Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy Holidays

Season's greetings and happy holidays to everyone. I've been busy working on the last couple of chapters of Beyond the Pale, doing holiday things with the family, eating all the wrong foods and keeping all the wrong hours. I hope everyone is having a great holiday season! Best wishes for the upcoming year; may it bring you joy.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Real Life and the Great Holiday MishMash

Real life has really crept in this past couple of weeks. Moonshadow came through his eye surgery fine and is doing great, acting like his old self and no longer in pain. That's a relief for everyone; anybody who has a cat knows that when the cat's not happy, nobody's happy!

Christmas decorations are going up and holiday commitments are, hopefully, winding down. I've been trying to help the kids get caught up with their correspondence school lessons and get packets ready to mail, as well as getting holiday gifts bought, wrapped and ready to mail also. Next, I have to get the Christmas cards out; if I don't get that done this week, it's probably a lost cause.

So what about the book? Well, I'm about to finish Chapter 13 of a planned 16 or possibly 17. We're heading into the end game now; everything just rockets along from here to the end with scarcely a breath for Brenna, the heroine--and not much of one for her writer, either. That said, I'm sure Brenna would much rather be facing my Christmas rush than what she's actually facing now. The slightly weird part for me and the biggest disconnect between reality and the writing is that while I'm putting up Christmas decorations and wrapping presents, Brenna's still looking at Halloween in a few days. This never bothered me with any of my epic fantasy because I made up all the holidays, but with a book that takes place in the modern day world.... Oh, well, I suppose that's just the hazards of the job. Did I mention I love the job anyway?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Cat Update

Turns out it wasn't a terminal disease--at least, as far as we know. Moonshadow's lab work is very good for a boy his age. But the eye will have to come out. He had a cataract that pushed his lens out of place, and now it's where it isn't supposed to be and can't be put back. The good news is that his other eye is in good shape and shows no evidence of cataract, so he should have one good eye for the rest of his life, barring any unforeseen problems. I'm relieved that the whole situation isn't as horrible as what I'd feared, but it's been stressful. He's been my little furry mascot for so many years now. And just in case anyone wondered who really writes the manuscripts....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bumpy Ride

Agh! Ten days since last post! In the meantime, I've moved the blog to the new Google account, blown away most of my customizations on accident and had to enlist the computer guru husband to help me fix the problem, and had to take the cat to the vet on Friday after discovering that one of his eyes had gone grey overnight. Freaky problem, still don't know what's up. He has a veterinary ophthalmologist appointment tomorrow. The kids and I are still behind on this years' correspondence school assignments. To top that all off, I had an ear infection and some kind of tonsil infection as well. It's just been a mishmash of various things going wrong or threatening to. And then I had to mostly switch my schedule from working at night to being up and trying to work during the day. I keep falling asleep in front of the computer, and it doesn't seem to matter what time of day or night it is. So for the past week or so, writing has been dicey.

The good news is that I'm partway through Chapter 12, out of a planned 16. Yay for me. If I can just keep it in gear, I may yet finish this thing before the end of the year. I've even got a tentative plan for a sequel, though I haven't heard yet whether the first one is going to fly. Never hurts to be prepared, I guess.

I know I've said this before, but whether this book makes it or not I'm just loving the experience of writing it. It's been great fun and I feel good about it. Even if it proves to be just a little no-go break from writing the Oantran stuff, it's been a good break.

That last paragraph was the PC version, the humble version, the cautious version. There's a little war going on in my brain that looks a lot like the cartoon of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Here's how that dialog would go if it were an actual cartoon:

Angel: You've never written an urban fantasy before. You don't really know what you're doing, so don't expect miracles.
Devil: Ah, what do you know? You've never written urban fantasy before, either. This book is all that--it rocks. It's The One that'll get us published. Trust me. Would I lie?
Angel: Like a rug. You'll do anything to keep us in the game. Even lure us on with candy-coated dreams of publication and marketing and comic books based on the characters. You shouldn't get our hopes up. You're turning us into a masochist.
Devil: Everyone needs a goal....

Friday, November 10, 2006


I did it! The first ten chapters of Beyond the Pale are done, reviewed by the Moxie, edited, polished, and out the door. I also revamped the synopsis and sent it out, too. Bob should get the package in a few days. Now I'll work on the last several chapters while I wait to see what his reaction will be. No matter how good it might have sounded over the phone, it also has to read well on paper, and this is my first urban fantasy.

I'm reluctant to make any assumptions about how well it turned out, but I will say that I like it, I had fun writing it, and I'm going to have fun writing the rest. That's what I'll do while I'm waiting. Whatever happens with it from here on, the best part is that it was a challenge for me, a new direction. Setting it in Ireland was a greater challenge yet. It stretched my skills and my boundaries as a writer, and that's always a good thing.

Now that the first half is mailed out, I'm about to have a great time writing the first scene in the next chapter. It's a cheery little scene that takes place in a hospital room, over the bed of someone who.... Ah, but that would be a spoiler, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I voted. Spent four hours at the polls in a long line that meandered up and down two hallways and into several rooms. One family ahead of me waited for about two and a half hours and then had to bail halfway through because their kids had school in the morning. I arrived at 6:30 pm and didn't get done until 10:30 pm. I drove home and let the Huz heat up some dinner for me, and then we sat and watched CNN. We still haven't gone to bed, and I won't for some time; I still have two chapters to edit.

Ugh--in reference to the line at the polls, not the chapters. I won't state my political leanings here on the blog. Anyone who cares that much and reads my books in the future will probably figure it out. Goodnight, America, and good luck.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Cold Halloween, Hot Keyboard

One evening this week--Sunday or Monday, I can't remember which--the kids and I sat in front of a DVD movie (The Corpse Bride) and put together goodie bags for the trick-or-treaters. Call it a quirk, but I've almost completely stopped giving out candy on Halloween. I go to the party outlet and buy silly little Halloween trinkets and gizmos like plastic spider rings, skeletons, rubber eye balls, rats, pens, etc. to stuff into little bags instead of candy. I figure that most kids are going to come home with more candy than they should consume in a year's time anyway. I'd rather not add to it. That said, I admit that I was a hypocrite and gave my own kids bags that consisted of Harry Potter chocolate frogs complete with wizard cards, Harry Potter cockroach clusters, and Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. I mean, come on! It's Harry Potter candy, which is so expensive that it isn't worth it to buy it more than about once a year anyway. It seems that Jelly Bellies has outdone themselves this year by adding two new flavors to the Beans: Bacon and Deviled Egg, I think they were. Yum.

Anyway, we had a lot of goodie bags left over because we didn't get as many trick-or-treaters as we expected. It was cold, cold, cold outside. Gary took the kids around and walked the German Shepherd, and when they got back, the kids dropped the candy and headed straight to the kitchen for some hot chocolate. Andromeda headed straight for her bed, where she curled up and tucked her nose underneath her tail. Poor puppy. The kids tucked her in underneath their jackets, and finally she got warmed up again. She had been starving to death as a stray before we adopted her; I guess even after the three months of good food, she still needs to put on more of a fat layer. If I'd have thought about it, I'd have put one of the kids' jackets on her before she went out.

The time from last week into this one was crazy. Last Friday, I went to a drama performance with a Halloween theme because a friend was going to be in it and asked me to come. Saturday was our party. Sunday was a party held at another friend's house, which I couldn't go to and sent the family instead because I had a writers' meeting. Then Monday gave us barely any time to catch our breath before Tuesday's usual Halloween craziness ensued. How I thought I'd actually get my chapters mailed off to my agent before Halloween, I have no idea. However, I do have things almost ready to go.

The Moxie reviewed my first nine chapters (sans Chapter 7 because somehow I missed printing it out in my haste before the meeting). It took them several hours to read through the whole thing, and I have to say that they are the most amazing crit group ever! I saw how carefully they were going over every page. They found all my little inconsistant details and snafus, and now I'm in the process of editing and polishing those chapters to make them submission-ready. I still need to finish writing Chapter 10, which I believe to be the midway crisis point of the book. Word-wise, it doesn't fall exactly in the middle of the manuscript, which was at the end of Chapter 8. I need to get chapters 7 and 10 to the Moxie for review, finish all the edits, and then format, print and mail. Now that all the Halloween craziness is over, I estimate that I have perhaps one more week's work to do before it hits the Post Office.

On the downside, I wanted it mailed before Halloween, dang it! Bob estimated somewhere between the end of October and the first week or so of November, so technically I'm still in the ball park. On the upside, I'm more than halfway through the whole manuscript, and unless it needs a huge rewrite or some other drastic change, I'll have only six more chapters to go to finish the whole book. I'm looking at maybe being done by Christmas, or mid-January at the latest. (Crossing fingers, thinking good thoughts....!)

Friday, October 20, 2006


For many, this time of year can be among the busiest. Public school kids are back in their classrooms, various businesses near the end of the fiscal year, and people's energies are split between forging ahead and settling old accounts. The pace can be exhausting. But as the fall days shorten, the light wanes and we face the oncoming winter, it doesn't hurt to spend a few moments in remembrance.

Remembrance of what? Committments made or broken? Failed politicians? The bottom line? Those things are part of our lives, too. But I was thinking of things that aren't so easily judged and measured.

Less than a hundred years ago at this time of year, our ancestors were madly gleaning every possible bit of harvest before winter set in. It was that, or risk starving to death during the winter months. Nowadays, we grumble while we wait for spinach to be put back on the menu. We lament the risk of eating steak due to the very preventable threat of mad cow disease. But there are so many different kinds of food available from so many different sources that here in the U.S., we barely think about stocking up food for the winter anymore. Why can your own beans when you can just get more from California? No spinach for a while? Annoying, but lettuce is still available, and you can still have some kind of salad. We're spoiled. Horribly so, because for many of us, if we ever really faced the cessation of our food supply, we'd be starving in huge numbers, just like people from much poorer countries. The global market has changed so much that in our rush to get where we're going, we often forget where we've been.

A couple of days ago, my younger daughter went with her father to watch the killing of two young steers. Just two years old, the steers were grass-fed, raised without hormones, and allowed to roam happily over the land of a very forward-thinking (or perhaps it's actually backward-thinking!) man we know. My family paid for a half-share of one of those steers while it was alive, and soon we'll be bringing the meat home to sit in our freezer, as we've done every two years for most of the past ten. We don't have a big garden, but recently we harvested ten pumpkins and eight sweetmeat squash that grew in our small garden spot in the backyard over the summer. Small echoes of bygone years, but they feel right.

Also recently, we took a trip to Idaho City and visited their old historic cemetery. While there are a few more recent graves, many date from Idaho's gold rush and logging days. The cemetery stretches up a hillside, its graves dotted along the slope among the pines, reachable by dirt paths worn by generations of feet. No carefully manicured lawns here--only the quiet breeze and the falling of pinecones and needles from the branches above. Many of the graves in this cemetery are surrounded by quaint old wooden fences, often fallen or leaning, some with trees and bushes growing right out of the middle of the gravesites. Many are marked "unknown", the records of who was buried there lost forever whether or not their ghosts remain. One pioneer who went on to become a mayor in Boise buried his beloved young wife in that cemetery, and though he doesn't seem to be buried beside her, you can still read his moving words carved on a long stone slab atop her grave. In another spot, a whole family seems to have died in the same time frame, tragic victims of some illness or accident. Another small white native stone off the beaten path bears nothing but the initials J.W. and the words "at rest", its hand-carved letters a mute testimony to someone's poverty, but also a legacy of love for the person they could barely afford to bury. Another huge gravestone that practically shouts "money" belonged to a man from Ireland, buried all alone and far from the homeland he left behind.

This isn't meant to be a depressing post. Far the opposite. It's really just a reminder that in this busy season in the middle of modern concerns, maybe we should take just a moment and stop to think about how far we've come, and where we've come from. My Celtic ancestors felt that Halloween (Samhain) was a time when the veil between worlds was thinnest, when the dead could walk abroad and get a glimpse of the living. It was a time for harvest, for making domestic arrangements for the winter, for feasting and the forging of alliances, and--perhaps most of all--it was a time for remembrance.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Checking In, not Checking Out

I'm alive. I almost got into a car wreck a few nights ago, but...didn't. Our city is paying for its shortsightedness in road planning from several decades ago: now it seems we need all our roads widened to accomodate the increased traffic. This means a lot of late-night construction. I was on my way back from somewhere in the dark and had just come through an intersection, and the cars ahead of me suddenly slammed on their brakes in a place where we were all supposed to be accelerating, because our lane had been blocked by construction cones. Lovely. I slammed on my brakes, too, and I can just tell you now that my life did not flash before my eyes. My death, however, did. I remember thinking, "I'm not gonna stop in time, I'm not gonna make it, I'm not...oh, my god, I stopped!" And I did. The Ford 500 (Phouka) stopped on a dime, about six or so inches from the next guy's bumper. The ABS even kicked in, and I know I lost some rubber. The guy behind me hit the right-turn-only-lane, and we avoided a several-car pile-up. Barely. Seems my number was not up yet, but it easily could have been. Ford, you've got good brakes, and I've got good reflexes. Nice work, team.

Moving on...

I'm finished with Chapter 7 and am now into Chapter Eight. Just a couple more to go to the halfway crisis point.

What? The above experience wasn't a crisis point? Ah, no. My character's car was run into a ditch--before I had to hit the skids on the highway. Isn't it weird how life sometimes mimics art, and vice versa? If anything else in my life starts to coincide too heavily with what's in the book, I'm outta here, and there'll be movie rights to sell.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why the World Needs Superman

Sorry I haven't blogged in a while. I do have a viable excuse; it's because I actually have a writing deadline. Bob gave me the ok on the urban fantasy book, and I need to get the first half to him by the end of October. Also recently, the husband of one of my crit partners gave the Moxie an ultimatum. We meet roughly every two weeks with some adjustments for shifting schedules, and my friend's husband thinks that it's time to take the gloves off. He says that unless all three of us produce at least ten new pages prior to each meeting, he will refuse to allow his wife to attend said meeting. Now everybody knows that he would never actually try to keep her from doing anything--it was a bogus threat. But nevertheless something about the challenge appealed to all of us. The threat might not have been real, but the pages produced are. Not one of us has brought in less than ten pages since he made that statement. Magic? Psychology? Coincidence? Whatever. I say if it works, we use it.

Anyway, last evening after I'd cranked out a few pages (moving toward the end of Chapter 6) the family went to see Superman Returns at the second-run theater. My husband had to gripe about technical issues involving the spaceship, the airplane, and the broken-in-half yacht. Aside from that, I liked the plot well enough. I mean, it's Superman--what's not to like? The new actor did a great job. Very believable as the new Man of Steel.

In the movie, Lois was having a hard time writing an article called "Why the World Needs Superman." I'm sure some movie critics were having the same problem, albeit for different reasons. But I was one of the faces in the crowd who's glad he's back. So why do we need him? Why do we need the X-men, or Spiderman, or Mr. Incredible, Luke Skywalker or Lara Croft, for that matter? Why do we need people to tell us stories of people who are somehow larger-than-life and yet vulnerable both at the same time?

It's because the world needs heroes. Human beings need heroes, no matter whether we live in New Guinea or Korea, Scotland or New York. We need heroes to show us how to rise up against the darkest parts of our own nature as a species. We need to believe that no matter what the odds, there's still hope. We need to imagine that each of us could be--whether through great act or small--a hero in our own right. They--how did Aunt May put it?--show us right from wrong, keep us noble, and when the time comes, allow us to die with pride. She's right. Her writer was right. There really is a little hero in all of us, and every once in a while, we need a little reminder of that. It doesn't matter who your heroes are, exactly. What matters is that you have them. What matters is that you remember them. And what matters above all is that they inspire you to be more than you thought you could be. If you can get that far, you can change the world. See? The world really does need Superman.

Ultimately, Superman exists because a writer/artist once doodled a comic character on a notepad, dressed him in a red cape and blue spandex, did a little worldbuilding and world-destroying, and created an international icon. Actors like Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh were inspired to embody the role. Millions of kids have already grown up wanting to be Superman. Some were inspired by what the character stands for--values that, like the character himself, never seem to age. Some of his fans probably went on to become policemen, firemen, doctors, teachers. Some undoubtedly are parents now, showing their kids the difference between right and wrong, and how to be more than they thought they could be. Just your average, ordinary, everyday superheroes.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Summer of the Traveling Moxie

This summer, my crit group thought we'd do something different just to liven things up a bit. We decided to make it the Summer of the Traveling Moxie, and meet at a different Moxie Java every meeting date until fall. We toured around the city, through little tiny Moxies with just a few seats inside to a large bistro with offices upstairs. We went downtown, uptown, across town. We finally ended up at a place called Moxie Java and More, where the decor was cheap, quaint and rustic, but they also served sandwiches and ice cream. There are larger tables and plenty of places around the room to take a group aside and actually have a little privacy. We've decided to swich our meetings to that one on a permanent basis. While we'll always remember the little Moxie where we first began to meet, we're moving on and trading up. Someday we might even break up as members start to move out of town and out of state. But for now, we've found a Moxie that fits all three of us, and we know we'll always remember...
...the Summer of the Traveling Moxie.

(ducking flying objects!)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Random Acts of Kindness

At the risk of sounding a bit like Pollyanna, I've just been thinking about how small the world really is, and how much potential it has for eventually coming together in peace and accord. The illustrations of this might be tiny, random acts of kindness, but they do happen, and taken together it seems that there might be hope for the human race, after all.

While hatred might start from a tiny disagreement that eventually grows into an argument, then to a clan feud, then to a civil war, then to a war between nations, so too does peace grow into an unstoppable force for good. It starts small, from a simple smile to a compliment to a genuine wish for good things to happen for someone other than yourself. From there it could snowball into groups helping other groups, states working with other states, and eventually to countries lobbying together for the good of the planet as a whole.

Today my city announced its intent to comply with the Kyoto accord. Maybe our country didn't embrace it, and maybe too many politicians muttered too many doubts about statistics and scientific analyses, but city by city, state by state, our country is beginning to wake up, to say yes to humans taking responsibility for our own actions and for our future. Simply by one person standing up and being willing to be seen doing some good in the world, others are encouraged to follow.

My latest personal experience of this was when the very nice garda from Ireland took a few minutes to reply to my email question and even wish me well on my novel, and three other very nice writers on the FM board replied to my post asking for Irish email question-answering help. Without their responses, I would have made certain mistakes in one of my manuscripts--mistakes that I would much prefer to avoid. Does this affect the state of the world as we know it? Well, yes, I think so. Those simple acts of human kindness and consideration made my day, and quite possibly my manuscript. If I'm very lucky, that manuscript may one day help someone else, even if it only helps them while away a few hours in an airplane, or cheers them up when they're down and want some good escapist fiction. Small things, folks. But small things that may one day add up to something much bigger than the sum of its parts.

Remember that commercial on TV where one person saves another person's life, then that person goes on to save another's, and so on until the chain reconnects just like a huge circle? That's the kind of unstoppable force I mean. With that kind of force, starting with those tiny, simple, random acts of kindness, we may go on to change the world.

Try it today. Smile at someone you meet out shopping. Compliment someone. Thank your cashier and wish them a good day even though it's not part of your job. Throw out a lucky penny for someone to find. Let someone into the lane in front of you in the middle of rush hour traffic. Reaffirm someone's faith that there are good, kind strangers out there in the world, rather than only hidden enemies.

Think about it.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Last Puzzle Piece

I've been working on "Shifts of Perception," the third book of my epic fantasy trilogy, and I've hit the halfway point. After all the interruptions I've had over the last few months, it feels great to know I've almost done it--almost finished an entire trilogy! When the Moxie met today, we agreed that the last scene in Chapter 9 needs a little bit of tweaking, but that shouldn't be too hard to fix.

Despite the fact that I have Shifts plotted and ready to roar through the last half, I've continued to chew on the plot for my urban fantasy, Beyond the Pale. Up until about a week and a half ago, I had nothing but what seems like a sound premise, a promising first three chapters, and a solid plan for the ending, but not much middle. At first blush, that sounds like bad news for a plot, but the "Girls in the Basement," as my crit partners call the muses in a writer's subconscious, weren't ready to give up yet. Ready to coax, coerce or force a complete plot from the ether, I wrote out all the scene cards for the beginning chapters I had finished already, the ones for the next one or two chapters I had already plotted, and the ones for the ending of the book. Then I worked on possibilities for bridging the gap by working my way inward from both ends. This sounds like a no-brainer, but for me, it wasn't. My husband pointed out that bridges are built by starting on both sides of the gap to be bridged, and the two ends are worked toward each other until they meet in the middle--and no, I didn't forget about the supports you need in order to keep things from falling when they start to hang out in midair!

Over the last week, I made plotting Pale my priority, and by Saturday, I had all but one major issue pretty much figured out. But that one issue was a biggie, not easily solved--or so I thought. Finally, pretty much frustrated, I just asked (don't ask who I asked--call it the Universe, the muses, the collective unconscious, whoever) for the answer to the dilemma. I asked for it aloud, as though I was talking to some childhood invisible friend. Within minutes, the solution dropped into my brain like the last piece of the puzzle, as though I had indeed gotten an answer from beyond. The subconscious mind is an amazing thing indeed. Ask and you shall receive. The answer was obvious, perfect, and so simple I'm shocked that it hadn't occurred to me before. So if you ever see me talking to myself on a street corner in the future, I'm probably asking for some elusive plot point.

However I got it, the result is tangible, written out in scene cards and stuck to my wall, and the plot for the urban fantasy is actually here, real, solid, and workable. Two Novembers ago, I told my friend that I couldn't plot or write urban fantasy. Apparently I was wrong. I can. I am. Who'da thunk?

Urban fantasy is hot right now, they say. Publishers are looking for it; it's selling. And I happen to have the plot for one now. Maybe that'll be the right combination to get my foot through the door at last. But I still wouldn't write it if I didn't love it or if it didn't resonate for me. As much as I want to get published, I know that I personally can't do my best work if I can't really connect with the story or the genre, which is why I'm not writing YA right now. I can't force myself to care about it, or perhaps I simply haven't found the right storyline yet. The epic fantasy is great, I love it and still believe in it, and I'll finish the trilogy, of course. I'll probably go on to write more epic fantasy in the future--I'm sure I won't be able to stay away from it entirely. But I also happen to have found a story I love in the more popular field of urban fantasy, so now I get to take a risk that might just pay off. Now that I've found the last piece of my new plot, we'll see what happens.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Peaceful Warrior

I'd seen the book "The Peaceful Warrior", but never actually read it. However, I just saw the movie and it generated lots of thought, as I'm sure it was meant to. It's no wonder our city chose to show it at the art movie theater; this isn't one of those movies where you just go, laugh, applaud or otherwise enjoy and never have to think too much. This one's meant to make you pay attention and then go home and rethink your life.

That's right, Obi Wan.

How many of us go through our lives without actually living them? Do we pay attention to the minutiae of things and people around us, or do we pass them without ever allowing them to really touch us? Maybe Dan Millman is right. Maybe many of us aren't so much living as just going through the motions, chasing all the wrong dreams. Or chasing the right dreams for the wrong reasons.

This is especially true of writing, but it's complicated. If the one thing you really, truly love is writing and you're not in it for the money, you've got it made. But what if your life purpose is to share your stories, share your truths and visions with other people and you can only do that by getting published? Sure, writing makes you happy, but is it doing any good in the world if no one outside of your family and crit group ever gets to read it? Maybe. Maybe just sharing it with a finite group of people is enough. But if Dan Millman hadn't gotten The Peaceful Warrior published, how many people would have been able to share his incredible experience or read the story that only he could tell? Not too many, in the grand sceme of things. So in a sense, we have a bit of a paradox. You do the thing you're destined to do, the one thing that really gives you goose bumps, but you never get to share it with more than about eight people unless you just publish it online, which still doesn't reach half the people you hope to reach. You write because you love it, but you also feel deep down in your soul that there's supposed to be more to it. It isn't supposed to be just for you.

Ok, I'm talking about myself here, but I'm sure there are hundreds to thousands of other writers out there who also see themselves in the above paragraph. So how do we address the paradox?

Would you still write even if you were never to get published? Would you actually be able to just set down your pen or leave your keyboard and never attack anything more ambitious than email? If the answer is yes, then you have it easy. But if the answer is no, then you already know you love it too much to stop. Someday they'll probably find you permanently asleep at your keyboard, hopefully after having typed the last line of the last chapter of your very last book. If that sounds like you, then you're pretty much stuck. You'll have to keep writing, and giving it up just isn't an option, publisher's contract or no.

So where does that leave you? What would the peaceful warrior's answer be? I don't know. I don't have all the answers or even a good fraction of them. But maybe it would be something like this: Maybe it doesn't really matter whether you become a famous novelist. Maybe that's the totally wrong goal to shoot for. If, like Dan learned, the journey is far more important than the destination, then maybe it's about putting everything you are into every keystroke. Maybe it's about being fully present with and committed to every word you write. Maybe it's about never doing less than your absolute best, no matter what the rewards might or might not be. If you focus on the minutiae of your writing, on honing your craft, on doing what you love and making every word a labor of love, then maybe all the rest of it will fall into place, if that's what's supposed to happen for you. And if it's not, then where are your regrets? Are you proud of the job you did? Did you love it, did it bring you joy? Then you've made at least one person happy--maybe the most important person. And if you find joy in doing what you love, then you're sure to bring joy to others, simply because joy seems to multiply itself when turned outward. As above, so below. Or another way to think of it: as within, so without.

Maybe it works. Either way, it sure beats the heck out of being depressed because none of the books in your shelves have your name on the spine.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Cats and Dogs

We've had an interesting couple of weeks. We'd been talking about getting a dog for some time, and finally we decided to just do it. So for about a week, we surfed all the adoption sites, followed up leads and came up with a short list of potential dogs for adoption. One night last week I told my cat that the next day, we'd be bringing a dog home. That night at about 2:30 a.m., he went out catting, and the next morning he still hadn't returned.

We had found a dog at our local humane society shelter, a beautiful 1-year-old German shepherd who had been found wandering in late July, no tags, no collar, starving and ill. We visited her one day, put her on a 24-hour hold, and brought her home the next day. She was 2 days post-op from being spayed, and still recovering from that and her previous illness, but she gave us all a big kiss when we came back to pick her up. As soon as we got her home, she settled right down and by now her personality is beginning to emerge. The humans who'd had her before hadn't housetrained her, hadn't taught her any commands, hadn't played with get the picture. She loves my kids and is blossoming with us. This is a smart dog. In two days, she'd learned her name, (we named her Andromeda, Rommie for short) come, sit, and lay down. She's still working on stay and heel. She loves living in the "den" with us and being part of our family. But there is one thing in our household that she does not love, and that is the cat.

Back to the cat. Moonshadow must have had some horrific adventure, because he was missing all day long after we brought the dog home--very bad timing, that! I was devastated and thought I'd lost him, so on what was supposed to be a happy day with the dog, I was mourning my cat of 14 years. Trying not to blubber in the neighbor's faces, I walked street after street, distributing pictures and phone numbers so people could call me if they found him. Then that morning at 2:20 a.m., I woke up thinking about him. 10 minutes later, I heard the cat door, ran downstairs, and found a very happy, very hungry feline eating big kibbles out of the dog's new dish.

We welcomed Moonshadow home, then brought Rommie down to introduce them...and they hated each other on sight, of course. So we've been trying to acclimate them to each other gradually, and I hope things will still work out. It would not be fair for my beautful, beloved kitty to lose his home of 14 years just because a big puppy now lives here, and it would also not be fair to Rommie to lose her new home just because my grumpy old cat can't keep himself from growling at her and pushing her buttons. So for now, we're keeping them separated and trying to introduce them gradually. Wish us luck, and any tips would be welcome!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sustainable Websites

I've been doing a lot of surfing of ecology-related websites recently. Mostly, I'm shopping or at least surfing for organic clothing and natural alternatives for items we use everyday and dump into the landfills at a truly alarming rate. I even found a site or two that sell eating utensils made from corn fiber. Really. They look just like the plastic forks, knives and spoons you're used to using at picnics, but if you toss these corn fiber ones out with your compost, they'll actually biodegrade.

I love the idea of a sustainable planet. I am a treehugger. There, I'm out. Now you see my hairy, scary side. I love green businesses and green solutions for all kinds of problems. I'm planning to have my car converted to green fuel just as soon as we get a station in town that sells it, and in the meantime, I buy fuel with the 10% ethanol in it. One of my friends has a Prius, (a gas/electric hybrid car) and the in-town milage is just amazing--much better than what I can get in my car, by at least--what--three times the miles per gallon? Organic fiber clothes just plain flat feel better on the skin, and our decision to buy into an organic garden co-op for the summer has proven economical and completely delicious. My husband recently bought a bunch of those flashlights that you can wind up and don't need batteries for; they work great and the whole family thinks they're genious, especially the girls who like to read under the covers at night. And then there's the way-gorgeous mineral makeup. Back to nature and loving it, and I haven't even had to start looking like a granola girl in the process.

There is one gripe I have, though, and it doesn't just apply to websites that sell organic products. At the end of June I placed an order for something and have now been waiting three weeks for it to arrive. The company is in the U. S., but I've had faster shipping from Europe and Canada, thanks! A couple of days ago I called them to ask what had happened to my merchandise and they told me that the stuff was backordered. Now, I'd already sent them an email two days before that asking about the order, and they hadn't answered that. Then when I called them, they didn't answer the extension for customer service, so I had to call the orders line. Then when they checked on my order, they said it would probably be another two weeks before the stuff came in and would be sent to me, bringing the number of weeks since purchase up to five at least. I ordered the same product from another company on Friday and they said they'd mail it out on Monday. Much bettter on first glance, but their website wasn't secure so I had to order by phone. Already had one card hacked, thanks, don't need another one compromised. I don't care how bad somebody out there wants to buy himself a leather bustier and a sweet new pickup--I can't afford to pay for them! So after all that ranting, here's the actual gripe:

When you have a web-based shop, make sure your order form is secure! And while you're at it, make sure that when any of your products is backordered, you've posted it on the item page to warn the consumer! Let me know that I'll have to wait forever to get my product so I can look elsewhere and not have to waste my time or yours on needless follow ups.

Sustainable organic products for sale: potentially worth every penny paid for them. Sustainable websites: priceless.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Progress and Pirates

I've been making some progress on Shifts of Perception--I'm nearly at the halfway point and hope to get a lot further over the next six weeks. If I could finish it entirely, I'd be very happy.

Real Life has been interfering a lot lately, but as the kids' school year is over, I'm about to get a shot at some real progress.

We finally took the kids to see Pirates of the Caribbean 2, Dead Man's Chest. We loved it and are looking forward to the third one. I won't post any spoilers here, but...if you haven't seen it yet and are planning to, make sure you stay all the way through the ending credits. We left the theater before the end of the credits on X-Men and later regretted it. Today we stayed to the end on Pirates and...didn't regret it. 'Nuf said.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Great Loss

I just got the news via Publisher's Lunch that Jim Baen has passed away. My heart goes out to his close friends and loved ones at this time; I wish them peace and healing. His death is a great loss for the SF community as well. Here's a link to one online article where author David Drake has written a heartfelt obituary for him.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Two At Once

I'm nearly finished with Chapter 3 of my new urban fantasy. I am about to start Chapter 8 of the third novel in my epic fantasy trilogy. I'm managing to hop back and forth between the two of them. I just wish I could make faster progress. I'd have to write a chapter of each book each week if I want to finish both by the end of the summer. At the rate things are going, I won't manage it, but we'll see. I'll at least have one of them done by the end of the summer, and the other will be close. Which will be which, I have no idea.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Amazon knows about me?

Somehow Amazon heard about my miniature books and has posted a page for each. The only info they have for each one is its title and the publication year, and of course there are no reviews or ordering buttons. I guess the pages are there so that if anyone had one they wanted to sell, they could do it...I guess. But that scenario is highly unlikely since every one I've ever sold went into the hands of collecters, and all between the years of 1999 and now. Amazon says they're out of print and limited in availability. Well, technically none are out of print since even the limited edition print runs can still be ordered from my website, but availability is limited because I make each book by hand and personally sew it into its "unknown binding".

I have no idea how Amazon found me, but the Huz and I had a few grins today over the fact that they had. My poor little mini books. I could contact Amazon and let them know that I have a few to sell, but since none of them are actually sewn together yet, that could be a problem if they wanted to stock them. So far my lack of stock hasn't been an issue since I only tend to get orders for a few at a time, but if I suddenly had to go into major production it would indeed be a problem. I'd have to drop everything else and just make little books as fast as possible. The sad part is, I could use the money. But if I went for the money just to get a little cash now, I wouldn't get the novels done, and the novels are my main focus anyway. It's the difference between the short term and the big picture. Sometimes we just have to stick it out and wait for that big ship to come in. Let's just hope there are no hurricanes in the meantime.

Salutes to Amazon, though, for being on the ball. If they bother to learn about and list authors of self-published one-inch-tall books, then it's no wonder they do such a big business. That' wow.

But if you really want to buy one of my minis, take a trip to the Pookatales Press website at and use my catalog, which allows you to make payment through PayPal. Unless you're ordering several of each book all at once, I can accommodate your order. And a little-known fact about these mini books is that three of them, A Perfect Irony, The Mer--A Treatise, and The Wolfhound actually take place in the same world as my Oantran Triad trilogy, currently being marketed to publishers in New York. If by some miracle my trilogy actually becomes well-known one day, then that would make these little minis sought-after collector's items.

Not a bad dream, that.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The World Around the Corner

Recently, a crit partner and I were discussing the possible reasons why so many people have responded so strongly to books like The DaVinci Code, the Anita Blake Series and a host of other recent thrillers, paranormal thrillers, and urban fantasy offerings. Looking at the situation a little more closely, we found that all of these have something in common.

All are set in the modern-day world, and while the degree to which a reader must suspend disbelief may greatly vary from book to book, even the ones with more fantastic elements like vampires or werewolves still manage to leave just this little hint of "What if". What if a werewolf lives on your street, and that dang dog that keeps howling off and on in the neighborhood isn't just a dog? What if you went to school with a descendant of Mary Magdalene and didn't even know it? What if the fey are alive and well and living in Cahokia, Illinois? Most of it sounds pretty unbelievable just to say it like that, but when you sit down and read those books, the what ifs suddenly get up close and personal. Suddenly as the vampire gets into the taxi and gives the driver an address on the outskirts of St. Louis, your brain begins to make a tiny leap of faith. What if? These stories are set in a world that looks very much like ours. The characters don't live in another century, they live in ours. They wear clothes like ours, buy similar takeout, and drive the same kinds of cars.

I think it's something about that extreme level of familiarity in the fictional world vs our own that makes a person's brain want to stretch just a little. After all, it's such a short step from our world into the world of those books, and when you start to think about it, none of us know for absolutely certain what's waiting around that next corner. For those of us drawn to fiction, especially when it's a comparatively realistic fiction, the temptation to wonder is just too irresistable. Scientists, after all, are already developing an "invisibility cloak" that bends light rays around itself. Most of us have heard that old saying, "Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." There is no such thing as an invisibility cloak, right? Wrong, apparently. Sasquatch does not exist. Now tell that to the hundreds of people who have had encounters with one!

Is it such a great leap from our world to that other world right around the corner? Perhaps not. Perhaps we can regain that lost sense of wonder that we had as children. Children have a wonderful gift that many adults lack. They actually take time to consider a possibility before ingrained logic rules it out. They know they can fly, they just don't remember how! They're sure they heard reindeer on the roof. They know magic when they see it, and they know better than anyone that Neverland and Narnia aren't so very far away. Perhaps we adults like those thrillers, urban fantasies, and vampire novels so much because the very familiarity of the worlds in the books brings us just a tiny step closer to that sense of childish wonder that many of us lost so long ago.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

First Impressions Count

I recently attended my first conference of the season, and even though it didn't have much to do with my genre, the classes were still incredibly interesting and helpful. Most of the published authors teaching the classes were likewise interesting and helpful, and for the most part, I enjoyed the day very much.

Of particular interest was a speaker who revealed ways in which to tell when someone is being deceptive. She said that most people are unable to lie directly, but instead they will skirt around the truth, modify it or qualify it in some way. Examination of statements made by various politicians and celebrities, when viewed through the lens of language, can prove very illuminating. Take a course on the techniques, and it won't take a psychic or a Deanna Troi to warn you when people you encounter are being less than truthful. It's fascinating stuff, but I can see where knowing these things might put an entirely different face on certain relationships and interactions! Cheating boyfriend? Two-faced coworker? Back-stabbing boss? Yikes!

This was one conference where the good things were very, very good and the bad thing was, well...just plain maddening. That brings me to a personal pet peeve and the reason for the title of this post.

I don't believe that any famous author attending a publicity event or conference should treat fans as though they were inferior species, no matter how tired or jet-lagged the author might be. I don't care whether that author had the worst day of his or her life or whether there'd been a death in the family, or whatever horrible extenuating circumstances could be brought to bear. When you accept an engagement of that nature, you are there as a goodwill ambassador for yourself, your book, and your publishing house. You do not snub fans, period. You do not have to become their best friend, but you do not treat them as if they are chewing gum stuck to your shoe. There is simply no excuse for such classless behavior, unless you want to qualify for an "Authors Behaving Badly" TV show. I also don't believe that said famous author should use any panel, class or keynote speech as a platform to proselytize his or her religious beliefs. If I wanted a sermon, I'd go to church. Needless to say, I was unimpressed and disappointed. I did not pay good money for this type of thing, and I will not be buying this author's books in the future.

If my books ever become well enough known that anyone would stand in line to see me, I hope that I always remember to treat people the way I'd want them to treat me. If I can't do that much, then I do not deserve the recognition in the first place. For that matter, it's the way everyone should behave, famous or not. At least, that's what I was raised to believe.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Elusive Dreams

Follow your dream. Isn't that what we're told to do by celebrities, self-help books, and optimists everywhere? I've said it before, and I've even believed it. But as you might have noticed from an earlier blog entry, it's harder to do it than to say it. I followed my dream of writing epic fantasy--have followed it for the past eight years and more, but I'm still not "there" yet.

I followed my dream, and it ran from me. I will finish the last book in my fantasy trilogy; I love it still, and it still holds the same allure for me that it always has. I love the characters, the insights on the human condition, the complexity of the relationships, and the world itself. I love the risks I've taken, the patterns I've woven together, all of it. But to my knowledge, it still hasn't sold. Epic fantasy continues to be a hard sell according to more than one agent blog I've read recently, and, sadly, according to my own agent as of the last time we spoke on the phone. I love epic fantasy. But even though I will finish the trilogy and leave it with Bob until someone wants to buy it, it seems that I might have to change genres slightly in order to break in.

That's where urban fantasy comes in. It was never my dream to write it, nor even to read it, but I'm hooked on at least two UF series now and willing to explore more. In fact, I'm compiling a to-be-read list that should serve as serious education about what's already out there. Armed with that knowledge, it's time to break out of this danged rut and find a way to get more than a toe in the door. It's time to bust the door open, even if I now have to leave my laboriously created world behind and write in the real-world-with-paranormal-elements to do it. Even if my a**-kicking female heroines have to do it in business suits or leather bustiers instead of bliauts and chain mail, I'm ready. I'll do whatever it takes to make that psychic's prediction come true. I may be a bit down, but I'm definitely not out.

If I can't catch my dream by chasing it, maybe I can get it to chase me instead. It works with cats....

Monday, May 22, 2006

Makeup That's Good For You

Warning! Blatent product endorsement to follow!

Makeup that's good for you? What? How can a makeup be good for your skin? Makeup isn't supposed to feel good, is it? It's just another of the many masks we women hide behind, meant to change the way we look and the way we feel about our appearance, but nowhere in that product description are the words "good for your skin." In fact, read the product labels of just about any readily available type of makeup today. Go on, I dare you. It's a chemical palette, right down to the dye and filler. Most of it feels terrible on the skin, too, or at least it does for me. In fact, I usually go without base because I have fairly dry skin, and when I put on my moisturizer and follow it with liquid foundation, it dries out again almost immediately. Yech!

The answer to my dilemma came in the form of an upper-middle-aged woman, blocking my cart in the narrow isle of our local co-op store while she tried on a new type of makeup. Not wanting to ask her to move her cart while her face was being made up, I stood there and watched. After a couple of minutes, the other woman had moved on and I was still there, asking the girl behind the counter to show me some of the blush. Next thing I knew, I had a foundation color as well, and things just sort of snowballed. See what happens when you block my cart?

Larenim comes in the form of micronized powdered minerals, so it's perfectly natural and works with your skin instead of against it. Apparently, mineral makeup is all the rage in hollywood right now, and I can see why. It actually feels like you're not wearing any makeup, and you can sleep in it. Good news for this night owl! It is a natural sunblock and won't clog pores--people have claimed that their skin improved after they switched over to this type of makeup. Even the foundation has only five--yes, five--ingredients, and their range of colors is amazing. Check it out, goth girls, there's also a special line just for you.

Yesterday I went to the co-op and was one of the lucky few to have a makeup consult with Kirsten Corcoran, the founder of Larenim. Nice lady, great product, deserving of kudos and more than a few of my hard-earned dollars. I even brought my older daughter, who made out like a bandit and came home with her own first set of foundation and blush.

Color me impressed.

Friday, May 19, 2006


The Preakness is over, and Barbaro, the favorite to win, will soon be in surgery to try to save his life after he suffered a severe fracture of his right rear ankle. My heart is with him; I hope he makes it. I hate it when animals are injured, and I especially feel for racehorses. Bred for one thing and one thing only--they don't really have much of a life, if you think about it. Or maybe their lives are the embodiment of that whole success/failure mentality. When you win, you win big and no one can get enough of you. But that success, like the horse himself, is so fragile. You can lose it in an instant.

Reminds me of what we're all really here for. Maybe our successes as writers won't necessarily be measured by whether we make the NYT bestseller list, but by whether we write our hearts out anyway and give it everything we are. Maybe if we do that every day rain or shine, someone someday will remember. Just maybe.

Sure would like that blanket of flowers, though. Some of them are at least edible.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Toothy and Furry?

Ok, I'm bad. Here it is May and I haven't blogged in a while. I didn't intend to get this far behind--honest.

At first I thought I'd blog about recycling, but I think that's a soapbox for another day. Then I thought I'd blog about Larenim, this fantastic new mineral makeup I found last week. But that, too, is a subject for another day. Sooner or later we'll get into composting--just give me time. But none of the ecological issues are going anywhere tonight. Neither is my career, but again...just give me time.

Tonight I have a question for anyone who's willing to answer. From the people who read urban fantasy and paranormals (we're talking werewolves, were-anythings, vampires, witches, etc.), I'd really like to know what types of things you would like to see more of in the genre. Where do you see this genre heading? What direction do you wish it would go? Are you getting sick of vampires and werewolves yet? If so, what other type of urban fantasy would you love to see on the shelves? I really, really want to know, so please post comments!

I just finished reading a wonderful book by Patricia Briggs, "Moon Called". The main character is a skinwalker of Native American descent, and she can turn into a coyote on a moment's notice. Amazingly unique character--she had me hooked from the first moment. I venture to say that Patty Briggs is about to give Laurell K. Hamilton a serious run for her money. Now, mind you, Mercy the coyote skinwalker has absolutely no sex in this book, but there is plenty of sexual tension. I dare you to read it and find out how Ms. Briggs managed that!

At first you might think that we have an entirely new urban fantasy world here, but very shortly we find out that this world, too, is peopled by werewolves and vampires; the skinwalkers are definitely the minority. From what I read online, Ms. Briggs' editor asked her to write this book--it wasn't simply a matter of Patty wanting to jump on the werewolf/vampire bandwagon. Run on out and buy yourselves a copy--it's well worth the money. Even so, I still find myself wondering how much farther the wolf/vamp market will stretch. It'll stretch for Patty's book--it's that good. But I personally have no desire to write wolf/vamp just on the off chance that I might catch the tailboard of the bandwagon on its way out of dodge, and I have no editor out there asking me to contribute to the already crowded shelves of toothy and furry.

So what do you all think? What urban fantasy hasn't been done to undeath? Anyone?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Creeping Along

I managed to complete another section of Beyond the Pale--got the Moxie's crit on it Sunday evening and then just got it revised last night. It's going along pretty well, but I need to really buckle down and get a detailed outline for it. I have a much better idea now of who the bad guys are and what they want, but I need to refine things a bit and decide what the arc is for this book. The book's concept could easily turn into a series, and I already have an idea for a second book, but it's this first intro to the premise that could make or break things. The good news is that it seems like something it would be much easier for me to keep to a lower word count, like 100,000 or maybe 110,000. My Oantran Triad stuff is considerably longer than that.

The scary part for Pale is that it takes place on our own world, and I'm messing with folklore and legends. Yes, I'm doing my homework, as well as I can for someone who can't just pack up and fly to Ireland. I have been there before, which helps, and the folklore part isn't too bad--I'm not limiting it to only Irish folklore. The main problem is that I wasn't in Ireland for long, and I haven't been there recently. But I'm pulling every slightest bit of memory out of my hat, and I'm doing the best job I can with the details. I'll need that standard disclaimer--"Any mistakes are mine alone."

This would be easier if I had an Irish penpal to answer all my silly little questions--the ones I'm currently answering via culture guidebooks and whatever memory I can dredge up.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Thank goodness it's Friday. We've had a crazy week here. Spent one evening in ER with my daughter who'd been bitten by a feral (but not rabid) cat, spent countless other hours working on the kids schoolwork and school-related planning and details, and then earlier this evening taking the girls to a movie for a mom-daughter night out. It's 11 o'clock and I've finally found an opportunity to write for the first time since the Sunday before last, so this entry will be brief. Last night was the full moon and my daughter didn't turn into a were-kitty, so I guess things are going along about as smoothly here as can be expected.

Can you believe that Idaho has no law to deal with feral cats? If you want a wild cat controlled, you basically have to control it yourself. If you bring it in to the humane society and pay a small fee, they'll deal with it from then on. Sheesh. First it bites my daughter, and then I'm going to have to trap it myself and pay someone to take it off my hands? Rant, rant. We've bought a humane trap, but I'm not sure we'll actually manage to trap anything except perhaps our own sweet kitty, who'll probably never want to go near anything with bars again for the rest of his life. I wouldn't put it past the feral cat to sit on top of the fence staring down at our poor trapped domestic kitty, laughing its nasty little orange head off.

If the trap doesn't work, I'm considering Neo-Chinese water torture, i.e., the garden hose.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

It Works!

Ok, it's wierd to work on the computer with the moniter at this angle. I'm facing south, which I hear is good Feng Shui if you're looking for fame and fortune. I've also mostly switched myself onto a daytime schedule. Two problems with this: One is that at this time of day, the little bit of early spring sunlight we get here in Idaho is shining into my window from the west, which pales out my moniter screen and isn't very conducive to working with the computer in this position. Two, despite the fact that I've been in bed asleep before 1 a.m. for two nights in a row now, I still can't drag myself out of bed and/or get much done in the morning hours. That I'm still adjusting to the schedule change might be an excuse, but I'm tired of excuses. I just need to get my act together. I know what Yoda would say--"do, or do not. There is no try." Well, darn it, Yoda! Is there a half do? If I'm officially not trying, then I guess I'm at about the half do stage. Hmph. See what happens when I try to work earlier than late afternoon? You get semi-articulate Star Wars musings. Pass the caffeine, please!

As it happens, the last time I was able to write anything on either of my books was the Sunday before last, just before my Moxie meeting. And then I was late because I forgot the stupid time change, which I think should be abolished just on principle. Not one of Ben Franklin's better ideas, that. Lately all my time has been taken up with spring housecleaning and catching my kids up on homeschool work. I'm really looking forward to June, when school is done for the summer and most of their extracurricular activities go on hiatus until September.

The upshot of the geranium incident is that I did indeed get most of the downstairs of my house cleaned. The kids and the Huz even helped. It was clean enough that it actually echoed, even with the furniture still there. It took us several frantic, exhausting days of cleaning to get the house into what I considered acceptable shape--which means good enough that I wouldn't be embarrassed to have visitors. That probably tells you just how bad it must have been before the cleanup, but that's ok. It's clean now, and I'm here to vouch for just how much the frustration level goes down when one's environment is clean and organized rather than cluttered. My office reflects this, too. The addition of another tall bookshelf helped, as did the switching around of furniture so that I no longer have my back to the door. The room actually looks bigger this way, if a bit furniture-heavy on the west side. And there is now a red geranium on my desk.

If I don't get any work done now, it won't be the fault of a messy office.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Magic Geranium

Have you ever read that old children's story where a woman's friend gives her a beautiful rose geranium and just setting it on the table makes her whole house look so shabby by comparison that she's compelled to clean and update everything? Well, now you don't have to read it. That's pretty much the whole story.

That also pretty much sums up what's happening to my office. I have a brand new color laser printer, still in the box. In order to even unpack the thing, I have to clean my entire office. I've been working on it for two days. I've also been working on getting to bed earlier and earlier until I'm almost back on an entirely daytime schedule. Hence, the earlier time frame of this blog post. I'm happy with the less cluttered office and the prospect of hooking up my new printer. I'm less happy with how tired the schedule transition is making me, but I'll adjust. I've been needing to get back into a more day-oriented schedule for some time now. It'll certainly make homeschooling easier if I can get it done in the morning rather than the afternoon. "If" being the operative word here. We're making great progress lately, so I'm hopeful.

I also made a tea drawer. One of my friends has this fantastic drawer in her kitchen that holds nothing but all sorts of different kinds of tea. It inspired me so much when I saw it that I just had to have a tea drawer, too. So I cleaned out one of my kitchen drawers to make into a tea drawer, and then when it was finished it was so neat and organized that I just had to clean and organize a few other drawers, too....oh, wait! It's the Magic Geranium all over again. But the effect was that after nearly two years in this house, I'm finally beginning to get some things arranged the way I want them. There's a long way to go, but I'm making progress.

The books, however, are not making such good progress. I need to fill another Pookatales order that needs to go into tomorrow's mail, and then maybe I can spend an hour or two writing before I have to hit the sack. Here's hoping I get more than a few paragraphs and can bring a decent number of words to the Moxie meeting this weekend.

In the meantime, my office is looking cleaner and cleaner, and under all that stuff on the desk I think I might just have room for a nice potted rose geranium.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I love writing. I adore it, and would never give it up even if I never get published. That said, I'm not immune to discouragement. In fact, I struggle with it every day.

I've been trying to be positive and upbeat regarding my long wait for publication. I'd like to be nothing but inspiring to other aspiring authors, but it's very, very hard. I've been writing one book or another of this particular series, the Oantran Triad, for seven years now. Hard to believe, but there it is. I showed the first incarnation of Aspects of Illusion to Jennifer Heddle clear back in 2000, revised it and signed with my agent in early 2003, and now here we are at 2006. I have the first two books of the trilogy finished and in what is deemed publishable shape, and I will shortly begin Chapter 7 of the third book. I've written and rewritten several times over, I've honed my craft, taken classes upon classes from some of the best writing teachers anywhere, I've chatted up various contacts at conferences on a yearly basis since 1998, taken classes and read books on how to manage live readings, public image, and wardrobe, and kept as much abreast of the current market news and trends as possible. I've worked my a** off for eight years gearing up for a career that has yet to materialize. The only feedback I've gotten is comments like, "I like the book, but I don't have a spot for it just now." If I should have an epitaph on a tombstone when I finally kick the bucket some day, will it read, "She missed it by that much"?

I'm tired of missing it by that much. I'm just plain tired of missing it. It's time, already. I've done my homework. My eyes are wide open. I know what I'm getting into. I've read so many blogs by phenominal writers who are discouraged by the fact that they've gotten the success they longed for and now they're having trouble remembering why they wanted it in the first place. I'm not talking just one author, here. There are several. And I feel for them. Really, I do. But here on the outside, I just keep meowing and scratching on the doors wanting to be let in. I'm sure that just like the cat, once I'm in, I'll probably want out again. In. Out. In. Out. In.

I know, I know, the grass is always greener, and all that jazz. But I've been out here for far longer than the abovementioned seven years. I wrote other books before Aspects, and I was writing books I intended for publication years before I went to that first writers' conference in 1998. I wrote my first novel at the age of sixteen, clear back during the 1980's. It's been a long, long wait at the bus stop. I want the darned bus to get here if for no other reason than I want a different view of the writer's life. By now, I feel as if I've counted and gotten on a first-name basis with every crack in every board of the shelter at the bus stop. I don't want my legacy to be that I spent a lifetime at the bus stop. I'd rather my legacy be that I went somewhere, that I got on the bus and it took me where I wanted to go. Would becoming a "successful" published author take away my joy in writing? I don't know. Call me perverse, but I'd like to find out. Not being published is not exactly netting me boatloads of joy, either. (Sheesh, all we need now are planes, trains and automobiles!)

I recently purchased a lovely goddess-type figurine. She's all in that white stone medium that many sculptors are using nowadays. She has no facial features, but she is completely draped in what looks like a long, flowing robe, and she evokes a strong, nurturing mother image. On the bottom is her name--Stand. Just that. So simple and yet so very difficult. Perhaps she'll remind me to keep on doing that, as I've been doing for so many years now. Perhaps I'll be able to just keep plugging away at the writing until something finally breaks loose and I get to take that big, longed-for step forward. In the meantime, I have to find a way to simply...


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Secrets Revealed

If you're interested in what happens after a publisher makes an offer for your book, check out the entry in Tambo's blog in which she answers some of the most vital questions. She's been down the road already. Her first book, Ghosts in the Snow, earned out its advance in only...what, Tam? Three months? She's got a second book out and will shortly have a third. In other words, she knows what she's talking about and I for one am extremely glad she's willing to share info. Lets me know what I've been missing out on and (please, God, please!) what I can expect in future.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Unintentional Marathon

Ten pages. That's the length of the section I wrote last night, which means that it must have been a long, freakin' night. I don't know. When I write, I don't really experience the passage of time in the same way as when I'm not writing. Most writers call this "being in flow". Well, it flowed. Not exactly a flood, not exactly a trickle. More like a steady river of words that resulted in a complete new section for the fairy book, which I'm calling Beyond the Pale. I've decided that my reward every time I finish a chapter of Shifts of Perception will be a section of Beyond the Pale. That might keep me from getting burnt out on either one as I'm writing them, because if I get really stuck on one, I can turn to the other for a while. I can probably afford to do this; I already have the first two books of my trilogy in submittable shape, I refuse to call my agent until Mercury gets out of retrograde, and even if I got a publishing contract tomorrow, it would still be quite some while until the deadline for Shifts would kick in. Even with a really agressive publishing schedule, like bringing the books out six months apart, I figure I have a little time to kill while writing Shifts.

And Beyond the Pale is so seductive right now. It's new, fresh, hot, and entirely too much fun to resist. Even if it doesn't sell or Bob tells me outright that it's garbage, I'll still be glad to have written it--my first urban fantasy. Damn, I love my job. Could use a pay raise, though!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


The Moxie have spoken; they liked the new book idea and the one section I've written for it. One said, "Ok, you have to finish this now." The other said, "The only thing wrong with this is that it isn't finished yet." So I guess I have to write the book.

Twist my arm, ladies! Who could resist inducement like that? I wasn't sure whether to venture into the realm of urban fantasy--I've never tried it before, other than the little screenplay I was writing several years ago which I never finished.

Now, here's a dumb move that no aspiring writer should try at home. About four or so years ago, I was writing this little screenplay about a changeling girl who was kicked back out of the sidhe years after she'd been captured. There was more to the premise that I won't go into here, but suffice it to say that I wasn't sure whether the idea would have any merit. I just happened to speak to a William Morris film agent at a conference, and asked him the above question. It was't really a pitch. Really. But he asked me to send him a treatment. Yikes! The William Morris agency! So what did I do? Blew the whole thing off, because I really didn't have a complete screenplay and I was in the middle of writing on my novels and didn't want to lose momentum there.

Who knows where that would have gone, had I pulled myself together and written up a treatment? I could have had a screenplay optioned by now. Or, more likely, I could have fallen on my butt completely and embarrassed myself with a lousy screenplay and a rejection by the William Morris agency. Now we'll never know.

I used to have a bad habit of throwing something together and then rushing to offer it up to agents on a platter, with the wild hope that since I had something new, it might finally be the one to get my foot in the door. I don't do that anymore. I haven't even mentioned this new book idea to my agent yet, mostly because I'm supposed to be finishing the third book of my trilogy (which I'm still faithfully working on, honest!) And also because I want to have several more sections of the new book written before I reveal that I'm contemplating such a radical departure from my other work. I mean, if the Moxie doesn't think it sucks, then I might have reason to suggest it to Bob.

So far, the Moxie doesn't think it sucks. In fact, just the opposite. Sh*t. I might actually have to write this one. No, I do have to write this one. The only question is, will I fall on my a** with it, or will I finally break into print at last? At this point, the game could go either way. But at least I have the Moxie to stop me before I fall on my a**. This is where it pays to have that crit group to watch your six.

Friday, March 03, 2006

And Lightning Strikes

Years ago, I went to a psychic fair and paid one to give me a mini-reading. She told me that the book I was working on at the time could be published eventually, but that it would have a limited amount of success. She said that the book I wrote about the fairies would be the one that really took off. Now, the fantasy novels that Bob is currently marketing for me aren't fairy books, and this trilogy is not the one that I was working on when I talked to the psychic, so I have no idea where it falls on the fate ladder. But the fairy book...that's something else again.

At the time of the psychic reading, I thought, "Fairy book? I'm not planning on writing a fairy book." But over this last two months, as I've been working on the third book of my trilogy and thinking about what I will write next, I've had an idea for a possible paranormal novel involving the Sidhe--in common terms, what most people think of as the fae, or fairy folk. Granted, the Sidhe are vastly different than your typical little people with wings, but nevertheless... I've already written a section of this new story, and if it carries on as it has begun, then who knows where it'll end up? It certainly can't hurt, and wouldn't it be something if the psychic's prediction comes true?

I didn't know I was going to write a "book about the fairies." But it seems that I am. Who knew? Oh. Right. Respectful nods to the nameless psychic.

Friday, February 24, 2006

It Was In the Cards

Tamara Siler Jones likes to take online quizzes, and I can never resist trying the ones she links to on her blog. Here's my result from the latest, a test to determine which tarot card you are.

You Are The Star

You represent the ultimate in truth and purity.
Insightful and illuminating, you provide guidance for others.
You also demonstrate unselfish, unconditional love.
You posses many spiritual gifts, including the ability to heal.

Your fortune:

Your future is looking brighter by the day.
The near future will be a time of both hope and healing.
Luck is about to come your way, perhaps the best luck you have ever seen.
Life is about to get a lot easier and much better!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Crit Groups

That does it. One of my Moxie crit partners has struck again! Last night I stayed up far, far too late reading her novel and not working on my own until I'd finished hers. I couldn't help myself--the temptation to find out what changes she'd made was just too great. But the good news is that her current book is done other than the final little fixes and tweaks, everyone had something to contribute at our meeting last night, and everyone is making progress. In my case, not as fast a progress as I wanted, but progress nonetheless.

More than once I've had local people ask me about crit groups, and it's difficult when I know the answer won't be the one they wanted. The fact that I belong to a local crit group isn't a secret and sometimes it comes up in casual conversation, but our group is a closed one, and we don't plan to take any new members. Some writers' groups are large, sprawling, take-anyone types, and others are online or email groups that never actually meet in the flesh. A writer's group can take any form, and there are no set rules for how one should be organized.

I've visited open groups in the past where it seemed that most of the members only wanted to have a ready-made audience to listen to them read their stuff out loud, but they really didn't want an honest critique and didn't want to find out how they might improve their technique or even, gods forbid, their plot. Some of the online groups are excellent and far-reaching and welcoming to any hopeful writer with a focus on developing publishable works. Others just want to--once again--have a guaranteed audience for their work, be it good or bad, with little to no emphasis on improvement. And that's fine, too. The publishing game's not for everyone. Look how long it takes just to get over the first hurdles! It represents a substantial investment of time and dedication, and for many it might just be too much of a headache. If you find that a push for publication takes all the joy out of your writing, then maybe that road is not for you. The good news is that if you want to find a group of like-minded individuals whose focus is similar to your own, they are out there for the finding. And if you don't happen to find one that is a good match for you, start your own. You can't be the only lone writer out there longing for a sense of community.

With time, a good group can become so tight and so familiar with each other that members can practically order each other's food at restaurants, not to mention find and point out each person's particular strengths and weaknesses with regards to their writing in each manuscript. It can be very interesting to watch a person's skill at the craft develop and grow. The very familiarity that makes your group so comfortable and tight, however, can sometimes have a slight downside in that you can become desensitized to some of your partners' writing quirks and might, on occasion, miss some of the mistakes that you might once have caught. This usually happens with multiple readings of the same manuscript, when the lines between Draft A and Draft D become blurred through all the revisions. It can be hard to remember which version is the current one, even when it's your own manuscript! This is when a good outside test reader can be a strength, providing a fresh perspective on the now-familiar material that you've been through ten times already. It really becomes a "forest for the trees" situation, and the unfamiliar pair of eyes can often be sharper. I like to have both, and I always look forward to the Moxie's meetings. We make a good team, and I wouldn't trade them on a bet. They watch my six, and I watch theirs.

There is a very good online writers' community started by author Holly Lisle. It's called Forward Motion, because that is what they strive for. You can find it at If you've been struggling on your own and want to give a group a try, go and check it out. It's a living, breathing, positive place to share your journey with other writers, hear other people's opinions of the writing life, take part in self-monitored writing challenges, get a few good ideas, and even give or get a few critiques along the way. Good luck!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Popup Apology

If you've visited this blog before, you may notice that the horoscope section is now missing. That is because this evening I clicked on it and a popup ad tried to download a virus to my computer. Fortunately, I have protection. I apologize to anyone who has run afoul of this thing. It's called the Trojan virus, and it's apparently fairly easy to handle if your virus protection is up-to-date.

A good argument for using protection, right? And here you thought that Trojans were supposed to be protection! In any case, the horoscope is gone, but there are plenty of good sites out there where you can find a free daily horoscope, so all's well that ends well, I hope.

I'm working on figuring out all the plot sequences and arcs for my main characters, so it's going to require a bit of brainstorming. I used to think I was an organic writer and that I liked being one, but at the moment I'm thinking that I'd really like a complete plot right about now. I know the direction it needs to go and vaguely what everyone will be dealing with between chapter 5 and the end, but I need the particulars plotted out into specific scenes. It's time to get the cards on the closet wall. I"ve discovered that I really like having a plan. See there, Terry Brooks? You've converted me. I want a detailed outline, just the thing you advocated in one of your classes years ago. Took me long enough to march into the Outline camp, but here I am.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Plots and Polyamory

Anyone who's read The Compass Rose by Gail Dayton, published by Luna books, knows that the subject of polyamory rates discussion and, just perhaps, serious consideration in more than just the field of fantasy fiction. I'm keenly interested in the general perception and reception of these debates, not just because Gail writes such intriguing fantasy that takes place in a kingdom where polygamy is the norm, but because I also write fantasy that explores that same subject. Gail's site led me to another blog called "Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels" where this subject is addressed at least in brief, and I hope to stumble upon more in future. How refreshing to see open-minded people out there who aren't afraid to explore the idea that maybe love needn't be quite so limited in scope, after all. And it does make for a very interesting story, especially when the author treats each relationship with the care and sensitivity it deserves. It reminds me of a puzzle, really. All the pieces are different, but they fit together beautifully to form a complete picture.

The kingdom of Oantra in my books is a polyamorous society. Heck, Oantra's entire governmental system is based on a multiple-partner structure, with each member of the royal foursome responsible for a particular role and function in government. In the first two books, I wasn't able to delve into the family units as thoroughly as I wanted to because the main characters were away from home for most of the story. But in the third one, we're smack in the middle of the nobles' families, politics, and family politics. Many of their issues are the same as any other family's, they just take place within a slightly different structure.

There, my books are out, even before they're out.

I didn't write poly into the story just to yank anyone's chain, but rather because in the first book it just naturally wove itself into the plot. I think it's something that needs to be looked at with an open mind and treated with a sensitive and empathetic view. And I also think it's fresh and new and exciting compared to the more traditional romances that find their way into fantasy fiction. Whatever the case, I'm glad it turned out that way, and I'm glad that other authors out there are willing to take their fiction and their characters' relationships a bit beyond the pale.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

If the Shoe Fits

I just ordered some new Irish dance shoes for my younger daughter, and HO-ly Buckets, are they expensive! (Gasp, wheeze!) I've never paid that much for a pair of regular shoes for myself, let alone a pair of dance shoes that will probably be too small before a year is out. Nevertheless, if you don't get the right fit, then injuries are practically a given, and that's not acceptable if I can do anything to help prevent it. But YIKES!

There's got to be a writing analogy in there somewhere, but I'm going to let someone else find it, because I really want to finish the novel section I've been working on. It's my reward for dealing with something that needed to be done for another family member. One chore down, checked off the list. I don't know how long the shoes will take to get here from Ireland but for now, it's no longer my problem. Ordering's done, issue of outgrown shoes has been addressed, so that's my contribution for the time being. Until the next thing is outgrown.

I don't even want to know what that will be. My oldest daughter is already wearing my old ballet leotard and had to borrow my shoes for a lesson or two before we replaced the ones she'd grown out of. Maybe they could just stop growing for a month or two? Huh? Couldn't they?


Mary Sue

You've heard of Mary Sues before, right? They're characters who are just too sweet, too talented, too beautiful to be believable, and they often resemble their authors in several ways. (Don't get me wrong--there is a little bit of me in all of my characters, including my heroine, but she's not the fictional version of Kathy Hurley by any means at all. I think the last word I heard one of my crit partners use in reference to me was "Evil"--delivered with an appreciative grin over what I had done to one of my characters.)

Anyway, I just ran across this great test to determine if your character is a Mary Sue, and they've even developed a web form with clickable boxes. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Political Intrigue and The Blonde

I wrote a novel section last night that dealt with medieval political intrigue. Either I'm too naive to recognize my ineptitude at writing this kind of stuff, or I'm actually quite good at it. Which is it? Maybe both. Maybe neither. The proof will be in the execution, and so far it sounds good to me. We'll see what the Moxie thinks of it; we have a meeting today. It's true that I was raised in a small town and I was once a golden-haired cheerleader, but I'm inclined to think that "blonde" is just a role I play. The novel section revealed a whole new layer of political intrigue involving one of my youngest characters, and it surprised and delighted me. I think it just raised the stakes considerably, and it puts the character into a high level of dance-on-the-knife-edge jeopardy. I may sometimes say things in casual conversation that betray my small-town roots, but then I turn around and have my characters do things that would make Machiavelli proud. Go figure.

Speaking of roots, I looked in the mirror yesterday to judge the progress of my attempt to grow out all the dye in my hair, and the lower half of the hair is blonde. But the roots are...definitely not blonde, unless it's a very, very dark blonde. My real hair is darker than I thought, rather like my personality. But light or dark, it's all me, and that's where stereotypes get pushed aside. I used to be blonde for real, but things just got darker and darker as I grew older. And one day, judging by the grey or completely colorless strands showing through the darker hair, things will get lighter again. Full circle, I guess.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Linear or Non-Linear Writing

One of my Moxie 4 critique partners sometimes drives me crazy by writing parts of her books way, way, WAY out of order. She'll hand me a section she's written and then I'll have to somehow orient myself to where she is in the story. Have Joe Hero and Josie Heroine already slept together by this point in the story, or are they still virtual strangers? And where exactly are they? Have they landed on planet Z or are they still on the spaceship, en route to certain disaster? I adore this lady's writing and think she's bound for an agent and publication soon, but I have to admit that all the little bits and pieces of different stories leave me a bit discombobulated. I know there are many writers who compose their stories out of order, and for them it works extremely well. Whenever my friend throws parts of several different books at me at once, I know she's just clearing the buffer so she can settle down and fill in the missing parts of her plots. But I can't work like that--it would send me right 'round the bend.

I tend to be a linear writer. Not necessarily a linear thinker, per se, but a linear writer. I like to write my stories in order, scene by scene, just because I can watch the story unfold as I go, like a movie. Plus, I think if I tended to write scenes out of order, I'd probably be tempted to write all my favorite parts first and then I'd have less incentive to finish the book. If I lure myself on with the promise of an intriguing scene coming up, I can get through the ones that I know need to be there but by which I'm less excited or even somewhat daunted at the prospect of composing. I had one scene recently that I had to start over three different times until I found the right starting place for it, but I've also had others that practically wrote themselves. Those are the carrot-on-a-stick scenes that keep me going when I might otherwise get bogged down. I'm not averse to moving scenes around and re-ordering them when I'm in rewrite mode. In fact, that happened quite frequently with the last manuscript, Shadows of Memory. But that was after I'd finished the first draft, not before.

So for you writers out there, how do you compose? Are you in linear mode like me, needing to pass A, B, and C before you can move on to D, or do you just write A, D, G, and X in whatever order the muse moves you?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Promises, Promises

So much for my keeping my New Year's resolution to blog more often. Now it's been ten days since the last entry, and I didn't even notice until now. Despite my lack of blogging, it's been an interesting month so far.

The eBay business is going pretty well, actually. It won't make me rich or anything, but it's not bad. And the book is going well enough for a book I don't have a particular deadline on. I have the first four chapters pretty well done, and a beginning section for the fifth. Character's plotlines are becoming clearer as I go along, and I'm looking forward to seeing them play out. I really like the opening for this book, and it may be the only one of the three that doesn't need a major rewrite of the first 50 pages before being ready to go. We'll see; I don't want those to be famous last words but as of now, I think the chapters are pretty good. For the time being, we'll go with that.

I also need to decide what I'll be writing next, after this third book. I've heard that YA is really the way to go, but I'm just not sure whether my writing can fill those shoes. Instead, though, I'm toying with the idea for an urban fantasy romance. I'm aware of the problem of writing to whatever market happens to be hot at the time and then falling on your face in the process, but I'm thinking that as long as it's a book that I'd write whether it happened to be a hot topic or not, then I probably should go for it. It actually ties into a screenplay project I attempted several years ago. I'll have to leave it to stew for a while and then see what happens.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Shifts Playlist

As I go along, I make soundtracks for each section of a novel-in-progress. Each section has a basic theme, and I pick a song that seems to fit with that theme and then I write it down and build it into a playlist in Windows Media Player. So here's the playlist for the first three chapters of Shifts of Perception. Later when I have more time, I'll post my playlist for Shadows of Memory. I never made one for Aspects of Illusion, but eventually I will.

Shifts of Perception, Chapters 1-3:

Phaedra (Tangerine Dream)
He Moved Through the Fair (Sinead O'Connor)
My World (3 Doors Down)
A Heart in Winter (Laura Powers)
Final Showdown (L.A. Allstar Orchestra)
I Don't Know You Anymore (Savage Garden)
All In a Day (The Corrs)
Ambush (L.A. Allstar Orchestra)
Many Roads (Clannad)

So, for other writers out there, when you write, do you use music to set the mood, inspire the Muse, document your progress or otherwise add to your creative experience? And if so, what types of music do you like to work with?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Interim Progress

My eBay situation has improved; I actually sold a few things yesterday. All the better, because I'm about to take the plunge and buy a new color laser printer--probably within the next month. I've wanted one for a long time; I would much prefer knowing that my Pookatales books were printed with fused toner instead of hope-it-doesn't-smudge ink. If I wasn't able to get a color laser printer, I'd get some of that new ink instead; apparently there's a new kind of ink for inkjets that smudges less and is of a better archival quality. I'm wanting to expand my product line a little, and having a good quality color printer has become a very important part of that.

I'm still waiting for a novel contract, obviously, and I've decided not to let the grass grow under Pookatales while I'm waiting. There are people out there who enjoy owning my little books, and it's a good feeling to know I'm actually making at least a little money from my writing and artistry. The potential of a book contract in the future won't pay my bills now, so high ho, high ho, it's off to work I go. (Well, I work at home and on the internet, but you know what I mean.)

Novel-writing-wise, I'm about to start Chapter 4 of the third book in the trilogy, currently called Shifts of Perception, or Shifts for short. It reads quickly and gets off to a racing start, so we'll see how things go from here. So far, my first draft material has been cleaner and tighter than with any of my previous manuscripts, which is good news from the perspective of how many drafts it'll take me to get the book to marketable shape. The fewer the better, as long as the quality remains strong.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Light and Dark in the New Year

I'm not sure whether I like New Year resolutions or not. On the one hand, they might keep people motivated (for a week or two, anyway) to do things they really ought to do but can't seem to find the discipline for otherwise. On the other hand, maybe they just create more performance anxiety, a thing which many people have more than enough of anyway. But nevertheless I plan to try to stick with a couple of the ones I made, at least. I want to blog at least once a week and possibly twice. If I manage every other day, I'll have exceeded my own expectations. I want to write at least every other day, and if I can manage more, I should be able to move this third book along at a pace I haven't managed in years. I also want to put in more research time and organize my time better in general. I'm tired of always feeling like I'm running about two days behind. Maybe if I could just organize my time better, I could get everything done and not feel that I'm neglecting some things in order to finish others. That's all for now; we'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, I've been doing some reading about the shadow side of the human psyche, and it's been quite the intriguing subject. The idea that our shadow side, which some might interpret as our "negative" side, can be a helpful and strenghtening force in our lives (if used correctly) just flies in the face of everything I was taught as a child. Back then, I was told not to examine any of the negative sides of my personality too closely because I might get "sucked in" by them. (Being a grumpy b**ch is so tempting, yes?) I was told to turn the other cheek. I became a bit of a doormat. Goody Two Shoes ruled. But now I'm seeing things differently, and I'm realizing that darkness isn't necessarily a thing to fear, even when it's your own darkness. It is, however, a thing to respect and a thing to learn to work with in a positive way. It's when either your good side or your bad side gets out of control that you have a problem. There's a time and a place for Grumpy B to come out to play, and a time to shove her back in her cave for a while. The trick is in knowing the right time. Sometimes you need Grumpy B to shut up and let Goody T play nice in the sandbox, and sometimes you need Grumpy B to help Goody T stand up for herself against the bullies of the world. You need them both. You need all the parts of yourself whole and united in order to be a healthy person, and denying the darker parts isn't going to make them disappear.

An artist paints in a combination of light and shadow, without which the picture would come across as rather flat and one-dimensional. And as all writers know, (or should!) a character needs some sort of problem to solve or the book just isn't very interesting. Sure, there are some children's classics where the main character goes through what amounts to a series of experiences without much in the way of trouble or opposition, but there's a reason why most of us grew up and started reading adult fiction. Even those of us who enjoy the sweetness and light of certain children's stories will usually also seek out stories of challenge and strife--that's how we learn and grow. Of course, this is precisely what was wrong with my first few attempts at writing--no major problem in the plot, or villains so wimpy that they were easily overcome, or even a Deus ex Machina type of reprieve for the main characters just when things seemed relatively dire. One time (NOT in this current trilogy, I assure you) I put in a village of kindly centaurs who healed my characters and helped them in the middle of their quest. And while it was a bit reminiscent of things Tolkein tended to do with his characters, (Rivendell, the Beornings, etc.) it stopped the action for too long. Now, whenever I'm tempted to give the characters too long of a peaceful interlude, my husband reminds me, "no more centaur villages."

We humans need challenge to live. We need the feeling of overcoming challenge and living to tell the tale. Each of us is a combination of good and bad, success and failure, light and dark, goodness and evil. Let's move forward into 2006 and see what we make of that. It may be horrifying, it may be joyful, and it will probably be all sorts of combinations of both. However it turns out, it will make quite a story!

And Happy New Year to you, too!