Sunday, May 13, 2012


There are a few rules in blog writing. First of all, one should always be positive. People don't like hearing negativity. Unfortunately, I didn't get that memo until recently, so a few of my previous posts *coughs, "Twilight!"* didn't really fit that bill.

Also, one isn't supposed to talk about oneself. I've been a little better about avoiding the "I" word.

Today, I'm going to talk about yesterday. My yesterday. It's dangerous. Also because yesterday was a rather negative experience. So that's me and negativity. If you want to run screaming, do it now.

Criticism is a much needed tool in striving for betterment. We've discussed that critique groups and giving your work to reliable sources can make you see things that you couldn't on your own. We know that a necessary part of revision is hearing that your work is imperfect.

Yesterday, my first 250 pages were critiqued by an agent. Pretty awesome stuff, actually. I'm eternally grateful for the criticism, as well as the suggestions. I don't want to make it sound like this was a negative experience, because it was not. These precious words could be the difference between another agent passing over my work and choosing it. This could be the turning point!

But it also humbled me, and yes, it hurt a little. I don't know if you other writers have trouble keeping both feet on the ground, but sometimes I think I'm awesome. My weekly critique group helps me with that, of course. But lately, I've been bringing stuff that's worked for the group. So I haven't gotten my bittersweet injection of, "Yeah... you have some work to do".

I've discussed the personality of the writer many times. It changes from person to person, of course. But I think the very nature inherent to our species sometimes has trouble not putting walls up, especially when we've been hit. These humbling moments need to be treated as humbling moments, not personal attacks. Our tender little egos need to take non-praise like medicine. Doesn't taste good going down, but cures what ails you.

A loss in battle could become a victory in war. 
For me, yesterday was hard. A lot of things happened that made me feel inadequate in life. Not just in writing, mind you, but in my personal life as well. I think that the beautiful criticism I received was only difficult at this point because of all the other stuff going on. That can happen. Normally, we'd be resilient and logical. But when everything is crumbling like crazy, it's hard to stay focused and remember that we require the criticism more than the praise. You feel like a victim. This is when people start to give up. The crucial moment that divides the serious writers from the dreamers.

When I awoke this morning, I wanted to put all kinds of walls up. I wanted to retire to my corner and huddle in a ball. I wanted to bury myself  in my yards of hair, extending a claw-like hand if anybody came near.

There's no point to this behavior, of course. Okay, I've been hit. Somebody ran by and clipped me below the knees. It happens, sometimes in every wake of life. Career, love, bills, friendship, dreams... we just can't catch a blasted break. That was me yesterday. Despite a much needed gathering around a hookah, I had that weighing feeling of about half a dozen things that were bringing me down. Things I was failing at. Various avenues life was using to reject me.

But now is the time to recognize our shortcomings, analyze why we've been rejected (even if it's for the thousandth time and you're about ready to plunk down with a bottle of whiskey and tell everyone to expletive the expletive), and see these low moments as stepping stones wrought with failure that shall only lead to success.

That feeling of raw vulnerability is a hard one. Throwing yourself out on the line is never easy, and we aspiring writers have to do it all of the time.

I feel your pain, as I'm sure you feel mine. If life's a war, then some battles will be lost. We'll come limping back to the tents bleeding and bruised, maybe even with a few broken bones and exhaustion that makes it nearly impossible to run back out there and join the crossfire.

But that's exactly how successes become successes. Wrap that arm, make a tourniquet, stop the bleeding, and get your butt back out on the battlefield.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I like to think of writing as an extension of my childhood games by myself. I would come up with the craziest ideas using plastic horses, Barbie dolls, dinosaurs, and action figures. Whole, complex plots would unravel while my sister and I sat cross-legged on the carpet. Romantic affairs between Barbie and Godzilla. The unfolding of the evil action figure empire on the bed, with a purple-suited Dracula in charge. The pretentious world of the horses, who peered down at the world from their perch on the bookshelves.

Imagination. Pure, unedited imagination. If I succeed at this career, it'll be a lot of work. But it'll also be perpetual playtime. Me cross-legged on the carpet with a t-rex in one hand and a winged unicorn in the other.

Long live imagination.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Sometimes, it's hard not to self-sabotage. It can come in many forms. You might be involved in a critique group, and on the day of the meeting, you fail to print out your pages because you're low on toner or have a paper jam. You might feel a little sick, or the weather isn't nice. In your heart of hearts, you know that you're avoiding the group because you don't want to go. Each meeting gets you that much closer to a polished gem. Closer to the end.

It's also possible that when query time starts, you might sabotage yourself in half a dozen ways. You may not review your work thoroughly enough and overlook several typos or grammatical errors that may have otherwise not made it to the final cut. You might wait until you don't have internet service and then convince yourself that it isn't your fault you didn't meet your own deadline because you simply don't have internet. Or, you might busy yourself in some other way so that you "forget" to send it off.

Fear causes self-sabotage. We're afraid of success.

You might find yourself self-sabotaging without even knowing it. Here is a list of excuses people use when the lurking problem is really fear and nothing more.

1. My computer isn't working.

2. This stupid Microsoft Word thingy isn't letting me format correctly.

3. Well spell-check didn't get that one.

4. I've been so tired and rundown lately. I just don't have the energy to write.

5. My kids!

6. My spouse!

7. My job!

8. I don't know if the world is ready for my work yet.

9. I have nobody to revise or edit it.

10. I'm just too distracted right now. I'll wait until I can focus better.

You might find that these can also apply to weight loss goals, dating, and finding a new job. People come up with these excuses when they shirk from the possibility of a huge life change. When it's a dream, it's nice and safe. You're another individual with a dream. That's quite ordinary and comfortable.

But the minute you jump from one cliff to another, there's a fleeting moment when you're in midair, suspended in a vast sea of nothingness with no net below. You'll come up with any excuse you can create to try and avoid ending up in that void. And yet, it's necessary to your success to hang there so you can land on that other cliff and continue your wonderful journey to success.

Publication! Let the word roll off your tongue.

Get thee behind me, self-sabotage. There's no stopping me now!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Steampunk Generation

One of the reasons Steampunk is getting so hot is because Generation Y is in to the past. "That's so vintage." A lot of this is due to Gen Y being termed the "Peter Pan" generation, meaning that they take longer to grow up. They're closer to their parents and more appreciative of older generations, which is exactly opposite of Gen Xers who never needed their parents and were better off without them. Often times, a Y kid will enjoy the same music, movies and cultural interests as their parents. With this comes an attitude of respect toward older things.

I see this in my own lockshop.

We have a Baby Boomer supervising locksmith who was in the Vietnam War and believes in using his hands to do the trade. He likes things completed manually. He, in fact, has an inherent mistrust of technologies that make the work automatic.

We also have a Gen X locksmith who wants technology everywhere. He grows impatient with the Boomer. "Just stick it in the automatic duplicator," he always says. The Boomer just shakes his head and mumbles about the importance of learning skill.

I'm the Y in the shop. I tend to look at my Boomer boss with awe, although I also can't wait to update the lockshop's ancient technology. I'm somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, who duke it out at nearly every turn.

The growing Steampunk phenom is due to a lot of this culture in Generation Y, I think. The Millennial kids are the digital experts, sure. But they're also fascinated with the days of old. Steampunk, which is a sexy marriage between future and past, is going to explode.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Reader.

The reader is the client. This may seem like a no-brainer for a writer, but sometimes I get the feeling that writers in general have ulterior motives. We all want to be successful, sure. I think it's common for the author world to fantasize about book signings with lines of people out the door, standing behind a podium at a writing conference with dozens of eyes fixed unblinkingly, and the sweet weight of a real book with our name inscribed in our hands.

It's a good thing to envision success.

However, with any successful job, the consumer should be at the forefront of the mind. It isn't necessarily about the ego of the deliverer as much as it is about the appetite of the recipient. In writing YA Steampunk, I try to keep my audience in mind. Who are they, these people? Who goes to Barnes & Noble and peruses the fantasy aisle in search of Steampunk? Or do they seek Steampunk out at all? Is it the cover or the title that entrances the roving eyes of a reader? In the fantasy world, it's important to consider the fan. The trekkie, the Star Wars guru, the comic book store guy, the basement dweller, the Mac enthusiast, the PC devotee, the gamer, the Anime freak, the D&D overlord, etc, etc. The reason people read fantasy is to get away from this world. This is why, when Hollywood makes the ambitious decision to make a movie based on a book, the fans are going to come after them with torches if they don't make it the way people pictured in their minds. It's more than just a "stupid book". It becomes a whole other world that people make their own.

This is why the writer's job can't be taken lightly. This is also why character development is so important. If our desires and motives start to dominate those that are natural to our character, then the fans WILL notice. You'll get that one guy who raises his hand. "Excuse me. Yes. Um, why would Captain Bartholomew Vortex make plans to travel to the Cropton Nebulae when he has a pathological fear of Gortangus Squid, which are common to that particular region of the galaxy?"

If the author stammers out, "Well I uh...needed him to go there to move the plot along..."

Then we clearly have a problem.

This character is so important to the reader. Writers are readers too, so we know this. It's the same with any business trying to reach out to the consumer. The grocery stores have to sell things they want to buy and they're supposed to sell the freshest stuff to make us happy. Restaurants serve with a smile even on their worst days. Custodians clean up after us, keeping our sanitation, health and well being in mind. Chefs cook things that taste good. Politicians rule and delegate with the best interests of the public at heart. (Ha. Ha. Haaaa.)

The writer's task is to create a world into which any person can dive when they need release from this one, ESPECIALLY fantasy and ESPECIALLY YA. Do we all remember how hard it is to be a teenager? Angst, hormones, awkwardness, budding puppy love, enslavement in the establishment and the rents' house, and so full of dreams that they spill out. Of course, one of the most rewarding audiences is YA, who are so hungry for hope, stimulation and intellectual inspiration that it hurts. The reader is also sensitive to patronization, uninterested in inflated moral platforms and eager to read about sexual tension. They want strong characters with clear objectives, and they're crazy about good versus evil and overcoming "the man". A rebellious, rule-breaking hero is right up their alley, I've noticed. And I remember being that age! I think we all could if we thought about it.

Hail to the reader. Without you, the writer would be nothing.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hey baby. What's your exploded chakra?

In character-driven fiction, it’s important to know the characters inside and out.

My sister takes a voice and movement class for her acting degree, and she’s been learning about the ancient study of “chakras”.

The chakra comes from Hindu texts originally, but has been studied in many eastern cultures.

These are “force centers”, or spinning discs of energy within the physical body. If someone has an “imploded” chakra, the energy is withdrawn from that chakra. There’s a disconnect there. This could result in a change of posture, behavior or affect interaction with others. An imploded chakra could come from a traumatic experience (If someone has a deficiency in chakra 2 where sexual pleasure is located, it’s possible that the individual may have undergone abuse in childhood.) In the case of an “exploded” chakra, there’s an excess of energy. If someone has an exploded 1st chakra at the root, that could mean that he or she speaks with forceful conviction and enters rooms with great assurance.

So how does this affect character development?

Does your character have exploded and imploded chakras? Is your character earthen, with a strong 1st root chakra, with a tough attitude and a forceful presence? Perhaps he or she has a strong 7th chakra at the crown, and feels connected to the heavens above. Or, perhaps this person is weak at the 5th throat chakra and has trouble voicing his or her opinions. I think it would be a worthy practice to diagram a character based on this ancient study of movement and soul. I think it would affect the way the character walks into the room, the way he or she speaks and the way he or she deals with problems.

I can’t wait to map out my characters in this fashion.

More on this later. Perhaps a blog about some famous characters and how their chakras may have been.

Happy writing.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


It's important to think positively in any wake of life. As the following link explains, it's crucial in our relationships with people and in the way we affect the people around us.

Negativity is like a contagious disease. It festers and spreads to those we contaminate. As a cynic who speaks fluent sarcasm, I'm one of the biggest offenders I know. I also have a bad temper problem, so it can be poisonous.

But honestly, it's important to talk with a smile and think with a smile too. It's especially important in writing, because this can be a discouraging field with little to no validation. We write because we love it, because we have a vision, because we can't stop...not necessarily to feel better in terms of feeling awesome. There are a lot of brick walls. There is a strength that exists within, and it comes from KNOWING that it's going to work out.

When your fingers fly over the keyboard, make sure you've got a smile on that dream of yours. Smiles toward success.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oh, Twilight.

All of the hipsters love to make memes about Twilight. I just wonder if anybody really appreciates the true problem with it. I think the modern generations have grown bored with long gazes and insistent lip-biting. They've finally understood that they don't need to rely on their feeble infatuations to give their bleak, misunderstood lives meaning.

Oh wait, no they haven't. They're still helplessly obsessed with it and perfectly reasonable women are falling all over themselves to be a part of the Vampire magic. I had a conversation with a 23 year old married WASP about this. She's an intelligent girl. When I made a passing disparaging remark about the whole shebang, she looked at me in surprise.

"Bella's in love with Edward though."

"So? That doesn't mean her entire character has to revolve around his involvement in the plot. She's a two-dimensional character with no substance whatsoever."

"But she's in love with Edward."

Then she blinked at me. It suddenly made me realize the same thing I realize every time I'm in a room full of people, make a negative comment about Bon Jovi and get reamed because there's always AT LEAST one Bon Jovi fan in any room at any given time. It reminds us cynical "hipster" types that the processed alternative mediocrity really does sell.

But I digress.
The problem with Twilight is Bella Swan. The love story itself is whatever. There are a jillion like it. Two people who shouldn't be in love are. It's dangerous and risky. One really wants to eat the other one. It's riddled with problems and tragedy. Congratulations, you have 75% of all marriages in the world. Throw in a Vampire and a werewolf and you have 75% of European marriages. (I really don't even know what that means?) What's up, Beauty and the Beast?

The main character's a two-dimensional character. I tried to remember what she was like in the few chapters we had her before Edward glittered into her life. Honestly, all that comes to mind is a pale-skinned Arizonian girl with divorced parents. That describes one of my friends and she's a hell of a lot more interesting than Swan. But WHY is she more interesting than Swan?
Take Hermione Granger. Why was Hermione voted one of the strongest characters in fiction ever? Hermione is strong in the real sense, of course. She saves everybody's ASS on a chapterly basis. Ron and Harry wouldn't have been able to get past the first problem in the first book without her help. But she's also strong in a literary way. She has interests, desires, ideals, causes and objectives that exist OUTSIDE of her relationship with Ron Weasley. She loves Ron, sure. But the real objective is far more important. She has to fight evil.

"But Twilight is a romance. That's its thing."

No, man. No. Romance can have interesting characters. Romance writers often have the toughest job of all. They have to sell you a relationship. They also have to sell you the characters. A really good romance has a couple of awesome characters in it that are well-rounded and clear. Ever read "English Patient"? Take a gander at Kip and Hana. That's a romance.
Bella Swan is a two-dimensional character created as kiddie crack to adolescent girls so they could see themselves in the role of a vampire's lover. That's all she is.

It's the difference between something nutritious and something that's garbage. A blueberry is a work of art, created to nourish us and prevent us from dying. A Big Mac is created to pleasure our unsophisticated tastebuds. It has no nutritional value and actually aids in perpetuating the indulgent instant gratification that has become an integral part of America's mentality.

Sounds like Twilight. Bella Swan isn't good for us. She teaches us that it's all right to rely on an infatuation, become wrapped up in lust and dive headfirst into an indulgent, romantic relationship with no desire to seek the depth in life. Not to stand shoulder to shoulder and fight the world together, but to gaze into each other's eyes and lose focus of everthing else around us. She teaches us not to fight, but to lay dormant until we're given our drug of choice, in her case a Vampire. That's problematic.

Worst of all? She's a bad character. The writing of her character is poor. Meyer will probably sell more books than I ever will. She's a successful, published authoress, and I'm a locksmith with a dream. I get that. I appreciate and respect it. I'm Steampunk, so I admire the ability to ensnare millions of teenage girls with an old-timey, old-fashioned guy with poetic diction and a lust for the girl next door. I'm totally going to capitalize on that. My issue though, is with our ingenue. She's a co-dependent character. If you compare her to any other female literary figure you can come up with off the top of your head, it's pretty staggering how she fades into the background. All we know or care about with her is her relationship with Cullen.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I've been on a mission since the onslaught of 2012, and it hasn't been easy. It's affected all wakes of my life and though I haven't been completely successful, I believe I'm on the right track.


The "Truffle Shuffle"
It started with diet and exercise and trust me, as an inner fat kid who loves on-the-go processed delights, it's definitely been hard. I'm not there yet, but I'm closer and healthier. The key to accomplishing it is planning and routine. It's really hard to eat well when you don't bring your lunch, have a dinner plan or eat a healthy breakfast before you leave the house. Spur of the moment stuff is what makes you get Egg McMuffins, Taco Bell, and vending machine stuff. Preparation and planning is key. Knowing your stuff is key too. Wandering aimlessly down the grocery aisles snatching at boxes that preach health is fruitless. (Haha, get it? Fruitless?) You have to know what you're doing ahead of time or you'll be distracted by labels, cleverly manipulative advertisements and processed garbage that dresses in nutritional sheep's clothing.

So the tie-in to writing now. My witty segue.

Same thing. Routine and preparation. Knowing and having an objective when you sit down at the computer or even start your week. I've struggled with the blog because I've been treating it as I used to treat snacking or eating in general. "Whatevah. I do what I waaaaant."

Well blogging is a job. A task. A successful blogger posts at the same time every week, plus additional times if there is some good, interesting information that needs to be said. The blogs I subscribe to are consistent, relay useful information and aren't focused on the blogger herself. This takes preparation, as it's sometimes difficult to come up with topics that are prevalent. You can't just plop down behind the computer and come up with something at the drop of a hat. It takes maturity.

Writing in general is the same way. Routine is important. Even in the uninspired times, forcing oneself to write a little bit a day and giving oneself a goal is essential in making this a career. It takes the proper environment, the proper discipline and the proper mindset.

You have to take it seriously.

I'm a black belt in kung fu, and when I'm training the most successfully, it's always when I'm working out on a regular basis, in a serious state of mind and ready to sacrifice my happy-go-lucky time in order to accomplish my next degree.

Focus is key, in other words. It's key in good eating habits, exercise routines, networking, working (writing in our case), and success in general.

Many people think, "I must have A now! NOW!"

A can't happen now. A can only happen with a lot of work and dedication. Falling in love at first sight is merely a spur-of-the-moment compatibility between visual attractions. Falling in love for life is the result of years and years of work, suffering, sacrifice, effort and camaraderie. And focus!

I'm not saying that spontaneity is the devil. Spontaneity can be fun, productive and interesting. I'm merely saying that it's most effective to make these goals an integral part of your lifestyle.

Cheers to good health and happy writing!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Query me softly.

When something feels right, it's right.
I've begun the serious query process. I started out by reading Miss Snarks' First Victim (excellent writing blog, by the way. Like seriously, if you haven't gone, go. But why you'd be reading mine and not hers...I'm not sure.), and found a list of agents that may just go for the Steampunky goodness I've put forth.
Thankfully, I have my writing mentor Bonnie Hearn Hill and my two fantastically talented relatives to help me out through this shenanigan. (Kara and Stacy Lucas.)
Rejection is only part of the phases, of course. I fully expect to be rejected into an oblivion. This isn't really being negative or pessimistic as much as it is being realistic and preparing oneself for the inevitable. When considering all of the THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of submissions
publishers and agents get A DAY... it's amazing we're not rejected more.
I know the authoress of THE HELP, Kathryn Stockett, was rejected so many times that she started lying about what she was doing. She'd go to hotel rooms to re-write and query because she got so embarrassed of her "unjustified" persistence with the whole process.
Unjustified indeed.
It is persistence that sets the successes from the failures. We have been over this time and time again.
As I embark on this potentially painful, but hopefully (and reasonably) brief process, I am prepared to take my wounds, display my scars and come out waving my flag around on the other end. Hell yeah. Let's DO THIS!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Silent Tantrum

Sometimes, it's damned hard to get going.
You roll over and push snooze dozens and dozens of times, unwilling to face the 4:30 AM fog that hangs around your neighborhood. The dog's still asleep, so why not? He has no concept of time anyway, so another day without an early morning walk won't kill him. Once you do get going, even picking out suitable attire is a freaking chore. "Nudist colony," you think to yourself. "I'll have to look into that." Then there's the morning ritual. All that fun, tedious stuff. Then breakfast. Then driving. Oh, man, driving. That sucks. The only thing that could possibly make driving to work fun is the right soundtrack, which depends on the emotion. Skrillex for anger. Hindi pop for happiness. Radiohead for melancholy. Regina Spektor if you're in love. For our blog, I'm thinking "Kill Everyone" by Skrillex is in order. "I want to eat your heart." Then of course, you spend eight long hours drilling away at a hole that might get bigger, but nobody's going to really notice, because the hole isn't important anyway. (Sometimes, work makes me feel like this is all that I do.) Then home. Perhaps grocery shopping, exercising, walking dogs (because you screwed them over in the morning.), laundry, dinner, watching your shows and FINALLY...


So writing, which is the one thing that absorbs most of your passion, your brain and your talent gets the crap slot in the day. The exhausted, feeble, distracted part where you can barely keep your freaking eyes open. Yeah, that's when you choose to really get down and dirty with your career choice. The world gets the best of you. The energetic part. The part fueled by green tea and multi-vitamins. The fresh you that comes dancing out of the car twirling around like a Bollywood actress. (I mean, if you start your day happy. Otherwise, if you've listened to Skrillex, you're going to load your shotgun and swerve into the parking lot with a cigar clenched between your teeth.) Either way, good or bad, writing sits patiently on the backburner again.

Perhaps this is why I feel anti-social and hermit-like much of the time. It's because I don't feel I have any time at all to give to my craft. When you tell people you're going to be a published author someday, they get that raised eyebrow look that annoys the crap out of you because they don't understand how serious you are. And yet, you have to give this person, whoever he or she might be, one of the brightest hours of your day because you have to make some damned money.

So the silent tantrum, as I like to call it, is thrown into action. The brooding, dark author shows up and starts to dig him or herself a little cave, throwing claws out into the light if anybody comes close. They don't understand you, nor do they appreciate the severity of your passion. Someday, you'll show them, by jove. Someday soon, hopefully. Someday, after these agents will pick your slush out of their overstuffed emails and succeed in getting you that much coveted publication deal.
Oh, sweet someday.

Until then, the only thing to do is try your damndest to give everything you have (and then some) to this finicky occupation. What choice have you? I've often thought that writers are all insane (myself included) and I think it's large in part because you have to be a special kind of cat to enjoy dwelling in your own cranium that damned much. To make a story out of the voices in your head. Man, it's beautiful stuff.

But the silent tantrum can get us through our days.
At any rate, some advice. Don't give your career the crap slot, like I often do because I'm a procrastinating hack. Give it the best you there is, if possible. If you're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning, then write a bit before work. If noon is you at your shiniest, then write on the lunch hour. If you're a late afternoon creative genius, then get it going afterward. There's no excuse for giving writing, your glorious talent, the worse appointment just because it doesn't complain as much as the other obligations. Screw em. They're expendable!

There's no need for the silent tantrum, where you're grumpy with the world because it won't let you create. You can kick and scream about a lot of things, but don't make writing one of them.