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Friday, September 30, 2011


September, which I had intended as a full month of concentrating on my writing (with a refreshing trip to San Diego on the side), got derailed. I wrote a lot, but I didn't finish SNKL Chapter 8, and a lot of things happened that were beyond my control. So I look forward to the pledge I made to do NaNoWriMo in November as a way of asserting structure back into my professional life.

The question is, what to work on?

I could do NaNo unofficially and just pledge to write 1,667 words a day on the Seven Noble Knights of Lara.

Or, I could spend any free moments in October separating the 12,000 words I have of "Middle Awash in Talent" into chapters and sketch out the plot structure a little a more firmly, so as to prepare to do NaNo officially.

SNKL is my official project and I won't be satisfied until I bring it to some kind of conclusion. "Middle Awash" has brought pleasure to my beta readers and has gained undeniable momentum and I wonder if I should just go with its flow.

How do I decide? What do you recommend?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reading is Fundamental

You guessed it: I love reading! I read National Geographic cover to cover every month. I read novels, the crazier the better, and I read history and even historical (not usually hysterical) fiction. What do you read?

Rest in peace, Borders. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Check out Sail To Italy and Sail From Italy on eTLC

My cute little adventure stories now rank among the honorable works at eTLC. Seriously, check this site out if you're interested in finding new independent authors. Many of my writer friends are there, so you know it's got to be good.

There's an entire sample chapter of Sail To Italy for your enjoyment available at its eTLC page. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Flash Fiction - A Peek at the Paranormal

My fifty-word story "Buyer Beware" is now appearing in the journal 50-to-1. It wasn't always fifty words long, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to demonstrate its evolution by trimming. You can judge for yourself which version is most effective.

1. I started with inspiration and a lot of random fleshed-out parts:

Our first night in the house, the great grandfather of the previous owners sat down to dinner with us. After grace, he just sort of floated into one of the empty chairs, between Sylvia and Reynold, and patiently awaited his portion of store-bought roast beef. I watched him closely while the others tried to ignore his wafting essence and cold emanations. Although he seemed miffed that no one set a plate in front of him, he never made a sound. He didn’t move until we had Indian takeout for lunch a week later. He expressed like steam up to the high ceiling and into a corner, where he distinctly resembled an ancient cobweb. Mother extended the mop handle, stood on a stepladder, and pushed at him until he dissipated into those blobs that look so much like spider egg sacs. So don’t worry, the house is definitely not infested with spiders.

2. I cut it to six sentences for the journal of that name, which rejected it:

Our first night in the house, the great grandfather of the previous owners sat down to dinner with us. After grace, he just sort of floated into one of the empty chairs, all wafting essence and cold emanations, and seemed miffed that no one set a plate in front of him. He didn’t move until we had Indian takeout for lunch a week later. He expressed like steam up to the high ceiling and into a corner, where he distinctly resembled an ancient cobweb. Mother extended the mop handle, stood on a stepladder, and pushed at him until he dissipated into those blobs that look so much like spider egg sacs. So don’t worry, the house is definitely not infested with spiders.

3. Shopping around for a journal, and finally with the goal of making it conform to 50-to-1's requirements, I kept shaving:

Our first night in the house, the previous owners’ grandfather sat down to dinner with us. He floated into one of the empty chairs and awaited his portion. I watched him while the others ignored his wafting essence and cold emanations. Afterwards, he expressed like steam up to the high ceiling and into a corner, where he resembled a cobweb. Mother extended the mop handle, stood on a stepladder, and pushed at him until he dissipated into those blobs that look so much like spider egg sacs. So don’t worry, the house is not infested with spiders. 

4. And you can read the latest, trimmest, published, version here.

It took me about a year to make these changes. Cutting is probably the toughest way to edit.

As you can see, it was a long and winding road for this little piece, which couldn't seem to find a home until the road was short and straight. Which version do you prefer?

Thanks for celebrating with me!

Friday, September 23, 2011

New Interview Today!

The generous and thoughtful Ryan Brock of liloQuy has done me the honor of interviewing me. See it here.

In this interview, I have the chance to talk about my recently developed double-track writing (i. e., weird, non-genre stuff and historical fiction).

Notice where I talk about my respect for my readers. I appreciate you very much!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's World Rhino Day!

The five species of rhinoceros are all amazing animals. People have interfered with their growth out of a fabled fascination with their horns. Now we need human intervention to make sure no more species of rhino go extinct. This year, the theme of World Rhino Day gets at the root of the problem. Spread the word: rhino horn is not medicine.

I thought my pictures and videos from San Diego would be amusing for you on this auspicious day.

At the San Diego Zoo, two Indian rhino brothers share an enclosure. They like to snooze in the water:
And when they wake up, they like to splash and groom each other with brotherly nips and shoves:
The shoves escalate into a power struggle most days, the keeper informed us, but that day it was especially spectacular:
After too much roughhousing, the keeper separated them and tended to their wounds (note the bottle of spray disinfectant in her left hand):
I had never seen an Indian rhino in person before, so it was thrilling that these young men were so active.

If you're interested in learning more about the Indian rhino, The Soul of the Rhino is a great book. Check out these links to have a great World Rhino Day!

Twitter: #worldrhinoday

My rhino publications: A Business Venture in Glue | Crash of Rhinoceros | "Rhinoceros Dreams" appeared in This Mutant Life, which appears to have expired -- more on that later, assuredly.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

National Alzheimer's Day (World Alzheimer's Month)

Before the economic disaster, I used to make yearly donations to the Alzheimer's Association for research. I started doing it in honor of my paternal grandmother, who had a long, sad, and expensive bout with the disease before she passed away. I'm in no position to fund research at any level now, so for now my one contribution to defeating this illness is raising awareness of it.

I envy anyone who's never had to consider what it must be like to lose control of your moods, abilities, language, personality, and most engrained memories on an inexorable decline. Once it's diagnosed, it never gets better. With an aging population, Alzheimer's disease may overwhelm the medical system in addition to affected people's loved ones, so it's important even for people so far untouched by it to be aware of the threat it poses and to try to do something about it.

Medical professionals now use the term "cognitive impairment" to describe the progression of the disease as a reminder that Alzheimer's is not strictly memory loss. My father was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's when he was only 57 years old after years of increasingly strange behavior that nearly drove my mother to her wits' end. Historically, it has been a lot more difficult to get a proper diagnosis when the patient is younger than 65, but the Alzheimer's Association's awareness-raising among the medical profession is helping to make diagnosis easier and more accurate.

World Alzheimer's Month comes at an especially emotional time for my family. At age 64, my father is still active with friends and with woodworking and automotive projects, but his driver's license has been revoked after a series of accidents in which no one was injured. Although I think it might be useful to provide some details about how this happened and its complex emotional toll, I'll respect my family's privacy and just say that we are saddened in every imaginable way.

It hasn't escaped my notice that early-onset Alzheimer's has made a hereditary path through my family straight to me and my brother. There is now a genetic test that can accurately predict the likelihood of developing the disease. My lack of medical insurance is keeping me from taking that step for now, but I haven't decided whether I want to know at this point. In the meantime, it can't hurt to load up on the antioxidants!

To learn more about the symptoms of Alzheimer's versus normal aging, studies being conducted in your area, preventative measures, and caregiver support, visit the Alzheimer's Association's wonderful website:

World Alzheimer's Month Site

Monday, September 19, 2011

The End of the World by Andrew Biss

I was fortunate enough to win a copy of Andrew Biss's The Impressionists, a collection of vignettes, all told in the first person, of normal people with sometimes extraordinary challenges. I recognized a fun authorial voice, so when The Impressionists left me wanting more, I went ahead and invested in The End of the World.  

Intentionally absurd from the first word, The End of the World tells the story of what happens to a truly unremarkable man between his drollery-filled, circumscribed life with his parents and his next incarnation. The narrator isn't quite self-aware enough to know that the result of a barely registered mugging is his own death. Suddenly, a sort of halfway house hotel called The End of the World becomes visible amidst the grimy cityscape, and he walks right in.

The characters he meets at this hostel for souls in limbo or, to use the Tibetan term, Bardo, (most of whom emerge from kitchen appliances or have body parts missing) all impart a point of view of their universal situation that the narrator had never considered before, which is all the more interesting because in the end, it is revealed that they're mere figments of his imagination. In this eerily detailed place, the narrator learns to accept and maybe even enjoy the lack of control. Philosophical arguments are hidden in strangely beautiful nuggets that the reader will enjoy swallowing and perhaps even wish, again, that there was a bit more to the story.

I didn't even realize The End of the World was pushing a message until the very last line, which felt so deliciously appropriate that I couldn't help loving the whole short, lopsided, cheeky book.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Tribute to Tom Grundner (Rest in Peace)

When I first arrived in Arizona, I had been searching for a "real" job for about two years. I knew that I wanted to get into publishing, that I needed to get a start on my childhood dream of having my own publishing company. I admit that Arizona seemed an unlikely place to accomplish this, but luck seemed to be on my side when I met Tom Grundner, founder of Fireship Press, at a writers' function during the first month I was here. I had an unusually strong feeling that he was a person I ought to get to know better, and -- this is a really big deal for me -- I punched through the barriers of my shyness and queried whether he would like any help with Fireship.

Tom has had a direct, strong influence on every one of my days in Arizona since. He quickly gained confidence in me, and after he bore witness to my editorial skills and we had a truly heart-to-heart conversation, he agreed to supply me the startup costs for my own Açedrex Publishing as well as the training I needed in the technical aspects. What an astounding gesture! I'm still speechless when I think of it.

My husband and I came to this state penniless, unwilling, and we were pretty unhappy, but because I met Tom, I can never say that my time in Arizona has been a washout.

I didn't know Tom for very long. I can't really speak about the facts of his life, but I know that he continues to be dearly loved by his family and friends and that he is a kind and true soul. I considered him to be my guardian angel in Arizona. We're trying to sort out how to continue Fireship as a noble legacy, and I hope we do. I know that any future success I have in publishing will owe a profound debt to a writer, a savvy businessman, and a friend.

See a thorough recounting of Tom's life at Historic Naval Fiction.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Our Second Wedding Anniversary

Two years. What a couple of years! In this photo, taken minutes before we said our vows, my husband is showing a tooth he recently lost to the aftereffects of a cracked crown. (I love him no matter how many teeth he has or doesn't have.)

I could describe the delirious feeling that led to the laughter captured here, but the photo says it all. Happy Anniversary, sweet love!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Non-Judgment Day

We were all affected by September 11, 2001 in some way. I was living and working in the most beautiful place there is to work, a library in Boston. As the official Hub of the Universe, we felt vulnerable that day, and as the news became clear that the planes that took down the World Trade Center flew from Logan Airport, I felt somehow guilty by association. Beyond all the images from TV and the internet, what I remember with the most sorrow is how deadly quiet the morning bus was on September 12. The silent, downturned mouths and searching, chastised eyes looked to me like a broken America.

On the eleventh, our boss sent us non-essential workers home. I went to my studio apartment, all alone, and started filling out applications for my PhD, even though it seemed like none of my chosen universities would even exist by the autumn of the following year. When it seemed as though the world were truly ending, my applications were a defiant gesture of optimism.

Those of us who are old enough to remember it, know that the world of September tenth is gone forever. But we've made it through September twelfth, and now I live in the world of September thirteenth, which is, for me and my husband, a day to symbolize boundless love.

We were all affected differently, and so on this tenth anniversary, it is right that we should all commemorate differently. The most appropriate group activity I've found that applies to the country at large is Non-Judgment Day. There's a Facebook event for it, but we can all participate simply by considering what we as humans have in common.

Probably the best thing we all share is hope.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Vacation for Sweet Saturday Sample

My husband has managed to wrangle a vacation out of his slave-driving place of work (for which we are eternally grateful in this economy). We're escaping Arizona for the least expensive hotel we could find near the ocean. The Pacific, the ocean that saw me grow up! I will get back to all of you on Sweet Saturday when I get back (which will be far too soon).

Here's a sample from a WIP, about a self-centered young lady who grew up in California, went to college in Rhode Island, and has a really special sister. I don't know if this is going to come to a conclusion soon, or if it will become a novella or an accidental novel. Most of it is as sweet as can be, but there is one disturbing image, which could push the whole thing to PG-13.

Here, Emily, the narrator, meets her love interest for the first time.

* * * 

I was leaving a final paper in my professor’s department mail box on the last day of December reading period when I saw one of the graduate students pinning up a flier with a picture of mounds of dirt and happy people smiling amid the muck.

“Hey, what’s that?” I said even as he was turning to leave, a stack of papers crammed into his backpack.

“What’s what?” he replied, wearily.

“That.” I pointed, as if I couldn’t go up and read it myself. It was my right as an undergrad to be taught by these people.

He put his arm against the wall to balance the weight of his backpack as well as underline what the flier said. “Field Studies in Africa. Make the most of your summer. Study archaeology in the field with respected experts while earning course credit!”

“Ooh,” I said, mirroring his half-sarcastic tone. He looked familiar. “Hey, didn’t you TA one of the archaeology classes?”

“Intro to Prehistory, section 4, and Field Arch, section 5.”

I looked into his exhausted green eyes and wanted to drown. I hadn’t taken either of those courses myself, but if I’d known he was the TA, I would’ve signed up.

“Are you going to do the field study?” I asked.

He nodded with as little effort as possible. “Herding all the undergrads, probably getting Professor Marsden his coffee.”

“See you next semester,” I called to him as he trudged away down the hall. No one else was in the room, so I took the tacks out of the flier and folded it carefully into my own backpack.

I hauled my bag downstairs from my dorm room all by myself. As I waited for the taxi to the airport, I clutched the folded flier with gloved fingers. It started the way he’d said:

Field Studies in Africa. Make the most of your summer. Study archaeology in the field with respected experts while earning course credit.
The Middle Awash of Ethiopia is the most persistently occupied place on Earth. Join some of the most important scholars in a unique field study where you can make a real contribution to the newest science being done right now. The fossils are eroding right out of the ground. You could discover an important six-million-year-old specimen yourself!

The photographic collage, arranged around the dustily happy people digging in the ground that had caught my eye at first, showed carefully reconstructed skeletons of Ardipithecus ramidus, Australopithecus, and Homo erectus as well as a scenic view of what, strangely, looked to be Victoria Falls, and for good measure a tribesman of the Afar Desert complete with red, black and white woven clothing and Adidas sneakers.
* * *  

Thanks for taking a look. Let me know what you think. I appreciate all constructive comments, so very much!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Place to See Tree/House and Great New Writers

The Electronic Text and Literature Cloud is the place to go to find out about independent authors you might never have otherwise heard of. Each title is showcased on an understated, tasteful page full of links to more information and, of course, where to buy it. I've had the honor of Tree/House being the first featured text in the "Literary" genre. Check it out here!

And check back with eTLC often for buried treasure that deserves more attention!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Out Now: A Crazy Weird Anthology for Animal Lovers!

Housefire Press, the press that only solicits from authors they like and never reads slush piles, has just released their anthology Nouns of Assemblage. It's full of animals, although I haven't received my contributor copy yet, so I can't guarantee they're all sweet. More specifically, it's all about the names for animals in their natural groups, such as the famous "murder of crows."

There are over 60 stories in here, and one is mine! Guess which group noun I chose. Yep, a "Crash of Rhinoceroses." It's an even more micro version of my microfiction "A Business Venture in Glue," published this year by Stanley the Whale. But don't that deter you, as there are more than 59 other stories by "The Best Authors in Small Press Fiction." Who could resist plunking down a paltry sum for something with so much potential?

See the stop-motion trailer here. Look for me at :42!

More information (including purchasing) is here.

Thanks for taking a look and celebrating with me!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Family Tree for the Seven Noble Knights of Lara

So you see, it's all very simple. These are the relationships between the characters who have been introduced so far.

I admit I've worried that the two most important male characters in the González family, the father and the youngest son, are both named Gonzalo, but for the first draft I'm hoping titles, diminutives, and nicknames will clarify who's doing what. If names persist as a problem, I will reconsider them for the second draft.