Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Our yucca spire continues to get taller. Some days you can almost SEE it grow. Just amazing. You can compare it to a week ago.

Sometimes I think writing success can be like this. Your life can go on with no apparent change while you work away at something. Every day you add a little bit. You extend the novel by another 1,000 words. You refine the story, make the character arcs stronger. You take in what you are fed and you grow, by infinitesimal amounts, day by day.

Often it may look like nothing at all is happening.

Then one day - it all pours forth. The work comes to fruition.

This is the overnight success. Where suddenly someone bursts forth upon the scene, in full flower, towering above everyone else. Never mind the years in the desert, the months without rain. The flowering unseen.

In this era of full-disclosure, it's hard to imagine anyone flowering unseen. Everyone out there seems to be yammering away at top volume to declare their wares. In a crowd like that, it's easy to fade to the back, to be just another yucca.

Just wait. Keep adding to the roots. Enjoying the sunshine.

When that spire shoots up, oh yeah - they'll notice then.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Heroes Have Always Been Close By

I'm over at Word-Whores today, talking about my heroes. Yeah - you can probably guess.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pin Head

So, last night I received cosmetic acupuncture.

David is taking the class this semester, as part of his Doctor of Oriental Medicine degree. It's an elective, though. As far as the school is concerned. The way it went was this: David was vacillating on taking it, since it's a Thursday evening class after a full day of classes. I said if he loved me, he'd take the class.

Fortunately the man loves me.

He might also have been swayed by my argument that he could make potloads of money giving people surgery-free facelifts and breast enhancing treatments that can increase you by AN ENTIRE CUP SIZE. That's what they say.

I know, right?

So, I went in to the class last night to be a test-subject. David is the only guy taking the class - and he says the other guys are missing out on this opportunity. First, he put a few needles in my wrists and ankles, and one just below my belly-button, to bring up that cool and dewy yin energy.

Then he put needles in my face. They sting a bit, but are mostly tingly. Besides, the body needles had already made me sleepy and relaxed. If you look closely, he put tiny little hair-thin needles in the lines on my forehead. Those are laugh lines, by the way. I don't want to hear any of you saying different.

You can also see how my face is flushed and looking kind of shiny. Amazingly, the treatment did bring a dewy freshness to my skin. And this morning, my skin looks smoother, with the fine lines much less noticeable.

I also slept really well last night - a blessing since I'd a stressful week.

Two enthusiastic thumbs up!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You Can Pick Your Nose

We had brunch with friends, Krystal and Jonathan, at Blue Heron last Sunday. The photo isn't great, but we had a fun time. Terrible service - the place is newly re-opened and the lone waitress was completely overwhelmed that people actually showed up. An hour after we ordered, food finally arrived, but my glass of Chardonnay never did. Fortunately the spot was lovely, the sun warm and the company excellent.

The next day, Krystal sent me a bottle of Chardonnay. Now that's a friend.

I posted Tuesday about making choices. Never mind that not one of you commented. Blogger has been messed up for a couple of days, so I'm blaming that. Tip: don't use Firefox. You can get in better with other browsers right now. But I can't comment in any browser, so I figure that's the deal.

Not that it's making me crazy or anything.

At any rate, one of the things I mentioned is how we don't get to choose our families and we often don't really choose our friends. Our friends very often tend to be the people who are doing the same kind of thing that you are at the same time. So, in this case, Krystal is in David's same class at Southwest Acupuncture College, fondly known as SWAC, which always makes me think of swatting flies. Jonathan is Krystal's sweetie, so he and I roll our eyes at each other while David and Krystal complain to each other about classes.

Will we remain friends after graduation? Hard to say. Depends on where we all end up, what we're doing.

One thing I've learned is that friendships come and go. People naturally come into our lives and leave again, like the changing seasons. And that's okay - not everyone is meant to be a lifelong friend.

However, we can also carefully choose our friends. I learned this skill from one of my sorority sisters, Karen Koonce, now Weesner. She knew how to cultivate friendships. She picked out people in class who said interesting things and invited them to lunch. She paid attention to who knew stuff she wanted to learn and charmed them into letting her pick their brains.

This skill has served me well over the years, so that I have a life rich with interesting and supportive friends.

Thank you, Karen!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Live by the Sword

I hope this threatening sky promises rain -we desperately need it.

David's been talking about some of the patients he sees and how the ailments they come in with so clearly reflect how they live their lives.

I think it's easy to see that those who choose a violent path stand a greater chance of dying a violent death. Live by the sword, die by the sword. It's a simple matter of percentages. But I think it's less easy to see that, if we choose to spend our lives in service of our children, then that's how our lives will look in the end. If we choose not to accept responsibility, then we'll have no control over anything. My stepdad Dave loves order - thus he's been in the military and prioritizes creating order.

It's that aspect of choosing that's most important. Stepdad Dave doesn't spend every minute of every day making lists and planning for the future. It's just his priority. It's what creates the foundation under everything else. And it's characteristic of him - enough that we all tease him about his lists.

Kristen Lippert-Martin mentioned on her blog that Virginia Woolf wrote only one hour every day. Not all that much time, out of her 24. And yet, we think of her as a writer. The quintessential writer, for many. That's because being a writer shaped her life, more than anything else. She made all her choices around that idea and it became her salient characteristic.

I think that's the key: what we choose to live by is what defines us. The warrior who chooses to live by the sword might retire from the field between wars, but she remains a warrior in her thoughts and actions.

We spend a lot of our lives with things being chosen for us: our families, where we live, our friends, often our professions. In the hustle of day to day, we tend to fall into what other people declare is most important. And we often have to abide by that: children must be fed, paying bosses must receive deliverables. Still, those things don't have to define us.

Even if we spend only an hour a day writing, we are writers by definition, if we choose that way of life.

Live by the word, die by the word.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Beginnings

Look, our beaked rescue yucca is sending up a spire!

We figure this means it's happy and getting established. Either that, or this is a last-ditch effort to reproduce before dying. We were concerned, after the very cold and dry winter and very dry spring, that it wasn't doing well. It's lovely to see this sign of vigor.

We prefer to focus on the positive.

I'm back home now. New England was lovely (damp) with many beautiful forests and waterways (cold), but it's so good to be back in my home landscape with my at-home routines.

No, I didn't get any writing done while I was gone. I finished out my first round of line edits on Sapphire on the plane there and then promptly failed to get anything else of a writing nature done, besides a few desultory blogs.

I just never do.

And I'm not totally sure why. I know part of it is my ritual is blown all to hell and gone. Even if I try to recreate it, I can't. The other piece might be that I'm traveling for work and so I'm in work-brain 24/7. I never quite seem to shift out of it, even over the weekend. Of course, I was with my boss and we talked about work a lot, so that could be a contributing factor.

So, it's good for me to sit at my writing desk again, with my storyboard beside me and all my little talismans of creativity. I like to think I've been storing up the writing these last few weeks and now this vigorous spire of creativity will pour out of me.

Me and the rescue yucca.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Banishing Hobbies

I'm over at Word Whores today, talking about banishing hobbies.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


You'll note this trophy has someone else's name on it. That's because I haven't actually WON. But Petals & Thorns is a finalist in the 2011 PRISM awards for Best Erotica and Best First Book. I'm so delighted and thrilled.

And I really want one of these trophies.



And congrats to Marcella, for finalling with Enemy Within for Best Futuristic. She might also be up for Best First Book. If she knows what's good for her, she won't get her dirty fingerprints on MY trophy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Over the weekend I got to attend a Regatta.

Don't you love how that rolls off the tongue?


It was just that styling, too.
Laurie's daughter, Catherine was rowing with her schools' team. She's the ripped blonde in the red cap.
Here's her team rowing out for their race while the boys prep.
Steaming to the finish line. They won handily.
Love the synchronicity.

Almost made me feel athletic, just to watch.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sweet Life

On Saturday, my hosts took me on a hike on the Sweet Trail. Madison is a big fan of hikes, too.
All of this is freshwater estuarian marsh. Teeming with nesting birds of all types.
So lovely. The still water makes for great reflections.
If you look sharp, you can see lots of heron nests here.
The trail leads to the Great Bay. There's a memorial there. Laurie's husband, Bob, felt quite contemplative. For those of you keeping notes, this is what I want - a bench and an engraved marker in some beautiful spot.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Work in Progress

I'm over at Word Whores today, talking about perfection and lack thereof.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I'm at my boss, Laurie's, house this weekend in Durham, New Hampshire. All the flowers are in bloom.
I love the natural rock walls. And every opening looks like a lane into an enchanted forest.
The pond near their house. (Though the huge place in the background is not theirs.)
On the drive here, I wound through rolling hills and small towns. All along were small and ancient cemeteries, edged right up next to what used to be narrow lanes in dense woods.
Forget-me-nots all over their garden.

Always a special blossom.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Handsome Hanover

After work last night, we went up to Hanover, reputed to be a very pretty college town.

It was.

Nice little burrito spot for the students.
Weather vanes are big here.

Another snazzy eating establishment.
All the Dartmouth students were out on the grass, enjoying the sunshine and warm weather.

(You're welcome.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

White River Junction

It's interesting being in New England, in such a different landscape from my home. As soon as I landed in Manchester yesterday evening, I smelled the ocean. Not the sun-warmed southern California surf, but the damp spring brine of the northeast sea coast.

There is SO much water here.

I'm staying in White River Junction, which is at the meeting of the Connecticut and White Rivers. They're celebrating their 250 year anniversary this year - which seems funny to me after Santa Fe's 400th. But it seems old to me here. Quiet at night, industrial on the edges, renovating nicely.

I took a walk this evening and saw these neat lofts with lovely glass balconies that overlook the river.
Neat sculpture in the Veteran's Memorial park along the White River.
Road bridge crossing the river. I love how these staid little New England churches have been repurposed - this one into a Zen studio.
The White River itself.
This is a railroad town from way back and the Welcome Center is in the old depot.

Very pretty weather, but all this damp makes me feel chilled!

Petals & Debates

I'm on the road again. Well, on the air, really.

At one time, I traveled pretty much nonstop. Like one to two weeks out of every month-type nonstop. I've gotten spoiled since that project was canceled. It felt traumatic to pack up and leave home for this two-week stint in New England.


I'm hoping for some good photos. And pithy observations. Hey, it could happen.

Meanwhile, there have been interesting developments with Petals & Thorns. It was reviewed on Dear Author. I was simply thrilled. This is a major site - one I really like and respect, for the honesty of the reviews. Janine, the reviewer, only gave it a C+, because she was bothered by some of the aspects of the story. She talked about her reactions in depth and it stimulated great discussion. I loved having this kind of thoughtful review.

In turn that stimulated another thoughtful post on the topic.

I commented briefly on the first and really wanted to on the second. I might still. But so many reviewers complain that author commenting has a chilling effect on reviews.

Still, many of the issues raised are those that prompt me to write these stories, to explore these power issues and darker emotions. I feel a bit, what, deprived that I can't leap into the discussion.

We'll see how long I last.

Friday, May 6, 2011


In working through my Sapphire line edits, I've learned something new about myself.

I know - who'da thunk it?

And yes, the line edits have been dead easy. I'm sending them off today. I don't know why I was so worked up on Tuesday about it - thanks to all of you who said supportive things.

At any rate, one of the things my editor, Deb Nemeth, picked out was phrasing that kept the reader out of deep point-of-view (POV). The reader, instead of feeling like the reader she is looking through the character's eyes, feeling what they feel, can get yanked out by these filter words and phrases. So an example would be "she saw the cat prancing through the cactus" instead of "the cat pranced through the cactus." The second takes out that step of observation.

It's been pointed out to me before that I do this. As an essayist, this writing style is no problem. Actually, it lends itself, because the art of the personal essay largely relies on being able to take that step back and observe your own life. But for fiction-writing, especially genre fiction, which is all about sweeping the reader up in the whirl of a new world, you don't want to do this.

I'm learning.

Deb is an excellent editor and quite deft at pointing out where I create this objective distance. What I'm discovering is why it's been hard for me to lose this kind of lens.

It's because that's how I see my own life.

Ever since I can recall, I've kind of narrated my own experiences. My first memory, back when I was in diapers, watching my parents drive away with all the abandonment grief that goes with it (they, um, were going to a movie), was also accompanied by a sense that, hey, here I am in a body and isn't this interesting? There's always been that part of me that steps back and observes objectively. Yes, I sometimes refer to myself in the first person. Sometimes I give my remarks dialogue tags. All in fun, but I might IM to a friend "bitch!" and then "and I mean that in the nicest way possible, she added hastily."

Thus, for my characters to step back and observe, to have "she said to herself" absolutely reflects how I see the world.

It's good for me to understand this. On the Meyers-Briggs personality test, I come out as an INTJ (introvert-intuitive-thinker-judger). One way they describe INTJs is:

... many INTJs do not readily grasp the social rituals; for instance, they tend to have little patience and less understanding of such things as small talk and flirtation (which most types consider half the fun of a relationship). To complicate matters, INTJs are usually extremely private people, and can often be naturally impassive as well, which makes them easy to misread and misunderstand.

All very interesting to me - and helpful in understanding why I behave in relationships the way I do. But it never occurred to me to examine how that influences how I *write* also.

In the end, it's just another acquired skill in the craft of writing. It's easy to say "that's just how I write" or "that's my voice" or "that's how I see the world." But, depending on what you're trying to accomplish in a story, you may have to alter those things, to maximize the effect for the reader.

Which is, after all, the point of it all.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pressing the Sheets

This begs a comment about all reproductive activities following certain patterns...

I took this pic near my folks' house in Tucson. The agave plants are sending up their spires, with varying kinds of blooms. Some of them will use up all of their resources to make the spire and flowers, much like a spawning salmon, dying to reproduce. That's my biologist lens coming into play.

Tawna Fenske would undoubtedly find a rude joke to make, perhaps even run a contest about it.

Marcella Burnard would undoubtedly buy a huge textbook on agaves and write a mini-dissertation on them.

Linda Grimes would find an array of dirty pictures derived from cactus to share.

We all see these things differently because we all have different ways of processing the world, particularly sexual matters. Even if it's plant sex. Sex is a deeply personal and intimate thing. It's also one of those things where what we SAY about it doesn't necessarily match what we DO. Because the doing, except in certain circumstances, is usually done privately with only one other participant, or maybe several, plus the dog.

(Had to throw that in, for my CPs!)

At any rate, this is on my mind, not just because of the prodigious agave spawning we witnessed, but because of this article. The author's intent is to make the argument that if a married man isn't getting satisfactory sex at home, then it's better for him to pay a professional than to have an affair.

It also has the, perhaps unintended, effect of illustrating how the author feels about sex in general. To sum up, she finds it normal that she declined sex with her husband so as not to mess up the nicely ironed sheets.

Worse, *all* her friends that she polled agreed. They don't like sex, don't want to have it. From this she extrapolates that women don't like sex.

See, I have a really different circle of friends.

Most of whom still have their mouths hanging open, muttering "she IRONS her SHEETS???"

This is, of course, why I love you all. And hey - if you're a sheet-ironer out there, you can still hang with us. Then you can explain where you find the time!

I once went to one of those Chippendales shows, back in small town Wyoming. You know the thing - the male dancers take over the bar, women patrons only, they strip and strut about, dancing sometimes an overstatement. I went with this group of gals I worked with. Over the evening, they transformed. Some of it was the drinking, sure, but there was more. These usually demure wives and mothers, who would be disgusted if some cowboy in a bar stripped his shirt off and grabbed their hands to run over his chest were screaming in delight and tipping guys to do this.

You could say it's a power thing, which could be true, but I suspect it's more that it's how they thought they should behave. After all, the guys like that kind of thing. Men are openly honest about enjoying sex and sexual things, whereas women range over the spectrum in how frank they are.

There are lots of reasons for this. But it's not that all women don't like sex.

In fact, my main response to that article was a fervent wish that the author would seek counseling. You don't have to be that woman, screaming with desire and pawing young dancers, but if perfect sheets are more important than being intimate with your life partner, then something likely needs revisiting.

Actually, if perfectly pressed sheets takes priority over anything at all, I think you need to come sit on my patio and have a glass of wine.

We'll talk.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Detritus Returned

David snapped this pic of me on the Pacific Beach boardwalk. I like how relaxed and happy I look.

And slim. *note to self: wear those black capris ALL THE TIME.

So, remember back in mid-March when we heard that car wreck? I picked up the things the next morning and photographed them. I had a number of conversations with people about it - in the comments, but also on Facebook and Twitter. My friend from college, Felicia, urged me to try to find the gal because of the Prada reading glasses - the thing Felicia herself would have been most sorry to lose.

I tried tracking the name on the receipt. No luck. My Google Fu is usually quite strong, but not in this case. A couple of prolific local tweeters even took it up to no avail. Nothing in the local news about it. So, I called the police non-emergency line.

Yes, the dispatcher acted like I was nuts for asking.

Finally, I managed to convey my non-stalkery desire to simply return this gal's things (I didn't mention follow-up articles on this blog - really hard to make that sound non-stalkery.) The dispatcher said she'd give my information to the Sheriff's Deputy who was on scene and he'd call me.

He finally did, nearly a week later.

He also proceeded to interview me on precisely what my deal was. He asked what things I wanted to return to "the young lady involved." By this time I've managed to glean that she survived. Totally unimpressed by my catalog of her detritus (I could practically hear him thinking "eye-pencil? she thinks this is important??), he finally says he'll give my information to the young lady and, if she was interested, she'd call me.

Yes, he absolutely made this sound unlikely.

And she didn't, for a really long time. By now it's April and I've kind of forgotten about it, except that I have a little paper bag of her things in my office. I start to think about what I should do with it if she never calls.

Then, one day my cell rings and it's her.

She's young. So young that her thoughts kind of zing from one topic to the next. She tells me they rolled the car three times. When I tell her we called 911 when we heard the sound, she receives this information with wonder, somehow not processing this. When I say it's a miracle she survived and wasn't hurt, she says oh yes and how they were going 75 miles per hour. (It's a 40 mph zone.) I wonder how she knows this, if she was driving, who "they" were, but she's already flown past the subject. She wants her things, but - oh - she has no car now, cuz - duh - she wrecked hers! She'll have to talk her dad into giving her a ride. I tell her where my house is. She says she'll call when she can come by.

Which she doesn't.

I think about calling her back, to tell her we'll be gone for a week. I think better of it. If she calls while we're on vacay, I'll just have to say so.

She doesn't.

Then, yesterday afternoon, my cell rings. A female voice says "are you home?"


She hastens to fill the silence, "this is Carrie, the girl who was in the car wreck? I can get a ride to your house to get my things, if you're home. Only I don't know where your house is."

So, I tell her again. Five minutes later, a shiny Honda Element pulls into the driveway. I walk out to the patio with the bag. I nearly bring my camera, but - it just seemed wrong. She's younger even than I thought. Awkward. Shakes my hand and grabs the bag. Reaches in and grabs the Prada reading glasses case with a triumphant squeal. "This! This is what I really wanted!"

Nod to you, Felicia.

I'd envisioned our conversation when we met. How I'd tell her I wrote about her wreck on the blog and all the nice things people said. I think she might say something more to me, but she just bounces and says good-bye. She runs back to the car, opens the passenger door and brandishes the bag of things, doing this little hip-bobbing dance for her mother. The mother, by her unmoving silhouette, seems unimpressed. I'm kind of surprised she doesn't get out of the car to meet me.

A moment later, they're gone.

I'm left today thinking about stories and connections. About non-lethal life lessons and whether this carefree girl has learned anything.

I wonder, too, what I learned.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Let's Go Fly a Kite

People fly these enormous kites on the beach around Mission Bay. Really neat to see them. Like fantasy creatures in the sky.

Vacations are kind of unreal anyway. We sleep until we wake up and then do things I don't normally do, like walk across the street to Starbucks while the surf pounds in the background. Even though I spent some of my mornings checking in with work (big proposal going out) and keeping up with other email, I didn't track twitter, or the blogs I usually read, or the comics, etc., in my dailies bookmark folder.

It felt good to be out of that swim for a bit.

Instead, we walked the boardwalk, paddled in the surf. We enjoyed long wine-filled lunches with fresh seafood and lolled by the pool. We did crazy, non-real-life things like toured an $8 million beachfront house. My normally full days emptied out. I didn't work on any writing projects. I read several books. Emotional tension over things I'd been worrying about bled away.

The ocean is good for that.

The coming back, though, that's always the bite. Even in the car I started revising my To-Do list. I received an email from my editor during the drive with line-edits on Sapphire. Meanwhile I still haven't finished the two Revise & Resubmits I'm working on. The big proposal is still teetering on the edge of going out and now I'm being sent on a two-week jaunt through New Hampshire and Vermont starting next Sunday.

Yesterday was crazy full, jam-packed.

It's tempting, sometimes, to think that it's better not to do vacay at all. So I don't notice the contrast. I also know this is the opposite solution to the problem.

Instead, I need to find ways to let every day have a breezy feel. To let the emotional tension, the relentless drive for more, bleed away. I want long walks and bird song. Less multi-tasking and more reading.

Maybe I need to fly more kites.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Enemy Games on Tour!

Look what arrived in the mail last Saturday, just in time to join us on our road trip! Yes, Marcella Burnard's Enemy Games! As I mentioned on Word Whores yesterday, she's a frisky and flirtatious sequel. Her big sister hit the bestselling charts, and is short-listed for the RITA awards, the romance community's highest honor and has been listed as a book your boyfriend would like, too. Enemy Games wants her piece of the action, too. She officially comes out tomorrow and she's ready to take on the world.

She started out with some pool time in Phoenix. Rumor is she was spotted at the bar drinking margaritas and flirting with the cabana boys.
She spent a bit of patio time in Tucson, checking out the flying pigs.
Then she headed for Pacific Beach in San Diego!
Some surfing lessons got her revved to try the water.
Testing the surf. A bit cool.
Sometimes wallowing in the sand is enough.
And cuddling with the pelicans.
Then a bit of sedate pool time.

Now she's tanned, rested and ready to hit the shelves!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hit Me with Your Best Shot

I'm back from vacay and over at Word Whores today, talking books and getting hit on. Normal day at Word Whores.
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