Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Holidays are Here

Please note there will be no literary value to this post whatsoever. Thank you.

Behold my mighty holiday cupcake army.

They were to shop for gifts, write cards, wrap presents, decorate the house, and plan my holiday party.

However, they are being eaten. One by one, my helpers' numbers decrease. Most distressing.

With gift lists to make, holiday writer parties to plan, and things—some of them waiting since May—to be mailed out, the NaNoWriMo has been rather dead in the water these past few days. I have so much to celebrate this year, especially after the way last Christmas was a rough patch thanks to all those too quickly returned "no thank yous" from agents. Can I express my relief at not being stuck in a slush pile during the holiday season? (Trust me. Waiting for four month to get a "sorry, not this time" stings.)

For those of you waiting on that request or all-important yes during this season, I offer you one of the remaining fat-free chocolate-iced soldiers. You deserve it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On this day America considers set aside for thanks, I am rendered speechless, having uttered the words of gratitude each night instead of saving them up to spend over turkey.

Between when you celebrate the harvest and Macy's floats rolled through New York's streets my life has changed dramatically.

Last year I watched the mailbox, anticipating—hoping—for good news from that city.

This year I spoke to the agent I wanted from the beginning on the morning of Canadian Thanksgiving. Last week I had coffee with an agency sister, and this week, I set a meeting with my editor to discuss an outline for the book she asked me to write.

The third anniversary of my great-grandmother's death come and gone, and the story written three days after she passed has found its way into print. Words on a page that were never meant to be more than an ethereal embrace. Permission to smear mascara down my cheeks, fill tissues, and feel the depths of her loss.

Could I have imagined last year to see my name within the same table of contents as an author I have admired from chapter one of her debut novel? Or the friends that writing would bring into my life? The love and support of my family, who recognized a need for me to do what made me happy?

How can that much gratitude fit within a single day? Or even two?

No, it has to spread through all three hundred and sixty-five.

Thank you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Break out the Champagne Pt 2

Marie Brennan and I are in the Fall 2007 issue of ON SPEC magazine.

You can order it here. It's ON SPEC Fall 2007 Vol. 19 No. 3 #70.

You can see the ToC, which caused me to squeal like a fangirl, here. (I'm happy about the excerpt line they chose, and being in the same issue as Marie Brennan, because she's fantastic.)

You can read the contributor biographies here.

I will soon be giving away a signed copy, so stayed tuned for more details. If you aren't on blogger, don't fret, as I will likely give one away on Good Karma closer to Christmas.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Remembrance Day
is snow,
and red felt poppies with green felt centers.
Only recently did the centers become black.

They used to be green,
and we'd buy them for a quarter
when the veteran services trays came around the classrooms.
A vaguely flower-shaped sail would top our pink eraser boats
that crossed the wooden expanse of our desktops
exploring for the Hudson Bay Company.

I remember
red and green felt left on a gravestone in the snow,
and my father's voice proud,
choked with withheld tears,
and visible in the November air.
Grandfather Elwood survived WWII
to be hit by a car months before I was born.

I have not planted a poppy in that granite for years,
but I still remember my unknown soldier
fought for peace.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Silicon Valley

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

In the fog of anthropology, that misty ocean between observer and “going native,” you find yourself seeking a port.

It was not your aim to study and explore, but laziness has few career directions, and chronicling the once familiar lands is one that sounded easy enough.

People lived here before, in the sand and the dust. They grew crops and sowed lives, but all of that was generations ago.

You often wonder over a cup of tea—hot because you need the heat to ward off the ever-present whir outside your window, how can you be an anthropologist when there are no people to study? Doesn’t culture need humans to create it?

A jungle of cables and tangled power lines is only inhabited by data. Ones, zeros, and electricity make up the cities, where families once celebrated holidays, weddings, and funerals. If servers and ISP addresses get married, you have yet to be invited to a ceremony.

This used to be a salad bowl—a place to provide most of America’s food. Now it seems an organic CPU. Only the processors remain, all coated in a smog-pate that may have once been lettuce.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Writing is Work, or Dealing with the Practical Person

Chasing words like shadows, trying to capture them with a net, and finding they can always slip through no matter how fine the mesh is—that's only half the battle of writing.

There are obstacles to any art form that is shared beyond just the creator. Critics—who bring a mixture of critique and just criticism, the fear of success, and the heartache of those "no thank you" letters are things any writer seeking publication might encounter.

Before you even reach THE END, there's another roadblock to find your way around—overcoming the necessity to validate why it is we want to sit alone in a room for hours on end. Even if you are one of those social writers—who I envy with white mac books in the coffeehouse—you still make the magic happen when your eyes see into a middle distance that may not even be on this world.

Try explaining what appears to be anti-social/dissociative tendencies as "work" to someone who doesn't function every day in a creative capacity. You'll realize those blue pencil cafe sessions might as well feature a gingham blanket and sandwiches from a wicker basket.

Non-creative people, let's call them Practicals, don't work well with abstracts. If they could, they'd be more creative, and this language barrier wouldn't exist, and none of us would need to explain why we would possibly want to spend more time with people who aren't "real" than those who are. (If you happen to be a creative non-fiction writer, you're got a foot in the door of the "real" world, but don't be snobbish, you're just as weird as the rest of us.)

Often, when you meet a Practical, and you make that tiny social misstep of answering "I'm a writer" to the common question of "what do you do?", you'll be rewarded with a smile and the follow-up of "are you published?"

I know, it's frustrating, but you mustn't reply "no, ass-hat, if I was published, I'd be an author." No good comes from belittling the Practicals. Remember, if they began discussing mortgage rates and office promotions, you might feel equally unsure in your conversational footing.

Yes, for writers there's a distinction to when you may refer to yourself as an author or use italics for the title of your book. It's a rite of passage—like being entrusted with a secret sorority handshake.

One may say to another writer "I wrote 4012 words yesterday" and be understood, because we all speak a common professional language. (Remember when you first came to understand how short 500 words really was?) Few Practicals can translate our wordcount jargon into a measurement they can quantify.

Thus the need for a physical object Practicals can hold in their hands to use as a measure of our success. This sounds disparaging, for which I apologize, but trust me. It's the first step to helping ease the Practical's inexperience with the idea of writing as a viable job-skill and not "playing on the computer."

This is why we seek publication like Arthur sought the grail. It's our undeniable proof—the physical representation of our accomplishments that our Practical friends and family can fully grasp. It signifies that what we do requires a skill we deserve recognition and payment for.

Yes, payment. If it sounds like doublethink to expect monetary reimbursement for your creativity, allow me to explain.

I write because I fucking love it. Make no mistake of that—only a fool writes for the sole purpose of being published. However, my indulgence led to developing a skill. Should I choose to employ my skill as a livelihood or a supplement to my livelihood, I need to be paid for it.

There is no "selling out," and work-for-hire is not a "compromise" of your artistic integrity. Erase those notions from your mind. If this is your career, you're going to have to occasionally be a Practical about it.

How, you ask, does one who doesn't have a contract or a book on a shelf communicate with Practicals? Courage. Tell them what you do. Endure the blank stare with a smile and patiently answer their hesitant questions. Practicals secretly wish they were creative, it's where a lot of their mistrust of us comes from, so take away the mystery of it. When they say "oh, I could never write a novel" tell them they could. (Actually, anyone can write a manuscript. Only a published novelist has written a novel, but don't argue semantics with Practicals. It makes you seem pretentious.)

You may find most Practicals are creative—they just don't know it yet.

Good luck. If all else fails, print off your work-in-progress and hit them with it. It's hard to deny a few pounds of paper impacting your skull.*

*Dreaming in Red does not endorse the abuse of Practicals. Even if I did, I would never encourage it to involve manuscripts, as obviously hardcover editions would be far more effective.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ye Olde NaNoWriMo

As the frights and sights of Halloween fade into echoes and afterimages, the clock strikes midnight and writers in multiple nations begin their quest for bragging rights.

Yes, lovelies, NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—is upon us, and thousands of eager writers are trying their hand at the official and many unofficial NaNo friendly competitions.

The golden number is 1667 words a day, 30 days in a row, to produce a 50,000 word novel. Or 50,000 words towards a longer novel. Or 50,000 words in your current novel. Everyone seems to have their own take, because it's not necessarily the "rules" but the challenge that matters.

With Karen Mahoney and Renee Sweet, I have thrown my hat into the ring. Our goal is 30,000 words (or 1000 words a day for this month.)

Yet before my NaNo even got its play button hit, I'm finding a software glitch. The 30,000 words were supposed to be put into a brand YA novel that I've spent most of October excited about starting. However, my adult manuscript is stalled at chapter 22, as I am having to rewrite the second part. Now I have to decide if I hold off on the YA or risk losing the momentum again on the adult manuscript.

I asked Agent M regarding what she'd want to see first, and I will use her input to decide what is strategically wisest. If she feels a YA novel is something I should move on, 30,000 words would probably get me halfway through the first draft. But it means another month delay on the adult one being finished.

Ok, I know, the answer seems to be to use the "shuffle" feature and mix up the time spent on the projects, since we're not doing official NaNo anyway. Or maybe I could write the YA by hand in a note book, and work on the rewrite strictly by keyboard to help make a distinction. Yes! All right, I will try today. Time to get out the pen and paper... find a nice, quiet coffee shop... and kick all your arses.

How do you balance multiple projects? Do you? What's on your NaNo?