Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Day Four

Today, I'm chasing the paper tails of plot kites, flying in all directions. I know I don't have to-shouldn't-wrap every thread woven through my novel into a tidy bow. Real life isn't like that. Fiction shouldn't be either. But which to grab?

Today, I'm on the romantic fiction playground. There is a long history of rules laid forth by the women and men who've played here before me. It's a delicious confection of happily ever after where kites soar in optimistic skies. It is a gift of hope and the staggering power of love to a reader who, in the face of extreme personal challenges, needs something to believe in. One last scene to cinch the bows, finished.

Tomorrow, I step off the playgound for another less structured, less defined place where rules are meant to be broken and all is not what it seems. Where some strings slip away and we're left to make sense of our own lives and perceptions.

I don't know which final scene will remain. It will be up to those far more versed in the market. Maybe some day, grist for fan trivia (one can only hope).

Tomorrow: The End

Day Five

I was remiss in not posting last night. My pillow screamed louder.

Pages clicked like parenthesis on day five. A thou in the early morning. A thou near midnight. Responsibilities between. Sometimes I fear that vast chasm will chase away my momentum. Sometimes it's the hours my mind needs to flesh out what's to come.

Most times I write in public, I retreat into a sinkhole where someone has to touch or speak to me to coax me out. Yesterday, a Friday group of women sat nearby, sipping lattes and editorializing their children's homework. Gradually, the conversation shifted into their struggles to care for their aging parents. One woman, who had appeared so dominant and outgoing, plunging into the details of the others lives, became the center point. Her voice rang out discordant notes, the others fell silent. So bizarre it was to be an unwilling voyeur into this woman's breakdown, pretending to read my screen, but feeling every bit in my chest the weight the others must have felt.

Sometimes we write about sadness where we feel only joy. Fear where we feel only safety. On those pages, words have the potential to be discordant. Yesterday, the stranger's pain made an imprint, infiltrated my character's emotional black moment, and I'm grateful to her for the gift. I hope she finds peace and comfort.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Day Six

I believe artists, no matter what avenue, are time travelers. How else to explain three missed hours while diving into the world, the lines, the melodies we create? What happened to the rest of the world in that blink?

The only thing I know happened in that blink for sure was (1)good triumphed over evil, (2)worthy people faced down their inner demons and (3)love could no longer wait. I'm sure stocks fell, political candidates said stupid, insensitive things, and somewhere researchers isolated a necessary gene to screen for a disease. I'm blissfully unaware of it all today. I was time traveling.

I've logged in my share today, so tonight I'm off to a pre-season hockey game, a lone Avalanche fan in a sea of Stars. Arms laden with canned goods for our neighbors on the coast, I can't think of a more perfect way to pre-celebrate The End.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Day Seven

I can't think of anything more perfect than reaching the climax on Hump Day. Pull your mind out, will ya? It means I'll skid past the finish line two days early.

Most random words typed today: Tony Baretta (long story, buy the book)

Seen at the library: A woman with a mullet

Most distracting thing all day: stomach growl tied with mullet girl's cell phone ring

Literary inspiration on the stacks next to me: Kurt Angle's WWF biography. Blech!

Most in need of: chocolate and sleep

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Day Eight

Grocery cart primed with a Clorox wipe, thirteen item list to conquer.

I blaze a trail through unfamiliar territory, a Kroger fallen to the wrong side of the elitist schmucks around me. Aisle signs and indifferent employees in smocks are the only guideposts on my quest for dill pickle relish. Bread. The golden elixir of immunity defense yogurt, so my final four scenes do not fall prey to fever or explosive remnants of said pickle relish.

Matrons chase me with their free samples-skewered wienies-unsuccessful in their attempt to eat the clock until I can return to my novel. My hero is dodging aspen trees. My heroine is screaming. No way Bea Arthur is taking me down.

I hadn't anticipated the holiday aisle. Housewives loiter, foreign tongues vaulting to the corralled black and orange balloons overhead. Through the store's sound system "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" assaults my ears.

Yes, I do.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Day Nine

I'm coining today Full Circle Day. Strange things have been happening in my sphere. After 78,000 words, my much-loved hero finally traveled back in time. The poor bastard almost died, but while I was engrossed in delivering the line about the roar of subatomic particles against his eardrum...or some such nonsense...a deaf man tapped me on the shoulder. I knew of the man, but had never spoken to him until today nor known he'd overcome so much more than my hero ever could. Nice guy. As with all things in my glass-half-full world, I took it as a sign I was resonating on some plane I was meant to be on today.

And, I figured out the perfect solution to the creative war in my brain over my last scene. The white flags have been raised. Inner peace reigns.

And you thought yesterday I sounded N-V-T-S, nuts.
(anyone who recognizes that movie reference gets the first celebratory margarita in nine days)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Day Ten

Insanity and writing is a cliche I'm beginning to believe has legs. In the past week, I've fully subscribed to choices I'd never have made otherwise in an attempt to type THE END.

Like pro-league players entering into superstitious rituals of beard growth in their quest for ultimate glory, I decided six weeks ago to forego a haircut. Rally behind rapidly encroaching Crystal Gayle recklessness. Maybe it's a game face; or more precisely, the absence of wayward strands fallen across my bleary eyes. I've committed fashion sins of mustard colored scrunchies and pajama bottoms in public, reasoning that art defies conventional boundaries. Exfoliation be damned! I'm going for the Pulitzer!

I've turned the intermittent sweet-toothbrush sensitivity of a back molar into a full-on warrior's cry. I cannot answer to the internal salvation of my hero and heroine, nor the consequences befitting my villian from behind a paper bib in a reclined vinyl dentist's chair geared toward humiliating flatulence sounds. No pain, no THE END.

I no longer kneel at Maybelline's altar. The sniff test has been re-enstated as a family ritual for the day's ensemble. And I will reach THE END before September 30th or my name isn't "Wow-she's-really-let-herself-go"

With ten days left, the countdown begins. Inconsequential reports, imparting no wisdom other than the lint that remains after my creativity is spent. Today, I file this report:

Coiture of the day: Gray plastic cord fashioned as a necklace with a ring of three memory sticks. *ahem* paranoid *ahem*

Fuel tank: A priest's word of salvation meant exclusively for my protagonist. A chocolate-filled doughnut and caffeine.

Predominant guilt: returning a phone call that will inevitably rob me of a year of my life.

Is writing and insanity a cliche?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Time, in Words

I'm still on a wicked self-imposed deadline with little time to dabble in philosophy. So today, I share words about time from those who've come before with far more talent. I thought I might use them someday, weave them into a story, but it's a shame to keep them to myself:

Backward, turn backward, O time in your flight,
Make me a child again, just for tonight.
~Elizabeth Chase Akers "Rock Me to Sleep"

All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that.
~Baltasar Gracian

What is time? The shadow on the dial, the striking of the clock, the running of the sand, day and night, summer and winter, months, years, centuries-these are but arbitrary and outward signs, the measure of Time, not Time itself. Time is the Life of the Soul.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Distant Time

I know not from what distant time
thou art ever coming nearer to meet me.
Thy sun and stars can never keep thee hidden from me for aye.

In many a morning and eve thy footsteps have been heard
and thy messenger has come within my heart and called me in secret.

I know not only why today my life is all astir,
and a feeling of tremulous joy is passing through my heart.

It is as if the time were come to wind up my work,
and I feel in the air a faint smell of thy sweet presence.

~Rabindranath Tagore

Monday, September 15, 2008

Roller Coasters and Marketing

Okay, I really am almost finished with this novel. Don't the last fifty pages feel like a runaway car on a wooden coaster? Little time to do anything but look ahead, breath, and life, held prisoner. Thus, the late entry and meaty excuse for unreliable entries for the next two weeks. Here's a nice bit to chew on if you're a writer and you face marketing uncertainties:

Recently, MBA and AuthorMBA founder Kay Lockner answered my burning marketing questions. RWA Pros, look for the complete interview, packed with great advice, in the quarterly PRO newsletter out next month. For everyone else, I'll post the Q&A in its entirety on my website next week. Kay has taught hundreds of writers how to be more business savvy about their careers and offers downloadable career guides for her most popular workshops at Download free lessons and worksheets at Here's a sneak peek:

Q: AuthorMBA has earned a coveted spot on Writer's Digest's "101 Best Websites for Writers" list for 2008. In addition to timely advice from industry insiders and exclusive interviews with agents and editors, what other guidance do you offer writers looking to take their career to the next level?

A: The Writer's Digest honor was a huge thrill for AuthorMBA this year. I'm delighted that our students nominated us for the award and that Writer's Digest selected us out of the 2,100 nominations it considered. I'm passionate about helping other writers achieve their writing dreams, so it was truly an honor to be recognized for our work in that regard.

I've taught many courses on topics ranging from career planning to book marketing to how to spot a trend in a genre before it hits big. I'm no longer able to teach as much as I'd like, so I redesigned the courses into step-by-step career guides to be available whenever a writer needs them. (No more waiting two months for information you need NOW.) It's a win-win situation, and the response from writers has been wonderful. Each lesson builds on the last--incorporating our proprietary worksheets, checklists and planning templates--to make growing your career a breeze. By the end of each career guide, you'll have a complete, totally customized plan that you can immediately put to use in your career.

One thing I'm really excited about… we've recently added a free preview of all four career guides at so writers can see what our career guides are all about. Now anyone can download the first few lessons and worksheets of any (or all!) guides for FREE. No strings attached. It's all part of our commitment to help writers make wise, budget-conscious decisions about their careers.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Half is Good, Right?

Six is hardly twelve, but my camera software went wonky on me last night. For some reason, it hand selected only these, so I'll offer up what I have, riveting as it is.
7:56 Two scenes away from the Black Moment
8:10 Paranoid hardcopy with paperweight. The page in the typewriter mold reads, "Every night in my dreams I see you. I feel you." Very Celine. Ick.
8:16 A perfect game of cat and mouse.
12:38 A metaphor. And clear skies before Ike.
12:41 Is this spray graffiti or the city's attempt to rid the world of bad music one Milli Vanilli relic at a time? 1:20 This guy migrated into my car five years ago, separated from his gift-bearing brothers, changed his name and wedged himself as the perfect sentinel to keep my stereo's remote in place. Edge song: Whitesnake "Still of the Night"

I'll venture a guess that nod of your head doesn't mean "Yes, please resurrect the others!"-more along the lines of "I wasn't asleep. Really."

I came to two conclusions after this 12 of 12 experiment: (1) if images other than the ones in my head filled my day, I'd be a film director or artist, not a writer and (2) life is filled with beautiful, crazy details if we only take the time to notice.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Atom Smashers, Time Travel and the Magic of Twelve

Happy atom-smasher day to you! Should the earth cave in on itself in a massive black hole of destruction and alternate universes and time travel become accessable, I'll be there. Come find me. Or, I'll be clipping away at the end pages of my novel. Either way, my mental bookmark will be here:

PhonographCylinder, a video creator, edits pieces of historical footage together to create a spectacular sense of time travel. This footage is from the late nineteenth century, a time of huge leaps in motion photography and a few years beyond the past setting of my novel. Pure inspiration to hang my final scenes on. Check out his other historical subjects, from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to the 1900 Paris World's Fair.

Remember the September 16th time travel invitation? As the deadline approaches, I'm sad to say that while the Day's Inn is still serving complimentary coffee, the invitation has been revoked. Either the movement went underground, the interviews didn't net any potential candidates or the leader checked into someplace with worse conditions than stains on the mattress and Bob Ross-style paintings. Alas, I cannot even rekindle the moment, as the presentation has been removed from YouTube. For all disappointed Vortex readers, I offer up a challenge...

Chad Darnell's project: 12 of 12. It's a viral photo sharing project-12 images on the 12th day of every month. Link to August's 12 of 12 and the rules:


2) After you post your pictures onto a webpage of your choice (Livejournal, typepad, MySpace, Flickr, etc...) please post the TIME, LOCATION, and A SMALL COMMENT in the pic.

3) You own the rights to all of your pictures. The idea "12 of 12" is mine. While credit is not necessary, please don't credit someone else with the idea.

4) The original concept was at least one body part in the picture. That idea was slowly faded away. The important part is that it are 12 pics.

5) When referring to the project, please refer to it as "12 OF 12" - not "12 ON 12."

6) Once completed, please e-mail or post the PERMALINK of the post AND the city and stateand country of WHERE THE PICTURES WERE TAKEN. (If you are on vacation, it's where the pics were taken.) or city

(The permalink is the link to the ENTRY of your page. If you just send me your website, I have to track it down. By listing the permalink, it helps for people to go back and view your previous 12 of 12 entries from previous months.)

ANYONE is welcome to join in, even if you've never done it before! I hope you will.


I'll be joining in this Friday the 12th and hope you will, too. Until then, know I appreciate each one of you, faithful and occasional, visitors. Thank you for sharing part of your day with me here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Buried Secrets

On a whim, I picked up a documentary from Blockbuster entitled "The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan." If you read my post last week on unreliable narrators, it won't come as a surprise to you that I find his work fascinating. My only preconceived notion going into the film was that he was a bit of a recluse, not much of a Hollywood stretch of the imagination.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn, hired by the Sci-fi channel to delve into the director and his craft, begins a journey, both sanctioned and forbidden by Night, a man who longs to connect but keeps tripping over his inability or unwillingness to share anything personal about himself. Kahn tries to play by Night's rules, but the restrictive nature of only pre-approved interview questions and associates tempts the filmmaker to ferret out less-rehearsed sources.

First, we meet a devoted legion of hooded teenagers who linger outside Night's Pennsylvania estate and explore their unwavering belief that the director communicates with the dead. We're introduced to his sixth grade teacher, a nun, who sheds light on his childhood and had saved a haunting sketch he made while in her class. We meet childhood friends unwilling to show Night's adolescent flirting with movie making. One innocent, unsuspecting female, whom we might assume had gained the shy boy's confidence in high school in an intimate way, is assured the interview's content will be removed should Night disapprove. After much coaxing and manipulation, she reveals Night had a near-death experience as a child that forever changed who he was.

We see the pond where a ten year old Night attempted to save a deer trapped in the ice and fell in. She shows Kahn the watch Night gave her, stopped at the moment of his icy plunge and trail along with the documentarian as he finds the exact moment the newspaper reported him pulled from the pond-thirty-five minutes after the time on the watch. We learn the pond is located in a suspected area of witchcraft and an unnatural number of drownings over the centuries. We learn Night's sixth grade sketch subject looks like one of those victims, the same ghostly boy who is captured in a camera shot of a mirror at Night's childhood home during the filming. Night's childhood friend confirms that in those thirty-five minutes, he saw his own deceased relatives and the dead he didn't know.

During the course of the film, we sense a polarity between the documentary Kahn was hired to do and the story he wants to tell. Again and again, he finds evidence in Night's past that are direct echoes of scenes in his films, secrets that resonate through his work. Through insightful interviews with celebrities like Johnny Depp and Adrien Brody, we become privy to how far Night is willing to go to protect himself and his craft.

But this knowledge doesn't come without a price. The subversive way Kahn manipulates interviews with people Night does not place on his approved list is at once fascinating and disturbing, especially the girl, who realizes far too late she'd probably betrayed Night's boyhood confidence once entrusted to her. In moments where we witness Night reaching out in good faith, unsuspecting of Kahn's back door investigation into his past, we understand completely the lengths the man has gone to protect himself and almost turn our sympathies away from the documentarian.

Ultimately, it's not much of a stretch to imagine this is Night's past. For a man who brings an audience to the edge of possibility, to face fears we didn't know we had, his movies become a transparent projection of his experiences. For artists and writers, it's a powerful reminder of how vulnerable we are once we open our work to the outside. For everyone, it's a study of the blurred line between celebrity and privacy.

Having said all that, and realizing I must have been living in a cave during the pre-publicity cycle of The Village, I bought into this "mockumentary" completely. Night masterminded a complete reversal he's famous for in his films in order to generate buzz surrounding his new release. Some now crown it the worst piece of drivel ever committed to film, no doubt smarted by the betrayal. I may be among the few who can appreciate a good hoax, a fully-realized ghost story and the ultimate twist on an audience.

What do you think? Fun or ego?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Quarter 'til Mesmerizing

Would it be too much to confess that I stop and stare at the row of clocks lining the back of the mall's Samsonite store when I shop? I might need to know it's 3 am in Prague while I'm scarfing a cheesesteak on wheat. Might.

I've tackled clocks here before. Since the post on crazy gift clocks and the ones on official government time and John's Clock Shop, I've acquired enough for a Friday show-and-tell:

Tokyo artist Yoshitomo Nara's clock contains 84 unique drawings to cover all 24 hours and 60 minutes needed to cycle through a day.

For those who can't get enough bar codes at the Piggly Wiggly, the bar code clock.

For those who picture time as linear, the line clock.

My favorite internet clock is called Timebeat. Each time the clock is loaded the image shifts. The metaphysical sound effects, buried heartbeat and quasi-Twilight Zone-ish graphics speak to my inner sense of woo-woo.

How does your mind picture the progression of time?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tickle My Stats

I'm into Statcounter for a myriad of reasons, but the unintended giggle factor of keyword analysis lets me know how The Vortex presents to the world. Most of these hits never returned-I'm assuming they didn't find what they were looking for here, but even the quickest trigger finger-turned-stat strokes my ego. Here are my top ten favorites:

1."ordinary people state of undress"
I had no idea I'd addressed some quasi-nekked reality. Can't recall one. If anyone finds it, do tell. I hope it's of the XY variety.

2. "mammoth chunks"
I can only assume web surfers knew about the Time Travel Mart in California before and sought it out because of their most famous merchandise. Aside from a natural curiosity of prehistoric creatures, the only other possibilities leave me shuddering. original post

3. "bat guano in eyeliner"
Ick. Did I discuss this? Apparently, there are few websites willing to go into the feces-in-makeup arena. Ladies and 30 Seconds to Mars fans, isn't it comforting to know there's one among us with an insatiable curiosity that we'll forever remember when we uncap that ultra-wet, waterproof liner? original post

4. "birth control titanic"
The Titanic interview with V.C. King and subsequent posts generated a lot of interest, but Leo's sweaty hand was hardly a commentary on this topic and a sinking ship is not a form of population control. original post

5. "thighmasters how to use"
Who knew I could pull the expert card on the Suzanne Somers multi-million dollar empire? original post

6. "is picking flowers in a ditch illegal"
Who do I look like, friggin' Jeeves? Texas DPS? original post

7. "woo woo factor"
I love this. This is going to be my new author platform. A hook line under the name on my website. L.A. Mitchell, The Woo-Woo Factor in Romance. Perfect. Thank you, kind surfer. original post

8. "holey slippers"
Who searches the web for worn footwear? Try ebay. My eccentric aunt just found out about the auction store near her house and has confused her Goodwill donation with her transistor radio. original post

9. "orange wedge revenge blogspot"
I can't recall proclaiming retaliation with citrus, but back off. I have a tangelo in the fridge and I'm not afraid to squeeze it in your eye. original post

10. "photo woman"
That's specific. Let me know when you get to page load 10 million-Oh wait, you'll have died a natural death by then. Never mind. original post

Anyone else with stat capabilities, leave your gems here...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lookin' Back, Texas

Leanna Ellis, author of the ultra fun Elvis homage, Elvis Takes a Backseat, brings a spirituality and touch of inspiration to her women's fiction, a complete combination of humor and depth that transcends generations. I adore her work and can't wait to lay my hands on this one. Here's what people are saying about her September release, Lookin' Back Texas:

"What a hoot! Leanna Ellis has a gift for storytelling and for quirky, fun, eccentric characters entirely true to the human experience."Arlene James, Author of His Small-Town Girl

“In a smooth pairing of wit and grit, Leanna Ellis weaves a tale of flawed relationships and crippling regrets with wonderfully timed comedic threads. A fresh, clever look at the audacity of love that forgives.” Susan Meissner, Author of Blue Heart Blessed

“An entertaining tale, full of rich characters and a deep lesson about healing the past. Leanna Ellis is on my reading list from here on out.” Rachel Hauck, Author of Sweet Caroline and Diva NashVegas

“A wacky, off-the-wall read that’s spiritually right on target!” Cathy Marie Hake, Author of Forevermore and Fancy Pants

A devoted wife and mother must return to her hometown of Luckenbach, Texas to help her mother plan her father’s funeral. Trouble is – he isn’t dead! And neither are the secrets she buried there years ago.

book trailer
Leanna's website

An unbelievable amount of revenue has been generated by the mention of this Texas town in the Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings song. Anyone outside of Texas know the real secret about Luckenbach? Texas readers, have no fear. Send me your picture of Luckenbach and I'll post. I'm digging for mine...Here it brother-in-law, Kenny, on the left, my dad on the right. Does this give away the secret? Anyone else have a photo? I'd bet my left arm it's the exact same photo.

Listening to: Dierks Bentley, "Tryin' to Stop Your Leavin"