Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Random Boat Thoughts

Did The Big Vacation with The Boy last week -- 7 day cruise to several destinations. Lots of fun stuff, but what did I spend much of my time doing? Reading manuscripts, editing, and writing down my mojito-inspired thoughts.

And that makes me a Big Dork, I am pretty sure. Maybe even a Really Big Dork.

But these are the things that writer/editor/publisher type people do, and there it is.

A sampling:

~Rainy day on The Big Boat, water sloshes over the edge of the pool, and really how much does a boat this size have to roll in the water for that to happen, water over the edge of the pool like coffee over the edge of a coffee cup, and I sit just out of the rain's way, insisting deck time in spite of the gray. I contemplate getting in the hot tub, despite the wind and the cold and the clouds, over a backdrop of "Oye Como Va," played by a steel drum band.

~And now in an effort to remove all traces of reality from your presence, in order to preserve the fantasy of perfection you have bought yourself for a mere 7 days (all you could afford probably) we will now squeegee all indications of rain from the decks and chairs and railings -- see us restore dry just for you, and believe you me, if we could figure out a way to squeegee away the clouds from in front of the sun you'd better believe we would, dammit. Please enjoy your previously scheduled perfection.

~How is it that two unrelated manuscripts, by two people who have assuredly have not ever met each other, both reference Nabokov's Lolita?

~Why on earth would that man think denim bib overalls are appropriate for cruise casual dining? Why? Really...I need an answer.

For the record, mojitos rock. And Santana on the Steel Drums is surprisingly listenable. Really. Even without mojitos. Though technically I did not try it that way.....

The Final Snippet: Stop screaming, you're scaring the monkeys. (The Boy to me, prior to zip-lining in Belize. As it turns out I LOVED zip-lining and it was my whoops of exhiliration which scared the monkeys...)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Random Shoplifts....Again

Picked up in various places over the last few weeks......

~Yes, but I'm a competent drunk girl. (party, where else)

~Without either over complexifying or under complexifying things (please, people, save me from meetings. I am serious.)

~Don't go then. Just send a card and a ham (nothing says I'm sorry I bailed on your important event like a ham....)

~I have a lot of experience in the mental health community (people should be careful when they assert such stuff...I kind of wondered if she meant as a patient. Just saying.)

You have to have trust in a relationship -- you have to know the other person will actually take the handcuffs off....(seriously, more than I ever wanted or needed to know about the person who said this).

The Final Snippet: would be redundant.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

When Life Moves This Fast...

Since my announcement last week, things have been moving very quickly for me. I have gone from one client to two under contract, and am in negotiations with two more. I have a proof copy of one book in hand, and am working on cover art and editing for client number two (announcement forthcoming).

I have confirmed a release date for Charles Bynum's book, "The Other Side of Hell," and also locked in a venue and other details for a publication/release/signing.

I am careening along. A few days ago, I felt a little frantic, and realized that it is frightening when things take on a life of their own and move very quickly. It takes such a unique set of occurrences, coincidences and circumstances, and we rarely get to experience such a confluence as I now find myself in the middle of. And it is frightening, much as I am loathe to admit it.

But it's frightening much in the way a roller coaster is, the first time you ride it. You can't anticipate the dips and turns, you can't do much about ending upside down once you are strapped in for the ride....and there it is. When life presents such a ride, do you decline out of the fear of the unknown, or do you strap in for the ride.

The ride comes with some fear, but also a hell of a lot of exhileration. And by the time you are afraid, you pretty much are too late to do anything about it all until the ride takes you back to the station.

So, when life moves this fast, I guess you'd better hope you wanted to be on the ride, because baby you are already heading toward the loop-the-loop, and the dips and turns are gonna wreck your stomach, but it sure as hell is fun if you let it be.

Here's hoping for a lengthy ride.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Taking Calculated Risks

After careful consideration, I have decided to go into business as Courtney Literary, LLC, providing managed self-publishing.

Essentially, I spent a lot of time looking at the current state of the publishing industry, and understanding the sorts of obstacles that crop up for really good writers, with really good products, which keep them from going the "traditional" publishing route. The alternative as it has presented itself is self-publishing or 'Indie" publishing.

However, self- or indie-publishing requires that an author become an expert on editing, layout, marketing, public relations, etc.

What I saw was a hole in the market for someone who would function as sort of a publishing manager -- take some risk with the author, much like a traditional publishing model, but bring the skills and perform the sorts of services which some authors simply do not want to perform. I understand some large agencies have begun to offer similar models.

Essentially, I provide at MY cost final editing, cover design, formatting for various formats for POD and eBooks, and work with the author to create and EXECUTE a sales and marketing plan, to include scheduling signings, speaking engagements, etc. My profit, much like a traditional model, will come as a percentage of sales on the back end. Clearly, this model is not for everyone -- many self- or indie-published authors neither want nor need the sorts of services I provide. But some do.

And let me make clear, I am in no way attempting to supplant a traditional model, nor am I advertising expertise I do not have (for instance agenting -- I am not an agent, nor do I want to be). This is simply an alternative path which is made possible by the sometimes confusing but always amazing things happening in publishing today.

Having said all that, I am pleased to announce that I went to contract about three weeks ago with an author, Charles Bynum. His memoir, "The Other Side of Hell," has a scheduled publication date of December 17, 2011.

I am very excited to share this with my writing community. Because of the amount of time I will dedicate to each project, I will take on only a limited number in the next 12 months -- this is not a solicitation for queries at this time, just a sharing of this new venture in my writing life. Thanks for listening and for being a great community.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Changing Course Mid-stream

It's funny the directions life takes you in when you aren't paying very much attention. Maybe not so funny, sometimes, but certainly odd.

I have been invested in a career as a writer for so long I can't really remember not having self-identified this way. I wrote my first legible story when I was 5, and I realized shortly thereafter that I was not a drawer of pictures but rather a scribe of words which in turn told of pictures far better than I ever managed with crayons.

I worked as a journalist, I got my degree in creative writing. I write.

But somehow along the way, I gathered a skill set that is useful. To other writers. Negotiation. Facilitation, Project Management, Design Management, Marketing, Public Relations.. Because, life just sort of happens while you are doing other stuff, or while you want to do other stuff.

And so, while I will always consider myself to be a writer, and I will continue my quest for publication, I find myself with a unique opportunity to foster the dreams of other writers.

And here's the thing. When you have an opportunity...when the universe tosses one your way, you damn well ought to take it. Yeah, you can stick to your guns, your original goals, you can fight the damn current, swim upstream, and force your way into whatever it was that you wanted.

But embracing the opportunity, embracing the chance, stepping into the flow, and incorporating who you are with what lies ahead, almost always works out better.

So instead of insisting and controlling, I am embracing. Instead of forging upstream, tacking against the wind and the current, I am going to change course and let the stream take my little sailboat of me where it will, into this new venture, this new opportunity.

I will always be a writer, but now I will be a writer who does some other stuff too...good stuff, productive stuff, and stuff that feeds my soul almost as much as finishing a story does.

What will you do when the universe suggests you change course?

The Final Snippet: No shoplift today -- just a promise of more info to come as some exciting stuff shapes up in my near future.

p.s., I lied. This is the final snippet: "For right now nothing changes…Working through issues on an hour by hour bases right now. Things are changing hour by hour…But everything is status quo." (I can't even begin to parse this...can you?)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Rainy Day of the Soul

How is it we spend so much of ourselves on endeavors other than those which we hold close to our hearts?

As 2011 progresses, I find myself more and more involved in things other than writing and having a more difficult time carving out the time I need to do the work that feeds my soul.

Pay Yourself First is a concept that crops up in economic seminars -- when folks are having trouble with debt or finances, advisers will remind them to make sure their savings is taken care of -- and this is important -- our saving protect against the proverbial rainy day.

How is it we pay ourselves first in creative endeavors....save against feeding our souls via art -- writing, visual, music -- how can we bank against a rainy day for the soul?

I don't know. I just don't. I DO know it is important to make time for art, for our creativity, for that which we must express. But damn, I'm having a hell of a time doing it.

And so I am NOT participating in NaNoWriMo this year, though I have set myself a modest writing goal for the month. 20,000 words. And I celebrate those of you who are going gangbusters on your 50,000 word commitments.

The Final Snippet: "And we want to do this without either over complexifying or under complexifying things." (Overheard in a business meeting, where else).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Again With the Random

In lieu of a real post, some shoplifts:

~So, go to YouTube and then Google this..... (I just giggled when I heard this...)

~My soul is in debt but my bills are paid.

~Life comes with all these expenses. And poetry just doesn't pay. (lifted from an amazing movie, Chasing Sleep).

And a promise of a real post. Soon. Really. Probably.

The Final Snippet: Would be redundant.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Random Lifts, Part, uh, Something or Other

From various events and venues over the last three weeks, spread across two states.

~No, all the gin was definitely on the top.

~Do you know how much acid I dropped while translating Latin? (Uh, no, and don't want to)

~Well, then, Google that shit and let me know. (Ah, Google, the arbiter of all disagreements)

~So, the first time I stalked him on Facebook (seriously, I do not want to hear any more, especially since this clearly implies there was more than one stalking incident...)

~Q: Why'd you stay in St. Louis, if you love Colorado so much? A: Well, I just kept getting married, and then I had a bunch of kids.... (Uh....well, just...uh.....I got nothing).

The Final Snippet: Would be redundant.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I Forgot My Pants, and Other Musings on a Weekend Well Spent

(warning…long post)

Just back from a lovely writers conference underwritten by the Steamboat Springs Arts Council. I am, as usual after a conference, re-invigorated in my own writing efforts, and heartened that so many are as in love with words as I am.

Right – enough with the sweet. If you‘ve spent more than 5 minutes in my presence, you know I don’t really do much sweet, so let’s get to the kooky bits which, when added to all the writing awesomeness, made this a Weekend To Remember (In The Annals of Deb).

Travel Nicknames

On every roadtrip I take from now on it shall be mandatory for all people in the car to have a road trip nickname. For a variety of reasons, I was known for the duration of the trip as Naan Sequitir. This replaces my previous assassin alias of Black Ice. The Boy, who tagged along, was code name International Waters. Here’s the thing about road trip nicknames – they must grow organically from the absurd conversations one has while on a road trip. No arbitrary road trip nicknames, please. At least for the duration of the trip the name must have contextual significance. My game…my rules.

Where all your dreams are for sale….

Accommodations in Steamboat were lovely and comfortable. However, I have never stayed anywhere that has had so many dreamcatchers hanging on the walls. Just when we thought we’d found them all, we came across secret hidden dreamcatchers. With price tags on them. The fabulous Susan Mitchell remarked that she felt as if part of her subconscious might be trapped in the condo forever. I wondered if the entire property, when viewed from above, might actually be in the shape of a giant dreamcatcher, rendering the whole area a giant vortex of dream sucking. Without dreams, we die. You see why the entire thing then degenerated into….

Zombie Cannibals

Some road trips lend themselves to brainstorming movie plots. Horror movie plots, to be precise. Though we never quite settled on the finer points of plot, the roadtrip to a small mountain tourist town off-season lent itself nicely to either attack of zombie cannibals OR insane but unknowable serial killers who would slowly eliminate writers conference participants until just myself, The Boy and the fabulous Susan Mitchell were left, fighting for our lives and trying to escape in a convertible with only 17 dreamcatchers as weapons. Apparently our plan was to flail at the bad guy(s) with fluffy bits of string and wool until they gave in and bought one, or some nasty nightmare from a previous tenant came to life and whooped some zombie cannibal butt.

Yes I Really Forgot My Pants

Here’s a conversation you don’t want to have while attempting to dress professionally for the seminars you will be teaching in an hour:

Me: Uh, I have a weird question. Well really a statement.
Sue: (raises an eyebrown in question).
Me: So, it appears I forgot my pants….
Sue: uh….
Me: No really, I forgot my pants, so my wardrobe selections are the cocktail dress I wore to the opening party last night or the minidress I wore for the drive up.
Sue: (stares in disbelief)…Bahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaa……
Me: Sigh.

Thankfully the fabulous Susan Mitchell had something I could borrow which was suitable. Adding insult to injury, after I shared this with the conference attendees as an ice-breaker (yes, getting everyone to laugh at me IS an icebreaker), I was informed that in British English, pants refer to underwear, and the nice British woman at the table over on the side had almost choked on her coffee thinking I’d just informed the entire room that I’d forgotten my panties…..yes. Sigh.

Life brings us many adventures and absurdities, if we only bother to be present and pay attention. I like to do both, so I guess I get more than my fair share of absurd. Isn’t it awesome?

The Final Snippet: When you don’t know what something is, I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t walk up and stick your face in it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ten Things That Come To Mind on the Occasion of Finishing A Book Proposal

(In which a writer shares her actual thoughts as experienced in the first few minutes after the actual completion of an actual book proposal).

1. Vodka. Need Vodka.

2. Writing is vile, wretched and hard. What was I thinking?

3. Holy crap, I am freaking brilliant.

4. Uh, this is terrible. Awful. What was I thinking?

5. 38 pages. This is perfect. The best book proposal ever written. Clearly I will land an amazing book deal in the next few moments.

6. What was I thinking?!?!?!?

7. It feels excellent to have finished such a long, involved and detailed task. Even if the idea doesn’t sell right away, I am pleased with the accomplishment of having gotten this far.

8. I am an idiot. The rejections will be epic and unparalleled, and I will forevermore sit on the double super-secret blacklist that all agents have, which they take out and laugh about over fabulous martinis in Manhattan, while sitting in bars from which I am also clearly banned for life.

9. I finished, I finished. Nyah, nyah, na-nyah nyah!

10. So. Schizophrenia. At least I have that going for me.

Actual thoughts. I kid you not. Still, it feels good to have finished the whole non-fiction book proposal. Now I wait. And hope the schizophrenia does not get the best of me in the meantime….

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bar Haiku, PPWC and You


Five days after the event ended, I may actually be recovered from all the awesome that was PPWC 2011. I was thinking about the recovery time and why it gets longer each year – and it is not because I am getting older. I reject that premise. It’s that the conference gets better every year. More sessions, amazing faculty, wonderful attendees. It takes longer to process all that I have learned. That’s my story, anyway.

From the amazing Phil Nutman, to the inspiring John Hart, and running the gamut from aspiring authors to those who are multi-published, the folks I played with this weekend have re-energized my own writing….wait, did I say playing?

In fact I did.

While in every way a professional conference which assists people in moving their careers to the next level, PPWC also does an amazing thing in bringing together a bunch of writers. If you’ve ever been around ‘a bunch of writers’ (not sure what number that is, only that there is a sort of tipping point to a gathering of writers that constitutes a ‘bunch’), then you know it is an odd and gorgeous collection of kindred creative souls who can finally be who they are in public…without having to apologize for the solitary hours spent at a keyboard, or spent listening to the voices in their heads, or for having the hubris to think they have something important to say.

Being me, I wanted to exploit…uh….commemorate the event in some way, so I spent about an hour or so after the main banquet Saturday night walking up to strangers in the bar asking them to write Bar Haiku. Ok, some of you weren’t strangers, technically, but you have to admit you’re strange. And if I didn’t think that before Bar Haiku….well, I do now.

Funny thing about writers – they like to write. Funny thing about writers who are asked to write Bar Haiku, is that they can’t seem to say no, and then I get to watch them stand around and count syllables for a while as they engage with the process. Which amuses me. Which was kind of the point…

At any rate, I have culled the submissions into two categories – one appropriate for the PPWC Writing from the Peak blog, and, well, the rest of them. Here we go with The Rest of Them.

Surreal Haiku
Haiku can be fun
But sometimes they make no sense

Booze Haiku
Beer, beer, beer, beer, beer,
Beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer,
Beer, beer, beer, beer, beer

I can’t believe I’m
Finally twenty-one and
Drunk after one shot

T----- has Jack and coke
Inebriation ensues
What can one man do?

I hate alcohol
Don’t know why I’m in a bar
Oh, f---, now I’m drunk

Kind of about Sex Haiku
Pikes Peak Writers are done
The shoes and thongs have come out
Tomorrow we blaze the trail

Dirty martinis
Red lace panties hit the floor
Writer make your pitch

Male desperation
Hard wired to hunt and consume
Before the sunrise

Tattooed and muscled
Have him washed and brought to my
Tent and do it now

The well-known author
Surrounded by swooning girls
Work less, write more…sex?

I write books and junk
I can spell “d├ęcolletage”
But I can’t get it

Pouty lip bite, please?
If ever I could, I would.
See me in my dreams

Kegel, kegel…whoa
I must retain self-control
Um, what did you say?

Deb Haiku (a whole new and unexpected category)
Deb wants me to write
How can I when my brain’s fried?
With liquor in hand

Deb made me write this
She handed me the card and squinted
She got her money’s worth

I purposefully left off names, but if you signed the card when you gave it to me, I’m happy to add attribution. Wanted to give all you writers the option of claiming or not.

As you see, if you did not attend PPWC 2011, you missed a super time – from the perspective of furthering your career, and because you missed Bar Haiku with Deb. Do yourself a favor and join us for the 20th anniversary conference, PPWC 2012.

The Final Snippet: I like trees too, but I wouldn’t want to lick one (by all reports this conversation started with a discussion of the merits of gin….)

Deb Answers: Jessica in Springfield: No. Just no.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Random Shoplifts, the Nth

Overheard in various places in the last week or so...

~Gravity is not gonna be generous to your short crooked ass. (One woman berates another for wearing her backpack wrong. Just...weird.)

~I know some things about him that I will never tell, but I think he should leave women along and stick with something plastic. (Uh, note to self, try and figure out who this guy is and NEVER date him)

~If you're not touching the top of it, what's the point? (I have no clue what the topic was, but other than lifting it, I'm not touching anything. Certainly not the top of it.)

~Rose pedal, with floral aroma and spice flavors. (I'm neither wearing nor drinking this, whatever it was).

~When you get three without getting anywhere near a bar, it's a good day (no context. I like this one as it is. If you're curious, email me.)

Happy eavesdropping!

The Final Snippet: redundant

Deb Answers: Margaret in Tacoma: It is not in fact the spirit of your favorite orchid that was in the perfume, but an entirely different, yet similar orchid. Your orchid's soul twin, if you will.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stranger Than Fiction, Man

I just had this conversation. It is worthy of a shoplift, but too long for my normal pithy phrase grab. So I will relate it in its entirely. I can only imagine were I to incorporate this into a book, some editor would say it is entirely unrealistic and could never ever ever take place in reality and therefore is entirely unbelievable for fiction.

"Hi, can we we chat for a few minutes about the firewall rules I need to document? There are a number of line items designated as servers which don't seem to exist in any list I have and I don't know who I should assign them to for documenting," said Deb

"They're not really servers. You can call them servers for the purposes of this discussion but they aren't really. They are for security stuff," said IT Security Guy.

"Oh," said Deb, now a little confused. "So, YOU are the owner for purposes of documentation?"

"Yes, you could say that," replied IT Security Guy.

"So...you pulled the list of rules together for me..." said Deb.

"Yes," said IT Security Guy.

"And you sent the list to me so I can make sure I get the proper documentation?" asked Deb.

"Yeah," said IT Security Guy.

"And you sent an email to your boss saying you can't complete your tasks on this phase of the project until I provide said documentation?" asked Deb, her voice rising a bit in tone.

"Right," replied IT Security Guy.

"And the documentation I need, as it turns out, has to come from you?" asked Deb, now clearly disturbed.

"Uh, yes," responded IT Security Guy slowly.

"So, uh, why didn't you just fill that part in when you sent me the original file? Or, you know, let me know you were ultimately responsible for doing it so I didn't spend 4 days asking you for help. Or, you know, when I started asking you about the servers in question so I could identify who was responsible for the documentation, you might have said it was you..."

"I wasn't tasked with that," said IT Security Guy.

"You weren't tasked with that?" Deb parroted.


A long silence ensued during which Deb's face turned several apoplectic shades of puce which are clearly not in a normal face-color spectrum.

"So, you should send it all to my boss and ask him to task me with that, so I can get it added to my task list."

"Because you won't do it until you are tasked by him, but you WILL send him emails complaining that it isn't done...."

"Well, yeah. It's holding me up."

"Uh, sure. I'll do that," said Deb, showing all the restraint she could possibly muster. She turned and walked away muttering under her breath something that sounded suspiciously close to 'beat you to death with my stiletto' but which could not possibly be what she actually said, because that would be wrong.


The Final Snippet: I am not inconsistent. I just have an expanded repertoire of emotions.

Deb Answers: Lissa in Stoughton MA: Pick a mood, woman, and stick with it. Seriously.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Writing That Next Word

I spent the weekend writing.

Damn, it feels good to say that. Ok -- that's not all I did....I managed some laundry and cooked a rack of ribs for some delightful men. But mostly I wrote. Then revised. Then wrote some more.

I wrote on Friday about being excited for a mini-retreat -- I'd managed to set aside Friday night and all day Saturday to go to a pal's place with a number of other writers and really focus on getting some heavy lifting done word-wise. And I got some heavy lifting done -- Chapter 1 of WIP needed a revision. I'd been putting it off even though I knew what I needed to do. And Friday night I talked my way through it; Saturday I did it, then workshopped it with some amazing writers (who were kind enough to provide me with instant gratification...er..feedback), then made another pass to add some layers of refinement.

Funny thing -- all that work lopped over into Sunday, when I made yet another pass and added some addition refinements. Probably still needs some fine-tuning, but I have that planned for tomorrow night.

My lesson at the moment is that scheduling time to write, and having some accountability about it (and not just to myself) is helping to keep me motivated and moving forward.

And writing that next word.

And when it comes down to it that's really all we can do -- write that next word.

Are you writing your next word?

The Final Snippet: Now we have a use for that Kama Sutra Chocolate.....

Deb Answers: Beth in South Florida: Step away from the beer. Really.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mini-Retreat - Yay!

In preparation for pitching at Pikes Peak Writers Conference at the end of this month, I am fortunate enough to be participating in a mini-retreat tonight and all day tomorrow.

I have realized that since I work a day job, I kind of view my time at home in the evenings or on the weekends as relaxation time, and sometimes have a difficult time making myself write. I kind of resent it in a way.

But, if I remove myself from my home environment, then I seem to be in a more disciplined head space, and have a much easier time being productive. Weird psychological trick, that, but if it works, I'm willing to do it. So I'll be at mini-retreats and the local coffee shop a lot this month.

How do you prep as you are coming down the final stretch with a project? I know a bunch of people who can write any time, any place, and sometimes I wish I were one of them. But I guess we all have an innate process -- one of my goals for the rest of this year is retraining my brain to a new process :)

Meanwhile I will spend tonight and tomorrow doing all the writing I ought to have been doing after work this week.

Wish me good words.....

The Final Snippet: You know it was a great party when someone is missing a fang.

Deb Answers: Vanessa in OK: I would use the scarf before the twine.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Post-party Pre-Conference Blues

I have this blues riff running through my brain....

I ain't got no agent
I ain't got no deal
Am I really a writer?
Am I even real?

I got the blues...
I got the writer blues....
I got the no good, low down, bustin' my ass and still no book deal blues.....

A bunch of my friends gathered with me to celebrate my birthday recently. Bunch of creative, brilliant, amazing super-wonderful people whom I am so honored to call my friends. Celebrating me.

Sometimes we can be humbled by things we least expect to be humbled by -- and I am humbled by this amazing group and the esteem they seem to hold me in.

And that kind of sparked my blues -- for whatever reason, I AM held in high esteem by this group, and I'm feeling a bit unworthy of it all.

But, with Pikes Peak Writers Conference just around the corner, I have an opportunity to maybe feel a bit more worthy. Because I HAVE been working my ass off...writing, editing, shaping my pitches (yes pitches, plural). And I am going in with everything I have.

And that will be for me, not for my pals, because they apparently don't need or want me to be anyone or any way other than who I am right now.

Still, opportunity is on the horizon.

And really, it's self indulgent (if slightly cool) to have the blues. I remind myself that I am in charge of my future, I own my destiny, and it is up to me to make things happen, in my life and in my writing career.

So, even though I really like singing the blues, I don't much like having them. And as a writer, I can rewrite the blues into something more uptempo, rock-opera, synth-success, just by sheer force of will and some hard work.

Go write your own songs, folks.

And if they come out rather more bluesy and sad than you like, re-write at will. It's what we do.

The Final Snippet: Nothing mixes quite like absinthe and kids (overheard at my party).

Deb Answers: To Miller in SD: This is not the job you seek.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Random Shoplifts, Part, uh, Whatever

Yeah, I know eavesdropping isn't polite. I was, in fact, raised properly -- ask my mother. It's just that...well, I don't care. People say the most amazing stuff, out loud, in front of me. I feel as a writer I have an obligation to capture the amazing ways in which people use language to express themselves. Obligation.

Yes, probably some day it will get me in some absurd kind of trouble, but I don't care. I just don't.

When possible, I tell the folks from whom I lift stuff that I am stealing their words, and I immediately write what they said in the special file I have set up on my Blackberry. In front of them. I even tell them their words will end up in my blog. I have never been asked NOT to use something I shoplift, though I have been asked to make sure it is anonymous. For the record, I don't shoplift anything that would make a person easily identifiable. As far as I know, anyway.

Having reiterated all that, we are on to Random Shoplifts...many of which are from a rather rambunctious few hours I spent careening from art galleries to nightclubs in Downtown Colorado Springs last Friday.

~There was a drunk Russian man in the ladies room. He had pretty eyes. (You should always judge the eye-prettiness of the drunk foreign man in the wrong bathroom....it's really a matter of courtesy...or something)

~I kissed one guy I thought was Mormon, but it turned out he was just gay. (I don't write 'em, I just steal 'em)

~God apparently did not want my insurance rates to drop. (God does rate reductions? Who knew?)

~What are you doing with integrity? (Buying it an Irish Car Bomb, of course)

~The way you eat a Popsicle is a metaphor for sex. (Oh really? I stopped listening almost immediately....very graphic blush-inducing conversation ensued, and for me to find something blush-inducing means it was frighteningly graphic)

~Butt Cheek Diamonds (which I am filing under 'Great Name For A Rock Band')

Right -- that's all I have for you. Hope you enjoy these, and I hope even more you say something awesome in front of me so I can Shoplift you.

The Final Snippet: would be redundant

Deb Answers: Ray in South Beach: Fighting would not be the right course of action unless you are positive you will win.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Real Life, Only Better.

Life. That thing that inconveniently steps in when you’re trying to write. The audacity of it, insisting it is more important than the next chapter, the current plot twist, or Edits, Round 10.

My litany of issues with Life this week include: Really, you HAD to break my washing machine AND my dryer in the same week? Coincidentally the same week that I needed to have the contractor out to do the bid on my stairs? And you couldn’t have pushed the brake repair on the car out a week? Not just for the money, but now I have to find time to get all this stuff done too? And still single-parent, cook, clean, cart the teen around…have you no mercy, Life?

Makes me want to swear. Loudly. In multiple foreign languages.

The suck truth is, Life doesn’t really give a crap about plans or schedules or ‘need-to’ versus ‘want-to’. It just is. And we have to pick ourselves up every time it happens and just keep doing what we do. Just how it is.

How come Life really doesn’t much get in the way in books? The intrepid sleuth never has a pipe burst in the basement when she’s on her way to track down the bad guy. And what would she do it she did have a pipe burst? It’s not like you can just walk away, let the flood happen, ruin all your stuff. Or could you? There’s a conundrum to anguish over….lose my shit, or let the bad guy get away. Five minutes to decide.

And how come the intrepid sleuth never has 18 of her closest friends over to dinner only to find the loin chops have gone off and she has no backup main course available? Or that the carpet has suddenly detached itself from her stairs, causing a guest to fall on his ass as he is attempting to leave after the loin chopless dinner? Causing a personal injury suit her insurance won’t cover?

Or am I just reading the wrong books?

I swear, I am going to inflict calamity after calamity on my main character, to the point that it becomes absurd. I bet someone will read my draft and say – wait, THAT would never happen. Sigh. Real life is definitely more complex than fiction, and yet, we have to write fiction like it is real life, only better.

That’s where I’d like to be today – Real Life, Only Better.

Only I bet Life is lurking there too and it isn’t really ‘better’ if you spend enough time there.

Hope Life is kinder to your schedule than it has been to mine this week. I’m off to write some more…unless something else breaks.

The Final Snippet: I just need to get past the crying babies. And the chewing. (I have nothing to add to this).

Deb Answers: Mary in Detroit: Inconsequential delusion. Really.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Embracing Rejection

On the fourth Monday of every month I host a get together of writers in my local community for Pikes Peak Writers. Sometimes we workshop, sometimes we share, sometimes we whine about how unrelentingly difficult it is to get through publishing gateways when you are really trying hard to do everything right. Wait, that’s just me.

I fib. I don’t whine that much. Only a little.

Be that as it may, at last night’s meeting the subject of querying to land representation was a big topic, and therefore REJECTION was a big topic. To be sure, the folks at the table wanted to discuss and double check to make sure they were doing things right, that they had all their bases covered. There was no real whining at all. I promise.

But I kept asking “What kind of rejections are you getting, and how many of them have you gotten?”
I know why I wanted the number – in trying to garner representation, assuming your product is good, sometimes it’s a matter of finding that agent who will fall as much in love with your work as you are, of finding the person who sees its potential and who can commit to it. Given that most of us do not have the luxury of living in New York, it’s a numbers game, at that point – keep sending queries until you find that one agent.

On the other hand, if you are getting rejections they can fall across a spectrum. The impersonal form rejection means you barely made if off the slush pile before you were rejected. Slightly better is the form rejection with a personal note or signature – some indication that an actual human read what you sent. These are pretty standard.

Even better still is a brief note which gives an explanation of sorts – we like it but don’t love it, we love it but don’t think we can sell it, the market is saturated with this, your voice is strong but the story doesn’t quite work, do you have anything else we can look at. These are ‘Good Rejections’ in that they provide a little salve for the sting of another “no” and maybe an indication of things you can do in response.

In the case of actual information, as a writer you might change something about your work that keeps coming up from professionals who are rejecting it. You might shelve a project for a while to re-think it. It may just be a ‘trunk novel’ something which many writers end up with (trunk novel being one which is done but just isn’t good enough or right enough for the market to get published at that time).

Problem is you can’t EXPECT a “Good Rejection” – you can really only ever expect a form, impersonal one. And sometimes rejections really are because your work isn’t ready, isn’t yet good enough. But that’s not a reason to be disheartened – it’s a reason to do whatever you need to in order to change those circumstances.

And here’s the thing….EVERYONE gets rejections. I did some research this morning and found some awesome stuff. Rudyard Kipling was told he didn’t know how to use the English language in a rejection letter. H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” was called ‘horrid’. JG Ballard was told “The author of this work is beyond psychiatric help.”

If you are feeling the sting of rejection, take a look at this book, from which the above are referenced: “Rotten Rejections: The Letters That Publishers Wish They'd Never Sent,” by Andre Bernard.

Some of these rejections make a form rejection seem kind and desirable.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the writers who were rejected in the fashions included in this book persevered. They did not give up. They went on to publish in many instances to great acclaim and success.

So, keep sending your work out and embrace the rejections. Know you are following a well-worn path, and one which, if you follow it long enough and with enough dedication and perseverance, can lead to your desired destination.

The Final Snippet: Caution, we are now experiencing a brief interlude of sanity. (I have no notes on this one, no clue where I got it)

Deb Answers: Marissa, in Tampa: Yes, that car makes Your butt look big.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Rewriting. Again. And Again.

I really thought I’d nailed that first chapter. Really. Nailed. Fourth draft. The Second and third were mostly an attempt to start the thing en medias res – for the most part I lopped off several thousand words of backstory and tried to get closer to where the real beginning is. Twice.

Yeah, I still haven’t nailed it. Twice.

But that’s okay. Really it is. Disheartening, but not so much that I won’t go carve out some more and try to really really really nail it down.

While we are often told there is only one chance to make a first impression, the cool thing about writing is that we get drafts – however many we need – before we introduce our darling to the world at large. Okay – some critique partners have now met my first chapter rather more frequently than they might like (have I mentioned recently how much I LOVE you guys?), but they have all agreed to the part of the writers journey that comes before you nail the thing down correctly. This is a role we willingly play for each other.

Here’s the thing about good first chapters – we almost always write them as our ~3rd chapter or so. Somewhere between 20 – 60 pages are spent ‘setting things up’, making sure the reader understands what world we have put them in. And it turns out that those initial pages are backstory – sometimes containing important elements, but essentially just a drag on the reader before they get to the meat of your story.

And you WANT your reader to get to the meat of the story – why will anyone bother reading your story if it takes 60 pages for anything interesting to happen?

The suck part about this, is I know this fact. I know it well. I recognize easily when others do it.
And yet, I still did it. Sigh.

But, I have recognized it, have had it pointed out, have re-recognized it, and I think I am close. At least I have a plan, and some folks have heard the idea through, and I will re-write the first chapter again, and hope that I finally found the sweet spot where I dump the reader right into the middle of things without making a muddle of it.

Wish me luck with the words. And if not luck, then hope I find the right draft, whichever it is.

Back to it.

The Final Snippet: I have seen him drunk, wearing a bunny suit. (this is a contributed shoplift, so I personally did not see the guy in question drunk in a bunny suit. But having met him, I can now picture it. So, thanks for that.)

Deb Answers: Madeline in Orange County: Those are not the evening clothes you seek.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Singeing your Eye Whiskers

While playing poker at my house the other night, a friend said, ‘Uh, I think your cat may have burned itself…” We all turned to look where she indicated. In fact, the cat was standing very close to a grouping of candles, and as we all watched, she leaned over to examine a flame. Quickly she jumped back shaking her face. I went and picked her up and sure enough she had damaged the whiskers over her right eye. Which means she will walk a little funny and bump into things for a few days.

My cat is a gorgeous long-haired mix of American Ragdoll and Bob-tail. She is like a tiny, delicate, befurred Siamese, which a loud chirrup of a voice and a tail that is always curled around her (due to the bobtail mutation). She is adorable. She is not, however, smart, and this whisker singeing was not her first. In some weird way she is determined to ‘get’ something about flames and keeps revisiting them even though they clearly cause her some damage and a little pain. I have to keep the wood burning fireplace insert doors closed as she gets super close and I’m afraid she’ll actually walk in.

Yes, that not smart.

But her persistence got me to thinking. Both in life and in writing fiction, I think we tend to stick with the familiar, the comfortable. We don’t like stepping outside our habits, climbing out of our ruts. In my current work in progress, I found myself placing limits on where I would take my character – oh, I can’t write THAT, I would tell myself. That is too vulgar, or too over the top, or would offend some people. And for a while I wrote my character very carefully so as to stay within some boundary that makes me feel safe. After all, offending people, writing things about a character that people might confuse with me, writing something too vulgar (and yes, there is a TOO vulgar for me, I do have some limits), well, it SCARES me.

Yes, scares me.

What if something is so vulgar it puts off potential readers? What if someone surmises I am my character and therefore decides not to like ME any more? What if, what if, what if. Yet I kept coming up with scenes that seemed so right, then self-censoring myself. Not writing them. Just like my cat, back to the flame again and again.

But here’s what I have finally decided: We can’t be afraid to singe our eye whiskers. We just can’t. There’s a life lesson in here, certainly, but from a writing perspective, if we never go to the places where we singe our whiskers, if we only write what is safe and comfortable and what we think will not offend, well, we aren’t writing our true selves. And I think (and someone correct me if I am wrong) that writing that is unloosed, and not self-censored, and which goes exactly where it needs to go, is almost always going to be better and get more positive responses from readers than that which is restrained and safe.

By this I don’t mean that you need to work hard to offend, or use curse words, or gratuitously use sex. I mean, write the book that is there to be written, there inside your brain, and don’t let fear keep you from writing exactly that book. Even if it’s scary to step out of your comfort zones. Even if you think you might be judged. Even if you think you might singe your eye whiskers.
The worst that will happen is that you might walk a bit wobbly for a while, bump into things for a bit.

And I am pretty sure that’s okay.

Singe your eye whiskers writer-people. Do it.

The Final Snippet: It’s not road rage, it’s severe road irritation.

Deb Answers: Cara in Boston – lay off the bagels. Seriously.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Guest Dog Goes Walkabout (and Other Stuff)

Saturday is usually my day to do stuff around the house, and I am deeply involved in Getting Things In Order today as I have a bunch of cool chicks coming over to play Texas Hold 'em. I of course plan to kick ass, but I do need to get a bunch of stuff done before the ass kicking can begin.

Which means I do not need a dog gone walkabout at the moment. But life often delivers us that which we least need, when we least need it. My life does anyway.

So there I was staining baseboards (yes, that's probably excessive just for a poker party but I have an excessive personality. Don't judge me). And I get the call from Guest Dog's real owner (Guest Dog is not mine, I am fostering him, hence calling him Guest Dog). I have to hike a mile to retrieve him. He thinks this is great fun -- not only did he make two new dog friends and a bunch of new human pals who think he is an awesome and rockin' dog, but he gets a most excellent walk from his second-favorite human (his first of course being his owner). Guest dog = happy. I = not amused.


But the forced walk in the middle of what I NEED to get done got me thinking about characters and whether or not we inflict the very real and mundane stuff of life on them as much as we should. Pipes break before big parties (at my house they do), dogs go walkabout while you are on a tight schedule, half & half goes bad seconds before you need to offer it to a guest, and the grocery stores run out of the exact item you need for the dinner you have planned forcing either a change of plans or a detour to another store (several if you are me). And sometimes you can't find a bathroom when you really, really need one. Again, don't judge me.

While I am finishing the draft of my work in progress, I think I will introduce a bit more of the mundane and irritating into my main character's life. Sometimes it's not the big plot points in life that show who a person is, but the way they deal with the mundane and routine.

I will not give my character, Else, a Guest Dog, however. She is much smarter than me and would know better than to take one in in the first place.

I'm off to finish the baseboards. Sigh.

The Final Snippet: I used to live with a Portuguese midget stripper. I hung her in a closet once, and boy was she pissed. (overheard of course in a bar. For the record, 'midget' is an extremely offensive way to refer to a person with dwarfism, but I think the guy who said this probably wasn't all too concerned with offending anyone).

Deb Answers: To Carol in Ozark Lakes: In fact it IS alligators. You should do something about that.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Random No-Context Shoplifts

~Does my head look too big? Should I grow my hair longer to compensate?

~I started drinking because I was in choir....

~I'm not saying I'm NOT in love with you....

~It was like getting the Hapsbergs, the McCoys and the Gill Foundation to sit down and iron out their differences. Basically, pointless.

~Real world scuba accidents, and how to avoid them.

~They're retarded. And not in the sense of 'you're just stupid', but in the 'you have an extra fucking chromosome' sense. (sorry, offensive. I don't make 'em up, I just steal 'em and write 'em down)

~This is the part where you make a snarky comment which involves an obscenity.

The Final Snippet: None -- I gave you 7 excellent lifts above. Don't be greedy.

Deb Answers: To Randy in Maine....stop using soap, it is in fact infected.