Tuesday, October 30, 2007


When I was little, my older brother would cloak himself every Halloween with a hooded black robe and hide in the half-moon wells in front of our basement windows. He'd jump out at unsuspecting trick-or-treaters and see how many of them he could scare, or in Little Mary Sitter's case, wet the porch.

Last year, I bought a fog machine, not knowing it wouldn't produce a constant stream of light mist on our porch. Charged with the sporadic duty and eventual boredom of watching for trick-or-treaters while the rest of the family canvased the neighborhood, I found out the fog machine makes a delightfully sharp burst of noise when the button is pushed. Pssssst!

Yeah. You can imagine, and I hope you'll not think differently of me, how much amusement I found crouched by the darkened window, red button in hand. I perfected the timing, calculating the precise moment I'd have to depress the button for the fog to erupt and the noise to hiss at the feet of visitors. Psssst! Some squealed. Some backed into the potted ivy. And a choice few even did the "electrical charge dance"--that embarrassing reflexive shimmy that only comes with the best startles.

Halloween is one of my favorite times of year. When else can you play dress-up, pretend to be someone you're not and delight in toying with other's most basic emotions? Oh, wait. Writers do that every day with their stories.

What is your favorite way to celebrate Halloween?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Writing Life is Not for Fortune Cookies

I saved a fortune from a Chinese cookie dated 5-7-07 that reads: Your hard work is about to pay off. For awhile, I hung my hat on the predictions of a pseudo-psychic and fellow author who predicted I'd sell soon, on a date with a three in it. I'm not sure what constitutes "soon" in the metaphysical realm, but that was almost a year ago to this day. Let's hope she didn't mean 2013. Oh, and I shouldn't forget, enough pennies tossed in a fountain to buy a base-line latte.

I'm thankful for all the amazing opportunities I've been given this past year. Being nominated for a Golden Heart award, signing with an agent, my first contract with a small press for a short story, and coming full circle to truly appreciating the amazing friends and writers I surround myself with. Most of all, perhaps, was entering a mental and emotional realm where I can no longer not write.

I know this isn't the traditional time of year to look ahead but for some reason Fall tends to be when things change in my life--a sort of bookmark each year in the greater picture. Today, I took down the Chinese fortune. Symbolic? Maybe. Fate and good fortune don't always just happen. Sometimes you must work toward them. Hard. Sometimes when you think you just can't give anymore, that's when you find the true artist inside, lurking. Lucky calls don't rain down on us like an unpredicted shower. They are the end result of putting our work and the faith we have in ourselves out there in more ways than we ever have. Maybe that's why I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel competition, first paragraph contests and took control of my writing future in one of the hardest ways imaginable this year. If success is based on numbers--daily page counts, number of times a writer puts her work out there, the number of rejections accumulated, then the coming year is when I play the odds.

What will you do the play the odds this year?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Reinventing the Wheel

I have a confession. With each new project, my structured thought process invents another way to organize my plot. Sure, I attend workshop after workshop, listen to tapes, read plotting books. I've tried almost all of them. Post-its, white boards, spiral-bound bibles, three-ring binders, loose index cards. I suppose some strange part of me--the same part that wants to yell "Squeee" in the Container Store--loves finding new ways to compartmentalize the vast amount of information required to write a novel.

Maybe each attempt at writing requires a different approach. Certainly Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a flowing, literary piece like Eat, Pray and Love from an entirely different structural place than novelist Stephen King wrote Lisey's Story, although I suspect the more notches on your publishing pencil, the more intuitive the entire process becomes. But each story has its own power and emphasis. To find that place of understanding and authority, it requires the author to root around a bit and follow a path not taken before.

Most writers are superstitious. They have their "lucky outfit" to wear to pitch sessions, turn their workspace a certain cardinal direction because career-boosting fortune happened in that space and surround themselves with ritual mugs and baubles like seniors at a bingo hall. Maybe when they sold to New York, they locked into what worked and held onto it, afraid to change for fear the magical dust of publication may not return.

For now, I reinvent the wheel until I understand more about the story than I do my own drive to write. I'm just thankful my left-brain doesn't control my passion to return to the story each day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Art is in the Attempt

Today marks the official day I begin revisions on my WIP, The Night Caller. At some point, even an obsessive plotter must stop and realize the writing will fill in the blanks I have yet to. But here, at the beginning yet again, it does put the entire project into perspective again. At a time when goals and daily page counts dominate my thoughts and the ending I just figured out must echo the beginning scene I am poised to write, I remember back to my other projects. The ones where the journey took me somewhere wildly off-course and the end result didn't reflect the scope and magnitude of the novel in my head.

No where was this more evident than in my short story, The Lost Highway. In my initial vision, there was a bridge responsible for the anomaly in time, a fiery inferno the protagonists had to reach before the window of opportunity faded forever. In the final version, the bridge is still there, in the past. But somehow along the way it became enough for the hero and heroine to simply be. Not racing a ticking time bomb but to simply pause, be in the moment with all the fears and confusion of their internal conflicts, and become aware of the opportunity they'd been given. To simply be.

Would the fiery inferno have made a better story? Perhaps. But when the detoured story is good enough to sell, as The Lost Highway has, does that mean that true art, the words we paint on the imaginary canvas of the reader, is in the attempt, not in the destination? Had I not buckled in and followed the story map of my mind to the bridge, would I have found the same story? Doubtful.

As writers, I don't think we're ever truly satisfied with our words. We're always finding stronger verbs or a different twist that would have taken the story in an entirely new direction. I suspect all creative people wage this battle in their own minds. What emerges is never truly what we envisioned, like something that constantly outdistances us. Who's to say the detour we stumble upon isn't better?

This lessens the looming expectations of the destination and allows faith to creep in. Threads that magically weave themselves into the fabric of our novel and the belief that the characters will find the path they're meant to travel. And for the writer, the freedom to realize that true art is in the attempt.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Time Machine ~ Week of October 15, 2007

I'll be taking a short hiatus from the Monday posts on Time Travel and Paranormal market news while I work on the meditation draft of my WIP. I still plan to post blog entries three times per week, so check back often...

This week:
~Market site:
~Time travel romance friendly website
~NBC's Journeyman ratings

The best part about, an extensive resource for authors of all genres looking for market information, links, response times, publishers and contests, is that the information is updated weekly. Especially helpful is the response times page for everything from book publishers to children's magazines. See where your manuscript falls.

Fans at "We Really Dig Romance" have an entire page devoted to archiving time travel romances, organized by story length and historical/futuristic period. Complete with summaries and links for ordering, this site is a great resource for both readers and authors of time travel romances.

Lastly, and sadly, Journeyman is on the chopping block for NBC if Nielson ratings don't improve. NBC has ordered three additional scripts, but now is the time to let your voice be heard. If you are already a fan and wish to contact NBC executives, go to Journeyman's message board at From there, you'll find helpful email addresses you can lend support to the show.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Lost Highway

The Wild Rose Press has selected "The Lost Highway" to be part of a Texas-themed anthology for Spring 2008! Here's a teaser:

On a desolate west Texas highway, a man at a crossroads in his life meets a beautiful woman, lost in more ways than any cardinal direction on a map. Her pristine 1959 Thunderbird, her matronly dress and her optimism conspire to place her firmly out of touch with reality. In a race against the clock to reconnect with an old love, he discovers the captivating stranger has driven straight out of her own time and into the abandoned shell of his heart.

Sadly, the exact '59 Thunderbird I used for my inspiration was sold and taken off its web page, but here's a look at the outside shape and the cherry-red and white interior that became so important in the story:

Looks like they were selling the American dream or something that closely resembled love (Unless, of course, he's making the universal man-joke gesture).

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Reading Life Backward

Psychologist James Hillman, who wrote the 1997 best-selling book The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling, speaks about "reading life backward." The intense study of a lifetime of choices and events, convictions, passions--the polar emotions of love and hate and everything in between that has given texture and shading to our lives. He calls these "symptoms" and urges people to use the study of these to discover the calling of your life. The one thing you're meant to be.

While others emphasize growth and nurture philosophy in determining the outcome of our lives and what we ultimately choose to give the world, Hillman adopts an "acorn theory of the soul." Like an acorn holds the pattern for an oak, he believes each individual owns, within himself, each soul's unique potential from the beginning.

He urges everyone to look back on their lives for clues to their calling. Trials, illness, accidents, obsessions and aversions all hold clues, when looked at through a larger scope of time passed, take on a more impactful stamp on our souls. It is a philosophy similar to an out-of-body experience, where the result is an increased sensitivity to the signs of our lives. A life lived with intention and awareness.

Do you believe our calling is a "seed" within our soul at birth we spend a lifetime trying to discover, or that the path of our lives determines our contributions to the world?

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Time Machine ~ Week of October 8, 2007

This week:
~Writing Contests for Full-Length Novels

The Paul Gillette Writing Contest, sponsored by the Pike's Peak Writers group, is accepting submissions for short stories and full-length fiction in a wide spectrum of genres, including science fiction/fantasy/horror. Expect feedback from experienced writers, final round editors and agents and eligibility to attend their prestigious 16th annual writer's conference in Spring 2008. Entries must be postmarked by November 1.

Chris Keesler, senior editor at Dorchester Publishing, is final round judge for specialized category of the 2007 Great Expectations contest, sponsored by the North Texas Romance Writers of America. Entries in this category, which includes novels with futuristic, fantasy, time travel and/or paranormal elements, must emphasize the romantic relationship. Entry deadline for the first twenty-five manuscript pages is December 29, 2007.

Amazon and its CreateSpace company is open to 5,000 submissions from aspiring novelists to find the next breakthrough novel. Judged by both Amazon reviewers and Publisher's Weekly staff, the blend of Amazon-Idol-like popularity voting and true literary industry "weeding" promises to be an interesting blend. Entry deadline is November 5, 2007. Visit Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award space for more details.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Of Similies and Thighmasters

I'm writing the third article in my Seven Facets of Deep Prose series: Language. Most writers know figurative vs. literal, similie vs. metaphor, so my aim is to dig deep into the word choices we make as writers and how the right use of language can impact every other aspect of the work.

While researching, I came across this list. One you've probably seen before, but it bears repeating because they are the perfect example of what can go wrong in our quest to find the right words to express ourselves...and because they're too funny not to post.

The 25 Funniest Analogies (Collected by High School English Teachers)
1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a ThighMaster.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Intimate Truth

I'm completely captivated by the PBS Documentary War. I blink and an hour has sped by with the power of an emotional bullet train. An hour immersed in total darkness but for the stories of the men and women who lived these moments in history. An hour the writer within tries to lure me to the project at hand, the guilt of an unfinished project with too many miles to go to begin counting, until I realize every tear I shed along with these people brings me one closer to a realism I chase with my own words.

How is it possible to ground something so outlandish, and some would say frivolous, an idea as time travel is with the same powerful context as the universal human emotions the men and women of this war did? The same notes of loyalty and patriotism and unyielding love and despair that translate into the fabric of our own lives? Does living through such an unprecidented time make everything into shades of gray in comparison? Is it ever possible for someone so far removed from anything as intense a human drama as war to ever give these emotions justice in words?

The veterans in this documentary are dying at a rate of close to one thousand per day. Some of the places they revisit, for our benefit, I can only imagine would surface at the tail end of a lifetime, looking back. An urgency to speak the intimate truth--the raw honesty within--before time steals it away. It is this honesty writers struggle to capture, the translation of human experience that makes every one of us the same. No boundaries. No lines. Just the truth.