Tag Archive | writing

Gemini Blog Post: Two Items Rolled Into One

2014 has been the year of chaos reigning* so far. Things have stabilized on the personal front (No, I’m not going into details, but the wild horses have been reined in** and the wagon is headed in the right direction. For those who have grumbled at me about not publishing anything recently; Look, survival mode takes a lot of attention and resources. Writing fiction isn’t high on the priority list when you don’t know where you’re going to live, whether you have enough gas in your car to get to work, or how you’re going to stretch that $5 in your pocket for food until payday at the end of the week. Hawthorne may have been filed from his job as a customs clerk (He sucked. So does “The Scarlet Letter.” I read that thing 3 times, once voluntarily and twice as part of literature courses), but he had a wife. I’m a solo act. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. I digress.

*This is the correct usage for “reigning.” With a “g”, it refers to ruling. Most people mistakenly (and stubbornly) insist on using it as “reigning in,” which should properly be spelled** r-e-i-n-i-n-g, as the term refers to controlling a horse. Should you be close enough to such people, please explain the difference, then beat the ever-lovin’ stuffin’ out of them for not having mastered 5th grade level vocabulary).

Reading on the Beach

Mark your calendars: June 21, 2014 from 12 PM (High Noon) to 5 PM  at 100 Pacific Ave, Long Beach, CA, I will be selling and signing books at  Reading By the Sea along with the other authors listed. I met some of these great folks at Authors Under the Lights in March and I’m looking forward to seeing their happy little faces again. I will have a game going to win a set of signed books (Mine) and if you buy a set of signed books, you’ll be entered to win a raffle (as well as the raffles they’ll have). We’re not talking Publisher’s Clearing House here, but it’ll be cute.  You get stuff. Stuff related to MY books.

Go Fund Me!

(Well, that didn’t turn out as snazzily as I had hoped)

Since I have not had a great paying job since October (thus the survival mode) and I need promotional materials for the above mentioned Reading By the Sea event…that’s given me some gray hairs (which should delight my sisters. They’ve been waiting for almost 25 years now). If you click on the link, it’ll take you to a page that shows you what I want for this endeavor and how much the various items cost. I’m over halfway to my goal of $300 and I have an offer for super donors: $100 gets a minor character named after you or given the (reasonable) name of your choice in my current Work in Progress “The Baldie Chronicles.” (Prequel to “These Foolish Things”) The character will either be a group therapy participant or an oncological nurse (male or female), but will have a couple of lines (No, you don’t get to write those). So, click the link and GO FUND ME.

Back in 2011, I was going to the gym 6 days a week (3 days of weight lifting, 2 yoga classes, a Pilates class, and 5-6 days of cardio). I haven’t been in a while (try since October when the good-paying job went bye-bye, probably to Bangalore), so it would be foolish for me to walk in and just try to pick up where I left off. A walk around the block is a good place to restart.  Same thing with writing; if you’ve fallen out of the habit and rhythm of daily writing (something other than email or Facebook), it’s foolish to think you can just dive back in and pick it up again where you left off. But, I’m getting there.

I will get caught up on blogging, writing, etc. I will get back to talking about things like the “Louie” episode on fat women dating, gratitude and manifesting things in life, that kind of stuff. Right now, though, I just needed to “go for a walk around the block.”

Oh, and on a final note, let me leave you with this review:

Let me start by saying, I read a LOT of books, so you can imagine how you can get a lot of the ‘sameness’ throughout certain genres right?

I love a good romance sometimes to break up the books I read, ones that I don’t have to put my mind set in gear and just read with my eyes and enjoy.

So I picked up this one!

I was hoping it wasn’t going to be [what I call] a soppy romance. It wasn’t.

I hoped that it had some ups and downs in it [and not just in the bedroom!] It didn’t.

I hoped that there was going to be a storyline to it unlike some romances that can get quite irritating at times [if you know what I mean] It didn’t.

I really hoped this was not going to be the “perfect Alpha Male” type read that is all so popular at the moment. It wasn’t!

This couple were flawed, they were imperfect, it was GREAT. There were all kinds of emotions in this book. I really liked it, yes it was a romance, but a lovely romance.”

A lovely romance…

Advice? You Want My Advice?

No, seriously: someone left me a comment (and I accidentally deleted it. I cannot apologize enough) who asked me what advice I would give a “newbie.”

Really? You’re asking me? Wow. Usually, I get “shut the hell up.”

diana nyad

Let’s go to my girl, Diana Nyad.

Over 35 years, she has tried to swim from Cuba to Florida. She has been defeated by seasickness, jellyfish, and tides in the past.

Not this time. She made it. No shark cage.

never give up

There’s the biggest, baddest best piece of advice I have to offer.


dory just keep

Just Keep Swimming video

They were amused over at Diana Nyad’s Facebook page when I posted that video on there.

In my case, I wrote my book 12 years ago. I sent it out to 20 publishers and literary agents. All passed. I went back, rewrote a few things, deleted a few more, resubmitted, got rejected some more. BUT, the speed of technology change that makes your nifty swell smartphone obsolete as soon as you sign the two-year contract worked in my favor: e-books were invented. Print on demand got affordable (actually FREE if you don’t buy all the add-ons). Amazon started to court independent authors with Create Space.  Facebook, Goodreads,  and Twitter were invented so that an author could get the word out about a book without requiring a publishing house’s help in marketing (BTW, I have an ace up my sleeve in terms of an outstanding design team for things like cover art, promotional materials and even re-arranging my business cards with an annoyed sigh. Cover art grabs, Newbie. If you have a high school or college nearby with a graphic arts program, they may be able to help you out for low or no price) . I’ve even done a book signing: I rented space at an art gallery. I picked up a Square credit card reader for my smartphone so that I can take card payments (and the fact that I could prompted some impulse buys). These advances have made it possible for an independent little team (I have an editor,  a business advisor, and a legal/design team) to publish books. I kept swimming.


aka “See Rule Number One”

So why did you sit down with an idea, copious amounts of coffee (or Diet Coke. Or Red Bull), and perhaps a pad full of scribbled notes? Why did you stay up waaaaay past your bedtime because you had to “get this down because they’re talking to me and I don’t want to forget this” (When characters start doing and saying things without your authorization, you are on the right track, my friend)? Why do you periodically get up, walk around and talk to yourself because you’re trying out dialogue (Yes, I do this)?

When I find myself thinking “Aw, Man, this is just too hard” I remember that Jane Austen, the Brontes, and Tolstoy didn’t have typewriters, let alone  a laptop, Word, and a backspace key (my favorite friggin’ key. Delete, delete, delete). Hell, Tolstoy wrote War and Peace in longhand and that thing’s the size of… War and Peace. He was an obsessive re-writer and I’ve heard that his editor had to engage in tug of war to get his manuscripts from him. Nine drafts. Of War and Peace. And I want to whine over 100,000 words. I’ll shut up.

write for yourself

You are your first audience. Eventually, if you please that audience, others will join it.

Don’t worry about what’s selling, what other people might think; that’s how we start getting cookie cutter culture. Harry Potter was rejected all over Creation but once he was a hit, then we got wizards and extraordinary teens doing supernatural things (like Percy Jackson or the Mortal Instruments gang). “Twilight” hit and we now find our culture up to our necks in vampires. Your story about a hedgehog that becomes Donald Trump’s hairpiece could be the cause of another cultural fad.

TR on critics

I’ve found a lot of critics who will happily tell you what to do and how to do it (and especially what you’re doing wrong), but lack the sand to undertake your project themselves.

(Mamas: time to cover your kids’ eyes. yeah sure, like they’re reading this)

Fuck ’em. I’m part of the Author’s Forum on Goodreads and someone posted the topic “Why Do We Write?” I forget what I wrote. I know in one response, I quoted the following:

why i write

Someone decided he didn’t like my answer and replied with “Why not write for God’s glory?”

Newbie, should your story about the ambitious hedgehog run into similar critics, cordially invite them to “write your own damned story.” Do it with a smile.

The bottom line, Newbie?

1) Never give up

2)Write to please yourself

3) Be fearless

4) Never give up

And one of my favorite all-time quotes from Henry David Thoreau:


I wish you the very best. Now, go write.

This is Me Procrastinating

I am part of the Goodreads* Author Program. I posted a question in the Author Feedback group today: how do you procrastinate. By the way, a lot of the answers concerned Facebook, Pinterest, patting dogs, online shopping (uh oh)  and reading blogs (like this one. More people should read this blog). Mine was “scrubbing grout.” It’s an ongoing project and a good mindless task. Done right, by the end of it, you can think through and solve problems in plot, character development and dialogue. And have clean grout. scrubbing grout

It’s also a good upper-body workout.  Scrub grout.

Scrubbing grout had worked for me solving a couple of language problems. If you saw Monday’s post “‘Tis Pity You’re an Inarticulate Moron,” I told two stories about how two Alex Rodriguez supporters had taken offense to something I’d written about their hero and they’d both called me “whore” in an attempt to inflict a wound/silence me and I had written about the choice of the term with respect to gender politics.

Back when I was writing These Foolish Things, one of the pivotal scenes was one where Ty Hadley. Elizabeth Gardner’s love interest, was trying to convince her to let him see her naked. “You are beautiful to me,” he says.

Well, I had him say it initially.  But it bugged me. I didn’t know why. Another cup of coffee didn’t enlighten me and I knew that any more would have led to jitters which are NOT conducive to solving problems in writing. I dug out my rubber gloves and the scrub brush and set to work solving the problem. And cleaning a bathtub.

I suppose this is a Zen kind of method of solving a problem; solve it by not trying to solve it. My theory is that while you’re focused on the mindless activity like scrubbing grout, part of your mind has called a meeting like Ed Harris in “Apollo 13.”

ed harris

Gene Krantz tells the assembled neurons and synapses that failure is not an option.

While the writer goes on a grubby grout search and destroy mission (and the more stubborn patches become a point of resentment. They may even get names and show up as antagonists in the book), Ed Harris and his committee are solving the problem of getting your language all the way back to Earth without it burning up in the atmosphere. (Wow, that was blended).

In this case, just about the time that I was bearing down on that one patch I had named “Bucky Dent” (If you know Red Sox history, you know the reference), the answer came to me:

I had a man who was in love with this woman qualify his declaration of love by saying, “You are beautiful TO ME.”

A ha! Two words. Two common words and they undercut the sentiment, even if I did have Joe Cocker singing in my head as I wrote it.

(Stick with me, folks; We’re going down the rabbit hole) Those two words implied that although he thought Liz was beautiful, other people might disagree. “To me” says “Although I have said this thing, I have considered the possible judgment of others and acknowledge that my assessment may be inaccurate.”

No. No no no; if a man is IN LOVE (capital letters), he is not going to consider what someone else MAY or MAY NOT think about his love and whether they’d agree with him. Let’s be honest; they’re men and as Robin Williams has said, “God gave men a brain and a penis and only enough blood to operate one at a time.”  A man, in love, is going to say, to think, to feel, “You are beautiful.” End of discussion.

So I washed Bucky Dent down the drain, took off the rubber gloves and removed those two words. And when I looked upon what I had done, I saw that it was good.

Bucky Dent never reappeared, by the way.

 I am currently writing the prequel to These Foolish Things, The Baldie Chronicles. (so far, 51 pages, 17,671 words. However, given the compression rate I experienced with At Last, this would probably work out to about 5 pages. Yes, I am still that bitter). Our heroine, Liz, is confronting someone who doesn’t like her relationship with Millie Wentworth, Liz’s best friend and soul sister. The antagonist has asked, “Who is she, your lesbian lover?”

I started with Liz snarling at the woman, “How dare you insult my guest like that?”

Well, wait a minute. Something there isn’t sitting well. Where are the rubber gloves?

As the floor got my attention (and a particularly dirty section of grout I named “Alex Rodriguez”), Ed Harris and the rocket scientists were working away on solving the problem.

They told me: “Why would being called a lesbian be an insult?”

That one made me stop what I was doing.  The antagonist may look down upon gay people. She is certainly angry at Liz and at Millie, who seems to be getting what she, the antagonist, wants (and no spoilers just yet). However, the thrust of the remark is directed at someone she considers an outsider to the family interfering with what she (okay, fine, it’s Liz’s Aunt Melissa Raymond) thinks should be hers.

Liz Gardner is a decent person who just doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about someone’ race, ethnicity, sexuality or religion. This being the case, then, why would she support the notion that calling someone a lesbian is an insult? It’s no more an insult than calling someone from Texas an Oklahoman; it’s a misidentification and not an insult unless the receiver makes it one. Or the friend of the recipient.

In the present case, well, this is how I resolved it:

“No, Elizabeth. Your uncle and I are baffled at your actions over the past few months and we demand answers. What the hell is going on?”

Liz took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. She looked to Millie for a moment and Melissa caught the look. She pointed at Millie.

“Her? You’d cut out your own family? What is she, your lesbian lover?”

“Hey!” from Millie.

Liz walked over to Melissa and grabbed her arm. “Out you go.” She tried to pull her to her feet. Melissa refused to budge.

“I am not going anywhere until I get answers.”

Liz lost her temper. “Look, Lady, and I use that term loosely. MY finances, MY estate planning, and how I use MY possessions are none of your goddamn business, do you hear me? You have been undeniably rude to my guest, who is the closest thing to a sister that I have…”

The change calls Melissa out on her behavior, but doesn’t support the idea that calling someone a lesbian is an insult. Because it’s not.

Score another point for the grout.

*If you are a reader, I strongly recommend joining www.goodreads.com. if you haven’t already. It’s a social network site for readers and authors. I have a giveaway of my book, These Foolish Things, going right now.  I am offering 10 autographed copies and so far, 332 people have signed up. The odds are (my apologies to The Hunger Games) pretty much in your favor. 

The Post With Cat Hair in It

Actually, they all have cat hair in them. I live with a cat (he’s not mine, but he likes me). He’s an independent fellow, indoor/outdoor guy, not much of a lap addict. Hell, he doesn’t even like catnip.

Udacity study buddy

Yes, this is Exhibit A: the Hummingbird Hunter

(the hummingbirds are now safe. The feeders were moved to a new location. He can watch; can’t touch)

However, he hears the computer booting up or the keyboard clicking and suddenly, my desktop becomes his very favorite place in the world.

2013-07-07 11.13.37

Cat happiness is keeping a human from non-cat centered activities.

I have Microsoft Arc wireless keyboard and mouse. Exhibit A likes to sit on the keyboard. If we are chatting online and you get a weird burst of characters from me; chances are he sent it. As for the mouse, I frequently have to reach between his legs or around his stripey orange butt to use it.

Last night, I was on a writing hot streak (If you have read or are reading These Foolish Things, I am hard at work on the prequel. And having seen the compression factor by Create Space squish a digital Word file of 417 pages to actual book format of 278 pages, if you guys want something substantial, don’t hold your breath. This is going to take a while). Anyway, I had to periodically pick up my keyboard and wait while His Majesty did his kingly desk sprawl (see above). I thought I’d gotten clever at one point by sitting at the desk and giving him the clear space on the desktop by using my lap desk to rest the keyboard. Suddenly, that became the more desirable real estate. Cats and real estate agents: Location, location, location.

how people with cats eat

This also applies to home computing

Somewhere along the line, maybe during all the hours they sleep, feline internal software got a new version or a patch or an upgrade and they are now programmed to seek out the space between the human being and the computer screen especially if the human is trying to do something. That has to be the answer; Mr. Independent here couldn’t be buggered unless I am focused on what I’m doing. And then, his attitude becomes “You know, we don’t spend real quality time together.” (And right now, I am working around cat butt, head rubs that mash my hands into the keyboard and DON’T CHEW ON THOSE WIRES! DAMMIT! YOU ARE NOT A PET RABBIT!!!!)


I took this picture 30 seconds ago. That’s this blog post on the right.

The dog, God bless him, is normally a Velcro animal, very emotionally needy and doesn’t handle high def TV all that well (He will bark-at dogs, horses, camels, 70 year old still photos of cattle from a Ken Burns documentary and last week, people moving sand from an archaeological dig in Egypt. You heard me; he barks at sand). He will quietly lie on the rug gnawing on his toys or snoozing (when not growling and woofing at horses in a John Wayne movie). He doesn’t insist on getting in my lap, on the desk or under my feet (if he did, Exhibit A would punch him in the face for stealing his act. I’ve seen it).

2013-07-21 08.57.03

Background: The Dog’s Bandanna.

Foreground: The Dog’s Banana (seriously. It has a mustache).

When I wrote my first book, I was sharing my home with 4 cats:

George, Toulouse, Cookie, Sam

 George ,Toulouse, Cookie, and Samba.

Sammy Cat hated everyone else. That’s why she’s on the other side of the bed.

I did not have the “let’s get on the desk and drive her nuts” action that I have going now. Cookie (the Blue Point Crab), would get on a corner of my desk and sit next to the monitor while I worked, but she didn’t interfere.  The boys would be on the floor either rolling around chewing on each other or just lying with bellies up in the breeze from the fan. (SamCat would lie on the futon and just glare at everyone else. As far as she was concerned, they were a bunch of dopes) I would stay up late at night typing away and listening to Sandra Harris on WHOM 94.9. If I got up to get a drink of water or use the bathroom, I would have a furry escort trying to get me to go to bed. I could almost hear little annoyed sighs when I turned around and went back to work (face palms would have been muffled by fur). Some time between midnight and 1 AM, they’d just give up and go to bed without me.  As you can see from the photo, they made sure there was little or no room for me. They snoozed, I losed. Lost.

But those were the cat models of a decade ago. Like I said, the current models have gotten a software patch that better guides interference. Technology doesn’t sit still.

Mark Twain was  a great fan of cats, having a sizable clowder (technical term for a group of cats. Mine preferred to be known as a pride). I’d be willing to bet that Beelzebub, Sour Mash, Blatherskite and Zoroaster tried to “help” him write (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was the first novel written completely on a typewriter.  I’m sure there was a lot of batting at the keys and the ribbon going on. And probably some choice words from Mr. Twain).

And I’d be willing to bet that he turned in a few manuscripts laced with cat hair.