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Redemption Road

Updated: 2018-03-05T11:41:04.389-06:00


The Freelance Writers Den – Review


The Freelance Writers Den will be opening up to new members soon.  I tweeted about it last week, but haven’t really discussed the Den anywhere, so I thought I’d write a quick review.  I signed up for the Den a few months ago.  At the time, I was taking their Blast Off Class and one of the perks for registrants was that you had the option of becoming a Member, even though the site was closed to enrollment at the time.  I’d seen mentions of the site here and there, but I’d never joined before because there is a monthly fee ($25) and, as many of you know, there are an awful lot of free resources out there.  Here’s why I decided it was worth the cost:The Freelance Writers Den includes forums and a lot, I mean a lot, of training material. They offer transcripts of their classes for Members of the site.  I’m a big believer in investing in my education and have taken a number of different online courses over the years.  For me, though, I don’t need to actually be involved in a class to get something out of it – usually the material is enough.  Also, the classes are worth a great deal more than $25, so I think it’s a pretty good investment, if you’re going to do the work that will make the experience beneficial – basically, if you’re going to sign up and do nothing, don’t bother.  But if you’re going to learn new techniques or brush up on things, and then do the work to get new assignments, I definitely recommend it.  I don’t spend a great deal of time in the forums, just kind of pop in there once in a while.  Though, I did edit my own website significantly after getting some great feedback there.  It’s Rhetoric Unlimited, if you want to take a look.My main reason for joining was that, prior to going full-time again this past spring, I hadn’t actively worked as a writer in a few years – the assignments I’d been taking over that time were from set clients and not too much in web content.  I knew I had to brush up on changes in web writing, seo content, etc.  It was worth the cost just to brush up, because the material really is good and you can find something significant on just about any type of writing.  Another perk, though, I found new platforms – blogs to check, places to submit, etc.  The first query I sent out to one of those blogs got accepted, and that guest post paid $50 – so I essentially paid for the first two months with one assignment.I’m giving you the link below to reserve a spot.  It’s not open right now, but once it opens, they’ll give you the option of joining, if you’re on the list.  When they do open to new members, it usually fills up pretty quick – I feel like a used car salesman telling you that, but it’s true.  Before I actually joined, it opened up and I thought about joining… waited two days and it was already closed when I went to do it.  Literally, that quick.  One more thing – the link below is my affiliate link.  If you’re adverse to using affiliate links, feel free to search it on your own… you’ll still get to the same site either way.  Grow your freelance income… reserve a seat in Freelance Writers Den.[...]



The Amazing Chris EldinThis morning, I woke up to an alert on facebook – one of my writing friends (the awesome Stephen Parrish) tagged me in a post to alert me to the following article. It hit me so hard, it literally knocked the wind out of me. I had to walk away from the computer before I could finish the short article. I absolutely could not stomach the comments. Chris deserved a tribute - prose and poetry, and something outlandish, because that’s what she would have done for anyone else. And the article was just some little news story, by someone who didn’t know her, had no idea how many lives she touched or who she was… it was printed at the time of her death – almost a year ago. THAT realization might have hit me even harder than the news. We didn’t know. I think many thought the same thing I did – she was on a social media break and would come bursting back into the blog-o-sphere with some new jolt of energy, rallying the troops or just adopting some new persona to amuse the masses.I first met Chris Eldin at her early blog, A Bench Press , and all around the blog-o-sphere on different publishing sites. Later, she was the driving force of Book Roast. Then she moved on to her own site, Chris Eldin.There was a tribute to her after Blog Roast was retired that Shona Snowden was kind enough to link on facebook, and I’ll include here - The Last Roast. Reading through the lovely comments from friends and admirers is probably the best way to show you who she was.I first met Chris when she was using the blog name, Church Lady. She was witty and energetic and amazing. If her personality didn’t win you over, you were daft. But her writing, well, that was probably even more amazing. I fully expected to see her published. I’m usually not wrong about that, either. We chatted on a lot of different blogs and boards, because we were both working on middle grade fiction and our circles all seemed to intersect. But honestly, as much as I adored her, I only knew the writer. We talked fiction and even when we did email, it was always about doing some bit of marketing or blog tours for a new author, or some new contest running around the writing circle.She was tireless in her efforts to help new authors succeed and market their work, without pay or for any motivation other than maybe being driven to clear the path. She was an innovator in every sense of the word. Some writers have mentioned getting together to do something in tribute. If you’re stopping by here and are in the process of organizing anything, please let me know.Chris, if you’re still checking your blog feeds, I hope you’ve found peace, and light, and love. And I hope you can feel it with every essence of your being.You are and will be missed.  [...]

Book Club Blogs... How I Miss Them


On Sunday, I spent the entire day reading.  The. Entire. Day.  Can you hear the angels sing?  It’s really not uncommon for me to spend a good portion of the day reading.  I read fairly constantly – articles on writing, web design, work-related such and such.  I peruse websites, check fb, and, yes, I do open up a few books during the course of the day – both reference and whatever novels I happen to be chewing on.  But on Sunday, I opened up a new novel, fell into the first chapter, and didn’t come up for air for the entire day (except when I absolutely had to).  I’ll be writing a review of that novel to post on the blog sometime this week… I’m still savoring it.Just that simple joy, of being able to read for the enjoyment of the story, got me to thinking about the old Book Club Blogs.  Back in my early blogging days, I hosted a few book club blogs, and they were a lot of fun.  I hosted one on the book, Lottery, by Patricia Wood – and the awesome author stopped in for the conversation.  Prior to that, I’d hosted ones for The Mists of Avalon and, on my first blog back on a community blogging site that’s now defunct, I hosted Willa Cather’s, My Antonia.Blogging, as a medium, has changed considerably in the last few years.  I think that may be one of the reasons that seasoned bloggers have moved on to other platforms.  There just isn’t the same discussion that blogging once encouraged.  Now, people check in at blogs on their readers or through their email.  They page in but don’t participate in the same way.  The standard blogging principal five or six years ago was to encourage comments you should always end your post by posing a question or asking for feedback.  We looked at it as a way to start the conversation.  Today, the standard is to approach each post as an article.  Some bloggers even turn off the comments, so readers don’t see the glaring “0 Comments” attached to every post.So, I’m going against today’s common rationale to pose this question.  Would there be any interest in resurrecting a book club blog?  I could easily just choose my own books and post reviews, but I’m wondering if any of the other bloggers still tooling around the blog-o-sphere might like the group discussion.Thoughts?[...]

The Soul of the Person


Basic Translation to the e card pictured above:I listen,Not to the words;I listen,To the glances, the gestures;I listen,To the soul of the person.I ran across that picture on Facebook – sometimes curated content is fairly awesome.  The translation might not be exact (my Italian is very limited) but that’s the gist of it.  As much as it is an amazing instruction for living your life – it also struck me as dead on when it comes to fiction writing.  I struggled for a long time with the “Show, don’t tell” thing.  When you take yourself out of the work enough, you can see it… you can certainly read it in other people’s work.  When you spoon feed too much information on what your reader is supposed to think/feel/understand, the characters ring empty.  You’re telling me who they are, but I don’t really believe you.I’ve read a lot of writers (published and non) who use the dialog to “show” you who their characters are.  Technically, it’s not telling if you have one character explaining himself to another… except it is.  I listen, not to the words…Well, that sounds a little counterproductive to us writers, doesn't it?  They’re all words.  Except what you really want is for the words to disappear.  You don’t want to be so overly enamored with the way you sling a phrase that your characters have no soul.  That’s what you need to capture – their soul.How do you determine the soul of a person in your real life?  Is it what they say to you?  If you have a person who tells you how smart they are, do you believe them?  My general rule is that when a person has to tell me they are smart, they’re not.  Either they’re not confident in their mental prowess and are attempting to overcome that by becoming the persona they’re putting out there.  Or they’re just wrong.  And quite frankly, an idiot doesn’t tend to know they’re an idiot.  Often when someone hands you boastful characteristics that they’re attributing to themselves, they’re lying.  While we can tell the reader certain things, the character can’t be real unless your reader can listen to their soul.  You have to show this.  In real life.  In fiction.  A lover might say, “I love you” often.  But, if that same lover cheats, forgets your birthday, puts his own needs and wants above any thought of you, do you believe him?  Love is an action.  The words don’t matter; it’s the act, the movement, what’s shown.  Character is not the words.  You can speak words of great character, but unless you’re walking the walk – just like life, they’re just words.The tricky part is aspiring to make your writing more than just words.  So how do you listen to the soul of the person?[...]

The Naming of a Thing


If you look at my updated profile, you’ll see that I’ve had a change of career.  After handing in my resignation last month, I am now a full-time writer.  It’s funny, because I think I always was a full time writer… I was just dabbling at 40 hour a week career doing something else.  As much as I liked what I did for a living (my clients were amazingly awesome and the work with web configurations was way more fun than I would have thought going in), I came home itching to write.  The itch was strong enough that I still took on freelance assignments, even though it meant I was essentially working 7 days a week.I was skyping with one of my longtime writing buddies right before I made the big jump.  The funny thing – he’s known me, in all of my online venues as well as through private conversations, for years.  He never knew I’d been ghost writing.  I’d never mentioned it.  Weird, right?  Why wouldn’t I talk about my writing with another writer?In my head, I’ve always kept ghost writing and writing web content separate from fiction.  This blog and most of my online writing (with my name on it, that is) has centered on fiction.  It didn’t occur to me that anyone would ever be interested in the fact that I’ve been making money as a writer for quite a long time – since 2006.It’s the naming of the thing.  I can call myself a writer, because I am.  Before I ever got paid a dime for my writing I would have categorized myself as an aspiring writer, but a writer, nonetheless.  I’ve never called myself an author.  Technically, maybe I could.  I have one short story published… doesn’t quite count for me – I’ll consider myself an author the day I sign my first deal for novel length fiction.  It’s my own barometer.  I don’t think anyone else has to subscribe to my labeling system.  But that little internal thing is likely the reason I haven’t much mentioned my freelance writing on this blog.  This blog has always been my venue to discuss fiction.These first few weeks of business have been largely set up.  I completed a few assignments last week and am working my way through my business plan now - along with deciding on a new name - the naming of the thing.  I know a lot of freelancers just use their own name – Suzy Freelancer, professional writer.  I kind of toyed with that, but I’m not sure how to answer the phone.  I almost feel like an idiot, answering with my name.  Plus, it still keeps the whole thing somewhat separate.  This is my writing business – the bottom line is that it is a business.  This is my fiction writing – the bottom line being that it’s mine.  The business writing is very much NOT mine.  You can market yourself any way you want but, if you’re writing for businesses or other entities, you’re speaking for them, your words are theirs, and they need to be carefully constructed to portray their specific message.    This blog has been largely inactive for more than a year now… and the postings were scattered before that.  I thought about what I wanted to do here because, logically, this blog will not be an asset to the business.  On the other hand, it’s my fiction writing home.  So it stays.  Because it’s been an asset to me.I’m working out a schedule for blogging time.  I know I’ll also have to clean out the links on the sidebar.  I just hate doing that.  Every link represents a person who was at some point very connected to the blog, my writing, and my journey.  I’m going to build a different blog for the business, attached to the website I’m working on.  Not sure if I want to cross link or not – I guess it depends on whether the readership I build back up here would be interested in the type of writing posts I’d be creating there.For n[...]

An Artist in Motion Tends to Stay in Motion


Newton’s law of motion – you guys know this one.  An object at rest stays at rest, unless an external force affects it.  An object in motion stays in motion, unless something impedes it or changes its direction.  Okay, that’s not a direct quote and I’m not actually that great with scientific theory, but that’s the gist of it.This is one of those things I’ve known for a long time, just on experience.  I know that the more creative I’m allowed to be, the more I feel like being creative.  Those people who “wait” for the muse are kidding themselves.  The muse won’t come to you unless you’re likely to do her bidding.  She’s kind of a realist that way.True story about writing – it keeps going, long after you’ve closed down your computer.  Any writer will tell you this.  The story line is playing out in our head when we carry out mundane conversations, do our taxes, or wash the dishes.  When we’re out with normal people in the middle of a social gathering, there’s a voice in our head writing a scene.  We tune it out when something important is going on around us… but not always.I think it takes a special brand of person to put up with us.  Whatever characteristics you’re born with, it still appears that you’re not paying attention to the people in your real world on a fairly regular basis.  Sometimes we’re not.  Often we’re multitasking.  Real world people might think, “What’s more important?  Me or the stories in your head that aren’t even real?”  If we’re honest, they might not like the answer every time.I have the pleasure of watching the creative psychosis manifest itself in my daughter these days.  It’s funny.  I know these things about myself, and other creative types that I’ve known.  But to see my daughter have the same leanings kind of brings it home.  It’s not something you can get around – maybe it’s not something to be overcome.  With my daughter, it’s a lot of things – but her main creative focus is music.  She went to a concert with friends – a local band someone’s sister was in.  When she came home, she gushed about how great the musicians were, showed me a tee shirt and cd she bought, and then spent the next 5 consecutive hours playing… first piano, then guitar, then bass, back to piano, her keyboard… then bass again.  It was a weekend, so I didn’t bug her about it… I think she called it around 3 in the morning.She had a concert at school last week.  It went well and she had a short solo… did she come home ready to be done with it?  Nope.  I had to make her stop playing at midnight.  That time she was composing.  “Mom… just two more measures… I can’t stop here.”And I get it.  Playing doesn’t quench the urge to play.  It stokes the fire.  Writing doesn’t fulfill your desire to paint your story… it propels you further.When your muses have all abandoned you, write something.  Read something.  Surround yourself with those who are creating.  Creativity begets creativity.  And the motion starts with you.[...]

Community Notebook


I started carrying a notebook when I was about 15.  Not for any particular class or reason, it was just kind of a spare that I doodled in, wrote bits and scraps of stories, and mindlessly penned song lyrics in.  That notebook would eventually become what I referred to as, “My Journal” - the first edition, anyway.  There were many editions – I called all of them, “My Journal”.I always had one – loose leaf, spiral bound, whatever color suited my fancy when the last page of my previous journal was filled.  Of course, this was before you had phones that were basically little computers.  Back when handwriting was what you did to get the idea down somewhere until you could get to your computer.On each of these editions I scrawled, “My Journal” – it was written in permanent marker or scratched so deep into the laminated colorful exterior of the notebook in ballpoint pen as to make it permanent.  The outside of the journal would get decorated over the course of its use in a myriad of ways.  Phone numbers would be jotted down on the fly, little doodles of characters or scenery peaked from this tattered corner or that.  I remember one journal specifically having a sticker on the front that read, “Hot and Spicy Italian”.  It was from a package of sausage, but I thought it was amusing.  Yes, I’ve always been easily amused.I carried it with me everywhere.  No, literally, everywhere.  When I started driving, it was with me – I might leave it in the car, but only when I was somewhere that the journal might be compromised (read as beer soaked or otherwise degraded).   There was a box, and each edition would be placed on top of its predecessors as it was retired.  And a bright sparkly new journal would take its place in my every day.My first novel was penned in notebooks.  Three of them.  The entire rough draft was hand written.  The first revision was the one that I keyed in to my computer.  That’s the only time I’ve handwritten a long piece.  It was crap.  But the process was slightly cathartic.  Even when I was writing that novel, I had a “Journal” – separate from the novel notebooks, all its own.See, that’s what the journal is for me.  It’s not a place to write out long fiction.  It’s a place to play.  To write rough ideas of whatever it is I’m working on – outlines, character sketches, sometimes just bits of dialogue that pop into my head and I don’t know where to put them… but they’re too cool to just chalk up to nothing.  To noodle ideas, draft silliness, and otherwise spark my mind into action – most especially when it’s sluggish and unwilling to stop procrastinating.My journals in the last few years never seem to get finished.  I still have one.  My current edition is blue.  The outside cover does not proclaim that it is “MY JOURNAL”.  It’s a run of the mill notebook in every conceivable way – except that it’s mine.  There are bits of query letters.  Notes from resumes I’ve written freelance (a mark of the economy, I suppose).  Notes of markets to check and checklists of tasks that are writing and home related in a hodgepodge that I may or may not get back to… but the act of writing it down somehow cements it in my head.  Because that’s how I am – I’m a words person.  I think in words, not pictures.  I kind of miss the stickers and doodles, though… the bits proclaiming to the outside world that it’s mine, and I’m weird… and raspberries to you if you don’t get me.Last week, I went to grab my notebook off the dining room table before leaving for work.  I do that, still.  Grab it and keep it in the car, so that I can jot things down if I have time on my lunch break.  Only, my notebook was gone.&[...]

So, I've Been Away For A While...


And what did I learn in my year of bloggy abstinence?  A little of this and a little of that.  One of the things about blogging that bothered me a bit was that I felt like it was a hindrance to the actual writing.  I put time and energy into posts that could well have been paid articles or essays, and I knew it.  You can feel the difference between good writing and “meh” and I was putting a lot of good writing into my posts, and not a heck of a lot of “meh”… One of my favorite blogging writer friends, the awesome Erica Orloff, used to refer to blogging as priming the pump.  It was part of her routine to get the juices flowing.  Of course, she’s also one of the most prolific writers you’ll ever meet.  But I think there was a point to that.  Not that the writing of the posts got my juices flowing so much as the interaction with other writers. In one of the Rocky movies (yes, I’m just greaseball enough to quote this), Rocky was not having any luck finding a job and wanted to go back to fighting.  So he went and talked to Mickey (for those of you who never saw the movies because a rock fell on you or something – Mickey was his trainer), who told him there was no way he should go back to boxing.  His eyes were too bad from getting hit.  So Rocky asked for a job sweeping up around the gym, and the old trainer looked at him with his eyes full of pity and tried to talk him out of it.  Saying, “You’re like royalty around there…” and asking how he could walk around with spit buckets for guys who looked up to him like that.  And Rocky said, “I just have to be around it.”And I think, in a way, that’s what blogging does for me.  It keeps me connected with other writers, which keeps me excited about writing… or at least eases a bit of the black hole you get when no one around you really gets what you’re doing.So I think it’s time to begin again.  The blog is going through some transformations… because I’ve been through a few and I guess it’s reflective of where my head’s at.  What I’ve been doing is a little different than where I was back when I started this.  The kids are older.  I work full time and still write freelance on the side.  Am I still writing fiction?  I haven’t been as prolific as I want to be.  And that’s one of the things I’m aiming to change.  The difference between now and a year ago is that I realize that blogging was never one of the things holding me back.We’ll see where it goes from here.  Hopefully, I’ll find some of my blogging circle still active – I know many have found other venues for their online time.  And maybe I’ll meet a few new writers to capture my attention and get me thinking.If you’re new to these parts, pull up a chair…and a martini… and a sense of humor, because you’ll need one to peruse any of my meanderings.  If you’ve been here before, welcome back.  Happy to take the next leg of the journey with you.[...]

Everything I Know About Character, I Learned on the Playground


It’s a fact of life, if you play your hardest, your ass is going to hit the blacktop. If the fall is bad enough to break something, you’re allowed to cry for a minute or two. Otherwise, rub some dirt on it and get back in the game.

Most games are full of bad calls. You’d take the ones that go in your favor easy enough.  Don’t whine about the ones that go against you.

Nobody likes a snitch. Not even the teachers.

You’ll never feel good about a game you had to win by cheating.

Nobody likes to lose, but it’s way more fun with friends on your team to laugh with.

Not all of the “Teacher’s Rules” apply. Sometimes they’re just plain stupid. Never hurt a friend to follow a rule.

You’ll find a lot of friends to laugh with, and lots more when you have something to share. But the best friends are the ones who are still on your side, even when you’re dead wrong.

Nice guys really do finish last a lot of the time. But they’d feel a lot worse finishing first if they had to be a son of a bitch to do it.

Gum, candy, and any other contraband that’s against the rules always taste sweeter
when you’ve got a buddy to share it with.

A quick wit, when used properly, can garner you more attention than looks or money.

A quick wit, when not used properly, will teach you how to fight.

There is no “Time Out” in a fight. There are also no rules. The only real aim is to be the last one standing, so know what you’re getting into before you run your mouth or swing. (Fight stories always sound way cooler than a black eye feels).

Sometimes the kid picked last for a team will be the one who wins the game. Never discount anyone.

You’re not going to be the best at everything, but most of the kids around you are too busy worrying about how good they’re doing to notice anyway.

The most genuine people are the ones who do their good deeds by stealth. Don’t put too much faith in the guy who does you a favor, but reminds you of it in front of others.

Trying to make someone feel small makes you smaller.

Never pick on the weaker kid. You might get lucky enough to have a bunch of people around you that won’t stand up for him, but they’ll secretly wish a bigger kid pummels you later. Eventually they’ll all be bigger kids.

Sometimes doing the right thing will get you in trouble. Better to take a punishment than to have to live with not doing the right thing.

As you can tell, we cursed a bit on my playground. And to be honest, everything I learned about character I learned from my father first – life just has a way of reinforcing its truths. And it’s really never more honest than it was in the beginning, before people start holding their tongues to stay polite.

Which bit of character did you pick up on the playground?

Quiet Integrity (Happy Holidays)


The company I work for is a family owned business, so the Christmas party was a small affair at my boss’s house.  Sitting around the table, exchanging stories, the writer in me was keenly reminded that each of us has stories, and each person in our circle encompasses some role, often becoming the hero of a funny anecdote or personal family gem.Generally, each person in our circle serves some larger purpose that we don’t even pay very much attention to on a regular basis.  There’s always the one person who can be called upon, day or night, who would give you everything they have because you need it.  There’s always one person everyone gravitates to, sometimes fun or childish or just charismatic.  There are as many labels as you can think of but, for the most part, any community only works as well as each of the members.  Humanity’s an odd beast.  It takes advantage of the weak and feeds off the charitable, and it never ceases to amaze me how often people mistake kindness for weakness.When I tell stories about my family, whether they’re tales from my own childhood or those of my children, I almost always tell the funny ones.  You’ll hear me mention Gracie Girl perhaps the most, because she’s a smart ass.  She supplies ample material for daily comedy.  Littlest Guy will get many a mention as well – he has that spark, that intangible thing that makes people gravitate to him.  You could see it in him from day one, children flock to him and adults adore him.  I think when you prefer to laugh, or want something light hearted and fun, those are the kind of personalities that make for good heroes.My oldest son has always been quiet and more to himself.  He’s quick and intelligent, but doesn’t often seek out a spotlight.  There are home movies from his 3rd birthday – throughout the entire video, Gracie girl is right in front of the camera, singing and prancing and telling jokes.  Littlest guy is babbling and grinning and charming the hell out of everyone.  And there’s Johnny, off in the background, playing with a car he got as a present… and when his one year old brother came up to where he was playing, Johnny handed him the car and showed him how to do it.People are always telling me how thoughtful and polite he is, as if I have anything to do with it.  He was gifted with a generous soul.  It’s not something I did as a parent, it’s intrinsically who he is.There was the time I had all three of them lined up to find out who did something.  I don’t even remember what it was, but all three of them said the universal “I don’t know”.  At a loss for what to do, I grounded all three of them.  Johnny said, “Sorry, Mom.  I did it.  Gracie and DJ shouldn’t have to be grounded, too.”I found out way later that his little brother did it, Johnny just said he did and took the punishment for him.  You can teach a kid not to snitch, but you can’t teach that. A few Christmases ago, Santa got a new Nintendo DS for Johnny.  His brother broke his a few months prior, and he was way worse on those things than Johnny ever had been – Johnny’s a kid you never have to tell to take care of his things or do his homework.  So Santa figured, Johnny should get the new one, and DJ could get Johnny’s old one.  A few days before Christmas, DJ broke Johnny’s Nintendo.  Santa didn’t have the time or funds to get two, so I kinda figured, Johnny gets the new one and I knew he’d share, and then DJ could get one for his birthday.Christmas morning, we all came down and there, with DJ’s toys from Santa, was the brand new Nintendo.  Johnny got up earlier than everyone else, and moved it to DJ’s pile.  He said Santa must’ve ma[...]

I Haven't Been Writing


I haven’t been writing.I’ve been paging in at blogs that used to be my regular habitat… like a voyeur… staring in through windows.  Some of them stained glass and breathtaking, some with gell clings letting light shine through in colorful splashes, some quaint, some gritty, and all beautiful.I was out with a friend a few weeks back and someone asked me what I did for a living, and I kind of froze… trying I guess to figure out how to explain my job, which encompasses a lot of things, from data entry to report coallation to web design… and my friend said, “She’s a writer.”  I swear to you, I turned around to see who the hell she was talking about.Oh, yeah.  Me.  I think that’s me.  Or it used to be me.I’ve done that a few times over the past few months – paged up old blogs or facebook statuses, and read something I said a year ago… and then I remember, I was a writer.  I’ve picked up books, and fallen into them like I’ve found the only place that I could ever rest my head, and then I remember, oh yeah, I was a writer.  In the middle of a rather hectic day, with no break in sight, brand new shiny idea popped right into my head, like the urge to get these people down on the page never abandoned me… of course, I couldn’t stop what I was doing to encourage it, but still, it was better than the silence.Oh my God the fucking silence.  If any of you ever heard of Padre Pio, he was a monk, now a saint… I once read that he said he knew what hell was.  It wasn’t fire and brimstone and demons assailing you.  It was the absence of God.  It was not being able to feel Him, to hear Him, to know He was with you.  It was the silence.And I’m sure some people will read this and think, “Really, you’re comparing telling stories to God?”  Yeah, I am.  And it’s not some sappy bit about the muse being divine and these stories being salvation… but the absence of it, the loss of that compulsion, it’s like they took all the air out of the room.  You don’t even think about air when you’re breathing fine, it’s about the only thing you can think of when you’re drowning, though.There are a million lofty sentiments people throw at you when you’re not doing so well.  “God never gives you more than you can handle.”The fuck He doesn’t.  Why do you think people drink themselves stupid or throw themselves in front of trains?  More than they could handle, I’d say.  And I used to think, somewhere deep down where the real scared little shit who makes up excuses for why the boogy man could never get me lives, that those people were weak, or quitters, or something.  Something I wasn’t.I always love stories about underdogs.  I love it, in real life and in fiction, when someone beats the odds, fights their way through, finds their happy ending against great odds. No one ever tells you how to see the beauty in failing.  The truth is, most people fail.  Some gracefully, some kicking and screaming, some taking as many people with them as they can grab onto.So the blog’s been silent.  My head’s been silent.  Maybe it’s just a down cycle… or a reflective year.  And I don’t think I care so much if I fail anymore… but I’d really rather do it with the voices in my head chattering away again.[...]

Guest Post - Mark Terry (bet you wished he was at YOUR blog...)


Today, as a special treat, Mark Terry is guest posting at the blog. I have an awesome photo in which he looks quite handsome and writerly and such, but blogger's being a bitch, so you guys miss out...sorry.... I did, however, get it to post the cover for his latest release, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS. I'm not going to take up much of your time with a long and winding introduction about how unbelievably brilliant he is - his writing more than speaks for itself... so go ahead, read the blog...Snakes on Brokeback MountainMark TerryI have on more than one occasion thought back to an interview given by Samuel L. Jackson when he was promoting, "Snakes On A Plane." The interviewers kept sort of prodding him about the seriousness of the role, and at some point, partly in frustration, he said, "Look, we're not talking 'Snakes On Brokeback Mountain.' We're talking 'Snakes On A Plane.'"This resonated strongly with me, especially after I stopped laughing. Because what Samuel L. Jackson was saying was, "We're not talking about a movie likely to win the Academy Awards or go down in film history as a great work of art. It's a horror movie!"I recently read a Vanity Fair (or perhaps it was Esquire) piece on Jake Gyllenhaal promoting “Source Code.” Someone in the article noted that Jake was a really, really serious actor with a lot of very serious ambitions, but at some point during the filming of “The Day After Tomorrow” somebody took him aside and said, “Jake, take off the tuxedo and stop practicing your acceptance speech. We’re making a disaster film here.”And one of the reasons it resonates with me is that sometimes critics don't get it. One of my key criteria when I reviewed books was: "Did the author accomplish what they were trying to accomplish?"So if you're writing an adventure novel and it's not exciting, but it sure has plenty of imagery and symbolism and seems "literary," I can't help but feel the author may have missed the point. Example: "The Crown of Columbus," by Louise Erdich and Michael Dorris. This story is about a historian (I think) who may have clues to where a "crown" of some sort is hidden that Christopher Columbus brought with him while exploring the New World. In point of fact, the crown is the crown of thorns that Christ wore when he was crucified. This novel had all the makings of "The Da Vinci Code" only it was written about 15 years earlier, and although the writing was without a doubt better than Dan Brown's, it was not, to my mind, a better book. Why? Because the authors had a different agenda than writing an adventure novel. They were writing a mainstream "literary" novel and as a result, the novel seemed schizophrenic and didn't - to my mind - succeed as either thing. It sure as hell wasn't "thrilling" or "exciting" or an "adventure." But critics liked it and so did plenty of readers who knew what they were getting.I don't want to get too much into the art versus commerce argument here, although I actually have pretty strong opinions on the subject. But I do want to make a point. The process is almost entirely identifical.Let me say that again: The process of creating art and creating a commercial book (movie, etc) is almost completely identical.The process that Samuel L. Jackson and the director and the writer and all the other actors in "Snakes On A Plane" took is almost entirely identical to the process they would take if they had been making "Ghandi" or "Brokeback Mountain" or "Casablanca."Yes, it's possible people will walk their way through their work. Yes, it's possible they'll do it entirely for money.My point here is when Samuel L. and company decided to make "Snakes On A Plane" they decided they wanted a film that was scary and fun and thrilling and suspenseful and funny and designed to give[...]

How Do You Know When You've Found Your Voice?


There’s a lot about writing that seems almost mystical – to people who don’t write, and even to those of us breathing in this damn, frustrating, lovely, mind-sucking, hole of death what we call writing. One of the things you hear most often is VOICE. Big sparkly letters here, because that’s the onus us writing folk put on voice. It’s kind of like literary fiction – no one can tell you how to do it, but we sure the fuck know it when we see it. And then we get even more confusing about it – insisting that an author not only capture his or her own distinctive voice, but also capture each character’s voice. And the character’s voice has to be separate from the writer’s voice… and each character has to have their own voice so that you don’t have cardboard bullshit characters… oh, and don’t use any petty trickery or overused catch-phrases so that your reader literally rolls their eyes and tosses your book in a moldy laundry pile rather than finish it. We talk non-stop about craft and technique and grammar. We beat other works about the head and ears for feats of stupidity or, worse, purple prose.Can you hear my voice? I bet you can. I can. I know it’s there and I know what it sounds like and guess what – it’s grammatically flawed as all hell. It doesn’t follow any of the rules. Okay, it follows some of the rules, but mostly by accident. You get to a point where you know them backwards and forwards and have to toss them out the window to get comfortable in your skin and say what you have to say. Because the bottom line in voice is communication. That’s it – plain and simple. That’s all this really is – saying something. Saying something important, life changing, immortal, embarrassing, consuming, eloquent, clever, or blatant… I like blatant, myself. It often has a dry wit all its own. That’s all we’re trying to do here, whether it’s through articles or blog posts or works of fiction. We’re saying something – and in order to communicate, if you’re really good at it, you need to make sure your audience gets it. If your audience is full of high brow fancy schmancy types… go get a thesaurus so they don’t feel slighted by your mundane language – and leave your fucking profanity at the door. If your audience is full of deep thinkers, be more concerned with the ideas than the way they’re couched – deep thinkers don’t care what it looks like to the outside world. They’re not in it to impress anyone else. They want the essence of a story or idea that will make their mind take off… say it in pig latin, if it’s brilliant, they’ll still go with you.But what you’re saying seems beside the point when you’re talking about voice, right? It’s part of it, but I’ll get back to that. Voice is most often categorized as the flavor of the way you say things, kind of like an accent on the page. And yeah, I can hear New York or Southern Charm, or an Irish Brogue. But it’s not just that.Remember when you were in high school? Remember when you wanted all the cool kids to like you, or when you started digging combat boots and dyed your hair and spoke in Violent Femmes lyrics? Remember when you stole little phrases from rock stars or friends that were just too fucking cool? Remember that kid, teetering on the curb, trying to get his bearings and up his courage to walk in the middle of the road, pretty as you fucking please? That kid. The one who wanted to be someone special, but didn’t know quite how to get there so he borrowed bits from here and there and adapted other bits that might have been his or maybe they were scrapped up from somewhere else… and he wore them like a mantle of independent thinking – just li[...]

Manufacturing Time


Some time ago, the awesomeness that is Stephen Parrish, posted a personal story and asked for his readers’ stories in return. I read his post and it moved me, and instead of posting, I sent him an email… the funny thing was, as I was sending him an essay length personal story for no reason other than it struck me, Stephen was sending me a simple, “Doing okay over there?” out of the blue.

Because he’s one of the good ones. One of those writer friends who knows when the rest of the world is beating your ass and takes the time to tell you to get over it and write already.

He wrote me back to tell me to publish that essay. To put it out there. I don’t take things Stephen says about writing lightly. I’ve never seen him compliment anything that didn’t have extreme merit, so on that note it did what Stephen always does – made me feel like writing.

My status update today on facebook was, “wishes I could figure out how to manufacture more time in a day”. And lately I’ve been downright whiney about my lack of time which has culminated in an absence of writing which sometimes feels like a lack of air. The stories are still there, the characters still knock on my eyeballs and kick around the cobwebbed corridors in my noggin… but they’re getting softer, harder to hear, farther away from lack of listening. Pretty soon they’ll find windows to break in someone else’s head… okay, maybe not, but I think it’s like a muscle. Writing isn’t all muse and fluff and magical inspiration. It’s sit in the fucking chair, get your shit together, and do the work. When you can’t find the time to do that, you have to make it.

Yes, I can manufacture time. Twenty minutes later to bed, a half an hour earlier in the morning… less facebook, more Microsoft word. I’ve done this before. Gone without sleep to write. Gone without tv or social time or whatever… And I logged back into facebook today, and saw that quote up on my page and thought, “Well, hell, you whiney bitch, what’s wrong with right now?”

So it starts with a blog post. While dinner’s on the stove… I’m not allowing myself sleep until I hit a decent word count. Time to stop lamenting the woes of my little corner of the world and get on with it… that’s the one thing about being creative by nature... you have to find the wherewithal to push yourself. No one else will do it; no one else cares if you make it. It’s up to you to manufacture your time.

Where do you find the time? Is it a routine or whenever the fancy strikes? And do you wait for the elusive muse, or hog tie her ass and make her stick around til the word count is in?

Poetry Corner: Meet Dina Darling


This is Dina Darling:This is her latest release:In honor of the release of her latest poetry book, Winter’s Fierce Breath, she’s allowed me to interview her here on the blog… now, I thought of all sorts of ways to introduce Ms. Darling – reams of words about how cool she is… but really, in this case, I think I’ll let her writing speak for itself. Here’s one of my favorites from her latest release:WHY DO YOU HAVE TOLove is shadedThreads of liesLoose at the seamsThe ins and outs of consciousnessThe toast to new beginnings failedWhen the kiss of death touched my lipsI don’t want to be wrong about youI won’t allow myselfTo be so wrongThe marching band screams in my earsYour symbol clangs a melody out of tuneOn my heelHere they comeThrowing their warnings in my faceI can listen or I can ignore themAll I know is that I’m tornA web you’ve got me slow-dancing inThe bareness of complicationWants a little freedomKeep collecting your numbersYou’ve run out of vindicationsWhere do you find all the energy?To take a stab at falling asleep for the nightWhen you’re right back up doing it againMelted alarm clocksFluorescent signsReflect the sadness that you’re hidingIn the dark puddles below the street lightsWhy can’t I cut you loose?What am I so scared of?WHY AM I AFRAID?To just slam the door and walk awayYou will never be good for meYou’ll always be the ache in my affectionRunning away with little fragments of meWhy do you have to be so cruel?Why do you have to have?The wit and the appealThat keeps me feeling aliveWhen I’m a little nervous to even breathe.Me: Who are your favorite poetic influences? Dina Darling: I love to dive into the worlds of Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Amy Lowell, Veronica Franco and Sylvia Plath.Me: Your poetry is (beautiful, meltingly beautiful) but also very personal and often erotic... do you ever have issues censoring yourself or worry about what people will think when they read it? Dina Darling: I have to admit I felt quite embarrassed knowing my Mom had read my first book. She was the only one I worried about as if I would shock her or something, but hey she's been there too. There are so many aspects of myself that I share in my words. Poetry is my escape. I refuse to be censored. It is what it is. I become a raging sea of explored emotions when I write. The wall comes down. I will swallow you whole. I truly am an open book with absolutely nothing to hide. Sometimes I believe that people have this goody two shoe, wholesome innocent projection of me and nothing else. That's only a mere speck of who I am. Read my books and you'll see the very heart and soul of me. I always stand by something my Grandmother used to tell me. "Half of the world will love you, half of the world will hate you." You can't please everyone.Me: This is your second poetry book. What was your main goal in Winter's Fierce Breath, and in what ways did that goal differ from your first release?Dina Darling: Winter's Fierce Breath is a continuation for me. It's the next chapter after The Safety of Madness. It's a constant struggle of self discovery. For me, both books are an autobiography. Every poem is truth. I write with steel backbone because I'm not afraid to put myself out there. I don't cower from the experiences I've had in the obstacle of love, whether good or bad. I am a pillar of passion longing to stop the search and find my happy ending. I am a hopeless romantic fool on display for all to see. The goals are actually similar in both books. A lesson to myself that no matter how many times love knocks the wind out of me, I have to get right back up and surrender myself completely once again. Because there is always li[...]

Laugh and the World Laughs With You. Cry and You Cry Alone


That’s one of those little ditties we all heard growing up… and it’s kind of true. There are those friends who, when you’ve hit that rough patch, will move hell and high water to make you smile. Who can find joy, even in the worst of times and somehow let it rub off on you. We loves them. We aspire to be one of them. But you’ll notice that those friends are far and few between. Most people will scatter to the wind, and let you deal with your stuff on your own and come back around when your mood is better and the world is righted. Because no one really wants to stand ringside for the bloody massacre – and in their cowardly defense, when you wallow in it and can’t find your joy, you become a psychic vampire who drags everyone around you down to your dark place. And most people can’t function and find joy with all of that.On the surface, fiction seems like it works differently. (Doesn’t it always?) We look for high emotion, we strive to infuse every page with conflict and, of course, conflict suggests more pain than joy. But dig beneath the surface. Yeah, man, put your character through the paces, make his world crumble and make a good portion of it through his own faulty choices. Make him squirm. BUT – don’t let him whine about it. See, there’s the balance. It’s not the fact that the world is crumbling that makes us read, root, breathe it in – it’s the fact that this character is so extraordinary that he never lets it beat him. There were a bunch of people who complained about the fifth Harry Potter book. The character went in a new and darker direction. Some of the battles he had already faced started wearing on him, compounded by the fact that he was a moody teenager. I think it was well done, because really, there’s no way that character got where he was and didn’t show signs of wear – it wouldn’t have felt right, and I think it was a good choice for the author altogether. BUT – she’d earned our attention through four previous novels of building this world and our relationship with these people. THAT wouldn’t have worked in a first novel. We wouldn’t have known him well enough. We would’ve thrown our hands up and said, “Get over it already!”When someone tells me that something I wrote made them cry, I have to admit I get a little jolt of happy. Not because I made them sad, but because my words moved them. It’s not easy to move people armed with little more than your warped thoughts and manner of painting in language. And that’s the whole goal for me in writing, to bring the reader in and make them feel something; to know they walk away with a new perspective, a poetic phrase, a blooming thought to be dissected at their leisure. I want to do for them what a million writers before have done for me. It’s a lofty goal when you think about it.Where life and fiction intersect is the place I think you have to keep your eyes on to do this. Fiction is high conflict. You’re barreling into all of the things you’d avoid in your real life. But fiction doesn’t whine (which you’d likely do if faced with some of the paces your characters go through). You can’t root for a character who takes to their bed and sobs. For the same reason many a fair weather friend will take a powder when you hit that patch in your real life – I told you it intersected. We follow characters who are in some way extraordinary. They don’t get through it unscathed, but they get through it without losing their spirit. They do things that we would never have the courage to do in our regular lives. But sometimes I think pulling a little bit of that chutzp[...]

Fitting It In



So, it’s that time again… time to account for my Koala Challenge pointage for the month of January. I managed three…

I did the introduction comment at McKoala’s blog for 1 point. It was really kind of a freebie, but whatever, it’s mine, all mine!

I managed to finish and submit one regional parenting magazine article for 1 point.

And I managed to write, edit, gather critiques on, and re-edit the pitch for my query letter for 1 point.

I did write a bit of new fiction, but not enough for the point.

Normally, I’m really annoyed with myself when I do that little in a whole month. But when I sat down to look at where I was spending my time, it couldn’t be helped. I have literally spent no less than 30 hours each week looking through job postings, writing, re-writing and tweaking cover letters, submitting them to various companies, and filling out online employment applications. Outside of all that, I’ve been working through a temp service when they can get me office positions. I’m hoping one of those turns into a permanent position, or maybe one of my resumes/interviews lands me one. Oh, yeah, and then there’s the whole full-time parenting of three children, heading up the Band Contest Committee for the event coming up in a few weeks (which meant finding and scheduling 33 volunteers), and rebuilding my house with limited (read as no) funds. It is what it is. I need a regular, stable income. My kids need to be fed, taken care of, and watched over. And there’s only so much time in a day… I’ve tried to change that last one, but it’s not going over so well.

I’ve actually been looking for a job, off and on, for the past two years or so. It wasn’t so imperative then, I could make do with a little extra money freelance writing here and there, and budget out things at the time. But a number of people have said things along the lines of, “Oh, well what you really need is a creative writing position. You wouldn’t be happy in just any job.” Meaning that I wouldn’t be happy in office work, I’d guess, as that’s primarily what I’m looking for… it always strikes me as odd how people categorize you. First of all, those comments are almost always made from the standpoint of someone who’s never had something shut off because they couldn’t pay a bill. Seriously, any job is a good job if you enjoy it, work hard at it, and it allows you to live.

And, oddly enough, I like secretarial work. I do. I think the skills I’ve developed writing all translate awesomely to running or helping to run an office. Does that mean I’ll stop writing when I find a full time job? No. I won’t stop breathing, either. There are plenty of writers out there who are brilliant at what they do on the page, but it won’t pay the mortgage. I also tend to think that a career outside of writing gives you more experience and self to speak from when you do sit down at the keyboard. The trick is fitting it all in.

So how do you do it? Do you write full time or outside of your regular career and family obligations?

Having a Handle on Your Own Health


I tend to be the person in my family that everyone goes to when they have a problem. I think every family has one of these. Maybe it’s because I’m the only girl with two brothers, or maybe I just tend to be that way – the kind of person who pays attention to things like when someone’s birthday is, or which doctor to recommend. I also tend to be the person with the information – why dial 411, when I can give you the number for free?

I remember my dad calling me one afternoon out of the blue and asking me to make him an eye appointment (because, of course, I had the eye doctor’s number). My dad wore glasses for longer than I’d been alive, so this wasn’t so unusual. The rest of the conversation, though, was a little more out of the ordinary.

“Why? Isn’t your prescription strong enough?” I asked.

“Yeah, I think it’s okay. But my peripheral vision just went out.” You’d think that response would be more panicked or something, but he didn’t seem to see anything wrong with this.

“What do you mean, it went out?” I was less calm about the situation.

“It went out. I can’t see anything out of the sides, just straight ahead.”

I didn’t want to scare him by screaming, “You need an emergency room, not an eye doctor!” But I knew enough about stroke symptoms to know what he was experiencing was most likely not optical.

Traditionally, most people left their health information in the hands of their doctors. After all, they went to school and practiced for many years and must know more about what may or may not be going on in our bodies. And this is true to an extent. But the truth is, it helps to know what symptoms might be associated with a serious situation. Most people have warnings of heart trouble or any myriad of things well before the condition is life threatening, and they ignore these “aches and pains” because they don’t feel severe, or they go away, or they just don’t associate them with something life-threatening.

I’m not advocating people to go ahead and doctor themselves. Certainly, a trusted physician is the best person to see with regards to your health. But, I do strongly believe in educating yourself enough to know your body, and understand the recommendations that your doctor might give you.

Special thanks to Health Yahoo for sponsoring this post.

A Rose By Any Other Name Still Grows Best In Manure


I've been working on my pitch over at the Query Goblin's. While I'm still working on it (and would appreciate any critiques here as well) I'm really at a cross as to the title. I have two titles, both of which I like for different reasons, both of which give me pause for different reasons too... but rather than get into all of that, I'll just say that both are phrases used in the book. That's all you really need to know because a reader wouldn't have me there to feed them all the backstory of what the damn title means, now would they?

Let me know if you like one or if you think I should be brainstorming for a new one...

Redemption is a Road

From the Neighborhood

And onto the pitch:

When Jack Poverelli’s uncle bails him out of jail, packs his mom off to rehab, and whisks Jack out of the neighborhood, it should have been a good thing. What sixteen year old wants to wake up in the middle of the night and make sure his mom’s still breathing? But Jack doesn’t belong in the gleaming halls of his new high school where everyone judges him for what he looks like, and he doesn’t trust his uncle. Why would he show up now, after all these years? And why is he so interested in their house and finances?

Jack would give up clean sheets and full meals to be back with the friends who’ve looked out for him his whole life. Everything is pushing him into this new place – better classes, a job, a girl whose way out of his league but doesn’t seem to notice. Even Jack’s oldest friends are telling him to move on, that he should be trying to get out of the neighborhood, not stay in it. When his mother relapses, Jack and his friends step between her and a neighborhood drug dealer, setting off a chain of events that put them all in the crosshairs of both the dealer’s cronies and the police.

Many Thanks to Vista Print for Supporting the Blog


There are new things afoot on the blog... for starters, I have some lovely supporters.... Yay!

You'll notice a pretty new picture to the side that looks like this:


If you click on it, it'll take you to Vista Print a great place for your custom business cards and printing needs. So if you're looking for something that they supply, please feel free to click through here or at the sidebar.

Facing Your Finances


Anyone who’s ever had financial trouble can tell you how embarrassing it is. No one ever wants the neighbors to know that their phone’s been ringing off the hook with bill collectors or that they never go out when invited because they just can’t afford it. And I think most people hit those low financial patches in their life, but right now it seems like there are a lot of people struggling that weren’t quite acclimated to going without. It’s hard to streamline your bills to a manageable degree when your income has been cut in half – and that’s what many people are going through. And because financial problems are so socially embarrassing, many people will hide their heads in the sand rather than face it – which makes the problem ten times worse. You can’t keep spending as usual without the income stream to back it up.

A lot of people are turning to services, like to help them relearn how to manage their money and live within their current budget. They get pulled under with credit card debt because they overuse the cards trying to keep up with bills they can no longer afford. Or they simply need a sounding board to try to figure out how they got off track and relearn to live within their new means. Another thing they might do is look into debt consolidation in order to make their payments lower and more manageable per month.

Sometimes you don’t even need to use a company, just some standard research and a good common sense look at where you are, what you earn, and what you need in order to not only float but save a little to get a cushion… that’s the biggest problem I see. People will spend exactly what they make. But without that bit of savings then one extra bill can send you into a spiral. And who hasn’t run up against an unexpected bill?

In the last few years, I’ve adopted a few habits that have saved me a bit… still not completely there, but I’m working on it… how about you? What things have you started going without or doing in order to help your bottom line?

Special thanks to A New Horizon for sponsoring this post.

Pitch Critique: Jean Ann Williams Middle Grade Pitch


First, the pitch:
An Excerpt
Jean Ann Williams

One mother damaged, one family tested, one daughter determined to find her place.

At thirteen years old, ClaireLee Monteiro’s family life becomes a shambles. Feeling incapable of taking Mama’s position in the home, she longs for acceptance at school. She sets out to impress Wendy Lavender and her school cronies, and so she lies.

While the Lavender Girls Club receives ClaireLee into their fold, they do not choose her best buddy, Belinda Cruz. How far will ClaireLee wander from honesty, her devoted friend, and a feeble mother’s love?

Next: My Critique:
An Excerpt I’m not sure why this is here. It suggests you’ve included an excerpt of the work, but there isn’t one, it’s just the pitch.
Jean Ann Williams

One mother damaged, one family tested, one daughter determined to find her place. Great tagline! I’m interested.

At thirteen years old, ClaireLee Monteiro’s family life becomes a shambles. ’becomes a shambles’ sounds awkward to me. Maybe try a more active verb? Feeling incapable of taking Mama’s position in the home, she longs for acceptance at school. She sets out to impress Wendy Lavender and her school cronies, and so she lies. I need a little more. What does she lie about? Why does she need to take Mama’s position?

While the Lavender Girls Club receives ClaireLee into their fold, they do not choose her best buddy, Belinda Cruz. How far will ClaireLee wander from honesty, her devoted friend, and a feeble mother’s love?This seems like the real story, the Lavender Girls Club choose ClaireLee but not her friend, Belinda. I wonder if you might want to use your space to fill out this plotline, give us a little more on the family situation especially what’s going on with her mother.

Overall, I’m interested. It sounds like a good premise for Young Adult. I want to get to know the character a little better in the pitch and I think we need a little more information.

Okay guys, your turn. Please feel free to critique this pitch in the comments section. A big thank you to Jean Ann for being brave enough to submit her work for critique. I hope it's helpful!

Scrubbing In


With the current economy, I have a number of friends who’ve started rethinking their career prospects. Some of them have been outmoded by computers or employees overseas… some of them are just victims of a scaled back labor force, but either way they’re switching gears. A lot of them are going toward medical fields. Maybe it’s because all the forecasts say those jobs are stable. Maybe they envision themselves in cotton medical scrubs saving lives. I can see the romanticism there – if you’ve ever spent any time with a loved one in a hospital, a great nurse or technician can become a lifeline akin to a god.

I can totally see it – being completely in control in the face of chaos. And I wouldn’t be wearing any old cheap hospital scrubs, either. Mine would have to have Snoopy or something on them… ohhh, I wonder if they make them with Calvin and Hobbes? Don’t worry, guys. I’m not turning in my keyboard. But in a time when starting over seems to be the call of the day, I can see the draw to donning a pair of cotton surgical scrubs and getting to be the reason someone has more time with their loved one.

So, if you decided to call it and leave your current profession for a new one, which one would you pick? And could your write a really great novel surrounding it? (See, that last sentence is how you know I’m nothing if not a writer).

Many thanks to Blue Sky Scrubs for sponsoring this post.

Censorship: Things What Annoy Me


I’m going to guess that most readers of this blog will already know about the hubbub surrounding the new version of Huck Finn censoring all words deemed racist in nature.

I’d like to say that Twain, if he were alive, would smack his head at their idiocy and tell them all to go fuck themselves. (Sorry, I don’t censor). But Twain was well-versed in censors and exactly how to deal with them. Twain liked to tweak people’s noses. He did so purposely and by accident. This novel in particular garnered quite a bit of venom in its day. Here’s what Twain had to say about it in a letter to his editor, shortly after the novel’s original publication:

"The Committee of the Public Library of Concord, Mass., have given us a rattling tip-top puff which will go into every paper in the country. They have expelled Huck from their library as 'trash and suitable only for the slums.' That will sell 25,000 copies for us sure."

Of course, in the time it was released the novel was censored for the opposite reason – how’s that for irony? The thing with this that irritates me is not so much that the word offends people; it was supposed to offend people. His intention was to offend people. Twain took great pains with his words. It’s well-documented that his manner of reproducing dialect and verbiage was precise to the point of near perfection. The man read every single word out loud, every single revision until each character and voice sounded exactly right to his ear. Is anyone really under the delusion that he would use the word, “nigger” more than 200 times by accident? Mind you, he used the same word in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – 4 times.

It’s not a far stretch to understand he was making a point and he was doing so by purposely getting in the reader’s face. What I think is underestimated on a personal level is that this stance was brave for the author during this time period.

I think that should be honored rather than swept under the carpet. And by people who are using his exact ethical position – and whose ancestors, by all statistical likelihood, were not as highly evolved morally during its first printing.

I think literature should be read in the form it is written in any and all ways readers can scrutinize it. Like most cases of censoring, I have to believe that most people who have a problem with Twain’s prose have either never read or cannot understand the prose. There are a great many works of fiction (and non-fiction for that matter) that I disagree with… that doesn’t mean I won’t read them. It doesn’t mean I keep my children from reading them – in fact, disagreeing with a sentiment in literature is one of the greatest jumping off points for honest discussion I can think of.

I won’t be buying a copy that’s been censored. And I have to wonder whether there would even be a discussion about this if the author wasn’t a dead white guy… which makes me wonder who the real racist is in this scenario.

(psst: the Pitch Critiques are still open if you’re interested.)

Pitch Critique to Ring in 2011


I love the smell of red ink in the morning... well, it's afternoon, but you get the idea.

In my last post, I asked if some of you might like to open the new year by participating in a pitch critique session. I haven't done one in quite a while, but they're a great way to get feedback on your pitch, narrow down your focus for a new work, and just flex your muscles creatively. Pitching, for me, is harder than writing. It's more marketing and understanding the business end of publishing, and less about the play of words. It's a balance I think you have to attain in order to get to the next level. Personally, I get just as much for critiquing for others as I do getting my own work critiqued.

So, we haz sum rulz:

Any and all writers are welcome to participate. No matter where you are in your journey, from newer writer to seasoned veteran, the more the merrier.

It is NOT mandatory to submit a pitch. I know some people aren't ready or don't like having too many eyes on their own material and that's fine. You're still more than welcome to critique or comment on other peoples' pitches.

If you do submit a pitch, it IS mandatory to critique others. This is just a little sideline I like to include because, depending on what writing loop you're on, sometimes people stick around to get feedback on their own work but are less inclined, for whatever reason, to give the same feedback to others. This way, each participant will at least have some feedback coming their way.

ALL feedback must be constructive. (I have to note here, I have never had a problem with this on this blog, all of my writing friends are awesome.) But just in case there are some newer posters of a less constructive nature, I reserve the right to delete anything I see as inflammatory or derogatory, or any of the other tories that we no likey.

If you would like to submit a pitch to critique, please send it to: merry(dot)monteleone(at)gmail(dot)com

I was going to leave this option open, if you guys would like the critiques to be blind, as in I don't tell you who wrote it, that's fine. Let me know in comments or if you don't want your name on yours you can let me know when you submit the pitch.

I don't know how many pitches I'll be receiving, so depending on the volume, I might post one with my critique at a time, and then the comments would be open to other writer's critiques... or I might post two or more on a post, if there are a lot of them... I'll also try to let everyone know via email when their pitch goes up. But keep checking back anyway just to participate in the rest of them.

I'm looking forward to it. Can't wait to play!