Thursday, December 30, 2010


I stumbled upon this cure either by accident or cosmic design.

My laptop has become possessed, refusing to work with Windows, but happy to chum along with an operating program that turns its nose up at Word. Even the program's name, Ubuntu, hints at its ugly gaming underbelly. Obviously my beast only pretended to be literary-minded and has now shown its true colors, given me a rude gesture, and lies innocently on the desk while I try to sway witnesses.

Fed up and fighting heartburn, I handed the creature off to my last and final teenager. I hope the boy gives it hell and makes it pine for the days of peaceful word processing.

Which brings me to the cure...

Another set of boys (for those fellows at Used Computer Warehouse can only be called boys) came to my rescue with an older computer more than happy to offer me Word. But alas, the emails they do come slowly. The ancient four-year-old whom I refer to as The Dark Tower is teaching me a WWII version of patience, and I'm warming to it. I cannot surf or email, or even tweet fast enough to keep my little birdie in the air. As long as I'm in my office, my only option is to...write.

It's true.
Forced discipline.
It may be the only way for people like me to become the writer I thought I was.

Rock on, but gently.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Breakthroughs in thinking are very fine things. They are the free dessert on your birthday, a thank you from your too-cool-for-school child, a freebie for getting up far too early on Black Friday.

The problem with a breakthrough is remembering it. Having a Swiss cheese memory wherein the holes can't be predicted, I write everything down, just in case. I have baskets and decorative boxes filled with little scraps of paper that hold years of ahah moments. I sift through them now and again to remind myself what's there.

And thus, the problem: keeping three-by-five cards on hand, and finding a damned pen. This morning, it was all about the pen. Where my dozens of free-flowing pens have gone, I can only guess. I had only one option, which was just a smidge better than a carving tool, and only if I dragged the tip around v e r y s l o w l y.

The upside was, by the time I was finished chiseling my 'Sherry Lewis Bit of Wisdom' onto a card, it had been carved into my brain as well. In fact, I could probably toss the card-gasp!-and still remember, years from now, that I must compel my hero or heroine to make up their bloody minds, and that something else must be put in jeopardy if he or she reaches for that brass ring.

The first point, Newanda, is that we must slow down if we are to truly improve, be it brain function or writing craft. Not easy to do on the fast track to anywhere.

The second point, dear Newanda, is the whole idea of jeopardy. It's compelling stuff. It's what makes a simple movie about a run-away train an absolute thrill to watch.

But lets get back to that brass ring before I turn movie-critic...

When I lived in Spokane, Washington, a real-life merry-go-round operated in the middle of the city, left-over from the World's Fair if I remember correctly. Growing up near an amusement park in Utah, I thought I knew about merry-go-rounds. Not so.

The point of this ride was to get the brass ring. THE brass ring. Lots of people talk about grabbing the brass ring; this is where you learn where the term comes from.

A thin metal chute reaches like an arm toward the merry-go-round. Metal rings are loaded into the chute. At the end, and most importantly, JUST OUT OF REACH, of the horsey riders, a single ring hangs, ready to be plucked if the rider is quick enough, accurate enough, and bold enough to hang on in spite of their arms being nearly ripped off.

Yes, timing is everything, and luckily, the merry-go-round lifts the outside horses at just the right moment. But luck is also a player because sometimes, the ring isn't silver, but brass. If your ring is silver, you've still done a brave thing, but you try to toss the ring in the clown's mouth on the far side of the ride, then hope your next one is brass. If your ring is brass, you get a free ride. At least that's what I remember after #@*!? years.

The way your heart jumps when you see gold at the end of the chute, knowing it could be yours, is a great rush, I don't care how old you are. Everything has been put into the anticipation of this moment. The rise of your pony, the incredible wind-in-your-hair-speed of the merry-go-round ('cause these guys aren't there to entertain enfants), and the number of passes it takes to warm up your arm, practice your accuracy, and suffer the disappointment of coming away with the silver--all combine to make you feel like an olympian with victory within your reach when the gold ring slides into place.

BUT, it's not. It's not within your reach. Even if you're tall enough, old enough, to ride on the outside lane and try for the rings, the chute is never within your reach. It's just a few inches too far. And if you are ever going to get off your butt to do something amazing in your life, the time to do so is on this merry-go-round.

You must stand up, stretch, and let go of the pole j u s t e n o u g h t o s c a r e t h e c r a p out of you, to be able to touch it. And then touching won't do it. If you approach it like a jouster and think you can poke your finger in the hole and just follow-through, you're wrong. There is no easy. There is no safe. There is only commitment.

Commitment is this:
You must hook your finger in the hole, clamp it tight, and then whip your arm behind you with all your might and yank it out just before your arm comes out of it's socket. That's commitment. That's the real follow-though.

How committed are you charaters to their goals? Will they get enough of a payoff if they do the daring deed? Or will they get a silver ring to chuck into the clowns mouth, maybe make the clown's nose light up? How fun is that, really?

I don't know about you, but thanks to a slowly carved lesson from SL, I'm going to make that goal a little harder to reach, a little harder to hold, a little more risky to reach for, and a little more important to obtain. All that has to pay off in a great read, doesn't it?

Thanks Sherry!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


So, you know how I hate to miss a good party, or a potentially good party?
Well, Nanowrimos in San Francisco are having a whopper on November 21st, and since I can't go to that, I decided we need one in the Utah area.

So, on Saturday, November 21st, I'm holding a CRAZY IVAN PARTY at my home in Layton, Utah. 5-11 pm. Laptops and food. No talking except at the top of the hour when everyone will have five minutes to get more food and drink and get back in their seats.

It's a writing marathon, for Nano of course, but if it is any fun at all, we'll maybe try another in January--a chance to kick the year off on a productive note.

You should try one too. Get your writing buddies together. Have everyone bring sustenance and make your laptops hum. Quietly, of course. Except at the top of the hour.

We shall call these moments of chaos...CRAZY IVANS!
(RED OCTOBER fans? Anyone?)
I'm going to need a seaman's whistle.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


I'm running a 500k, kinda. It's a NANO times ten.

The finish line is 500,000 words by midnight, October 31, 2011.
Who wants to play?!

1. Every word you write counts, weather or not it is edited out. Even if it's on the page for a second, it counts. If you write a freaking blog post, it counts. If you write a long email, it counts.

The first point, Newanda, is to make writing as much a part of your day as breathing. The second point is to have a pile of manuscripts to show for it. Imagine! A PILE!

2.If you make it to half a mil, you get to buy yourself whatever you want. It's a RULE!

You may copy the widget to the right. (I suggest not leaving it too visible. Watching time slipping away is a little unnerving.)


Sunday, October 24, 2010


There is a theory in business management that states that completion of a given task will take the time alotted for that task. Meaning, if you alot an hour for a job, humans being humans, status being quo, it will take an hour to finish that job.

So, if you give yourself an indeterminate amount of time in which to write a novel, it may, or may not, get finished at all. But most of us dearly want to finish, don't we? This is why NANOWRIMO is a good thing--so good in fact that it shouldn't be saved for just once a year.

I say, listen to the experts. Make a SWAG (scientific wild-assed guess) on how long it would take you to crank out a first draft of a novel, or whatever you're wishing you could produce. IF you were focused. IF you made the time. IF you intend to really make a career of writing. And by all means, be honest with yourself.

Don't plan to write every day. I'm planning for 5 days per week and calculated accordingly. If I miss a day, then it will cut into my weekend, so that's just more motivation.

I looked back at the last book I wrote (I kept a little record) and looked at my average page count for days I actually wrote some. (This was just writing for a few hours a day, not 6 or 8 hours.)I multiplied that by five days a week, then 52 weeks a year. Then I divided that by 350 pages and had, in front of me, how many books I can crank out in a year.

I had to sit down.

SIDE NOTE: If your SWAG is more than 6 months for one book, then you can stop reading now. You have better things to do than read this crap.

For those of you still reading, I suggest you stop for a moment, do the little exercise with your calculator, and see just what you are capable of. I think you'll be surprised. I think you'll be disappointed in yourself for not doing better in the last twelve months.

I know I am.

Also, don't feel pressured into making your plan longer than is reasonable for you. Small bites. Reasonable goals. I just happen to be making a plan for the next 12 months, not just one. Would one be reasonable? Yes. Is 12 months unreasonable? Maybe, but I'm moving up from String Theory to Rope Theory.

Before I tell you my plan, let me warn you that my plan also involves editing an hour or two in the evenings and on weekends. I know there will be other duties to this BUSINESS besides cranking out raw material. I haven't lost all ability to reason. I'm not functioning under the influence of a full moon. (That was days ago.)

Also, a note about my last book: I was MOTIVATED. I was writing to the market--gasp! I was armed with an agent's prediction of what was the new hot thing and I was going to crank out just that. I did have another novel I had to finish and send off before I could start on THE BOOK, but once I started (I'd given myself 6 weeks), I did it in four.

You see something wrong here, don't you? So you should. I'd given myself six weeks to get it done. I told that agent I would be sending it in 6 freaking weeks! Only I was determined to edit it and have some beta readers go over it first--THAT's what cut my time back to 4 weeks.

The completion of any given [novel] will require the time alotted for that [novel]. I alotted four weeks. It took four weeks. Did I miss days altogether? Yes. Did my husband resent it a little? Sometimes. Did the commitment to that agent drag me over each and every obstacle?

My ambition did it.

I am an ambitious beyotch. I'm sure I can come up with reasons for it. But ambition is my strength and my weakness. Somedays I pay dearly for it. Someday it'll be paying me.

This year is no different. This year I'm planning to write six novels. It's reasonable...for someone with my drive, and honey, I drive fast.

That's nearly half a million words, by the way. It's 7.3 pages per day. Five days a week. No weeks off. I'm going to set up a countdown on this blog, so you can see if I'm behind. I'm going to stay off email for the most part and hope I don't lose friends.

I'm also going to be published by Valor Publishing; the first book comes out in April. I'm going to do booksignings out the wahzoo, get a son graduated, sent on a mission, and get the older one back home and married off. I'm going to be babysitting Copy and Paste when needed, work part time, and keep my husband and I on our Biggest Loser Roller Coaster Ride. NO! You won't be seeing a grid on that info! Suffice it to say, it's nearly half a million.

So no, I won't be living with my laptop in a closet, being fed through the cracks by a bunch of sons who would be more than happy to share less and less of their daily alotment of food. (The theory they've proven is that whatever the amount of food alotted for a meal cannot expand to fill the imagined caloric requirements of male subjects under 22.)

I will be living my normal abbynormal life. I will also be living my normal abbynormal dream. I'll either live to tell about it or make more traditional use of that ROPE THEORY.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Time-Sucks and String Theory

I need a freaking nap.
Not that kind of nap.
I need a deep-space regenerative nap. I need a new, fully charged battery that is four versions more powerful than the one I came with.

My writing life is about to start anew. I've backed off some time-suck-loops--who'm I kidding? I backed off them all! I sat down and made a business plan for the near future, and a funny thing happened...but I'll get to that in a minute.

I shouldn't really be surprised. I've tested this string theory thing before and had it pay off. It was a mild test; I dressed for success. In a workplace with no public traffic, where my coworkers wear their pajamas if they choose to, I decided one day that I would dress for success, that even though I pushed papers for a private company, I'd dress as if I were a successful author. It worked the very first day; I started getting requests for full manuscripts. And listen to this--in addition to feeling like a writer, I started writing like a writer.

So, now I've tested the string again, doing everything I mentioned at the beginning, and something happened. I had a plan, I had a tentative schedule, I made appointments, I sent a few bold emails, and prepared myself to be a successful writer. And yes, the VERY NEXT DAY, something incredibly hopeful happened, although completely unrelated to the adjustment I'd made in my career plan. My agent got a request for a full manuscript she'd sent out on submission a month or so ago. And it was a BIG publisher that could very well unfold the world for me.

No, I won't hear anything for a few months I'm sure. But the point is, Newanda, that a change in attitude, a change in the focus of energy, really seems to do something to my universe. Everything, it seems, begins to shake a little, maybe vibrate. Maybe any movement makes a ripple in our private cosmos, and a big fish may rise to the surface to see what the devil is going on.

So, get out your little chemistry sets, your goal sheets, or that notebook you bought for recording your aspirations. Touch your toes, change your perspective (I like to drive up on the mountainside and look down on my little community). It can be anything, but do whatever it takes to come fully alert.

Now that you're alert, make a bold plan. The bolder, the better. Something you can actually control, though, like dressing for success, or making an opportunity for yourself. Then sit forward (not back) and see what happens.

This is the important part: come back and tell me all about it!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Embarassing Henry David Thoreau

It's mid-life crisis time! Yay~~~~~
I'm retiring from the world of volunteering and participating, and diving into the reality of my own back yard. There are worlds out there, between the rustling leaves and swaying branches, characters in the eyes of my children. Why, oh why, have I been looking in the city, when there is so much to find at home?

I'm going to take some advice from Leaves of Grass. I am going to leave the busy world behind. I have my own Leaves of Grass to write...among my own leaves.

Does this happen to you other writers, around about October? Is it just the change in the weather? Is it that damned Mercury in retrograde again? Is it the instinct to increase the bulk of my fur, to prepare? Gather berries and nuts maybe? I want to bite apples and chew weeds and taste what's going on around me. Hell, I'd even smoke something if I thought I could taste it better.

Yesterday, a friend and I got our cardio in by walking a lovely wooded path. I think I came home with a new addiction. Air. Fresh, organic, air. How could I ever find happines in a boxed, packaged version for so long? I want to break out my own windows--knock down the walls and get a good pure look at the sqaure of space we've wrongly imprisoned for the past 15 years!

But then I walk out into the dark night air, look at the stars I so rarily notice, and feel a chill. Moments later, I'm back inside, grateful for the warm imprisoned air that takes the chill away. Grateful I won't be sleeping out of doors tonight. Grateful for all those things I thought I could give up earlier in the day.

Spoiled. I am a child. Gimme freedom. Keep me warm. Let me jump off the cliff, but catch me. Gimme gimme. Dear Lord, I have raised the Entitled Generation. My bad.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Yes, I'm the conference quack.
Wait. I'm the soon-to-be-retired conference quack.
This will be the last year I will pull off the HEART OF THE WEST CONFERENCE in Park City. Our theme this time is "Out, out damned plot."
There are surprises in store, silliness galore, and enough VIP's to rub off an ambitious writer's elbows.

Please refer to the Kiss It and Send It Ceremony.

We have secret guests coming for our YA Fae Soiree and a secret guest coming for our 'Ophelia's Anti-depressant Chocolate Pond Party.' And since the KIASI Ceremony will be held near the pool, who can say how many of us will end up in the water...on a cool October evening? Good thing there will be hot chocolate in the pond...

Yeah. So come.
You can find details on .

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Science of Tissue Paper and Ice Cream

Headed for the Big CON.
Big Con=Big Conference, not the Con of Man, not "the thing you're wasting money on". Not judging the way you spend your money. Not judging the Con. Not judging you. Got it?

The Big CON in my world is RWA Nationals.

It's costing me hearth and home to attend. I don't even want to think about what else I could have done with the money, things that would have been more lasting. Ooops. Just thought about them. Crap.

Moving along.

Let's say you're going to Nationals too. My packing advice will work for any conference, but we'll just use this one as an example.

While you're packing that outfit for the perfect pitch you're going to throw down the gullet of the agent or editor on your wish list of victims, imagine yourself not pitching well. Go ahead. Oh, for Pete's sake, just try it.

Imagine finding absolutely no one important (to your career) on the elevator with you ALL WEEK.

Imagine only other writers at your tables, in your restaurants, and in your lobbies. No chance to pitch, no elbows to rub, no faces to match those VIPs you've been stalking on line, nor anyone running around with a shark's head (Janet Reid).

Imagine the only agents and editors you see are on the panels you attend. Your pitch appointments go well, but no one gushed over you, or offered to sign you on the spot.

The clothing choices are fantastic, but no one notices them but you. Everyone else is a little too preoccupied with what they themselves are wearing . And you see seven people wearing the same pair of earrings, three have the same sandals, and the one woman who owns a copy of your dress sits at your table on Awards night.

Decide now, while packing those clothes, what attitude you're going to pack along with them, in between each outfit, like a layer of tissue paper.

Why are you going to this CON? Looking to be discovered? Looking for a way to push yourself into the line of sight of someone with the power to help your career? Are you going to impress your friends, family, or local chapter members? Are you out of your mind?

Do amazing things happen to some people at conferences? Sure. Have you had great experiences in pitch appointments before? Probably. Are you going because you are serious about your career and want to be in the right place at the right time, just in case? Of course.

But this is the attitude I'm packing.

Of course it's a lot of money. I believe I'm worth an indulgence like this.
What am I indulging in?
I'm going to go somewhere, for five days, where I can talk with people around me, about the activity in my life that I find most rewarding.
I won't have to explain why I write, or why I would want to invest so many hours into something that may never pay off in actual money.
I won't have to listen to (too many) jokes about sex scenes.
I won't have to explain the publishing industry, or what the difference is between an agent and an editor.
I won't have to listen to anyone ask why it's taking so long to hear back from those people who were considering my book.

Everyone attending will be in one of four boats:
PAN (Published)
Or Industry professional

I can relate to anyone in any of the four boats. I could walk into the lobby, join a random group of women in the midst of their conversation and feel perfectly at home. You could gather any six writers and put them around a lunch table and they could happily talk for hours.

The point, Newanda, is that writers conferences are for writers. While the industry professionals are certainly the cherries on top, it's more a chance to eat ice cream with like minds and know that we are not alone. And if you've never been to a BIG CON, you really don't understand the magic of meeting a perfect stranger and knowing, in another life, you'd be absolutely soul-deep friends.

We're like scientists, really.

In their daily lives, scientist teach science from the bottom up. But scientists getting together with other scientists is what gives our civilization hope. They don't discuss basics; they stand on the pinacles of what they know and they push each other to look beyond, to stretch, to move past the tools...and create.

So there is my tissue paper, the attitude I'm packing. I'm going for all the possibilities of elbow rubbing, sure. But if nothing happens there, I won't be kicking myself for having attended. The real reason I'm going is for the ice cream and the inspiration I'll get from my fellow writers. THAT plan cannot fail.

So don't kill yourself memorizing each little word of your pitch. Don't waste an hour deciding on those perfectly unique earrings, and plan for a fun time. Dye, wax, tan, and get nails, but know that you're doing it all for you.



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Brilliance and Broccoli

Why the *bleep* are you reading this blog when you should be writing?

Procrastinating again?
Looking for inspiration without, when you should be digging around within?

Or have you earned the right to surf for a while? You've got time to kill, or you have something percolating that isn't yet ready to pour onto the page maybe?

I'll tell you, the best place for percolating, stewing, or reducing--as in, reduction, boiling down, concentrating into something pure--besides the in the bathroom.

The shower! I'm talking about the shower!

Steam cleans the senses. Think about it.
It awakens the skin, cleans your sinuses, washes away fragrance or odors from your hair, heightens awareness, and enlivens the brain. (Want a shock? Turn the knob to 'cold'.)

Leave those great ideas alone too long, and they'll mold, or wilt, or dry up and blow away. Grab them up before it's too late and steam 'em. Like broccoli, they may brighten up and really impress you.

I thought of the funniest thing this morning. I came out of the shower laughing my head off, and it had nothing to do with what I saw in the mirror. That was foggy anyway.

I'm just sayin', this morning, I was broccoli and brilliant.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I'd been trying all month to start a new book. All month.
Okay, I'll admit I'd been trying to try.

I'd thought about it often. I'd been bored a couple of times and wandered into my office, wondering what I should be doing, then realizing what that something was. I'd even shut the door and intended to send children away if they came in to whine for something, but none of them came. And with such little effort needed, it should have been easy to start a new story.

But I didn't. If it was going to be that easy, I could start it again in a day or two. But now it's turned into a month or two. NOT. GOOD.

So, what I did was this:
First, I made it a goal to finish the first half of a new book by the end of this new month. Then I took my office apart--with the distinct goal of putting it back together again by the end of the weekend--and rearranged my Feng and my Shui. At least that goal was reached.

Whatever the directional flow of wind (feng) and water (shui) that accompanied the writing of my last work has been drastically changed.
While seated at my desk, I'm facing Southwest, for heaven's sake. The doorway is located at 7:00, BEHIND ME . There is no water fountain , but the breeze in my 50 foot trees can be heard and seen to my right .

Things I should have taken care of, or organized long ago, are now stacked in nice piles upon a bench under the window. My three awards are dusted and hung above the closet, and the framed cork boards are up on the wall after waiting patiently in a corner for over a year. The perfect chair is now in the perfect corner--an impossible feat, I assure you. The 18th Century Italian cabinet lurkes at my back, which may or may not inspire some gothic overtones in "the new book". And a copy of that contract I just signed with my first agent sits near my left elbow to remind me that I have at least one fan for whom I will write this story. It's not just for me anymore.

That's right, Geppetto, I'm almost a real boy now. I got no strings to hold me down, to make me fret or make me frown. My cricket's name is Cori, and I'm headed out of the house. I've cashed in my wish-upon-a-star, and now I've got to earn my little pink nose. Only difference between me and Pinnochio is: I've GOT to tell a real whopper of a story to earn mine.

Here's hoping for a mind-blower.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I sure FEEL like I've lost a hundred pounds.

On April 15th I signed with a literary agent, and now I'm warring with some pretty bizarre feelings nearly a week later.

I've taken a can opener and pried the "aggressive writer" hat off my head. I've notified everyone with my query, partial, or full that all of my works have found representation. And BOY, wasn't that unreal, UNdoing all that work, then getting lovely notes from people who suddenly saw me differently.

I guess it's kind of like losing a whole lot of weight--people are happy to look me in the eye.

Is it unfair for people to avoid eye contact with overweight people? Of course it is. But is there anything, realistically, that can be done about it? I'd say, not short of jumping on the table and dancing around until they look at you.

My point, Nuwanda, is that unpublished writers are fat. Well, we're kind of invisible in the same way as those of us who take up a bit more space in the world. I've been dancing and singing on this table for quite a while now, and The Call came just in time. My arms were getting tired from waving. My voice was getting hoarse, and the taps on my shoes were no longer tapping, so much as dragging.

So I'm climbing down off the table, with the help of my new agent, Cori. The platform is all yours, and hopefully I won't be back to try and bump you off for another try.

Sing loud. Dance pretty. And good luck!


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Can You Know Too Much?

As a matter of fact, you can.

For those of you who follow literary agent blogs, I feel as Jessica Faust feels this spring--that everything that needed saying has been said. She is backing away a bit from her blogging because she's found herself rehashing the same old...well, hash.

And now that I'm ready to graduate with all possible knowledge on the dos and don'ts of agent hunting, and I've followed the tweets of far too many industry icons, I feel like I'm standing in the parking lot, wearing my cap and gown, and realizing that it was all a crock.

Who do I see to demand those hours of my life back?
Only me.
But maybe I can keep some of you from wasting too much time obsessing.

We don't need to know it all.
We don't need to understand the inside cupcake jokes of agents or editors who, let's face it, live in a world with cupcakes on every corner.
We don't need to remember the name of a targeted agent's pet, husband, or pet/husband.
We don't need to know what sold today for six figures and WHY. In fact, it may be better if we don't know.

Instead, we need to spend some time practicing and improving our understanding of punctuation, syntax, and literary tools so we can become better writers--to better COMMUNICATE OUR STORIES. (Yes, I'm yelling!)

My suggestion, if you're still reading, is to pick one day of the week to worry about finding an agent, editor, or stand-up gig, and the rest of your writing time sculpting that mess on your desk into something breathtaking.

If you're so interested in the inner workings of agents, become a freaking agent. If you're in love with New York, move there. If you want to become a best-selling author, write your guts out. Rewrite them. Toss it all and start again. Then rewrite that.

Take a Chef Ramsay approach to your writing career. Toss what doesn't work. Fire whomever won't support the surge to success, and get back in the damned kitchen!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Well, She's Dead

That's it.
She's dead.
No one saw it coming. Hell, I didn't actually see it coming. It was more like a rumor floating around my own head that I refused to pin down and look at seriously.

It's not like it wasn't painful, because I must confess, it hurt me just as much as it hurt her, and I'm still in a little bit of shock--like when you're sitting in your crumpled car trying to make yourself understand that yes, you've been in an real live accident. Even when it's your own fault for not paying enough attention, you're still as shaken up as the one you've hit.

I didn't kill her with a car, by the way.

I didn't take a poll before I knocked her off. Murder isn't the kind of thing for which you can ask advice.

I murdered her in the broad light of day. There was no struggle, really. More of a surprised look and a stupid little comment given with a Scottish accent, "Oh, yeah. Right. Well, let's get on with it, then."

Then she sat back into the fountain, wincing at the chill of the water as it flooded through her denim and reached sensitive parts. Just before her ears went under I asked if she'd mind closing her eyes. And she said, again in that Scottish accent (probably an unconscious bid for reconsideration), "I'll do me best."

There she was, submerged just a few inches below the surface, holding her breath, when one eye popped open and she frowned. "Oh, right," I said, and put my hands on her shoulders to hold her down. She nodded and shut that eye once more. And as if she could hear the countdown in my mind, on the count of three bubbles poured out of her mouth and mingled with the fountain bubbles that were floating over to see what the hell we were doing.

She looked up at me then. Both eyes boring into mine.
I held tight.
Her body jerked in protest as she breathed the water in, and for a little while her hands pulled at my arms, her legs kicked, even though she hadn't intended to struggle. And just before those eyes got that far-off vacant look, I heard her last thoughts as if they were my own.

"You don't need me anymore. Make me proud."

(And I'll be damned if I'm not crying now, as I'm telling it.)

Still I held on, even though I didn't need to; the struggle was over, the keys to the castle handed over without so much as a question.

Could it be that she had known what was coming before I did?
She was a clever chick, after all.

No body floated by in the swirl of cool water as it streamed past my empty hands. She was just gone.

Of course there are pictures and business cards. Her name has not been erased completely. There are accounts to tend to, announcements to be made, and a website to change. But every now and then, when her name pops up, I'll do a double take and try to remember other days, before the fountain.

So, rest in peace Ainsley MacQueen.
She won't be back.
I could never do this again. You'd end up calling my Sybil.

In lieu of flowers, buy the future books of Lesli Muir Lytle

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Contents of Your Asylum

The one fantasy common to most writers is to make enough in royalties to quit their day jobs.

Don't do that.

Part of what makes stories interesting and unique is the flavor enhancement known as CONTENT. These are the little ideas you've been carrying around in your head for decades, or years, or weeks, that you cleverly slip into a scene here and a dialogue there.

Content makes your characters more interesting--like that big hair you added to the description of an old witch--the one your old boss used to have growing off the bottom of her earlobe that curled back like a hoop earring and you always wondered why in heaven's name she could never see it in a mirror, and then wondered if she knew about it all along and was testing mankind to see who might be brave enough to tell her about it.

That's content. That's interest. That's why older writers are a little better than younger ones, because they have content. It's a secret recipe you've been working on all your life and you add it to everything you create, making it sing on the tongue.

The point here, Newanda, is that your content reservoir doesn't fill by itself. You've got to be out in the world--and I don't mean Starbuck's--to keep topping it off. No matter how wonderful your view of the backyard, or how many interesting folks you meet at church, you're going to need to siphon a little of the sea of humanity if you want to maintain the outgoing flow of interesting bits.

And what better place to siphon content and money off a strangely-furred employer than at a day job? I can't wait to quit my current employment, if only for the freedom to examine the boss's oddities on this blog and elsewhere. (*See conveniences of having a pen name...)

So quit wanting out! Take a look around and pretend you work in an asylum, because brother, you do.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Gist, Newanda...

I write because you, the reader, need to see what I see, and how I see it.

I'm on the other side of the two way mirror and there are things on this side you are MISSING. And if you don't want to know about them, it can only mean you don't UNDERSTAND what you're missing. It is my duty in life to make you understand.

There. Did you see that? Holy crap! Holy, holy crap!

You missed it? Oh, yeah, you. are. screwed.

Well, slip me a Mr. Franklin and I'll tell you what you missed. You'll just have to trust me. It's worth it.

Okay, I'll take a five.

The writer on the inside,

Friday, January 15, 2010

Holy Cow, I'm Happy.

So I was fantasizing yesterday about being the next Stephanie Meyer or JKR and wondered what it would be like to have all that money, to be a NYTBSA and obtain the fame and vindication that would complete my life.

(And yes, I'm pretty sure that's what I'm after--oh, and a lifetime's supply of chocolate covered almonds).

I dragged my husband in on the fantasy, since such an occurance would also change his life. We debated on selling the house, but decided to stay and add on (so our autistic son wouldn't have wasted the last 21 years of his life memorizing an address only to have us MOVE.)

I was excited about the prospect of having a maid, but Hubby claims he wants to stay home and be Mr. Mom. He doesn't mind cleaning the toilets either. I suspect he would rather do that than allow strangers access to his bathroom.

So we decided to travel. He suggested buying a motorhome and driving around the country to visit our children. I pointed out that it was nearly certain all of them will live within 30 miles, even after the last of them marries.

We'd spend a lot on food and eat anything we want...but we already do that.
We'd spoil our children...done.
We'd buy new cars, but our neighbors would think we'd moved if there weren't at least a trio of paintless wonders in our driveway. Even family would drive past saying "Oh, that can't be it."

I know there are a lot of big things I haven't even touched upon here, but the point, Newanda, is that this little conversation made me realize that I don't want my life to change. I like my life. I'd like my bank account to change--who wouldn't--but the life? It's pretty good.

Then I realized what this meant: Holy shit! I'm happy.
When did that happen? Where was I? When was somebody going to tell ME for hell sakes?

So who knows? Maybe I'll be a kinder, gentler writer who only encourages you to focus on your writing with uplifting stories of patience and success.

Maybe NOT!

I may be happy, but you aren't! And you're not going to be happy until you've finished that damned book, or short story, or article for your church newsletter (cough, cough). (And yes, the coughing was to cover up the LAUGHTER. If you're only writing for the church ladies, why in the hell are you reading this blog?)

Happy Ainsley who has not misplaced her whip.

Friday, January 8, 2010

No Country For Casual Writers

Wanna be a casual writer?

Wanna write when your muse takes your hand and gently guides you to a pen and paper because the breeze tickling your sheer drapes has kissed her cheek and brought her out of her deep sleep and she's ready to dictate the lovely dream she's been having?

Do you want to write when the stars are aligned at the same time your family leaves you alone in the house unexpectedly?

In ambitious moments do you make a writing schedule and celebrate when you hit your goal a couple of days out of the month? Or even spend more time blogging or emailing about your writing than you actually spend on the manuscript itself?

Then you are a casual writer. Nothing wrong with that. You probably enjoy your writing more than most; it is a gift, not a chore.

For those of you less casual about your writing, I don't know if you've noticed, but the writing industry has turned into a GAUNTLET. It's no longer a row of desks spread out in the middle of a field like archery targets where we stand back and try to lob our babies from afar, hoping the desk it lands on, or bumps into, is the desk of someone who will appreciate said baby and if they dont, we'll pick it up, dust it off, and lob it at the next desk.

The new GAUNTLET is a damned busy public transit stop in Asia with thousands lined up waiting for the next train, to shoot their bodies toward the doors as soon as they crack open regardless of the people who are getting off and making room for more. With enough effort, after all, the agressive new group can push them out the other side of the train.

And these gentle human beings are anything but. While they wait for that train, they've either got their heads down, nudging their way forward, looking for familiar faces with whom they might gang up and weild more power, or they're trying to thin the crowd. "I hear the next stop has short lines...why don't you try it?"

Sorry to say, that if you're trying to get on this train, you should bring thugs with you (fellow writers) and embrace the gang mentality (writer conferences). At least you'll have a better shot of survival when the excitement gets people pushed onto the tracks. Friends, if they haven't been turned by the smell of blood in the air (angels), can at least pull you back up on the platform.

And once you're on the train, you'll have to fight like mad to get away from those doors before they open again. Grab any handle and hang on for your life. And if your work stinks, there are trap doors that will dump you out between the tracks. For pity's sake, DON'T STINK! You want some editor or agent to take one peek at the manuscript under your arm, think you smell like money, and offer you a seat next to him or her.

Screw the soft breeze. It's a rough wind that accompanies the publishing train and you don't want your nightgown blown around like a doomed ship's sail pulling you toward those sharp iron wheels. The only legacy you'll leave behind is a youtube video of that stupid surprise on your face, just as you're going under.

Have I thinned the crowd a little?
Good for you. See you at the station.

Ainsley, the world traveller