Tuesday, August 31, 2010

...I have a new story, "The Wages of Hunger" up at decomP and here under "Words in Print." Jason Jordan does a wonderful job at decomP and the journal attracts some of the best writers around.

...This morning I got a story accepted at The Smoking Poet. I love that lit mag and am really excited to be a part of it.

...The other night our power went out. Living in the country, that happens a lot. We still have telephone poles sagging like jump ropes with thick electrical cords. Then toss in dead, leaning-tower-of-Pisa trees and you have outages galore. Anyway, I was in the mood to write so I did an Abe Lincoln--sort of--and wrote longhand, by lamplight, while swilling a glass of wine. It felt so odd to write with a pen. You should try it to see what I mean. (Unfortunately, when I read it all back the next day, it was mostly garbage--though that's not the point I was trying to make.)

...I'm trying to decide whether to go to AWP in February. AWP is a writer's conference primarily focused on short fiction akin to what I've got posted here under "Words in Print." It would make sense for me to go. I didn't last year because I felt I hadn't made my bones yet in the genre and I really regretted not going. Now that I've had some success, I could go and not feel totally alien yet it's wierd to meet people you only know online or virtually. What do you think? "Should I stay or should I go?"

...Today will be a productive day, I know it. The skies have broken open, soupy and dripping, like a bucket of mud turned upside down, and it's raining hard and insistent. Perfect writing weather. Perfect for listening to Nick Drake or Jeff Buckley.

..."I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances." -- Anne Tyler

Monday, August 30, 2010

...I have a new story, "Bananagrams" up at Metazen and here under "Words in Print." Frank Hinton runs Metazen and he does a great job with the writing he selects as well as the care he extends in presenting it.

...So, last night's concert at Marymoor Park... Well, quite honestly, Vampire Weekend sucked. Big time. What kind of band makes 4,000 people wait an hour and a half, gets their gear set up, and then sends some chucklehead on stage to tell you the concert has been cancelled "due to band sickness?" Hard not to be ticked off. And I can understand if someone is actually ill, but did they really just start spewing minutes before they were to go on? Was it like some out-of-the-blue menopausal heat flash-type thing that blind-sided them? I don't buy it. I suspect it was some pre-performance narcotic binging that took them out at the knees. The crowd was in such a frenzy, it's a wonder there wasn't a riot, looting, and a burning of the Vampire Weekend flag. The key now will be seeing how they rectify things.

...Mondays always remind me of that song, "Tell Me Why I Don't Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats, which is happy-sounding but actually relays the story of a kid who goes to school and decimates his class, sort of Columbine-style. I know that's weird and random, but it was an old college fave of friends and mine. However, it's a sunny start to the week here in Seattle, so, there's no reason for any mayhem.

...I like this, from Annie Dillard:
"It is no less difficult to write sentences for a recipe than it is to write them for 'Moby Dick.' So, you might as well write 'Moby Dick'."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

…I'm going to see Vampire Weekend with my kids tonight. If you've never heard of them, check the band out on YouTube. Their sound and lyrics are entirely original. They incorporate so many unusual instruments.

…Did some hard work on the novel. Chugging along.

…Reading "Bloodroot" by Amy Greene. I keep looking at her picture on the back--this blonde elfin girl that looks to be nineteen--and wondering how the heck she can write like that, with so many different and distinct voices.

…Here's some more random stuff from Annie Dillard:
"It takes years to write a book--between two and ten years. Less is so rare as to be statistically insignificant…Falkner wrote 'As I Lay Dying' in six weeks; he claimed he knocked it off in his spare time from a twelve-hour-a-day job performing manual labor. There are other examples from other continents and centuries, just as albinos, assassins, saints, big people, and little people show up from time to time in large populations. Out of a human population on earth of six billion, perhaps twenty people can write a serious book in a year. Some people can lift cars, too. Some people enter week-long sled-dog races, go over Niagra Falls in barrels, fly planes through the Arc de Triomphe. Some people feel no pain in childbirth. Some people eat cars. There is no call to take human extremes as norms."

Friday, August 27, 2010

...My computer issues are all resolved. Slogging through this experience reminded me again that something good almost always comes out of something bad. In this case, even though it was a pain getting the data transfer accomplished, my computer is now at least three times faster than it ever was. Same thing happened when I totaled my car a few years back; the new model was so much sleeker and lighter, equipped with far superior gadgetry. (My problem is I just need to worry less when I'm going through adversity.)

...Holy, Hell, but there sure are a lot of writers out there. I think that bodes well for the state of reading. Or maybe not. Maybe writers just want to write and have themselves believe that someone somewhere is reading their words. Whenever I read something strong I try to send the author a note complimenting them. Fifty percent of the time, they'll never respond back. The other half are elated, even if I've only written two short sentences. I think the writing community should have each other's backs better.

...I got a story accepted at Matchbook Lit. The editor wanted me to change the title and tweak a few things. I like when editors are involved. It's pretty rare and usually only happens with very strong publications. But I understand how busy everyone is reading subs.

...I really loved that Annie Dillard book, "The Writing Life" and will be sharing excerpts with you for awhile. Here's one that articulates the blatant loneliness of writing, the second-guessing a writer goes through, and the rut I've been in with my novel:
"Putting a book together is interesting and exhilarating. It is sufficiently difficult and complex in that it engages all of your intelligence. It is life at its most free.
The obverse of this freedom, of course, is that your work is meaningless, so fully for yourself alone, and so worthless to the world, that no one except you cares whether you do it well, or ever. You are freee to make several thousand close judgment calls a day. Your freedom is a by-product of your days' triviality. A shoe salesman--who is doing others' tasks, who must answer to two or three bosses, who must do his job their way, and must put himself in their hands, at their place, during their hours--is nevertheless working usefully. Further, if the shoe salesman fails to appear one morning, someone will notice and miss him. Your manuscript, on which you lavish such care, has no needs or wishes; it knows you not. Nor does anyone need your manuscript; every needs shoes more."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

...I have a new story, "Go Ahead and Dance" up at Troubadour 21 and here under "Words in Print."

...Today I only spent two hours with various tech support people. I still have to deal with Microsoft again, probably tomorrow, to recover things that were lost.

..."Things That Were Lost" would be a great title for something.

...Awhile back I read an article about how editors become jaded in a very short time and the person who wrote the piece (I can't recall the author) likened that condition to "Lesbian bed death." I like it as "Lesbian Death Bed" which would be a fantastic band name. (Poor lesbians.) Here's the wiki version:

Lesbian bed death
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lesbian bed death is a term coined by University of Washington sociologist Pepper Schwartz in her 1983 book American Couples.[1] According to Schwartz, lesbians have less sex than any other type of couple, and they generally experience less sexual intimacy the longer the relationship lasts.
The methodology of Schwartz's survey format has been criticized by several researchers, who claim that the question "About how often during the last year have you and your partner had sex relations?" [1] is too ambiguous when applied to the sexual behavior of lesbian couples. This ambiguity could account for the finding of a statistically low frequency of sexual behavior among lesbian couples if "sex relations" is interpreted too narrowly.[2]
A German study has shown that the female sex drive greatly diminishes once she is in a secure relationship.[3] From an evolutionary psychological point of view, lesbian couples are expected to seek sex less frequently than heterosexual or gay couples.[4]

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

…I have two new poems up, "My Girl" in Clutching At Straws and "Her Name On A Grain of Rice" at Short, Fast and Deadly, as well as here under "Words In Print."

…I like this true story:
One bad winter in the Arctic, and not too long ago, an Algonquin woman and her baby were left alone after everyone else in their winter camp had starved. Ernest Thompson Seton tells it. The woman walked from the camp where everyone had died, and found a cache at a lake. The cache contained on small fishhook. It was simple to rig a line, but she had no bait, and no hope of bait. The baby cried. The woman took a knife and cut a strip from her own thigh. She fished with the worm of her own flesh and caught a jackfish; she fed the child and herself. Of course, she saved the fish guts for bait. She lived alone at the lake, on fish, until spring, when she walked out again and found people. Seton's informant had seen the scar on her thigh.

…"It's easy, after all, not to be a writer. Most people aren't writers, and very little harm comes to them." Julian Barnes

...The name Barnes makes me think of Barnes and Noble. I love that place because I love almost any book store. I could live in a book store the same way Tom Hanks played an imigrant that lived in the airport. (I forget the movie's name.) Bookstores make me feel safe--all those words and bindings, those thick volumes padded onto mahogany shelves. It gives me shivers.

I hear B & N is for sale. Wouldn't it be fun to be CEO of B & N? I think you could remake it, reinvent it, Appleize it, so to speak, to where each store became a kind of stunning place with theater on the walls, throbbing music, lights and clips of authors and new books--ENERGY--as opposed to the antiquated, antiseptic, clinical vibe it mimics from libraries.

I'm biased, of course, but I think the world would be a better place if more people read. If EVERYONE read, well, hell, if everyone read, then I think we'd all be safer, happier, more imaginative, creative, more fulfilled, open to deep discussions not dependent upon substances. We'd be thinner and less uptight. The economy would flourish. For sure, we'd be sassier and sexier because we'd be reading all sorts of things that instill sass and swag, like poetry and and truck loads of vampire erotica. If everyone read, there would undoubtedly be world peace because who would have time to build an IUD, let alone explode a vest-bomb, when they were dying(no pun intended)to get back to that fast-paced thriller they'd just picked up? And anyway, by reading so much, we'd understand each other better. "Hey Couz, what up?" If you go back far enough, you'll see that we're all cousins or brothers or sisters from different misters. Reading would reveal that. We'd realize that underneath each of our mottled skins-- young or old, Hindu or Jew, tatted or pierced, pruned or botox-blasted--we are all the same flawed beings seeking out a sense of engagment in something outside ourselves that great writing shines a light on. Books and stories and poems--they make us want to sigh or cry, sing or scream, gasp or clap. They make us want to dance a hot salsa, a sloppy jig, an awkward high school slow dance.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

..."I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." -- Marilyn Monroe. I keep seeing all of these deep, wise quotes from MM. Who knew? Maybe I was the only one that didn't. I should probably read a biography.

...Today I spent four hours (really, I'm not exaggerating) on the phone with a very nice man from Microsoft whom I'm pretty sure lives in India trying to get my Outlook up and working on the new laptop, all to no avail.

...I watched "Kramer Vs. Kramer" with my son last night. It's always been my favorite movie and I hadn't seen it in a while, so I was happy to see how nicely it holds up. You should watch it. I think it's an important film. That little boy broke my heart a thousand times. I hope he's still that same age. I never want to see a picture of him older than that age. But if I met him, and even if he was older and now sort of ugly or skeezey, I'd still go up and give him a hug.

...Speaking of cinema, have you seen "Julie and Julia?" I feel like cute Amy Adams in that movie (although I'm not saying I feel cute) when she starts her cooking blog and doesn't know if anyone is reading her words. Blogging is strange, but then so is fiction. Poetry is even odder. But I'm going to keep at it. If nothing else, it'll end up being a kind of writing journal with other random, interesting stuff tossed in like a marsalla stew.

...I like this quote: "I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." -- Jorge Luis Borges

...My daughter is back from a week in LA seeing her boyfriend. I might sound sexist, I probably will sound sexist, but I'll say it anyway: daughters should not be allowed to have boyfriends. It should be illegal, right up there with manslaughter or some other heavyweight felony. Daughters could have boyfriends, just not ever be allowed to touch them, like that old, old John Travolta movie, "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" where little John lives in a sort of oxygen tent because being exposed to real, outside air would lead to his certain and inevitable death. I could agree to that. That would work.

Monday, August 23, 2010

...I am not a freak about animals, but I had a dog once, and I loved her a lot. She was a fluffy, mischevious cocker the color of movie theater popcorn. Alex lived 14 years, but the last one was rough times at Ridgemont High as she deteriorated, getting arthritis, peeing at random on every carpet or rug, going blind. The same thing has happened to my computer. It got arthritis, then the shakes and yesterday it went blind, leaving me with it's blank gray face. The only thing it didn't do was piss on me. I hate computer problems more than car problems, and that's saying something because I'm about as mechanical as Curt from "Glee." So, I'm getting my data transfered (hopefully, someone at The Geek Squad is furiously doing so as we speak-write/read) and will have a new machine in hand Wednesday.
...I feel awkward without my laptop. All my writing is in it--the stories, the novel. It's like someone came and stole one of my children and I keep walking by their room and looking in but it's just a messy bed and mountains of dirty clothes all over the floor.
...This morning I got a story accepted called "Vampire Weekend." I wrote it over a year ago, inspired by the fine band of the same name, before the world felt so saturated with vampires. Now it looks like I'm jumping on the bandwagon. Anyway, there's a lot of swearing in this story. It'll be posted in a couple of weeks.
...I also got another rejection from PANK, albeit a very kind and considerate rejection from Roxane herself, someone I admire. I think in a previous post I came across a little whiny and unaccountable. I realize it's up to the writer to not only create a sharp piece, but to ensure said work fits the tone of the magazine you're submitting to. I'll keep trying because I'm a big boy and I can handle rejection, but mainly because I really like PANK.
...I also like Annie Dillard's slim volume called, "The Writing Life." It's up there with other great writing books like Ann Lamott's "Bird By Bird." (I did not, however, enjoy Dillard's "The Living," which I read through even though it felt like prison work.) I'll leave you with this nice bit from "TWL":
"The line of words is a hammer. You hammer against the walls of your house. You tap the walls lightly, everywhere. After giving many years attention to these things, you know what to listen for. Some of the walls are bearing walls; they have to stay, or everything will fall down. Other walls can go with impunity; you can hear the difference. Unfortunately, it is often a bearing wall that has to go. It cannot be helped. There is only one solution, which appalls you, but there it is. Knock it out. Duck."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

...I have a new poem, "My Girl" up at CLUTCHING AT STRAWS and here under "Words in Print." I really like Shawn Misener who edits C.A.S. He's a great guy, fighting the good fight.

...I read an article about writer, Antonya Nelson, where her work was described as "wreckage that results when strong women trust weak men." i liked that a lot for some reason. Here's her advice on writing, along with others...

"My husband is a writer and a good example. He writes every day. He treats writing like a job. He's a very good employee with an exemplary attendance record."

(P.D. James to Elizabeth George upon rejecting Elizabeth’s first attempt at a novel (she’s since published 25.))
P.D. James: “My dear, you have done something many people only dream of. You have written a novel. You must never give up.”
Elizabeth George: “So I didn’t.”

“To be a writer, you have to have a certain humility, otherwise you are not going to improve.” -- Z.Z. Packer

“When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away—even if it is only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaningless of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.” -- Debby Applegate

“Omit unnecessary word.” -- Strunk and White

“My best advice to a writer is to read. I think this is more important than taking courses in creative writing or getting and MFA degree.” -- Thomas H. Cook

“The best advice I ever got was to think as a writer. Sounds like a simple enough thought exercize, but conceiving of yourself as a writer does have practical consequences. Some are clear perks. Buy yourself a comfortable chair. Create a productive working space. Don’t apologize to your family for needing time, space, silence and solitude to write. It is, after all, you job. But thinking of yourself as a writer also creates responsibilities. You have to write. This is not a hobby. It’s your job. You identity. Your compulsion. Write every day. If you skip a day, make sure you have a darn good reason, and make sure you don’t skip the next one.” -- Alafair Burke

“Show you characters in the throes of yearning.” -- Susan Vreeland

“When it’s easy, when it just comes to you, when you feel like you’re a heck of a writer, that’s when you’re probably tired and it’s time to call it a day.” -- Jo Nesbo

Grace Paley on revision: “Okay, revision. Here’s the deal. You begin with the very first word and you ask, ‘Is it true?’ Then—well, then you do the same thing for each word after that.”

“Park your butt at your desk and get on with it.” -- Sue Grafton

Thursday, August 19, 2010

...I have two new stories, "The Fortune Teller" at Rubber Lemon and "Old Soul" at Troubadour 21 posted here under "Words in Print."

...I love Scott Spencer. He wrote, "Endless Love," which was made into a very bad movie where a very pretty Brooke Shields faked orgasms and generally denegrated the craft of acting. The book, however, is brilliant, a tale about obsessive love like no other. The opening paragraph has been called one of the best to ever be written. I've read all of Scott's novels. I thought I'd share a few excerpts from his novel, "Willing."

--"Where would we be without these things: without contact, without caresses, without the knowledge that someone wants to touch you?"
--"Everything has layers; every little string has a hundred knots."
--"It’s important to remember that everything matters and it all makes a difference. Our lives are so short, and everything that happens in our life span is really important; there is nothing wasted, there’s nothing that doesn’t count. You can’t say I’m going to do this, but it doesn’t really count. It all counts, and everything is connected to everything else."
– Scott Spencer

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

...This morning I got a series of micros accepted at Red Fez. I love that lit journal. They're one of the best out there, so i feel especially honored.

...I am going to send something else to PANK in a second. They have rejected me so many times that I could turn them in for assault. Now, it's like I'm a physically abused wife that keeps going back despite it all.

...I subscribe to Quote A Day. I got this one today: "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork." -- Peter De Vries

...Both of my kids are gone for a week. This house is vacant and big and quiet like a cave. I don't like it. The term "Empty Nest" creeps me out.

...Maybe that's why, moments ago, I wrote this:


Yesterday my wife got lost in the bathroom. When she came out, I asked what took so long. She said there was another woman in there with her, a gal that looked a lot like her, who mimicked her movements, and every time my wife went for the door this other woman got in her way. I said, “Honey, that’s just the mirror.” She looked at me astonished, the same way she did that day I told her JFK had just been shot. We were young then. The world was big and wide open, a peach of a thing, juicy but also ripe.
I told her again about the mirror. “It was just you,” I said. “You were seeing yourself, your reflection.”
A moment later my wife started to laugh. I thought she was getting it. That’s the way Alzheimer’s works, an Off and On switch sometimes. But, instead, she pawed my arm with her age-spotted hands and told me how funny I was, said what a card I was. “That thing you left in my underwear drawer, why, I thought it was a compass!”
On our Anniversary I’d stashed a toy in her bottom drawer. We were ten years married. Things were getting dull, but my love for her had not wavered then, or now.
She laughed some more until she was crying, the tears warm and clear across her cheeks. “Compass,” she said. “Oh my.”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

...I just got "Naughty, Naughty" by Meg Pokrass and Jack Swenson. You should get it, too. Lots of fun, quirky, naughty flash

...I have a new story, "The Fortuneteller" up at Rubber Lemon, a UK web zine. I can't get the seperate link for it to post under "Words In Print" as I usually do, but you can find it at rubberlemon.co.uk if you're so inclined.

...The word "genie" has a lot of possibilities. Same with tattoos--why that one? is there a secondary meaning to it? Anyway, I just wrote this a moment ago (I think I like it.)


While you sleep
I read your arms,
flames and barbed ink
stitched into your skin
as if you are a totem pole
grocery list
or story without nouns.

Like the tenant in 14 B
who made the news because he spoke Farsi
and learned to fly in Florida,
people are on alert around you.
Yesterday the ballroom went still upon your approach,
music stopped and a sparrow dropped dead from the sky.
But I am still waiting on you,
a little be desperate and dangerous,
using both hands and all three wishes,
madly in love.

Friday, August 13, 2010

...I have a new story, "Stones" up at A Long Story Short and also here under "Words In Print."

...Here are two different takes on the same subject (Gotta love Ellen.)

"Procrastination is the thief of time." -- Edward Young

"Procrastination isn't the problem, it's the solution. So procrastinate now, don't put it off." -- Ellen DeGeneres

Thursday, August 12, 2010

..."Write. A lot of people want to be a writer, it seems to me, and they do everything they can to be a writer, except write." -- Chang-rae Lee

That's sounds like me sometimes, like yesterday actually. Lee is a phenomenal writer by the way. Google him. Buy any of his books. You won't be sorry.

...I like this, from "Eyeshot:"

7. You're so talented. Online writer friends tell you this all the time.
6. You're wasting your life at that job that indirectly pays for everything you do.
5. Novels need you to breathe life back into the form, even if your novel will be semi-autobiographical, linear (except for a bit of interspersed backstory about some poignant moment of gauzy innocence), mostly set in Williamsburg, first-person POV, in the present tense, and not much longer than a novella.
4. You tried reading that work novel in the first-person plural POV ("we") and you know your own work novel is better, plus your work novel can't fail to intrigue agents, editors, general readers, academics, and the gatekeepers of posterity because, although not set deep in the heart of the Texas or the "inner city," it's presented in the second-personplural POV ("all y'all).
3. You know you have considerably limited talent and ambition and discipline and understanding of grammar etc and there's no market for semi-autobiographical novellas like the one you started that's set in NYC etc etc, not to mention e-readers turning texts into easily stealable mp3-like files etc etc but if you work another day in a cube surfing freakin' lit web blogs and wanting to reach through the screen to reprimand those who refer to books by former teachers and friends as works of startling interiority ("to live outside the law you must be honest") and maybe are in need of some sweet sweet seppuku or at least a sense that Dennis Cooper is not God then well what the hell were you saying again?
2. You know everything goes in cycles so we're bound to run into another late '90s–like run of multimillion dollar contracts for first novels very soon.
1. Kafka worked in an office and things turned out OK for him even if he died of consumption. Are you willing to have things turn out OK writing-wise and also die of consumption? Yes, you're totally willing to die of consumption (excessive buying of lots of stuff, right?) as long as it lets you become immortal before you die so you peer over the shoulders of hot young things who read your stuff lying out in the sun at the pool but then get distracted by a text message and forget about cockroaches and hunger artists and sins etched across one's back -- I mean, THREE TIMES you've been nominated for a PUSHCART and you've been in the running for STORYSOUTH's best of the web and in Dzanc's best of the freakin' web book so yeah it is time to do what needs to be done, to take arms against a sea of work-related spreadsheets and release yourself into all-day/everyday literary pursuit! Make sure to start a blog updating your progress so readers can follow your decline into lethargy, indolence, intemperance, and realize maybe just maybe oh shit what have you done. (Note: it is quite possible that quitting your job to work on your novel may yield an unpublishable memoir composed entirely of such devolutionary blog posts, and if all else fails, assuming you're still young and comely, have you ever considered employment in a nearby major city's lucrative sex tourism industry?)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

...I have two new stories, "All I Ever Wanted" and "The Spiders In My Room" up at Troubadour 21 and here under "Words in Print."

...According to Bob Mayer, eBooks accounted for 3% of all books sales at the start of the year and they now, at the end of July account for 8%. Amazon is now selling more eBooks than hardcovers. Personally I love books--the original, paper bound deal. I love the look of them, the feel of them, even the raw smell of paper. I love book stores and being surrounded by books. Maybe I'm just old fashioned. In my house, in over half the rooms, I have a few thousand books stacked up on shelves. I can't imagine them being empty but for one that would hold a Kindle. I do get why people like their offering electronic, it's just not for me.

...The average agent accepts one client for every 100 manuscripts they reject.

...A good question to ask yourself regularly is this: "Who the hell are all these people getting published? It might as well be me."

...Last year there were 200,000 book tites released. Of those, only 561 made Publisher Weekly's bestseller list.

...I'll end with this funny, random quote I wrote down during the PNWA Conference. It has nothing to do with anything, I just like it:
"People go to Florida to die, but they go to L.A. to suffer."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

…I have a new story called “I Scared You” up at The Shine Journal and also here under “Words in Print.”
…This is random, but don’t you think the word “blog” is really ugly and gross? “Blog” sounds like a snort you’d made if your nose was really plugged up.
…I’m reading “I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down,” by William Gay (it’s wonderful) and “Triple Time” by Anne Sanow which is well written but bland, like soup that’s really just broth.
…I wish I could write happy stories and poems. I’m a pretty happy guy but when I try happy stories it always feels like I’m copying out and happy never seems as interesting to me. Please don’t hate me because I write sad things. I’ll keep them interesting.
…I’ve never done this before, but I just wrote the following story and I’m going to share it raw, minutes out of the oven.

One Out of Two

When my wife wakes, her hair a mass of tangles and her breath smelling like lighter fluid, she tells me I should consider cutting and pasting.
In the last many months she’s been speaking riddles, many of them barbed. She’s been stealing people’s mail and piling it up in her underwear drawer. Last week she went up to the attic and found her old roller skates and started circling the cul de sac. When I asked why, she said, “My past is yesterday.”
Jenny comes over one afternoon while my wife is in the backyard beating the pulp out of a tetherball she paid a workman to install. Jenny has been my wife’s divorced friend for a dozen years. She’s pretty, with small elfin features and taffy blue eyes. Jenny likes competitions and has a huge appetite, despite being such a tiny thing.
She wants to know how I’m dealing with all this. She tells me that I’m strong and brave and puts her hand on top of mine in a motherly way, yet her fingers start to move over my skin, rubbing and tugging. I should feel flattered but I draw my hand back across the table and get up for another cup of coffee.
She tells me it’s not so bad, being divorced. “Look around,” she says, “everyone’s doing it. One out of two.”
From the sink window I have a different view of the yard. My wife has plopped down in between two overgrown geraniums while she’s busy plucking split ends. The activity always makes her look cross-eyed and I remember how when we first started dating she’d goof all the time, sending her eyes orbiting in different directions. “My mom told me if I crossed my eyes too long, they’d stay that way,” I said. “Yeah,” my soon-to-be mate said, “but you’ve got to get your own facts if you’re ever going to make it anywhere.” Remembering the scene and our stiff, teeth-bumping first kiss, I feel my stomach twist and coil and I realize that I’m sweating hard and trembling too much.
When I come back to the table Jenny says, “I can see how much pain you’re in. Everyone can. But there are places that specialize in this sort of thing. You don’t have to feel trapped, or guilty.”
I’ve been told that before. I’ve read books and been online for days and days and I know as much about Alzheimer’s as the doctors who treat it unsuccessfully. What I don’t know is how you’re supposed to sever a love that saved you from yourself, a love that helped make you a better man.
“Everyone has needs,” Jenny says, shifting in her chair, scooting closer. “Especially men. I know because I used to be a masseuse.”
She gets up, I guess to show me her massage skills, and doesn’t bother stopping when my wife presses her face flat against the window, looking at Jenny and I but not really comprehending.
Jenny gives her a wave and my wife giggles through the glass and I say, “That’s enough.”
After I’ve sent Jenny home, I make my wife come sit with me on the sofa. She looks wild yet defeated, like an ostrich with its leg caught in a bear trap.
I take up a position behind her, kneading her skin along the shoulders. Her muscles are hard but I’m careful not to overdo the pressure. I use my thumbs and knuckles. I scissor soft karate chops across her blades and work her neck. When she moans a little, I get another flashback of a different time. I ask if she likes it, if I’m doing it right, and she says, “This is perfect. Please don’t ever stop.”

Thursday, August 5, 2010

…I don’t know why it is I end most every day dissatisfied with my output. People say, “You’re too hard on yourself,” but they don’t know how much time I fritter away.

…I wish I had an agent, a good one, someone I could really trust and also someone who would kick my ass when I needed it kicked. I’m trying to find one, and eventually I will.

...To get an agent you have to write an awesome query. There are a lot of great sample query letters out there online. Same with synopsises (that's a mouthful of "s's") and pitches, so I decided not to print those. Just Google them and you’ll have your hands full. Writing a one page summary of your story is a really good idea and something I believe every novelist, or writer with a long piece of work, should do. Do it even if your work’s not done. It’ll be torture and frustrating and maybe even bloody, but it’ll help you hone and even clarify the story you’re trying to tell.

Then when you get it down to a page, try to get it to one sentence. Yes, one sentence. One. Really.

Here’s a great way of doing it, from Laura Backes, Children’s Book Insider editor.

My story is about _______(character)______that wants more than anything to _______(goal)_______but can’t because_________(conflict)________.

Kerri Flanagan, uses the example of “The Wizard of Oz” while putting Backes’s idea to the test, and thus you get this:

“This story is about a teenage girl from Kansas named Dorothy who wants more than anything to go home, but can’t because she is stuck in a strange land.”

"Notice," Kerri says, “there is no mention of a tornado, munchkins, witches or a cowardly lion. That information can coe later, but this is the basic premise of the novel in just one sentence.”

This really helped me. I hope it does you as well.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

...Bob Mayer spoke at The Pacific Northwest Writer's Conference in Seattle. He has a whole bushel of various pubs, cross-genre stuff. I liked a lot of what he had to say. These quotes are terrific. You can apply them to writing and writers, or really to life.

--“Nothing is important to the man who doesn’t have to do it.”

--“Never say bad things about yourself. There will be plenty of people around to do that job for you.”

--“If you’ve ever been divorced, then you know this: flashbacks and memories are not the same thing.”

--“In every sex scene I’ve written, somebody always dies. I guess that’s very telling about myself."

--“Ask any successful writer, or any successful anyone, and they will all agree: persistence is more important that talent.”

--“There are no real rules. The thing about writing is just that it has to be good. Hopefully, really good.”

--“Another word for writer’s block is laziness.”

--“Get some bum glue. Then glue your bum to the chair and write.”

--“Each scene has to have conflict and a purpose. Every scene is a mini-book. The characters must come out of it changed.”

--“The good part about your book is it’s yours. The bad part about your book is it’s yours.”

--“Writing is about the reader. Don’t ever forget that.”

--“You are crazy if you’re a writer. Don’t kid yourself. Writing is not normal.”

--“Anything I say that makes you upset or angry is probably the most important thing I can tell you. Most people don’t really want to hear the truth.”

--“Because you are a writer and crazy and probably depressed as all hell, you have to swim with words to survive.”

--Writing is the entertainment business. Whatever you do, make sure your words are somehow entertaining.”

--“Write your way there, even if the going’s dark, even if it’s wordy as hell.”

--“Writers think differently. We’re a very weird group.”

Sunday, August 1, 2010

...I have three new stories (different from the post I did last time) up here under "Words in Print:"
--"At the Water's Edge" @ Rose and Thorn Journal
--"Black Diamonds" @ The Northville Review
--"Baby God" @ Idigo Rising
The latter is a fable. I like writing those, but they're a tough sell.

...I may have had the shortest editing stint ever. A couple of months ago CL Bledsoe asked me to co-edit Ghoti with him. I had always loved Ghoti, so I signed on, but Ghoti is now gone. (That would make a good story title.) Thanks, CL for all you did. It's tough to make a magazine work when you have a job and enjoy writing yourself. To all you editors out there, I bow down.

...I think I have been whining too much about editing my novel, so I'll close with some comments on revision from the PNWA Conference.

..."Revision is like child birth--you forget how horrible it is until you have to do it again." -- Joy Selak

..."Editing scenes is like redecorating rooms. Maybe you want it to be a calmer roon, a brighter room, so you move furniture and chairs and take away the drapes and it's still a house with the same rooms only some physical elements have been changed or eliminated." -- Kit Bakke

..."When I start editing, or right before, I say a prayer. I say, 'Please let me honor this work. Please let me get out of the way and serve this writing." -- Barbara Braun

"Get over your creative self, writing is hard work." -- Bob Mayer