Friday, October 29, 2010

Waffles for Breakfast

Quote of the Day from Crazy Lady at the Gym: "This frosty weather is messing with our gardens - it's not natural."

I had no words. Which is saying a lot for me.

My spooky Halloween decorations look cool at sunset though, don't they?

Clearly I'm feeling quite rambly today. I'm looking at my list of potential blog topics and none look interesting. My writerliness might be getting sucked into this new story I'm working on. It's called (right now) "Sapphire" and it's an erotic contemporary romance. An editor requested to see it, so I'm getting it all finished up. It's interesting how, because it's contemporary, I seem to be getting more into the thoughts and emotions. My modern career-gal, Taylor, has far more neuroses and hang-ups than virginal Amarantha did. Of course, they both get ravished just the same. Some things transcend era.

The big question is what to write next. I'm trying this schedule of spending three months drafting a long work, setting it aside for a month to "cook," writing something short, then spending a month revising, then another short. October sees the end of this "writing a short" month. (Okay, I'm running about a week behind -have been since July. You can dock my pay.)

What this means is: time to work on the next big project. And I'm not sure what that will be. Oh yes, I have a list. I have several manuscripts in various phases from a jotted-down idea to one that's 36K complete. Allison asked me which is tugging at me and I confessed it's still The Body Gift. I haven't quite cut that umbilical cord.

Of course, if I get an offer on it, I'll almost certainly be diving back in with revisions. That's pretty much inevitable. I know that, so that might be feeding in.

At any rate, I'm contemplating going back to a nonfiction project. Part of me thinks that, since I don't have any other strong tuggings, I should pick the project that's most marketable. Then I think, who am I kidding? If I was good at picking marketable projects, I'd be Nora Roberts. KAK has a vote in for me to finish the 36K one, which I might. It's also probably the most unsellable project under the sun, so I'm waffling...

See? I warned you I'm in a rambly mood today. Say, I don't solicit comments often, but let's play Vote on the Next Manuscript!

Here's the list: (I'm keeping each description brief, so as not to unduly bias my judges.) (And, no Marcella, none of these are good loglines, I know.)

The Daughters (36K done) - Fantasy, lots of sex magic, about girls being manipulated by a cult

Writers Group story - Nonfiction, 12 intertwined stories about women in my first writers group and how they ended up

St. Johns love story - contemporary romance, a woman travels to St.Johns because she falls in love with a singer's voice

Wendy story - literary fiction. 30 yo woman living in small-town Wyoming with parents

Sorority book - Nonfiction, intertwined essays (yeah, it's my thing right now) about women from my sorority, then and and the ensuing years, what sorority life was like

Papa book - narrative nonfiction, from the divorce scandal that banished my grandparents from theater mecca to the ashes of alcoholism

Post-apocalyptic vampire story - could be expanded?

Okay! What do you all think? Feel free to say you hate something, too. All suggestions welcome!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ho-Hum to OMG

This is an old picture, taken while I was doing some field work on Pinto Creek near Globe, Arizona.

Random choice, I know.

That's kind of how life is, though; how people are. Some days a certain or image is in our minds and the next, something else. For a while I'll be madly in love with a certain band and later I'll think of them fondly, with a certain nostalgic affection. Celebrities are hot one moment and yesterday's kitty litter the next. People spend time and money trying to track and, better, create these phenomena. They can't. Our attention is riveted, then lost.

Yesterday I read a published author's blog post about a conversation with her agent. They'd been discussing what she'd write next. They went over a number of ideas and the agent said, which one are you most excited about - except this one. Of course the idea the agent eliminated from discussion is the one the author was most excited about. But the market has been tepid for her books. She's had a bad run and the publishing houses aren't picking her up like they used to. She and her agent are trying to reposition her and it's clear she's feeling down about it. Like everyone, she frequently refers to the "changing publishing industry." Things are just difficult right now, she says.

I also have a couple of friends who are querying their manuscripts and getting not much response. They're not getting requests for even partials. These are good writers with good books. But people in the industry, in the top tiers, aren't looking for that right now. They're looking for hot and hip. They want the next phenomenon.

Earlier this month, I mentioned Oprah's interview with JK Rowling. You can watch it on You Tube and it's worth the time. The best moment, I thought, was when Oprah asked JK if she had ever imagined Harry Potter would become such a phenomenon. She said no and turned the question around. It was fascinating to hear these two vastly successful women, both of whom had once been in the poorest of circumstances, discuss the amazing serendipity of their successes. Especially now that both are at the end of their particular comet-rides. Oprah is ending her talk show and Rowling has ended the Harry Potter series.

Oprah asked Rowling if she'd try to do something like it again and Rowling instantly said no. She said, in fact, that people regularly warn her that she'll never do anything that huge again. She's promised herself that she's not spending the rest of her life chasing the phenomenon, trying to top what she did with Harry Potter. Oprah said she finds herself thinking about how to do it with her new network, how to make it be the sensation like her show has been. She stops herself, too.

They both referenced a moment in an interview with one of Michael Jackson's people. How no one had expected Thriller to become such a worldwide phenomenon. And how Michael Jackson then spent the rest of his career and his life chasing it, trying to make it happen again.

He is now, of course, the great cautionary tale for all creative types.

Ambition is a necessary thing. It's what keeps us going in the face of adversity. In the face of people who just aren't sufficiently enthusiastic about your work. But it's the love of the work itself that's truly meaningful. Neil Gaiman (my hero, you know) was featured in an episode of a children's show, Arthur. It's only something like 12 minutes long. I thought I'd only watch a minute or two, since my boy did the voice. Then I got so drawn in and, yes, even a little emotional, I watched the whole thing.

It's about writing a story - a graphic novel, actually - and sticking to what you want to write, rather than what people like. (I admit I did grumpily mutter, when Neil tells the little girl that he wants a copy of her book when she gets it published, something along the lines of "easy for you to say, you're Neil Fucking Gaiman." But it was just a little spat - he still has my heart. He can be my inner Neil anytime.)

At any rate, I think those "lessons for children" are good lessons for all of us. You never know what people will like. And what made them say ho-hum yesterday might be OMG tomorrow.

I do know this: we need to love it first.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Four Reasons I Don't Do NaNoWriMo

The moon behind the clouds last night. I nearly photoshopped out all the little points of light. I suspect they're artifact - bits of reflected light - but I thought we could pretend they're stars. On a cloudy night. See? We can have it all.

I am a fiction-writer, after all.

The writer Harley May sometimes roasts author photos, for her own twisted amusement, mostly. She roasted mine today. If you care for a good laugh, check it out.

I seem to be cutting a wide swath this week. Linda Grimes' blog post today is a result of me Double-Dog Daring her. And Marcella Burnard's blog post yesterday talked about a conversation we had about setting aside writing time. Must be my karma lately.

Either that or I spend way too much time yakking to people online. No, no - that can't be it.

Apropos of that, a number of people have asked me if I'm doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month). I've blogged about this before, but I won't point you to those posts because I've been kind of cranky on the topic in the past. Because, no, I don't like NaNoWriMo.

A lot of people do. They love the feeling of community, the outside deadline to draft 50,000 words in one month. Several people got their first serious start at regularly scheduled writing through the project, so they have great associations.

I think I've mentioned plenty of times here why it doesn't work for me, but enough people have asked that I thought it's worth mentioning again. I'm not one of those organized bullet-point bloggers, but today I do have a list of my Four Reasons I Don't Do NaNoWriMo.

1. It's not about developing a regular writing schedule

NaNoWriMo is about a one-month blast of a hell of a lot of writing. With some exceptions, most writers, even those who get to write full time, don't write that much in one month. People who commit to NaNoWriMo are making a pledge to do whatever it takes to meet the goal. That can be useful, but it's important to me to fence off that regular writing time, write every day and make steady progress. If I stick to 1K/day, I can write 365,000 words in one year. I'm not meeting that goal yet, but it's what I'm shooting for.

2. Too much pressure

Because I don't yet get to write full-time, I've found that 1K/day is about all I can handle and still be worth my salary. I can do more than that for short periods of time - I can write 5-7K in one day, when under pressure - but it drains me. I don't know that I could keep that up even if I didn't work full-time. Writing 50K words in November means 1667 words/day for thirty days in a row. That kind of pressure makes me crazy and, believe me, you don't need me more crazy.

3. It doesn't match my own method

To write that many words in that short a time means fast-drafting. That's writing as fast as you can with no editing, no careful crafting. The idea is that writing fast removes barriers and frees you to simply write. There are many jokes that December and January are novel-finishing and editing months. That kind of drafting can be really great if you like to write that way, or don't know yet how you like to write. I'm not much into fast drafting. I write reasonably quickly when I'm drafting, but I do go back and edit and reshape as I go. I produce pretty clean copy when I'm done. This is the method I've developed over about 25 years. It works well for me. Sometimes if I'm blocked, I'll try the vomit/fast draft approach to get through the wall. Otherwise, I'm happy with how I work. I believe it's important to find what works for you and, like nailing down a regular writing schedule, stick with it.

4. I'm a holiday girl

Okay, I get in trouble for saying this, but I'm endlessly amused that a guy started NaNoWriMo and picked November partly because of the Thanksgiving holiday. I'm sorry guys, but I think Thanksgiving ends up being four empty days for a lot of you and a whole bunch of work for a lot of gals. I know it doesn't apply to everyone, but how many households have you been in when the men are watching football and napping on Thanksgiving and the women are cooking? I love Thanksgiving. I love cooking for it. But I spend a LOT of time preparing for it. And when I'm not doing the labor of love, I'm spending time with family. The day after Thanksgiving I get to spend shopping and having lunch with my mom and my stepsister, Hope. It's a very fun day for me that I look forward to, but it's not a day for catching up on word count. All of that is fine, because I have my regular schedule and I take holiday from it, just as I do from my day job.
So, that's my NaNoWriMo Manifesto. (heh) But all of you digging in to do it, best of luck and full steam ahead. I'll provide the pumpkin pie.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Hardest Part

This Cooper's Hawk landed on our bird feeder yesterday morning. One moment the finches, wrens, jericoes and quail were flocking about, happily pecking at seeds, the next they'd poofed and this guy appeared, as if manifesting full-blown from Zeus's forehead.

Oh yeah, they eat mainly birds. Prowling the feeders seems a titch unfair, though I suppose we're technically still feeding birds...

We've been working the last few days on setting up a new group blog, the Word-Whores. It's Allison's baby and there will be seven of us altogether, which lets each of us blog on one day a week. This is a group of gals who are all some of my favorite people. We plan to launch on January 1, 2011. 1/1/11 - nice symmetry to that.

At any rate, we'll all blog on a similar theme each week, so we wanted to come up with a year's worth of topics. We each submitted at least eight ideas and then voted on the whole list. The top 52 became our year's worth of topics.

It was really fun for me to see the results. (Hey - I like spreadsheets, okay?) Every suggested topic received at least one vote. Six topics received unanimous votes.

The one topic I really didn't like got six votes, too. I was clearly the only person who didn't like it. Marcella - whose sci fi comes out ONE WEEK FROM TODAY! - said that the one topic she didn't like made the list, too. So then we spent some time talking about those topics and how we'd address them when it came time. By the end of the conversation, I had a good idea of what I'd write for mine. And I realized I spent more time thinking about the one topic I didn't like, than all the rest put together.

There's a lesson here somewhere. The same kind of lesson as joining a book group because you'll read books you wouldn't otherwise. Working with a group of people means you entertain ideas you normally wouldn't. It forces you to turn your perspective and see the world from a slightly different angle.

And you know I always like that kind of thing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Aerro Nicole

Aerro Nicole De La Fuente, daughter of my stepdaughter, Lauren, was born yesterday.

She's actually my second grandchild, as her brother, Tobiah, turned two this summer. Their dad, Damion, has gorgeous eyes, too, so I expect both kids will be heartbreakers.

It's funny how many people don't know I have stepchildren. I look young for my age anyway, due to good genes, a long-term skin care program and a happy life. But I also acquired my stepchildren young. I was twenty-four when I met David twenty years ago. At that time Lauren was six and her brother, Mike, was eight.

So they could have been mine biologically, too, if I'd gotten started early. One of Lauren's best friends had a baby at sixteen, so she'll be on my same track.

It seemed David and I were always out of step with the other parents. Most of them were older than we were - or maybe they just seemed older. I was still in grad school. David had gone to college late and was in the early years of a new career. Neither of us had any money. We lived in a tiny apartment, with a grocery budget of $50/week, and Mike and Lauren stayed with us every other weekend, all summer and visited once a week for dinner. Our friends always forgot we needed to either bring Mike and Lauren along or find a sitter when they threw impromptu parties on kid-weekends. None of our friends had children. And the parents of the kids' friends seemed so much more fixed in life than we were.

By the time Mike and Lauren were older, that was when our friends started having kids. Many of my cohort, my high-school and college friends now have children who are around ten years old. Lauren had her first baby at twenty-four. The same age I became a stepmother, I pointed out to her. She seemed young for it, but then, so was I.

Am I young to be a grandmother? I suppose so. But I'm hearing people say 60 is the new 40, which means that 40 must be the new 20. By that measure, I acquired stepchildren when I was in grade school.

Age is a rapidly changing concept these days. People may not be living a lot longer, but they're certainly more youthful for it. Here we are, twenty years later and David is back in school, training for a second career - or perhaps third, depending on how you look at it. Mike is back in David's home town, doing the things David did in his twenties, before he went to college. Lauren has a son who is two years older than her new daughter, who was born the same weight as Lauren was.

It all cycles around. David and I are looking forward to spending time with Tobiah and Aerro (named for the snowboarder in last winter's Olympics, if you were wondering. And Nicole is Lauren's middle name) as they grow up. We have more room and more money now.

And we're still young. Doesn't get any better than that.

Welcome to the world, Aerro. We love you.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hunters Moon

Our weather has finally turned. Gone are the hot, dry baking days.

The last week has been cool. All night long the rain pounds on our flat roof, a soothing sound that makes me want to tuck deeper into the warm covers.

I thought I might not catch the rising Hunters Moon, but then it crested the cloud banks over Tonto National Forest, in all its radiant glory.

We lead fortunate lives, that we don't worry about hunting for the winter. We may fret about paying the credit card bill or defaulting on the mortgage, but we aren't watching the descending long nights with trepidation, wondering if we've put enough food by to last all the way though deep winter and spring blizzards. We don't look at our children and wonder which won't be around for the next summer.

Perhaps worry is worry and the subject doesn't matter.

It's human nature, I suppose, to take the blessings for granted and focus on what we don't have. We angst about what people might think of us, whether we can win the lottery and get that million dollars, if that agent will request a full manuscript. It's not that these concerns aren't important. If they weren't meaningful to us, they wouldn't occupy our attention.

But we're not counting on the full moon to give us a little more light to hunt by either. Instead, it's just a beautiful orb, illuminating the night.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mud and Money

There's a bru-ha-ha going on with Dorchester Press. Alas, still and yet again.

Really it's a continuation of the same sordid story. For those not in the swim of New York publishing, Dorchester is a smallish publisher, but has been well-respected. They published a lot of romance, especially a lot of paranormal stuff. I have a number of friends who've published with them and have been very happy. Two Dorchester editors, Chris Keesler and Leah Hultenschmidt are well-known on the conference circuit, well-respected in the business and well-liked by pretty much everyone.

Used to be, Dorchester was a great place for a debut author.

That's when the whole "struggling publishing industry" thing comes into play. As a smaller press, Dorchester doesn't have the reserves and diversification of the bigger NYC publishers. Rumors have been afloat for some time that they haven't been paying some authors royalties for years, though other authors say they've been paid on time. The first certifiable flag of warning was when Dorchester sold their backlist - the books that were published years ago but continue to sell - to Avon. These were their biggest name authors that they sold (the Avon folks aren't dummies) and people wondered how Dorchester could afford to give up a bread-and-butter resource like that.

Well, they couldn't. It was a desperation move.

Last summer, RWA withdrew its approval of Dorchester as a reputable publisher, because there were enough reliable reports that authors were not being paid. Then this fall, Dorchester made the astonishing announcement that they would no longer be a print publisher. The press intended to go to electronic publishing (much less overhead) and some trade paperbacks (targeted print runs for anticipated high-sellers). This included books that authors had anticipated would hit shelves a week or two later.

The company also slashed the staff, laying off Leah and leaving Chris the sole editor, with an assistant.

Many authors requested reversion of rights meaning that, since Dorchester had violated their contract that promised a mass-market print run of x copies, the author wanted the publishing rights back. Dorchester granted these rights-reversions.

Now it turns out that Dorchester is still selling those books. The story is here. What's most disconcerting to me is how little recourse an author has when someone else is selling their books. Short of a civil action, which requires money, there's little to be done until the wheels slowly turn.

There are also a lot of comments on the post, of varying levels of hysteria and reason. If you scroll down to 12:37pm, Chris Keesler adds a comment. I thought his explanation was dignified, well-reasoned and apologetic. I don't envy his position at all.

And that's my real point here.

It's easy to point fingers at the big, bad corporations. Certainly they do crappy things in favor of the bottom line, but most of us have worked for corporations. We have all lived Dilbert lives in some way or another and we know how companies like that work. It's easy for writers in particular to see editors as giant figures, flashing good-fortune lightning from their fingertips. In reality, I imagine Chris has very little power over Dorchester's financial line. Just as, though I'm a reasonably high-level associate in the company I work for, I have no power over how they bill and when they pay. Many of us, too, have been in the position of being the surviving staff member of a larger department that was slashed. We're asked to do the work of two or three people.

If we want to keep our jobs, we do it.

This doesn't mean that Dorchester isn't doing awful things to their authors. But they are also trying to stay afloat and continue as a publisher. It remains to be seen if they'll succeed.

I met Chris at RWA National last July. He accompanied one of his authors, Leanna Renee Hieber to our big party. She was up for a couple of PRISM awards for her Dorchester debut novel, which she won. As her editor, Chris was there to support her. Being an opportunist, I asked Chris to be one of the "celebrity judges" for our Steampunk costume contest. Being a genuinely lovely person, he agreed.

What struck me about him then, was his concern that, as he and the other two judges weeded the vast field of candidates down to ten finalists, then four, then into prize-winning places, that I convey how difficult their decision was and to let people down gently. I almost thought he was silly about it. It was a party, people were drinking and eating. It was only a silly costume contest.

Then I realized, he had to do that all the time, choose from a field of people and pick the "best."

Did Chris screw up by failing to take an author's name off the list? Sure he did. He says he did. I'm impressed that he commented and owned up to it.

And I'm giving thanks today that the mistakes I make at work aren't anything interesting enough to be posted on the internet for people to throw mud at.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Lights Are Much Brighter There

Two things reminded me of my maternal grandparents lately.

Which was funny, because it felt like I hadn't thought about them much in a while. Both have been gone from us for quite a while now. Papa died about thirty years ago and Grandmother followed him not quite fifteen years later.

I've written about them some - how Papa educated himself in the public library and became the youngest movie theater manager in the country. How he was even younger than they thought, because he'd lied about his age to get the usher job in the first place. Grandmother left the farm in Texas and taught herself how to be a lady in all things. The stories are full of post-depression glamor. She was his secretary and they both divorced to be together, then fled the bright lights, high-roller lifestyle and the scandal, exiled to the backwater of Denver.

I have the book all outlined, in fact, though it's been sitting in a drawer for a while now.

At any rate, someone on Twitter mentioned that she'd bought See's Candies. I know the stores are all over the malls still, but somehow her mention brought back vividly how Papa brought Grandmother a box of chocolates every week, all soft centers, no caramels. It was a courtly gesture that I puzzle over now. In their later years, relations between them were strained. I wonder now if buying the candies were a habit or an offering of perpetual repentance. There was always that white box though - unless it was a special color for a holiday - sitting on the table between their armchairs.

I can't recall now if she ever bought them for herself, after he was gone.

(Since the "gone" involved first a mistress in California and then death by drinking, perhaps not.)

Then, a day later, another friend asked if anyone knew anything about Galatoire's Milk Punch, and I realized that I did. Galatoire's is a wonderful old restaurant in New Orleans. Papa was stationed near the city during the war and Galatoire's became one of his favorites. I'd always known that. I also knew that Papa made "punch" every Sunday after mass. I even described it in an early writing exercise - the vanilla ice cream and milk frothing in a blender. He'd pour some for me, the ice cubes clinking in the tall glass, nutmeg sprinkled on top, the sparkly gold cocktail holder. Then he added the bourbon for theirs. No luck for me if I wanted seconds.

I only realized years later that not everyone's grandparents started drinking on Sunday morning.

But my friend's question made me realize where he'd learned it, in the city of languor and partying.

We live in a more ascetic time now. A box of candy every week is over the top. Spending Sunday drinking bourbon questionable.

And yet, thinking of them, seeing those old logos, makes me think of how handsome they were. For a while they were stars of their own world, a place of movie stars and theaters that looked like palaces.

I miss them all over again.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


The final dregs of a dark and dramatic sunset. Very all hallows.

I dreamed last night that Allison inherited an amusement park. Very Michael Jackson Neverlandish. I think the hidden meaning here is obvious.

This was probably stimulated our conversation yesterday when Allison asked what I was writing and I told her about this new novella and that it was fun to write. She said she remembered having fun writing. Being the sympathetic writing partner that I am, I replied "wah wah wah."

After all, she's got the amusement park. I'm still paying to ride the roller coaster.

But even an amusement park becomes work when you're the one who runs it, instead of being just a visitor. You don't get to come and go as you please. The rides have to be maintained every day. You don't get to skip a day or a week, unless you really love nasty consequences.

The query process is a funny thing because it's like an incredibly extended job hunt. You refine your resumes, send them out to all kinds of people. Hopefully some friends clue you in on opportunities, recommend you for a job. Of course, we've all heard of the person who just blanket-sends a resume to everyone in the phone book. If they like your resume, maybe you get an interview. Maybe you get six interviews, of increasing length and depth. At any point in the process, someone from HR or the marketing department might walk in the room, take one look at you and say no no no.

And you're done.

It's like being interviewed to take over as VP of Major Earnings. There's no starting out in the mail room, or as someone's assistant. No gradually building your clientele over the course of years.

Then, if you get hired, you'd better perform. Earn that corner office. Increase that profit margin.

No wonder that part isn't so fun.

But never let it be forgotten that it *is* an amusement park. We choose writing for the wild rides, for the sweetness of the cotton candy, for the sparkling lights and the carnival music.

Oh yeah, sign me up.

Monday, October 18, 2010

You Mean, My 3rd Grade Teacher Was Right??

See? Even if sunset wins out one day, there's always another opportunity for the baby quail.

They look so rumpled, compared to their sleek parents. But in time they'll work out the fuzzies and be more styling.

A question that seems to make the rounds of the genre writers loops from time to time regards how important grammar really is. Editors and agents will sometimes exhort querying writers to get their grammar, spelling, and punctuation straight before submitting a manuscript.

Yeah, I know. It seems self-evident.

But the genre writers frequently regard themselves more as storytellers than purveyors of the craft of writing. Unfortunately, this kind of attitude only adds to the sometimes deserved, sometimes not, reputation genre fiction has gained of being entertaining, but terribly written.

Sometimes the authors put it in terms of, which is more important, grammar or voice? Angela James, editor at Carina Press, Harlequin's digital imprint, answered this question on her blog a little while ago. For some reason, it's just now eliciting discussion on the email loops.

Quite indignant discussion, too.

It's as if people have finally discovered that they *were* supposed to learn all those silly grammar rules in grade school and that there is real life application for them after all. Especially if one is, erm, trying to make a professional career out of it. By throwing "voice" into the argument, an author is trying to make the bid that the creative aspect is more important.

Of course the individual creativity a writer brings to her story is important, but without a solid foundation, art is simply a heap of stuff.

You don't hear architects complaining that they shouldn't have to learn structural engineering and the laws of physics, because the creativity they bring to design is more important. Even if the architect is only designing a pretty gazebo for the park instead of an office building, people still expect it not to fall down.

Musicians like to use discordant sounds from time to time, to create a particular feeling, whether it's classical unease or a rock'n'roll wail - but the musician first must know how to play their instrument.

Painters like Picasso broke the rules. He messed with perspective, light, shadow and contrast to put a new spin on our way of seeing something. That was his art, his voice, as it were. It’s an unmistakable style. However, he spent his early years painting in a crisp, realistic way. He had to first know the rules before he could effectively break them.

People sometimes look at abstract paintings and say “my five-year old could have painted that.” A five-year old could possibly stumble upon something interesting, but only an accomplished artist can first, establish themselves in the community with the credentials of being able to paint well, and second, systematically break those rules in a way that opens our eyes.

To me, it’s key in all of these efforts is to know which rules you’re breaking and why. That makes it art and craft, not accident.

If the structure is good, then the voice shines through. Even if the voice uses a style that deliberately breaks grammar rules, that's clear to the reader.

It just takes a bit of time and work to smooth out the rumpled bits. A mature writer who applies herself to learning craft will find she'll gain an enviable sleek and smooth style.

Friday, October 15, 2010

High Functioning

I was really torn this morning, between the sunset photo and the baby quail pic.

Yeah, I know. Not a whole lot changes in my little world.

I once read that consistency in the rhythm of days is a mark of a mature civilization, and that's why each day in India is virtually indiscernible from the last. There's certainly something to be said for a smooth daily schedule, as opposed to the frantic dashing from place to place, forever trying to catch up. I've done that and it's not pretty. It does give you more "things" to mention, though.

This sunset was from Wednesday evening and the baby quail - now with tufts on their heads! - visited yesterday, so I chose prosaic chronology as my guide.

Ideally, if you slow your life down, so it becomes a pleasant cycle of sunsets and sunrises, then you can notice more about the world. I know about what time the quail are likely to come by. I see that the hummingbirds have gone, but the jerichoes have arrived. The bushtits sweep through in their delirious chorus.

There's a pleasure in being part of their larger pattern.

Schedule is something we all struggle with - usually with the goal of creating a manageable consistency. For writers, scheduling the time to write becomes a major concern, especially if you also work a day job. And if you have kids. And if you have multiple other responsibilities. Even those with the luxury of writing full-time have to manage how they apply themselves, with no timeclock to punch, no supervisor to frown over the long lunch.

I ran across this bit some time ago:

Perhaps the finest writer ever to use speed systematically, however, was W. H. Auden. He swallowed Benzedrine every morning for twenty years, from 1938 onward, balancing its effect with the barbiturate Seconal when he wanted to sleep. (He also kept a glass of vodka by the bed, to swig if he woke up during the night.) He took a pragmatic attitude toward amphetamines, regarding them as a "labor-saving device" in the "mental kitchen," with the important proviso that "these mechanisms are very crude, liable to injure the cook, and constantly breaking down."

John Lanchester, "High Style," The New Yorker, January 6, 2003

I know, right? I can't get over what his liver must have looked like by the time he died at 66 in 1973. Which isn't bad, considering how he treated "the cook" all those years. (No, mom, I don't know what he died of.)

So, I suppose this it the other extreme. This isn't the Annie Dillard, slow-down-and-observe-the-world approach. This is the fling-yourself-from-one-extreme-to-the-other method. Of course, more than a few people in the 40s through the 60s used chemistry for better living. Don Drake in Mad Men is the new poster child for this kind of thing.

We've entered a new era of teetotalling where the Mad Men style of office drinking is unthinkable. Anyone who keeps a glass of vodka by the bed to swill if they wake in the night would be labeled as having serious issues. On the other hand, we still tend to drive ourselves through a frenzy of ups and downs, sometimes with prescription medication, to try to meet all of our obligations and aspirations.

There are worse things than having a slow and quiet day from time to time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


The hot air balloon festival has been going on in Albuquerque. This photo was taken by one of my LERA (Land of Enchantment Romance Authors) chapter mates, author Sarah Storme.

I think it's a fabulous picture.

Sarah is also a scientist, who has had a long time career with the Forest Service and is just now finding success as an author.

Success is a funny thing. First of all, it means different things to different people. A lot of us spend a fair amount of time defining personal success for ourselves. We have to break it out, too. There's financial comfort, health, love, family, career and art. For some, career and art get to be the same thing. But it isn't always, and doesn't have to be.

For writers, it's easy to focus on the big icons of success: the bestseller lists, the glossy bookstore displays, the admiring reviews. One big dividing line is whether or not one is doing well enough to be a full-time writer. Even this though, can be deceptive, because whether or not a high-earning spouse is involved can make a huge difference, or other, similar factors.

It is, of course, easy to succumb to that most unpleasant of disorders: jealousy.

There's this young author I know glancingly. She's on Twitter and is a friend of friends. By young, I mean mid-twenties. She's enjoying the success of her first published novel, a young adult book that's being received very well. I would be lying if I said I don't envy her current literary fortune.

In fact, her name has made the rounds enough that a Big-Time Famous Author mentioned this gal on her blog. The Big-Time Famous Author linked to the young author's blog, mentioned her book and how she planned to read it. I should add that this Big-Time Famous Author is also one of my all-time favorites, a personal hero and I might just have every book she's ever written. I was thrilled for young author and mentioned it to her on Twitter. She hadn't known and went to look. When she came back, she sent me the message "Tee-hee."


To cut her slack, maybe that's her version of being modest. Maybe she didn't know what to say. But I came away with the impression that this was just another mention, just another accolade, tra la, tra lay, tee-hee.

I also know she's young and she doesn't yet know that these really fabulous things don't happen all that often. She's tumbled into fame and adulation early; she maybe thinks things will always be this way. Who knows? Maybe for her they will.

But most likely not. Nobody seems to get the rose-petal path. The universe is forever giving us trials along with the blessings, just to keep it interesting.

It puts me in mind of Scarlett O'Hara's character arc, and how she went from "fiddle-dee-dee" to "As God is my witness I'll never go hungry again."

It's good to work hard for something, to struggle, to shed a few tears, to sacrifice some blood and flesh. The pain makes the reward all the sweeter. That's where we grow and build character. It what makes us appreciate success all the more when we achieve it.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Feast & Famine

David and I have started fasting once a week, just for 24 hours.

No - it's not a religious thing, which is the first question another friend asked me in horror. It's a health thing.

It's interesting: we have this built-in cultural fear of going without food. The first question most people ask is if that's healthy. Between our ancestral, and very real fear, of starving and our modern cultural icons of body-image psychosis that leads to anorexia, the idea of not eating is frightening to us.

But yes, it is healthy. A 24-hour fast once a week cleanses the digestive system and stimulates the immune system. It's a good practice for warding off chronic disease, especially now that we're middle-aged. We simply stop eating after dinner on Sunday night, then drink only water until Monday evening, when we break fast with a salad of red cabbage, beets and carrots.

Yeah, it was hard the first few weeks. My blood sugar dropped. I was headachey and dizzy, having a hard time concentrating. After that, my body got a lot better at unlocking the sugar I needed from my fat stores, which is what I want it to get good at doing. My body got a lot better at keeping an even balance, rather than demanding caffeine and sugar to keep going.

The best part is how good I feel the next day. The process leaves me feeling vital and energized.

The most interesting part though, is the food fantasies.

I'll be working away and suddenly a daydream will seize me. I'll want a cupcake, more than anything in the world. Or my mouth will suddenly flood with the taste of a baked potato oozing with butter. I'll think I want food I never eat, or haven't eaten in years. Sometimes, my brain will try to trick me, but inserting a random thought that I should just pop into the kitchen and grab a cookie. It's not even being hungry so much as having little temper-tantrums of wanting.

For the first time in my life, I really understand now what emotional-eating is about.

It's become almost a cliche now. "I ate my emotions" Reese Witherspoon says in defense of her teenage fat in Four Christmases - and it's a funny line. (Yeah, I know I'm the only person who liked that movie. I laughed and laughed.) But it's a truism, that much of our eating choices are driven by emotion, not nutrition. We eat to soothe ourselves, to ease the pain of whatever hurts us, to add to the happy.

I'm not saying that's wrong either. I'm the first one to enjoy that chilled glass of wine. I'll absolutely gorge on brownies with you to salve the pain of a rejection. Is spaghetti with meatballs one of my favorite comfort foods? Oh yes, yes, yes.

But I think it's useful to know that. It's good for me to know that I'm eating my big plate of pasta because it makes me happy, not because my body needs that kind of nutrition.

The other thing fasting does is break the habit of nibbling.

Once I overrule that little pop-up window in my brain that suggest grabbing a cookie, some nuts, a handful of chips, after a while that subroutine stops running. Eating becomes a deliberate choice rather than a habit. Since I work from home, with easy access to a kitchen full of enticing food, I'm pleased to break that particular habit.

Now if I could get people on Twitter to stop sending pictures of their treats...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Pain Box

I love the intensity of the color in these begonias, though it's hard to capture. An ongoing effort to replicate what my eyes see.

In photography class, though, I learned that we can never make photographs that come close to what our eyes see, because our eyes are so much more sensitive and sophisticated. I suppose I knew that, but it's important to keep in mind.

I was talking with a writer-friend yesterday about writers groups and people who've come and gone in our lives. She mentioned a gal who'd been in her group and had quit writing when she was "thisclose" to getting an agent.

I said I think that's the most difficult time.

It reminds me of a scene in Dune, Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel. It's been a while since I read it, so forgive me if I get the details wrong. As a test, the young hero has to place his hand inside of a box. He's told he'll experience excruciating pain in his hand, but if he can withstand the pain and keep his hand in the box, he'll receive a reward he's seeking (I forget what). If however, he tries to pull his hand out, a blade will slice his hand off at the wrist.

Most people can't take the pain and give in to the desire to pull their hand out, losing it forever. Our hero, naturally, overcomes the fear that his hand is being destroyed as it feels, and emerges victorious.

It's one of those scenes that makes the reader feel good about ourselves. We like to think we'd be like the hero. We would know that our hand is okay and why would you give in and yank it out, if the certainty is losing your hand? And yet, deep down, we all know how really hard it is to persevere when fear and pain become overwhelming.

This is why the "thisclose" is so difficult.

The proximity of great reward somehow makes the pain of rejections and setbacks just that much worse. It's really difficult to stay there, with your hand in the box. At some point, losing the hand altogether, so you don't have to wait and suffer a moment more starts to look really attractive.

That's why people quit a lot of things. And yes, giving up on a dream is a lot like losing a hand. Oh, you'll live, but you'll be missing a vital piece of yourself. Something you could have used to do something special.

To all of us with our hands still in the box? Cheers and steady-on.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Low-Hanging Fruit

We went apple-picking in Tesuque yesterday.

Some friends live on a fairly large property in Tesuque canyon, filled with apple trees. They invited a bunch of us to bring containers and fill them with apples. We shared a potluck dinner. Lovely activity for a golden fall afternoon.

Except apple-picking is hard work.

Lots of bending over to pick up windfall apples, ones shaken from the trees and ones cut off by the pickers. Lots of stretching up to reach the low-hanging fruit - a phrase that has entirely new meaning for me now - and getting tangled in the snarly branches. We only picked for a couple of hours, but it left me a bit tired and sore.

If anyone had asked me how I liked apple-picking, I was ready to say, "this is why my farming grandparents were so hot for all of us to get good educations."

You guys do this, too, right? Prepare the witty remark, just in case someone asks. The only is, people rarely give you the correct set-up line and instead ask you something else completely unexpected that leaves you floundering for a response.

At any rate, I was thinking of my ancestors and how they spent their days. How apple-picking was probably a cake job for them. It kind of throws the whole writing and publishing business into a different light. There the labor is mostly mental and emotional. And yet, still strenuous for all that.

Last Friday I was chatting with Laura Bickle, whose really excellent book Sparks recently appeared here. We were talking about marketing books and publicity, what's the most effective approach to spreading the word about your book, and whether the traditional publishers are falling behind. I told Laura about this, that I'd been meaning to post here, apparently since last January:

Tim O’Reilly, the founder and C.E.O. of O’Reilly Media, which publishes about two hundred e-books per year, thinks that the old publishers’ model is fundamentally flawed. “They think their customer is the bookstore,” he says. “Publishers never built the infrastructure to respond to customers.” Without bookstores, it would take years for publishers to learn how to sell books directly to consumers. They do no market research, have little data on their customers, and have no experience in direct retailing. With the possible exception of Harlequin Romance and Penguin paperbacks, readers have no particular association with any given publisher; in books, the author is the brand name. To attract consumers, publishers would have to build a single, collaborative Web site to sell e-books, an idea that Jason Epstein, the former editorial director of Random House, pushed for years without success.

It's from this New Yorker article, if you care to read the whole thing. The article is on the long side (did I mention it was in the New Yorker?), but very interesting. What grabbed my attention in this bit is the idea that the traditional publishers think their customers are bookstores. I can see how that's the case. Bookstores, and to a lesser extent, libraries, ordered the books and made all of the purchasing and return decisions. It was up to the bookstores to connect with the actual readers.

Now, however, I can vouch that I now buy almost all of my books electronically, from Amazon or directly from the epublisher or the author. As much as I love bookstores, I rarely go into one anymore. When I do, I usually don't see what I'm looking for. I follow the recommendations of friends, book bloggers and other authors. Laura mentioned that Wal-Mart no longer will shelve books in the urban fantasy genre, which is what she writes. The big chain bookstores are failing as we see in the news.

It's a new era. Which is not a bad thing.

Things change. I imagine a lot of us come from farming backgrounds, yet very few of us spend the day laboring to pull our food from the earth. We don't need to. Why am I not going into bookstores anymore? I don't need to.

In reality, the customers for books have always been the readers. Bookstores are the middle-man, taking a piece of the profit for the service they provide. As that service declined - you know what I mean, when you could walk into a bookstore and say "I don't remember the author or the title, but it's about an autistic kid who thinks he witnesses a murder..." and the lovely bookseller could hand you exactly the thing and recommend six others - we have less need for that middle-man.

The one thing I really miss is the fun of it. I loved spending an hour or two browsing the shelves. The smell of leather armchairs and fresh print. That's the point of apple-picking, too, to spend an hour or two in the sunshine pulling fruit from the tree.

But the fastest, cheapest way for me to get an apple? Buy one from the store.

Friday, October 8, 2010


This reminds me of hot summer afternoons, lying on suburban lawns and watching the clouds drift by. These are from sunrise this morning, though, thus the pink, and I was never up that early in my teenage summers.

Things change.

Irene Goodman, described as a "leading literary agent in New York who has has many New York Times bestsellers," which means she's one of the hottest agents out there, authored an article for the September Romance Writers Report. (RWA's industry magazine.) She titled it "Common Mistakes by New Authors" and lists five mistakes. Of those, three are related to genre:

1. They don't pick a genre and stick to it.
2. They choose uncommercial subjects.
3. They choose genres that are out of style.

(The other two are about plot and conflict/tension.)

This article immediately annoyed me. I can see her points, sure, but I think the article could be better titled "How to approach your writing like a product." To me, this is something for the agents to think about, not the writers.

I could be wrong, but hear me out.

Genre is a marketing thing. It's a false line drawn to give bookstores and libraries a way to shelve books. It's intended to give readers a way to find the kind of book they love best. Music and movies are divided up the same way. And we have all had that experience, as readers or listeners, of vainly searching the shelves for a particular author or movie, only to resort to the teenage cashier with a slow computer.

"I think this movie is drama, but clearly you guys don't."

"Oh! That's in comedy, actually."

I have had this conversation any number of times. I'm sure you have, too. And who knows? Maybe the writer and director absolutely believed they'd made a comedy and I'm the odd one focusing on the drama. Or, maybe they made a drama and the marketers said, look! right there, someone laughed! and stamped the nicely selling "Comedy" label on it.

I'm seeing a lot of this from agents lately, that we as authors should know what genre our book is. They consider it fundamental. Irene says that we should pick a nice, fashionable and commercial genre and write exactly that book. This completely ignores the fact that most writers aren't writing genres, we're writing stories. Once we're done, and we're writing up our queries, we tilt our heads at it and say, "well, it's got an urban fantasy premise in a non-urban landscape with high fantasy elements and also contemporary romance... I'll call it dark fantasy."

Yeah -all you agents out there (I fantasize that you read my blog - I have a rich imagination) are clutching your heads in despair. We're sorry. We really are. But you knew we were doing this, right?

Fact is, I have two writer friends with books coming out soon, who were coached to revise their books towards one genre or another, after they had the publishing contract. I suspect this happens a lot. And really, both were fine with it. Shape it in this direction? I can do that. Plan it that way to begin with? That means you're planning a product, not spinning a story. To me, as a writer, the two come from very different places in myself.

I've been president of the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter of RWA for almost two years now and a frequent topic of debate is which genre to sandwich a story into. We're obviously a polyglot of a chapter, with writers of Science Fiction Romance, shape-shifters, time-travel, vampires, swords & sorcery, ghosts, everyday magic. Really, if someone writes anything kind of weird, they end up with us.

I absolutely understand that this is something that publishers, editors and agents have to think about. That's their business. I suspect it's an interesting aspect of the business for them. I would think they'd have to get really good at it, to succeed.

However, I think it's a mistake to exhort writers to get on board that wagon.

And let me say, right here and now, that I do believe the agent/author relationship is a partnership. You have to work together for mutual success. Maybe it's just me, but it's very difficult for me to look at my story, which is this great swirling mass in my head of faces and feelings and conflicts and desires, and slap a label on it. If someone else looks at it and says, well, with a few tweaks, it would fit nicely here, I would be grateful.

To me, that's part of what an agent brings to the relationship. You wrote it, now I'll help you sell it.

Finally, the other day I watched Oprah's interview of JK Rowling on You Tube. (It's well worth watching and broken out into segments so you don't have to commit to the whole thing at once.) At one point, Rowling talks about signing the publishing contract for the first Harry Potter and how her agent said, congratulations, but you'll never make any money writing children's books.

Of course, Rowling is now the only billionaire writer in the world.

I totally don't hold this against her agent. Harry Potter could be slotted as a children's book and they didn't make money at that time. They were uncommercial and unfashionable. But if you walk into a store today, to buy a Harry Potter book - do you head for the children's section?

Yes, I know Harry Potter was an unpredictable phenomenon. Like Twilight, like a bunch of others we could name. They broke new ground, because they were new stories. Genres lines are bent to accommodate them.

Things change.

I wonder, if those new writers had followed Ms. Goodman's advice, would they have written those books? Of course, 99% of us will never become phenomena like them, so maybe it's good advice for the working writer. And yet, I think most of us write, not to churn out a product, but because we become obsessed with a story.

Of course, we'd love to sell it, too. Have patience with us. Help us out here.

Maybe it's really a High Paranormal Fantasy?

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Yes, I know, what you've been thinking. That what this blog needs is more baby quail pictures!

Fortunately a quail family stopped by just in time yesterday afternoon to help us out. Mom and dad escorted something in the neighborhood of a dozen chicks to pick under the bird feeder. It's really impossible to count them, the way the little puffballs swirl and scatter. They really blend, too.

All gambits to increase survival for these little snack-sized portions.

The sheer number of chicks is, of course, one way that the quail ensure a few survive. Though the parents are also diligent in their care. In population biology, this is referred to as the r-factor. At one end of the spectrum is the capital R, with humans being the most extreme example. Very few young are produced, they are in a helpless state for a long time and require intensive parental investment to survive. On the other end are animals like insects, that birth thousands of offspring that are nearly mature at birth and receive no parental care at all. They're on their own.

The quail made me think of this, but the discussions on bullying have, too.

A friend I met on the first day of first grade, and who I knew through all of high school and now talk to on the interwebs, posted a letter to several of us on Facebook, thanking us for standing by her while she was bullied all those years. The thing is, I never knew she'd felt bullied. I understand from these stories that people are stepping forward to tell, that often the friends don't know, that the bullies attack when the victim is alone. And the victims of bullying rarely tell their friends or family how bad things are.

Now, I did know she was kind of a social outcast, but then, so was I. Neither of us were in with the popular girls. I had a particular pack of popular girls who liked to pick on me, but I was arrogant enough to be certain I was smarter than they were and I didn't hesitate to let them know it when they got going on me. My brand of self-defense. Also my way of protecting my self-confidence.

We don't like to think of ourselves in terms of population dynamics, but bullying really is the animal condition in action. All animals attack the weak or different. Albinos are expelled from the herd. Males that lose dominance battles become "losers." There are fascinating behavioral studies showing that, once an animal becomes a "loser" it can't win a dominance battle even against a smaller opponent. Only unless two "losers" compete against each other can one become a "winner." Interestingly, that "winner" can then go on to defeat opponents that defeated it before.

Of course, humans bring emotion and psychology into the mix. Thus the bullies are usually those who have been wounded themselves. And those they pick on aren't necessarily those whose presence weakens the herd, but those who are vulnerable to attack.

We feel like adults in those high school years, but we aren't. We're still maturing, under the care of our parents, though these are situations they can't protect us from.

I know there's not a clear answer. I like to think if I had known what my friend was going through, I would have stood up for her. Maybe it was enough that we were the friends that we were and that gave her some strength.

Sometimes I think it comes down to surviving until you're stronger. Hide from the hawks, the coyotes and bobcats until you're not quite such an enticing snack.

It does get better.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Day in the Life of a New Novel

The UPS man brought me a special present the other day, courtesy of the fabulously sweet Danielle Poiesz at Pocket Books:

An Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of Allison Pang's A Brush of Darkness!!

Yes, there was much rejoicing. And tweeting of my good fortune.

For those who don't know, an ARC is an early version of a book, the publisher makes it up to send out to reviewers and so forth. It looks very close to the final product, but has yet to go through a couple more QA passes. ARCs are like teenagers, stepping out into the world, trying things out.

It's a very exciting time.

So, I thought you might like to see what a day in the life of a new novel is like.

A nice start to the day, with toast and coffee.

Some time enjoying the fall flowers in the garden.

A cruise in the convertible is always fun on a gorgeous day.

After all that excitement, an afternoon nap. Isabel makes fine company.

Refreshed for a night on the town, happy hour with a lovely chardonnay and some taquitos. (Our novel is over 21 now - it's okay.)

Taking in the historic sights of Santa Fe.

And dinner at the Cowgirl.

Finally, a bit of sexy time and sleep.

Goodnight, sweet novel - tomorrow will be another exciting day!

(Thanks to David, my mom and Dave for assisting in Brush of Darkness's night on the town!)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Book of My Right Now

Sometimes our dramatic landscape shows itself in subtler shades. Sunday evening's storm reduced the mountains to grayscale, with all of the interesting outlines that brings. This is a piece of the ridged horizon I usually show you, my blog-gobblers, just with different perspective.

(I'm also getting better at my telephoto lens.)

When I was a kid, my mom loved to come down to Santa Fe, Phoenix and Tucson for warm-weather breaks. They were within easy striking distance of Denver and she has always loved the desert. Even then I was struck by the way the light down here makes the mountains look two-dimensional. I wrote terrible poetry in my adolescence, as adolescents are wont to do, and I seem to recall that one line went "the mountains are a cardboard cut-out, propped against the western sky." Good set-design makes you believe a flat is three-dimensional, but the real world doesn't always have depth.

I find it interesting to think about, but maybe that's just me.

Kelly Breaky likes to tease me about my interest in perspective, and I suppose she's right that it's one of my core "issues." I often say I'm a grey-area kind of gal. Very rarely am I willing to commit to the absolute yes or no on a scale.

For this reason, I have trouble with writers who talk about their "Dream Agent" or the "Book of Their Heart." Actually, I never heard the term "the Book of My Heart" until I started hanging with more of the romance community. Granted, we're more about expressions of love and passion than some other genres, but it's still an odd idea to me, that there's one book we've written that we treasure above all others. I loved Obsidian, but now I think The Body Gift is a better book. I tend to be passionately in love with whichever book I'm currently writing, in fact.

The Dream Agent hits me the same way. I don't believe there is such a person for me. I can think of quite a few agents that I think do great work, any of whom I'd be delighted to have represent me. But then, I don't believe in a One True Love, either. I think each of us probably could have wonderful lifelong relationships with any number of people. Each person and relationship is different and brings something new. Sure, we can't fall in love and treasure just any person off the street. But the pool is bigger than just one.

The romantic in us loves the idea of the Dream Agent, the Book of Our Hearts, the Happily Ever After. But the practical person in us, who lives in a three-dimensional world, knows that everything runs deeper than that. What is right now, may not be right later.

All we can do is make the best possible choices, given the information we have right now.

The best part about life and the way it always changes? Nothing is truly permanent. If other paths are meant to be, they'll show up, too.

Just wait for the light to change and show you something different.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Forget the Prince, Give Me the Beast!

I'm guest-posting today over at Cynthia Eden's blog, as part of her October Halloween blog party. Come party with with us!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Free Will and Bonfires

I waited until today to do my own tribute to Banned Books Week.

Seemed right to me, to let everyone have their say and make their plugs. Not that I don't care, but maybe because I care so much.

I'm a believer in reading. In asking questions. I believe there's nothing you can read or encounter that will taint or stain anyone beyond repair. We are elastic beings. More, we deserve the opportunity to decide for ourselves what ideas to keep and which to reject.

That's the foundation of Free Will.

I remember finding out that there were periods in human history when people were to read only the Bible and nothing else. To keep their thoughts pure. As if people aren't capable of culling the garbage for themselves. One man's garbage is another man's treasure.

You don't get to decide for me.

So, in honor of Banned Books Week, I'll take on the red-headed stepchild on the list of the Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009: Twilight.

Yeah, I know. Twilight?? The megaseller everyone seems to love to hate? But yes. The series is Number Five on the list for: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group.

I first learned about Twilight when my friend RoseMarie London sent me a note from an editor-friend in New York City. The friend said she'd spent the weekend under the spell of this new book and how could she be so in love with a completely chaste hero? Knowing I was interested in such things, RM sent me the email and said maybe I should read it.

I did. And fell in love, too.

It's easy to hurl stones at the massively successful. To find the cracks and pick fun at the giants. But I can vouch that, before it was THE THING, Twilight seduced me. Creating sexual tension where there is no actual sex is no mean feat. And if anyone thinks that being a teenager isn't just like that, well then... no one can help you.

More, I know a teenage brother and sister. The older sister is a bookworm, the younger brother a budding jock and social butterfly. They both stayed in all weekend to read the newest installment on the Twilight series. Only the boy asked his mother to lie to his friends that called and say he was doing chores.

He didn't want them to know what he was really doing.

Any book, or series of books, so compelling as to make a social teenager duck the peer pressure of his friends is a book that prevents more robots.

Fight the good fight. Buy a banned or challenged book.

Our children will thank you for what you gave them, not what you kept them from.
Related Posts with Thumbnails