Thursday, April 29, 2010


You’re happy when I’m on my knees

It’s rare that I can open a blog post with lyrics from The Clash, so when given the opportunity, I will take it. (Also, I need to keep up with my rock music-themed posts because Spin magazine thinks I’m a music blogger, and I don’t want them to suspend my complimentary subscription.)

Well, apologies, apologies. You’re all going to tell me to just go ahead and install a stripper pole, and while I'm at it, I might as well get myself a pair of Lucite heels. I'm afraid today's post is just one big tease. I’m going to have a major announcement to make on Monday, and this is an advert for that. I hope you’ll check back in with me in a few days.

In the mean time, let me get some feedback from you. I was thinking of maybe one of these. In red, of course.

Or perhaps a pair of these. They are more classic, don't you think? And I think it would be fairly easy to find a handbag to match.

Honestly, it’s so hard to choose. I don’t know how strippers do it.

OK, come on back on Monday. I hope to make it worth your while. Please have your small bills ready to tuck into my blog. (Also, for those of you in Canada, please, no loonies. Paper money only.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blog Profiling

A couple of us – we’ve been talking about you. I know it’s hard to hear but, well, it’s your user profile. It’s just, you know, kind of blah.

Don’t worry. It’s cool. I am here to help. Not just help. I am about to blow your mind with some suggestions on ways to update your user profile. I may well get kicked out of the Freemasons for telling you all this, but I am willing to risk eternal damnation and evisceration on your behalf.

You can thank me in the comment section below or via PayPal.

1) NAME: Could you please just put your full name on your blog? And by that I mean your real name -- assuming you remember what your real name actually is. Please. If you use some pen name like Wild Cherry or ChainMale, then it’s going to drive people away. Normal people, I mean. When I see a nom de plume used in place of a blog writer's real name, I think deadbeat psycho pyromaniac cult leader. Like seriously. Jim Jones on meth. That level of nuts. Just come clean and use your real name on your blog. Chances are nobody's reading your blog anyway so you're completely safe.

2) PHOTO: Do not include your pets or children in this photo as some people are offended by cute and cuddly things. I, myself, hate pandas. Do not include a picture of a panda if you want me to visit your blog. Also, do not include a photo of you that’s been taken from 25 yards away near some notable landmark, like, say, the Grand Canyon (“That’s me down there on the third burro from the left.”) We want to see your face and stare into your eyes. We want to see your sideburns and compare them to our own. You can tell a lot about a person by her sideburns.

3) BIO/INTERESTS: Contrary to popular belief, a bio should try to hit all the major points of other people’s interest, not your own. We don't care about what you care about. We care about what we care about. And in case you’re not clued into pop culture, I’ll just tell you straight up that what you should refer to is Nascar. I don’t know why, but Nascar is what makes America go round and round. 500 times. Make sure you mention which driver/team you support. And not just that. Mention your favorite pit crew guys, too. That’ll prove the depth of your abiding love for this “sport.” (Oh, also, don’t put quotes around the word sport ‘cause that just riles people up). And, hey, you never know. You might end up with some decals on your sidebars and earn some advertising bucks. Right now, I am wearing a Castrol GTX team jacket and matching hat, for which I earn $8 a post.
          If you want to go for the elitist crowd -- which is to say, the non-Nascar readers -- here’s what you put down as your interests: in your spare time you study famous chess maneuvers by Gary Kasparov, you write code for a gaming software company, and you are editor-in-chief of your regional literary magazine called Bazooka! Other kinds of obscure references to extremely hip things that only the in-crowd will get are also permissible. If I may make a suggestion: Japanese heavy metal bands are huge right now. Claiming to be a huge fan of stuff nobody else even knows about is a great way to alienate people, and thus, it will draw people to your blog.

5) FAVORITE BOOKS/MOVIES/MUSIC: Be very careful. This is where a lot of you are falling down. Under no circumstances should you list LOTR as one of your personal favorites because we all know that you only watched the movies and didn’t actually read the trilogy in its entirety. We all know you’re just about Orlando and Viggo, which is to say, superficially engaged in hunk-staring rather than focusing on the epic fantasy elements. It makes those of us who actually bought replica One rings from that catalogue that carries elf stuff and Harry Potter wands really, really angry. Here’s my rule of thumb: You may list only five movies. One of them must be a movie directed by Guy Ritchie -- and this is key -- BEFORE he married Madonna. Another must be Harold & Maude, especially if you want to draw an edgy crowd that takes a lot of Xanax. Those people are up all night and they read blogs like there’s no tomorrow. Because they think there might not be.

Well, that's it for now. If I think of any other tips, I’ll let you know or you can just use my user profile as a template for your own. I hate to see good people and good blogs not getting the attention they deserve, all because of a lame-o user profile.

Also, you may notice that I’ve finally put a picture of myself up here on Ye Olde Blogge. Please understand that this is an extremely good photo of my person. It was taken after I had my hair done and teams of stylists used advanced laser blow drying technology to render my hair straight. Normally my hair is a lot more fluffy. Like, imagine Chaka Khan and Bozo the Clown had a love child. That would be me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Redneck Work Ethic

Man, it’s been one of those weeks when writing is like mowing the back forty by hand in the hot sun with a plastic spoon. Or something folksy like that.

I have felt thick as a brick all week, but I keep squeezing that noggin of mine, trying to get the words to come out, coming up with nothing but brick juice at times.

There was a time when I only wrote when I felt inspired. Ha. These days, I ain’t got time fer no galdang inspiration. Inspiration doesn’t mean a thing. The perspiration is what it’s about for me. And right now I’m rocking big old yellow pit stains on my wife beater.

Yeah, yeah. So this should come as no surprise. We all know the 10 % inspiration - 90 % perspiration formula for all creative endeavors, but there are moments when you really take that on board and believe it. It occurred to me several years ago that nobody looks at the Great Pyramid of Giza and says, “You know, I can tell those slaves really felt like building this pyramid.” No, they sure as heck didn’t. But that pyramid is still a thing of wonder. How you feel about working is less meaningful than doing the job anyway, whatever mood you’re in.

When I’m writing, I don’t generally set up any word count that I’m trying to meet on a daily basis. It’s more about problem solving and making sure each solution moves the story forward. I do try to observe that writing rule to never walk away from your story unless you know where you’re going next. But even that is sometimes difficult. At times, like I said, I get nothing from my efforts but brick juice. But I come back anyway the next day, sit down, and have faith that the ideas will come. Or at the very least, I hope the Muse will give me credit for showing up once again and throw me a bone. OK, so there's another of those cliches that applies here: "90 % of life is just showing up."

Writing is a high-falutin’ sort of undertaking but sometimes -- well, sometimes you just have to put that John Deere hat on, put a pinch between your cheek and gum, and, by golly, just git r done.

Thank you and God Bless America.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Resistance is Ironic

I’ve got to stop making proclamations about what I’m not going to do. Like, blogging. I’m never going to do that.


Then there’s that Twitter thing. My exact quote about Twitter, as recently as this past January? “I don’t care if Jesus Christ is on Twitter, I don’t want to know what He’s doing every minute of the day.”

Er. Yeah.

Quite honestly, this sort of “I’m never gonna do that” thing is how I came to be writing YA. After years of trying to squash my big fat foot into the precious glass slipper of literary fiction, I finally strapped on the orange Chuck Taylors of YA and found it a whole lot more fun and comfortable, even though it was a genre I had previously sort of dismissed as a Less Than form of literature that I would never undertake. As was sci-fi.

In other words, my list of verbotens has become my to-do list.

I can’t help wondering if this sort of irony is all-too-common or if I am particularly deserving of an ironic swipe from the universe for my previous hubris and ignorance. Or maybe it’s that I have a peculiar way of getting myself going in the right direction. Instead of just turning left I make three right turns.

So if you don’t mind my inquiring, have you ever undertaken a writing project, bound and determined to NOT write about a certain thing or in a certain genre, only to realize that yes, that’s exactly what you should be writing after all? If so, how did you come to that conclusion? Did someone else whack you on the noggin with the Cudgel of Duh*? Or did you come to the realization in the privacy of your own mind, all on your own?

I realize that sometimes it takes several wrong decisions before you get to the right one. Maybe this is part of the process of finding yourself as a writer. Looking back, though, I can’t help feeling a little dopey about it, and it makes me reticent to make any more proclamations of any kind.

Which is why I’m never going to do that again.

*If you don’t have a Cudgel of Duh, you can borrow mine, although I should warn you that it’s not nearly as effective on others as it is on yourself.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crazy Good

April truly must be the cruelest month. Or the most depressing. Whatever is going on, I am reading a lot of blog posts about writers dealing with possible insanity, protracted malaise, and profound allodoxaphobia as regards their work.

Come on, peeps, buck up! It’s not so bad. Really. It’s nothing that a handful of MAO inhibitors won’t cure, right?

In case you’re having trouble remembering why you do this writing thing in the first place, I’ve put together this Top Ten list for you.


10) It explains away your heavy drinking so no one will bug you about going into rehab.

9) Every neighborhood needs a creepy hermit anyway, right?

8) It’s way better than being a frustrated accountant.

7) Who needs the agony of knowing his success is creating envy in others?

6) Nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- handles the pressure of nobody caring like you can.

5) Your revenge fantasies are elaborately plotted, well-paced, and have realistic dialogue.

4) Real life is overrated anyhow. The world is far better when you create it on the page. And control it. Utterly.

3) What does publication really matter? After all, you write for your own pleasure and satisfaction and would find actual publication, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, distracting to your artistic goals.

2) What?! Get her out of here before the space ship comes back around to pick her up. Sheesh. I leave my keyboard for one second to go to the bathroom, and this is what happens. We’ve got to get better security in the studio. Fingerprinting. Retinal scanning. Something.

And the No. 1 reason it’s great to be an unpublished writer -- especially today, on April 15?

1) You don't have to pay taxes on royalties you don't earn.

I'm sure I must have left off some others. Please feel free to add your own reason it's great to be an unpublished writer in the comment section below. That's assuming you can type and your keyboard isn't all slippery from your blood, sweat, and tears.

Monday, April 12, 2010

In the Cubbies of My Mind

This thing below?

It’s an organizer, of course. Lots of little cubbies. Adjustable. So much promise. So cute. And what have I done with it?


My mom gave it to me this past Christmas, and I’ve been holding off on using it until I found the perfect place for it. Now it’s April.

Today I realized what the problem is with it. The problem is that I need to find a doctor who can SURGICALLY IMPLANT IT INSIDE MY MIND.

Yeah, that’s where I’d really like to put this organizer. Then I’d label those cubbies: Children (Small, Medium, and Large); WIP; Revisions; Project Notes (Promising/OMG, So Stupid); Agent Related (Queries/ Responses From/Submission Guidelines/Favorite Cocktails); Friends & Misc Family; Blog Posts; Critiques-in-Progress; Books (TBR); Husband and Dog (they might as well share, since I’m running tight on space); Ridiculous Notions; Few Remaining Untried Hair Care Products That Might Possibly Combat Oncoming DC Summer Humidity; Stuff I Should Have Said; Enemies (Real/Imagined); Personal Cycling Fitness Goals; Excuses (Specific/General/Lame), and Plans For House Renovation (Likely/Highly Un).

If you have a recommendation for a surgeon who might be able to perform this service, please contact me ASAP. I don’t mind shaving my head in whole or in part. I thank you in advance.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I Enter a Contest -- Wish Me Luck!

I had hoped to attend the Backspace Writers Conference in NYC, May 27-29. I saw it as a present to myself, since my birthday is that same week. But fiscal realities being what they are, it wasn’t looking likely. Not unless I wanted to give up, say, paying my car insurance or forego city garbage collection for this quarter.

Well, lo and behold, the good folks at Backspace are having a last-minute scholarship contest, and I have 500 words to describe why I want to attend. The terms of the contest dictate my posting said essay here on my blog and also on Facebook or some other social media site, whatever the heck those are. Because promotion is a fact of life. I think we all understand that. (Here's the Backspace link in case you want to check it out for yourself.)

So here we go. Wish me luck!

Why I Want to Attend the Backspace Writers Conference

Back in 1996, my first post-M.F.A. job was as an administrative assistant at a think tank in Washington, D.C. I took it because it met my two criteria for paid employ: 1) it was a low-stress day job that helped me conserve energy to write; and 2) I cannot be around stupid people. I’m allergic to stupid people. They make me break out in sarcasm, which is wasted on them. Which is very frustrating for me. It’s a vicious circle. I have a doctor’s note for it.

Anyway, after three years at the think tank, I was at a cross-roads. Here was I, approaching 30, a stack of rejection letters from literary agents my only sign of progress. That’s when I had that talk with myself. You know the one. MAYBE IT’S TIME I GOT A REAL JOB.

Resigned, I sent out resumes, and soon I landed an interview with a well-respected, well-paying consultant group.

The first round of interviews would be conducted via telephone, and when the fateful day arrived, I had a pleasant chat with the interviewer, who was male (I remember nothing more about him). I’m sure I did well enough. I’m sure I didn’t say anything wrong, really.

We got to the final question, the answer to which was designed to reveal my career aspirations. Which it did.

“What do you see yourself doing in five, ten years? What is your dream job?”

I said, “To be honest…”

Oh, girl, don’t you blow it.

(FYI: my inner she-devil takes the form of a drag queen named Tiara del Fuego, who normally encourages me to do whatever I fancy, especially if it includes tequila, but in this particular instance, Tiara had her heart set on a new wig and a pair of white, patent leather boots -- size 14 men’s -- and she was in no mood for anything that might scuttle her hopes. This new job would have netted me almost double my then-salary. And boots cost money. Don’t judge her too harshly.)

“…my dream job would be to…”

Lordy, no!

“…sit in my pajamas all day…”

Sweet Jesus on a kaiser roll.

“…at my computer…”

I need those boots, girl! My wig is positively tatty!

“…and write.”

Tiara nearly sucked her teeth out of her head that day, and as I recall, the interview ended abruptly. Not surprisingly I did not get the job or even a second interview, and in retrospect, clearly I was torpedoing myself. I didn’t want that job anymore than that job wanted me. I was so disengaged in an office setting as to be autistic.

What does all this have to do with why I want to attend the Backspace Writers Conference? I’d like to attend just to be in a room full of fellow pajama-wearers. People who get that. People who are second only to lighthouse keepers in their desire to be alone to get their work done. Just for a change. Yes, I’d like that very much.

UPDATE 4/16: Alas and alack, I didn't win. I'll have to find another way to celebrate my birthday, I guess. Fortunately, I am both creative and over 21, so I know I'll come up with something fun.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Zebra Pride

Saw many interesting things on Ye Olde Road Trip this past week. I saw, especially, a lot of this:

And listened to a lot of music on the radio, and asked myself for the ten thousandth time, what was so great about 1984 and why do so many Upstate New York radio stations refuse to move past it? (See this for fuller explanation).

And wanted several times to pull over to the side of the road and shout: “Here me, O People of Upstate New York, Tyvek house wrap was never intended to be used as permanent siding for your homes!”

But without question, the oddest thing I saw was a plain old, fenced in horse paddock that contained – not surprisingly – horses. Lots of them. Standard colors – mostly brown. And there in the center of the paddock, grazing all by his lonesome, was a zebra. Had to look twice or thrice to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. But, yes, it was a zebra. It’s not like you can mistake a zebra for anything else.

I’ve been thinking about that zebra all week. How on earth did it get there? Does it know it’s a zebra and not a regular horse? Do the other horses treat it any differently? Does it revel in being different or does it sometimes wish it could pass for a plain brown horse because it gets tired of people asking what it does for a living?

You know what? There was a time in my life I didn’t tell anyone I was a writer. I forget why it was important that people not know this about me. I guess I just wanted to pass for normal. Actually it wasn’t so much that I wanted to pass for normal, I wanted to BE normal and have a normal job and not be afflicted by this writing thing. Let’s be honest, folks. Who among us has not wished that law school held as much appeal as sitting alone at the computer, trying to silence the voices in our heads? Sometimes it’s hard to feel like the world of normal is passing you by. Sometimes you can’t help but wish you didn’t have these damned stripes on your back.

But you can’t change what you are. When you're a zebra, you're a zebra. And sometimes you’re a lonesome zebra standing in the middle of a horse paddock. Not normal in the least, but then again, nobody ever said being a zebra was easy.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Psst...Here's Where I'm Guest Blogging

Y'all know I'm on Spring Brake this week, but I'm putting down my beer funnel momentarily to send you over to everyone's favorite anonymous publishing blog -- THE INTERN -- to read my guest post. Enjoy!

Many thanks to INTERN for this delightful opportunity.