Friday, September 30, 2011

The Collective - Resistance is Futile

My own personal heaven here on earth is without a doubt a writer’s conference. The camaraderie from gathering with a group that will discuss with you whether or not chain mail will clank in terminal velocity, insist that your string universe is scientifically and technically a parallel universe, argue about whether or not an iron maiden was actually made from iron or wood, and brainstorm with you about detailed ways to make bare hands a lethal weapon is all scholarly bliss to me.

My body still aches from the twenty hour days the weeklong conference demanded. The Glitter Globe is swirling with colorful data and several new story ideas were conceived and are clamoring to be born. The instant cohesiveness and fellowship between all genres of writers, from bonnets and buggies to science fiction, was unexpected and inspiring. The kind-hearted open sharing of technique and experience is for me a highlight of being a writer. These are my people. Can I get a Hallelujah? 
And can life possibly be groovier than introducing your imaginary friends to real ones? 
“Hey!  I’d like to introduce you to this guy I dreamed up while sitting alone at my computer for a couple of years!”
“Dang. Nice to meet ya. Uh, Steph?  He’s a bit too perfect, he needs some flaws.”
“No problem, he’s full of flaws, he just looks perfect.” 
“Oh, he sure does… hmmmm, scar him up a bit though, he shouldn’t look that perfect.”
“It’s kind of a shame, but all right.”
*Me inserting some twisted old battle wounds* 
“How’s that?”
“Wow. He looks good in scars.”
“I know, right?”
I can hardly wait for the next conference. In the meantime I’m back at The Glitter Globe working hard, all by myself, just me and my flawed characters. Yeah baby. I love my life.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Photo Credit: Pika Miklitsch
Psych.  Packing my bag (and there is a 33.3% chance it will get where I’m going) for a writer’s conference.  Spent the last two weeks tackling the To-Do List, the first item was “finish novel”.  Good one.  The last item was “pack light”.  Instead of calling them “to-do lists” we should call them “wish lists”.  Been trying to polish up (i.e. rewrite) an old story while trying to fend off an incoming story idea that simply would not be ignored, I kept promising it that I would write it after the conference, but it could not be appeased.  Soon does not suffice when there’s an impatient waterfall of glitter roaring from The Glitter Globe.  Have you ever gotten a Christmas card covered in glitter?  It gets all over the counter when you open it, it sticks to your hands and clothes and sparkles to the floor.  The next day, when you are trying to put in your contact lenses you end up writhing on the floor with the shtuff in your eye. Trying to ignore a story demanding to be written is similar insomuch as it won’t go away and it gums up all other endeavors in the process when you try. 
Say the current story takes place in outer space, and the new story is about sharks and various mammals capable of telepathic communication (work with me here, hypothetical example).  You can be certain that there will be at least a couple of dolphins winging their way through a wormhole. Suffice to say that it is best not to ignore the demands of The Glitter Globe. 
Or go right ahead and just type ten or twenty thousand words of drivel and maybe you can get your sparkly singing whale short-story published while you’re at the conference.  The truth of the matter is you don’t go to the conferences to get anything published anyway.  You go to take workshops with titles like:  There’s Nothing Wrong with You! or Beyond Fangs and Heaving Bosoms.  You also go to meet up with other writers which is really cool, because then you’re with The Collective and you fit right in – maybe with the bats in the attic genre or perhaps with the dungeon full of skeletons crowd, but there is certainly a place for you among your homies.  Bump if ya can feel me.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Superfluous and Concise, Ambiguous and Precise

Knee deep into preparations for attending a writer’s conference I have a firm grasp on the situation. I’ve prepared piles of stories, synopses, flashy “one-sheets” with pictures and blurbs regarding a series I’ve written. A huge pile of business cards stand ready to be forced on those I meet. I’ve practiced The Pitch so that now when I speak it, it sounds exactly like it did when I first started to memorize it, stilted, forced, robotic, absolutely unnatural. Yet out of habit, from years of having paying jobs, I can prepare for a conference like a squadron of squirrels for nuclear winter. No one will starve in my nest. There are piles of nuts hidden over a ten square mile radius, quite impressive for one squirrel. Yet if you ask me to fetch you a walnut in the dead of winter, I will do exactly what those squirrels do. Panic and rush over those snow covered miles searching randomly. It’s a defect, I have no clue why I even prepare in advance other than the fact that it must be instinct.
Once I went on a trip to Florida with friends from college. It was in those days when not a single credit institution would give a twenty-one year old a credit card (obviously not now). We all had cash and trusting in my ability to think outside the proverbial box, my friends thrust their hard earned money into my hands to hide when we had to leave the dodgy hotel room. I think it consisted of about four twenty dollar bills. Big bucks. It was days before I could find it again, the death threats were useless. I’d considered every possible hiding place and could not for the life of me remember which one I chose. Sometimes my mind is in other places. Eventually I found it. I think it had been under the ironing board cover. HEY GUYS!  I REMEMBER NOW!
Here’s the kicker. I’m a writer, a muse, a wife, a mom, not a salesman. Let me tell a little story. I tried to give away a car. It was used, and it was old, but it was running and it was a one owner vehicle and working okay and did I mention the part where it was free?  Have you ever seen those ads to donate your old car?  When I called they said, “No thanks”. I’m not kidding. The problem?  Me. I had to tell them the car’s story. You know the part where it would slam into four wheel drive for no apparent reason. Speaking with the pleasant woman on the phone I was compelled to share that it wasn’t rust proofed because I bought it in Texas where things don’t rust (that’s where I learned about the startle factor of Armadillos first hand btw, subtle reference to previous post) problem was I was trying to unload it in the Great White North. I think I may have even told them that we’d nicknamed the car Chucky after that demonic doll in the movies, because it was evil and would not die. Whatever. Fact is I couldn’t sell a free car. This small flaw where I am compelled to tell my stories could be construed as a bonus in the storytelling world, the obvious drawback is the word limit. Verbosity is apparently not a bonus in the 21st Century where we just want people to get to the point concisely. I really don’t do succinct. I probably would get to the point sooner if I had one, nah, not even then.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Show and Tell

It was time for the big reveal, that early part in a writer’s career when they have to pitch their story to agents and possibly publishers, and most certainly to other writers.  Years of writing come first.  Millions of words.  Thousands of pages.  Hundreds of characters.  Dozens of stories.  All of this from one Glitter Globe.  I’m not talking about being published, I’m talking about pitching your book.  Tell me what your book is about?  In thirty words.  *Deer in the headlights*  That is exactly how I feel when asked that question.  *Fish washed up on shore, gaping*  You’ve been writing full time for four years?  Tell me about the novels you’ve completed.  *Armadillo*  (Ever seen what an armadillo does when startled?  They launch straight up into the air, about the height of the front end of your car.  In Texas they are basically 3D hood ornaments.)

To clarify please understand I know my stories, settings and characters inside and out.  I know my stories like I’ve lived them, because basically I have.  I’ve traversed my settings and taken root in the minds of my characters.  Perhaps you saw me out shopping when I was in character?  You may have been wise to have ducked down the other aisle, depending on who I was bringing to life that day.  I have tucked entire worlds, nay, universes into a story.  It is best summed up like this.  Tell me about your life.  In thirty words.  Go.
Basically to know a story you must read it, but we all know time is precious and you must flash a bit of sparkle to catch someone’s attention.  It took me a month to come up with those thirty words.  I type about 2-4,000 words on any given day, more when The Glitter Globe demands it.  Go figure.  Thirty words about just one story took me a month to write.  I’ve been practicing that thirty word pitch out loud, telling myself, my husband, stray dogs - anyone who couldn’t dart away quick enough at Walmart.  If you’d like to be my test dummy give me a call, I’d appreciate it and I pay in chocolate. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Queen of the Bohemians

(Third adult from left with the first three of her menagerie)

Today is Babushka’s 101st Birthday. She would dearly love a party too. It would need to involve all 1,034 members of her immediate family, including the Icelandic tribe, the gypsies and even the wolves would be welcome on this special occasion. Gram never could resist a pet, which is how Gomer survived the repeated assassination attempts on his wretched, wicked, monkey life. She was his bodyguard. My husband used to say that if Godzilla came thundering through the backyard that Gram would run outside and try to feed him something.
I suspect that is true, and if Godzilla refused whatever she was forking up towards his roaring, toothy mouth, he’d be in for some serious reptilian smack down. Babushka didn’t take any back talk from anybody, not from her demonic little monkey and not from any of her dozens of grandchildren or even from any of the mess of changelings who wandered into the fray and stayed. We kept our wisecracks to ourselves and we ate whatever was plopped down in front of us, which was often wrapped in cabbage or looked exactly like the severed limb of some porcine beast to which it had once belonged. Even her cake looked like it contained thousands of dead ants, but we all learned to love poppyseed cake and I admit I carried on the tradition and force fed it to my own children until they succumbed to the tastes of their ancestors.
Babushka was a mind reader. At least that was the rumor. As a young child there were many times my cousins and I huddled in the pantry, sneaking forbidden cookies that were for Company, knowing that Gram’s prophetic powers would pinpoint exactly who took the first bite and who had masterminded the heist. We lived on the edge though, ever hopeful that we could pin the crime on the monkey. Gomer, however, wicked familiar that he was, ate his share of the cookies every time and then ratted us out with evil monkey screams while simultaneously cleaning all evidence of crumbs off his fur with a demonic glint in his shifty monkey eyes.
It never did occur to us, until we were parents ourselves, that anyone who has borne or raised hordes of children does not have to be psychic to predict behavior. The sun rises and sets every day and you start to expect things. From baby to teenager it was mathematically impossible to cough up a behavior or crime that Babushka hadn’t seen in the Bohemian herd at some point or another. Gram might have saved time by simply taking a good look into the eyes of anyone of her progeny and starting each day by tucking guilty children into corners – but believing whole heartedly in free will, she had the grace not to inflict preemptive punishment.
So here’s to you, my Bohemian Gram, for stuffing Glitter into the Globe even when I tried to run away; for never turning your back on any child or animal  (she fed the skunks) for not even understanding the concept of being inconvenienced. You truly are the wind beneath my flying squirrel wings.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cyberspace Eats Mojo and Promotes Rampant Run-On Sentences

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us, considering that it is a scientifically established fact (conducted by double blind studies within The Glitter Globe) that most forms of media are not only mojo eaters but joy suckers as well and I think that we all know exactly what I mean by that – consider times when you may have been half awake (or asleep however you like to call it) and you mindlessly turned on the portal to hell (some sheeple still insist on calling it TV which as we all know stands for Terror Vision) so that the talking heads within could tell you how to feel and what to be hungry for and make you long for one of those perfect TV houses where nobody ever cleans but everything magically remains pristine and spotless exactly the way yours would be if only your husband would give you the house elf you have put on every single wish list since you first read Harry Potter years ago but he doesn’t, and your own house still resembles a college dorm; even though you graduated from college eons ago you still have all the books and some of the furniture, and you happily keep in touch with those old college friends and your new friends on Facebook, Twitter, Skype and the occasional heartfelt text message and you frankly enjoy hanging out in cyberspace with all your nearest and dearest instead of editing your novel which is akin to being locked inside the medieval weapon of torture known as the iron maiden, except that there is less wiggle room because there are more pencils, paper and red pens in there with you when you edit than if you’d simply committed some form of treason against your clan and been tossed into the dungeon – which is not necessarily a bad thing because there probably isn’t any wi-fi down there and you’d have to sit down and actually edit that novel and stop gabbing with all your friends and friends of friends on-line and maybe, just maybe you’d find your mojo hanging out in that dank, dark, musty dungeon and then you could prove that once and for all it doesn’t really matter where you are physically when you are reunited with your muse and everything might even have a perfectly happy ending because we all know that house elves can apparate you right out of a dungeon anyway, and even if you don’t have your own house-elf probably one of your friends on Facebook does.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Barking Inspiration

Did I ever mention that I have so many Aunts, Uncles and Cousins that I have absolutely no idea how many?  Really.  Math just isn’t my thing.  Gift giving was big in the clan, not sparkly spectacularly wrapped presents with bows.  Nope.  Real treasures, with a story tucked inside each one.  Once an Uncle dropped a box of ducks off for a gaggle of the Bohemian children (God save the ducks) another regularly tossed empty boxes at us and we absconded with Gram’s Good Scissors (pinking shears, they made ridges like tiny rooftops when you cut with them).  Another  brought baby alligators from time to time, they lived (briefly) inside a special little plastic cage with a fake palm tree so they’d think they were still in Florida.  There were kittens and puppies and baby cousins, all eclipsed in my storyteller mind by countless oddities:  A mink shawl with the ferrety heads still attached, ancient books with flowers or locks of hair pressed between pages, huge old pocketbooks filled with live toads, chocolate covered ants and the aforementioned Boomerang Monkey. 
For many years after escaping Bohemia, I gave the most elaborate and gorgeously decorated gifts.  It was a sin (as Gram would often say) to open them.  Nothing contained in those shimmering, bow laden boxes could ever compare to the glittering promise of the unwrapped package.  Still, it was my brief bow to normal gifts. 
It couldn’t last.  In a nutshell – genetics, you can run but you can’t hide.  Normal is simply an illusion within The Glitter Globe, somewhere deep in the DNA something deteriorated to the point that I succumbed to the genetic call of the wild.  I like to think I kept it classy at first, gift boxes of live butterflies that flew out when the lid was lifted.  A brief gift, but oh, so memorable!  My niece was only four at the time I sent her a package filled with 14,400 Mardi gras beaded necklaces – but I guarantee you she remembers.  (That took serious effort, do you have any idea how vigilant you need to be when choosing Mardi gras beads for a child?  Trust me.)  There were personalized ketchup bottles, pirate hooks, bug candy (real bugs but of course), punk rock wigs and tiaras.  My all time favorite to date was sending a flying squirrel to my nephew.  The family dog was certainly enthusiastic.  Remember I was going for memorable and I’m certain my sister still remembers, I know this because she’s still not speaking to me.   

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Super Massive Black Hole

So today had me rolling should into balls and tossing it at the proverbial wall.  Yeah, yeah, Miss Merry Sunshine has those days, as the kids will attest to.  I’m not sure which they fear most, the perpetually happy woman who bounces around the house enthusiastically, “Awesome!  We’ve got a ladybug infestation in the kitchen, I luv ladybugs!” or the cloud that hovers over her laptop scowling ominously through a wormhole into a universe spewing drivel through the portal.  They tend to back away quietly if they happen upon the latter, but seem inclined to avoid the former at all costs.
Edits are landmines and I’m without a doubt the village idiot who runs into the minefield miraculously managing not to notice that she is triggering explosions.   Obliviously avoiding so much as a scratch I start rewriting however The Glitter Globe moves me.  “Hey!  Let’s see what happens if …” and next thing I know I’m rewriting an entire novel.  Yep.  I’m totally into string universes and every edit I’ve ever done has turned into an alternate universe of the novel it began as.  It’s all just part of the creative process you see? 
Yet working under a deadline I’ve gotten myself halfway between worlds and today upon reentering the Earth’s atmosphere, for a fresh season of Reality Bites, I feel the gravitational lensing of a black hole known as a DEADLINE.  Erg!  Wait!  You mean I was supposed to have this ready when?  Um.  Yeah, about that?  But no, no problem, I can do it!  I can write a novel in a week, just you watch me.  It will be better than it was before, stronger, faster, I can make the worlds first…  Event Horizon.  Yes.  That is where I am right now.  And as you all know nothing can escape from inside the event horizon (except blogging, you can blog from in here just fine).  (Someone should e-mail NASA about that, cause I don't think they read my blog.  They really ought, if they want to ever truly understand the physics of worm holes.)

Friday, September 2, 2011

'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky...

Photo Credit: Jag Hodges
When I got some positive feedback, for the first time ever, EVER, on my writing, it took me a couple of hours to scrape myself off the ceiling.  My family was happy for me as I enthusiastically bounced off the walls screeching. “They liked it!”  They smiled and tried to read the critique I was clutching in a death grip as I cart-wheeled through the house. 

My Editor-in-training friend had given me feedback, not so positive, practical, needed and useful, yes, but not positive.  Another friend had been enthusiastic about a synopsis and gave a thumbs up on several pages – before returning my manuscript and going back to her Nook.  I’d been holding out for some ‘can’t put it down’ kind of enthusiasm.  Being that this input did come from The Real World it didn’t quite reach that (as in nowhere near) but it contained words that launched me into the stratosphere (keep in mind I am easy to please, and therefore, easily launched).   The feedback contained such heady words as seasoned writer, unique voice, intriguing premise AND when it sells  Hold tight, I need to engage in a few more back flips.  Am back, sorry, this positive feedback stuff  just hurtles me dangerously near the Ionosphere. 
 I would have embroidered the beautiful affirmation on a cushion, if I did that sort of thing.  Instead I printed it out and keep it beside my computer to read and reread a few – hundred – times a day.  I like to touch it.  Now of course this positive input included many tips on what I needed to do to improve my writing, it pointed out my weaknesses and suggested several books that would help me overcome those problem areas.  Details!  Books about grammar and punctuation hover dangerously near bliss in The Glitter Globe.  Bring.  It.  On.  Love that stuff.