Currently working on: A free-read short story from the Marked Souls
Mood: Murderous (in the storyworld, not real life!)
It’s one of those sayings that frustrated writers lob at each other like a water balloon full of lemon juice and razor blades.
But sometimes it isn’t always that easy. (Kind of like that metaphor.)
Writers try to write.
Writers at least sit at their computers.
Writers at least sit at their computers with their fingers on the keyboard.
Okay, writers at least blog.
The hardest part of writing, for me, is focus. When I write, distractions are like… like the ants that are currently marching around my office window in search of… I really can’t tell. Hold on while I go look…
Apparently the ants want Monster Girl’s mostly-chewed cow thigh bone. This bone has been in my office for nigh onto two years now, along with enough other pieces of cow to reanimate most of a bovine, given enough electricity and mad cackling. Although if I count correctly, this particular cow would have five legs. Whatever. (I do remove the bones when we have houseguests, because nobody likes to sleep on an inflatable twin mattress in an abattoir.) Why the ants would want this bone now… Probably they are distracting me from something else they really want. Like my bucket of cookie dough.
Speaking of distractions, see how easy it was to get distracted from this post on the hardest part of writing?
(In case you were curious, the ants are odorous house ants. (Tapinoma sessile. Subfamily: Dolichodorinae. I Googled it just for you.) They earned this name from the scent of rotton coconuts they emit when crushed by a wildly wielded cow thigh bone. Or, obviously, any other blunt object. This infestation does not indicate that I’m a failure at housekeeping (although I am). All of Portland is built on a giant anthill.)
Aside from the ants, one of my most common distractions is, not surprisingly, books. I have a lot of books around me. A lot of good books. It’s a hazard of the job. A lot of good books within arm’s reach. Which is a hazard of a small office.
Why, look, this good book just fell into my hand. It’s a signed copy of the first book in Ava Gray’s Skin series, SKIN GAME. The second book, SKIN TIGHT, came out this month, and you do NOT want to be left behind.
SKIN GAME starts like this:
Kyra held the guy’s balls in the palm of her hand. Literally.
Just for a second as she brushed by him, but it was enough. His eyes widened, and she knew he took the touch as a sign he’d get lucky after he won her last hundred bucks. The crumpled bill lay underneath his, weighted by a cube of pool chalk.
Poor, stupid mark.
See, THAT is why I was distracted. Leave a comment about what distracts you most often and you’ll have a chance to win the signed copy of SKIN GAME.
Now what was I… Right, distractions.
I first learned about writing in flow (a focused — emphasis is mine –timeless state where creativity comes “easily”) from reading Susan K. Perry’s WRITING IN FLOW. Perry writes a creativity blog for Psychology Today online. I sometimes go read that when I’m feeling distracted.
The book reads like a fairy tale to me, a tale of princesses whose words fall from their fingertips like rose petals and diamonds. I even love the word “flow,” the way it sounds and the way it looks. Flow… Flooowww.
I’m easily distracted.
Back to the ants. These are actually scout ants. So they do a lot of backtracking and wandering in circles and… Seem familiar? Yeah, to me too. Can’t quite place it though…
You know who would like my ants? Mark Moffett, called the Indiana Jones of entomology by the National Geographic Society. Who wouldn’t want Indy to come steal all the ants in her office? I heard Moffett interviewed on NPR (he’s pimping a new book ADVENTURES AMONG ANTS) and his ants are way cooler (also meaner, bigger and did I mention meaner) than my ants, and also more focused. They can skeletonize large dead things, like cows, which would no doubt impress Monster Girl.
Sadly, I don’t have a signed copy of Moffett’s ant book to give away, but remember to leave a comment for SKIN GAME.
So anyway, it’s not that I’m always distracted, it’s just that
Currently working on: Last week of revisions
Mood: Vaguely National Lampoon-esque
Love is blissful. Love is beautiful. Love is butterflies and bluebells.
And oh boy is that boring.
I write about blissful, beautiful, true-blue love… but not until the very last pages. Because love — once it has reached the ever-after stage — is, well, not very compelling. Sure, it’s great to be committed in real life. But in the portrayal of love, the struggle, the learning of lessons, the discovery of strengths, the freshness, the denial, and the compromise is where the fun lies, I think.
Which is why my favorite commercials with romance tend to be less about the end-stage “He got me a big fat diamond — cue French horns and tears” and more about the silly or sweet or sarcastic sides of love.
I like this one for capturing that perfect moment of “love at first sight” along with a few of the really awkward moments that inevitably follow:
This commercial is using love to sell electronics. I’ve seen commercials use love to sell cat food, toothpaste, gum, and cars. What do you think; is there ANY product that can’t be sold with love?
Currently working on: Unearthing the revised Book 3 from the rotting corpse of Book 3 — phoenix, arise!
It’s Valentine’s week. If you haven’t signed up for the Silk And Shadows newsletter (look to the left side of the page) today’s the day. Our next newsletter goes out soon and there are Valentine’s giveaways to be won.
And speaking of Valentine’s… Will I be drummed out of the romance lovers’ league if I say aloud that I think Valentine’s Day is a crock? In college, some women in my dorm donned black armbands on Valentine’s Day, and I wore one in solidarity. One of my roommates (who, yes, had a boyfriend with whom she had a lovely relationship judging from the late-night noises coming from the bunk across the very tiny room) accused me of being bitter and jealous nerd. I said, Duh.
But it seems to me that many of the traditions of Valentine’s don’t feel like any romance I’d want to have. Roses wither in a disturbingly short period of time. The milk chocolate bon-bons pushed on us are a poor, cheap substitute for the real deal. At least there’re sparkly diamonds… Except now we’re told diamonds are just the blood-soaked refuse of terrible Third World conflict.
What’s a girl to do?
Besides read a romance novel, I mean.
What I learned from romance novels that Valentine’s Day got wrong:
1. Love is not a one-day affair. Indeed not. Love is at least a week-long affair with a Sicilian billionaire. Or maybe an eternity with a vampire prince. But definitely not a mere 24 hours in February.
2. Love means having to say… lots.
Words are the measure of the man. Backed up with action, of course. Lots and lots of hot action. But I want more words than fit on 5×7 cardstock even if it has a glittered butterfly and embossed heart. Somewhere between 200-400 pages of words should just about do it.
3. Love is sacrifice. This one Valentine’s Day got right. According to the story, Valentine was a saint who martyred himself for lovers. Romance novels are all about the sacrifice the lovers make to be together. They give up their loneliness, their distrust, their prejudices, even though sometimes giving up their lives would’ve felt easier. And at the end, they don’t always get flowers and chocolate and sparkly jewelry, the love is a given.
Do you have a Valentine’s tradition that you adore? Feel free to create one. We write our own stories here.
Currently working on: Digging out from under the holidays
Mood: Eager for daylight
I have a friend who’s experienced more than her fair share of life’s hard knocks. (I’m not sure how much a fair share would be, exactly, but I’m pretty sure she got hosed.) One of her favorite sayings is “The universe gives you the chance to make the same mistake over and over. Until you don’t.”
Oh, I could look at it as tough love, I suppose, one of those “learning moments.” But sometimes it’s hard to tell what the lesson is. So at the end of every year, I like to look back, give the universe a long, hard stare, and try to figure out what it was thinking (and what it was trying to make me think about) while it stares back at me.
Because I dabble in the Tarot, I like to use my cards to give some narrative to the year that has passed. I have a deck based on Greek mythology, because those were some of my favorite stories when I was a kid. I draw a three-card spread, which is often used in understanding influences at play before taking any particular path, which seems to me useful in looking back at paths chosen.
So what exactly was the universe trying to teach me? Did I get it? Can I move on from this lesson to the next?
I pulled Temperance, The Chariot and the Knight of Swords:
Temperance (Iris, goddess of the rainbow): Iris was a kind and merciful goddess who represents the fluid adjustment of feeling and emotion with the ultimate goal of harmony. She was also a message bearer of the gods.
The Chariot (Ares, god of war): With his two horses pulling in opposite directions, Ares represents aggressive instincts guided by the will of consciousness, and suggests conflict and struggle can result in a stronger personality when faced with strength and containment.
Knight of Swords (the Warrior Twins, Castor and Polydeuces, one mortal and one divine): An augury of sudden change and mercurial energy which breaks apart the ordinary patterns of life, often with callous disregard for common sense or kindness.
Oh, I love it when my cards tell me what I already know. It was a crazy year for me. (Duh.) I saw my dream of publication come true when I finally got to hold a printed copy of SEDUCED BY SHADOWS. At the same time, I suffered through the flailing death throes of my day job. (Luckily I’m good at imagining the living dead, so I’ve managed to keep my job lumbering along — minus some body parts — in a gruesome caricature of employment.) I’ve stretched my personal boundaries from painfully introverted bookworm to painfully social bookworm-becoming-butterfly. I started — and failed at — a weight-lifting regimen. (Yeah, yeah, I actually started it again tonight; stupid New Years resolutions.)
Clearly, it’s been a year of more uproar than balance, which is obvious if you weigh the three warrior boys and their three wild horses against the pretty Iris. Still, I think I did a reasonable job of adjusting on the fly and keeping my feet under me. So I’ll keep the reminder of steady Iris going forward (kindness, mercy, balance) since I bet when I pull my full Celtic Cross spread for the new year, I think I’ll be seeing more of those conflict cards.
Besides, in the pitcher she carried, Iris also held the waters that filled storm clouds. She could dump a bucket of cold water on those hot-headed boys at any time — if she decided to stop playing nice. That’s a good reminder too.
How about you? Did you come away with a lesson from 2009 you’d like to share? If you want a three-card draw from my Greek mythology deck, just ask and we’ll see what the cards have to say to you.
Currently working on: Redesigning website
This week’s topic here at Silk And Shadows is about “the best romantic scene in a book or movie.” But I’m unable to compose a sensible response because I’m in love.
Shhh, shh. Don’t look at him. He’ll know we’re talking about him. Tee-hee-hee. Yes, that him! My hero! And he’s so strong, and handsome, and dreamy, and well-dressed. And he has my name on him! What’s not to love?
That’s the funny thing about those romance scenes. They don’t have much to do with reality. Which isn’t to say that romance doesn’t exist; just that it exists outside of the pesky needlings of reality, such as “So, isn’t your hero smart enough to wear a shirt in the middle of a Chicago November?”
That’s why when a new parent proudly displays her offspring with a cooed invitation to share her delight, your response can never be any of the following:
“Well, he has the requisite number of limbs.”
“At least he looks healthy.”
“Who’s the father again?” (For the new author, this translates to “Who wrote this? You did?”)
No, as the cornered audience, you can only warily reflect that the chemical soup of interally produced painkillers, muscle relaxants and mood destabilizers coursing through mama’s bloodstream turns her into something closely related to a sleep-deprived ninja, and enthuse in return, “Oh, he’s going to make all the girls cry.”
Whether your new love is 8 1/2 pounds of squalling infant or 6 1/4 feet of black leather-wrapped alpha — or the 7-inch cover slick of the aforementioned alpha — of course you know it’s not always going to be perfect, or easy, or even particularly tidy. But you want that moment of illusion, the surprise and joy. And you want everyone — no, really, everyone — to feel that same thrill.
Later (say, October 6, 2009) he’ll grow up, take off on his own, hopefully make you proud, and maybe even support you in your old age. But whatever happens, you’ll always be able to pull out the baby picture and remember the moment you first fell in love.
And because who can get enough of baby pictures, here’s the backside.