Thursday, December 13, 2012

Diamonds In The Rough

"Here’s my one big tip. Writing is like prospecting for diamonds. A lot of people see gems in a jewelry store (metaphorically speaking) and when they go prospecting they toss aside every diamond they find because in nature it’s a rough, crusty thing. And then there are the folks who grab every one of those black, misshapen little lumps, glue them to rings, and demand six grand for each one. Neither of these approaches work. A diamond inherently needs work before it’s ready to sell. You never find the end product. It’s going to need a practiced eye to tell which ones are worth the time and effort, and then they need lots of cutting and polishing."
 ~ Peter Clines, author, Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots

Read the full interview here.

This is some damn good advice. These words are ones to remember, print out, tape above your desk, and write by.


Monday, November 5, 2012

National Novel Writing Month


I forgot to mention that I am participating in NaNoWriMo this month for the 6th year! With only one "win" under my belt, I am looking forward to finishing another yarn. This one involves an orphan, a mass murder, and an amateur ghost hunter. We'll see where it ends up! I'm never too sure until the characters tell me their tales.

If you want to know more, go to http://www.nanowrimo.org. If you are a member already, look me up as a writing buddy - divinerebel - and let's go! It's not too late to start. 50,000 words in 30 days will give you a solid piece of clay to sculpt and refine as you wish. I've learned so much from doing this each year; the experience is invaluable. And yes, It's only the very wee hours of Day 5, but my word count is 2 days ahead. So far, so good! Although I'm sure much of the first two chapters will get cut later... that's for later. NaNoWriMo is the month when you kick your Internal Editor to the curb. Send your Inner Critic packing. Just write, write, write, and before you know it, a story starts to form and take shape. It's wonderful!

Hope to see you there! (~_^ )b

Urban Fantasy vs. Magical Realism, Part One

Top image: cover to Jim Butcher's Proven Guilty.

I'm making a note to myself to remember to check out this publisher. Perhaps you would like to check them out, as well? They specialize in Urban Fantasy.


I'd also like to discuss the topic of Urban fantasy vs. Magic Realism. Wikipedia describes the difference thusly:
Urban fantasy is a sub-genre of contemporary fantasy defined by place: These stories are set in urban landscapes. Its use of existing contemporary locations like New York and Los Angeles set this genre apart from other sub-genres of fantasy and even science fiction also set in cities. Although some notable exceptions exist, like the fictional city of Newford, which is the setting of the Newford Series by Charles de Lint.

The urban fantasy's focus on plot and action distinguishes it from literary stories that fall under magical realism, which also includes speculative elements and sometimes urban settings, like Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.
I wonder about one of my favorite authors in childhood, Edward Eager, and if his books would qualify as urban fantasy (granted, for the younger reader), despite being written well before the moniker had been claimed as a style of fiction. I definitely remember being favorably impressed in my early twenties by Emma Bull's writing, especially "A War For The Oaks". Very enjoyable and memorable read, for me.

I believe some of my past work would qualify for this genre, and would like to explore it further. But is Urban Fantasy a lesser cousin to Magical Realism? I'm hard pressed to settle on that conclusion, as of yet. "Winter's Tale", by Mark Helprin, was the first novel that I read knowing that it was categorized as Magical Realism. I quite enjoyed it. But John Crowley's "Little, Big" had been a favorite of mine years prior... Would that cross-generational tale of faeries and magical realms in an architect's house in the twentieth century fall in the MR camp? I'm not exactly sure.

Thoughts? Opinions? Questions to further ponder? Please comment below.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rejection is Found to Boost Creativity

"Research conducted by Cornell and Johns Hopkins University researchers has shown that people who are able to handle rejection in the proper manner--by shrugging it off and blazing their own, independent trails--can experience heightened creativity and even commercial success through an ability to eschew mainstream thought and groupthink and instead pursue their own creative solutions to problems. They tested their hypothesis through a series of experiments in which they manipulated the experience of social rejection; subjects in the study were led to believe that everyone in a group exercise could choose whom to work with on a team project, only to be told later that no one had selected them for a team.


"For people with an independent mindset, this rejection inspired them to go on and complete the exercise in a way that was deemed more creative (we’re not exactly sure how “creativity” was measured). For people without an independent mindset--well, we’re not really sure what kind of impact this exclusion had on them (hopefully someone later told them it was just an experiment, it was all in good fun, and really, everyone here thinks you’re great)."
Read more here.

This is good news for writers, right? Writers get rejected all the time. Well, technically speaking, the work of writers get rejected, the writer her/himself is not being personally rejected.

I definitely feel the push rejection gives me. Actually, I've had a pretty high percentage of  my work accepted, which I directly relate to past rejections. It drove me to seek better resources (if you're a writer, I highly recommend the website Duotrope- you can track all your work, submissions, stats, and find great places to publish your stuff!), and better hone my craft. I have learned to seek calls for submissions and write specifically to those, for a much higher rate of success. I have always looked forward to collecting a staggering pile of rejections letters (I could not foresee email at the age of ten, or even twenty) as a sign of reaching my goal of becoming a professional author. Dr. Seuss collected 23 letters of rejection before he finally found a publisher. Stephen King also kept a bulletin board full of pinned rejection letters above his work space for years. Receiving rejection letters puts one in good literary company.

But this study is about social rejection, more than any other. Which brings me back to middle school-- the breeding grounds of social experience and self-esteem issues.

Being placed in the "Gifted & Talented" class meant that, basically, the same 25-30 kids were together in each class period all day, every year. I considered these classmates friends; we invited each other to birthday parties, shared jokes in class, and mingled pleasantly during lunch and recess. At the time, the brands of clothing to be worn were OP shorts, Calvin Klein or Palmetto jeans, Izod shirts, chinos, and penny loafers. I tried to fit in, like most kids do, as best I could. Many of the brand name jeans were not made for curvy girls, so I lost points there. Knock-offs were often substituted in my house in place of some of the pricier clothes. But I felt comfortable with myself, and on par with my classmates and friends.

But one Friday evening, all that changed for me.

Fridays were the night that my family went out. Dinner at Burger King or Friendly's, followed by shopping at the mall. (Fancy, I know!) Dad usually headed off to Sears, Mom and my brother to other departments stores, and Grandma and I did our own thing, which mostly included people watching from a bench in the center intersection of the mall. That's where I encountered a group of classmates from school: about eight of them, all of which I considered friends, all out together. I hadn't been invited. I spoke with them, and some of them seemed to be slightly embarrassed, like they were getting caught doing something, which, in a way, they were. Turned out, they did this sort of outing every Friday night. I had never been invited. Not that I could go, necessarily, or that I even  wanted to, but being asked is nice. I distinctly remember that moment, when something clicked in my brain, and I knew that no matter what kind of clothes I wore, or how many birthday parties I spent with these kids, I would never be part of the group. I was different from them. And I always would be.

So, I decided, then and there, that I would just go ahead and be my different self. Within a week, I had cut my hair and dyed it orange. I wore all the crazy '80's colors and patterns I wanted, with no concern to conformity. I knew that it no longer mattered. Whatever opinions my classmates may have of me, was their business, not mine. 

And to this day, I am different from those kids. Most of them grew up, went to local colleges, got jobs in offices or schools, got married, had kids, and I hope they're all happy. But my path was different. Europe was my college, I've never worked in an office (and have been my own boss for most of my adult life), and I'm not have kids. I did get married, though, and he's as different as I am. What was that quote from Dr. Seuss? Oh yeah:

“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.”

Next time you're rejected, on any level, do an internal assessment and make sure it was from something you actually wanted to be accepted for. And if it was, let it be your motivation for trying harder. Or, differently. Because everything takes practice, and any mistakes made just contribute towards the process of elimination on the path to finding what does work, what does get accepted, what you really want, and who you really are. 

Blessings on your journey through the forests of rejection and acceptance.






Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Writer's Hallowe'en Event

Event: The Writer's Hallowe'en, hosted by yours truly, in N. Seattle, Monday, October 29th. Please RSVP on facebook or comment here if you plan on attending!




"Poppy", a true story of living with my grandfather's ghost, appears in the latest issue (#7, "Paranormal") of Writers Haven, an online magazine.
You can find the magazine's current issue here.
And my story, "Poppy" is on page 10, found here.


How I Spent My Zombie Apocalypse Facebook Page

Image by Lora Zombie

Have you liked my facebook page yet? http://www.facebook.com/HowISpentMyZombieApocalypse is the place for zombie culture, writing news, and links to my work as an author. Join me!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Anthology Book is Available Now


It's out! Just like some of the ghosts filling the pages of "Enter At Your Own Risk: Fires and Phantoms". You'll find a dozen and a half stories here, all excellent. These stories will give you goosebumps, put you on the edge of your seat, keep you guessing. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wish you'd bought more copies, to hand out as gifts. Get yours today!

 Paperback Edition, from Barnes & Noble ($9.99) - BUY HERE 

eBook Edition for Kindle, from Amazon.com ($2.99) - BUY HERE



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Enter At your Own Risk: Fires and Phantoms at Anthocon 2012

Firbolg Publishing will have a booth at Anthocon 2012 in November! They will be selling their latest, "Enter At Your Own Risk: Fires and Phantoms", which includes one of my short stories. I've seen the book proof - it looks great! Can't wait to get a copy in my hands. If you're going to the con, check them out!



Saturday, September 8, 2012

Score A Big One For Equality & Civil Rights

Let me tell you a little bit about me and football.

When I was a little girl in Maryland, I liked baseball. I was a tomboy. The kids in my neighborhood would get together, usually in Mark's backyard (because it was big and flat), and play baseball. Or football. No coaches, no teams, just kids. When it was football, I was really good at tackling. I'm not sure what that position is called, but I was the one sent after whoever had the ball. I would take them down.  But it was baseball cards that I collected with joy. Soon, I began to collect football cards, too. But before I got very far, something happened. A man named Bob Irsay sold the beloved Baltimore Colts out from under us, the fans. They loaded up some Mayflower moving trucks and out sneaked the entire team, in the middle of the night. To this day, many Marylanders refuse to use the services of Mayflower Movers. I absorbed the atmosphere of betrayal, and swore of football forever. I wasn't that into yet, anyway.

As an adult, I've continued to not like football. Firstly, the games are long. One hour, divided into breaks and timeouts over four or five hours? I've got better things to do. Secondly, the games are noisy. I hate the sound of a television filled with the roaring crowd, commentators, bells, horns, whistles,... it just annoys me. Thirdly,  football is played by jocks. In my experience, most jocks are big and dumb, shallow, and close-minded. Not all of them, of course-- people are people, good and bad side by side in all walks of life. In that same vein, though, it has seemed to me that an inordinate number of football players are thugs, criminals, rapists, sexists, and the like. I know, I know, I'm making some seriously broad generalizations and stereotypes, here, but that is just how it has seemed to me over the years.

But this week, something wonderful has happened. Actually, two something wonderfuls:

  1. In response to a Maryland ballot initiative that would legalize gay marriage, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has spoken out in its favor. Then, Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote a letter that to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, urging him to "inhibit such expressions from your employee. Last week, Yahoo published that letter. 
  2. Now, we get to read this amaze-balls response that Minnesota Vikings's Chris Kluwe wrote in response, also published by Yahoo.
I applaud both these men for standing up for equality in public, particularly from within an industry that is wracked with homophobia, or, more accurately, homomisia.


But, why am I blogging about athletes and righteous behavior in the name of equality (as if that wasn't enough!)? Because Chris Kluwe has written a beautifully eloquent and biting letter! In this age of 140 character limits, netspeak/textspeak, and Jersey Shore level vocabularies, it is vitally refreshing to encounter such a thing as this letter. Bravo!



Dear Emmett C. Burns Jr.,

I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland's state government. Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level. The views you espouse neglect to consider several fundamental key points, which I will outline in great detail (you may want to hire an intern to help you with the longer words):

1. As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom. By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constituents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should "inhibit such expressions from your employees," more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo, not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-boggingly stupid? It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person's right to speech. To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit.

2. "Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment, and excitement." Holy fucking shitballs. Did you seriously just say that, as someone who's "deeply involved in government task forces on the legacy of slavery in Maryland"? Have you not heard of Kenny Washington? Jackie Robinson? As recently as 1962 the NFL still had segregation, which was only done away with by brave athletes and coaches daring to speak their mind and do the right thing, and you're going to say that political views have "no place in a sport"? I can't even begin to fathom the cognitive dissonance that must be coursing through your rapidly addled mind right now; the mental gymnastics your brain has to tortuously contort itself through to make such a preposterous statement are surely worthy of an Olympic gold medal (the Russian judge gives you a 10 for "beautiful oppressionism").

3. This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom? Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life? If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you'll start thinking about penis? "Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!" Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)

I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won't come into your house and steal your children. They won't magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won't even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?

In closing, I would like to say that I hope this letter, in some small way, causes you to reflect upon the magnitude of the colossal foot in mouth clusterfuck you so brazenly unleashed on a man whose only crime was speaking out for something he believed in. Best of luck in the next election; I'm fairly certain you might need it.

Sincerely,
Chris Kluwe

P.S. I've also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your "I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing" and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.


Chris Kluwe is a punter for the Vikings. Follow him on Twitter, @ChrisWarcraft.
http://deadspin.com/5941348/they-wont-magically-turn-you-into-a-lustful-cockmonster-chris-kluwe-explains-gay-marriage-to-the-politician-who-is-offended-by-an-nfl-player-supporting-it

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Books That Have Inspired Me

I've read a lot of books in my life, but nearly as many as I would like to, or even that a few of my friends have. (I've got one friend that reads 1 or 2 books per day! I prefer lingering lovingly over the words, myself, but I do admire the accomplishment.) A few books have stuck with me over the years, some have begged to be read over and over again, and still others have had me racing to the page to pen my own. Here's a list of some of those inspiring books, in no particular order. Please comment with your own!


  1. Between the Bridge and the River - Craig Ferguson
    I know I've mentioned this book already, but five years ago, it really was the impetus for me to make writing my primary artistic expression this round. (I go in cycles of painting, writing, and other arts for long years of patterns.)


  2. Walking On AlligatorsSusan Shaughnessy
    Back in the nineties, when my biggest challenge as a writer was getting to the page, this book of meditative gems inspired me to sit down to write, many times.
    From the book description: "A daily motivator for people who write--and for all those who long to write--providing an insistent wake-up call for the creative urge, with insights on how to work against resistance, live with the loneliness, develop discipline, and dare to take deeper risks in their work."



  3. Anything by Jackie Collins
    The fact that this shallow woman with a vocabulary of about 1200 words gets published-- repeatedly-- has often driven my confidence up in spades. If she can do it, I bloody well can, too! And better!


  4. The Magical Beast  - Author?
    I am pretty sure that was the title. Can't remember the author, and cant' find the book online. It was a paperback children's chapter book I won at the library one summer. I chose it from a table full of books, and I read it over and over and over. I was young-- maybe seven?-- when I got it, and continued to read it even in to my young adulthood. It may be in a box somewhere at my parents's house, or it may be lost forever... But I think I learned a lot about story structure from reading that tale so many times.


  5. What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers - Anne Bernays, Pamela Painter
    A friend of mine went to college and got a Master's Degree in English. This was one of his textbooks. I can't say I've "read" it,  but I've definitely used it. Not even a quarter of it, yet, despite having it for a year or two. But the thing is, when I'm dry-- you know, absolutely exhausted of all ideas for story or character, I can pick up this book and find something to trigger a spark and get something on the page.
Okay, I know what you're thinking. "There are no horror books on this list!" True... because, honestly, I get so wrapped in a good story, that I lose sight of what makes it so good, so readable, so lovable. And while I may get inspired by the magnificent tales of Clive Barker, or Stephen King, I also get that feeling that I could never compete with them. How many times have I read something only to exclaim, "Damn! I wish I'd written that!" 

But, I can only write what I write, and they will write what they write, and maybe someday my novels and stories can share some shelf space with them. That is the Dream.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My History As a Writer

I've written my whole life. I wanted to be the youngest published author, and be in the Guinness Book of World Records, so I handed my mom a "book" I made, about a duck. I was three. I had folded the pages like a book, drew the pictures, and wrote the words (yes, they were real English words, in full sentences). Apparently, my parents didn't have any better of an idea about getting published than I did.

As an adult in my twenties and thirties, I did get published. Non-fiction: I wrote music and event reviews for local zines, a heavy metal magazine, and community newsletters. Later, I wrote articles on travel, Japanese traditions, holidays, and culture, and massage therapy for both print and online publications. I'd tried my hand at a few novels, but found myself constantly getting "lost in the middle" and abandoned each tale for the bright and shiny allure of some new idea I'd gotten. Short stories were easier; at least I was able to reach the end of most of them!

Several years ago, I eagerly devoured Craig Ferguson's first published novel, "Between the Bridge and the River", which inspired me to pick up the pen, so to speak, once again. I also happened upon a little gem of Chris Baty's titled "No Plot? No Problem?" which I thought might help me navigate those middle waters in which I always seemed to drown. That book introduced me to phenomenon of "NaNoWriMo", short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I tried it that year, in what I think was May. In any case, it wasn't November, when the rest of the world is doing it, together. I didn't discover that until two years later, and believe me when I say that www.nanowrimo.,org is highly responsible for my productivity today.

It took me five attempts at NaNoWriMo before I actually hit the goal. November 2011, I wrote over 51,000 words in 30 days. Over the next seven months, I wrote another 24,500, when I astonishingly felt that I had written the last sentence of the novel. That work is in the hands of several readers now, and the feedback is trickling in. I plan on revising this fall. (I'm still not sure if it will be draft #2 or 3-- I wrote it, then read through it twice to smooth out continuity and grammar errors, so it was sort of an edited first draft, really.)

While I am waiting for the critiques of the beta readers, I have been researching the next steps. I've decided against self-publishing and the world of e-books for now, choosing the path of tried and true old fashioned methods. I've read books on writing query letters, getting an agent, what editors and publishers are looking for, proper formatting, and resume building. I've been focusing, this summer, on submitting my flash fiction and short stories for publication. (Previously, I had only entered contests.) And I'm happy to report the sale of my first fiction this past week - a short story titled "A Decent Cup of Tea" - to Firbog Publishing, for an anthology of ghost stories.

I learned about them, and most others that I am currently interacting with, on an amazing website called Duotrope. www.duotrope.com. They are a database of publishers with many ways to cross-search and keep track of all your work and submissions. I highly recommend it!

Hm, this post is a bit wordy, no? Perhaps I shall stop here. Thanks for reading!


Welcome

Well, here it is. In my efforts to become a published author of fiction, I keep hearing that it is important to have a blog. I'm here to test that theory. As far as an internet presence, I already have a twitter that I use for my personal rants and raves, following news and politics, issues both local and global, and all things writing. I also have a FaceBook page for my upcoming novel, How I Spent My Zombie Apocalypse. But this blog will cover all the stuff having to do with being a writer, I think. I may throw some zombie fun into it, as well. Everything is better with zombies (which was almost the name of this blog, but I do write fiction sans zombies, occasionally!).