Sunday, March 23, 2008


Wow. It´s been quite a ride so far. I´m with a group of Nueva Age people, which has made this trip a real trip. Nothing is as it seems, there is hidden meaning in everything: "tourista" is the spirit clearing your bad energy (it´s the salad, people, stay away from the leafy greens!), the freaky sound of the howler monkey, which is a lot like a thousand Jaguars all roaring at once, is the monkey throwing its etheric body around (it´s called an enlarged hyoid bone, people!), and on and on.

There's also a bit of competition to run up to important looking stones, throw your hands upon them and divine what was going on there back in the day. Pretty hilarious stuff. So today, college pal Peggy (whom I dragged along on this Nueva Age romp with, I´m ashamed to say, not fully disclosing how wacky it might be) and I are staying back at the hotel pool. I want to read and drink freshly squeezed limonada y tequila and listen to the howler monkeys throwing their etheric bodies around.

More later! Adios.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

At what point can tequila be a tax write off?

I love to pack for a trip. I’d put it up there with skiing and eating frosting on my Favorite Things list. In fact, it might even eclipse the act of traveling itself.

I’m leaving for the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas early Tuesday morning and I’ve been packing for three weeks now. I thought it was a little too OCD to start a month out, so all through February I held back the urge. I had good control until February 29 turned up - damn you, Leap Year! So I started anyway; why should I suffer because the Western World can’t come up with a calendar that doesn’t have to be adjusted every four years?

But I digress, and I know you want to get back to my riveting thoughts on packing for Mexico.

I’ll be visiting some of the most spectacular cities of the ancient Maya - research for one of my Young Adult projects. I’m most excited about spending time with a Daykeeper (basically a calendar expert, the Maya have 20 amazingly intricate calendar wheels) and learning more about Maya cosmology, especially in relation to the muy mysterioso 2012 end date of one of their calendars.

In addition to cosmology, I’m also interested in tequila. I’m thinking about pitching a mini book on tequila so I can write off my consumption without actually having to write too mas about it. What do you think, editors? Any takers? World rights go for a bottle of Del Maguey Mezcal Tobala and a basket of limes!

More from the Mundo Maya to come. Adios!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Caution: Cheating and tight pants can result in physical pain.

When I was in high school, back in the early 80s when we wore tight jeans with names like San Francisco Riding Gear and worked the kinks out of what would later become known as the Camel Toe, the future of computers seemed dubious. We had a couple machines in a computer lab somewhere, touched mostly by the boys who took AP Math, so we thought of them as giant, non-portable calculators. “Those things will never catch on,” we’d say, rolling our blue-shadowed eyes.

I had to take Mrs. McCracken’s Typing Basics junior year (yes, on a real live typewriter a la Mark “I was the first person in the world to apply the typemachine to literature" Twain). I couldn’t see the point. I distinctly remember remarking, “I don’t need to know how to type, I’m going to have a secretary…” I can’t recall what I thought I was going to grow up to be, but whatever it was it involved having a secretary to touch those loathsome keys.

When I saw that I had Typing right after morning break, I hatched a brilliant plan. Mrs. McCracken always wrote the day’s lesson on the board, so I’d go in during break and pretend to practice while I’d really be carefully typing the day’s lesson slowly, without mistakes. Then in class when we’d have our time test, I’d just type crazily like a 4 year old, throw away that gobbledygook, and then turn in the previously constructed work. I aced the class, and came out completely unable to type. My foresight could not have been cloudier.

So now, as a freelance writer who is paid to type, I still hunt and peck. I’m fast, sure, really fast actually, but in a jerky, nonsensical, start-and-stop way. A lot like I drive. Most disappointing, though, is the physical pain my cheating has brought on. I have carpel tunnel in both wrists because of the weird way that I hold my hands as I pounce on letters. A constant, chronic reminder that The Adults were right--cheating only hurts the cheater.

"Cosmic irony" bonus: My first real job out of college was at Microsoft.

Yeah, those things will never catch on...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Who Are You, Secret Reader?

When my agent picthed my manuscript to editors I realized I was free for awhile – free from the characters I had been working with for several years. It felt like I was on vacation from my family; I knew I’d see them again, but I could relax and enjoy the space between us.

Fortunately, that space produced two new book ideas that I didn’t even realize were brewing. In the first couple of weeks I couldn’t stop writing, scenes were just pouring out of me. I worked on both manuscripts simultaneously and then I hit a wall. I realized I had to be monogamous; I had to pick one and deepen my commitment.

I was torn on which one to pursue and my writer’s group was split on the decision. I decided to try Agent Laura to get an objective opinion on which she thought was more viable. She was heading off to a conference, so she sent them off to a Secret Reader to get an opinion until she could get to them. Apparently the agency has readers, kept anonymous to the clients, that review work when even the agent needs a second, objective opinion. Personally, I love the idea of a Secret Reader – I want complete honesty and only someone who has no stake in whether or not you like them can be unabashedly, brutally critical or, on the other hand, give you a genuine compliment.

Yesterday I received the comments from said Secret Reader and was delighted that s/he had such good things to say. One manuscript was strongly preferred over the other, and supporting reasons were given. All of it was true true true, but unable to be seen by me.

Forging ahead with MS #1!

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Lithia Writers Collective

As previously mentioned, I love the solitude that the writing life brings. But one of the drawbacks is that there is no feedback loop; you sit in a room and write, and occasionally glance up at the finches outside your window, then you go back to writing - but there’s no one there.

That’s why finding a critique group is essential. I met my fellow writers at a class five years ago and we went strong for a good three years. Then most of us finished the projects we were working on and went into the agent/publisher phase, so we disbanded. But I missed it. Terribly. Recently we resurrected the group with the skeleton crew and brought in two fresh writers to replace those who had wandered off or stopped writing. We are a group of five, all similar in age and situation, but with shockingly different writing styles and interests. We have two literary fiction writers, one creative nonfiction writer, and two young adult writers. We critique each other’s work, talk about publishing news, and share triumphs and rejection (of which there is plenty in this business). And we go through a lot of coffee and sweets.

I look forward to it every week because, hey, when you’re a mother of two young kids it’s really nice to have one night a week that you know will be spent with adults talking about things you love. But more than that it gives me people, real, live people, to write for; it’s not just me and the finches anymore. I have an audience. And somehow that fact alone gets my ass in the chair on a Monday morning.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


I went skiing today, a perfect warm, sunny spring day, and realized that I've been taking life way to seriously lately. Character ideas for my current project spun through my head during the drive up, but as soon as that first lift scooped me off the earth and into the air, all was forgotten. I spent a blissful day on the mountain without thinking about writing. That's good. A little distance is a powerful thing; in fact, I took a day off from blogging and now as I re-read my previous posts I realize I sound like a jackass.

What can you do except move forward?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

An Ornamental Hermit

Why writing? Because no one has been paying Ornamental Hermits for a couple of centuries now.

I worked in Seattle’s high-tech world for more than a decade and loved the pace and the people and, yes, I admit, the money. But then something happened; suddenly I found that work was depleting me rather than energizing me as it had in the beginning. It occurred to me that perhaps my parachute was not that color.

Someone once told me that to find out what you’d love to do for work, look critically at your bookshelf. See what you spend your time and money reading about. Me? I have an extensive collection of books on hermits. Ancient Tibetan hermits, Indian hermits, modern-day Catholic hermits – you name the hermit, I’ve got the book. Give me a new hermit to read about and I’ll be up all night. So I realized that inside my broad Germanic frame lives a tiny, hunched over anchorite begging for solitude.

As a writer working from an office at home I have found a way (now that kids are in school) to have long stretches of solitude without having to survive only on tsampa and sleep on a bed of pine boughs. I can live like a hermit for six hours a day and then enjoy the richness of the rest of my life.

In addition to the solitude, there is the thrill of constructing something from nothing, of creating a new world, of developing characters you come to truly love or at least love to hate. Most of all, though, there is the sheer pleasure of working with words; for every hundred dull sentences I write there’s one that I love so much I keep rolling it over and over on my tongue like a dessert that’s too good to swallow.

From Edith Sitwell’s 1933 English Eccentrics:

Certain noblemen and country squires were advertising for Ornamental Hermits. Nothing, it was felt, could give such delight to the eye, as the spectacle of an aged person, with a long grey beard, and a goatish rough robe, doddering about amongst the discomforts and pleasures of Nature.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The first post is the feaking hardest...

So here I am, making my first post and freaking out.

What do I say?
What is my stance?
What will my readers think?

Ah, what a relief. The answer to the last question helps inform the rest, because I HAVE NO READERS!

Now on to the mundane.

Like many writers, I procrastinate. Can't seem to open my manuscript until I have exhausted every excuse NOT to, including finishing such odious tasks as litter-box mining. Today as I sat down at my desk, I realized I could not possibly write without my Goldfinches.

Let me pause here and acknowledge that
admitting to birdwatching puts me in that category with your phlegmatic pipe-smoking great uncle, but hey, I want to keep it honest, this being my first post and all. So anyway, I have a finch feeder hanging just a foot away from my computer on the other side of the window and I love to watch the tiny yellow birds fight for thistle seeds as I search for the right word/phrase/idea.

It's no wonder that I was uninspired today, the feeder was empty! So I've filled it up again and now I wait; I'm not opening that manuscript until there's at least one feaking bird outside my window.

Word of the day: Feak - The action of a bird wiping its beak.
The goldfinch feaking on the willow branch inspired me to write.

FASCINATING BREAKING NEWS: I've had my first customer. A fat fluffy male who looks like he knows where to get thistle even when I've run out.

Damn, now I have to open my doc.