24 November 2019

Staying Afloat in a Writing Ocean

Message in a bottle

What's true with the rest of life/hobbies/interests is true with writing. So many facts and details to keep
track of. I really want to keep up with what's going on in the writing industry, so I read blog posts and 
tweets and articles and books and newsletters. You know what? It's too much information to absorb. 
You can read too much about how to do things and it can be paralyzing as all the advice you read rolls
through your head when primarily there should be the story, or poem up there. 
Or at least that's how I want it to be. The information also paralyzes by raising doubts. Do I have story 
beats, plot structure, character arcs, action, a catchy opening? That can lead to obsession and 
reworking things over and over again until the piece is informationed into a hot mess. Then you say 
Argh, I can't do this, I'm going to take up knitting. (Knitting is a lovely hobby. Highly recommend.)

Social Media Overload

It's also intimidating to read breezy posts about how someone tweeted something and had an agent the
next day. Or has 20,000 followers and aren't even published yet. It's exhausting to think of social media
and the time sink of promoting yourself. It doesn't stop me from gritting my teeth and posting cheery
—okay, okay, mostly sarcastic—stuff. Maybe I'm too old for social media. But it's probably because
I'm way too private a person to hang my laundry out for the world to see. I was told cultivated glimpses
were the answer to that. A thought worth exploring. I think I can do that and still be my sarcastic self. 
That's definitely me, too. 
Reading agent blogs/websites/tweets is a whirl of conflicting information. Query like this, no, like this. 
Start your novel like this, no, like this. Same with writer's forums. So much chaff to sift through to get 
to the nuggets. The time sink can swallow you whole. Of course, what it all comes down to is, do the 
best you can. If it's not good enough for one person/publication, shrug and move on to the next. 
I gave up taking it personally a long time ago. I have skin of mithril. It leaves bruises, 
but they heal quickly. 
And what's up with all these contests? The lists to find places to submit have more contests than 
regular spots. I just want to submit some poems or a book/chapbook, not pay $20-30 for the privilege 
of doing so each and every time. It's like The Hunger Games of writing, but the odds are never in your 
favor. The slow grind of society is monetizing everything and offering shortcuts, advice, and 
motivation—for a price. I need to be able to afford yarn and dog food also. 

Throw Me a Rope

There are so many places to send poems and novels it's overwhelming. Research can cut the odds 
considerably but suspiciously feels like sending a message out in a bottle—the same time frame for 
a response also. The writing industry is an ocean and I'm out there on a paddleboard. But I really like 
the ocean so I stay and play. Information can be your life preserver or boots filled with water. It's up 
to you to choose your own adventure.
What do you do to combat the tsunami of writing advice?

15 October 2019

New Poetry Book Release - Piccola Poesie

My new poetry book, Piccola Poesie, A Nibble of 100 Short Form Poems, is now available! 

Piccola Poesie contains a variety of Haiku, Senryu, Tanka, and American Sentences that explore human relationships, our relationship with nature, and with everyday objects around us. The poems wheel through the seasons and incorporate observations and commentary in appreciation of everyday life. These short, easily digestible poems permit the reader to find answers to important questions like, 'What's up with cats, anyhow?' and why winter causes poets to rush outdoors to witness the season. Like macaroons, the reader can enjoy these poems as daily treats, or they can be gobbled down by the handful. 100 small-bite poems for a fast-moving world. 

You can find it in print form on Amazon at or as an ebook on Amazon on Oct 16th. For a limited time buy the hard copy and get the ebook for .99¢

(If you purchase, please consider leaving a review. The karma squirrels will smile on you.)

Happy Reading!

28 September 2019

Revising 101 (Housekeeping)

The most important thing to revision? Buy lots of ink cartridges and printer paper. You might be tempted to skip this step. Don't. This applies to both novels and poetry. Print that sucker out. I know, I know, it seems like a PITA to use all that ink and paper on something you just know is perfection. 

Trust me, it's not. Errors are insidious, from little things like the word 'out' instead of 'our'. Hard to spot. Or transposed letters because your eyes crossed when reading that particular section. Or words just flat missing. My favorite in my work is prepositions that go AWOL. Those suckers scatter like roaches when you turn on the light. 

Go Big or Go Home

The advice I scoffed at—at first—was to change the font of the work to something totally different, and enlarge. So I changed from Times New Roman to Arial. To Calibri. I still missed things. But when I changed it to Comic Sans 14 point. Oh, My. Errors stood out with big flashing signs. "You screwed up here! Notice me! (Pick the ugly font of your choice. It works.)

It takes a lot of paper to do this. I could use my novel as a doorstop. Or a firestarter. Somedays, it's Burn, Baby, Burn first and foremost in my brain. Oh, and paperclip every chapter together. Or bull clip it, or put in separate labeled file folders in a drawer. Because when you drop it—and you will—frantic sobbing won't put things back in order. Neither will the cat that chooses that moment to walk over it and sharpen his claws on stray sheets. 

If you hole punch after editing each page and put it in a binder, make sure you empty your hole punch sooner rather than later. Because if you accidentally knock the tray off, little white circles go everywhere. You'll be finding them for months. They defeat the suckiest of vacuum cleaners. You could always sprinkle catnip over it, and hope your static-y cat rolls in them and picks a bunch up. Then you can vacuum the cat. 

Let me know how that works out. 

What are your housekeeping revision tips?

02 September 2019

Poetry Submissions for the Rest of Us

So, I've been reading submission guidelines while I search for places to home my poetry. A lot of them leave me scratching my head. 
"We want poetry that makes our heart go POW and our head pop off the stem of our neck spouting blood like a geyser. We want work that zings our strings and causes a rabid dog to bay at the moon. Send us work that has the diversity of fungal infected wildflowers and the factory installed parts of a slightly used car. Come whiffling through the tulgey wood, and burble as you come, with thematic intent."
All I really want to know is whether the magazine wants free verse, forms, more traditional, prose poems, experimental, or political. Do they consider rhyming poetry? Non-traditional? Edgy? Short? Long? Tattooed on your left hand? How can you tailor your work to the magazine when you can't decipher the code? Back issues don't always help.
I'll take utterly clueless for $500, Alex.
Maybe my poetry magazine to poet translator is busted. 
Maybe I'm getting old. 
Maybe I should stick to writing fantasy. 
Maybe I just throw my poetry at the submissions wall and see what sticks. Yep, I like this option. 
(And when I do find a place for my work)—
“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
      Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
      She chortled in her joy.

05 August 2019

Genre Reading and Writing. Arithmetic Free.

When it came time to choose a genre to write in I chose fantasy. As a longtime reader of Fantasy, Scifi, and everything in between, it seemed a natural fit. I was a latecomer to women's literature and romance. It didn't hold me the way fantasy did, although I like some romance in my fantasy, and not just Mage/queen/plucky necromancer meets heroic other, falls in love, and produce intrepid little sorcerers. 

I love the big, sprawling messiness of a good fantasy story. The world so different from ours, yet populated by the same type of people with the same problems. How to escape evil, which magical academy to attend, how to pacify rampaging dragons, and oh yes, love among the smoking ruins of a just razed village. 

Not a big fan of dystopian fiction, I must admit. It's depressing to think of all the ways civilization could go wrong. The survivors - because it's always lucky by birth survivors - trudging through a ravaged landscape, rummaging through hollowed-out Wal-marts for food and bullets. Fighting off others of their kind to rise to the top of their pathetic food chain. No groups ever join together to try to make their lot in life better, to try and jump-start an improved civilization unlike the one that got them into this mess in the first place. Are we that narrow-minded a species?

Don't answer that.

I do have a space opera novel I worked on and it's sitting in limbo. It falls prey to the things I hate about dystopian novels, hence my reluctance to go on with it. Time to strip it down for parts. Apparently, though, doom, doom, doom makes for good reading. I do like exploring other worlds and cultures in sci-fi also. Big problem there is the vastness of space and zooming around in it. I get hung up on the technical (im)possibilities because I know just enough science to be skeptical, but not enough to make everything plausible. Which is probably why I chose space opera rather than hard science sci-fi. Much easier to hand-wave the science like a Jedi excusing droids than get lost in the physics. Even though I do love me some physics. 

Romance novels both fascinate and repel me. There's something to be said for the formulaic model and a HEA (Happily Ever After) at the end. Maybe it's the optimist in me, wanting the world to turn out for the better. The cynic whispers in the back of my mind, you think real life is like this? Ha! Have I got news for you. Romance dies under the weight of children, laundry, and whose turn it is to mow the backyard. 

Which leaves women's fiction, formerly called 'chick lit'. About women, mostly written by women. A lot of it is depressing as hell, chronicling modern-day problems in a long, and death marchy manner. Dead/missing children, cancer, parents with dementia. Why do I subject myself to that? Because it's real. I guess I can't live on fantasy alone, and sometimes need to come down from my dragon-patrolled castle and deal with life before I scurry back to my fairy fortified citadel.

All of these genres figure into my fantasy writing, however. I like building worlds, I like creating creatures, but I also like my characters to want love along with their magical abilities. Perhaps love helps or hinders their abilities. Or captures the unicorn. Or saves a kingdom. Or destroys it utterly. The people in fantasyland have the same problems you and I have; we just can't use magic or a sharp sword to solve them. Although it would be oh so satisfying to turn your boss into a spotted hog-sloth. 

My heroines and heroes are your everyday folk who just happen to be caught up in something bigger than they are. Reluctantly shoved into saving the world, they rise to the occasion or give it their best shot while dodging death. This is what I want out of the real world. Since we, as a society, currently can't have nice things, I want to write stories about a world where it can happen. And once my letter from Hogwarts gets here, watch out. I'm going to change the world.