Skip to content

Write what you know…that you hate

February 23, 2017

As I type this on my phone, I find myself sitting in a hairdresser waiting area, listening to horrible country music (#doubletalk), surrounded by cliche hyper-religious wooden signs. I hate it all. Why am I here?

I’m here because my girlfriend likes how my hair looks when I get it cut here. I’m willing to endure all manner of unpleasantness fur that one little opinion. I’m sure I could get a good a haircut somewhere else, somewhere less excruciatingly quaint, but I’m here.

Mostly I’m reminding myself that people endure negative things, often many, for a single positive. The negative sensations make for compelling description and can really define a character.

That’s all.


November 3, 2016

I had a good first day of NaNoWriMo. I went to a write-in, met some people, almost made my word count for the day before leaving, typed more when I got home and inched over the daily goal. Not the best start, but solid.

Day two? Much less successful.

I’ve been having trouble with a tooth. I went to the dentist to deal with said tooth. The dentist told me she would “get me out of pain”. Apparently her strategy was to make me realize the pain I was experiencing was nothing compared to what it could have been. During her (alleged) attempt to numb my tooth, I experienced the most severe agony I have ever felt in my entire life. I was Westly in the Pit of Despair the first time Count Rugen hooked him to the machine.


Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s hard to write while doped up on pain meds. That was last night and this morning. I switched to ibuprofen this afternoon so I could operate things like motor vehicles, cutlery, and kitchen appliances. Fortunately the ibuprofen is holding and I got a little bedtime writing in, though I’m still short of my day two goal, let alone day three. But it’s progress and the weekend cometh…including a bonus hour. I’ll get back on track as long as my face doesn’t explode again.

NaNoWriMo, Almost Time-O

October 29, 2016

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant-200It’s that time again, for large doses of caffeine and larger doses of keyboard time. Time for typist’s cramp and plot-related breakdowns. Time to push excuses aside to make room for all the words to come pouring out. Time for National Novel Writing Month!

I’ve done NaNoWriMo a few times, with varying degrees of commitment. This year’s participation was a last minute decision, but I’ve been looking for an excuse to get my write on for quite a while. Excuse accepted. (Not that the excuse to write should not be confused with the excuses not to write that were pushed aside in the opening paragraph.)

Here are the top 5 reasons I’m excited about NaNoWriMo 2016:

#5 –  It’s Nice to Have a Goal

It’s way too easy to just let things slide. Oh, I’ll write tomorrow…next week…next month…once midterms are over…in the summer…once we’ve moved…after the apocalypse. Well, a goal is stronger than excuses. Or it is if I let it be. Tough as it can be to reach my daily writing goal, the goal also gives me a place to stop writing for the day and feel accomplished. “This” is the bar for writing success for the day, week, month. That’s something I can work with.

#4 – New Support Structure

November marks one year that my girlfriend and I have been together. (One year. That status of “girlfriend”could probably use an upgrade soon. But I digress.) She is artistic and caring and fun and beautiful, and I’m eager to add “supportive of my writing” to the list of adjectives. She’s gung-ho about my NaNo participation this year and very much wants to see me writing again. Without dredging into the past, I’ll say I’ve never had genuine household support when I had writing goals. I can’t wait to see what it’s like. Living with a writer isn’t always easy, but I have faith in this one.

#3 – New City, New Writers to Meet

borotnLast year’s job change has me in a new city and I really don’t know many people here, especially writers. NaNo meet-ups and write-ins mean I get to change that. Maybe I’ll make new friends; maybe I’ll be inspired by their commitment; maybe I’ll want to finish just out of a spirit of competitiveness. Regardless, some good will come out of this new social discovery.

0609162128d-1-2#2 – It’s Time to Get This Story Written

I think I’ve blogged before about the middle grades novel that my daughter and dog inspired. It hasn’t gotten written yet. I have a couple false starts, but nothing serviceable. Yet the idea has been burning in my brain for too long to let it go unwritten. The time has come. And 50k is a pretty solid word count for a middle grades novel, so this could be the real thing.

#1 – Time to Write Again

If you’ve visited this blog in the past few years, you know that I haven’t done much writing. Ultimately it was the 2012 NaNo that marks my last significant keyboard time. Blame it on what you want (job, parenting, life changes, etc.), I’m not okay with not being a writer. So whatever gets me back into the habit is a good thing.

Check back here for updates on my NaNoWriMo endeavor. Brief updates, mind you, since blogging time isn’t noveling time.

Am I allowed to talk about Luke Cage?

October 5, 2016

marvels-luke-cageBinge complete. I just finished watching Luke Cage on Netflix. Much like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, it was very well done. I’m not sure I should talk about it much further. I will, because I often do things I shouldn’t do, but I’m probably asking for trouble. Yes, that is largely due to the color of the stuff that keeps my internal organs internal.

By the way, there may be some small spoilers here. I’ll do my best to avoid it, but no promises.

I have seen a fair amount of online criticism about Luke Cage being too black. Not the character specifically, but the cast and plot as a whole. I’ve seen even more criticism of this criticism. I’m not here to criticize but to consider why Netflix/Marvel made that choice and why I agree with it.

lukecage_sdcc_2Let’s acknowledge that the cast is mostly black. (I can say that, right?) Not all, but mostly. I’m pretty sure Detective Scarfe and Shades are the only white guys with major roles. (Maybe that one politician, and the racist corrections officer, and the doctor…but it’s not about keeping score.) So what? We’ll skip over the argument that many shows would be hard pressed to find two major characters cast by minorities because it’s been done to death and really isn’t relevant.

_51047076_harlem_pop_464graThis is a show set in Harlem. Yes, Harlem. Are there only black people in Harlem? Of course not. However keeping Harlem black is one of Mariah Dillard’s driving motivations. Is that racist? Part of the point of the show is to make us ask that question. Us being all of us, not one race or another. Wanting to preserve art and culture aren’t racist. Wanting to see your neighborhood thrive without driving out the lower income families that live there sounds like a great goal. Wanting to exclude people of other races sounds kinda racist. But the goal and motivation turn out beside the point when you look at the methods being used by Mariah and her cousin Cottonmouth to accomplish that goal. It isn’t the motivation that makes the bad guy, it’s the actions.

I felt that the show went out of its way to paint Harlem from a lot of angles. Yes, there is crime. Yes, there is culture. Yes, gentrification is occurring. Yes, there is a strong resistance to that by the locals. This is what makes Harlem a compelling setting. There is a lot of conflict and stress and hope and despair inherent in the neighborhood itself. Harlem is a character in the show, probably the most complex character in the cast. A setting that contributes to the story, even drives the story, is a huge asset to storytelling. And that setting is viewed the most intimately through the eyes of the people most connected to it.

I’ll admit, I had a few problems with the storytelling. The ethnicity of the cast wasn’t on the list. Why didn’t they ever mention the bar that Luke was working at in Jessica Jones; you know, the one that blew up? (Maybe I missed that reference.) How did Luke and Claire apparently make a round trip from New York to Georgia in a car in a day? harlemsavannahWhy didn’t Luke’s childhood boxing training come up in the prison scenes like they did at the end? (I don’t think that qualifies as a spoiler, does it?)

There were also elements of the storytelling that impressed me, particularly because they didn’t pull the punches (much) on race-sensitive issues. The suggestion that “all the black fathers are gone” was pretty hard-hitting, even if that stereotype (like most stereotypes) isn’t accurate. The relations between the black community and the police was perhaps downgraded (especially considering the current climate) but not ignored.

So why are people complaining about it? Because Luke Cage was different in a way that made people uncomfortable. I confess, I felt a little uncomfortable at times watching the show. Not in an offended way, but in an outsider-looking-in kind of way. I felt like I was seeing into a world I wasn’t meant to see. (That feeling lessened the further into the show I got, when the hero/villain plot took over the story.) Being an outsider is uncomfortable, but also eye-opening. And somehow the show managed to give me that feeling without completely alienating me. I don’t need to have the same skin color as a character to empathize with them. I was able to feel for Luke and Misty and Pop, even at times Cottonmouth and Mariah. That’s good storytelling, anyway you slice it.

It’s about time

September 15, 2016

It’s been quite a while since I submitted anything. I think I tossed one into the abyss a great many months ago. Well, today I sent out two, plus one micro story based on a photo prompt. Will anything come of these endeavors? More than I was getting leaving them in the drawer…

Yog’s Law…it has nothing to do with picnic baskets

July 27, 2016

YogiI’m always up for a picnic basket and Berra has some of the most iconic quotes ever, but I’m not writing about Yogi; this is about Yog’s Law as posed by  James D. MacDonald. It simply states that “Money flows toward the writer.”

Let me back up a bit. I was checking out a local writing group’s Facebook page and followed a link to an article about lessons to be learned from one writer’s first novel sale. One of the lessons was to hire an editor before you submit your manuscript to agents and/or publishers. My Yog alarm started wailing.

For the record, this is not exactly the issue Yog’s Law warns against. Hiring an editor is a choice made by a writer using money the writer controls. In fact, hiring an editor is definitely advisable if you plan to self-publish your book (as noted by John Scalzi in his Corollary to Yog’s Law). But the alarm still sounded and I consider the advice dangerous.

YogsLawIf you’ve been here before, you probably know that I don’t write for a living, but I do write. I do know how to write. I am pretty good at it, but I definitely make mistakes and almost everything I tap out on a keyboard could use some improvement. I could use an editor. That said, I’d like to be published by someone that has editors on staff to do that job. If I can’t get that kind of contract, then I’ll consider hiring my own editor and going the self-pub route. But to suggest that I need to hire an editor before I submit to agents? I don’t see that necessity.

A moment of clarification. The article (okay, I should probably link to it) stated that the writer spent $700 on developmental editor and $2300 on a line editor before getting agent representation. I’m sure this improved the work in question. But was it necessary? And my bigger concern, how much was the advance on this first novel?

I do not mean to knock the role of freelance editors. They are surely honest, hard-working individuals who are good at what they do. The editors I know certainly are. However, the suggestion that a writer needs to spend $3000 before they can expect to gain representation and/or sell a novel is pretty dangerous. Compared to a $50,000 MFA (as the article compares it to), yes, 3 grand is a bargain. If your manuscript really needs it, an editor can probably help. Probably.

Let’s face it, if an agent rejects your manuscript because it has three typos in the first hundred pages, you don’t want that agent. Three typos on the first page? That’s a different issue. As for publishers, they have editors to handle that kind of thing. This paragraph would work better a page earlier, that description is confusing, there’s a better word to use there… You don’t have to have a perfect manuscript to get it published. You do need a good one.

Ask publishers (the term should be editors, but that gets confused with the freelance editors) these three questions. (1) Ask if they’ve rejected manuscripts over issues that a freelance editor could have fixed. They have. Every one of them. (2) Then ask them if they’ve accepted manuscripts that could have used a pass by a freelance editor. They probably have. (3) Have they accepted a manuscript because it was well edited? That one is a lot less likely to get any support. Novels are published because they have unique voice or compelling plot or interesting characters or great research or riveting suspense or popular appeal inherent in the story.


The phrase “you have to spend money to make money” appears in the article. This is an entrepreneur’s adage, not a writer’s. If you’re publishing the book yourself, then yes, you need to spend to make. Otherwise it’s the publisher that needs to spend to make. If you’re paying for the leg work upfront, what do you need them for?

All that will mean more after I have my own first novel anecdote. I’ll be sure to link back here and follow up once I do.

Agents of Shield

July 14, 2016

I’ve been catching up on season 3 of Agents of Shield. Gotta love Netflix. It’s been a while since I’ve watched this particular show. Season 2 was a bit of a rocky one for me. Skye’s family drama was way to drawn our for my taste. I’m enjoying season more, though I’m only a third of the way through.

It occurred to me watching it that the dialog, while not always smoothly delivered (I enjoy the show, but the acting isn’t stellar), I feel like it’s well paced most of the time. It makes me want to write since it reminds me of how dialog feels on paper. I can practically see the dialog tags and beats as the show progresses.

I’m not suggesting the show is brilliantly written, but is competently written, particularly the dialog, at least when it isn’t being used to force plot. It’s a happy reminder of how dangerous forcing things can be to the integrity of the work. It’s also a reminder that there is a balance to maintain between the art of the words and the needs of the story. 

Maybe it’s just good for me to be thinking about this kind of thing at random again. It’s been a while. 

Time to sit in front of a keyboard for a while.