books, writing

A New Chapter

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I signed the contract.

My book, “Sara When She Chooses,” will be published.

The process begins and I’m a sponge eager to absorb every step, because this! this! is what I’ve been hoping, dreaming, working toward.

It’s a strange sensation; a combination panic and anticipation. I really want to work. My literary energy is foaming and fomenting. At the same time, I want the luxury of staring at each step and memorizing it, wallowing in it. I’ve had years of rejections and have learned to appreciate them as sometimes inspirational, sometimes instructional, but mostly as proof to myself that I don’t give up. I’m proud of my incessant head-banging on publishers’ doors.

One of the most important lessons I learned was that sometimes the work is rejected because it’s not done. Revisit. Revise. Don’t be afraid to cut and abandon. You created this thing. It lives inside you. Nothing you do to it on paper will destroy the source from which it came.

You’ve got more in you.

In my own journey, I’ve been asked to submit a brief bio and photo…(visions arise of the nod to the writer contained on the back flap of most dust covers, or the last page of most paperbacks).

I’ve been asked to think about what I’d like to see in the way of cover art. This engendered an internet foray, shamelessly pirating images to try and convey my ideas to the publisher’s illustrator.

I realize I’m about words, but not pictures.

Then came the marketing questionnaire. A weighty list of queries delving into hitherto unexplored areas. What bookstores and radio and TV stations are in my locale? What questions would a reading group enjoy exploring in relation to my book? How would I describe my work to someone interested in buying it?

I realize I’m about words, but not salesmanship.

I begin to realize how much I need the expertise embodied in the publishers, Bedazzled Ink and its subsidiaries.

For a moment, my brain…shifts. This is real.

My life is in the hands of my publishers and then, if all goes well, in the minds of my readers.

It’s a feeling unlike any other. I won’t be the same person at the end of this process. I’m kind of scared.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Just bitchin'

The Nature of Expansion

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“Your problems are so big compared to mine.”

Not really.

The thing about problems is their intense individuality.

There is no large.

There is no small.

The thing about problems is their ability to expand, to reach into every corner of your life.

Your intellect tells you that losing a loved one is so much more devastating than losing a job. But the heart engages on a different level. Both misfortunes expand, consume, fill. The sufferer’s life is colored; time divided into a Before and an After.

Lost loved one.

Lost job.

Lost pet.

Lost reputation.

Lost limb.

Lost opportunity.

Lost love.

Illness.

Pain.

Misunderstanding.

Unfulfilled desire.

There is no large and there is no small.

There is full, and there is free.

Use this knowledge of volume for compassion.

And for hope.

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Just bitchin'

Weaving Ugly Cloth

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It’s all coming together.

The disparate threads are entwining, interlocking, forming a pattern.

The first thread grew out of the internet.

Social media had the potential to unite; to form global communities. It could bond, and reach out, and relieve loneliness, and provide information, and ease troubled souls. But, as sure as human nature, the flip side raised its head: trolls. The veil of anonymity and distance enabled anyone and everyone who felt a dark impulse or a sudden spike of anger or hate to express themselves with consequence-free impunity. So easy to lash out and then ignore your victims. So easy to turn off your device with the smug knowledge that you ‘got away with it.’

The second thread came from reality TV.

In order to pull in viewers, behavior that would never have been tolerated previously was encouraged. When it didn’t materialize fast enough, it was engineered. Situations were fostered that would push participants’ buttons. Bullies and boors were granted pop-culture stardom. Fame and wealth were doled out in exchange for abusive behavior. The loud, the stupid, the obnoxious garnered more attention, more rewards, than the quiet, the thoughtful, the kind.

The trolls from thread #1 watched the activities of thread #2. They were lured by the accolades. They felt empowered. A culture of rudeness and cruelty for entertainment’s sake asked…no…DEMANDED…that extremes be exhibited, loudly and often. But, poor trolls, most of them had no outlet that would showcase their newfound aggression, until…

…the third thread, it could be argued, was a matter of time, circumstance, and culture intersecting.

The United States Presidential election.

A segment of the population watched in horror as the troll culture emerged into full visibility. Ugliness was condoned, substantiated, lauded, applauded.

News media reports that, no matter who wins, this troll-fest will have presaged the least popular President in history.

It’s unsettling how many Americans look traumatized, shocked…are shaking their heads and asking ‘How did this happen? How did we get here?’

It’s as if a puppet master holding the strings of a nation has gone mad. Yet the puppet master remains hidden. All any of us average citizens know is that next week the threads come together, and the highest office in our country will be draped in bunting of ugly cloth, the weaving of which we don’t understand.

It will look like the shroud a troll should wear…

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Image: ‘Trolls’ by Brian Froud

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books, writing

Oh, Simile, Dear Simile…

blogsimile1Consider the simile.

The simile can be a thing of beauty. It can strike a respondent chord in its audience, both illuminating and inspiring. Used to effect, the simile is like a grace note, adding a touch of richness and life to the overall musical score.

I’m a big fan of the simile, so it cuts me to the quick when I find it wantonly abused. This doesn’t happen often, because most writers have an innate simile-sense. They can test and taste and savor and know when they’ve hit the proper target; when the chemistry is compatible; when the simile zings and flies.

But some writers feel obligated to overreach the simile’s simple purpose. They imagine themselves dazzling the reader with hitherto unperceived comparisons that melt away boundaries and elevate communication to a newer, higher art.

More power to them, because, usually, they fail. They become so entranced with their own words and labored imagery that they force the simile into place with all the finesse of a jackhammer. Such was the case in a book I only today finished reading. The author was working in a decidedly Gothic arena, but was flitting between two disparate timelines. It was ambitious; not totally successful, but palatable. Or would have been except for her slavish inability to write more than a few sentences without feeling the need to bolster her efforts with a simile.

An awful, inappropriate, misguided simile.

For instance: “Momma [was] buried beneath the soil like a broken butter dish.”

Eh? Am I the only one who hasn’t embraced the practice of consigning ruined crockery to the ground? Who takes a broken plate or bent fork out to the back yard and digs it a grave?

Strike one.

And then, at the apex of a particularly emotional scene wherein the heroine realizes her family secret: “…the disparate parts are coming together like bits of a space station locking soundlessly in airless black…”

What the…? Remember, this is a tale written in a very Gothic atmosphere. The space-age imagery was so jarring, it became comedic for me. Instead of aligning myself with the heroine and participating in her turmoil, I was laughing at the writer’s strained effort.

Strike two.

And finally: “…the past dropped over her like a lobster pot…”

That did it. My chuckle became a guffaw. I suppose I could have googled ‘lobster pot’ and tried to discern where this simile was meant to take me, but by then…

…Strike three.

I considered the book a lost cause.

In retrospect, it reminded me of Brechtian theatre where actors suddenly address the audience, make eye contact and explain, the purpose being to snap everyone out of being passive observers and jolt them into a different level of thought and participation. But this wasn’t live theatre. It was a book; a book rife with similes that grasped and labored and went off-track with tedious, and then comic regularity.

So, please, let’s all try to respect the simile. Don’t force it. It’s a marvelous tool that should strike a respondent chord…not one’s funny bone. At least, not in most instances.

And now, I move onward…like a dog scooting its rear across a newly waxed floor…

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animals, Just bitchin', poem, writing

Ebony

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She follows me,

a slinking, silent presence filled with expectation.

Her coat is dusty.

She’s been rolling in dead leaves,

rubbing her skin against pavement and stems.

She itches;

a pleasure that will turn to torment with age.

A black ghost, a shadow.

I offer food, water, play, affection.

Green-flame eyes bore into mine.

Stupid human not to understand.

They are everywhere.

She is near the end of her life

and her world is thick with spirits

I can’t see.

Yet.

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Just bitchin', writing

#ThomasGibson and The Insidious Art of Attraction

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Never been a fangirl.

Made it through pre-pubescence and adolescence and entered adulthood without papering my bedroom walls or my locker at school with depictions of male (or female) pulchritude. Never stood in line for hours to gather with adoring masses bent on ogling an idol on stage or screen.

Never swooned. Never sighed. Never stalked.

Felt kind of superior because of it. Wore my immunity like a smug, intellectual haz-mat suit. The rest of you can waste your time mooning after people you’ll never meet or really know. As for me? I’ll forge ahead with ‘real’ life…

But then…

Gibson.

Not a tsunami. Not a thunderclap.

Rather, an insidious invasion.

Innocent channel surfing. Hmmm…nice voice…easy on the eyes, too…this guy’s fun to watch. I put the remote down, unaware of the treacherous terrain I’ve entered. Like Little Red Riding Hood, flitting from butterfly to butterfly, I am drawn, episode by episode, along a path the destination of which I would never have chosen.

I begin to pay attention to more than physical attributes. The multifaceted character, a dark and stoic FBI agent, lures me in.

But I’m not a fangirl.

It’s just an intriguing depiction by a talented actor. It’s subtle with twists and turns that begin to fascinate. More. Want more.

So, being a writer, I frown when a television show’s plots don’t reveal enough or go far enough. In the back of my mind, as I’m otherwise engaged, idle musings begin to form. Next thing I know, I’m writing my own tales of Hotchner. I discover a place that wants them. Fanfic. With trepidation, I enter.

But I’m not a fangirl.

It’s just fun to have a place to write where editors and publishers aren’t staring down your neck, picking at every word. It’s freedom from having to compromise and capitulate. I can write my heart out without censor. And that’s where the devious, dark Hotchner makes his sly entre into my literary soul.

But I’m not a fangirl.

Fast-forward.

Three years later, this fictional character has become my guilty, secretive hobby. Someone who sits on my shoulder and whispers scenes and dialogue; who opens himself up to endless, psychological investigation. Someone with whom I now look forward to spending time.

And then, he’s gone.

With guillotine swiftness and scalpel-keen incisions, he’s gone.

I am bereft, blinking in the sudden glare of reality when I wanted to continue, feeding off of the tragic shadows that surrounded the Hotchner. The tremor that quakes through my peripheral, little world starts small, then spreads. I sit at my keyboard with nothing to say. The blood has drained from my writer’s brain. Somehow, some-when, Gibson’s portrayal snagged me and infiltrated my carefully cool psyche; his departure not only crippling my hobby, but my capacity to write at all.

I realize I’m in mourning. I realize…

Oh, crap. I’m a fangirl.

Worse…I’m a fangirl grieving for a character I didn’t know had taken control of a sub-level of my mind.

Damn you, Gibson, you magnificent bastard…how the hell did you manage that?

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