Friday, December 28, 2007

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful

Hate me because I have a whole week off next week. Since I already had Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off because of our very generous boss, I decided to use up my last two vacation days and make it a whole week. I'm not really planning to go anywhere or do anything particularly special. Here are some of the ideas that have floated by:

--Write, of course.
--Sit in on the Sunday CSFWG meeting and see what everyone is working on.
--Absolutely go to Sunday dinner with the gang.
--Get together with the usual suspects for New Year's Night (not Eve) tradition.
--Movies, movies, movies. I'm really behind on my movie viewing for the year.
--Hike. Garden of the Gods should be lovely right now. And I've never hiked Garden of the Goddess.
--Finish piecing a quilt I started for Miss Elizabeth.
--Take in the Impressionist and Modern Art exhibit at the Fine Art Center.

Any other suggestions? Must be something that requires minimal funds.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Jenny recently posted about "filling the well" not quite fitting how she feels when she runs out of inspiration. Hers was a grape that had become a raisin, needing more moisture to plump up and be ready to go. Ali followed up with a kite analogy, Nicole feels like a plate of tangled spaghetti, and D.B. used a deflated balloon.

Mine is somewhere in the middle. Maybe it's the whole Pirate thing. Or the fact that my father designed and built boats. But I feel like a becalmed schooner. My sails need some wind to fill them so I can get moving again. And let's get those ropes coiled neatly on the deck so I don't trip.

I have been keeping up with my Morning Pages, but not much else. Things are percolating, but not ready to be poured out. And if I did, I'm not sure I have the energy to add any of the cream and sugar that makes writing (and reading) fun.

The good news is that I have started reading Jenny's manuscript. I'm still on parts I've read before, but there seems to have been some changes made since then. And notes for more changes. Makes me smile to see someone else doing that.

I should finish before the weekend is out. I want to jot down initial comments then wait a while. Sometimes I think it's helpful to know what stayed with a reader--or what bothers them after they think about it a while. So she should have her pages back for the next Pirate gathering--which isn't Last Sunday, Jen.

A fun way to end the year.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Challenge

I know everyone's busy with the holidays and feeling like writing is the last thing you have time for. But here's a multiple-choice Evil Editor themed challenge to get you writing for a little bit at least.

Pick one (or more if you're feeling ambitious):

1) Submit a query letter to Evil Editor.
2) Submit the first part of something you've written to Evil Editor for a continuation.
3) Do one of the following current Writing Exercises (word limit 250) and submit to Mr. Evil:

a) Evil Editor is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, who helps him revisit the crucial event that led to his evilness.
b) You find the list of your three 2007 New Year's resolutions. So far you've accomplished none of them. But there are still two hours till 2008. Better move fast.
c) We all know what happened when the little "Who" discovered the Grinch taking all the presnts; she bought his lies and went back to bed. Write a scene in which one of the following characters discovers the Grinch stealing Christmas: Columbo; Rambo; Chief Wiggum.
d) An ice storm has had your electricity of for four days. You can't cook, watch television or use your blender. Worst of all, you can't get online. Write a scene describing the lengths you go to to find out what's happening on Evil Editor's blog.
e) Stranded on a frozen tundra, you look up to see a vast herd of reindeer stampeding toward you. It could be time to use your time travel device, but there's no telling where and when it'll deposit you.

Have fun.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I'm Feeling Better

I wrote that with a Monty Python accent, not sure if it comes through.

I really am feeling better. I sent the packages that had to go out of town on Friday, cleaned the house and finished decorating the tree on Saturday then had tea with the USOC ladies on Sunday.

Today, I finished my Christmas shopping at lunch. Thanks, Barnes & Noble! And manager Dave, who recognized me and came to my aid. A hot non-fiction book only displayed at the back of the fiction section. Silly me for not looking there. Anyway, that's done. Huge sigh of relief at the register and much bantering with the gal at the checkout. Love B&N employees. One in particular, but almost all of them chat about what you're buying and such.

My for-no-reason-in-particular vacation day also worked wonders. I finally watched Pan's Labyrinth. What a beautiful and horrible movie. I understand now what everyone was talking about. My nephew had said that it was the most violent movie he'd ever seen. This is the guy who grew up on what he calls slash and hack films. I'm not sure I could have taken the brutality without the fairy tale element intertwined. Of course, most fairy tales are brutal. But when it's called fantasy, it seems easier to deal with.

Then last night I watched a fluffy little bit of fun called The Holiday. I knew exactly how it would turn out after the first five minutes, but it was still fun. Surprisingly, there was no real chemistry between Cameron Diaz and Jude Law. There was, however, a spark between Jack Black and Kate Winslet. Half the scenes they're in together, she looks like she's trying desperately not to laugh. As an aside, Alex O'Loughlin, who plays the sexy vampire on Moonlight, has a cameo in the beginning of the movie as Kissing Guy.

I also made some tasty but somewhat healthy cookies to bring in for snacks so I don't go for the chocolate and preservatives. Key word there is "tasty".

So just a general day of putting a drop or two back in the old well. Not quite a refilling [see Jenny's blog for an explanation if you're not familiar with Julia Cameron], but a start. Even with so little, I had a dream that may be a plot for another novel. I'll have to let it stew a while. And it's given me a taste for a fuller refill. There's an exhibit of Impressionist and Modern art at the Fine Art Center that I'm taking myself to see--possibly next weekend. There are a few movies out in the theater that I want to see. I have a wine date with a friend. I have Jenny's FJR to read, plus a couple other books I've been wanting to dip into. And I have a pattern and yarn for a new sweater.

So right now all I'm worrying about writing is Morning Pages. Another Julia Cameron thing. Writing three pages a day off the top of your head. A way to get out the gunk and get the juices flowing. I mentioned in my goal update for the week that I'm writing every day but cheating. Actually, what I'm doing is making up for days I don't write. So if I miss Saturday and Sunday--which happens a lot for some reason--then on Monday I may put a heading of 12/17/07 Monday for Saturday. I'll write the three pages. If I have three more in my, I'll head the next one 12/17/07 Monday for Sunday. And so on until I'm writing for whatever day it is. I did this one other time and, after getting four days behind for some reason and making myself catch up, I didn't skip any days for well over a month.

Amazing how just a few little things can turn a mood around.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

From Tension to Stress

What is it about this time of year? I don't have nearly the amount of presents to buy or promises to keep as most of the people I know. Yet I am feeling really stressed out. I just came off a 4-day migraine that was probably equal parts stress, winter weather and not eating correctly (because of the stress thing). I'm watching the snow coming down, making the roads even more fun to drive on going home than they were coming to work--and they were BAD coming to work.

So what to do? Here's my plan of attack. Which may be an oxymoron when talking about getting rid of stress, but there you go.

1) Lists. Once I have everything I need to do in a list, it makes it seem more manageable.
2) Divvying up the tasks. I tend to try to overdo. [Okay, I hear all of you out there with your sarcastic, "Oh, yeah?"s.] Since I really don't want to get out on the roads today, I keep thinking, "Tomorrow at lunch I'll . . . " I've listed things that will take 4 hours to do on my one-hour lunch break. And none of them involve actually eating lunch. So 2 list items tops at lunch and one after work. There's still Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week. Plus some time next week, too.
3) Let a few things go. Always the hardest for me. But it does help to identify an item or two that I don't really need to get done right now and take them off the list until next year.
4) Do something fun just for the hell of it. Again, a hard one when I'm already feeling overbooked. But stopping for a cup of gingerbread coffee and reading a chapter or two of a book or shooting the bull with a friend I haven't seen in a while can be just what I need to energize for all those other tasks.
5) Take care of my health. That means eating right and making time to exercise. The temptation is to grab Micky D's or some other high-fat, high-cal, high-bad food and eat it in the car. Not conducive to feeling at my best. Pack lunch.

See, I feel better already. So what do you do to relieve stress? Is writing, or not writing, involved?

Friday, December 7, 2007


"Grandage is alive to the fact that uncontrolled rage is profoundly uninteresting to watch: If emotions boil over, tension evaporates. " David Benedict of Variety reviewing Grandage's production of Othello with Ewan McGregor as Iago.

There were two revelations in that statement for me. The first is that it may be why I don't particularly care for most reality shows. Especially the "I'm Better Than Everyone Else So I Can Treat Them Like Shit" shows. The people seem to be cast because they have no emotional control. And it's boring. Put one person in the mix who is polite and helpful, but plotting something for later and it gets a little more interesting.

The other is with regard to writing, of course. The long slow simmer is what builds tension. And it can be incredibly hard to do. But it has me thinking about both Vesta and MMG. I will be more aware of this in the rewrite process (and it'll be there in the back of my mind for the first draft of every book from here on out).

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Warming Up The Pipes

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was the next book on the stack. It's interesting, but I feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of it. I know everyone has said it's a quick read, but it doesn't look like a quick read. It sits there mocking me. "You're tired and busy and I'll break you," it whispers. And it may be right.

So, I've decided to skip the stack for, I hope, some enjoyable short stories. I picked up Margaret Atwood's The Tent the other night instead of JS&MN. I can knock off three or four of her short stories in fifteen minutes--and they're good. I have the latest copies of Glimmer Train and Fantasy & Science Fiction. I may pick up a couple different magazines at B&N today at lunch (buying books for Miss Elizabeth for Christmas--fun!). Maybe Realms of Fantasy and one of the "reviews".

This serves two purposes. I have quick reads for when I do find some time to indulge. AND I am doing research on what they're buying. "Hmmmm," you say. "But, Deb, your key is the novel. What do you care about what short story markets are buying? You struggle with short stories." Exactly! Got it in one. The plan is to have a first draft of Vesta done rather soon. And MMG is starting to nag, but it's not yelling at me so I may have some free time during which I don't want to start a third novel. So, short stories. I have some that need varying degrees of revision, including a fantasy involving a mermaid, hence the fantasy mags. And I have some potential ideas for a few more. Ergo, market research. And seeing how the big boys and girls are doing it.

Before you say anything, Jenny and Ali, I already have the Tim O'Brien and Sherman Alexie books you recommended. And a couple Neil Gaiman collections--one of which I'm almost done with.

So: la, la, la, LA, la, la, la.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

December Goals

I can't believe November and NaNoWriMo are over. It was a good ride, even if I didn't get close to 50k words. Major congrats to everyone who participated in any way.

My goals for December are to keep up the momentum from November. Just keep plugging away at Vesta. 10 or more pages a week sounds good to me. I thought I might be ready to start on MMG, but I'm not feeling it yet. Maybe it will hit next week or the week after. Whenever it does, I'll jump in. But until then, I have Vesta to keep me going.

So what are your goals for December?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Three Days to Go

So, only three days left of November and, therefore, NaNoWriMo. I should break 20,000 words today or tomorrow. That's not all that bad, really. And I like the Vesta story, which is even better.

What I'm going to take away from the experience is to just keep plugging away. Every day if at all possible. Even one hour can mean another three or four pages. At an average of 250 words per page, that's 1,000 words right there. In one hundred days, you'll have a pretty hefty novel on your hands. That's three and a half novels a year. At just one hour a day. When you look at it that way, how can you not keep at it?

Of course, we're all human and we all let other things intrude. But I will do my best to stay mindful of what I accomplished this month. And use that knowledge to do the same each and every month.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Great Weekend

The dreaded glug notwithstanding, I had a great weekend. Spent Thursday with my non-writer friends--I do have a few. We had a delicious meal and a lot of laughs. The way you're supposed to spend Thanksgiving.

The rest of the weekend was a nice melange of writing, reading, doing housework (not a lot, just enough) and watching television. Not a bad way to spend three days. Especially since I managed to avoid stores altogether.

Last night was the last Sunday dinner with Pirates plus. Again, good food and lots of laughs, although on different topics than those discussed Thursday. I had to leave early to pick up my sister from the airport. It would have been much more fun staying around with the gang, but I guess I needed to do one family-related thing this weekend.

So, back at work this morning. It's still very quiet. Four coworkers are off today, because they covered on Wednesday. D.B. is off so no one to talk writing with. Bummer. But also not many to interrupt me if I should decide to write a bit while here. Groovy. Think I'll do just that. And maybe find a place in Vesta to use "melange."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Not an Auspicious Start

This morning did start well. I woke up early and worked out. Read some blogs and email. Put a load of laundry in the washing machine and got things organized to start writing. Then the glug. The dreaded glug. The glug that means my drain in the basement is backing up. Sigh.

So the guy from Doc's Drain Cleaning is here. He thinks he's got it all, but is going to run the washing machine just to make sure that it isn't the floor drain. Then he's out of here and so is about $150 bucks. One of those things you just have to do when you own a home with mature trees around it. Making a note to myself to call them in September next year so maybe we can avoid the glug.

Then it's off to Target to pick up a couple things I forgot yesterday on my rush back home after dropping my sister off at the airport. Yay! And back to start the turkey (I'm eating elsewhere tomorrow but still want my own leftovers) and write. Dammit.

Deeps breaths. Better to get the glug out of the way the day before Thanksgiving than ON Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Update to Intrusions

What did I tell you?

I sent my acceptances and rejections out. Almost immediately, one of the guys I rejected came back and said that he'd be happy to revise but he didn't understand my comment that the story was spotty. Did I mean uneven? And if so, he needed clarification. This is a person who has supposedly--I didn't take the time to Google him--been nominated for a couple Edgars. Right.

I now know why agents and editors can be so terse in their rejection letters. They are saying, "No, thank you." That's it. Once you throw in the "Your writing has promise" or "Maybe with a little work", you as the editor are screwed. Because they just keep coming back. I have taken the line with "please keep submitting" out of the rejection letter. It is now simply, your story doesn't work for us. Period.

The other response I got to a rejection was another story. Immediately. Okay, let's get this straight. You sent me your best work two weeks ago. I have sent a rejection to that work and your second (or third or fourth) best work is going to impress me? I did read it. Two typos and 3 POV shifts in the first 6 paragraphs. It doesn't get any better.

So to quote the much missed Miss Snark, "No means no."

The good part of this is that I am now SO ready to start working on my own stuff. And reading things from the Pirates. You guys don't know how good you are.

Monday, November 19, 2007


I'm a big one for lecturing people on not letting too much intrude on their writing time. Looks like I need to sit down and have a heart to heart with myself.

This is always a pretty slow week for me at work. We've done all the mid-month stuff and it's not yet time to gear up for end of month. So what to do today except, oh I don't know, write?

Except I have some other commitments to see to. So I've been reading submissions for Apollo's Lyre and responding. I am definitely seeing a trend. People submit, are accepted and immediately submit something else. Not a bad thing if second submission is as good or better than first (and that means you, Frank!), but if the first acceptance was pretty much because we had to have something to publish and said author's didn't exactly suck, well....the next one is never better, let me tell ya. I believe this is a similar phenomenon to the people who are rejected and immediately send in a different story with all the same flaws. Frustrating. And tiring.

And then I had some clean-up work to do for PPW. Submit my volunteer hours. Have a Sweet Success story published on the web because, somehow, it didn't get included in the November print edition. Apologize to person who achieved the success, profusely. Send out a reminder of the deadline for the January issue. And think about what my editorial will be for January. Should probably write a draft. Ain't gonna happen today.

I've said before, and I'll say again, the editing is rewarding work. We do put out some really useful information in the PPW NewsMagazine. And when I get a so-so submission to AL and give feedback to the author who then turns it into a great piece of short fiction, what a high! And I love when an awesome piece shows up out of nowhere. But editing is not my passion. That's my writing. And I need to remember to protect my passion.

I'll be finished with the other stuff in less than an hour (mainly because I'm not writing my editorial right now). That leaves two hours to work on Vesta before I go home. And, if I tape Chuck and Heroes, I'll have a couple more hours tonight.

Okay, I feel better now. I did my have-tos and can still get some want-tos done.

Lecture over.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Ramblings

It's a beautiful day here in Colorado. Sunny, mild, clear skies. Just the kind of weather the rest of the country thinks we don't have in the fall and winter. But we do have a lot of them. A perfect day for a walk, and people seem to be taking advantage of it. I plan to go hiking tomorrow and Sunday to refill the well as it were.

There's a regular daycare center at the end of the street and another one closer to the building for developmentally disabled adolescents and adults. There are also a lot of medical offices on our street. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but my office is sort of 'garden level'. My window is high in the wall, but just above the ground outside. It gives a unique perspective on the world outside when I'm sitting at my desk. I see lots of sky and treetops until someone walks past. Some of the adolescents and adults walked by this morning with a couple of the attendants. They all seemed to be having a great time, enjoying the warm day.

A little while ago a woman in a smock--looked like she works in one of the doctor's offices--walked by. She kept glancing in the window with a really sour expression on her face. Now maybe she's got the cold that's going around. Maybe she hates her job. Maybe she got some bad news or didn't like her lunch. Maybe she just didn't like the looks of me. I wanted to make faces at her, but resisted the urge. I do represent the company after all. But it was tempting. It's a gorgeous day. Enjoy it!

Now if the little kids walk by, the day will be complete. It's fun to watch because they hold hands in a long line so they're actually walking sideways. They always seem to be enjoying themselves too. Even when it's a dreary day.

I know Ali's challenge to get outside was last month, but I'm going to issue it for this weekend. Get out of the house. Enjoy the pretty weather. Clear the cobwebs. Watch some people walking and see if you can figure out their mood.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Although I'm still making good progress on the Vesta story (really need a title for this, but don't think it will happen until the end) I am beginning to hear that inner Heckler. "You should put more in about the story cards early on" and "You need more setup with the great aunt." So far I've been able to tell him to shut up. And that is the point of the whole NaNoWriMo exercise. To shut off the Heckler (or editor or critic) so that you just get the story down.

I do know it's a pretty bare bones story right now--with a few flashes of great (if I do say so myself, and I do) evocative writing. The benefit of having written one novel is that I also know that's how I work. The first pass is to build the skeleton of the story. I may know what the end is, but rarely how to get there. That's what is both fun and frustrating about my process.

Ali just posted about Freshman Comp. students and their inability to just let go and brainstorm. To have fun with writing. I was lucky to finish high school before they went to so many standardized programs. I had some fantastic English teachers. I also had the martinet who was more interested in even margins than what was between those white spaces, but she was in the minority. I took Creative Writing from a man who taught us to journal and to free associate. Our high school College Comp. teacher played music and showed us paintings as prompts. Funny how often I hear the voice of the one bad teacher, though. But I'm learning to shut her up, too.

And on a totally different note, I just looked outside and it's starting to snow. Should be a good day for writing.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hitting Stride

Almost two weeks in and I finally feel like I'm hitting my stride. Comfortable with the pace, even if it's not as fast as others, I know I can maintain this one. So 5-10 pages a day seems to be what I can do. This means that I now have 36 pages of a book that only existed in my head until November 1st.

Another nice thing? I'm having fun with it. The words seem to flow easier than when I first started. Not that everything is planned in advance. On the contrary, characters are showing up who I didn't expect. An eighty-year-old black woman who may be hinting at secrets about Vesta's parents' deaths. Hmmm. And a gray tabby cat just walked out of the swamp on Thursday. That last one may be because of Ali's new cat, but still, I didn't expect Vesta to have a cat.

Anyone else hitting a stride? Just letting go and writing? I hope so.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Made Me Laugh

I'm at 17 pages, and pretty dang happy about it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Workshop

The Scaring Your Readers workshop that took up most of my Saturday and interrupted prime word-churning time was absolutely worth it. They didn't seem thrown by the fact that only a couple people raised their hands when they asked how many wrote horror. They went on to ask about various genres and acknowledged that no matter what you write, you need to amp up the tension sometimes.

I especially like Carrie Vaughn, author of a series about a werewolf named Kitty (no it's not just the name) who is a radio talkshow host for other supernatural beings. She was funny and honest and talked structure and pacing to build suspense. I'll definitely pick up Kitty and the Midnight Hour after the first of the year. She's the one who gave us the exercise that D.B. used for her prompt this week. I'm thinking of using the scene I wrote somewhere. It's another exercise that took me to my dark side. Has to be a positive thing for my writing. I don't think we have to worry about me staying there. Too long.

The venue was okay, but needed more restrooms (which should have been out of earshot of participants--don't ask). The food, however, was really good and there was so much of it. Broke up the day nicely. Of course, everyone was drowsy after lunch and that's when they scheduled the gentleman with the deep, soothing voice. It's a good thing he had a handout of everything he covered.

All in all, another great workshop from Pikes Peak Writers. I always feel like it's going to be too much money or take too much time, but so far I've been pleasantly surprised by all of them.

And now it's time to go work on adding pages to the Vesta story. I know what's next, and that's always cool.

Monday, November 5, 2007

And Some Stumble

Looks like John and Whit got off to great starts on the NaNo front. Jenny has written an amazing amount in the last month.

Me? Crashed and burned. Okay, not exactly. More like stumbled and smoldered. Only seven pages since the first of the month so majorly behind at this point. The good news is that I have not planned anything for this coming weekend except writing, and the minimal amount of housework, so I should be able to at least get close to catching up.

Ever the optimist.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

And They're Off

to a 4-note theme. 100 points for anyone who gets that reference. My money is on Nicole for this one.

So November 1st. Time to state goals for the month. I've already said I'm going to attempt NaNoWriMo this year. That's 50,000 words. Which I believe D.B. (the accountant) figured out is between 6-7 pages a day. So, two hours of non-editted typing should pretty much get me there. The non-editted is always the hard part, but is the main point of the whole exercise.

Wow, just felt myself tense up thinking about that. So an addendum to the goal is to do it without hurting myself. My buddy, Geoff, actually ended up in the hospital a few years back from stress and exhaustion. Deep breaths, walks, plenty of sleep. All part of the monthly goal.

For the rest of the week, through Sunday, I'll write 24 pages and attend the Scaring Your Readers Workshop that PPW is sponsoring on Saturday. Tension was one of my weak areas in MMG so an all-day workshop should help.

Good luck to all of us on our goals this month, whether or not we're doing NaNo.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cheating and Eating

Since I don't belong to the CSFWG Sunday group anymore, but do go out to dinner with the group after the meeting, I decided to go to the Starbucks at the B&N where they meet and do a little writing. I wrote seven pages of the Vesta story while I waited for the meeting to finish. Since my goal for the week was 5-10 pages, I met my goal. But, since one of the rules for NaNoWriMo is that you're supposed to start a new book, it is cheating. Oh well. Pirate.

It was a fun dinner, as usual, but more . . . just more. I was sitting pretty much at the center of the table and at one point there were three different conversations going on around me. I was having a nice conversation with Nicole, Ali and Jenny while Whit was regaling John and Marie with something outrageous at one end of the table and a somewhat political discussion (that I KIND OF [inside joke] wanted to jump into) happened at the other end of the table. Everyone seemed to be wound up. Maybe it was the length of the meeting and the sheer number of critiques.

Some topics of discussion:
--Dumbledore's sexual orientation
--Christian Bale
--Historical accuracy in fiction
--Neil Gaiman
--Strange coworkers
--Halloween costumes and customs
--Russell Crowe
--Slumber parties
--Fortune telling
--Heroes (the television series)
--Acting one's age and what that means
--Joss Whedon
--Dinner auctions (see Ali's blog for more on that)
--Pan's Labyrinth, Solaris, Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon and other disappointing movies
--Do people think your characters are you?
--Having too much to do
--Sherman Alexie
--Cheating at NaNoWriMo
--Bad writing
--Good writing
--Turning bad writing into good writing
--Great Big Sea (briefly, but they must be discussed at each monthly dinner)
--Whiny boy singers (watch this space for more on that and a related topic)

There were more, but I can't remember them right now. All I know is that it was late when we left and we were still chuckling.

Oh, my goal for the week is to write another 12 pages of the Vesta book. Another cheat I'm doing with NaNo is to set my goal at 30,000 words which is 20,000 fewer than what you're supposed to write. That comes to 4 pages a day and since Saturday is the 3rd . . . And I'm going to the PPW Scare Your Writers workshop on Saturday since I need some help with building tension. That's it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

NaNoWriMo, aka Masochism

Yeah, I think I'll try it again. I had a bit of success last year--not like D.B. who had a third of HM when the month was over--so I'll try it again. Since I'm in the first flush of the Vesta story--as opposed to the final flush when that's all you really want to do with the book--I'll see if I can get some significant pages under my belt. Can't hurt. It may also keep me from picking up MMG too soon. I'm hearing it whisper to me, but I have to wait until it's shouting directly into my ear and smacking me upside the head before I do the revisions. A month should be good.

I know a couple other Pirates are planning to attack NaNo. Is anyone else officially signed up on the website?

Bret, there's a section for Young Writers and information for teachers. Something you might think about. Because, you know, you've probably got fifteen minutes that you're not already using for anything but sleep.

Think I'd better go do some warm-ups.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The New TV Season - Part Two - Great to Okay

Since my favorite of the new crop of shows is on tonight, I thought I'd finish my reviews. Again, this is not a comprehensive list of all the new shows. I usually skip sitcoms, and I don't get any of the premium channels.

Pushing Daisies is one of the supernatural-type shows that works for me--very well. Lee Pace plays Ned, who can bring the dead back with one touch. If he touches the person, or animal or plant, a second time it is dead forever. And if he leaves the touchee alive for more than a minute, something or someone else dies in its place. Ned revives his childhood sweetheart and leaves her alive. Now he can't touch her, but their romance is growing. There are a lot of heavy-hitting actors, many from Broadway, here. The show is color saturated, in every way. Jim Dale provides the narration. I love it, but it doesn't seem to be getting the numbers it may need to survive.

Chuck is just plain fun. A computer geek accidentally downloads all of the country's encrypted secrets into his brain when he opens an email from a former friend. Now he has a beautiful CIA agent and a big, scary NSA agent following him around. The NSA agent is played by Adam Baldwin--Jayne to fans of Firefly. I'd watch it just for him. A great lead-in to Heroes.

Moonlight. Sorry, Whit, but I'm enjoying the vampire show. And I like some of the messing with the usual vampire mythos. Garlic? Tastes great on pizza. Holy water? Makes you wet. And let's face it, Alex O'Loughlin as Mick St. John is hot. David Boreanaz never really did anything for me. But this guy? Oh, yeah. If you've got nothing else to do on a Friday night, why not?

Women's Murder Club is based on a series by James Patterson--which I haven't read, but may check out now. Three 30-something friends--a homicide detective, an assistant DA and a coroner--solve crime and deal with life in San Francisco. They are joined in their 'club' by a young investigative reporter. The nice thing about these 4 urban professional women who are each juggling work and a personal life with varying degrees of success is that not once did they find it necessary to discuss shoes. At least in the pilot.

So that's it for the winners. Sorry, Viva Laughlin. Had you stuck with people singing along with the radio (or just let Hugh Jackman break into song whenever he hits the casino), it might have worked for me. But Melanie Griffith doesn't have the pipes, and the Blondie song came out of nowhere. Oh well.

As with any review, your mileage may vary.

Monday, October 22, 2007


We interrupt our review of the new television season by Jenny-decree. Although, I don't remember hearing said decree, but I may have been busy with pizza.

The writing marathon was a very good time. I wrote an okay start to the Vesta novel during three of the five writing periods, which was sort of against the rules. Of course, so was walking around in a clump of 8. Excuse me, two groups of 4 together. But it was what I think I needed to get a jumpstart on writing again. Lots of good ideas percolating. Gotta love that.

And you have love the way the group just feeds off itself. I realize that sounds like a bad thing, but we do tend to inspire and challenge and build on what the others are doing. So it's a good thing. Sometimes it's direct like Jenny and Ali swapping notebooks at the Gold Dust. Usually, it's more taking inspiration from a comment or situation and building on it.

I guess I've procrastinated long enough. Here's what I wrote at the library based on the Huck Finn reading. No edits--

The bloated body floated face up in the stagnant pond. Benjamin thought that dead bodies would do the dead man's float. The belly of the man--Benjamin assumed the thing in front of him had been male because of the shortness of the hair--was as white as an old tree toad.

Ben picked up a stick and prodded the arm, but got little satisfaction from that. He leaned a little farther across the algae-covered water at the edge of the mossy bank. He poked at the belly and the corpse jiggled a bit. He thrust forward a little harder. The corpse heaved over, surprising the boy. His arms pinwheeled, but he fell forward face first into the fetid water and came up still flailing and sputtering. The body bumped into him and he shoved. But instead of propelling the object away, his hand sank into the soft flesh.

Did I mention that I went to my dark place? Or that two of us came up with little boys named Benjamin as characters? Just happens sometimes.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The New TV Season - Part One - Eh

That's been my reaction to most of the new shows this season. I was really looking forward to many of them, although part of me was a little skeptical of all the 'supernatural' type shows. Was it an attempt to give the viewers something new and different or just jumping on the Lost and Heroes bandwagon. No surprise. Most of them left me flat.

Bionic Woman while a remake, which is always suspect, does give a better starting premise for how Jamie Somers becomes bionic. And there are some real issues for her to deal with. But Michelle Ryan has about three expressions she uses throughout. And all are overblown. So, no.

Life seemed like a good premise. A cop who was framed for a murder is given life in prison, but is released after his appeal goes through 15 years later. He gets a huge settlement for wrongful imprisonment, but still goes back to work as a detective. Zen aphorisms pour forth throughout the day. But---dun, dun, daaaaaaaaa---he's really spending his spare time trying to find out who framed him. Again, the overacting really ruined this one for me. Damien Lewis mugs to the camera. Now I was predisposed against him since he played Soames in The Forsyte Saga, but he did a great job in that. Just not here. And the spunky, younger, female partner who is assigned to him as a punishment but we all know will end up in love with him is just one cliche' too many.

Journeyman doesn't stay in one place long enough for the audience to connect with anyone. Since the main character doesn't know what's happening to him, we're just as confused as he is. This is an example of why protagonists who are active are more interesting than those who are acted upon.

There are also a lot of non-supernatural shows starting this season, too. A lot of those that I've watched also fall into the eh category.

Big Shots is the male version of Desperate Housewives. Don't care about the 'trials and tribulations' of rich, beautiful women. The men aren't any more sympathetic or interesting.

Kid Nation raised so much controversy that I did give in and watch the first episode because it sounded like it was so different from the Survivor/Big Brother kind of reality show (which I can't stand--no offense meant to those who enjoy them). Nope. While the kids were busy working things out for themselves, the producers kept inserting themselves through books with hints and then having them split up the town into four groups and then having a contest to determine who gets to be in which social class. So, Survivor with children without the voting off.

Cane has another interesting premise. Cuban-Americans running a sugar and rum business in South Florida. Lots of attractive people enjoying their money. Of course there is the ick factor of Jimmy Smits' character being married to his adoptive sister. This one I might actually watch, but I read from nine until ten and it wasn't quite compelling enough to tape and watch on Saturday. Maybe on DVD later.

I don't generally watch sitcoms so I won't be talking about those. And I still haven't watched Viva Laughlin or Samantha Who? so those will have to wait. Stay tuned for the ones I liked--there were a couple.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Want vs. Need

In my first marketing class back in college we learned that marketing is about taking wants and turning them into perceived needs. I believe the quote was "Because we know that no one really needs three pairs of red shoes" to which I responded "Of course you do--flats, mid-heels, and high heels." Apparently, marketing had been very successful with me.

Then in one of my accounting classes, we talked about money management. In order to create and stick to a budget, you have to identify what your real needs are. You may really want something, but that doesn't mean you need it. In this case, need trumps want.

A few years after I was out of school, I read an article about managing stress. It stated that there are certain words that contribute to our feelings of stress. These include should, ought and need. Need as in "I need to write two chapters today." Instead, it's less stressful to think, "I want to write two chapters today." Only slightly because two chapters after a full day of work....

Anyway, I've been thinking a bit about want vs. need when it comes to my writing. Because I do feel a need to write. And I don't think that's a bad thing. As a matter of fact, I think it's something that is true for each and every one of the Rogue Pirates (of Snickerdoodle). [Aside: I'm listening to an old radio play on i-Tunes and it's about pirates--arrrr] This is something we have to do. But when I write in my morning pages that I need to write x amount, I do feel a tightening across my shoulders. If I write that I want to accomplish x, the tightness doesn't show up.

So, do you need to write? Do you want to write? Is there a difference? Do you think it would matter if you set goals as things you want to accomplish as opposed to need?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Monday, October 8, 2007

I Know You Responded to What I Said, But That's Not What I Meant

"They're not getting it" - me in response to Jenny's and Ali's comments on my post about working in the wrong key.

They did get what I said. And their comments were right on. What they didn't get--I think--was that the post was more a whine about not feeling like I have time to work on everything so shouldn't I focus that time on the novel? Which is a whole different animal than what I actually wrote. I remembered Beezy's comment about singing in the right key and thought, "That's a good analogy for not 'wasting my time' working on anything other than the novels."

Now I know it's not a waste of time to work on other formats in order to strengthen both my writing in those formats and my novels. It's not a waste of time to stretch myself. But when I'm already feeling stretched thin, I feel like I need to concentrate my efforts. And even as I type that, I realize that the short stories and poems (yes, Ali, I'm still working on one) help charge the batteries so that I have more energy to work on the novels.

So, I think added to this weeks goals is to finish a first run at the poem thing. Just to stretch my range a little.

Goals for the Week

My goals were:

-Edit NewsMag submissions. Done
-Read AL submissions and decide which to use. Will be done today.
-Decide which new TNN to start. I'm 90% sure.

For this week:

-Get rest of NewsMag submissions and edit.
-Finish the AL submissions for real.
-Do some preliminary research for TNN that I'm 90% sure I'm going to start.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Wrong Key

I used to take banjo lessons with a very talented woman named Beezy. About the third lesson, she asked me if I sang. "Not in front of people." She asked why that was. "Because I've been asked not to." She sat down at the piano and told me to sing (la la la style) what she played. I did. She played a little more. I sang it. She got her guitar and played "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" and I sang with it. When the song was done, Beezy folded her arms on the guitar and said, "You've got a perfectly good singing voice. People have just been asking you to sing in the wrong key."

The wrong key, eh? What a shock to my system that was. Now, I'll never be able to command a paying audience, but I don't feel quite so nervous about joining in a group singalong.

Does this apply to writing? I have trouble with short fiction. Not reading it. Love reading good short fiction. But I struggle with writing it myself. I tend to generate ideas with lots of characters that involve more than a snapshot in time. So are short stories the wrong key for me? Could be.

So should I work hard at improving my short fiction to the point where I'll do okay in a singalong? Or should I put my effort into singing in the right key? To maybe getting that novel to the point where I can play Carnegie Hall? Is it an either/or proposition?

What's your key?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


I seem to have forgotten that I was supposed to be working on weekly goals in September. Guess that means that weekly goals don't work so well for me. So for October:

--Let MMG simmer a while longer. If I really feel like picking it up, fine. Otherwise...
--Work on TNN, which may not be the same TNN I was thinking of working on. We'll see
--Stay current on submissions to AL and NewsMag

Okay, I feel better already, having put down the goals for the month.

Sorry, Ali.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My Pirate Name

Is Dirty Bess Cash

It goes on to say: You're the pirate everyone else wants to throw in the ocean -- not to get rid of you, you understand; just to get rid of the smell. You're musical, and you've got a certain style if not flair. You'll do just fine. Arr!

Go to for your pirate name.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I know I haven't been updating a lot the past few weeks. I'm still processing having to put MMG away--again!--and doing the crockpot thing with TNN. Not really riveting stuff to blog about.

Yesterday, however, I went with Jonnie & Steve to see Spamalot in Denver. What a great time! I think even those people who hate musicals would have fun at this one because they riff on all the standard musical fare. And for the guys (or gals) there's The Lady of the Lake and her Laker Girls. If you've seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you know the plot and have seen many of the bits, but they put a Broadway twist on them. Good fun.

The show is in Denver pretty much through October. The tickets are pricey. But if you can swing it, it is worth the price. In my opinion.

Or, closer to home, check out Theaterworks at UCCS. They have a great slate of shows coming up this season and tickets are around $18.00. I highly recommend The Santaland Diaries, which they are bringing back as their December show. It's by David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day, This American Life) about when he was an elf at Macy's one Christmas season.

And there's always The Pikes Peak Center for good shows at fairly reasonable prices. I sound like an ad for The Arts In Colorado Springs. So I'll go get ready to report for jury duty. That should give me something to blog about.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Well, shiver me timbers, it's International Talk Like A Pirate Day! And it's been a while since my timbers were shivered, let me tell ya.

So avast, ye scurvy dogs and hoist some grog. This one goes out to me fine mateys of the Rogue Pirates.

Yo ho!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Saturation Point

I am officially sick of MMG. Okay, that's a little strong, but only a little. I read about a third of the way in and just can't read any more. I've read it so many times that it's almost as if the words make no sense. And I have to read it at least two more times: once to rewrite and once about a week after the rewrite. Then it may need more work.

So I am skipping ahead a little bit. The pages are rearranged in my nifty purple notebook with notebook sheets marking places where I need new scenes. I am going to start the retype this week, I hope. I have been too successful in my new position at work and have a couple testimonials to get ready to go out, which can pretty much fry me as far as writing goes for the day, except for blog posts it seems. But we'll see.

Has anyone else reached the point of being sick of their own writing?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pretty Writing

Jenny, Shane and I had a discussion a while back about 'pretty' writing. Not writing about pretty topics, but writing that's pretty to read. The question was how much pretty do we need in what we read and how much do we think we put in our own writing. Some people get impatient with a lot of pretty and just want the author to get to the point. Others feel that bare bones writing is too stark. Most of us are somewhere in the middle.

My personal preference is on the high side of pretty. I love getting lost in a wonderful turn of phrase, an evocative description. That's what's fun about reading for me. So I'd like to think that's where my writing is. But in rereading MMG (yes, I'm finally working on Phase 2), I realize that isn't always the case. And I think that's my problem with a lot of the manuscript. I was just writing to get page count and not out of the joy of language. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you have to get the framework built so you have something to hang the pretty prose on.

Here's where I am with MMG. Some passages that I'm proud of because of the pretty writing will have to go because they don't serve the story. Some scenes that advance the plot like crazy are dull. Once the read-through is done, I'll put the scenes I need to keep in order and write detailed descriptions of scenes that are missing with emphasis on plot. The parts that are cut will be filed away, maybe to be used in future work. Then when I sit down to retype, the emphasis can be on the pretty.

After all, I have to keep in mind that it's the voice that Daniel liked. It needs to be consistent throughout.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lavender and Oreos

Jonnie and Steve asked me to dogsit this past weekend. I just hung out with the dogs, watching the Deadzone and 4400 marathons on USA, reading some Neil Gaiman short stories from Smoke and Mirrors. A really great weekend.

When you watch a lot of television, however, you end up watching a lot of ads. It seems that everything is lavender scented these days. Air freshener, fabric softener, detergent. I happen to like lavender. The handcream on my desk is lavender and bergamot. It's a relaxing scent. But why now? Why did the marketers decide 2007 is the year of lavender? There was once a glut of lemon-scented things. Then 'herbal'. They never said which herbs, just herbal. Then there were the esoteric 'morning rain' and 'mountain air' scents. Now we're into lavender.

And I'm thinking there was an accident at the Oreo cookie factory and they couldn't shut the machines off, because everybody and Adam's tomcat are offering Oreo cookie things. Oreo cookie sundaes and milkshakes and pizza (I'm not kidding about that one).

How does this relate to writing? Well, I did the watching television and playing with dogs instead of working actively on MMG. But, more directly, I think creative people can fall into the trap of looking at what's hot right now and trying to duplicate that success. The danger of too many seminars on marketing and publicity.

If I'm going to be part of a trend, I want to lead it. So no lavender and Oreos for me. Guess I need to buy new hand cream.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Heir of Autumn

Up late again last night turning pages through the end of The Heir of Autumn. Man, am I glad I stayed with it. All the good things I talked about in the "Should I Stay" post held. But talk about ramping up the tension and the stakes! These guys know their stuff.

I won't give away the end, but I loved it. It's satisfying for the single book, but also left me wanting to read the second one to see what happens next. Very nicely done, Todd & Giles. Of course, when I do finish The Mistress of Winter, I'll have to wait for the third installment to be available. And here I thought having books to anticipate was over after The Deathly Hallows.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Shameless Self-Promotion

No, I'm not shamelessly promoting myself. Although it is, and always will be, all about me. I'm thinking about the new emphasis on an author being a publicist too. Okay, it's my book, I should be willing to do what I can to make sure people know about it. I'll set up book signings and tell all my friends and family and so on.

A big part of the last Pikes Peak Writers Conference was about marketing. And there are books and blogs and who knows what else out there on how to market your own book. Some of the suggestions were:

--The aforementioned book signings
--Get your local paper to review it
--Get an interview on a local morning show
--Set up a website or blog so you have a 'community' who will be interest
--Come up with promotional tie-ins to the book. Say it's about a candy maker. You could run a contest with the first prize of a basket of chocolates or a set of candy molds, etc.
--Send notices to any email loop you're a part of about releases, signings, etc.

Those are only a few of the ideas. So when is enough too much? When do you reach the tipping point of just pissing off the people you're trying to get to buy your book?

Yes, I'm thinking of someone in particular. No, I'm not going to say who it is. I was actually planning to buy the book. It sounded like something I might be interested in. But I'm already sick of it, and I haven't read one word.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

September Goals

--Revise MMG, submit to DL and query at least 12 others [Phase 1 complete]
--Play with TNN a little more [did some mental work on it]
--Stay current on AL submission. [DONE]

I'm going to try Ali's weekly goal idea and see if it works for me. For this week, I will read through MMG and put it in order of Phase 1. And stay current on any submissions I get for AL or the PPW NewsMag. Oh, I have a PPW meeting tonight that I need to attend.

That's it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Don't Drink Anything

I clicked on one of those random blog links and got this:

You might want to make sure you're not eating or drinking anything when you read them.

Extra Days & Artist's Dates

I have a four-day weekend coming up. Do I hole up and write like a crazed woman or go to one of half a dozen events in the greater Colorado Springs area or some combination of the two?

I'm opting for a combo platter. We already have tickets for the Theatreworks production of Hamlet on Sunday. So I think I may go the arts & crafts fair in Manitou Springs Sunday morning. That always counts as a nice Artist's Date event. Shoot, if I'm still having trouble sleeping (yes, it's still an issue), I might be up early enough to catch the balloon festival. But on Saturday I want to spend the day with my writing.

Monday is the Rogue gathering, but I don't have plans for earlier in the day. Tuesday is wide open.

A nice variety of fun things to do and free time. Of course, there is also a possibility of waking up next Wednesday wondering why I didn't get any writing done and didn't really do anything else either. I'm ashamed to say how often that has happened in the past. So I'm putting it out here in order to be held accountable come next Wednesday.

I'm counting on you to keep me honest.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Last Spring I had a bout of insomnia. I couldn't fall asleep or stay asleep once I did manage to drop off. It did really nasty things to my mood, usually so chipper. The wonderful Dr. Ryan prescribed Ambien and behavior modification and within a month I was back on track. One of the behaviors I had to modify was reading in bed. It's not allowed. The theory is that you train your mind and body to do nothing but sleep when you get in bed. Okay. I can buy that, but it was the hardest part of the regimen for me.

My sleep patterns are starting to get a bit out of whack again. Have I been consuming caffeine after lunch? No. Doing vigorous exercise in the evening? No. Reading in bed? Well, yeah. But I've read in bed since I was six years old. So now I have to find a way to fit a chair in my tiny bedroom so that I can read before I go to sleep just not in bed. In case you think that's quibbling on my part, the good doctor says that it is allowed.

Last night it took about an hour to fall asleep after I put the book down and turned out the light. Granted, I had a stressful weekend (migraine) and an even more stressful day at work (lots to do and, well, other stuff). Then I woke up just before four o'clock. I tried to get back to sleep but the brain wouldn't shut down. So I got up at five and started my workout in front of the news. The weather guy was talking about the lunar eclipse. So I walked out onto the deck and looked at it. Just a bit of crescent showed on the upper left side. The rest was red outlined against the gray predawn sky. Hanging right over the outline of the mountains in the west.

That image made a little bit of insomnia worthwhile.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Jenny pointed out that the end of the month is this Friday. Wow! That one just rushed right up and bit me. My goals didn't seem all that ambitious when I set them--they never do--but I don't see me finishing my revision of MMG by Friday. Especially since I've only finished step 1 of my homework assignment.

BUT I feel good about the manuscript. It's not the steaming pile I feared when I finished the initial revision and turned it over to The Group. So I got that going for me. And I talked with a couple people whose advice hasn't steered me wrong yet. They agree that sending something in the best possible shape a little later than expected is much much better than sending it out on time but needing work.

I did keep up with my AL submissions. Okay, I didn't get any until today, but still.... And I've been thinking about TNN, playing with a couple different scenarios in my head. Now they're in the crockpot. So, not so bad on August after all.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

So Glad I Stayed

Well, I spoke too soon. And I know better. I hate reading reviews, be they book or movie, where it's obvious the reviewer didn't watch or read the whole thing. More fool me.

I picked up The Heir of Autumn last night to read "one more chapter" to see if I wanted to continue. Wow! The boys pulled out all the stops and thirty pages later I had to force myself to put it down so I could get a minimum amount of sleep for today. Everyone is in jeopardy in some way, the action is ramped up and people are starting to act in, not predictable, but believeable ways.

This is looking like a fun ride.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

A little while back, Ali posted about abandoning books you are reading. The questions were do we do it and, if so, when?

I am about 100 pages into The Heir of Autumn by Giles Carwyn and Todd Fahnestock. The prologue may be one of the best pieces of writing ever. It is beautiful and scary and sets up their world. But now about ninety-seven pages later, I want to stop. And this is the second time I've made it this far and no farther. Why?

The writing is good. Their descriptions are great. The dialogue is appropriate to the fantasy world around it. There is conflict aplenty. So what's the problem? I've thought about it off and on all day, and I think I have the answer. I don't like any of the characters so far.

The young hero is supposed to be strong and brave and good and all of the things you want a hero to be. But he goes along with everything his friend suggests no matter how dangerous, mean-spirited or idiotic. I hope we're reaching the point where Brophy stands up to Trent because Trent has just done something really nasty that impacts Brophy himself.

The aunt who raised Brophy is beautiful and strong and brave as well. Yet she turned the country over to the strong conqueror from an enemy land thinking that the big test for a ruler will kill him. When it doesn't she then brings him into her bed. Even though she doesn't trust him on any level. Why? Just so the fox can be in the henhouse when the plot needs him there? Not loving that.

We also have a hooker with heart of gold. At least, I think she'll turn out to have a heart of gold. And she's not exactly a hooker. She's the fantasy equilvalent, though. In Firefly, Anara was called a Companion (i.e., high class, sanctioned hooker). In The Heir of Autumn, Shara is part of an 'order' called the Zelani. Both boys and girls are raised to use sex-magic as advisors to the powerful (i.e., they are a high class, sanctioned hookers). Again, she's not questioning anything going on around her, even though we know she's going to be a pivotal character somewhere down the line.

I don't read a lot of fantasy, but I have enjoyed a lot of what I've read. Neil Gaiman being one of my current heroes. And Tolkein being a long-time favorite. But both of them write characters who think about what is going on around them. Aragorn may be destined to be king but he's not sure he wants it. Frodo wants nothing but to stay in The Shire, but goes on the quest because he thinks it is the right thing to do. Richard Mayhew doesn't know what the hell is going on, but he keeps going to help out Door and, maybe, find his way back home.

All of that said, I do think I will press on. I have it on good authority that this is a good read. And some of the Amazon reviewers say they are glad they stuck with it past the first few chapters. So, I'll see where Giles and Todd take me. And trust that I'll enjoy the journey--once we get out of town.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Genius, Creativity and Madness

My name is Debbie, and I'm an NPR junkie.

Hi, Debbie!

I caught part of The Infinite Mind yesterday while out running errands. They were exploring what makes a person a genius. Not someone with a high IQ but who makes breakthroughs in his or her field. As a matter of fact, they said that most of the people we consider geniuses don't have IQs in the upper stratosphere nor did they necessarily do well in school. My explanation for why that may be is that often in formal education settings, we are taught the conventional wisdom. And genius usually ignores conventional wisdom. Thus the innovation.

The part that really caught my attention was the study of what relationship, if any, actually exists between madness and creativity. What the researchers have found is that one particular condition, manic-depressive illness, does occur with higher frequency among people in the arts. Within the arts, writers have the highest incidence, especially poets. The thought patterns in the early phases of the illness are speeded up and extended in unusual ways, thought to cause heightened creativity.

So do we all have to be mad in order to be creative? Of course not. But I think we do have to try looking at things from a different angle. Not only from the way most other people see things, but from the way we tend to view them. Climb on that desk or lie on the floor or use a mirror to look at something you see every day.

In the meantime, I'm a little nervous about taking Ali's poetry challenge.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


My friend, Morgen, and I had lunch Sunday with a third friend, Geoff. We talked about blogging. Morgen said something about not knowing what she would blog about. That she felt she'd have to come up with a theme before she'd even think about it. Then this morning Pat wrote in The Writing Nag about themes for blogs. She had a blog before and didn't enjoy it until she came up with the idea for the Nag.

The idea I had for this blog was very much like D.B.'s. I'd talk about the joys and trials of writing a first novel. But I think it's grown into much more than that in the few weeks of its existence. It's become about community and friendship. It's about the fact that although we each do the physical writing on our own and we spend many hours inside our own heads, we also help and encourage and torment and cajole each other. It's about how there is a subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, collaboration between writers. That we pick up on things the other has written and expand it or take it in a whole different direction.

I guess that's why I always feel a moment of confusion when I hear people talk about how lonely being a writer is. Really? Because even when I'm alone in my office, I can send out an email with a question (or a whine) and have a couple responses within the hour and even more by the next day. The same thing with the blog.

The theme for today is feeling very lucky.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Homework: Part I

Yesterday, I completed the first part of my revision homework. I made a list of important scenes and arranged them in a logical order. This was done in my new notebook, purchased for the occasion even though I have at least 30 brand new notebooks of every shape and size already. But it helps to have tools that are specifically for a particular purpose/project.

I have the printout of the manuscript for Part II of my assignment. This one may take a couple days to complete.

But I'm on my way!

Monday, August 13, 2007


It's been almost a week since I updated this blog. My goal is at least twice a week. Of course, my writing goals were even more ambitious this month, and I haven't really gone near any of them. Why?

Other obligations are intruding. But I'm wondering to just what extent I'm obliged to do these other things. This morning I said no to an event I thought I was obliged to attend day Saturday. It felt great. And the person hosting the event even responded with a "good on ya" for saying I wanted to spend the day writing instead. Cool. And since I'm not doing something I don't want to do during the day on Saturday, I can attend an event I want to on Saturday night without being exhausted. Cool. How many of the other things could I or should I have said no to over the past few months?

So what do you feel obliged to do that interferes with your writing? Is it a real or an imaginary obligation?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Final Feedback

Well, I received the final feedback for this draft of MMG last night. There will be much more when I start my rounds of queries. Jenny wrote up a great summary with an assignment. Maybe because I'm always harder on myself than anyone else would be comfortable being, it wasn't anywhere nearly as harsh as I thought it would be. Even with my thinking that she was delaying because it was such bad news.

I did wait until this morning to read it. Wanted to just enjoy last night with The Group. We have such a great mix of people now. All different genres and backgrounds, but it works somehow. I hope John decides to join us. He makes a nice addition.

Now I need to go buy a big 3-ring binder (part of my homework) so I can begin working on it this weekend. I'd start sooner, but this is shaping up to be a crazy-making week. Meeting last night (which was wonderful), meeting tonight for PPW, possibly a concert tomorrow night, barbeque at Jonnie and Steve's on Saturday (again, wonderful) and another meeting on Sunday (jury's out on this one). Oh, and maybe dinner with Geoff if he doesn't pick Saturday.

Think I may take Friday off just for me. Sounds like a plan.

Monday, August 6, 2007


Part of the reason I write, and read for that matter, is because I love words. These made up things that respresent objects, feelings, thoughts and actions. We string letters together to make words and words together to form sentences and, next thing you know, we've created whole worlds that didn't exist before. Words, by their very nature, are evocative. They are powerful. And they can be hurtful and destructive.

I've written previously about finding exactly the right word. Ali suggested poetry as a means to really understanding and gaining expertise at that. I've heard other writers defend their use of extremely obscure words as wanting to use "the exact right word" to convey an idea.


When does "using exactly the right word" become "showing off"? In responding to a comment on a previous post, I used stentorian instead of saying loud, booming, etc. It's a word that came to mind as the right one, but subsequent comments point to it being unfamiliar (although those comments may have been teasing). So, should I have said "loud and commanding voice"?

Would coming across one or two words you weren't familiar with throw you out of a story? I'm not talking about fantasy or science fiction where there are usually new words made up by the author. But even there I guess it could get annoying. How do you, as a writer, find that balance?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Summertime Blues--Eddie Cochran

Actually, I'm in a pretty good mood. But I do get sluggish this time of year. I want to go swim in the river by my uncle's house and then stretch out under the willow tree to read a book. Maybe eat some watermelon with my cousins and spit the seeds into the river.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Let's see how I did for July:

--Revise MMG after receiving feedback --Submit to at least 12 agents (not done)

--Write editorial for PPW NewsMag (Wrote 2 because the deadline for the next one is coming up fast)

--Complete Writer's Life for PPW NewsMag (Wrote 2 for same reason as above)

--Write up mini-bio for PPW NewsMag (done)

--Stay current on submissions to Apollo's Lyre (Done as far as I know since there may have been submissions to the old email addy)

For August:

--Revise MMG, submit to DL and query at least 12 others [surprise, surprise]

--Play with TNN a little more

--Stay current on AL submission.

I do believe that is plenty for now.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Legal Uppers

Amazing how a few hours with certain people can work as a tonic.

I usually go out to dinner with the Sunday Group of the CSFWG on the last Sunday of the month. Yesterday, I sat in on the critique portion as well even though I hadn't read the submissions (although based on the comments, I will go back and read them). Even so, the critiques and suggestions are still helpful. Some of this stuff is just good sense to apply to any kind of writing.

At the dinner portion of the evening, we talked about some of the writing issues and more suggestions were made. But mainly we talked. About writing, of course. About books we're reading and enjoying, or not enjoying, and why. About movies, television. About life in general. We voted on names for Jenny and Shane's baby. We sympathized with Nicole's quest for a flowered dress for a wedding she's attending, because it was obvious that Nicole didn't want to buy a flowered dress. We rehashed the final Harry Potter book. Ali and D.B. talked about going bead shopping together. And we laugh. A lot.

I'm ready to write. I'm ready to work on TNN. A good thing, too, because Jenny hasn't finished with MMG yet. She, too, has been caught up in Pottermania--even moreso because of her job. And I'm really okay with that. Last week I would have been upset. It would have been another reason to be in a bad mood. But I think I'm reaching the point she was talking about a few months ago. I'm ready to rewrite MMG, but I'm not feeling like it's my one and only goal. Like it's the one thing that will make or break me as a writer.

And I'm in a really good mood today. Thanks gang!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dueling Banjos

This morning I sent some personal tidbits to Chris Mandeville, the wonderful president of the Pikes Peak Writers. I am about to start my gig as editor of the NewsMagazine, following a really tough act in Ms. Pat Kennelly. Chris' dog, Ruh, does a regular article on different members of the group and it's my turn. So I sent Chris any weird little thing I could think of.

One of the items that sprang to mind was that I've been teaching myself how to play the banjo for about ten years. And I still won't play anywhere I think someone else might hear me. When I've been practicing (which isn't often these days), I'm actually pretty good. And I enjoy it. So why not stick with it?

A lot of flippant answers present themselves, but the honest answer is that I just don't have the passion necessary to set aside time every day. It's fun. It makes me feel good when it's working. But it's not that important to me.

Writing, on the other hand, can be frustrating and hard and a huge slog. It can also be wonderful. But in either case I can't walk away from it. I can't imagine my life without writing. Whether it goes anywhere or not. It is a passion. Even though it's scary, I do let other people see my writing. Not because it's any better than my banjo playing but because I need the feedback in order to improve.

Maybe one day I'll have the time to work on both. And then when I go to the coffee shop to write, I may be able to pick up some spare change playing a tune or two.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Let Down

I've been in a bad mood for almost two weeks now. Had a little respite this weekend while reading The Deathly Hallows. But now it's back.

There are some physical reasons for the mood. It's hot. I don't like the hot. A migraine has been threatening for a few days. Never fun. And there are psychological reasons. Work is more stressful than usual now so that's an impact. My sister lives with me. I was going to put an "and" after that and expound a bit, but I think that says it all.

Usually to help turn around my mood, I read. There's a stack of books on the nightstand. Another in the spare room. Another in the family room. So far, so good. But what do you read after a book that was just so much fun? Fluff won't cut it. Neither will anything too heavy. Not after :::::SPOILER ALERT:::::all the deaths, especially Fred and Hedwig. And little Colin.. (Highlight with cursor to read).

So what next? I'm thinking maybe Preludes and Nocturnes, the collection of the first 8 Sandman comic books. Or some short stories. Or maybe the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf. The latter would also fill Ali's challenge to read poetry.

Or maybe I'll just read it again. There have been a couple books that I've read and then turned around and read them again immediately. One was The World According to Garp. Another was The Prince of Tides. And in each case, now that I think of it, I was going through some bad stuff and the worlds Irving and Conroy created were ones I didn't want to leave.

Maybe I need to linger a while longer in Rowling's world.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I guess I'll jump on the productivity bandwagon after Ali and Jenny. One of the writers we know was kvetching the other day because he'd only written 22 pages in a week. Poor baby! Not long after that he posted that he'd managed 74 pages the following week.

When I'm in the groove, I can pretty consistently turn out 5-10 pages a day. On the weekend I have been known to grind out 20+ a day. There was the month of November when I sustained that pace and was pretty happy with those pages. Not much cut or changed in the 'final' version that went to the group. But that is highly unusual.

What usually happens is what I'm going through right now. I manage a page or a paragraph after what feels like very heavy lifting. And I'm not sure I like what I produce. But there's a lot going on in the background. I'm working out character descriptions. Figuring out what makes them tick. What is the world they live in and how does that world impact them? I need to know this even if none of it makes it onto the page explicitly. Isn't that productivity too?

So, as I said in my comment on Jenny's new blog (which is great, by the way), is 20 pages of dreck productive? Maybe, if you needed to get through the dreck to get to the good stuff. But maybe not, if the 20 pages stretch into 30, 75, 150 and the story isn't going anywhere.

I see people set word count goals all the time. I do it myself. "I'll write 20k words this month" or "5 pages a day" or whatever it is. I think maybe a better goal is to "work on my writing" every day. That can mean doing research (see D.B.'s blog for her take on overdoing this one), fleshing out a character, letting a scene ripen, reading somebody else's work for elucidation and inspiration and actually putting fingers to keyboard.

Monday, July 23, 2007


I am very tired, but happy, after my sleep-deprived Harry Potter weekend. The book did not disappoint. It is, however, very difficult to say anything about it without giving something away. The surprises, and sometimes downright shocks, are scattered throughout the book. The first time I teared up was in Chapter Two and actually cried several times before the tear-soaked last couple chapters.

As seems to happen in several of the books, a certain scene goes on far too long. I'm not sure if this is a result of the books being originally aimed at a younger reader, but I felt myself thinking, "Got it, Jo. Move along." But once she does get moving again, the story really moves.

There was a certain satisfaction in seeing pretty much every important thing, person, place, whatever from each of the books at least acknowledged in some way in the last one. Tied it all together nicely, without there being too pat a finish. She leaves just enough questions to keep the fans speculating well into the future.

So 3.98 wands out of 4.

Friday, July 20, 2007

How'd She Do That?

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last night. Just in time to pick up my copy of The Deathly Hallows. Jenny and I have a date to get together and discuss on Sunday.

In rereading the series, I was struck over and over by the sheer enormity of it. That Rowling knew when she started that she wanted to do seven books. That she dropped hints about things happening in books five and six back in books one and two. And usually with what seems like a throw-away line. That she's allowed her characters to grow and change, not just because they're growing up but because of the things they've been through.

D.B. and I were talking about the inherent joys and constrictions of starting a series. She has two in the works. The common opinion is that your characters can't really change in the course of a series. The readers don't want these people they love to change. But Rowling belies that 'wisdom'. Maybe D.B. doesn't have to worry so much about allowing events, and the years, change 'the guys' in HM or DnD in DnD.

Fair warning: this won't be my last post about Harry Potter or Jo Rowling. I doubt the one I'll write after reading book seven will be the last. Don't worry, I won't post any spoilers. But my admiration and respect for this particular writer won't go away just because the series is over.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Comfort Zones

I just realized that I haven't posted since Monday. Still no Yahoo! Still making do with shout-outs on comments and using work email (which I hate to do). Frustration mounts.

I haven't written anything on TNN, although it is rolling around in the back of my brain. Which is a big part of writing and I don't downplay the importance of the gestation period. But I want to be putting words on paper, so to speak.

As much as I hate to admit it, I believe I need to take Ali's challenge to heart. Not just the idea of analyzing and writing poetry, but her challenge today to 'step out of the comfort zone'. I have done it in the past--a fantasy story about a mermaid comes to mind--and it has energized my writing. I could argue that TNN is outside my zone because it's set in the present with a teenage male protagonist. Never written anything like that before. But it's still mainstream fiction. Essentially women's fiction because it's about what happens to his sister, but through his eyes. On the surface, it sounds very different from MMG, but it's very much in the same ballpark. Or shelf space.

Realistically, I probably won't get much done through the weekend. I'm finishing the sixth Harry Potter book tonight. Tomorrow night is a gathering of at least part of The Group. Then I'll pick up the final Potter book on the way home and spend Saturday reading. Sunday, I meet Jenny to discuss. But next week seems wide open for some experimentation and making myself uncomfortable. Sounds a little masochistic.

Monday, July 16, 2007


I can't believe how dependent I've become on email. For some reason my Yahoo! account got all buggered up over the weekend, and I can't log on. I'm going through withdrawal. For any friends who've tried to contact me since about 4:00 on Friday afternoon: I'm not ignoring you. I'd love to answer. But I can't.

Jenny or Ali, if you could send a quick note to our common lists explaining that I may be incommunicado for a while, that would be great.

I guess I could blame Yahoo! for my not writing because I keep checking to see if I can log on. And checking my work email to see if tech support has answered.

Oh, bother!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Thoughts On Length

My mini-review on the movie version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Awesome!

David Yates, director, and Michael Goldenberg, screen writer, not only have taken the longest book and turned it into the shortest of the movies so far (which you've probably already read somewhere else if you're a fan), but they've heightened the tension and action. I loved the book because it showed the characters becoming the people they would be. They made the choices that would impact them in the final two installments. But a lot of the internal struggles were--how to say it?--pounded home.

So how did the movie deal shorten the book so much but maintain the key elements?

By using the medium. We can see the character's reactions on screen. It helps that the actors are older and have become decent actors. But by using what's on the screen, a scene near the end in Dumbledore's office that goes on for pages in the book is handled in a couple lines in the movie. Another big part of the book is also handled in a few carefully constructed scenes or lines within scenes that focus on something else. The issue (and this isn't a spoiler) in the book is Mrs. Weasley thinking that Siruis is confusing Harry with James, Harry's father and Siruis's best friend. It is brought up several times in the book. Not so in the book. But you get it anyway.

What does all this mean to me as a writer? That I need to work on writing in such a way that it doesn't take pages to convey an emotion. To pick the right words to make my point without beating people over the head. I'm not saying Rowling does that, but Books 4 & 5 could be tighter. And I say that with love, to quote Jenny.

Maybe I do need to write some more short stories. I struggle with the format. I always try to cram in too many characters (a recurring issue with my writing) and too many plot points for the words allotted. I've avoided flash fiction like the plague. It might be just what I need.

Is there something you other writers do to help you hone that skill of conveying a lot with just a few words? I'd love to hear about it. And then steal it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It's Close

I need to warn anyone going to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with me that the scene shown here will cause loud and prolonged blubbering in Yours Truly. I tear up just thinking about it.

On Sunday morning some friends and I will be seeing the moving. However, I realized today that I am infected with the Immediate Gratification germ and must see the movie tomorrow. So I'm going right after work.

I guess I could say it's an Artist's Date. So I will. It's an Artist's Date.

This also means that I have about 100 pages to read between now and then if I want to finish the book before the movie. It's not a requirement, but would be nice.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Time Off

I took a week after my feedback to be away from my writing. No working on MMG or on TNN or, as you may have noticed, the blog. I thought it would be hard, but it was fabulous. I must have needed it.

So what did I do?

I read, a lot. I watched the special edition Long Way Round DVDs. And then I read some more.

And after a week of forced distance from my writing in all its forms, I'm raring to go. You've gotta love that. So what are the goals for this month?

---Revise MMG after receiving feedback (Jenny, I acknowledge your opinion and, respectfully, diagree)
--Submit to at least 12 agents
--Write editorial for PPW NewsMag
--Complete Writer's Life for PPW NewsMag
--Write up mini-bio for PPW NewsMag
--Stay current on submissions to Apollo's Lyre

I detect a trend. I knew becoming editor of the NewsMag would impact my time, but that looks a little scary. I do, however, think it looks worse than it will be to execute. Look to future posts.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

That Wasn't So Bad

So last night was the big feedback meeting. Not too many bruises to the ego. But then they are a nice bunch of people.

What made me feel good is that almost everything that was said was something I already thought. That's a good thing. I'd be really worried if what they had problems with actually blindsided me.

Jenny's trying to convince me to wait at least a month after getting all the feedback before I start the final revision. I don't think that's going to happen. I'm a strike-while-the-iron-is-hot kinda writer. I've got to go with it when I'm in the mood.

Until the rest of the feedback comes in, I'll work on TNN. Armed with what I've got so far on MMG, I know what to watch for in TNN. Of course, the trick is to have that information but not let it stop me while I'm writing. Too much editing as you go can be fatal to a project.

"Trust your process." I made that comment to Nicole last night, and I need to heed it myself.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


It's essential for a writer. My first reader is always Carrie, the woman who cuts my hair. What's great about her, aside from her skill with a pair of scissors and a blowdryer, is that she reads a lot. So I get feedback from the reader's perspective, not the writer's. I think we sometimes get too caught up in what other writers think and forget about the majority of the readers out there.

But, on the other hand, writers see things that a casual reader won't, but that an agent or editor might. So it's also very important to put our words in front of other writers. Then to listen to their feedback. Another thing I've noticed in my years of being a member of a critique group is that the ones who tend to need the most revisions are the very ones who don't listen. They argue back. Or, worse I think, you see them shut down. Just stop paying attention. In some cases, they quit the group altogether. Maybe this life isn't really for them.

So tomorrow night I get my feedback on MMG. And I'm just a little nervous about that. I already know it needs work. Quite a bit, in my opinion. But I need to hear what The Group says. I need to listen to what The Group says. Take notes. Answer questions. But don't talk back or explain or argue. Process it all for a few days--should be easy since Miss Elizabeth and her parents are visiting from Wednesday through Saturday. Then dive in and fix.

Carrie has decided to sit in. It'll be nice to have the Readers represented. She's fascinated by the process and The Group all want a Carrie of their own. She may soon have more reading than she knows what to do with. I think she'd like that.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


I'm a huge believer in doing research. And I love it. The problem tends to be that I'll be writing along and think, "Hmmm. What river would he be near?" or "Would 'Whole Lotta Love' have been released by then?". So then I stop and look up whatever I'm pondering about. Which would be okay if I stopped at the one thing. But inevitably, a comment on the page I'm looking at brings up another question and off I go again. Three hours later, I haven't written another word.

Lately, I've tried to put in brackets where the missing info is and make a note to myself in my handy-dandy notebook to look up whatever it is I need at that point. Seems to work okay, although I still feel the pull to go look, right now.

Today I had some free time at work which wasn't long enough to do any real writing so I did some research on a book that may be the one after TNN or it may be the one after the one after TNN. In either case, I found some great stuff that I'll already have at hand when I get ready to write. One less interruption during the process.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New AL Submission Trend

For almost a year, the number of submissions to Apollo's Lyre was low. And so was the quality of most of those submissions. I went to The Group on more than one occasion to beg for stories.

Within the last six weeks, I've received several really good submissions. A lovely trend to be sure. But there's a trend within the trend. Many of them are from overseas, particularly Israel. Which raises an interesting question: Why?

Bret, if you're out there, can you answer? Are we targeting this market?

And why is the writing so good? Or is it? Am I just impressed because the style is different from what I receive from 'local' writers? Or is there really a quality difference?

I'll leave that to you to decide when the next issue of Apollo's Lyre is published.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bad Groups

I know Ali just posted on her blog about groups, but I'm going to piggyback on that.

I've mentioned before how much I appreciate The Group. My admiration is even stronger today after an encounter I had last night. Several people met at a restaurant in town. Most did not know each other. There was no real structure to the gathering--on purpose. For me it fell flat.

Most of the writers there are experienced, a few multi-published. Yet they seemed unable to maintain a conversation about writing without continued references to themselves. "In MY book, I...." They seemed to take it as an opportunity to promote themselves and their work. Now, that's okay to an extent, but not what I'm looking for.

Further, they seemed fairly clueless about what's in the marketplace right now and how the publishing industry works. And these were the published ones. They all have gone through small presses, which may explain why the promos. I don't believe that a writer needs to have the NYT bestseller list memorized, but at least have an idea of who's big at any given moment. And read something, for pity sake. In your genre and outside of it.

Okay, I feel a little better now. I did write and thank The Group for being the way they are.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Surprise and Satisfaction

I work for a small software company writing customer testimonials among some other duties. It's not particularly stressful work, but I do have a quota of one new testimonial a month. The one for this month is due so I've been reviewing my notes and trying to come up with an angle for it. I thought I'd be spending my whole day today working on it.

Then, just like that, all the pieces fell into place and the draft was done. It's now with my boss for review.

So I have some time to work on other things. Like my personal writing. And so far I have completed my outline and started the actual writing.

Sometimes things just fall into place.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Most people who know me think I'm extremely patient because I can wait for something to happen without complaining.

Out loud.

On the inside, however, I am a very impatient person. This could be a good thing. I'm getting antsy about my writing. And my lack of time (or perceived lack of time) to do same. Work has been busier than usual lately and too many other things are claiming my after-work time. Must stop now. I have a great new story I want to tell--now, dammit!

Okay, will check in tomorrow with update on whether or not I actually get the words out.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wild About Harry

We now interrupt our regularly scheduled reading to read the first six Harry Potter books--again--before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows comes out next month.

Jenny and I may be the only two in The Group who are really excited about this final book. The others are subjected to our theories every month whether they want to be or not. Of course, with a couple years between books, the theories don't change much so I can sorta see why there are not-so-muffled groans whenever we start. But I think it's a testimony to the level of storytelling that adults are debating what may happen next.

I've said it before, but I'll put it here for the world, or the three friends who read this, to see: J.K. Rowling deserves every cent she's made and all the good things that have gone her way for making it cool for kids to read. That is a major accomplishment and one that every writer should thank her for on a regular basis.

But, you say, I don't write children's or YA books. So? The kids who were 12 when she started the series are now 21. I'm thinking they've probably moved on to adult fantasy or mysteries or mainstream.

So, thank you, Jo! Good on ya! Oh, and thanks for the fun books, too.

Book Signing

No, not mine, but one for two friends from Pikes Peak Writers.

It was great to see how many people turned out for Giles Carwyn and Todd Fahnestock. They were signing Mistress of Winter, the second book in their fantasy trilogy. The two of them seem like very practiced hands at speaking to the readers, reading excerpts and answering questions. They must have been nervous, but didn't look it at all.

One more skill to learn. Some writers I've known seem to think that grammar and punctuation rules are all that's required. I don't think they even include the ability to tell a story. But those are just the beginning. A critical eye and the ability to edit, ruthlessly, are next. Then there's marketing yourself and your manuscript to agents. The ability to work with a lot of different personalities must be a big plus once you are dealing with the publishing house.

Now public speaking. Great. I realize that's probably a very long way off, but it doesn't mean I won't obsess about it in the meantime.