I'd rather sit in the fish than preach to the masses.

I'll get spit out at some point. No doubt I'll blog about it.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I've been told my "TT" is a bit obscure and confusing. And here I thought it was as plain as the nose on my dad's face.

TT: I would say "on my face," but I didn't quite get Dad's nose. Unfortunate. A larger nose might have made up for my lack of a chin. I got the Byrd neck instead of the Turtle jowls. Sigh.

Running a brief search, I've discovered the reference is ridiculously obscure. It originated in a June post called "Anthropomorphizing." For those truly interested, you'll have to look it up. Honorable mention in my next post if you figure it out.

I read a post called "5 Ways Your Blog Undermines Your Business." I thought it would be about wasting time blogging instead of writing. I was wrong.

It was a more generic post about blogs used to boost an actual business or service, like a law firm or plumbing. It's from Problogger. That site is on my list to the left.

In such instances, a blog represents the business. It behooves any business owner to put her best foot forward any time she enters the public square. If your blog is full of errors or unprofessional behavior, potential customers may think twice about working with you. I mean, if you can't get your blog right...

What does that mean for me? I was told to start a blog because that's what writers do now. It gets you "out there," whatever that means.

But I haven't been using this as a business platform. Not intentionally. Frankly, I've gotten lazy with it, mostly because I've doubted whether anyone reads it at all. It has become a sort of daily journal which focuses more often than not on writing.

The temporary loss of Spellcheck didn't help, either.

As I've been revising Elementals, I see the same laziness there. The Lioness is fond of saying each sentence is a gem to be polished. Right now, my book is full of gravel.

Well, in the spirit of the Second Year, let us try to remedy this apathetic lack of focus, shall we? I do not promise gazelle-intensity. Writing must be fun or I will not do it. I have a day job that pays the bills. This must be my hobby, like Farmville. Only then will I devote myself to the task.

Sad but true.

As I polish Elementals, I will attempt to restore some quality to my musings here. This blog will remain a frightening glimpse of this author's inner workings, but I hope to restore a little focus to the viewing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blog Envy

As I toodle around the W W W, I'm noticing how small my Follower list is. Even The Least Read Blog on the Web has surpassed me. On the face of it, that's a bit discouraging.

However, my Follower list isn't representative of who reads this blog. I know 3 people who aren't Followers but read almost daily, and at least 2 on the list may have read only the first 1 or 2 posts. They signed on to offer moral support as I got going. If they still read it, I'd say "thanks!" I'll say it anyway.


However, as I read up on marketing, the whole issue of Followers has led to some reflection. Why would people Follow this blog?

The most obvious answer at the moment is because they know/love me. Those two don't necessarily go together.

My first year was an experiment. I was told to blog. I blogged. I'd never read a blog before. I had no idea what blogging was. It's possible I still don't. Even my tagline showed my caution: a beginning blogger's search for meaning in the experience.

I wrote about stuff I found interesting. Mostly, I wrote about myself. I am my favorite topic. That should be quite clear. It may have been the wrong approach, but it was the avenue I took.

TT: My two other blogs follow different topics with the same approach. I do not consider myself an expert on either politics or Farmville, but I play one on the Internet.

With the advent of my second year, I hope to focus more on the journey of publication. Hence the tagline change. I hope to write more about writing, submitting, and editing. I hope to include stories of other writers doing the same things. This may draw Followers with that interest, people who don't know me personally but identify with my journey.

I handicapped myself (on purpose at the time) by choosing my brand. Ranunculus is hard to spell and turtles have nothing to do with writing. Being naturally cautious and uncertain of my resolve, I did not choose howtogetpublished.blogspot as my name, even if it would show up first on Google search. That's part of being a Type BB personality. I don't bull my way through the world, and I don't bluff in new situations (well, not much, anyway).

I should focus more on other people. The blogs with lots of Followers seem to be those that conduct interviews, write reviews and promote other people (you know, the things that don't interest me). Success in any business is about networking. Quid pro quo and all that.

I will try to follow those examples, but I'm still an Island. My Bridges end halfway across the water in a tangled mess. I could really use a publicist, except I wouldn't listen to him. I yam what I yam.

I would set a more quantifiable goal - like 2 interviews a month - but I would fail to meet it. It is my nature to rebel against my own goals. Instead, I'll meander beside my intentions, plodding forward while crossing the line and eating a few goal-killing buttercups along the way.

That's in my nature, too.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Schedule

I started the new writing schedule yesterday morning. I would not call it a success. I did edit, but not with the single-minded attention I want. Part of that might have been my preoccupation with potential weather issues. I also started this post last night, but got interrupted by life and abandoned it. That's no good. I intended to try morning writing time at least until the end of the month, but now I'm not sure.

I don't do well with "appointments." I can't think of another word for it, except possibly "deadlines," but that doesn't fully connote the problem. I'm actually very good with deadlines.

In my teen years, I took voice lessons at 3 PM on Saturday. I was unable to do anything on Saturday until after the lesson. Knowing I had an "appointment" later that day distracted and unsettled me (one of the reasons I made a terrible case manager).

Writing in the morning brings out that same anxiety. I turn off the radio, which is how I measure time in the morning, and I can't focus on the work because I keep glancing at the clock. I do have a day job and I can't be late for it. Well, not terribly late.

The thunderstorm has arrived. Best wrap this up.

Now that I have turned off the electronics while I edit (something I knew I should do but didn't), I see extraneous words as I enter Glorya's first 3 chapters. Lots of extraneous words.

I'd sent The Lioness some chapters to read, but I emailed her not to bother with them. I'm slashing whole paragraphs right now. The plot won't change but its descriptions sure will.

TT: Simon is attacking a throw rug. It's adorable and quite distracting. Excuse me a moment...

Thank you. He's such a noodlehead. Now he's getting into the trash can. I don't know why. He doesn't fit.

Must be the weather. He's inside the trash can looking down. The lighter spot is his ear canal. My apologies if you can't make him out. He's a black cat in a dark space. I did the best I could with Elder Brother's borrowed digital camera.


I will make time to write. It just may not be in wee hours of the AM.

Monday, September 13, 2010


In my quest to network, I've been using the "Friends You May Know" option on FB. When I see a name with more than its fair share of fellow writers attached to it, I Friend Request that person. I have met some interesting people this way. I only ask one or two people a day.

Oddly enough, FB stopped me from doing this. Why would it offer names then refuse to allow me to contact them? I have no idea.

TT: I may lose some of these new contacts if they don't care for FV posts. I cannot help it. FV is part of who I am now.

One extremely useful person I met is K.M. Weiland. Find her blog Wordplay on my "Blogs I Follow" list. She has published two historical fiction books and seems to have more in the works. More power to anyone who doesn't mind doing research.

She also has a links page of marketing resources. I added three of these to my list and will begin implementing their numerous suggestions. I am trying, PYP. Arrogant as I am, self-promotion is new to me. So is networking. This turtle prefers her own shell.

I read a post yesterday (I thought it was Weiland's, but I'm wrong, so I don't know who wrote it) about scheduling time to write, one of the differences between the professional and the hobbyist. I didn't need to schedule Star of Justice; I couldn't stop writing it. Elementals was harder, but I made it happen. I have very much gotten out of the habit of writing daily other than my blogs. Which presents the question, when should I write?

I am a highly scheduled person. Not quite OCD, but close. So when should I write?

It seems clear it will be during what is currently FV time. I can play FV while doing other things, like listening to the radio or eating. I cannot write with divided attention, and I cannot type while wielding a fork.

My greatest time waster has undergone some changes. NBC has at last removed Friends from its daily lineup. That removes NBC from my radar. I have only one channel left, and only 1 show on that channel I follow faithfully (who knows what it is?). That means, as long as I don't turn on the TV, I have 3 hours a night most nights. Except I don't. One night a week goes to the nieces. One night goes to My Best Friend. One night will go to my favorite show. And, for while anyway, at least one night goes to politics.

So when should I write?

The most obvious answer to me is in the morning. No one calls me at 4:30 AM. I don't think my friends know that time exists. I have no problem writing my blog posts at this time.

Potential problem. Writing stories puts me in an odd frame of mind. I don't know if I'm writing from my right brain or entering some kind of trance, but once I focus on that inner world, I have a hard time coming out of it with any kind of graciousness. I'm a little worried about what writing first will do to the rest of my day.

I guess I'll find out.

So, for a while, I'll be blogging in the evenings instead of the mornings. I hope. I remember what happens when the weather turns cold. I may move the computer into my bedroom so I can type under the covers.

On the Elementals revision front, I finished working in all of The Lioness' suggestions last night (despite 3 phone interruptions of varying lengths of time). Somehow I managed to add clarifying sentences and still reduce overall word count. I'm not entirely sure how I did that, unless I haven't counted words since the last time I revised and those edits got counted here. However I did it, I hope I can keep it up. I have 8000 words to remove, and for the life of me, I don't know how I will do it.

Ooo, just had a petit mal panic seizure thinking about submitting in half a month. That's fun.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Found an interesting concept while reading Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. He was referencing being excited about the work you do, whatever it is.

"This is why ancient Jewish wisdom insists that approval by our friends is an important aid to a person's business success; and likewise, people are stimulated and encouraged by their friends' approval. Even more important, this approval helps people find passion and enthusiasm in what they do (pg 20)."

This shouldn't be a revelation to me. I'm more serious about writing when my friends are interested in my writing. Having test readers badger me for more chapters makes me more eager to write those chapters. Talking about writing - to a point - gets me writing.

TT: I must be careful about the talking. I noticed long ago if I told my stories in detail to an avid listener before I wrote them, they tended not to get written at all. At this point, I will answer only specific questions put to me by Mom, because she can hurt me if I don't. I also promised that courtesy to My Best Friend, because she was my test reader back when I finished nothing, and it was the only way to get her to read anything at all. My Dear Friend, alas, has to wait to find out what happens with any story I'm currently writing, but she gets to hear about stories I may never write, so it balances out. At least, I think it balances out.

I suppose the point of the lesson is shared excitement leads to increased productivity. To write more, I must share more writing.

I do remember Orson Scott Card warning writers must publish or die. Continually reworking old material does no one any good. Leaving manuscripts in drawers does not increase your skill.

In Elfquest, Cutter and the Wolfriders encounter the Gliders, close descendants of the High Ones and thus immortal. Fearing contamination by the outside world, the Gliders confined themselves within a mountain. Cutter accuses them of feeding off themselves, like a wolf with its leg caught in a trap.

My one great annoyance with my favorite authors is how they move on. They write new stories. They change the futures of beloved characters from the future I imagined (Paul Atreides of Dune being an excellent example). They create new beloved characters designed to usurp the old ones in my heart space.

Yet this is what writers must do. We are literary sharks, constantly moving or dying of asphyxiation in a sea of creative oxygen. This is what I must do, if I am to be a writer of those many books my fans will want.

Seems my friends are an integral part of that process. Makes me glad I have the friends I do.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

TUTAW: Quantity Matters

The Ugly Truth About Writing is...quantity matters.

Very few authors write a single best-selling book that sets them up for life. I can't think of any. I suppose J.K. Rowling would have qualified if she'd stopped writing, but then again, if she'd stopped, would Harry Potter have taken off like it did? If I remember correctly, it was the third book where everything went viral. I had to go back and purchase the first two as paperbacks. Even Tolkien wrote four books, and I don't think those were as popular while he was alive as they are now.

Long ago, I worried about writing The One Great Book. The One everyone wants to read. The One people will wait in line for. The One bookstores sell out of. You know. That One.

TT: Sorry for all the sentence fragments and dangling prepositions there. I'm making a point, even if it gives GrammarCheck a fit.

A few years ago - shortly before I submitted Star of Justice to MLS, actually - I realized I don't need the One book. I just need to write books.

I figured this out when I read a book I liked and googled the author to see what else he'd written. That was Neil Gaiman, author of Stardust. He also wrote the screenplay for Mirrormask, one of my favorite movies. He also wrote Coraline (the one with the people behind the mirror with black buttons instead of eyes). When I get some money, you can bet I'll be buying more of his books. The guy has an appealing grasp of creepy with the irony only the British can infuse in fantasy.

It occurred to me that's how authors make money. You write lots of books in the hopes that a reader who likes one will buy others you've written. So your first book doesn't have to be a best-seller. Neither does your second book. Or the third. They just need to be good enough to spark interest and build trust with your audience. A trusting reader is a faithful reader.

TT: I posted about this last year in the aptly named "Trust." You can find it under the label "Writing Tips."

Allow me to reference Seth Godin again. If you acquire a faithful fan base willing to support you, you must provide them with items to purchase. One item won't do it.

I love Anne McCaffrey's writing. I have about 15 of her books on my shelf, and I regularly reread them. However, I bought all of them about 20 years ago. That doesn't help her pay the bills today. At least, I don't think it does. It would be cool if it did.

TT: I've mentioned in an earlier post "When Did I Stop Reading?" why 20 years ago is my general marker for reading/writing life events.

I have a file drawer with approximately 20 potential books in it. Some are stand-alones. Some are series. Some are short stories that might end up being novellas or novels. They would take me at least 20 years to write, assuming I don't get ideas for others in the meantime.

The bane of the perfectionist is seeing the work before I get into it. I call it "pre-exhaustion." I get tired just thinking about doing it.

I can't afford that attitude as a writer. I can't really afford it as a person. Putting myself out there in written form is as much a journey as the discipline of FV.

I decided all I had to do was start. Taking one turtle step at a time, I wrote a book. It worked, so I wrote another. It also worked, so I'll go for a third. That's the whole plan. Just write one solid book after another until I die.

I have to stop writing now. I'm feeling a little tired.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Marketing and More Than My Usual Share of Arrogance


Since I created Ranunculus Turtle the Facebook Page (am I bringing back memories of Spaceballs yet?), four other authors have created FB pages.

It is entirely possible this has nothing whatsoever to do with me. I suspect it's really because of the appearance of PYP's FB page and their emphasis on author-driven marketing (including FB specifically) and not my stunning example that has prompted the rush to self-promote. It does make me wonder if those 4 authors and I will be competing come October. So be it. I'm a free market gal. Competition improves the end product and benefits everyone.

I do hope Ocilla's Mommy (that's your new name, Diane) will be submitting in October. Seems a shame to have a book and a potential audience and not submit. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge.

I'm reading Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. It's a Dave Ramsey recommendation. For once, I'm reading an Introduction and finding it fascinating.

Dare I admit a possibly unflattering fact about myself? Why not? I've done it before and with less intention.

As I read this book, I hear the words in a Bronx accent, like that blue aardvark from The Pink Panther or Crusty the Clown's father from The Simpsons. I have no idea what Rabbi Lapin actually sounds like, but that's how he sounds in my head. Rabbi + New York references = Bronx accent. Stereotypical? Undoubtedly. A bit distracting, too, but I can't seem to stop it. To be fair, I have the same problem with British books. Anything written by Jane Austin is narrated in British as I read. Stuffy British, too, like John Cleese.

Anyhoo, I have to figure out how to express a marketing plan in one or two paragraphs. Not that it's a huge, complicated marketing plan. Seth Godin says all you really need are x number of faithful fans and then you just produce what they want in the quantities necessary to support yourself. For example, 200 people willing to spend $20 bucks on anything I write means I automatically get...ooh, I hate math, even with zeros....$2000? dollars per book/story from that fan base. That is some very simplistic boiling down there. I don't expect to make $20 per book, for starters, even if that ended up being the sticker price, which it won't. Personally, I'm hesitant about paying more than $7 for a book, but I remember when a thick paperback cost $4.95, too. I'm a dinosaur.

The hard part is finding those faithful fans, but you won't find them if you don't look for them.

I'll be posting a TUTAW about fans and production later, maybe tomorrow. It's been rattling about in me brain pan for a bit now.

So, on the day I post a flattering review (flattering for me, anyway) of The Lioness's critiquing skills on FB and potentially drive completely new readers to this site, I decide to write an arrogant, self-involved and potentially bigoted post about myself.

Yep. Sounds like me.

Now you know what The Lioness puts up with. Kinda makes you admire her more, doesn't it?

Thursday, September 9, 2010


One of my first sentences in yesterday's post is bothering me. If allure is the singular object and Ron Perlman and screenplay are modifiers, then was is the appropriate verb. But if allure and screenplay are both objects, then were is the appropriate verb form. I originally wrote were then changed it to was and now I'm inclined to change it back to were. Is this a case where either form is correct, and it's up to me to tell the reader which I meant, or is there only one correct way and I'm missing it? Will it sound wrong to someone no matter which verb I use (thus indicating I should rewrite it and move on)? Do other languages have this issue? In Latin, the verb would indicate whether the object is singular or plural, but in English, I'm more likely to get chastised for improper grammar than kudos for knowing the obscure rule.

Whoa. That graf was a bit more writerly than normal. Sorry, readers. One of the drawbacks of being caught in Editor Land.

Fact is, most of the grammar skills I employ are from rules sunk so deep into the dark parts of my brain from high school I have no idea why I know how I know it anymore. Grammar rules are the compost from which my skill springs, not the framework on which my stories are built. I will have to change that, I'm sure.

Hmm. Cats are restless this morning. Hard to see the monitor around Caleb's enormous bulk or type with Mica's head on my mouse arm. Better keep this short.

I tried a lot of new things with Elementals. Four POVs. Multiple concurrent time lines. Flashbacks masquerading as memories. A lot of ways to mess up grammatically and consistently (that's not the right word. I mean like when you check a movie for glaring errors. I can NOT think of the right word. They call this a category memory error in psych class. I can think close to the word but not the word itself. Grr!) Anyway, I will need help with this story to get it up to snuff for publication.

A vague memory tickles me of trying to complete Elementals this time last year and experiencing tremendous difficulty. Somehow September jammed up with non-writing stuff and conspired to throw my plans off track.

It's happening again. I have "other plans" than writing all this week. I will be ready to submit in October, but only because I will determine now to be ready.

Man, I wish I could think of that word!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Of Aliens and Lions

You remember that scene in Alien Resurrection where...


It occurs to me even the combined allure of Ron Perlman without makeup and a screenplay written by Joss Whedon was not enough to offset Wynona Rider as a supporting actress in that movie to my normal readers, and thus none of you have seen it. Allow me to rephrase.

There's this scene in Alien Resurrection where an alien is carrying Ripley to the Queen's egg chamber. Ripley regains consciousness in the alien's shiny, black arms, sees the enemy who has hunted her through 3 movies and 2 lives, and does the most unexpected thing. She embraces it. She practically snuggles into that cold, acid-filled carapace and peacefully awaits whatever is coming. Finally, she accepts.

That's a little how I feel when I open an email from The Lioness, as I did yesterday. An email containing her copy-editing of the prologue and first 3 chapters of Elementals.

Not that I am saying Kristen is a multi-limbed xenomorph with a head shaped like a deadly loaf of evil French bread. Far from it.

TT: She's actually adorable, if you've seen her pic on FB. It's a perfect front, really. No one would expect the ferocity of opinion dwelling behind that smile. There's a reason I call her The Lioness, and it isn't her hair.

I should be terrified of that attached file. My critique partner is a formidable writing force. She works with words for a living and as a hobby. In other circumstances, she could be not only a rival, but a predator with the power to pop the top of my emotional skull with her fierce mouth-tongue and I could only dangle from her claws and let her do it.

The fact that in her professional arms I feel completely safe is a testament to her skill. I have never resented a single thing she has questioned or corrected in my stories in our year together. Bless her heart, she once apologized for all the red, as if she had been doing something wrong when I was the one writing out of POV in passive voice.

I've written before how hard it is for a writer to receive critiques. Writers are an odd mix of arrogance and self-doubt. We have to be arrogant enough to put our stuff out there, but we still chew our nails until we hear how people will react (and sometimes for days or weeks after we hear).

But Kristen has a disarming way of asking questions to spur thinking. She states her reactions clearly, and knows just when to insert a little humor to ease the sting or build me up.

I haven't always followed her suggestions. If we wrote the same way, one of us wouldn't be necessary. But her opinion matters a great deal to me. Her quiet confidence in my skill means more. I haven't the words to express my gratitude or admiration.

I hope, in her editing arms, to make that passage to the egg chamber of publication safely. If not with this submission, then with another.

Once I get there is another set of problems entirely, just like with Ripley. Perhaps, dear readers, now that you know I equate publication with an audience with a Queen Alien, you can understand some of my reluctance to pursue that goal.

And, Kristen, if you want something a bit more serious, let me know. I can't write anything more heart-felt. My deepest thanks, my friend.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


On Virtual Buttercups, I've been lamenting my lack of balance when it comes to growing crops and making Recipes. Finding balance is more than a FV issue, though. I seek balance in every part of my life, but, like the PH value of a fish tank, it is not something you find only once. It is a continual adjustment.

Goals help. A stated goal focuses attention and resources. My stated goals for September are to write a book proposal and have the first three chapters of Elementals ready for submission to PYP in October. Actually, my goal is to have completed a second revision of the entire book this month. I have two test readers ready to go when that is done.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle through Sherlock Holmes once said the brain only holds so much, so take care with what you choose to fill it. I used to laugh at that. Not so much anymore. Perhaps it is old age, but I don't remember as I once did. Time or attention given one place is taken from another. This is the curse of the flesh. I cannot be everywhere at once. My focus turns toward manuscript submission; everything else suffers.

This hard lesson is with us throughout life. We start to learn it as children. We cannot both go swimming and watch the movie. We must choose.

Dave Ramsey calls it "gazelle intensity." When you are focused on and committed to a goal, you funnel all your resources to achieving it. I have never been one to experience "gazelle intensity." Call me type B, call me too comfortable, call me chemically imbalanced (my personal favorite), but I do not rise to challenges. I sink to them.

It is that "weak" reaction I once referenced. I am not a fighter; I am a scholar. I will think myself to death before I pick up a sword and attack a dragon.

Part of this journey to publication is re-training. I am teaching myself to fight my instincts and "just do it." Even if I fail. Even if I make mistakes. Even if I accidentally mortally insult the wrong person along the way. I must just do it.

It is absolutely contrary to who I am, but that is what must be done if I am to become published. I wish there was someone else to do it for me. That is the wish of every child. It is the reason I am not published yet. It is not my writing that holds me back. It is me. I intend to discover if this year I can change that.

I do not know what it will mean for the rest of my life. I suppose it will mean, for a time, balance will be skewed. My farm may suffer (although I have plenty of 1, 2, 3 and 4 day crops yet to master). My social life may be more non-existent than usual (at least the cats can sit with me as I type). My political involvement may be walking neighborhoods instead of blog posts. So be it.

Slow and steady is my mantra. Today, I will walk that way (she points to the distant horizon of publication). It is all I can do.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Thinking About Evil

In his excellent book Fiction Is Folks, Robert Newton Peck has a chapter called "Black Bart Sniffs a Daisy (or something to that effect. I loaned my book to a writer friend so I can't look it up)." The chapter is about giving your bad guys some redeeming qualities. After all, they weren't born bad.

Let me say I have great respect for Mr. Peck. His book is one of the best, funniest and most memorable books on writing I've ever read. I would never presume to argue his point that many bad guys are two-dimensional, being bad just because the good guy needs someone to foil.

I draw a distinction between bad guys and evil characters. A bad guy is the enemy, the Antagonist, if you will, who for whatever reason causes the Protagonist great angst. The bad guy is an obstacle to overcome, and as such can be good, bad or indifferent. He just needs to be in the way.

But evil characters...Those are a horse of a different color. An evil character enjoys being evil. Maybe she didn't start that way, but she's evil now and loving it. She likes causing pain and chaos and grief. She gets off on it. Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer springs to mind. Yes, she was once a virginal psychic, but she is now one crazy-evil queen of the undead. You cannot appeal to her good side; she doesn't have one (unless you count Spike). Falling into her talons is a drawn-out death sentence. If you're lucky.

I've always been fascinated by those behind-the-scenes interviews where the actor playing the villain explains why the villain is just an okay guy with a misguided vision, a victim of circumstance, really. I have never heard an actor say, "Yeah, he is one evil dude, and I love playing him."

TT: This supports my theory of why many actors are Liberal Progressives. They over-identify with people to the point of excusing any behavior as misguided. Any behavior except conservatism. That is condemned as intolerant and bigoted. Oops! Wrong blog.

Most of my bad guys are evil characters. Like Joey says, "If you're gonna do it wrong, do it right."
My nasty ladies love the violence. My evil dragons eat first and ask questions...well, never. People do reach a point where evil is an end in itself. The quest for power or pleasure or knowledge becomes all-consuming and that's when you don't want to be between them and their goal.

Of course, that's exactly where my Heroes end up.

Good times.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Year In Review

Today is this blog's one year anniversary. I have to do it.


Ehem. With that out of the way, let's review.

My journey began July 2009 with The Roaring Lambs Writer's Conference in Texas. There I met Gene Getz, Allison Bottke and Mary DeMuth. Because of that conference, I created the brand Ranunculus Turtle, started this blog and tried very hard to be open to new opportunities.

Elder brother gifted me my website http://www.robynntolbert.com/ aka Ranunculus Turtle the website.

In the last year, I submitted Star of Justice for publication, entered one contest (those were the same thing, actually) and finished Elementals. I started Past Ties.

I gained a wonderful critique partner, The Lioness aka Kristin Steiffel. I joined an online critique group. I followed the journeys of other writers and encouraged them as best I can.

I wrote 3 book reviews, which means I read 3 brand-new books. I haven't done that in a loooooong time. I hope to continue.

I attended 3 webinars about marketing and making money online (something I would never have done previously). Several changes were made to this blog as a result and I intend to make more, specifically to my website.

I posted 223 times on this blog. More than I thought I would, but less than I could have by a hundred.

I got side-tracked when I realized I was not as popular as the morning paper. No matter. I needed that ego-bruising, too.

Altogether, not the most active year. Dave Ramsey would chide my lack of "gazelle intensity" and I would let him. It's hard to get a word in edgewise when Dave gets going. If only I could get him to be proud of my FV achievements. I have been gazelle-intense there.

What have I learned?

I have a "down time," which appears to be Winter, Spring and Summer. I'll have to work on that.

I like blogging. I like it so much I have 3 blogs on completely different topics.

I need a goal or I have no drive. I must therefore set goals if I am to move forward at any appreciable rate. I would like to attend a conference specifically for my genre interests. Roaring Lambs was great, but I was a turtle out of her shell among those blessed folks.

In my preparations to submit Elementals to a publisher next month, I have revised my website, created a Ranunculus Turtle FB page (just this morning, so please go "like" it) and jumped back into The Sandbox. I am trying to add book-buying into my budget. Alas, vet bills keep interfering.

I chose the turtle as my brand in the hopes she would impel me forward. I haven't been heeding her that much. Slow and steady must be my focus. Turtles don't stop. Neither must I.

Boy, spellcheck hated this post.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Less and More

During the MLS contest I marveled at the obsession with word counts. Having never counted my words, I didn't understand the big whoop. I don't plan my stories ahead of time; it shuts me down. I have a goal, I aim and I write. When I hit it, I'm done.

I do revise. Writing the way I do, I have to, but those revisions are generally adding words in the form of description, and almost never major plot revisions. That, to my understanding, is weird. Most writers can't do that. I don't know why. Maybe their real lives get in the way of their imaginary ones.
In the year or so since I've taken up the writing gauntlet again, I'm learning why editors are obsessed with word counts. Sometimes a story is so thin it can be told in 80K words (or fewer). Anything more is fluff.

Wow. Could I be more arrogant? I'll try.

If the skill isn't there yet, more words are a bad thing. More words don't get the job done. They slog up the pace and confuse the reader and generally get in the way.

For all those critique partners who might read this, I am not talking about your stories. I've been looking at all kinds of stuff over the past year, and I have no particular person or story in mind. If anything, I'm remembering some of last year's contest entrants and comparing them with things I've read more recently.

It is about skill. George MacDonald conveys in any of his 20 page short stories more wisdom and eternal truth than I could in three books of 300 pages. That is the mark of a true master writer and thinker.

Dare I say it? It's not what you have, it's how you use it. More words won't solve the problem if the story is weak, or the skill is lacking. But I would also say fewer words aren't always the solution, either. I've run my way through books before and arrived panting at the last page and wishing I'd had a moment to look around and enjoy what just happened.

One thing I've learned to watch out for is author assumptions. Just because I can see the scene in my head doesn't mean I've conveyed it accurately to the reader. I remember having to rewrite a scene in Star Of Justice because I realized after the fact this was the first time two of the characters had ever met, and I'd completely failed to acknowledge it (Raven and Gamaliel, for those who've read the book). In my brain, I'd already moved on to what happens later. I had to pause and pay attention to "the now."

This is where I would encourage an author to have different people/non-writers read their mss and ask questions. I would also warn an author to consider those questions very carefully. If someone is asking them, it's because you haven't made the answers clear in your writing. This is not the time to explain what you were trying to convey. You won't be in the room with your readers while they're reading. Your real readers won't be able to ask you what you meant. Make sure all the info they will want or need is clearly on the page.

I flesh out my worlds, but that is what I like to read. I want the details. But those details have a purpose. Sometimes they set the scene. Sometimes they convey important information. Sometimes they clarify and sometimes they intentionally muddle the picture so the later surprise is more surprising. On occasion, they get in the way, and that's when they have to go.

Finding the balance is a measure of your skill.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

So Many Thoughts

I want to post about marketing (specifically some new thoughts prompted by Jim Paris), balancing my budget, the movie The Fountain, and some things I've noticed while playing in The Sandbox. I don't think I can give due attention to any of those topics this morning.

Once again, life conspired to awaken me before my alarm clock could. At 2:24 AM Central Time, a thunderstorm with a lot of bark and little bite rolled over my house and took 15 minutes to shut up about it. That means instead of my normal 8 hour sleep cycles, I've had two inadequate naps per night for the last four days. I'm a little scattered this morning. I'm also out of my dark chocolate bars, so I'm a little cranky. And my hair has reached a new horrible phase where it seems to be all bang - impossible to curl, flatten or control in any kind of reasonable manner. On the other hand, Fringe premieres tonight and it's a two-hour episode! Calloo-Callay! I'm desperately hoping that thought can get me through the day.

The cats were awakened early, too, if their current states of sprawled unconsciousness are any indication. The storm was very loud with some spectacular lightning. I'm pretty sure Skamper took to the basement ceiling in his distress. Now, he won't get off my lap. Thankfully Mica is asleep in her box.

Princess Glorya in Elementals goes through almost a month of starvation and sleep-deprivation. She does better with it than I would, but she is a Hero. I just play one on...well, actually, no. I'd be the comic relief and not the plucky kind.

The revisions are not going well. I have plenty to cut in Dyana's sections, but I want to add in Glorya's. I've always felt this way, and I still feel it. Last night, I added almost as many words as I cut. I can't get rid of 8K words if I keep this up, which plops me right back at square one. Most likely, I'll submit anyway, but it will have to be with the "you tell me what goes" kind of plan. That's not useful.

In my renewed quest to prepare for submission, I've re-entered the writing world. This is seriously cutting into my farming time. I knew it would but I don't like it. I've exchanged FV time for Sandbox time and revision time. Time...time...

How do you start an uncomfortable topic? My therapy training tells me you just start and the conversation will pick up from there. That's easier to do in person than in print.

I've noticed something on The Sandbox, and it bothers me a bit. Of course, I only see through a glass darkly. This blog isn't the place to bring it up. I'll send out a generic Post if I have the courage. It's nothing horrible, just one of those moments when you have to ask a "is the VCR plugged in?" kind of question and those can be quite offensive if phrased wrong. Some take offense no matter how carefully the question is phrased. It isn't about any one person. It's just one of those things I've seen throughout my time there, and I'm wondering if anyone else wonders the same thing.

I do my best to be quirky and irresistibly impish in my written dealings, but my default is cold analysis that too often impersonates arrogant contempt. Sigh. I prefer my life to anyone else's but there are moments I wish I were different than I am.

The trouble with an online critique group of strangers is that it is an online critique group of strangers. I believe all of these people mean well, and are competent, capable writers, and would never purposely be mean or spiteful about anything (as I hope I would never be or even seem), but they are strangers. I know them as a name and a writing style. I've lamented before how sterile this kind of long-distance communication is. I would much prefer gathering in a real circle, with real coffee (even if I do have to smell it) and just talking. But that isn't how our world turns now, is it?

Oh dear. I may be a little depressed this morning. That means I should not talk about anything with anyone.

I really hope Fringe starts off well.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Running Late

I am so far behind this morning I wish I could go back to bed and it would be tomorrow. I've been waking up at 3 AM again (not because of Mica, as far as I can tell). I might as well just get up.

I've been playing in the Sandbox the past few days. That's why I'm behind schedule this morning. We're having an interesting overseas conversation about swear words and racial slurs. Interesting to me, anyway. I don't know what the rest think.

My new computer has finally stopped giving me pop-up warning after pop-up warning about Sandbox emails, so I can be a reasonable part of things again. I'm re-reading the rules about posting and such. My unfamiliarity with Yahoo groups has made me too cautious about breaking rules or doing it wrong to be of much help to others. For now, I'll err on the rash-side until I get slapped down.

It's raining this morning. We need it desperately, but I may be electrocuted in the shower. Do you ever wonder who will pay the water bill if you die in the shower? I wonder that a lot.

I've been listening to Dave Ramsey in the mornings, and I decided it's past time to make a will. I don't want the State of Kansas deciding what happens to my critters since they (unjustly, I think) fall under the legal heading of "property." I have no idea where they'll go. I'm hoping having a Will will prevent my death until a few of them die off first.

And puckernuts. That reminds me it's the first of the month and I still have bills to pay before work.

Heavy sigh. Maybe I'll luck out and get electrocuted. It won't make any difference to my hair and might actually improve my skin tone.