It Can Happen To You

Oh people, people, people.

Yes, I should have known better. Of course, I’ve been at this for a good while, read all the blogs about how to conduct business, etc. etc. Consider myself a reasonably bright person, up front in all my dealings, and figure I’ll get back what I give, right?

Not so much.

I will plead a certain distraction the past couple of weeks, what with surgery, financial and family stress up the wahoo, a grandson in the hospital (who has since recovered completely after scaring the beejeebuz out of his fan base, little buggah) and Momma’s anniversary. I will freely admit I haven’t been as sharp as I should have been, but I’ll also state right here this is all my own fault for not doing the proper research before accepting an assignment.

I troll for work constantly. It’s one of my least favorite things to do as a freelancer, but it’s necessary. No matter how many eggs you have in the basket, you must always be on the prowl. Right now the basket is eggless, so that adds a certain urgency. Fortunately for me, I have a small network of friends in the same boat, and we share links when we find them. It’s up to the individual writer to research them, of course, and if there’s anything hinky, we pass that along as well.

Let me pass this along to you, my poppets.

I received a link that looked promising. Sent my info, and heard back right away. The Person In Charge wanted to know if I could take on an urgent editing project for an E-book with a 24 hour deadline. The fee was nominal, but at this point, I need the work. I took a look at the material, and it looked as if four other people had their fingers in the pie. Since my slate was open, I decided to go for it and neglected to do any research on the company in question. DON’T DO THIS. EVER.

I signed a writer’s agreement (which was mostly about Non-Disclosure about the material) and set to work. I was in constant contact with the PIC, who was very antsy about getting this project completed on time. I know how it feels to have your balls against the wall, so I was cooperative. It’s my job — my nature.

So, I finished the work on the actual material, six hours ahead of deadline, and had some questions about the TOC (Table Of Contents). I was up front from the beginning that formatting is not my strong suit, but this I could handle if a couple of questions were answered. I emailed the completed material, and asked questions about the TOC. No answer.

Finally, three hours later, I received an email that said the PIC had been out of the office on client meetings, but she would review everything and get back to me. By the way, could I take on another project in the meantime?

I review the instructions for the new project, and decided it wasn’t worth the money and not really my bag. I respectfully declined the project. (Probably the smartest thing I’ve done in this whole clusterfark.)

Uh. That was four days ago.

On day Two, I sent an invoice via PayPal and said, since I haven’t heard back, I’m assuming the work was satisfactory and I’ve taken the liberty of sending you an invoice, thank you and keep me in mind for future projects.

No response.

No response.

Sent a reminder invoice.

No response.

Sent a friendly email, and — you guessed it — no response.

At this point, I figured I made a really big mistake, and I have only myself to blame. NOW I do the research, because better late than never, right?

Writershire.com does come up in the search engines, but the only listing besides their own was a posting on the Absolute Write’s message board from 2005. The comments are not complimentary, but no overt scam was documented.

Whois shows their IP address as listed in Los Angeles, and their website is listed as inactive. Their working address, according to the paperwork I received, is in Delaware. Weird.

Their website is an out-of-the-box WordPress site. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — mine is too, until I hit the Big Time and can afford a designer. But for a company billing itself as a professional writing service, this is a little odd.

At any rate, I’ve been screwed like a pooch. But I ain’t mad. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Moral of the story: No matter how much you may need the gig, if it smells like dead fish, it’s most likely a dead fish. Do your research, my lovelies. It’s not the first time I’ve given people the benefit of the doubt and have had to eat that dead fish, and it probably won’t be the last. However, I plan on evening the odds in my favor in the future.

Research your prospective employer.

Require a deposit up front before any work is begun.

Dead fish doesn’t taste any better with a dose of bitter lemon, trust me. You can cover your ass all you want, but there will be times you’ll just have to eat it. Learn and move on. Spread the word.

My word is: beware of Writershire.com.

***UPDATE***

Just received an email from the PIC. They don’t work Sundays, and their client just got back to them today with revisions that need to be done. They will be sending them to me within the hour. The fact that today is Tuesday has escaped them. Still no answers to the questions regarding the TOC.

I’ll keep you posted.

***UPDATE***

Short form: I didn’t hear back within the hour. Four hours later, I received an email with a request for a revision. It wasn’t a revision, it was a request to write new material for three sub-categories. Since I was hired to edit and no mention of writing new material was included in the original instructions, I respectfully declined.

No other contact has been made, and no payment has been made.

Again – beware Writershire.com.

The End.

***UPDATE***

Oh, you thought it was The End? So did I. Boy, were we wrong. Check out what happened next.

Share

Friday Fiction: The Inspiration

Again, if you don’t know, I’m working on my first novel. I’ve thought about writing a book for years, but nothing ever clicked with me. I attempted NaNo in 2004, and at the time I didn’t have a computer so I wrote “Dreamweavers” on yellow legal pads with a pen. You know, one of those round things with ink in them. I didn’t win; I crapped out at about 25k. After that experience, I wasn’t sure I could pull off a long work — I’ve written mostly flash since I started writing.

I wrote this piece and one other in response to a couple of writing prompts on The Story Board in January, posted them, and didn’t think much about them after that. They were just exercises, you know? In June I pulled them out, read them over, and decided they didn’t suck. As a matter of fact, I rather fell in love with the character of Pallas, and she started whispering her story to me at night. Soon, she was a lot louder than a whisper, and June 20 I started the first chapter. Now, I’m over 50k into it with the end in sight.

The original prompt was “Old habits hold on to you like industrial clamps.”

The novel itself I decided to write in the first person, and the story has bloomed. This is the original flash, unedited, which inspired the novel.

Oh, and although this might seem like a simple romance, trust me. It’s not. Pallas has quite a story, and I hope you enjoy meeting her as much as I enjoy telling it.

Old Habits

The incessant ringing of the phone was irritating. Pallas finished checking in her last guest of the evening, politely handing the keys over to Marilla Llyr’s bodyguard after getting his signature on the guest register.

“Welcome back to the Traveler’s Lodge,” she smiled as the bodyguard just grunted and took the keys. “Let us know if there’s anything else Ms. Llyr needs.” Pallas kept the smile on her face and reached for the insane phone as the bodyguard trudged over to the luggage cart, pulling it out the door and leaving puddles of seawater and algae in his wake. Pallas sighed, afraid that mopping up after the aquatic bodyguard and his mermaid mistress was in her near future before she could quit her shift.

“Traveler’s Lodge, Pallas speaking, how may I help you?” Pallas spoke into the receiver, keeping a close eye on the puddles, watching as unknown sea life squirmed on the floor.

“Pallas, it’s Liron. Got a room for me? I have a gig at the beach tomorrow night, I’ll be there in about an hour.” Pallas suppressed a sigh and tapped at the keys of her computer, and said, “Of course, we can always find a room for you. Might be a closet, but we’ll squeeze you in.”

Liron Tallis laughed, and said, “Pallas, you’re a life-saver. If you have tomorrow night off, I’ll leave you a ticket and you can come backstage with me.”

Pallas snorted. “Liron, you know better.”

“Can’t blame a guy for trying. Ta-ra, see you later.” Liron clicked off. Pallas smiled as she hung up the phone, not hearing Denis come up behind her.

“Still telling him no?” Denis smirked. Pallas jumped a little, and turning, gave Denis an annoyed, yet fond look. Two years of working together in close quarters had led to a close relationship.

“Of course I’m telling him no. Like I need the hassle of dating an electric guitar-playing minstrel. That boy is likely to be eaten by the damned Kracken or something, he likes to live too much on the edge. He thinks his music will get him out of anything. Although, he has a great collection of CDs.”

Denis nonchalantly wiped his hands on the rag he kept tucked in his back pocket. “Smart girl. By the way, I fixed the door lock on number 119, painted the door to 214 so that’s ready to go, and told the housekeeper to make sure that Miss Fishy Gal had a bowl of navel oranges in her room, as requested. Anything else you need?”

Pallas shook her head and said, “Shh! Denis, you’re bad. They just arrived, the bodyguard will be taking her up to her room any minute. Mind yourself.” They both looked up toward the commotion at the front doors. The bodyguard was laden with pillows, luggage, seaweed strewn about him like party streamers. His mistress, seated in the hoverchair, was berating him as only a mermaid diva could, the squees high-pitched and nerve wracking. They disappeared into the dim hallway, leaving another trail of what Denis had termed “sea trash” in their wake.

“I wonder why he stays with her,” Pallas remarked. “He never looks happy, and she’s always screaming at him. It’s sad it has to be that way. Maybe she just doesn’t see how much she relies on him.”

“Old habits can hold on to you like industrial clamps,” said Denis, staring down the hall and avoiding Pallas’s eyes. “They sure can,” he sighed.

Pallas looked at him, struck by something in his tone, although she couldn’t have said just what. The phone rang again, and Denis took the opportunity to mumble something about cleaning up the sea trash and made his escape while Pallas took the phone call.

She watched him as he swept up piles of seaweed, shell fragments, and sand. She thought about the ocean, and the smell of bitter tears. She made a phone call of her own before Denis returned to the front desk.

“I talked to Liron just a few minutes ago,” she said when Denis finished mopping. He looked sweaty and tired, and none too pleased.

“Good for you. Finally telling him yes?” He avoided her gaze as he squeezed the mop out like he was strangling a sea eel.

“I have two tickets to the beach concert. Want to go? ” Pallas crossed her arms and waited.

Denis put the mop down and wiped his hands. “What took you so long?” He grinned.

Share

Doing It Yourself, The Big Dogs, and Other Tidbits of a Writerly Nature

First off, you may have noticed my previous post regarding business dealings of a shady nature disappeared. It’s not gone, not over, just retired for the moment. Six minutes after I posted the entry, the company in question contacted me and said details for a revision would be forthcoming within the hour.

Four hours later, I received the revisions, which weren’t revisions at all. It was a request to add new content to three sub-categories.

This is where I drew my line in the sand, kids. I was hired to EDIT. Within a 24 hour deadline, which I met with hours to spare. No mention was made of adding new content in the original instructions, an issue I politely pointed out. Since then, I have not received payment or acknowledgment of my email. Therefore, unless further communication or payment is made by end of business today, the post will go back up and stay.

****

In the meantime, I’ve been working on an e-book regarding how to write and self-publish your own book. While I have not experienced self-publishing (or even publishing of any kind regarding novels) many of you may know I’m working on my own blockbuster, best-selling novel. (Dream big, poppets.) I’m 2/3 of the way through the first draft, and I feel it’s not too soon to explore the many options that are now available to authors these days.

My research has been eye-opening. While I am still on the fence regarding self-publishing, I’m not ruling it out by any means. There are pros and cons to both self-publishing and going the traditional route. I am not one of those people who regard self-publishing as the dumping ground for garbage literature; what I’m considering is what is best for my material and the best way to get it out to the public while earning me at least a living at doing what I love so much. There’s a lot to contemplate, and there will be much rumination and pondering before I make a final decision.

Of course, it would help if I finished the damned thing, right? September 30 is still my self-imposed deadline. I have about seven chapters to go. I will make it.

Then, I’ll put out a call for First Readers.

In the meantime, since tomorrow is Fiction Friday, I’ll be posting the flash piece that inspired the book. I figure that’s safe enough, since there’s a lot more to the book than appears in the story, but it will give you a little taste of what I’ve been working with.

I’m a little nervous about that, so I am.

****

In all actuality, switching back and forth between fiction and non-fiction isn’t easy. I find myself pacing around the house, messing with Twitter and Facebook, cleaning the bathroom, trying to get the switch to…well, switch over. It doesn’t help that the last six weeks have been rather rough around the edges what with surgery, worry over family members, and stress of great magnitude about other, more personal things that shall remain nameless. Still, as one of my friends pointed out, once my fiction work hits the NYT bestseller list (dreaming big, oh yes I am) all this stress will make for a great backstory.

Frankly, I’d rather have a lot less backstory to this whole process, but hey. I’m sure JK Rowling felt the same way when she was scribbling on napkins.

****

I am fighting the urge to go back and edit what I’ve already written before I finish the damned thing. Especially the first chapter. When I say “fight”, I mean a down and dirty, no-holds-barred blood fest. For some reason, I’m really struggling with these last few chapters, and I can’t figure out why. I’m at the point now that 1) I know who did it, 2) I know how they did it, and 3) I know how they get caught. This should make it easy-peasy, right?

Not so much.

And then I tell myself, “Self? You’re procrastinating. Stop it. It doesn’t matter if you’re afraid of failure, or even more afraid of success. Just write the fucking thing and let it sort itself out in the end.”

I hate it when she gets like that. “Fine for you,” I say. “I’m the one sweating this bitch out. I have to think about what comes after I finish, you know.”

Self says, “I call bullshit. There won’t be any ‘after’ to think about until you get it done, dumbass.”

To this I have no answer, because of course, she’s correct. But I’m not telling HER that. She gets all smug-like and that just irritates me.

****

Oh, don’t tell me you don’t have conversations with yourself. Don’t play.

****

Okay. Stop distracting me. I have a novel to finish.

Don’t forget to stop by Fiction Friday for a taste. I think you’ll like it.

Share

Dear Momma

Today was the first anniversary of Momma’s passing.

Dear Momma,

This has been a difficult day. I can hear you in my head telling me to put on my Big Girl Panties, but you and I both know I’m a weenie, and although I *will* put them on, I have to cry, first.

You were always patient with that part of me — the soft and gooshy side. I think part of you was proud that I was too sensitive, even maybe envied it in a way. You had that side too, buried under years of trials and tribulations that would have destroyed other people. I knew it was there, and teased it out of you more times than I can count. I very rarely saw you cry, and I envied your control, because I knew you shed many tears from the heart.

I miss so many things about you. I miss talking with you on the phone and making you laugh so hard you peed or farted. I mean, it was downright hysterical. I miss shouting out inappropriate things in the dollar store or restaurants, and having you give back just as good as you got. I think that was a theme of your life — that you gave back just as good as you got.

I don’t think I will ever meet a woman as strong as you.

I miss talking over books, movies, and the latest in reality TV with you. I miss your cooking. I miss gossiping about the latest clusterfucks within the family, and I miss sending you cards and packages and the cards and packages you used to send to me. They always seemed to show up when I needed them the most with things that only a mother would know I needed or wanted. I miss the excitement in your face when you’d find a Boyd’s bear for me, and the big grin when I’d squeal like a girl opening up something special you’d find for me.

(Except the rooster. I faked that one, but you knew it and we laughed like hyenas.)

I miss your understanding. I miss your sharp wit, pithy commentary, and the way no one, and I mean NO ONE, ever put one by you. I credit my honed bullshit finder to you, but you were the Queen. You knew when someone was trying to blow smoke up your ass, but especially in later years, you’d smile and nod your head. But you never bought it.

Most of all, I miss your hugs and kisses. I miss putting my arms around you and hugging you tight. I just miss you so much, and it’s not getting better.

I hope someday I am half the woman you were, Momma. You were strong, tough, compassionate, bitchy, funny, and smart. You were a special, passionate, intense person and a lot to handle, but no one who ever met you ever forgot you. You were not perfect, but you were the perfect mother for me, and there’s no one in my life for whom I have this level of respect, admiration, and love. ‘Cept your granddaughters, who have much of you inside them. That makes me very proud.

It is an honor of the highest caliber to be your daughter.

I know I’ll see you again, on the other side. I know I’ll love you again, when we meet there. I will miss you until that happens with every breath I take.

Where ever you are right now, Momma, give them hell.

<3<3<3

Share

The Stain Under The Carpet

My friend Avery Tingle inspired me to post this after sharing a personal story of his own.

A memory like a carpet stain.

The thing about carpet stains is you can scrub and scrub the surface, and the stain may fade or go away. You use chemicals, scrub and scrub, sometimes using a cleaning brush, toothbrush, whatever it takes.

The stain may fade for awhile. Although the surface looks clean and innocent, the real problem is the carpet pad underneath. It hasn’t been cleaned or scrubbed. Sooner or later the stain will seep to the surface, and you have to deal with it all over again. The only solution is to tear up the carpet and clean the pad, or if the stain is too bad, replace it entirely.

The memory that keeps seeping starts with just one image. Blue, crystal rosary beads. They are in my hands, their comforting smoothness and coolness slipping through my fingers one by one, as prayers tumble through my mind. “Hail Mary, full of grace, please don’t let him hit me,” but of course, he does.

And he does something even worse. He rips the rosaries out of my hands and flings them across the room, screaming “These aren’t gonna help you now,” and of course, they don’t. I have no salvation.

My mouth tastes like copper, in anticipation of the taste of blood fulfilled. Terror is palpable. Kidneys feel tight and hot, bladder is full. Please God, don’t let me wet myself, as if God cares if I have piss-wet panties. As if God cares at all.

All coherent thought is gone, and will return slowly, like a small leak in a boat. Heartbeat like the flutter of a hummingbird’s wing. This all occurs in the split second before the first blow; the overload of sensation is like slamming into concrete. When it comes it’s almost a relief – the steam escaping from the tea kettle.

This is the stain under the carpet.

Share

Inspiration and Perspiration

Oh, Inspiration — you slippery, sneaky, frustrating buggah. Some call it the Muse, some call it a Pain in the Ass.

Notice, sometimes Inspiration will hit you when you least expect it — usually in the shower with nary a pen nor pencil in sight. At this point, I’ll scribble what I can on the walls of the bathroom in soap. How does that work out, you ask?

About how you’d expect.

The other place Inspiration likes to pounce upon me is in that sweet spot just before sleep overtakes my weary spirit — you know, when the eyes feel like each and every eyelash is weighted down with fishing sinkers? Yeah, like that. When moving your arm to pick up a pen is like moving through molasses, and if you do manage to scribble something down, the next morning it makes no sense whatsoever, seeing as it looks like it’s been written in a hybrid of Chinese and Arabic.

Oh, Inspiration. How you task me.

Once in a while, Inspiration with sneak into an earworm that will not quit. That’s the story behind The Dead Line — it wasn’t the entire song, actually, just one part that kept hammering at my brain until the subdural hematoma was taking over my consciousness:

Watching sugar sell for money to the dead at night
And he sees in her an angel in the cruelest of worlds
Hiding in the darkness

For some reason, that caught me and if I’m to be truthful here, it still haunts me. I don’t believe that story is over, yet.

****

Music, people-watching, bathroom activities — all this and much more can light the fire under Inspiration and encourage you to get a move on. But, what do you do when Inspiration is sorely lacking and you don’t know what to do? Because it’s just like Inspiration to desert you in your darkest hour or in the middle of your most exciting chapter, leaving you high and dry and gasping for oxygen. What do you do now? Now that you’ve been dumped unceremoniously without even a proper good-bye?

You flip Inspiration the bird and pick up the shovel. That’s right. No whiny, wussy excuses that you can’t write because you’re stuck. Pick up the thrice damned pen, or start tapping on the keyboard, and get through it. Power down, cowboys and cowgirls. Bite the bullet, put on your Big Girl Panties, and DO IT.

You see, finishing a work (or even starting one!) is 1% Inspiration and 99% PERSPIRATION, as Edison so famously stated. If you wait around for Inspiration, it’s gonna be a long and lonely wait. That bitch has other agendas.

It’s not magic, people. It’s damned hard work, and sometimes you get nothing in return except for the satisfaction of putting your words to paper, even if it’s only for you. Other times, you might get lucky and it appeals to other people. That part is a crap shoot.

But getting your story out on paper in the first place? That’s all you, pardner. ALL YOU. It’s not the Muse, it’s not Inspiration — it’s your own hard work. Take credit, take responsibility — and for the love of Heaven, take a pen in the bathroom with you.

Share

Fabulous Friday Fiction: The Podcaster Is In Da House

Kate Sherrod is one of my Twitter Peeps. She is also one of the reasons I love Twitter so much. Talented, quirky, and a voice from “God’s Country”, we became friends through the Twittersphere, where otherwise we would never have met.

What caught my attention was Kate’s project of writing a sonnet every day by suppertime. Intrigued, I stopped by her site to read a few, and I was hooked.

1. Please tell us how you got started on this “Suppertime Sonnet” project. Have you always had a soft spot for this form of poetry? What else do you create?

It was New Year’s Eve 2008 and I was listening to NPR. They did a segment on a group of photographers who had each pledged to take a photograph of wherever they were, whatever they were doing, at the exact same time every evening. It turned out to be quite a collection of images, and the photographers were all very pleased with the ultimate outcome, not just for the work produced but for what they sounded like they had learned about life and time and discipline. A lot of the photographs were of the same things – we all have our routines and habits and these definitely show up in any kind of daily project like this – but there were always subtle little differences that made each photograph special. They also sounded, these photographers, like they had discovered an astonishing freedom within these very specific limitations.

I got to wondering what the writer’s equivalent of that kind of project would be. Sure, I could blog again – anyone with a burning need to know more about me and my past, and a lot of free time, can check out my old blog “Life In A Northern Town” (http://saratogalife.blogspot.com) – but that seemed too free-form and rambling. It didn’t have the precision or the sense of capturing a very precise moment and feeling that this photography project did.

I don’t know how I hit specifically on sonnets, except that I had been casting about for a strict and compact form – I wanted that discipline that they had found, those limitations to chafe within and overcome.

Well, I found them!

What makes this even stranger is that before I wrote my first sonnet that very night, I had never written one. Not in school, not to a lover, never.

As for what else I create, I’ve just joined another blog, the Short-Story-A-Thon (http://shortstoryathon.blogspot.com) with a few of my Twitter friends. We come up with a few absurd story elements and challenge each other to incorporate them into a short story. Past examples include “zombies and pez” and “whiskey, a rabbit hole and mayhem.” My first entry was for “tube tops and tire irons” and took place in a trailer park – and outer space!

I have another big project in the works, too, seizing an opportunity that came to me as a result of my sonnet-writing, but that’s still kind of a secret for now. I also podcast the sonnets on a weekly show, Kate of Mind (http://kateofmind.libsyn.com or find me on iTunes as kateofmind), but I see you’ve addressed that below.

Kate’s podcast is a lot of fun, and highly recommended. Her voice is modulated, expressive, and the material strange and wonderful. Podcasting is becoming the next big thing, so I asked Kate about her project.


2. The podcast is fabulous and your voice is perfect for it. How did that idea come about, and what are your hopes for it?

Poetry was originally an oral form; it’s how all the cool kids spent their time before there were things like radios or television or computers. I would absolutely have been a Homer groupie back in the day, a fangirl dogging him after the show asking if Briseis really had bright cheeks and exactly which cheeks was he taking about, hmm?

I’ve fallen in, mostly through twitter, with a fabulous community of podcast novelists; not only do I listen to their work with pleasure but I find myself kicking around all kinds of goofy ideas with them and just generally enjoying being a part, however peripheral, of that world. Then about two months ago I realized it didn’t have to be quite so peripheral, my participation. As a wise friend of mine said to me in a very vulnerable moment many years ago, “You can do it, too; it’s not a show!”

So now it’s a show! And as far as hopes go, I just hope people will listen, and at some point leave me some feedback.

As writers, we are not alone in our heads, and most of us are employed with actual lives. I wondered if this were true about Kate.


3. Most writers/artists live a double life. What is on the other side of your coin?

I’m still kind of recovering from the double life thing. I worked for several years as a news/editorial/features/sports/everything else reporter and photographer for my hometown newspaper in Saratoga, WY; later I switched to working as the executive director of the local chamber of commerce. While I was doing that, I got elected to the town council and wound up serving on a lot of different boards and commissions: the joint powers board to build the swanky new community center, the county council of governments, the county economic development association, and the joint powers board overseeing the town’s water and sewer systems.

All of that activity and responsibility left me VERY little time or energy to write, to do anything, so when I moved to Cheyenne out of economic necessity and got a real, paying job I vowed to hoard my time more jealously. Which I do.

I can’t really talk about my day job, though. I sort of promised. I’m not being coy, but I like my work and want to keep doing it ^_^

What other things fuel the mind of a sonneteer? Inquiring minds want to know.

4. Besides writing and podcasting, what are some of your other interests?

I read voraciously, all kinds of stuff: fiction, non-fiction, weirdo blends of the two, essays, poetry, biography, science, comic books.

I am an amateur (in the very root sense of the word: there is love in amateurism) entomologist and astronomer; either involves a lot of time outdoors in the dark with a blanket and a lot of strange gear, and whether it’s insects or stars I’m looking at determines which variety of crick I’ll get in my neck.

I have developed a deep and abiding passion for cycling; not racing or big cross-country stuff, just going around town and taking in the small stuff motorists miss (also a good fast coast down a long hill really is a lot like flying).

I also love what I can only call collaborative weirdness. Running jokes on social media, spinning spontaneous and ephemeral tales about ourselves over a bottle of wine with my friends… it’s all very #snarftastic.

I also — and I have to say that in this case “love” does not seem to be a strong enough word — love film. I can watch for hours at a time and talk about it for more — especially if we’re talking my favorite directors. I would sit through cat food commercials by some of those guys and take them in frame by frame: Peter Greenaway, Wim Wenders, Eric Romer, Ridley Scott (ask me sometime about the light — just the light — in Blade Runner if you have an hour), Werner Herzog, Michael Haneke, Katsuhito Ishii — and these are just the more or less current ones. Lately I’ve developed an absolute mania for classic Japanese films, though samurai flicks still don’t do it for me. Sure, Akira Kurosawa, but also Hiroshi Teshigahara and Kon Ichikawa. The light alone in Ichikawa takes my breath away and makes me glad I have eyes — as do those crazy German abstract expressionist silent flicks like The Golem and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari.

So if you ever want to freak me out and watch me curl up in a little ball, first take away my pen and my FIELD NOTES and then cut off my Netflix subscription. It woudl be all over.

You don’t really hear from the people in Wyoming. Here’s a shout out!


5. You live in Wyoming, what some call “God’s Country”. Where you born there? What do you like and dislike about living in Wyoming?

I was born and raised in Wyoming, mostly in a little town (not even 2000 people) called Saratoga, in Wyoming’s Upper North Platte River Valley. The valley is surrounded on three sides by the Medicine Bow (colloquially called the Snowy Range) and Sierra Madre Mountains and the Medicine Bow National Forest, and is a very laid-back, funky place to visit and to be from – which means it’s the sort of place a teenager cannot WAIT to escape. Which I did: college was at Bard College in New York’s Hudson Valley, then I podunked around New England for about six more years (western Massachusetts, Maine, finally Boston) before I realized I really wanted to go back. I missed the landscape and the space and the quiet.

We joke a lot out here about coming to Wyoming and turning one’s clock back 30 years, and it’s true. This is both a good thing and a bad: when I walk down the street in my hometown people make eye contact and say hello instead of brushing rudely past jabbering on their cellphones, but sometimes all that coziness gets to one. We all know entirely too much of each other’s business, which really gets to be a strain during the long, long winters when the highways close.

But really, the only thing I truly dislike about living Wyoming is the music. Both kinds, country and western.

Via Twitter, I have learned that Kate has a deep and abiding love for All Things Dr. Who. She’ll watch episodes until her eyes bleed, so before I pop in a DVD, I want to know the story behind that. I hate it when my eyes bleed. Heh.

6. Does Dr. Who really make your eyes bleed?

That all got started when I realized how much of Doctor Who I had actually missed. Like most American kids of my generation, my first exposure to Doctor Who was via the Tom Baker episodes endlessly cycled and recycled on PBS. Eventually even PBS moved on with the times and showed some Peter Davison and even threw back a bit to Jon Pertwee, but that was all I’d really seen. Then I went to college and missed all the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy years completely. I didn’t think too much about it until the BBC brought the series back with Christopher Eccleston, whom I just love and is now my favorite Doctor. His Doctor is so much darker and angrier than the goofy Tom Baker or the dishy and kind of empty Peter Davison – I just HAD to fill in as much backstory as I could. So lo, with the power of Netflix, a glut of Who has been mine to take in.

I thought for sure eventually it would prove to be too much; hence the hashtag on Twitter, #doctorwhotillmyeyesbleed (and the corollary #doctorwhotillmyearsbleed for the audio dramas and music). Strangely, this has not happened. I am either a glutton for punishment or simply oblivious to the damage.

I’ve also learned what a geek Kate is about her techno-toys.

7. What is your favorite piece of modern technology and why?

I see a new piece of new technology every day these days, thanks to the internet, and it immediately becomes my favorite. Currently it’s a tie between Talia Radford’s futuristic water purifier (http://www.core77.com/blog/object_culture/talia_radfords_futuristic_water_purifier_14207.asp) and these artificial glass leaves some UC Berkeley scientists invented that generate electricity via transpiration (http://www.inhabitat.com/2009/08/03/fern-power-artificial-glass-leaves-produce-energy-via-transpiration/). They’re both absolutely beautiful from a design point of view; they’re stunning examples of “green” technology; and they harness the power of what’s already all around us; gravity, sunshine, the chemistry of life, our own muscles. I’m a big fan of self-powered or human-powered or gravity-powered tech of any kind, dynamos, piezoelectric crowd farms, stuff like that. It doesn’t’ *have* to be as beautiful as these two examples are, but if it is, so much the better – if it’s worth building and using, it’s worth considering its aesthetic qualities, too.

Of course you notice I’ve employed web addresses to show your readers the devices I’m talking about, and indeed it is via the internet – and a few wonderful bloggers – that I found them myself, so I suppose I should really say “the internet,” but that did feel like a cop-out.

Really, I’m always waiting for the next new thing. I want a laptop computer that was as much grown as made (Bruce Sterling’s novel DISTRACTION has a wonderful example of this). But I also want the wonderful old things that don’t require outside agency to work, like the Curta calculator – entirely mechanical, beautifully put together, durable as all hell.

For me, it’s all about sustainability and user-serviceable parts, which is why, though I type on a laptop PC right now, when I’m doing what really matters I’ve got that lovely little Olympia C portable – manual – typewriter that’s depicted in the banner of Suppertime Sonnets. It’s not perfect, though – I still have to buy ribbons for it. I need to get going on – or find someone out there who already has – a way to make those everlasting, renewable, reusable.

Usually, I get moaning and groaning when I ask this question. Kate surprised me!


8. Name your top five authors and tell us why you chose them.

WILLIAM GIBSON

Neuromancer, his first novel, came out when I was just 14 years old and it just slid into my brain, took up residence behind my eyes, and changed me forever. It wasn’t so much the cool, gritty high-tech/low life scenario he created, or that he coined within these pages the term “cyberspace” and first got me thinking at that tender age of just how weird our technologies had already made us and how much weirder we were likely to get, though these were all key. I still sort of drool at the thought of someday just being able to jack a “microsoft” (in the book’s parlance; nowadays we’d probably say some kind of mini-flash drive) directly into my brain and suddenly have a complete dictionary and grammar of any language I wanted there in my head to draw on as I speak, of course, and who doesn’t want, at least just a little bit, a secret weapon like Molly’s retractable fingertip blades? But really, it’s William Gibson’s prose that affects me the most. I compared it on my podcast a few weeks ago to a really great drug, and that’s what it is: a drug that one can read. There’s an inimitable elegance to it, to the way it slides along over the smooth surfaces of the component materials of things; the reader slides right along with it and falls right off and down the rabbit hole — but instead of Red Queens and grinning cheshire cats, one gets mirror-shaded drug-dealers with cybernetic arms and the grin belongs to the terrifying, bland Belgian, Hubertus Bigend.

JORGE LUIS BORGES

Borges combines a fabulist’s imagination with the erudition of a Renaissance scholar, which is pure Kate-bait. I return to his stories, essays and poetry again and again, and always find something new; sometimes, too, I return because of something I came across in, say, a history of art pigments or a manual on chess tactics that reminded me of something in Borges and am illuminated all over again. Gibson makes reality weird; Borges makes weirdness reality. Esta habitacion es irreal; ella no la ha visto.

UMBERTO ECO

Umberto Eco is just plain fun for a geek-about-everything like me. His first novel, a murder mystery set in a medieval monestary, sent me careening into the past at around the same time NEUROMANCER got me tripping on the future, with its meditation on knowledge lost and found and what some people will do to keep it hidden. Then, a few years later, out came FOUCAULT’S PENDULUM, concerning a trio of publishers in Milan who start having a little too much fun with the schlocky esoteric manuscripts they keep receiving from purveyors of what skeptical types love to call “woo-woo.” It starts out as a sort of Revenge of the Nerds for the ridiculously erudite (the kind of people who enjoy pages-long excurses on how the automobile and its parts may serve as an extended physical metaphor for the secrets of creation. I confess to being that kind of person, in full knowledge of how annoying that probably makes me sound) but when these three characters’ hilarious rethinking of the Plan of the Templars manages to come back and bite them on the asses, it also serves as a good warning not to get too carried away with one’s own cleverness.

His later novels – ISLAND OF THE DAY BEFORE, BAUDOLINO, THE MYSTERIOUS FLAME OF QUEEN LLOANA – carry on in this same vein in their different ways, blending the minutia of history and culture with the silly and are great fun to read; his collections of essays, especially HOW TO TRAVEL WITH A SALMON are hilarious; his meditations on semiotics (the real-world and much more demanding version of Dan Brown’s ridiculous made-up discipline of “symbology”) and TRAVELS IN HYPERREALITY are more drugs in prose form. Oh how I love this man.

PHILIP K. DICK

Ursula LeGuin once described Dick as our own, home-grown Borges and she was right. Whether he was letting the I Ching guide him into writing a novel about the I Ching guiding a novelist into proving that history hadn’t really unfolded the way his readers had been taught to believe and that it really hadn’t produced the world they thought they inhabited (THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE) or taking his intensely personal paranormal experiences of a pink ray of light beaming life-saving information directly into his brain (the VALIS novels) or taking an aching, haunting look at a post-apocalyptic world and the psyche of the scientist who’s blunder had created it (DR. BLOODMONEY), Dick brought something new to science fiction, and to all of us. With each passing year, it becomes more and more obvious that it is Philip K. Dick’s world and we just live in it. Or do we?

JOSEPH CONRAD

I first delved into Joseph Conrad’s sea-scented tales as a teenager looking to escape from high and dry Wyoming, and get a look at the rest of the world. But is a strange one to turn to for escapism, isn’t he? Kurtz going up the river, going native and losing his mind, Verloc watching helplessly as his hapless brother-in-law gets “redistributed” trying to help forward others’ clandestine schemes, the battle for Freya Nelson’s heart and ticket to a future in the East Indies, the corruption of the incorruptible Gianbattista “Nostromo” Fidanza, all of these plots sound like melodrama, and they are, but not only that. Conrad never took the easy or comfortable way out of a story. And English, the language in which he wrote all of his fiction, was not even his first language; Conrad, real name was Korzeniowski!

You asked only for five but I cannot help also mentioning Neal Stephenson, Alastair Reynolds, Bruce Sterling and Charles Stross. And Douglas Adams. I owe all of my most #snaftastic political satires of the last seven months to Douglas Adams.

An artists influences say a lot about them as people, don’t you think?


9. Who or what has been the one biggest influence in your life?

Undoubtedly my parents, each in their separate ways. My mother was a working journalist at a time when very few women were, and wrote a lot of pricelessly wise and funny columns over the years about balancing work and family (many of which featured funny stories about her children under the pseudonyms of “Gabby” and “Gus”. Which one I was will be left as an exercise for the reader). My father is a born storyteller with a unique gift for the bizarre and original turn of phrase – as I commemorated this year in my Father’s Day sonnet. With those two as parents, there was no question, really, that I would end up a writer: more a question of when, and of what.

Which questions I am still trying to answer!

Interested in future endeavors, I asked this next question. I have to say, the answer didn’t surprise me, and I’ll be waving from the ground. Heh.

10. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Five years is probably too short a time frame for what I have in mind. Let’s say ten, possibly 15, in which time I hope to have hustled my way onto some private sector venture’s crew for developing, planning and living on a human colony outside Earth’s gravity well. An orbital habitat? The Moon? Mars? A generational ship to an as-yet-unselected habitable exoplanet? I will not be picky.

It’s a pretty good incentive for staying in shape, too.

Stop by and treat yourself to a tasty sonnet! If you’re craving dessert afterwards, you can’t beat a delicious podcast of the best of the best, read in the author’s own voice and covering subjects from the edges of the universe to the workings of friendship. You will not be sorry.

Thanks, Kate! You were a most cooperative, fascinating, and friendly etherised victim. Heh.

Share

Hodge-Podge

Recovery is limping along. The GI tract and I have had many discussions in the last couple of weeks. I’ve agreed to no cold pizza for breakfast, and it has agreed not to torture me with day-long sessions in the bathroom as a reward. I think we’re slowly getting on the same page.

****

Stamina is at an all-time low. This is to be expected — after all, it’s only been two weeks since The Great Ordeal. In that time, I’ve received the bulk of the bills from said ordeal, and I’m just giggling on the inside. The amount of these bills is RIDICULOUS. If I had that kind of money, logically I could afford health insurance, correct? I have no idea how I’m going to handle an amount that equates to the purchase of a very nice home. For someone who has worked since the age of twelve and raised three children on her own, paying her own way the best she could, this is a bitter pill to swallow. I have about as much chance of paying off this debt as I do of pulling full-sized monkeys out of my ass.

The health care system in this country is seriously effed up. It’s an embarrassment, a tragedy, and a farce. I honestly can’t think of this issue without blowing a gasket. I think of our elected officials enjoying health care provided for them; I think of the same people on vacation while 60 more Americans die every day due to no coverage and countless others financially ruined; I think of the profit margin enjoyed by pharmaceutical and health insurance companies and it’s hard to stop the blood from boiling.

Which really is not healthy.

****

I’ve managed 600 words in the last two weeks on the WIP. This is quite a slowdown, and I need to get back in the swing. I will make my goal or die trying; at least it will be more cost effective to bury my ass than another stint in the hospital.

I have to wonder if I’m procrastinating because I’m scared I’ve lost the buzz. And I’m also wondering if I can get it back.

****

Speaking of wondering, check out this fascinating discussion of self-publishing vs traditional publishing. Much food for thought, here. My first instinct is to try to go the traditional route, and if comments from my beta readers are any indication, I have a shot. The final verdict will wait until the book is actually finished and out to a list of First Readers. (If you’re interested in being on the list, leave a comment. The more First Readers, the better. Goal date is September 30, and I will post then what I expect from First Readers and firm up the list.)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll most likely say it again. The options in the publishing field are ever-changing, and I want to make the best decision possible for me and the work. So, I’ll keep reading and researching and ruminating. There’s no sense (for me) to make a final decision before the work is even completed.

2/3 of the way there. I’m excited about that, and contemplating posting a first chapter here as a teaser. Much to ponder.

****

Okay, well, I guess I can give you a hint. It’s an urban fantasy about a hotel on the edge of Zombietown run by a Gorgon and a demi-goddess.

****

NO, that’s all you get right now. Stop whining. Heh.

****

In trying to construct a fiction writing career, I have picked as many brains as I can find. Some professional, some not. What I’ve come up with is this: I have five beta readers for as-I-write. Two know me very well, two do not. One is my daughter, with whom I kick around ideas and who has helped me out of a few sticky wickets. I am hesitant to add any more (although I did add one fellow writer whom I’ve known for a few years) because I really want impressions when the work is viewed as a whole. For me, this seems like the best approach.

****

I’ve also bookmarked a list of ten agents who handle spec-fic, and have perused many a blog regarding query letters. There’s also the dreaded synopsis to think about, but again, that is back-burner stuff until I complete the manuscript, but it’s getting close and I want to be prepared.

The game plan is to finish this book and send it out to First Readers before the edit. Once comments are returned, it will probably marinate for a couple of months while I start on Book Two. I’m thinking of riding the Madness That Is NaNoWriMo this year, an exercise I have not attempted since 2004 when I tackled it with a pile of yellow legal pads and a pen. Epic Fail; I crapped out at 25k, but I sure learned a lot.

Around the first of the year (if I can wait that long; I might not be able to restrain myself) I will re-write/edit Book One, and hopefully the second book will be well along. Form my query letter and synopsis, and start sending that ho out to strut. Rinse and repeat.

Again, the Universe laughs hysterically at plans, so I’ll just ride the wave the best I can.

****

Other, personal things remain way up in the air. My beloved Muffin (my first and only grandchild to date) took suddenly ill this weekend and had to be hospitalized. That certainly derailed me. Unfortunately, my daughter and Muffin live five hours from me, and I haven’t been released to drive yet, so a visit is not possible at this time. I have come to determine one of us must move — this distance, while not that of an ocean between us but still damned inconvenient, is killing me. One of us has GOT to move.

The job situation is very bleak; the medical debt is strangling; bouncing back from The Great Ordeal is not as quick as I want or need; family drama of a Most Unpleasant Sort is never-ending; I have decreed this is the Summer of Suckage for the second year in a row. Still, I am one stubborn wench and I am not quitting. Fuck that.

****

With that in mind, I’m going to try to finish Chapter 16. Wish me luck.

****

Endnote: Next week, I hope to present to you a most fascinating look at a sonneteer with her very own podcast for Fabulous Fiction Friday. And, I might have some other surprises up my sleeve, time and stamina permitting. Also, my interview and review with Susan Helene Gottfried will appear in the September issue of Skive Magazine. W00T! Links when they become live.

(Alex, put the voodoo doll away. I mean it. *wink*)

Carry on, people. Thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to drop your name in the hat as a First Reader, if so inclined. Much appreciated.

Share