Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dear Santa - Erin and Laura's Christmas Wishes

We don't want to bother you with any selfish requests for ourselves.  And besides, we know you are really busy and it's a bit late in the season for you to build us something.  So we won't make either one of those "naughty kid" sort of mistakes.  There's really only one thing we each want for Christmas, Santa, and we'll have to ask for it separately (for obvious karmic reasons, see the Upanishads for details) so here goes...  

Dear Santa,

Would you please get Laura a literary agent?  It doesn't have to be a magical literary agent, although that would be fine, but just one who can make sure her awesome books get published. As for me, I'm all set.  I don't need a thing.  

Love and Merry Christmas,  

PS - Thanks for eating all the cookies, cause it really helps me stick to my New Year's diet if they are out of the house.

Hey Santa, 

I just want you to know that Erin's been a really good girl this year. She's been working hard at revising her novel and teaching classes and building a client list for her yoga studio. In fact, she's been working too hard. Do you think you could somehow, with all of your Christmas miracle ways, find some time for Erin to have to herself? Yeah, I know, it's kind of selfish because I want to read her novel so bad and I'm getting impatient but still. Just a little time, Santa. I know you've got the magic to make it happen. *wink wink nudge nudge* 

Thanks, and good luck on the big night!

PS - Can you settle a bet for me? Are the elves from the North Pole cousins to Rowling's house elves, or are they a different breed altogether? I've got $50 riding on this...

And because no letter to Santa would be complete without it, you must hear DUMBLECLAUS. But also, Erin's brilliant Scribbulus essay exposing the truth: Dumbledore IS Santa Claus

Friday, October 21, 2011

Jesus Potter Harry Christ

Just taking a moment to post a blog entry because I made Laura promise to smote me if I did not.  I don't have it in me to continue the story of my teacup body at this time but I will eventually.  Right now I'm busy with life and writing.  Primarily I'm trying to figure out how to pay my bills doing things I like while not having to work so much that I don't have time to write.  Yep, that's all.  Anyhow, I am rewriting my novel Windfall (for the nth time) and I'm about halfway now so it's coming along but I have set myself goal after goal that I keep missing.  The next one is December.  That is why I am not around blogging or tweeting or whatever things I ought to be doing.  Once I finish my rewrite I'll feel more bloggish.

I am currently reading an interesting book - as is Laura - called Jesus Potter Harry Christ by Derek Murphy. This book isn't about Harry Potter or even about Harry Potter being a Christ allegory.  No.  It's about the symbolism that underlies all mythic stories.  Murphy proposes a source for these symbols.  He suggests that the common symbols that show up throughout all human civilizations for thousands of years and their equally similar stories all stem from astrological features and the pattern of the sun, moon and the planets.  I am not an atheist, as this author seems to be, but I love what he's put together in this book.  It's so interesting. The information he presents is a really concise way to get a lot of mythical and symbolical information and I do recommend it.  I mention it here because I think other authors could use the symbols and structure of world myth in their work and this book with its silly, trendy title is a good source of basic mythic structure, the roots of mysticism and symbolism.  While I find it almost humorous that he would suggest that it's just a giant coincidence that man looked up at the stars and found the same constellations and stories written up there, I will say that the overview of the stories and their link to the procession of the stars and planets is utterly awesome info.

It's interesting to note that Laura and I approach this issue of symbolism and plot in two different ways. I am always looking for ways to structure my plots and morals around symbolism and myth.  She is not.  However, I am confident that both methods will bring similar results.  Try or not, we both connect with the collective unconscious in our writing.  I have seen too many pieces of evidence for it to be a coincidence. I enjoy finding evidence of Laura's connection with the collective.  And I surprise myself with things I develop seemingly on my own, only to find interesting ancient stories that parallel my thinking in some curious way.

Sometimes I hear people complain, "Now days the stories aren't anything new." They might even say, "It's a sign the end of the world is coming."  I also love the phrase, "There's nothing new under the sun."  I suspect it is probably all true.  And I don't think we should feel jaded about it.  I don't think it's a symptom of 2011 but of 40ish.  What I mean is that once a human reaches a certain age, whether it be 40 or 50 or so, he or she starts to notice that the stories sound just like the ones they loved 20 or 30 years ago.  And it feels like the stories they heard 30 years ago were new and the ones they are hearing now are lacking in originality.  I propose that it isn't a symptom of 30 years of history but of 7,000 or 70,000 even.  The human story is just the human story and all its variables lead to the same thing in the end.  I won't bring you down by mentioning it by name... cough  *grim reaper* cough.  This does not mean, however, that the process of creating new stories is worthless, just tricky and tricky in a good sort of delicious, wonderful way.  As authors our challenge is to keep the same stories seeming fresh.  It's easy to write something new for a 16 year old, but can we do it for a 45 year old?  And odds are, one jaded 45 year old is our agent and another is our editor... so we better figure it out.

I like to give blessings at the end of my blogs. I'm not really sure why but it always seems like the right thing to do.

So for you, authors extraordinaire,
may each story you write
feel fresh to the core
even to the most jaded
of super agents. 


Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Brave Little Mushroom

I went for a nice hike the other day in a nearby state park and came across this little guy: 

Now, you can't really tell from that picture because I was too chicken to get close to the edge, but this mushroom is in a very precarious position. It's growing on a small outcropping of tree roots and moss, hovering over a drop of probably 100 feet or more. As a matter of fact, here's what a view of the mushroom's home looks like from within the cave it grows on:

That should give you an idea of why I was so uncomfortable trying to get a good picture of the mushroom. I'm terrified of heights to begin with, but add to that its questionable perch and the slippery leaves surrounding it and there's a snowball's chance in hell.

Regardless, I kept thinking about that little mushroom all through the rest of my hike. I guess, in a way, I somehow felt like this fungus was my kindred (says a lot about me, huh?) But I also found it downright inspiring. Here was a living thing, taking a risk, trusting its small tubular body to keep it from falling over as it strained to see over the edge.

We take a lot of chances as writers. We take a chance on an idea, or maybe a character. We take a chance in starting something that will be incredibly hard to finish. We take a chance in putting a metric ton of ourselves into something that consumes us. We take a chance in sending this piece of ourselves out into the world to be judged, critiqued, rejected, and - hopefully - accepted.

Right now I am in the process of submitting to agents. My little mushroom friend and I are both sticking our necks out, taking a risk, hoping that the risk will pay off and we'll get a little slice of sunlight.

But you know, it's not so dangerous to lean over the side of a mountain if you know you have strong roots. If you've worked hard, studied the craft, revised until it's the best it can be, you've got a great foundation that will let you stick your neck out just a little bit more, and maybe, just maybe, you'll feel that sunshine on your face.

I'm a little in love with this metaphor, and I'd love to hear from you about your own mushroom risks and roots. Where are you in the writing process? What's giving you the foundation to take a risk?

(This song by Josh Groban is totally appropriate for this discussion even though it examines it from the angle of letting yourself go and taking the risk of falling in love. So maybe the falling aspect is a bit of a mixed message but whatevs. It's beautiful. Just listen. And if you'd rather go with this metaphor, run with it. I'm listening.)


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Swami Laura and the Tan Hand Band

Now that Erin had a better teacup pattern, with eyes and a face for one thing, it was time to really fix her teacup situation.  Or try.  Both she and Laura knew it.  But still, it was hard to know where to go from here.  The two women just looked at each other.

"Okay.  I'll take your kids over to your mom's place, Erin.  You can't take care of them in this state. It's too much to ask of a teacup.  And you...   you...  gather up those papers on the floor.  Put them back in order and when I get back we'll figure out what needs to be done."   

It might have made more sense to reprint the entire 300 page document but it did give her something to do so Erin started to organize the pages.  1... 234... 37...  5...  95...

"Well, well.  Aren't you looking the worse for wear."

It was a baritone voice.  Oh great, now I'm hearing things, thought Erin.  She ignored it and bent forward to pick up another stack of papers.  54... 55...  3...  27... 28... 29...  264... 

"Don't insult her, Randolph.  She's doing the best she can.  It just takes time."  Again it was a baritone voice from behind her. 

As if I need another thing to deal with.  Erin straightened up.

"Well, if she didn't write me like some stiff cliche.  I mean...  the evil twin... give me a freakin' break."

"What, Randolph, you don't like sharing a face with me?"

"Actually, Raymond, I consider your blue black, shoulder length hair stunning, darling.  Just stunning."  And with that Erin could wait no longer and turned around.

There they were. Two men.  Two men without shirts on.  Two identical men.  In her bedroom. Handsome. Without shirts on.  She fell on her ass and stared up idiotically from her teacup cat eyes.  Two men without shirts on should not be in her bedroom.

"Yep, the maker is an idiot."  Said the one on the right.

The one on her left came  over and helped her back onto her feet.  "It's okay, Erin, you are going to figure this all out.  It's not that you can't, honey. It's not.  You will work hard and it will come with time.  Don't give it up.  This is what you want, so make it happen!"

"Always such a damn optimist. Don't lie to her, Raymond. Most people don't ever make it in publishing.  Heck, most of them don't even finish a book."

"Don't listen to him, Erin.  You've learned so much already.  Your writing... well the style is starting to come together, still it might need some work, but it's coming.  And you've fixed a lot of things.  Those tricky little author intruding words that distance the reader.   The talking heads thing.  How about your tendency to overuse suddenly, quickly and instantly?  Right?  It's progress.  Progress."

"Yeah, but who really cares about any of it, Erin?  Who really cares..." Randolph looked at her with disdain.

"Hiyaaaah!"  Erin fell back down again. "Shut Up!"  It was Laura.  She'd returned and she'd smacked Randolph across the face.

Erin put her hand on the rim of her cup and rubbed it like she had a headache.  "Honestly, Laura, this is all too much for one teacup to handle."

"Excellent, girlfirend!"

"What?" Erin asked.

"Well for one thing you are talking now!  It's a sign maybe you are starting to find your writer's voice after all.  Look, I brought you a present. Read it and we'll talk."  She plopped Finding Your Writer's Voice down in Erin's lap. 

"Okay...  I know you've been after me to read this all year."  Erin nodded at the book, knowing she was going to have to do it. 

"And as for you two, well Raymond, you can stay, but Randolph, put a muzzle on it or I'm kicking you right out the window!" 

"You know them?"  Erin asked.

"Well, sure, Erin. They're in my band.  Let's show her guys."  And Laura started to sing in her disney princess voice as Raymond played guitar and Randolph beat the drums.  "We're Swami Laura and the Tan Hand Band.  Haven't you been wondering what I've been up to on Friday and Saturday nights?  We're playing the club circuit!"

Well, that made sense.  After all, the two men did have awfully tan hands...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Waiting - Laura's 10th Circle of Hell

I finished PERFECT 10 in June, just a few precious days after summer vacation started.

Finishing a book always kind of sneaks up on me. I type the last line and think, "Oh my god. That was it. That was the end." (Yes, I type the last line last. I have Methods. I do not stray from those Methods. But more on that shortly.)

Then I sit there in shock for about an hour and message Erin or my friend and beta, Ann, on Skype and say, "I think I'm finished. Will you read it and tell me if I'm finished?"

(And I have to ask because even though I know when the book should end, there's always so much more in my head that I want to say.)

It takes a few days for the shock of finishing to wear off, and then I'm ready to work. I comb the manuscript once myself for spelling and grammar, and Ann does a round for me too. Then the hard part begins. Massive revisions. Tightening the writing, strengthening the characters, heightening the emotions. Sometimes it's as simple as removing all those pesky adverbs. Sometimes it's as difficult as merging scenes or completely rewriting. With PERFECT 10 I actually wrote out a giant chart, labeling each scene in each chapter. Then I defended it. If the scene wasn't necessary or it had the same purpose as another scene in the book, I dealt with it.

I moved quickly on this one because LeakyCon was coming up in July. Not that I didn't do a thorough job, I just worked my ass off. I didn't want to have something unpolished if I made connections with the agents there.

And I feel I did. So I'm sending queries out and waiting. You know, there are so many difficult things about writing. The actual writing itself, the sting of criticism, the fear of rejection.

But I think probably the most immediate thing for me is the waiting. It's all too easy to sink into that cliched pit of despair. (Cliches exist for a reason, and I defend my right to use them, albeit sparingly.) Every day you don't hear a response becomes another reason to suspect that the manuscript, the idea, the writing, etc etc etc just isn't good enough.

I'm at a point with my writing where I feel genuinely confident with it. I trust my voice, I trust my pacing, I trust that the characters in my head and the plots they've given me are rich and complete. I take criticism in stride now. But criticism is concrete. Unanswered responses are not concrete, and they tend to bring out your worst fears.

One of my dream agents, Sarah LaPolla, tweeted a link the other day, and just in the nick of time for me, so I thought I'd share. It's a blog by one of her clients, Michelle, and it gives you a few reminders to take to heart during this limbo period. It's a most excellent blog, and I can't wait to see Michelle's work on the shelves. (I'm especially looking forward to her book about Vincent Van Gogh, which she hasn't even started yet!) Do yourself a favor and read this post, and stick around for a while. She's got lovely thoughts on writing:

The Patience of Writing 


Monday, July 25, 2011

Catch Up

What did the fast tomato say to the slow tomato?


Let's play.

In the past month since we last posted anything, things have been kind of nuts around here. We're talking majorly ass over teacup.

First and foremost, Erin and I did a presentation at LeakyCon2011 called "Just Keep Swimming." It was a motivational talk for authors who are suffering from I-suck-itis. It went really well, and the participants seemed to really enjoy sharing their experiences with each other. We have tons of info leftover from that presentation, so if you couldn't make it to LeakyCon, never fear! We will be sharing that here on our blog as well.

Secondly, Erin was an especially busy bee at the Con. She also did an AMAZING presentation on alchemy in the Harry Potter series. It was riveting, and I'm not just saying that because she's my partner in crime. Glued to my seat, I was. I'm sure if you beg real nice she'll be happy to share info from that as well. She also taught a yoga class every morning, and I got to enjoy that class when I wasn't suffering from con fatigue.

As a result of Erin's popularity, she sold a lot of copies of her book, THE DARK WHISPERS, and also a book of Harry Potter essays, HARRY POTTER FOR NERDS, which contains her fabulous essay as well. And I bet that even if you're not nice but still have some cash, Erin would be more than happy to supply you with a copy of either. *grins*

As for me, your resident ex-Slytherin-slash-Hufflepuff-in-training, I finished my book. I'm in the revision process at the moment (read: otherwise known as the "tear your hear out and wail" process), which is just the constant state of things and will be for a while. And yeah, I may or may not be sending out a few queries. Cross your fingers for me.

So...that's what's new with us.

What's new with YOU?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Erin Gets Her Swerve On!

Deep bow and namaste to you: Anne N. Kenney. (Here's a link to Anne's blog:  for wining our contest to pick Erin a new cup.  The cup design of a tiger was well selected.  Erin has been told that she has the totem animal of the large cat before and certainly loves the ferocity of such an image.  For that choice, we have honored our contestant with the prizes even though she did not have any competition.  :)

And on this note, the exercise of Erin's cup pattern was not random, pointless fun - though that in itself would be worthy activity for the over stressed writers out there.  Instead it was meant to represent the power of a totem or self image.  We are quick to list things that can help our writing get better and that's good, we should work on our skills.  But improving our own self esteem is certainly going to make all our endeavors more successful.  So go on a spirit quest through the mists of your own work - find out from your own work what animal just won't leave you alone or what place you can't escape.  Do you often write of the forest or the river?  Do you return again and again to the lion in your stories?  Do eagles fly near the sun or do fish spin in the bowl on the desk of your antagonist?  What can't your subconscious avoid creating over and over again?  If you find those repeating themes, maybe you've found your totem.

Now that Erin can get her swerve on, let us continue her story....   


"Bzdbldelbluk," Erin burbled in response to Laura's curse. 

"Hmm," Laura said, stalling while she thought of something to say.  "Well, a burble of nonsense is an improvement."  She tried to sound encouraging as she reached down and took the shoe from Erin's hand.  She placed it on the bed and then used her whole arms and chest to roll Erin onto her side and then stand her up on her feet.  Puffing from the effort, she said, "There... you are...  At least... you are standing... up now."

"Grglethrstbif" Erin managed.
"Here lets take a look at you in the mirror,"  Laura guided Erin's extremely top heavy body over to the full length mirror and  the two of them looked sadly into the reflection. "I'd like to pretend I've seen this before but...  I haven't. 

"And, my GOD, that pattern is just...  well, you need something better than  that.   Those little roses are... something my grandma would just adore.   So... I have an idea and I know it will work."  Laura faked confidence so Erin could calm down.  

Erin tried to nod her cup rim encouragingly back at Laura but it destabalized her so much she fell on her base again and Laura had to stand her back up.  "Careful now, Erin, it looks like you are very top heavy."  

"Rlllrutingrrro!" Erin growled.
"Right.  Moving along then.  Here's what you need to do.  Close your eyes.  You can close your eyes can't you? Ah, good, you can.  Okay, so, close your eyes and think back to what you were writing last night.  You might also ask yourself the following questions about your story:
  • What has brought my main character to this place in her/his journey, this moment in her/his life?
  • Whose life has she / he been living?
  • Does my main character feel like things in his/her life are out of sink?  If so, how?"  
Laura stood next to Erin holding her hand for what seemed like a very long time. She did not dare walk away and risk Erin falling down again.  The room was so quiet that the sound of Scooby Doo playing from the family room TV seemed overly loud: 

"You know we got a mystery to solve
So Scooby Doo get ready for your act
Don't hold back
'Cause Scooby Doo when you come thru
You're gonna have your self a scooby snack
That's a fact"

Finally Erin squeezed Laura's hand. Laura said, "What you need to do is search for an element of power from your story.  Something, anything, that makes you feel safe.  And then when you find that, focus on it fully.  Every detail in perfect, precise clarity.  As though you had it right in front of you."

Again, they stood there in silence.  Laura shifted on her feed uncomfortably and worried Erin's legs had to be getting tired from holding up her heavy cup.

It took so long that the next program started downstairs.  Laura could here the song again:

"I will travel across the land
Searching far and wide
Each Pokemon to understand
The power that's inside"

Then ever so slowly Laura noticed Erin's cup was changing right in front of her eyes.  Where silly pink roses used to be, faded, barely visible imprints remained and giant blue eyes became visible.  The fading and the dawning of a new image continued until finally the roses were completely gone and Laura could see clearly what Erin had chosen.

 "Okay, Erin, you can open your eyes now."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

All About Your WIP, or... Erin and Laura Are Nosy

Watching the Ass Over Teacup Twitter feed is a thing of beauty. And wonder. And utter madness. The tweets fly by without a prayer of reading them all. There are just SO. MANY. WRITERS.

And that's just a tiny cross-section. For every writer we follow, there have to be thousands that we don't or heck, don't even know what Twitter is. Which makes me so curious...

What do you people DO? I mean, what are you working on? What gets your muse all a-flutter? What are your goals? That's right, we're very curious about you.

Why? you might ask. Because it's part of our super cute, inquisitive nature.

Also, because we care. Because every writer wants to be asked from time to time, "Hey, how's it going?" and wants someone to want to know what they're up to.

That and we're just really freaking nosy.

I mean, come on. We've got a bajillion writers on the other end of this Twitter thingy and we don't even know what you're up to. We're dying of curiosity here!

So if you would, copy and paste these few questions into a comment and let us (and the rest of our readers) know what's happening.

  1. Who's your audience?
  2. What's your genre?
  3. Who's your main character? Tell us a bit about him/her.
  4. Are you writing in 1st or 3rd person? (No, 2nd is not an option). Past or present tense? (No, future is not an option.)
  5. Do you have an agent? 
  6. What stage are you in right now with your work? Writing/editing/querying/submission?
  7. How's that going for you?
  8. Anything else you'd like everyone to know about your WIP? 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Laura's Writing Meme

For shits and giggles, let's all do this, okay? Comment back or link us back to your own blog if you do it!

What’s the last thing you wrote?
I wrote about 600 words yesterday of PERFECT 10. Not exactly a record, but time was fleeting.
Was it any good?
I kind of love it. It’s probably one of those darlings I need to kill, but it’s a good discussion between Sam and his English teacher about his drive to write. Really hits home for me.
What’s the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
In a notebook somewhere in my parents’ house is a story about animals that I wrote probably in 4th grade. It was totally a rip off of James Howe’s Bunnicula series, but I was really proud of it then. I still have poetry and short stories from high school as well.
Write poetry?
I’ve written one poem in the last 10 years. Seriously.
Angsty poetry?
I guess my one wasn’t very angsty, so no.
Favorite genre of writing?
Young adult. I feel it’s my home. To be more specific, romance and issue-driven YA.
Most fun character you ever wrote?
Probably Brad King from REFUGE. He had a wit, sass, and intelligence that were just the perfect storm. Travis from PERFRECT 10 ranks up there too. (And if we’re going to go with fanfiction answers, Brad from any of my Adam Lambert fics, Draco Malfoy, and a rocker named Noah Groban. *smiles*)
Most annoying character you ever wrote?
Annoying? Hmmn. Josh Turner, the bully from REFUGE, was a whole lot more than annoying, so he doesn’t count. I would almost say any of the women from my Compass Rose fantasy trilogy, save for Bilhah. As much as I love Veronica, she can be a real brat.
Best plot you’ve ever created?
My Compass Rose trilogy, definitely. I loved being able to build that universe and exorcise all my religious angst while weaving one of the most complicated plots I’ve ever dreamed up. (Call the Darkness Light wins for fanfic).
Coolest plot twist you’ve ever created?
Well, I can’t tell you, that’d be cheating. But the end of the CR Trilogy ranks. I don’t particularly think I’m good at plot twists because I feel like everything I write can only end one way.
How often do you get writer’s block?
I don’t believe in writer’s block. I get stuck, not blocked, meaning that it's not that I CAN'T write, it's that I don't know what to write. But I can always write SOMETHING.
How do you fix it?
I spend time with the characters in my head and really listen. Sometimes, if it’s just an issue of not knowing what to write next, I plan and try to untangle my plot.
Write fan fiction?
Yup. See above.
Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
Yep. I think it’s my bread and butter.
Do you type or write by hand?
Type. I plan by writing by hand, though.
Do you save everything you write?
Fiction yes, blogs no.
Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
Yes, but not often. It’s much more likely that I reuse an idea that didn’t quite fit something else. Or something I just thought was so great it would work again. (For example, Travis’ band in PERFECT 10 shares a name with Noah Groban’s band in a fanfic. It was just a cool name!)  
What’s your favorite thing that you’ve written?
The scene in FROM EAST TO WEST where Vincent is killed. The image of all of the magicians locked in the temple while the cardinal unleashes mustard gas on them is horrifying, and Vincent’s goodbye to Cain kills me, even now. When I finished writing it I just knew it would be something that would stick with the reader long after they read it.
What’s everyone else’s favorite thing that you’ve written?
Those that have read them would say my fanfics, That Good Night and Call the Darkness Light. (Or even Through the Night, from the old Grobanite fandom). But those who have read my original works would agree with my answer above, or say the dinner scene in REFUGE.
What’s your favorite setting for your characters?
Depends on the characters. My modern boys seem to love Athens, Ohio, a fun little college town. My fantasy characters tend to go for manors and sprawling estates. Some even prefer Heaven. *winks*
What’s one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
Horror. I don’t think anything I’m capable of could terrify or scare.
How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Just one. I abandoned pretty much everything to work on PERFECT 10. Sam’s too loud in my head anyways. He won’t let me write anything else.
Do you want to write for a living?
Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper?
Not since I was a child.
Have you ever won an award for your writing?
LOL, not unless you count Mrs. Cryder giving me the best story award in second grade!
Ever written something in script or play format?
No. I don’t think like that, and I can’t make myself.
What are your five favorite words?
Serendipitous. Sanguine. Languid. Possibility. Cacophony.
What character that you’ve written most resembles yourself?
Bilhah in FROM EAST TO WEST. I’d like to resemble Meg Oliver in PERFECT 10 more, but I can only admire from an envious distance.
Where do you get ideas for your other characters?
Real people, or people I’d like to meet.
Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Yeah. I wrote about a glittery vampire in a flower-filled meadow and… Oh, wait. No. That wasn’t me.
My dreams are not the best for writing, but right before I fall asleep is when I “write” the best.
Do you favor happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
None of the above. I prefer satisfying endings, even if that means a sad one.
Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
I’m more concerned with just trying to keep up with my characters. But spelling and grammar know-how kicks in while I run after them.
Does music help you write?
I don’t use music with words much when I write. I write a lot to silence or to white noise from an iPhone app I have. That said, all of the Compass Rose Trilogy and REFUGE were written to Henryk Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony, the Dawn Upshaw recording.
Quote something you’ve written. The first thing to pop into your mind.
This is one of my favorite lines in PERFECT 10, and my main reason for including it here besides loving it is just that the scene will not survive the first round of edits:
My parents were scholars, both professors at the university in the center of town. Liberal in politics and atheist in belief. I, therefore, was liberal and atheist. But I’d heard about sin from a few of my Christian friends at school and my brain had quickly filed it away with other religious words like “karma” and “salvation” and “inner peace”, right under the broader category of “bullshit.”

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hey, Slow It Down...

We agreed to be honest with each other, didn't we, readers? No? Well, maybe not out loud or in some binding, written contract, but this whole blog is about overcoming all the negative that comes with writing and focusing on the positive, and to that end, I want to be honest with you.

The past couple of weeks I have been STRESSED. I am talking major anxiety. I actually told Erin last night that I feel like negativity is just following me around, like I'm Eeyore and I've got my own little personal storm cloud hovering above my head, everywhere I go. Which is both melodramatic and kind of psycho sounding, but it's really how I feel. I'm kind of a mess, a big ball of frantic worry and paranoia and frustration.

Why? A bunch of things. On the real life side, the choir and band I direct have a few end-of-the-year performances coming up. I have a lot to pay for on the horizon and I'm feeling the money crunch. My teaching schedule has doubled again and not only is it stressful planning more lessons, I'm with large groups of small children a lot more than normal, which is stressful in itself. My masters courses are about to start up again and I feel the work looming over me. 

On the writing side of life, I'm really struggling. I am writing a young adult novel that I personally think is my best work ever, but as much as I believe in it, it's hard to feel justified feeling that way. I'm going to say this honestly and hope I don't sound too whiny with it: It's really hard to feel enthusiastic about your work when you feel like you're the only one who IS enthusiastic about it. 

Don't get me wrong. I know everything I get back from my readers can't be glowing. I know they can't possibly reach my level of enthusiasm, even at their most glowing, because they didn't bring these characters to life. And I also know that most of the lack of enthusiasm isn't on purpose. A lot of the people I usually bounce ideas off of or read my work are really busy right now. It's not that they don't want to read it and spend time telling me that it's awesome, it's that they can't. I am a bona fide feedback whore, and a little encouragement goes a long way into keeping my momentum (and my morale) up, and without that crutch it's hard for me to push myself. (This subject is worth a whole slew of blogs by itself, and I'll do that, I promise.)

So... in essence, writing feels very lonely right now. Combine that with not having the time to write most days, and it's a recipe for a crap ton of stress.

So what can I do to alleviate some of this stress? Well, here are some things that have worked for me, and hopefully they might work for you too. 

  1. Do something peaceful to calm yourself down and get some clarity. Take a walk in the woods. Sit still and watch a candle burn. Do a religious ritual. Take a bubble bath while listening to Enya. Do something only for yourself, even if you have other important things to do. Forget them for a half an hour and read indulge.
  2. Make a list. To Do lists put things into perspective for me. If To Do lists stress you out even more, then make a list of things that you can do, and things that are out of control. Tear up or burn the list of things that are out of your control because THEY ARE OUT OF YOUR CONTROL. 
  3. Get Busy. Nothing will relieve stress like putting some hard work in, and although any type of work will do you some good, if you work on those items on your list from #2, you'll kill two birds. Conquer the small things first, and use that positive energy to propel you into the harder stuff.
  4. Let it go. All those things you can't change? Let them go. I know it's hard, but dwelling on it is a waste of time. My orchestra director used to say, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig." This is so true. Like I said up there, burn a list of these things, or write them down and then put the list away, symbolically putting all of them aside. Or call a friend and bitch about them until you can bitch no more, and then stop thinking about them. If these things don't work, meditate on them, visualize these problems becoming smaller and smaller until they're barely grains of sand in your consciousness.
  5. Be your own counselor. Still stressed? Write yourself an encouraging note about something you've done. Leave helpful quotes on mirrors, refrigerator doors, and other places where you'll see them. Reward yourself for an accomplishment, no matter how small. Print out an example of your best writing to pull out and read every time you need to know you've done a good job.
  6. Drop it like it's hot. If you're doing something you don't have to do, don't do it. Delegate. Say no when asked to take on other projects. Put off things that can be put off in lieu of more important, more time-sensitive things. And related closely to that...
  7. Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow. Twitter teaches some great life lessons. The best one is that if there's someone on your feed that pisses you off, raises your blood pressure with their opposing viewpoint, or likes to start drama, YOU CAN UNFOLLOW THEM. Unless they're a real life friend, there's no point in keeping them around. And this goes for anything in the world. Unfollow those things that don't matter, yet keep you on edge. That TV show you have to see, so you rush to get everything done before 8pm? It's a source of stress, no matter how much you enjoy it. Stop watching it or Tivo that shit so you can see it when you have time. That blog you just HAVE to read every day? No you don't. It's just a blog. (Oops, did I just lose readers?) Don't read it. The post will still be there in a month, when you have time for it. The scrapbooking/jewelry making/latest novel for your book club that you ABSOLUTELY NEED TO DO RIGHT NOW? No you don't. You're a big girl now. The only person making you do these things is yourself. Don't make yourself do them anymore. 
The best part about all of this is that even if you're not enthusiastic now, fake it. Do some of these things and after a while you won't be faking. If nothing else, they totally get the ball rolling.

Phew. Well, I'm feeling better. How about you?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Elizabeth Littman - Who the heck is she?

Are any of you fantasy readers?  Yeah, I imagine you are.  :)

When I was a little girl I was a huge Anne McCaffrey fan.  Read everything she'd written, even the books with a small amount of that adult mojo that an 11 or 12 year old girl really isn't equipped to totally understand.  One of my favorite books was Dragonsinger.  It had all the right kinds of things.  Dragons.  An oppressed young woman who had a super talent that she wasn't allowed to use.  Dragons.  Mean teachers and peer pressure that resulted from that super talent.  Did I mention dragons?

Ever think that if you are going to be a social outcast then you better have a super talent of some kind for a root cause (or maybe for a bonus prize)?  I call it the Super Power Excuse: the cause of a hero feeling out of sync with the world.  If I could pick my life's theme I'd pick that one, complete with Superman soundtrack playing in the background (lately I've been wondering if I'm really Catwoman instead, but it works either way). So if indeed that could be the major theme of my life than I anxiously await the discovery of my super talent.

And while I wait I'm not idle with regards to my own skills.  I'm  working hard.  I figure if you don't have a clear super talent maybe you have to create one for yourself.  So working on my writing and my yoga seems to be the right things for this decade.

In the midst of all that, I found Elizabeth Littman hanging around on the web a bit. She's an illustrator of fantasy books and specifically she drew the covers of Drangonsong and Dragonsinger.  An artistic flash from my childhood! Ahhhhh, the super power of gifting enchantment, offering a fantasy universe in one picture.  That one is hers. 

Today, I got to speak to her on the phone.  She described to me her method.  At the beginning she reads the book she's illustrating.  Bless her for that!  And then she begins drawing.  She gets lost in her work.  Lost lost.  Gone.  She lives in it.  The kids, the bills, the house, the real world vanish and the fantasy world becomes all that there is.  The messes breed new messes, the children feed on Fruit Loops and Poptarts, the utilities get cut off, the pets eat each other but... the work gets done.  I guess this is what it means to be ass over teacup. 

Three months and perhaps 600 plus hours later she has her finished product made of water colors, pen and pencil.  A cover of enchantment!   Her magic is woven into the work of fantasy for each reader to enjoy over and over again.  

We parted from our call with such warm feelings. She gave me an enchanted gift many years ago.  I hope that I gave her a gift as well.  The gift of my wonderful memory of her work that has lasted for 30 years. I hope it inspires her to return to her art more fully now that her children are grown.  And I want to say to all who read here: may you also create a wonder of art that gets your readers lost and may it come from your own lost self.  Get lost and found over and over so that others can lose and find themselves.  Maybe our lives are ass over teacup, but at least we are alive! 

PS - Don't forget to enter the contest here  :)  Find a new teacup pattern for Erin!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Contest Extension

We are extending our contest deadline by one week.  New Deadline:  April 29 at midnight.  Thanks so much.  Hope you feel inspired to enter! 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Contest Time! Erin Needs a New Cup Really Bad


Win a free copy of:

Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke  [Fire]
On Writing by Stephen King [Earth]
Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul by Burkhardt   [Air]
Journey to the Heart by Melody Beatie [Water]

Four books - four elements - four ways to write.  Live the alchemy!

If you are interested in this collection of fabulous books just submit a link to a new china pattern for Erin with an explanation of why it will help her out of her dilemma to us in the comments section of this blog.  Make sure your email address is accessible so we can contact you if you win!  Also, winners will be selected based on your explanation more than the pattern you choose so make it a good one!  Contest starts today and concludes next Friday 4/22/11 - Good Friday - at midnight! Winner(s) will be announced May 2, 2011.

Good luck!  May you make Erin laugh her cup right into a better pattern!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Finally Writed

"Oh, GOD, Erin.  What have you done to yourself?"  Laura moaned.

Erin just flailed her arms and legs around miserably like the useless teacup she was.  She was grateful that Laura had not yet asked her what to do because she had no idea and couldn't answer anyway.  She was even more grateful when Laura said, "Well, first thing to do is get you back on your feet.  That much I can be sure of."  And she reached her arms around Erin's brim, tipped her on her side and then rocked her to her bottom. From there she was able to help Erin stand without falling back over again. 

"Honestly, Erin, I should have seen this coming."

But Erin didn't have time to get exasperated by Laura's attitude.  She took one look at herself in the dresser mirror and was mortified.

Laura, being unskilled at reading teacup facial expressions, kept right on talking as though she didn't notice Erin's shock at seeing her cup properly for the first time.   "First of all, your writing had signs all over it of your dissatisfaction with your life.  And all of us have been talking about it. And we all know what happens when life isn't satisfying; something has to give.  No matter how good other things are..."

The idea that her friends were discussing her generally fragile mental and emotional state behind her back would have made her angry on another day, but all Erin could think about was how absurd her cup was.  If she was going to have the nerve to get herself turned into a teacup she could at least be one with a really nice design.  There were so many really gorgeous ones. 

But she was stuck with...

She looked like she had chicken pocks shaped like rosebuds!

(Contest coming in the next post....  prizes:  four books for writers.  Stay tuned.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Enter Lady Laura the Cup Saver

Bang! Bang! Bang!

"Erin? What's going on in there? What are your kids doing downstairs eating pop tarts and watching TV? Shouldn't they be in school? What is going on with you? Are you sick or something?"

Erin thought maybe she had dozed off because she couldn't remember hearing Laura come into the house much less upstairs to her door.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

"Erin! Open the door; you're scaring me!"

Laura must have been knocking for some time to get so upset. Erin felt bad about upsetting Laura.  She tried to answer but again her mouth could not make any sound. She settled for scraping her hands around on the floor as noisily as possibly. Her arms were pretty flexible and so luckily they managed to move some of the things lying around, most of which were papers from her abandoned manuscript. She also managed to shove three coat hangers, one of her son's discarded toy cars and a shoe. The shoe was loud enough to be heard in the hallway.

"Erin? I heard you; I know you're in there. What's happened to you? Your boys have turned the first floor of the house into a scene from Lord of the Flies.  You aren't having some kind of nervous breakdown or something?  Are you?"

Erin got a firm grip on the shoe at last and stomped it against the floor once very loudly.

Laura was quiet for a moment and then she said, "Stomp once for yes, twice for no. Are you hurt in there?"

Erin considered that.  Was she hurt?  She wasn't really sure.  Certainly she was not herself. 

Stomp, she answered.

"Okay...  do you want me to break in and help you?"

Stomp, she answered again, this time instantly and with as much force as she could muster.

"Okay...  I...  well, I'll try to break in then."  Laura sounded nervous but very soon Erin heard shuffling from the hallway and then running and finally...  BOOM!  Wood trim pieces snapped off the door frame, the lock gave way and Laura came busting through the door, a 5'3" flurry of energy.  She moved fast into the room, her red hair flying back with the wind, her normally mysterious blue eyes fierce and determined, until she crashed noisily against Erin's dresser.

She had barely stopped for a second when she turned to scan the room.  Erin could see Laura's eyes go from determined to confused as she took in the rumpled bed linens and the mess of papers on the floor.  At first she did not seem to be able to focus on Erin.  But finally Laura realized what she was seeing:  Erin, upside down, transformed into a giant teacup, and waving one brown leather shoe around like a flag of surrender.

"What the fuck?" was all Laura managed to say.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Balance and the Beta

Nathan Bransford got me thinking the other day, as he often does. He posted about finding the balance between writing and real life, which of course is always a problem for writers since we tend to live in our heads and shove the real world under the rug. But this led me to think about the process of writing, and more importantly, the process of editing and revising.

When I went to hear Lauren Oliver speak at a bookstore a few months ago, she mentioned that she had learned the importance of knowing when to trust yourself and when to trust your editor or beta. When it was time for the Q&A portion of her talk, I just had to use the opportunity to ask her about that.

"That's a lesson I haven't learned yet as a writer, so I need your advice," I explained.

Truth moment: The voices you hear as a writer define your writing. Not just the voices you hear speaking as characters, but the voices that give their opinions on everything you do. Those voices are the voices of your betas, your other experimental readers, the various blogs you read for advice, agents, teachers, etc. Hell, they can even be your mother's voice.

The problem with that is that these voices can often be negative, hindering, contrary to your own, and downright silencing. And the problem with THAT is that these voices are often the loudest voices you hear. 

But how do you know when to tell all those other voices to be quiet and listen to yourself, and when those other voices are right?

Lauren's answer was helpful. She talked about developing a good relationship with a primary beta who knows your goals, your style, and your capabilities, and won't interfere with those things as they give critique.

Great advice, but what happens when that person gives you advice you don't agree with? Or what happens with that person loves what you wrote, but a couple of other readers didn't?

That's when the idea of balance comes in. Weigh opinions, weigh your feelings on it, consider the sources (of both!) and see which way the scale tips. Here's what I have discovered works best for me:

  1. Get to the root of your reaction. - If you had a really negative reaction to the critique, figure out why. Was it because you feel strongly that making the suggested change is a bad idea? Or... is it possible you reacted strongly because you know deep down that your beta is correct?
  2. Know your beta. - It's not enough for your beta to know you. You also need to know your beta well enough to know what her tastes are, if she has strong opinions on certain issues, if something in her life affects her reading of the tale... Many factors go into the formation of her opinion. If it's likely that she's the only one who will bristle at it and you like it, leave it in.
  3. Same goes for you. - Why, exactly, do you feel so strong about that passage the beta told you to delete? If you're working out some personal issues, even subconsciously, they sometimes cause a pause in the flow of a story. If you're grinding an axe and the character doesn't need to, drop it. It'll do you AND the story some good.
  4. Consider the source. - If the critique came from someone other than your beta, ask yourself if this person is really the intended audience of your book. If you're writing a horror story and a reader tells you it's too gory, even though she prefers to read series romance, then why the hell does her opinion matter anyway? She's not going to buy your book when it's on the shelves.
  5. Take those preconceptions and shove 'em. - Even the best of us go into reading with expectations, and when the writer fails to meet those expectations, the reader can feel let down and frustrated and it won't matter how brilliant the story was as is. It's human nature. We all want certain things to happen, and when they don't, we get pissed. So really examine what angle your beta is coming from. Does she have a pre-conceived notion that X should have happened instead of Z? But THEN you also have to ask if her opinion is just anger that she didn't get her way or if she may have a point. Did you set it up for one path then take another? (I'm looking at you, Stephenie Meyer). Did her way better serve the purpose of the story? Should you...I don't know...maybe consider her way?
  6. Consider the WANT. - You know how badly you want to write, how badly you want to write well, and how badly you want the validation of being published. You know it because it occupies your mind 24/7. But no matter how much your beta loves you, supports you, and wants this for you, she can't possibly know that constant WANT. There are days that she's just not going to be into reading, no matter how brilliantly you've written it. She doesn't feel that never-ending drive that you do to read and pick apart and make better. On those days, BOTH of you need to just step back and wait for critique on another day. And help yourself from the get go - tell your beta as much about the story as you dare to give away before you send anything for critique, and if the story isn't really her thing, find someone else for that one. You might as well not waste your time and hers if she'll never be into it.
Hopefully, those things help you figure out which side of the scale goes down, and which side goes up.

Most importantly, though, do yourself a favor and find a way to counteract the negative. The negative critique may be right, and if so you've got to do what you can to make the story better, but regardless, the negativity adds up. It adds up, and it's loud. So balance that with a few people in your life that love everything you write. Yes men, if you will. Don't rely on them for critique because they won't be the type who can do that for you, but rely on them for a confidence booster whenever you need one. Indulge in that. But... more on those cheerleaders later.

Go. Balance the critiques. Write.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Put Some Shine On It

So Christina Aguilera got into a little bit of trouble recently. Not, like, Lindsay Lohan trouble or even Charlie Sheen WTF-ery, just a little drunken mayhem. Still, the mug shot that was released makes her look like a fifty-year-old drag queen, which has to be tough for a diva to take. But hey, we can't all be perfect, right? Even multi-talented genies in a bottle have a bad day every once in a while.

As far as bad days go, Adam Lambert has had a few of his own. The day after the AMA performance in which he "shocked the world" by kissing another man onstage probably is the first that comes to his mind.  Talk about a shit storm. Some of his appearances were canceled in retaliation. Pearl-clutching conservatives across the country were flailing about the moral fabric of society being torn to shreds. Nearly every talk show compared his kiss to that of Britney and Madonna's, only for some reason they showed a picture of the women kissing, but weren't allowed to show Adam kissing his sexy as hell bassist, Tommy Joe Ratliff. And this, all the day of his first album release.

Yeah. It's a pretty crappy day when you've got to defend your right to expression, your talent, and your sexuality (nay, your WORTH as a human being) when it was supposed to be a day celebrating a lifetime of hard work.

But you know what's awesome? Adam's a huge fan of Christina's. Yesterday, in his downtime, Adam Lambert watched Christina Aguilera's movie Burlesque and tweeted about how wonderful her performance in it was, how talented she is - all praise praise praise. As a guy who understands just how sucky life can get sometimes, maybe Adam tweeted what he did because he thought she needed some kind words now. But you know what? I'm a huge fan of Adam, I follow his career very closely, and whether he intended for her to see it or not, Adam is an absolute KING of positive thinking. Just take a look at his twitter and you can see it. He's always gracious, complimentary, kind, and encouraging. Heck, look at his charity projects, like Charity Water and the Trevor Project, and you can see it too. As a true believer in karma, he's always putting as much light into the world as he can, and goodness knows, with top selling records and a sold out tour around the world, the Universe seems to be thanking him.

What, Laura, does this have to do with writing?

Here's my point: Whether we're divas, celebrities, millionaires, or poor nobodies, we all have our bad days. As writers, these days come around more often than not. There's always criticism to contend with, rejection, frustration, and lots of sweat and tears as we strive to get better. So when you know a fellow writer who is having a hard time, tell them how awesome they are. Tweet them, Skype them, comment on their blog, email. Become a fan on their Facebook. Whatever. Cheer them up. Help them understand that they are talented, even if they're going through a tough time.

In other words, if they've been arrested for public drunkenness and a god awful mug shot leaks to TMZ, focus on the positive and tell them how awesome they were shakin' it and singing their lungs out in Burlesque.

The thing is, yeah, it's going to make that person feel so much better, but it's also going to make YOU feel better. Whether you believe in karma or not, helping someone else find the positives about their work will also build you a network of people who...guess what? Are going to tell you that you're awesome when you're having one of those bad days in the future.

Be kind to your fellow writers because surely, what goes around comes around.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dr. Temperance Brennan's Advice to Writers

It seemed like hours that Erin was flipped upside down on her brim.  Her legs kicked and swung around helter skelter.  She was wishing she had worn pants to bed instead of a nightshirt, since now her legs were not only cold but her backside was improperly revealed in this position.  On the plus side, her cup rim was nice and wide and it supported her perfectly; headstand was now much more comfortable than it had ever been before.

She reflected on the previous day, as their was nothing much else for her to do upside down.  She remembered the episode of Bones, her favorite TV show, that she'd been watching. She loved David Boreanaz but, then again, what woman didn't? His character, Seeley Booth, was so appealingly heroic. That's what she needed, Seeley Booth to come rushing in and tip her up onto her legs and turn her back into a woman.  She was pretty sure David Boreanaz could turn a teacup into a woman anytime with just a smile.  Maybe he could even connect her with a literary agent or a publisher.  Surely David Boreanaz must know people who know people...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Keepers - Laura's Secret Stash

When I first began teaching music, I went in to observe a friend of mine from college who had been teaching for a few years already. At lunch time (omg, only halfway through the day and we were already exhausted), we sat down at her desk to eat our squares of pizza from the cafeteria and she opened up one of her bottom drawers. There, behind important files having to do with continuing education, IEPs, and emergency procedures, was a thick manila envelope. She tugged it out, tossed it at me and said, "This is the most important thing you can do for yourself as a teacher."

I set aside my cardboard slab of pizza and opened the envelope with no small amount of curiosity. Turns out, the seemingly average envelope was a treasure trove, full of little gems like cards made by students, letters from parents expressing their gratitude, drawings from children, and pictures of my friend with her students on production days.

I raised a brow. "What's this?"

"I call this my Keepers folder," she said through a mouthful of cheese and dough. "Look, some days you're really going to hate this job. The kids are going to act up, the parents are going to bitch about stuff; your principal isn't going to support you. No matter how hard you work and how well you do, your students and their parents will seem whiny and ungrateful, and will ask for more. You're going to go home feeling frustrated and exhausted. You're going to question why the hell you decided to be a teacher."

She leaned over and tapped on the folder in my hands. "This...this will remind you why. Every time a parent writes you a good note, every time a child draws you a picture, every time you receive anything that tells you you're touching lives, put it somewhere safe. Then, on those days when you can't remember why you're a teacher, take it out, open it up, and see all the good you've done."

In my classroom, back behind a bunch of books I don't use, I have a Keepers folder of my own. Every year after the musical, I write a letter to the 8th graders in the cast, telling them how much I enjoyed being their teacher. Some of them write back, and when they do, those letters go in the folder. Drawings from the little ones go in the folder. One I particularly love is a picture a little girl made of me holding her hand that says, "I love you" on it. I have cards from other teachers and parents, telling me how influential the theater program is on their student's/children's lives.

And those hard days, the ones where an angry parent has me in tears or hyper children have worn me out, I pull out that Keepers folder and remind myself exactly why I put myself through this. Not only do I get some perspective, it's a great boost of confidence for when I'm questioning my abilities.

I started a Keepers folder for my writing as well. It's a Google doc, that way I can keep things from online. What do I have in it? You might be surprised. I have emails from friends with their reactions to my novels. One in particular is from my friend Mel, who told me how richly I'd drawn my characters in REFUGE. I have comments from my beta and editor. I have rejection letters. Yes, you read that right. Some of the rejection letters I've received are wonderfully complimentary of my work, though the agents expressed their fear that the books just weren't good fits for them in particular. I have comments from the only fanfiction story I've posted in the last 6 years, a fic that was over 65k long and had an intricate plot that I was very proud of. I also have quotes from other writers that I find especially inspiring.

The crown jewel of my Writing Keepers folder, however, is an email that my favorite author in the world sent me, two years ago. I wrote to Anne Rice, explaining that I used writing as a way to better process my faith and beliefs, as she does, and I asked if she would be willing to look at my work and offer advice. Here is the lovely email she wrote back, which I hold very close to the chest. Enjoy it as I have, and I hope you start your own Keepers folder today, so that on the days when writing seems futile and you think you're never going to be good enough, you can look in that folder and see just how you've already affected those around you.

From Ms. Rice:
I have only just reached your email and you can see, I think, that I am backlogged and overwhelmed.  So please understand when I decline to read your work.  Also you do not need me to read it.  Move on ahead with it.  Have faith in yourself and in your own voice, and move towards getting the book published.  I know nothing about publishing, so there is nothing I can offer there.  But I can urge you to keep the faith in yourself. At some point, every published author was a nobody.  I was certainly a nobody.  I moved ahead. I refused to be stopped.  I wish you every blessing with your work.  Take care, Anne Rice.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dr. Green-Bash Thinks Like a Sad Country-Western Song

Lady Fanga was saying something like, "And Doctor, then, you won't believe this, he actually rubbed his nose sixty-three times at dinner. Sixty-three! And I was counting, so I know! And it was not a quick little rub that a person could ignore. It was one of those," and she took her elegant fingers and pinched her own nose firmly to illustrate, pulling her fingers down her nostrils as though trying to squeeze toothpaste out of a used up tube. "Long, coke addict type rubs. I'm sure he has no idea he does it, but still, a person can't be expected to stop their habits. It's hopeless."

Doctor Green-Bash wasn't listening. Truthfully, since Lady Fanga's failed first marriage she had found something wrong with nearly every man she'd dated. She was saying something like, "And can you believe the next guy I dated said I was beautiful twenty-four times at dinner? Twenty-four! And that just isn't going to work for me at all." Not that he was fully listening, but Lady Fanga was a beautiful woman, tall and impeccably dressed, waves of dark hair and big brown eyes, but she was never going to find love if she thought she could check it off on a list of boxes.

Dr. Green-Bash was still thinking about Erin. He realized she needed to read some books but of course all writers had a stack of books they needed to read and many never got to them. They did read of course; all good writers were readers. But the process of selecting the one thing to read in the pile of books was complicated. He couldn't just recommend to Erin a list of books that would help her. That just would not work at all. She had to decide, as though the idea was hers. Otherwise there was no hope for it. She'd take his advice kindly and even take a book he offered to her but it would sit on her stack or on her shelf and never get touched if she didn't put it on the reading list by her own Divine inner magic.

And that was it, wasn't it?

You imagine that you see me but I no longer exist: what remains is the beloved. The words startled Dr. Green-Bash out of his revelation. He could have sworn they came out of Lady Fanga's mouth.

He shook his head vigorously and glanced over at her but she was sobbing and saying, "Why can't it be like in stories? I want a handsome prince to come to my town and lay eyes on me from a distance and just know I'm the one!"

Dr. Green-Bash thought about The Story of Leila and Majnan by Nizami. Sufi alchemical romance: NOT what Lady Fanga wanted but it certainly was a powerful love story about a prince and a princess. Of course they were never to be together in life:

Two lovers lie awaiting in this tomb
Their resurrection from the grave's dark womb.
Faithful in separation, true in love,
One tent will hold them in the world above.

No, she wanted a lover in this life. A perfect lover. He sighed. "Lady Fanga, please have a sip of this nice calming tea." And he poured her a cup. She looked down her nose at the teacup he offered her as though their was something unacceptable about it. Probably she did not approve of the floral print his wife had chosen at the department store. No matter. It took all the strength he could muster to force out the words, "Lady Fanga, just keep doing what you are doing and one day it will work for you." Of course, he didn't believe his own words, but she got really irate if he suggested her process of searching for the perfect mate might be flawed. Her reasoning was that at her age the pool of possible male partners was just so limited now: all the good ones were snatched up. He was thinking, "Dear Lady Fanga, people are people and they are all worthy of deep love... even the ones that rub their nose." But he didn't say it.

There was something in this line of thinking, however, if he was able to get through Lady Fanga's impenetrable advice shield he would tell her and Erin the same thing. Keep working on your goal, yes, but relax about the outcome - don't search for the perfect man or the published bestseller... just live for the process. Work on your Self as you do it so that you grow more and more from inside with each passing day. Work on your Self... that is the true work of Alchemy and of this life, isn't it? Oh, he was so brilliant. If only he had a way to bottle it and pass it on to Lady Fanga in her tea...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

When I grow up I want to live someone else's dream...

In my comment to Laura's post I mentioned a quote that I got out of a youtube vid shown to me at Pacifica by Jennifer Selig.  Here's the vid:

I show it now because when the path you are on seems especially tangled and challenging, that is when you need to remember the message in that video.  My love to all of you and I hope you will follow your dream to completion.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I Must - Laura's Tattoo

I've thought about getting a tattoo for years. The thing is, tattoos seem a little out of character for me. I'm not the type of girl who would get a tramp stamp, and I'm most certainly not the type of girl who would decorate her whole body with colorful sleeves and murals. (Although, that is TOTALLY my type of man. But that is neither here nor there...)

I wear jewelry that represents certain ideals I value or even moments in my life I consider milestones. I wear a Tree of Life necklace every day; I have an owl necklace that my two best friends on the planet also wear; there is a ring on my left middle finger - right next to my wedding ring - that signifies the moment I finally forgave something I'd been holding onto for years.

But the convenient thing about jewelry is that I can take it off at any time. Decorating my body with ink, quite frankly, scares the bejeezes out of me. A tattoo for me, then, would have to be something so meaningful I will never regret its presence.

After years of thinking about it, I know now that if I ever get a tattoo, it will be the simple words, "I must" written like the print of an old fashioned typewriter on the inside of my right wrist.

"Why, Laura?" you may ask. Quite simply, because of the following excerpt from Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet:

There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity….

This is possibly the best advice I've ever heard, and since I've already told you what I'd have tattooed on my wrist, you know my answer to his question.

I must. I must write. That's why I do this. That's why I stay late at school or don't go to the mall with friends. It's why my husband sometimes has to take a backseat to my characters. It's why I push myself, why I feel human, and why I dream.

And it is, above all else, the thing I need to remember most when I question myself. When the rejection letters come, or the agent who requested that full says it isn't for her, when the doubt and the "I sucks" and the "I'll never be good enoughs" seep in, the voice inside my head should say "I must." It should remind me of the real reason I do this - without writing, I am not ME. Writing is essential to my being, my wellness, and my identity.

If you haven't read Letters to a Young Poet, do yourself a favor and get a copy and a few Post It tabs and highlighters. You'll need them. Seriously great advice packed into every page.

I'm really curious, readers... tell me what you think of Rilke's words. OR tell me what tattoo you'd get. (I'm so curious about your tattoos, readers. I'm curious about what you think of Rilke too. But mostly the tattoos.)

(Also, the story will continue. Erin is away at the moment and has left me to my own devices. MWUAH HA HA. While the cat's away...)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ellen DeGeneres Interviews Laura (In Her Head)

"Drinking wine and thinking bliss, is on the other side of this
I just need a compass and a willing accomplice
All my doubts that fill my head cascading up and down again
Up and down and round again, down and up and down again."

Pink's rough voice crooned to Laura out of the car stereo.  She turned up the volume, loving the music and the words. She imagined herself with Erin, toasting to writer's bliss. Publication at last! It was a sweet fantasy.  
"Oh, I've had my chances and I've taken them all.
Just to end up right back here on the floor.
To end up right back here in on the floor."

Ugh, that's how Erin was all the time these days. On the floor. It was pathetic, though Laura loved her anyway, of course. In fact, just yesterday evening, Erin had Skyped that she couldn't go into bookstores anymore without hyperventilating because of all the people who had been published when she hadn't even queried an agent yet. Laura snorted. She was on her way to Erin's right now, actually. Her friend just didn't seem well, that girl. Somebody had to check on her.

The song kept going and Laura used it to forget Erin for a moment. 

"Pennies in a well, a million dollars in the fountain of a hotel.
Fortune teller that says maybe you will go to hell.
But I'm not scared at all...hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm
The cracks in the crystal, the cracks in the crystal ball."

She started to sing along.  Her voice began perfectly on key, "Pennies in a well...."  but the song just dropped too low for her as Pink dove into her lower range and Laura was left in the soprano dust with her lovely but high Disney princess voice. "Oh, well."  The lyrics made her think of the future again, though.  Erin sometimes talked about tarot and psychics these days - the girl was seriously having issues - but Laura didn't need a crystal ball to tell her they'd make it. She new they would.

Smiling she imagined Ellen DeGeneres inviting her on to her show. Laura, a young author, with her new successful bestseller, Perfect 10. A real hit. It had everything that made a best seller...  a young handsome hero, looking for his perfect boyfriend.  "Okay, so maybe it's not the classic plot exactly," she said out loud and giggled.  "But that's what will make it a hit. A hit that is needed in these times." 

Her imaginary Ellen, complete with her crooked smile and even more crooked blond hair asked, "Well, Laura, it's a long road to becoming a published author. Did you have doubts? Was it a struggle for you?"

"Actually, Ellen, it was. It was tough keeping up my morale. But deep down inside, I knew that I'd make it." Laura said.

"Really? Wow, Laura, I admire your confidence. Usually my guests say they were shocked by their fame and fortune. How did you know? Did a fortune teller predict it or something? Cause I know I'm still waiting for that postcard from God explaining it all to me."

"Yeah, you know, I do believe talent, creativity, and the support of your family are all essential to making any risky venture pan out. I really do believe that. And working on your skills, well that's key. Don't mistake me there. But, thing is, I knew because I think it's mostly sweat. It's mostly the long haul you have to be into.  You have to be completely committed. And, well, I was. I always was. I knew that no matter what happened I would, 'Just keep swimming!'"

Imaginary Ellen looked at Laura and grinned, nodding. She patted Laura on the knee from where she sat in her comfortable, imaginary armchair and said, "That's a catchy phrase, Laura. I'm sure I've heard that somewhere before...  but I just can't place it."