Mood Music


Rainy morning

9:30 am. Dark as dusk
Surrounded by the music of rain
Pings in my gutters
A torrent-rush through the downspouts
Low thuds upon the pavement
The weight of so much water tilts the air
Drops assail my window
Taps clacks ticks
A cacophony
A symphony
That is how I will hear it today

New Year, New Attitude


1411963974-800pxNothing says “You stink at this!” like the year-end stats from WordPress. Yikes!

Now it’s true, the focus remained on my writing this year, finding outlets for shorter works, and querying my novel. I’ve enjoyed moderate success, though not the ultimate prize. Yet. Unfortunately, I’m not great at spreading myself around, writing wise. I have a terrier avatar for a reason. I gnaw on one thing until…well you get the picture. So expending energy on blogging has gone right to the bottom of my list.

Uncomfortably (for an introvert), it’s getting more obvious every year that taking an active role in one’s writing career via promotion and visibility might be a make or break proposition. Not news, I know, just an idea I never wanted to face. In fact, the thought makes me cringe. But the old publishing paradigms are vanishing. The path to having a novel “published” might be traditional (with paper books, ebooks, advances, promo), or ebook only (tiny, or no advances, limited promo), via self-publishing, or some hybrid plan. According to this somewhat depressing article by Publishing Trends, 5 Predictions For Trade Publishing in 2016, traditional publishing might be battening down the hatches even tighter, relying even more heavily on established authors, even bringing back old, popular characters for another go-round. Which means fewer slots for unproven authors.

I’m not ready to concede to going this alone, but there’s a limit to how reclusive I can be in this day and age. Those who can’t stomach the stage lights will linger in the dark, right? Yes, that’s right. Get over it, E.

But self-talk and stats are vastly different things. I can cheerlead myself into believing I need to get “out there,” but seeing a stat like, “The busiest day of your blogging year was 15 views”…UGH! How embarrassing is that?

So here’s hoping humiliation is enough to kick me into gear, especially because I’m going to have some fun news to report in the next few months. That’ll have to do it, because there’s no way I’m clicking that button to let WordPress make my miserable stats public. Hell no! I’m not that much of a masochist.

To you, my precious few—thus all the more prized—readers, I wish a Happy, Healthy, and Fulfilling 2016!


Connecting. Unequivocally

Reading on steps

Photo by Garry Knight. Creative Commons license 2.0

I have a few happy memories of my childhood that involve my mom.

I never gave it much thought. I didn’t know I was supposed to have more. I knew only one way of how mothers and daughters worked. I didn’t know our way was not the norm.

Until one spring day a few years ago I had a meltdown.  Something pretty insignificant happened and I lost it. Started crying and couldn’t stop. I got in the car and I drove and drove through a heavy rain, sobbing loud and ugly, until I couldn’t breathe or see. I don’t cry, so this scared me, but it siphoned off…something. Temporarily.

Then it happened again a month later. I didn’t know I’d still been dragging my entrails through the dirt until my body said, “Enough!” I sought help…and got it.

So why am I scrawling this personal revelation on my blog? It’s because of a novel. By some accident (or not) of fate, I recently happened upon a 2007 book, Dirty by Megan Hart.** I recognized the main character Elle’s plight right away, and her mother, too. Reading Elle’s story made me tense with discomfort, made my own psychology bubble to the surface. Made me sick and worried. Not for me, but for Elle. I kept turning the pages to see if she’d be okay, and when Elle’s brother said she should see someone because “…Talking about it helps. Puts things in perspective. Proves I’m not crazy…” the truth of it stole my breath. I wanted to reach through the little electronic pad I read on and shake Elle, say “Listen to your brother! He knows!”

I was on edge about every decision Elle made, the sorts of so-called choices we daughters of difficult mothers make to establish a modicum of control over our own lives. I was completely, unequivocally engaged with her.

Some people say “write for yourself.” Not me. I  write in quest of a bond, a connection. Yes, for entertainment, too, but even then, the be-all, end-all is the emotional tie, creating deeper feelings, four dimensional reading experiences. Total immersion.

Books have so much power. As a reader, I want to be submerged. As a writer, I want to be your only source of oxygen.

I’ve read thousands of books, and still I’m surprised—and giddy—when it happens to me so thoroughly.


**Dirty is an erotic romance, not necessarily for every reader.



One of the Ten (or so) Commandments of blogging. I broke it. Sort of. I was still blogging on occasion, but over at Bad Menagerie, the awesome space I share with a few of my wildly talented and creative critique partners.

And then life happened. My father passed away, my father-in-law passed away and my eldest son graduated from college, all in a 6 month span. Those events are all on that “Life Stresses” list, and boy lemme tell you, they belong there. I kept writing, but not with the same vim.

The sad truth was I’d fallen out of love with Cate and Gabriel. There was something wrong with them. Or, it wasn’t them, it was me. Half way through major revisions, I threw up my hands. I was tired of using a crowbar on the plot, tired of Cate and Gabriel living in my head. It became pretty clear there was some super-sekrit sekrit about the revision process, and I didn’t know what it was. So I kicked it off a cliff set them aside.

But the longer it sat, the less interested in it I grew, which was a bit worrisome. I’ve invested years in that book. It had been betaed and worked, and betaed and worked again.

So I did something that would hold my feet to the fire, something I’d never done: I signed up for a local conference and prepared to pitch my novel to agents. Naturally, that meant I had to have my novel ready. So what did I do? I wrote a draft of a different (short) novel. I wrote flash stories and short stories and non-stories from prompts. And then I wrote a novelette. (What is a novelette anyway? We didn’t have novelettes when I was in school. There was novel, novella and short story. But I digress…) I wrote a 20K story. I called it my long-short, and it turned out not-bad. I even subbed it. I got my writing juices flowing freely again.

But still no desperate passion for the novel I was scheduled to pitch, and time was running out. I decided to hold my nose and peek at what happened while it sat stewing for those months. Not much, outwardly,  but it aged better than I’d anticipated. I laughed when I read parts of chapter 1, things looked better than I’d remembered. I kinda liked it again. So I got back to work, whipped things into shape, wrote a decent pitch and synopsis, and pitched the thing. And to my shock, other people seemed to like it, too.

The theme of this blog is kicking myself out of my lane. Take chances. Get uncomfortable. I did that by going to the conference, but also by stepping away from the book I’d been immersed in for so long. I found out something a lot of writers know, but until you’re faced with it, it’s hard to believe: sometimes things have to cook in their own juices for a long time. Which isn’t to say that “stewing” novels don’t turn rancid, or wind up big mold-covered lumps. That happens all too often. But sometimes things just need to be left alone to let the flavors blend. Sometimes all they need is a poke and a stir.

We’ll see if it’s tasty in the end or not, but either way, I’m back in my lane, a fine place to be for now.

Brow-raising, lip twitching and fingernail biting. Yeah.

Embed from Getty Images

My characters’ eyebrows are very mobile. They raise, lower, arc, meet. One goes up, the other down. It’s an issue, one my CPs and beta readers take glee in excoriating me over.

I can’t help it! In real life I’m always paying attention to non-verbal communication, but there are only so many ways to describe non-verbal cues in a novel. I fully I admit it gets old, all the eyebrow raising, lip twitching and finger fiddling.

When it comes to “face-to-face” interaction, there is so much to be gained by paying close attention to non-verbal communication. I watched an episode of Vikings with my son not long ago, and there was a scene that was almost silent. There were a few words (none terribly memorable), but the non-verbal communication between the characters, and more importantly, toward the audience, was crystal clear. At least it was to me.

My son didn’t infer nearly as much as I did, which illustrates the dangers of depending on non-verbal cues. 1) Someone has to actually pay attention to non-verbal language, and then 2) they have to interpret it exactly how the writer/director/actor meant it. Which can be tricky.

Take, for example, a tense interview on a news magazine. The subject is sitting there unable to make solid eye contact with the interviewer. AHA! I say. Look at that liar! But what looks to me like nervous lying may be something else entirely. Maybe the subject’s eyes are darting about because the interviewer’s got something large and unsightly hanging around her nostril, and if the subject doesn’t look away, he knows he’ll only stare at that ONE spot. How would I, the viewer know? The answer, of course, is I can’t. I’m making assumptions, sometimes judgements.  The interpretation of non-verbal communication will always, always be subject to interpreter bias.

As a writer, this is important to keep in mind. Obviously, novel-writing (graphic novels excepted) is not a visual medium, but I, for one, do want readers to “see” my stories play out in their minds. With nothing for the eyes to interpret, though, non-verbal cues in writing have an added layer of obfuscation. Beyond interpreter bias, we are dependent on the reader to imagine what the writer describes.

Some cues lend themselves to visualizing better than others, which is why they tend to be the overused ones. Eyebrows go up, eyebrows go down. It’s relatively universal that when brows are lowered, it’s a negative. Scorn or anger, perhaps puzzlement. I’ve yet to see or read of lowered brows indicating joy or happiness. But let’s say I write, “His brows lowered, and the corner of his lip seemed to have developed a tic.” Is the character mad? Disgusted? About to start crying? It could be any of those things, and of course, context matters. But  sometimes the more you, the author, say, the less clear it gets.

The use of non-verbal communication in writing is very much tied to the “show, don’t tell” mantra. It’s also a word burner. A writer friend and I were conversing online and I sent an emoticon. This one: >;-| She called it “winky disdain,” which I thought was brilliant. Two words to describe it perfectly. But if I were to use this facial expression in my story, I’d probably blather on trying to be more specific: “…one eye squinted under lowered brows, her lips pressed flat…” TEN words. Here is the danger. I prefer the ten-word description, to maximize my chances that you, the reader, will see it the same way I do. In fact, if I use so many words, you damn well better see it the same way I do. Otherwise I’ve wasted 8 precious words. But I can’t guarantee it, can I? I could have used “winky disdain” and left it up to your interpretation, and many, many skillful writers do exactly this.

I’m a “visual” reader, so when I write, I do a lot of trying to manage what the reader “sees.” Thus my [over-]dependence on eyebrows. For now, my CPs and betas will have to keep admonishing me while I search for the happy medium, one that involves just the right balance of word-burning imagery and verbal efficiency.

“One of these days I hope I’ll figure it out,” she said, her lip wobbling.

Now Appearing on a 2nd Blog


Embed from Getty Images
Things have been a little sparse around here lately. It’s because, in the spirit of knocking myself out of my lane, I’m participating in a group blog with some of my writer friends. I encourage you to pop over to for a look-see. We’re a barnyard full of diverse opinions and perspectives, which makes for an interesting collection of posts to scroll through. (And we have a published author over there, so it’s for realz!)

I’m trying to get the hang of doing both, still figuring what should go where—I have a new post coming here tomorrow—but I hope you’ll stick with me while I work my way out of the slow lane. Look! I even have one hand off the wheel. 😀



Waiting For Stories


bikeI have this stark visual image of a character.

I’ve been seeing her for 5 years now. She rides a bicycle, a blue one, with wide chrome fenders, rusty on the edges, and upright handlebars. There’s a wicker basket strapped to the front and it hangs kind of crooked. Her name is Claudia and she’s wearing a fluttery white skirt with orange poppies on it. I always wonder how it doesn’t get caught in the chain or spokes. Everyone waves at her as she glides into the market square, and she waves back and jokes with the vendors by name.

The problem is, I have no idea what to do with her. I’ve been waiting all this time for her to tell me her story. I do know some things about her. That she’s ill, that she’s going to heal someone. I know her teeth are a little crooked and that all the old men of the neighborhood cafe admire her vitality, wish they were young enough to ask her to the cinema.

I’ve tried to introduce some people more intimately into her existence, but nothing’s worked out. I can’t make her stop being a loner. So I sit here waiting for the right person to show up, the one who will get her talking.

Frustrating, because as often as I’ve tried to leave her behind, she won’t go away. Almost every day, she sails through my mind and into the market square, waving, calling “Ciao, Umberto!” to the baker.

If she didn’t want me to tell her story, why did she come along?