Monday, June 27, 2011

I've Seen Fire and I've Seen Rain

A new fire started yesterday, just south of Los Almos and this morning is a mile away from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Amazing how the smoke plume casts a shadow across the sunlit clouds.

After night fell, we could see the flames along the ridge. From our porch 35 miles away, we could see the flares rise and fall.

Just incredible.
I'm frivolously off to the RWA convention now. So I might not be posting much this week. Internet charges are rumored to be $17/day. We'll see.

The good news is, the weather might be turning. Pray for rain for us, and less for those getting flooded!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Could you do it?

I'm over at Word Whores today, talking about, um, exposure.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Antisocial or No?

Here we are, at that place when we realize the 4th of July is next week and we feel like summer is already half over. It's a false perception. We still have all of July and August. Really September, too, though emotionally that feels like fall, not summer.

Anne Lamott, a writer I've liked for some years, wrote an essay recently on finding time. I'm usually a huge proponent of making time for the important stuff and I often agree with Anne's take on things. However this time I found myself disagreeing.

Oh, yeah - don't watch the news. It just makes you sad. House-cleaning isn't important in the grand scheme, sure. But she makes a basic assumption that meeting with a "close friend" for a couple of hours is more meaningful and nurturing than all the Twitter and social media "noise."

Frankly, I'm getting tired of hearing this.

If you read this blog at all regularly - and I know many of you do, which means a great deal to me - then you know I greatly value my online community. I believe these online contacts are indeed real, actual friends who play meaningful and nurturing roles in my life.

And *now* I have data to back my opinions up!

I know - we should mark this date on the calendar.

A recent study of Facebook users shows that they "are more trusting, have more close friends, and are more politically-engaged."

So there!

I absolutely see this. Social is social and the idea that one on one physically present interaction is the only "real" kind is just splitting hairs. Would it be nice to spend one or two hours a week with my close friends? Sure it would! But with KAK and Laura off in icky Ohio, Kerry and Tawna up in the Pacific Northwest with Marcella sailing around god knows where, that gets a little difficult. That only scratches the surface. I went to Memphis last weekend partly to see my friend Karen, who was my sorority sister in college and is one of my oldest friends. When I can't do that, I talk to her on Twitter and Facebook. I talk to Kev, another lifetime friend, on IM.

I won't even try to list all the people on Twitter I chat with day in and day out, whose insights and feedback form the watercooler of my days.

Please don't tell me that's not meaningful or nurturing, that communications with these people is noise to be eliminated. How poor and silent my life would be without them.

One of my college friends, Felicia, commented on Facebook that she doesn't know how she would have coped for the last year, facing breast cancer, without her Facebook community. This is someone I would have long fallen out of touch with, if it wasn't for the online interaction.

Yes, make time for what's important, but make it wisely. One person's noise is another person's lifeline.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Good Business - Please Don't Be Difficult

The longest day of the year comes to a close. The sun is now at its most northern point, shining into the Secret Garden. The pendulum hits the end of its arc, hesitates, and swings back.

So, I've been talking to people about redoing my website. Yeah, it's old. I've bastardized it over the years. I *ahem* rarely update the thing. I kind of hate even looking at it and the prospect of dealing fills me with this formless sense of dread. Nevertheless: the site needs help and it's time to do it.

Always an interesting thing, when you step out into the world with your fistful of money and say "hey, I'd like to purchase this service." You'd think, especially with the economy as it's been, that people would love to have your money and provide that service. Odd that it doesn't exactly work that way.

I'm totally not counting all the people that suddenly followed me on Twitter the second I mentioned web design.

The first guy I talked to didn't get my first email. Then, when he got my follow-up email, gave me a lot of complex feedback. As the astute Laura Bickle says, "I don't want to know how sausage is made." Don't tell me about code, please. If I cared about that stuff, I'd be doing, um, web design. He charges by the hour, wasn't sure how many hours it would take, and seemed to be going in directions that confused me. I expressed my confusion and he never replied.

Guess I was difficult.

After a week, I asked for other recommendations yesterday. KAK gave me one, and a Facebook friend gave me another. I filled out the form requesting proposals on both sites. One of those I still have not heard back from, which I wouldn't think too much of, except that the other called me within about 1/2 hour. This gal chatted with me about what I wanted, didn't treat me like I was crazy and explained in exact dollars what it would cost me and what I'd get for that.


Later in the day, the company owner emailed to tell me they were enthusiastic at the prospect of my business. She will be at RWA National next week and wants to meet with me. The fact that she runs her business this well makes me think that she will represent *my* business well, also.

My feeling of formless dread has transformed into enthusiastic hope.

Which is exactly what I'm hiring someone to do. Handle this for me, please.

I think it's good to pay attention to how people handle their businesses, both good and bad. As writers, we are necessarily business owners, whether we want to be or not. More and more I think the key to running a good business is to make it easy for people to do business with you.

In short: Don't Be Difficult.

I could wax on with specifics, but I'm sure you all know what I mean. Be easy to communicate with. Be clear. Know your price points.

Oh - and have a good website.


Monday, June 20, 2011

How to Get Everything Done

Yes - it's the moment you've anxiously awaited. The beaked yucca bloomed!

Isn't she pretty? Or he. We're not sure how to tell.

If you haven't been following the slow progress of the yucca bloom, you can see it here, here and here. Yeah, it's been a long, slow process. Delightful result.

I mentioned last week that I went to Memphis this weekend to talk to the River City Romance Writers. It's always a real treat to talk to other authors about the industry and process and writing time. They asked me to talk about writing novellas, then we worked into epublishing, do you need an agent and which epubs are the best these days and why I think so. We talked for two hours.

One thing that struck me was they wanted to know how I get it all done. This is always the hard question. It's an easy answer, but no one really likes to hear it. I've talked about prioritizing before, so I won't wax on about it right now. However, one thing that occurs to me is this old adage:

The more you do, the more you can do.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how the writing fuels us, rather than the reverse. I think it's a fallacy to say "oh, I'll write when I have more time." Or "I'll start exercising when I have more energy." The thing is, time and energy don't just appear on their own. It's kind of a "if you build it, they will come" proposition. If you insist on having the time to write, the time will be there. If you exercise, you'll feel better and more energized. Just talk to anyone who's retired or has been laid off from their jobs - they'll tell you they don't know where the time goes. I've been this soldier many, many times. When I have plenty of time to do something, I fritter 90% of it away. If I have only a short space of time? Boy, do I pile on the effort and get it done.

When I was in college, the president of the sorority was awarded most improved GPA. The former president leaned over and whispered in my ear, "that proves it right there: the more you do, the more you can do."

The best thing about getting all those things done?

The rush of energy, baby!

Now git 'er done.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Playboy Bunnies and Grown-Ups

I'm over at Word-Whores, as I am every Sunday, talking about the time I said I wanted to be a Playboy Bunny when I grew up.

Oh yes - I did.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Turn, Turn, Turn

Yeah, it's that time of year again. The time when grown women camp out on the living room rug and play with ribbons, hole-punches and silk flowers.

Being a writer is a pretty good gig.

Last night I assembled these, so I can ship them off today. No jump drives this time - just little bubble bottles, which is fun. And considerably less expensive, especially considering I've got 240 of the little cuties. (I was going to call them "suckers" and changed my mind.) The labels also say that Sapphire is coming soon.

It ended up being a family effort. David helped me wrap the labels around the tubes and attach the ribbons. At one point he informed me there is no such thing as an incorrect job, only unique ones. The kitties helped, too. If you get one with a ribbon that looks a bit gnawed on, well, that makes it extra special.

Zip didn't help because there was a thunderstorm in the movie we watched, so he had to take cover.

It's funny thinking about that Petals and Thorns has been out for nearly a year. July 13 is her one-year birthday. Last year, the RWA convention was a month later (actually this year is a fluke and is occurring a month early) and so I was there about two weeks after Petals and Thorns released. Once there I thought, golly gee whiz, I should have done some promo, but it flat out didn't occur to me.

Part of is was that I didn't get my cover until about a week before the release date, so it would have been tight.

But I also think that I didn't really value this little book. It wasn't a Big 6 book deal. It wasn't one of my novels. It certainly didn't compare to what some of my friends were going to convention with.

Comparisons - such invidious things.

Now, a year later, I've seen how well Petals and Thorns has done. The reviews, the private messages, the sheer enthusiasm of the readers - well, it's all been just lovely.

So this will be my last big push for her and it's really mostly to scatter rose petals for Sapphire's debut. Hopefully Petals and Thorns will win some prizes this year, receive her tiara and have her promenade down the cat walk.

It's been a good year.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Strawberry Moon Interludes

I was so het up to discuss my fashion emergency yesterday, that I forgot to mention that I skipped over to Karen Katchur's blog, to talk about fitness and writing.

No, I haven't gotten one of those treadmill desks. Mostly because I think it would look ugly in my office. Priorities, people!

The other thing I've been forgetting to mention is that I'll be in Memphis this weekend. The River City Romance Writers are hosting me on Saturday and we'll be talking about novellas and "writing tight." Should be very fun. The rest of the time you'll likely find me wandering Beale Street with a frozen daiquiri in my hand.

If all goes as planned, that is.

Today I find myself between projects. I remember this feeling, from when I was only a reader. I'd finish a novel and, still swimming in the lovely world the author had created, try to decide what to do next. More often than not, I'd turn back to the first page and start over again. Or go through and re-read my favorite bits - which usually morphed into a full second read anyway.

Then I'd choose the next book. Sometimes this would be dictated by school, or by what was due at the library soon. But every once in a while I enjoyed the luxury of spreading out all the waiting books and selecting whatever seemed most exciting.

I'm kind of there right now.

I've sent off all my "supposed to's." All my deadlines, internal and external, have been met. I'm holding off until after the RWA conf on one novel. The other is out. I'm all caught up.

Work is quiet, too. I'd really pushed to finish things, both in work and writing, because I anticipated this month would get crazy. But the projects haven't come in yet. They're still hovering on the horizon, like storm clouds that will eventually gain enough momentum to swoop down on us.

But for now the sun is shining and I feel like I should be making hay. Instead I'm kind of lying in the grass, lazily eating strawberries.

The Strawberry moon is a gentle moon, isn't she? Full and sweet, serene in the twilight sky.

I might sit here and enjoy it, just a little longer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Village Fashion Assistance

Why, yes, that is Katy Perry dressed in Gautier from the June 2011 issue of Vanity Fair. And there's a very good reason she's there for you to admire.

Let me tell you the story.

See, I'm going to the RWA National Conference the last week of June. This will be my fourth time. This year I knew I'd be invited to the Carina party, as one of their authors. Author cocktail party? Pretty much a slam dunk in fashion-planning department.

Now I had a bit of an additional complication, in that I discovered the Carina cocktail party would be right before the FFP Gathering. Not a big deal, right? One party to the next, stick to the same drink, all is fine, tra-la tra-lay.

Only there's one little hitch: the FFP party is a Superhero theme and I have my heart set on being Cat Woman. I don't think I'm ruining any surprises here by leaking that, especially since I fully expect to be far from the only Cat Woman at a Superhero party attended primarily by women. In fact, I figured I'd just go to the Carina party in my Cat Woman outfit. It's pretty demure, since I'll be more of a Michelle Pfeiffer version than the Halle Berry iteration since, hello, I do not have Halle Berry's vicious body. Dress myself only in black leather straps? I don't think so. My costume looks like this (sorry it's so small) and I figured I could be brassy and just wear it to the cocktail party, too.

But, and this is a big "but," then I was happily invited to the Harlequin party, too. I wasn't expecting to, but since Carina is a Harlequin imprint, they included us questionable digital types. It's after the FFP party, so that's fine. And, hey, everyone says it's THE party to go to, so woo hoo! Except, I get the invite and it's a rooftop Black and White ball, formal dress.

I've got nothing.

Clearly I'm not wearing the Cat Woman outfit there. Even if it wasn't an outfit that can't be worn outside of air conditioning (lemme tell you, that thing does NOT breathe), it just ain't formal, by any stretch. I look in my closet - nothing. You know what that means, right?


I'm going in a couple of weeks, have practically no time to shop, and no inspiration.

So, I'm getting my hair done - my carefully planned pre-conference beautifying appointment - flipping through Vanity Fair and whining about my fashion emergency to a sympathetic Larry. I get to the above Katy Perry pic and say, this! This is what I should wear. Larry peers over my shoulder. "That's perfect," he says, "that's exactly what you should wear."

I say, "Um, Larry, that outfit is Gautier and out of my league on so many levels it's not funny."

"Oh no," he waves the scissors in the air, "you could totally fake this outfit."

He outlines how I'll do it. Do I have a black skirt I could slit up the front? As a matter of fact, I do. I have a black pleather pleated Jones New York skirt that would work. Put a white lace slip or skirt under it, black heels, black leggings - I love how he never once considers putting white stretch lace on my thighs - with a big white blouse on top, belted with a fabulous Santa Fe belt.

I'm sold.

Of course, this is not so easy as it sounds. (Did it even sound easy?)

Once I left the salon, clutching my pic of Katy Perry in *my* outfit, which Larry thoughtfully tore out of the magazine for me, I began to lose heart.

"Just find a little black dress," my mother counsels. "You don't have time for this."

I went shopping Saturday morning and nothing, just nothing lit me up. I began to despair. Sunday I hit the consignment stores and Goodwill thinking I could cannibalize a wedding dress for the white lace underskirt. Big goose egg.

Then, in Dillards, of all places, I found a big white jacket - spunky, sheer and shimmery. It's the last one, and I make the sales gal take it off the mannequin for me. It's a large, turns out, but that works perfectly. I find some black leggings with black lace edging at Kohls. Already bought funky black heels for the Cat Woman look. I'm rolling now.

Back at home, I start Googling for wedding slips. KAK is helping me via IM. But even her Google-Fu, which is very strong, fails. She does, however, find me this fab black corset to wear under the white jacket.

Now we just need the lace skirt, which totally should not be this hard. But it is.

She's combing eBay. Laura Bickle comes on IM and I catch her up on the Story So Far. Almost immediately, Laura finds this skirt on eBay. It's perfect. It's in Hong Kong.

BUT, they have express shipping and it's not that much overall.


So, all the parts are acquired or on order. Yeah, we'll see how it all works out.

I think it will be fabulous. I'll try to post pics of the final product.

Could never have done this without my pals.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Beaked Yucca Lessons

Update on the yucca flowering:

Not so much?

If you haven't been following along with the Blooming of the Rescue Yucca, it started sending up a spire here and was much bigger here. I should have done an update last Monday, but I clearly had important ranting to do about appreciating the role of serendipity and chance in life.

So, you'd think there would be actual flowers by now, that there would be fragrant blooming. After all, it's been weeks and weeks. Surely that's enough time and effort? But no - the buds are covered with some kind of sticky stuff that the bugs seem to like. It's all alien-looking and kind of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

The moral here is obvious.

Not all stages of growth are pretty. Things progress on their own schedule.

It always seems like a long time, when you're waiting for the blossoms.

A few of my own flowers opened this weekend, though. Ellora's Cave is making an offer on a short story tentativley called Feeding the Vampire. That's right - it's my Post-Apocalyptic Erotic Vampire story.


Hey - I don't tell the dream faeries what stories to send.

Also, Petals and Thorns finalled in another contest - More Than Magic - for best novella! I'm so pleased to see P&T getting some love.

I don't even mind the little bugs.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

In Pursuit of Trivia

I'm at Word Whores today. Guess what I'm talking about.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Is Writing a Really Good Book Enough?

I did a chat with the FFP gals last night and for the first time I was tempted to say one of the things I hear authors say that really annoy me.

One of the gals asked how to get published with Carina Press, because they're really difficult to get in with. I wanted to say, well, they're really picky and are pushing for a high-quality brand, so write something very good.

As regular readers know, I hate it when authors give publishing advice along the lines of "write a really good book."

I dislike this advice for three reasons:

1. It's self-evident. OF COURSE you have to write something good. Nobody tries to write bad stuff. Sometimes we don't push the story or the characters as hard as we should. Sometimes we don't revise enough, or polish enough. But everybody wants their stories to be good. This is akin to the advice to send in your best, most polished work. It implies that there's some kind of external, quantifiable standard for that. Wouldn't it be nice if writing was like chemistry and the document changed into a different color when you hit the correct amount of revision? Bing! Now it is GOOD.

Yeah, dream on.

2. It's pompous. I know I've been on this tear lately, but it's obnoxious when authors preen and suggest to the questioners that, to follow in the author's footsteps, the would-be just needs to gain that level of awesomesauce. If you say "to do what I did, you need to write a really good book" implies that your talent and skill just rises above everyone else's like it's ensured by the laws of physics.

And it's not true, because:

3. It's not enough to write a really good book. It has to be the right story, told in the right voice, that pleases the right editor, who convinces the right marketers that the right readers are out there to buy it.

So, I restrained myself from popping out the easy answer. Instead I told them what kind of stories Carina likes. I told them what my editor looks for and what my process was. I offered some leads to research their acquisitions editors, because I believe knowledge and networking always gives more power.

And I'm going to work on that answer.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wild Kingdom

Not the moon, but the sun, seen through the smoke haze at about 7pm.

Today we have some video treats from the wildlife camera. It's not lions, tigers and bears, but these are some of our daily visitors.

This is a Towhee. They're very friendly, happy birds. They love to get inside of things. If you open the garage door, they fly right in. They get inside the Jeep when we have the bikini top on it. Funny little birds.

The rock squirrel is what David really wanted to get on film. They're difficult to photograph because they're fast and suspicious. You can see this one watching the camera. We think they have babies because it looks like this one is filling up its jowls with water, to take back to the nest.

This looks like just a bit of Towhee, but if you wait for the 5 second mark and watch the upper right quadrant, you'll see a lizard go by *really* fast.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why Writing Is Like a Forest Fire

One thing about forest fires - they make for dramatic sunsets.

A lot of people here are bemoaning the fire. For those not up on Western news, the Wallow Fire is now the third largest in Arizona's recorded history. The fire covers 486 square miles, has been burning for over a week and firefighters have zero containment. Fortunately they've been able to keep it away from the towns so far and let it burn away at the dry forested hillsides.

But people have been saying things like "why do there have to be forest fires?" And I hear them blaming oil companies for global warming.

They really don't like it when you point out that forest fires are part of nature and play an essential role in the cycle of the forests and fertilization of the soil. Nature isn't always a pretty, happy place with serene lakes and chirping birds. Sometimes it's ugly and violent. Plants and animals are consumed and remade. Flames and smoke boil through and overcome everything.

We've had to seal up the house, to keep the smoke out. The other night it was so thick, it was like night fell hours early. I worried about the birds, with their tiny lungs.

But in the morning, the hummingbirds were out as usual, feeding in the clear morning air.

David pointed out something to me the other day. He says I said it to him, but I don't remember it. We'd watched Creation, a really excellent movie about Darwin, with Paul Bettany (yum!) and Jennifer Connelly. In the movie he struggles with Parkinson's disease, the death of his daughter and a spiritual crisis that threatens his til-then strong marriage. Writing his manuscript is a huge effort.

David used that as an example and said that, when we have an art or a pursuit we're passionate about, it nurtures us. It's wrong-headed to think we live our lives to nurture it. Rather, it's when people lose their passions that they falter and waste away.

I don't live to support my writing. My writing is what keeps me alive.

It's all part of nature.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Digital Publishing - What a Long, Strange Year It's Been

Today is Carina Press's one year anniversary. Word-Whores is hosting one of Carina's executive staff, Aideen O’Leary-Chung, Director of Digital Commerce for Harlequin and Carina Press. If you hie over there, you stand to win some pretty fab prizes.

It's funny that it's been a year since Carina launched. So much has happened since then. Reading through the various posts (there are 20 in all), it's interesting to hear the reminiscences of the Carina folks. It makes me remember how it all appeared to us, from the outside.

Today is the anniversary of Carina's launch - when they debuted their first books to the world. But we first heard about Harlequin's new digital imprint quite a bit before that. The news astonished everyone because, *gasp* Carina would not be offering advances.

This sent RWA into a frenzy. The Romance Writers of America non-profit corporation is one of, if not the most, powerful writers organizations in the world. The venerable standard of RWA has been, for decades, that to qualify as an approved publisher, they must give their writers advances. This has been a non-negotiable standard that, really, any legitimate publisher could meet. It was a low bar for a very long time.

And then the world turned and times changed.

With the advent of electronic publishing, paying the author up front no longer made so much sense. Instead epubs offer authors much higher royalties (~35% for most as opposed to 8-10% for print). Carina chose that business model.

Well, this turned into a BFD, because Carina was an imprint of Harlequin, which means just a subset of the overall company, and Harlequin has been the queen of romance publishing for longer than RWA has been in existence. And boom! Harlequin could no longer be an approved publisher by RWA.

At the time, no one could understand why Harlequin was doing it. They were accused of vanity publishing (where authors pay to get published). People thought they were completely nuts to potentially compromise their publishing empire for, what? some stupid ebooks??

They sorted it out. I believe (and someone correct me if I'm wrong) Harlequin satisfied RWA by legally separating themselves from the Carina digital arm. Harlequin is approved. Carina is not.

And look what the last year has wrought.

Ebooks are now the only part of the publishing market that's growing instead of losing money. More and more people have ereaders. Everyone wants to digitally publish. I'd love to see a list of all the epubs started in the last six months.

I set my sights on Carina because they have the forward-thinking excitement and savvy of the electronic market founded on the Harlequin rock of excellent business sense. I'm so pleased that Sapphire will be published by them in October.

Happy One-Year Anniversary Carina Press!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why Me?

David had a classmate, Marjorie, who died of cancer this last winter.

I never got to meet her. Not for any particular reason. At first we just weren't in the same place at the same time. Then her tumors came back and she finally withdrew from the acupuncture college. Because I wasn't a friend, I didn't go visit her when everyone went to say good-bye. It just didn't seem right.

But I felt like I knew her, because David liked her so much and often related to me the things they talked about.

One thing that stuck with me - she told David that she finally had to get over the idea that she was a bad or negative person because she developed the cancer, because it ultimately defeated her. See, when you're in the natural healing world, there are strong ideas that your mental attitude governs your health. Negativity or bad emotions promote chronic disease states is the thinking. Positive thinking creates health and healing.

All of this success stuff comes from similar philosophies. "I create my own success." Your life becomes what you envision it to be. Anything can be yours if you simply envision it, be positive and make it happen.

The flip side, of course, is that if you don't get what you want, it's because you failed. Failed to envision enough, be positive enough, what have you.

Like with Marjorie. She failed to cure her own cancer. But she ultimately decided to refuse to accept that as a personal failure.

She lived ten years past her initial diagnosis of terminal cancer. She enjoyed her life and continued to follow her passions. Part of that meant coming to terms with not seeing herself as a bad person because she got sick. How she dealt with the disease truly showed her strength of character. And she died surrounded by friends and loved ones, both animal and human.

This is what I was trying to get at on Friday. I'm not sure I did a very good job.

(Either that or everyone was out enjoying their summer weekend, which is all to the good.)

I absolutely believe we have a hand in our own successes. But I think there's danger in believing we can control fate. It would be nice, sure. Tempting to try. Ultimately, though, the universe goes where it goes and takes us with it. Sometimes beautiful summer days fill our weekends. Sometimes tornadoes hit. The weather falls equally on the good people and the bad people, the positive thinkers and the bitter, angry ones.

The differences show in how we handle it.

We love to tell stories about grace under pressure. The heroics, large and small, that shine when disaster hits. We rarely talk about how well someone handles success.

My favorite religious studies professor, David Hadas, who I quote often, pointed out to me that, when tragedies occur, we look up to whatever gods we follow and ask "why me?" Rarely, he said, does anyone look at some amazing bounty they've received and ask the gods, "why me?"

It's easy to believe that, when our efforts are rewarded with success, it's because we are so wonderful and deserving. But that's as much of a trap as believing that we deserve cancer. Or tornadoes.

The true test is how we handle it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Under the Influence

I'm over at Word Whores today, attempting to list the authors who've influenced me.

It's, um, kind of a long list.

Friday, June 3, 2011

On Fires and Hubris

Smoke in the valley today. There's a 60,000 acre fire near Alpine, Arizona. The smoke and ash blew in on us last night. Our patio cushions have ash all over them.

Apparently it's worse in the valleys. People in Albuquerque were calling 911 to report fires. They were broadcasting bulletins to tell people to knock it off, that the smoke was from Arizona.

Where there's smoke, there's not necessarily fire.

Not right *there* anyway.

It's a funny thing, how what happens to our neighbors affects us. We forget that things are different for people just a state away, the weather, their politics, disasters. Until it spills over into our own lives.

A friend of mine is up in Yellowstone right now and it's been snowing. She'd asked me for advice on the best route home. Then she found out that one direction isn't a possibility because the roads are still closed due to snow. I lived in Wyoming for over 20 years and already I've forgotten that early June can still mean snow there.

How quickly we adapt, focusing on our immediate world.

I think it's easy to fall into this pattern, thinking that how things are for us is how they are for everyone.

Maggie Stiefvater, who is a very successful author of young adult novels, and at quite a young age herself, wrote a blog post the other day that kind of took me aback. I agree that jealousy is a worthless emotion and something to be overcome. However, the relentlessly self-congratulatory tone is a bit off-putting to me. It can be a trap, I think, to believe that your own success is a direct result of your awesomeness.

Clearly, if the juice is lacking, you have little to go on. Still, success in any endeavor is made up of many factors. Timing, serendipity, personalities. It's like wondering why one woman is able to have babies easily while another is infertile. Is it because fertile woman is a better person? Because she deserves it? Why does one guy develop pancreatic cancer and another live to be 106? We like to try to trace cause and effect, but there isn't always one.

With producing art, we're talking about something that necessarily grows out of the deepest parts of ourselves. Sure, a writer can try to target what sells, but if the story isn't genuine to her in some way, it's not going to work. Not everyone has the story that becomes a phenomenon. That's just how it is.

We all follow different paths in life. Our joys and sorrows, failures and successes are part of that. In the end, it doesn't really matter what hand we're dealt, but rather how we play it.

Not everyone gets to be a bestselling author. Not everyone gets to live to be 106. Some people die young. Some can't have babies. Some artists are discovered after they die.

I sometimes wonder if I'd take Jane Austen's lot - to be so revered long after my death and never get to enjoy it myself.

Maybe so. Hubris is a poisonous thing. Not getting too excited about one's own awesomeness can be dodging a bullet. Hard to control a raging ego, once its been overfed.

More and more I've come to believe the real test in life is not how well we do, but how we handle what happens.

Remembering that not everyone sees the same thing when they look out the window is part of that.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Craving the Pain

We bought rain barrels. Plastic ones that won't, oh, fall over and shatter. Not as pretty, but far better for the long term.

We've realized that last year, our first year in Santa Fe, spoiled us terribly, with all the snow and rain. This year is far more dry and we fell behind on watering. We're catching up now, and the flowers are coming along. Fortunately, as children of the West, David and I are both habitual water-savers. We just need to adjust our thinking, take it a bit further.

I am thinking longer-term in many ways.

I mentioned yesterday that I'm not willing to take The Body Gift to self-pubbing, or even digital publishing yet. See, I have a Plan. This is a Plan suggested to me by a lovely agent-friend who can't take me on as a client right not, but offered me unlimited advice. (I'm not sure if that's just her very gracious way of saying no while remaining friendly and supportive, but I don't care. She also told me I seem to be doing just fine on my own and you know where flattery will get you with me. Hey, I'm a Leo - I can't help it!)

At any rate, she suggested that with each new novel, I shoot as high as I can, walk it through all the Big Show venues and then, if no one bites, offer it to digital. I like this plan. I know many scoff, because it's still clinging to the traditional route, which so many are forsaking. Why put myself through the pain of the Big Filter when I could just skip all the rejection and waiting, go straight to Smashwords or one of the innumerable start-up epresses that seem to snap up all and sundry.


I want the filter.

I want the writing I put out in the world to be the very best it can be. Even though I hate the pain, I want my work to receive ruthless editing and the stern eye of marketing. I know NYC can have a narrow view. I also know traditional publishing has been putting out incredible books for my entire life.

I want that to be my books.

And I don't know about all of you, but I've been reading a lot of less-than-stellar stuff lately. Digital publishing is coming up in the world and some of the digital imprints seem to have pretty high standards. Others.... erm. Not so much. As much as I would love someone to embrace my book and publish it, I don't want it at the price of quality. I'd rather revise.

I know it's hard to know these days, what a press's standards are. But if you look around, you can figure it out. Read their books and you'll know. The ones who haven't put out any books yet are a bigger gamble. Every publisher has some lemons, or books that you hate. More than once I've wondered what Ace was thinking, or who is reading some of what Kensington puts out. I also know they have exhaustive acquisitions processes, so I figure I'm not their reader.

So, I don't want to be the person who doesn't want to belong to any club that would stoop to admitting the likes of me, but I do want to make the grade.

I want to be part of the Big Show.

And I won't stop until I get there.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Anger Management

This is a Cinco de Mayo rose. I just love the subtle lavenders in with the brighter shades. I bought this rose at Santa Fe Gardens, which is the local bricks & mortar presence of High Country Gardens. If we weren't on water restrictions that forbid new plantings, I'd go every weekend and pick out just one new friend to take home.

It feels good to me to garden again. To spend some time with the earth and the plants.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote on Word Whores about how I've given up so many hobbies, to make time for writing. I don't regret that choice, by any stretch. The last couple of years have been very productive for me. You folks out there might not be able to tell, because it's mostly going to yucca juice right now, but I've been writing these fabulous novels that will be published ANY SECOND NOW. I've got a good root system of several series going. When I look at my portfolio, it feels good.

Hell, I feel sexy just saying I have a portfolio.

Yesterday, I mentioned to the fabulous author Laura Bickle that I'm trying not to be angry that I'm going to RWA this year with the same novel I pitched last year. She told me she thought I should be angry. That it's healthy to express that anger, rather than tamping it down and seething over it.

She's right.

I am angry and that feels good, too. It makes me mad that no one has fallen in love with this novel like I feel it deserves. It pisses me off that so many agents tell me they love it, the premise, the writing, the characters - and ask me to send them the very next thing I write. I'm angry and that fires me up.

Yes, I know I could self-publish. Or submit to a press directly. I'm choosing not to at this point.

I see so much dithering in the publishing world right now. So many of the industry professionals are hunkered down waiting to see what will happen. I hear many editors have been instructed not to acquire anything at all. I see agents making what seem to be desperation moves, selling clients' work to epresses with no track record. Established authors are turning down NYC deals to self-publish. (Courtney Milan is the latest news that way.)

We all want to make the thing happen. To get the stories to the readers, to make a living doing what we love. Everyone seems desperate to get rich and terrified of going under.

So, I'm coming back to the idea of balance. I'm spending more time in the garden, hand-watering and adding mulch to retain moisture.

I let myself be angry and it felt good, too.

It's good to want things.
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