Monday, January 31, 2011

Megaputer, a Good Month, and Be My Guest

Just a few Sunday ramblings on some writerly topics.  On a side note, before I start: couldn’t we petition the OED to make “writerly” a word?  I mean, aren’t writers a huge percentage of dictionary users, if not the majority?  If you can have made up words like “sexting” and “staycation,” why not a word that would actually be useful?

Anyway, enough rambling.

  • I got my birthday present from my wonderful wife a month early: a new laptop.  My previous computer was a ten inch or so netbook, which is fine if you’re  not going to do muchmegaputer with it.  Since we don’t have a desktop anymore, that was my only computer, and, nice as it was, it was definitely lacking. This one is not only ridiculously fast by comparison, but it’s also friggin’ huge!  At 17.3 inches, it’s almost twice as big as the netbook.  I can see websites the way they were meant to be seen, including my own.  I can actually see the fake books now!
  • It’s been a very good January for Sanguine Musings.  I received three blogger awards and participated in a crapload of blogfests.  More importantly, though, I went from 36 followers on December 31st to 95!  Almost 60 in less than a month.  I don’t know how good that is in the grand scheme of the Blogosphere, but to me, that’s amazing.  Four months ago, when I started this blog, I stared at my one follower (me) and wondered how anyone would want to read this little blog of mine.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am to each one you of who reads my crazy ramblings.  I want to do something in honor of (hopefully) turning 100 soon, but I can’t think of anything.  I tried the blogfest, but didn’t get a lot of interest, and all my writing books (the goods ones, anyway) are too tattered and worn to give away.  Any suggestions?   
  • As I mentioned, I’ve entered a lot of blogfests and have really spread myself thin.  Not only have I been deficient in commenting on others’ entries, but I think I might have missed another blogfest altogether.  If there’s a blogfest out there I signed up for and missed, please yell at me in the comments and I will at least stop by and comment on the other entries if not post one myself. 
  • I would love to have someone guest blog here from time to time.  I think it’s nice having different voices be heard.  Plus the “Sangui-nation” is growing, and in my opinion there’s no better group of bloggers out there .  It could be a good way to generate readership.  I’d also love to do a guest post somewhere; I’ve been eagerly awaiting an offer, but now I’m shamelessly throwing myself out there.  Anyone interested in either offer, my email is stegermedic(at)gmail(dot)com.  I’ve also got a load of other ways for people to contact me on my Full Contact page.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

No Fear Blogfest Entry, Finally

All right, it took me a while, but I’ve finally got my No Fear Blogfest Entry.  The blogfest is hosted by Dominic at Writes of Passage.  It’s a stand alone story based on something I wrote a long time ago.  Probably not worth the wait, but here it is.  Hope you enjoy.


The heat slammed into Alex like a bus as she stepped through the door. She heard the flames, somewhere downstairs, by the sound.  Where she had to go.  Though outside the sun sparkled in a cloudless summer sky, Alex could barely see a foot in front of her.  Fear clawed at her, and she pushed it down.  She couldn’t leave, not yet.  Not without what she’d come back for.

“Peach!” She choked on the word as smoke filled her lungs.  That cat would be the death of her, she’d always joked; she didn’t want to be proved right.  She felt her way through the suffocating black smoke to where she knew the couch would be and grabbed the afghan which hung over the back. She threw it over her shoulders and head and with one hand, covered the lower half of her face like Bela Lugosi.  Peach!  She screamed inside her head; words were impossible now.  Peach wouldn’t be up here anyway; she’d be downstairs, hiding.

The stairs protested madly but held up as Alex felt her way into the basement.  Her hands guided her as she squeezed shut useless eyes. She’d sprung awake to the shriek of the smoke detector.  She had been ironing clothes for her job interview tomorrow before curling up with Peach for one of her frequent mid-afternoon naps.  She was sure she turned it off; certain of it.  She rolled out of bed still not fully conscious of her plight. Her legs thought for her, and carried her to the door.  Only when she hit the sidewalk did the true weight of the situation hit her.  And that was when she went back.

She didn’t know how the catnip wound up in her hands, and she didn’t care.  On hands and knees now to keep most of the smoke above her, she frantically spread the kitty pot on the floor.  Alex prayed the scent would coax Peach out, but it was a fool’s hope.  Peach was a coward even by feline standards, though not any less brave than Alex herself had become since Bobby left.  She’d been a gift from Bobby, but Peach had attached herself to him much more than to Alex.  After Bobby’s…disappearance, the cat disappeared, too, under the bed, behind the furnace, and even inside the woodwork somehow.  In her own way, Alex had been doing the same for weeks now. Only recently had the two neglected girls begun to bond, held together by grief.  Alex stared at the catnip as if they were magic beans refusing to grow.  Nothing.  She had to get out, no matter how much she loved Peach.  The smoke was unbearable, and her head was level enough to know that if she stayed, she was dead.

She turned toward the stairs and heard the sound.  Even over the din of the blaze, she recognized Peach’s cry just as she reached the bottom step.  She turned back and saw Peach peeking out from behind the water heater.  She look terrified as she staggered hesitantly toward Alex.  Alex crawled forward, trying to meet her halfway.  She dropped to the floor and Peach curled up next to her.  It was getting harder to think, and nearly impossible to breath. She wouldn’t leave without Peach; she was all Alex had left, all of Bobby she had left.  They were together now, though.  In the din of her mind, she thought she heard voices from above, men’s voices, urgent.  And footsteps.  The fire department.  She would be alright, or Peach would, at least.  Curled up in Alex arms, the cat couldn’t be missed.  Alex smiled.  Now she could rest.

Friday, January 28, 2011

No No Fear I'm Afraid

A lot of you might be stopping by to check out my "No Fear" Blogfest entry.  Well, it won't be up today, sorry.  I'm more qualified to post a No Sleep entry.  I got home from work at about 6:30 and I have to leave again at 5pm (about four and a half hours from now), and it doesn't look like I'll get to bed before then.  I'll have an entry, but it won't be until tomorrow at the earliest, probably later.  Sorry.  And thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Come Love on My Hotness (Blogfest Entry)

This is my entry in the Simply Hot Blogfest hosted by Erica and Christy at their self-titled blog.  The rules of this blogfest are simple, share a photo of your favorite mug, the one with sentimental value, or the pithy sayings, or just general awesomeness.  The one that you reach for every time you grab a cup of coffee.  The one you’ll actually wash just so you can use it.  The rules are simple, but I can’t follow them.  Because that mug is currently sitting in pieces somewhere in a landfill.

That coffee cup was decorated with colorful (both verbally and physically) loved-themed Shakespeare quotes.  It was one of the first gifts my wife gave me when we started dating.  I loved that cup, both for what it was and for what it meant.  Then my teenage son got a hold it.  It’s not the first cup or beer mug or other dish that I treasured for whatever reason that he or his brother destroyed out of carelessness.   I’m trying to make sure it’s the last.

Oh well, just a cup, right?

042Anyway, these four generally share the role of drinking-coffee-while-writing cup these days.  The Henry VIII cup was a gift from an ex-girlfriend, so not much sentimental value there; it’s just an awesome cup.  The wives “disappear” when you put hot liquid in the cup.

The Ohio cup is from my wife and my first road trip together.  The Van Gogh cup is from the Art Institute of Chicago.  She took me there on my birthday.

The Lincoln mug (the Gettysburg Address is on the back) is from a save-my-sanity getaway trip to Springfield my wife made me take during a particularly stressful week.  I’m a big fan of Lincoln, and that was a fun day soaking up history.  It also reminds how much my wife looks out for me.

That’s it.  Hope you enjoyed.  Check out others here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The day the music…got made into a blogfest

Just realized I forgot to link this, sorry.  This is hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh.  Of course, since half of the interwebs seems to be participating, you probably already knew that.

I wasn’t going to enter this blogfest, nut then I decided to.  Okay, not much of a story there.  Anyway, that’s why I haven’t plugged it at all.  I’m not much of a music guy; I listen to music because I like it, not because it’s cutting edge, or the next big thing, or so obscure even the band itself hasn’t heard of it.  So if you’re looking for “cool” or “hip” or “groovy*,” keep looking. 

Also, I don’t intend this to be a “best songs ever recorded” list.  These are songs that stand out for me, songs I can listen to over and over again and still miss when they’ve stopped playing.  I could have included fifty more (no Stones? no CCR?) on the list, too.

Here’s the list (in alphabetical order):

  1. “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimmy Hendrix – Hendrix and (songwriter) Bob Dylan at their very best.  What’s not to love? 
  2. “American Pie” by Don McLean – An obvious choice, I know, but it’s obvious for a reason: it’s good.
  3. “Anarchy in the UK” by the Sex Pistols – Sometimes you just have to listen to Angry. 
  4. “The Day I Tried to Live” by Soundgarden – Yes, I was into Grunge in my early twenties.  You should have seen me work the flannel.  Still love Soundgarden, and this is their best.
  5. “Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp – growing up in a small Indiana town pre-cell phones and internet?  Yeah, I can relate.
  6. “Like a Prayer” by Madonna – What?  It’s a good song.  Leave me alone.
  7. “Refugee” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – I could have filled the top ten with Tom Petty.  I chose one, his best.
  8. “Whiskey in the Jar” by Thin Lizzy – I love every version of this song.  This one’s the best.
  9. “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane – It’s about Alice in Wonderland!  It’s about drugs!  Stop, you’re both right!
  10. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by the Who – It’s a shame the Who have been coopted by the crapfest known as the CSI franchise, but this is still the best song by arguably the best rock band ever. 

I’m going to try to attach a playlist to the right with these songs.  Don’t be shocked if it doesn’t work, though.

*Actually, I might be able to pull off “groovy”.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What it’s Like to Live with a Writer: Significant Other Blogfest Entry

** My entry for the Tessa’s Birthday Bash Blogfest is here. **


Kristy7Today is the Significant Other Blogfest, hosted by DL at Cruising Altitude and Talli Roland.  My wife, Kristy, has commandeered my blog for today to talk about living with a writer.  Please make her feel welcomed.

Also, these are 100% her words.  I didn’t edit anything.



What it’s Like to Live with a Writer

What a question! I have to say that I love the fact that my husband is so intelligent and creative. However; I don't care for the doubt that he has in his capabilities to do what God has given him the incredible talent to do.

Dan will come home after working a twelve hour shift as a paramedic, and work on an article for the Southland Voice for about four or five hours. Then finally take a nap before going back to the grind. Yet he still finds the time to take care of our family and edit his novel. Sometimes he finds a cranky spot and wont let go until he has exhausted himself. This usually lasts until he has some time off. Then he is able to write and let himself escape into his separate little world.

I have always told my kids that reading a book is like watching a movie in their heads, so I suppose for Dan writing is like putting his movies into words. That escape from life for him is a must, even though he would beg to differ, because as I said earlier he does not have the
faith in himself that I do.

Birthday Blogfest (Don’t Worry Not Mine) Entry


This is my entry for the Tessa’s Birthday Bash Blogfest hosted by Tessa at Tessa’s Blurb.  The rules are to write a story with either a birthday, presents, candles, or cake.  This is an excerpt from The Wind Maiden.  There’s no birthday or cake, but there are candles and a gift.  It’s fairly self-explanatory, so no setup.


Everyone was safe, the bombing had stopped, and they would eat tomorrow. All of the big concerns were taken care of; she could afford to be upset over the little things. Tears welled up as she spoke.

“I would have won today. I was right there.” She sat down at the table opposite her mother and poked absently at the melted wax of the candle. “I hate this place.”

“This is your home, Sweetie.”

“Lucky me.” She walked across the tiny rectangle that comprised the flat’s main living area.

Thea’s mom got up and put her arm around Thea in just that right way that only mothers seem to know.

“Don’t touch me; I’m gross,” Thea protested.

“You’re my daughter. I love you even when you’re gross.”

“That’s not funny!” She broke away from her mother and stormed into her room. In the darkness Thea leaned against the door and waited for tears never came. As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she spied the soft rise and fall of the coarse blanket in the bottom bunk. She promised Joss she would win; he'd understand, of course, but he shouldn't have to. She walked over to the table where she had set Joss's drawings the night before. The pictures had been moved, and in their place sat an unassuming grey box. A handwritten note attached to the box read, “Theadne, love Mom.”

Without opening the package, she knew what she’d find inside. She lifted the box, and the weight confirmed it. She gripped the unexpected gift in her arms, and stood motionless in the dark room. Her eyes turned toward her brother; he did not stir. She wanted to wake him, to show him the package, to recount the bombing and the shelter and everything else. She wanted to unburden herself of the emotional rock slide that had buried her spirit. Instead, she let him sleep and snuck out of the room, closing the door behind her.

In the front room again, she leaned back against the wall, not taking her eyes off the modest grey box cradled against her chest. She could feel her mother’s eyes on her.

“Well?” Her mother asked. “Aren’t you going to open it?”

“I don’t deserve it.”

“Hey. I don’t want to hear that kind of talk. Go on; let’s see what you got,” her mother said, as if she didn’t know.

Thea slid off the box and stared down at the running shoes wedged into the tiny space, one opposite the other. She put one hand under the tongue of each shoe, shaking them free of the box which dropped to the floor. The dazzling white of the brarr’s hide gleamed even in the soft flicker of the candlelight, the only color the unmistakable four-point star of Brandt Athletics, the premiere sports apparel manufacturer in the Supremacy. These must have cost a fortune. Her mother didn’t just buy her a nice pair of shoes; she got her the best. The shoes blurred as tears welled up in her eyes.

“They’re not that bad, are they?” Her mother joked. Thea let a short, harsh laugh escape her lungs, but denied anything more. She didn’t want to laugh; she could find nothing funny about her life right now. She hugged her mother, hiding herself from the world in her mother’s embrace. Thea wanted to tell her the shoes were perfect, but she couldn’t find her voice. She was sobbing now; she wasn't even sure why; she just knew she couldn’t fight it.

“There’ll be other races, Sweetie.”

That was it; there wouldn’t be. Since she could remember, she had possessed a gift for speed. She wasn’t dumb, but by no means was she a brain, either. And if you did not start out smart, the pitiful Taldorot educational system would not get you there. With her slender, bony frame and sharp, angular features, she would never fit the Supremacy ideal of beauty. All she had was her gift of speed, and that was no small asset. Sports were big in the Supremacy. Very big. The most successful athletes in the State became superstars, and the masses were always looking for the next great speedster. Qalonians had long been known as the fastest runners in the Supremacy, and Thea knew she could outrun them all. Now she would never have the chance.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

So Much for That…

The blogfest I just announced earlier this week, the “Life in Your Years” Blogfest has been cancelled.  Thank you to the one person who signed up and the one person who promoted it on her blog.  I appreciate the support, and I hope I haven’t inconvenienced anyone. 

I still plan on turning forty, though.  Great.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I’m Havin’ a Blogfest! “The Life in Your Years”

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.”

- Abraham Lincoln



UPDATE:  This blogfest has been cancelled.  Sorry, Abe.

On February 27th, Sanguine Musings will host its first ever blogfest.  With PRIZES!  That dreary Sunday in late February is also my birthday, and for those keeping score, it will be number *ahem* forty.  So to commemorate the occasion (or to distract myself from it), I’ve put together what I call “The Life in Your Years” Blogfest.  I wanted to give it a birthday/milestone theme, so the premise is simple.  Write a short story in which the character’s main challenge derives from her age. 

Some examples:

  • The MC is pushed out of his job because he’s too old.
  • The MC is a fifteen-year-old prodigy trying to navigate social obstacles in college.
  • The MC just turned eighteen in 1968 and has to register for the draft.
  • The MC lives in a fictional society like that from Logan’s Run, and the MC’s age has its own set of consequences.
  • and so on…

A truism of humanity is that we long to be what we’re not, which can be a wonderful characteristic if you think about it.  Sometimes, though, we long for what we can’t change.  So many young people can’t wait to be older; so many old people long for their youth.  Write a story in which the MC’s age doesn’t just suck, but is actually causing a specific problem.  You can use an existing MC or create one just for this.  I’m thinking 200-500 words is a good count, but if you want to go over or under, be my guest.

Okay, the rules in a nutshell:

  • Sign up on the linky-loo to the right before or on February 27th.
  • You don’t have to follow me, but it would make me happy.  And isn’t that what everyone’s birthday is about: making me happy?
  • Write a 200-500 word story or scene.  If you go above or below the word count that’s fine; I won’t box your creativity.
  • The primary conflict should directly result from the character’s age.
  • The MC can be an existing or a brand new creation.
  • If you have excerpt from a WIP that fits the theme and want to use that instead, feel free.
  • At some point, post on you blog about the blogfest and link back to this page.
  • Feel free to plaster the badge all over your site, but don’t feel obligated.
  • Post entries on your blog between February 27th and March 1st.

And yes, I did mention prizes.  If I get at least twenty participants, I’ll award a prize for the best piece.  “Best” of course, being completely subjective to my opinion, and that of my crack team of readers (my wife).  I’m working on just what the prize will be.  It’ll be a fifty dollar value, give or take, but I want to do something besides the typical Amazon gift card.  I’ll keep you posted, though.

A disclaimer: As far as I know, I came up with the theme on my own.  If it turns out I just stole your blogfest from a year ago, or whatever, please know that it was completely unintentional.

If for some reason you can’t or don’t want to participate, but would like to promote the fest, please do so.  I appreciate all the support I can get. 

I’m really looking forward to this.  I hope you’ll all join me; it should be fun.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Save an Ambulance, Write a Paramedic

images (2)Our MCs are by nature the plucky type, faced with overwhelming odds and certain death in a desperate attempt to save the world, or just their small part of it.  Maybe yours is the literary hero, the complicated, damaged soul whose struggles are more internal than external.  Maybe he’s battling a drug habit or coping with a dying spouse.  Whatever the nature of your character, whether she’s a spunky teen risking life and limb to save her classmates from the latest zombie/vampire/werewolf massacre, or a broken down, middle-aged man ignoring that tightness in his chest one time too often, there is one truth most MCs share.

At some point, they’re probably going to need an ambulance.

My book, the one I’m querying now, is set on a fictional planet, but it’s close enough to earth that I had to research everything from global military tactics to high school track and field.  The point is, outside of what I do and what I’ve done, I don’t have hands-on knowledge of a whole lot of professions.  As writers, we need to know what our characters know.  If our MC watches the paramedics do CPR on her husband, we need to know just what that look like, the same as we might need to know what getting arrested and booked looks like, or what planning a surprise attack on a superior military force looks like.

I know from my job that most people don’t have the slightest idea what paramedics do or why.  As writers, we tend to be more informed about the things we don’t encounter in our daily lives than most people, mainly because we’re naturally curious, and part of the satisfaction of writing is being able to learn about these new worlds.  But I’ll admit, most of what I know about the legal system in practice still comes from Law and Order.  Is that going to cut it if my MC goes to trial?

I once testified as an “expert” on EMS (Emergency Medical Services), though I don’t know if I like that label.  I thought it might be useful as a writing tool to have a regular feature on the ins and outs of just what happens after you (or your characters) call 911 (or 999 in the UK).  Maybe your MC is in a restaurant and someone’s choking.   What do you do when the Heimlich doesn’t work, or if the woman’s pregnant?  Maybe your MC was in a car accident and has injuries.  What are the presentations?  What’s the treatment? 

Sometimes it’s just enough to write, “the paramedics took Dad away that afternoon.”  A simple statement like that can have a power no amount of detail can top.  Other times, the detail can help, especially if you maybe want to ground your urban fantasy or paranormal thriller with realistic, if mundane, details.

Anyway, it’s something I’d like to try.  If I get enough feedback on it, I’ll make it a permanent feature.  Let me know what you think.  Also, if you have any specifics questions or topics you want me to cover, comment or email me.  Check my “Full Contact” page for my email.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stylin’ (Except not Really)

So I got another award.  The Stylish Blogger Award.  Thank you, M.J.A at the Missing Word.  This is my third one this week, which is more a testament to the generosity of my readers than any inherent worthiness that might be found here.

The recipient of this award is encouraged to share seven things about himself.  I actually did that recently, so instead of coming up with another seven things, I’m going to let you decide what I reveal.  Leave me a question in the comments that you’d like me to answer – informative, hypothetical, embarrassing, whatever.  I’ll take the first seven I get and answer them honestly, no matter what.  If I get some really good questions after seven (if I get seven at all), I’ll answer them, too. 

How can you pass that up?

Also, I’ve decided to host my first blogfest soon, probably sometime in late February to coincide with (i.e. take my mind off of) my fortieth birthday.  I don’t have any details besides that, but I’ll post things as soon as I know them.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Don’t SASE Me, Bro!

Two weeks ago, I sent out an advanced scout team of three queries to gauge the enemy’s the very kind and overwork agents’ responses before I really went to town with querying.  I got one automated response suggesting that if I don’t hear back in eight weeks, I should not expect to hear back at all.  One query, sadly, didn’t make it, shot down by the dreaded Form Rejection.  The third, well, is MIA.  I sent it to a highly regarded agent with a strong reputation of not only replying to all queries, good or bad, but in doing so very quickly (Like, within two or three days).  It’s possible she’s just extra swamped coming out of the holidays.  I’m going to assume it’s there and she’ll get to it when she can until six or eight weeks go by and I haven’t heard anything.  In that event, I might query her again, or I might leave her as a contingency down the road when all other avenues are exhausted.  Despite my military analogy, I don’t really have a well-thought out, well-rehearsed battle plan.  I’m just sort of making it up as go.  Oddly, that’s usually what works best for me.

Anyway, all I can do now is wait and keep readying more queries.  As you all know, email is fast becoming the delivery route of choice for querying.  Many agents now only accept emails, and many accept emails along with traditional mail.  Still, there are those that don’t accept emails at all, more than you’d think, and many of them fit my target query audience to a tee.  But I’m not going to query them.

This isn’t out of spite or because I think they’re wrong.  In fact, they’ve been doing what they do a heck of a lot longer than I’ve been doing this, and they know way more about it than I know, so who am I to tell them what they should do?  No, the decision has everything to do with me. 

Anyone will tell you if you want to be published, you do what you have to do, no matter what.  If you need to spend thousands of dollars on printing costs and stamps, then you do it.  If you need to spend hours a day licking stamps, addressing envelopes, and running to Kinko’s, then you do it.  That’s a great attitude in theory, but most of those Anyone’s either make their entire living as a writer or aren’t the primary source of income in there household.  They have either the time, the money, or both to really do whatever it takes.  And that’s great.  The more people who can commit all they have to getting published, the more likely that next great novel will make see the light of day instead of disappearing in a slush pile somewhere.

Unfortunately, that’s not me.  I work twelve hour shifts five or six days a week.  That’s not a complaint, either; I could never express how grateful I am to not only have a job, but to have one that allows for a great deal of overtime.  The fact is, though, I don’t have an unlimited amount of time, and I have to be as efficient as possible with the time I do have.

The other reason I opt for email is that it’s more likely to get there.  I don’t know what happened to the third query, but I do know what didn’t happen.  It didn’t get mislabeled and sent to the wrong place.*  It didn’t accidently slide into the crevice between the assistant’s desk and the wall.  It didn’t get tossed into a dumpster along with bags worth of other mail by a disgruntled postal worker (yes, that’s happened before).  I don’t mean to sound like I’m dumping on the post office; I’m sure 99% of the time the mail gets to where it’s supposed to without any problems.  But I don’t want that potential Golden Query – or worse, my partial or full MS – to be part of the other 1%.

What do you think?  Am I wrong?  How do you feel about traditional mail?

* I grew up in Valparaiso, Indiana.  Once, my dad ordered a book from a magazine or mail order catalog or something.  It took almost a year for him to receive it.  The reason?  It had been sent to Valparaiso, Chile, instead.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

That’s the Best You’ve Got?

So I got my first rejection Tuesday morning.  It came at around midnight Chicago time, for some reason.  Despite knowing the odds and understanding the nature of the business and the overwhelming depth of competition, and knowing that I’d probably be rejected at first, I was still mildly surprised at my reaction to the form rejection email:


Seriously.  I was almost glad I got it; it beats the limbo of not hearing anything, of wondering if you screwed up so royally it was all they could do to hit the delete button before any more damage was done, like Captain Kirk struggling to pull the warp drive lever before the ship explodes  (“Must…delete…query!”).  Or something like that.  Logically, every rejection is a setback, one more magnetically sealed security door keeping me separated from my goals.  Logically, I should try to glean any drops of info from the form rejection that help me understand what went wrong.

But really, I didn’t feel anywhere near the emotional reaction I thought I might.  I didn’t drop to the ground in my Nancy Kerrigan impersonation (Why?!  WWhhhyyy!?).  I’ll probably get two more in the next week or two I can add to the collection, though I’m not dreading it.  Which of course begs Nancy’s question.


Not “Why did I get rejected?” but “Why don’t I seem to care?”  I can’t really answer that.  It’s not because I have time, that’s for sure.  I’m not ancient, but I am a month from forty.  I don’t have the luxury to query a project for two or three years, give up, and move on to the next, and hope I can be published “by the time I’m thirty”.  Thirty was ten years ago.  I don’t want to just publish a book, I want to build a career, a body of work that I can leave behind as marker of my time here. 

Maybe it’s because I’m no stranger to rejection.  Don’t worry, I won’t hop on the psychiatrist’s couch here, but the realty is, I’ve had a lot worse.  Using a 300-word cold-call to convince an overworked agent that my MS out of thousands is the one she should commit her time and reputation to?  We’re set up for failure.  Rejection is expected.  We don’t cry when our lottery ticket’s a bust; we don’t rend our clothing when we’re not the thirtieth caller for concert ticket giveaways.  For every lucky (and deserving) duck who gets his book published, there are probably dozens of great novelists whose work will never be known. 

From a career standpoint, every rejection sucks.  From a personal standpoint, it really doesn’t bother me.  Maybe that’ll change after a hundred rejections, or even ten.  But for now, I’m rolling with it.  This is what we chose to do.  And we chose it because we love to write.

And no one can ever take that from us.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Go Away, I’m Writing Award

I got another award.  This one’s from Jodi at Turning the Page, a Literary Ramble.  It’s called the Go Away, I’m Writing Award.  Thanks Jodi!  It’s a coffee mug; how awesome is that?  I love coffee mugs.  I used to have a whole collection until my kids broke most of them.  This award come with no obligations but to pass it on, and since I didn’t play nice and share my last award, I am going to pass this one on.

Patricia at Simplicity in Volumes

Meredith at Fairy Tales and Cappuccino

Hannah at Musings of a Palindrome

These are all great blogs about not only writing, but the writer’s life, about everyday ordeals mixed with the hope and the drive to be Published.  They achieve what I strive for in my humble attempts at wit and relevance.  They certainly don’t need an award from me to validate there awesomeness, but they’re getting it anyway.

Top Ten Tuesday: Of Blogs and Books

This week’s triple T, brought to as always by the good folks at the Broke and the Bookish, is all about resolutions, but not just any old resolution.  We’re not interested in you quest to lose weight, or become financially independent the Tony Robbins way, or to finally work up the nerve to ask out JoBeth in accounting (actually we do care about all those things – we hope it works out with you and JoBeth, we really do – this just isn’t the place for that).  No, these resolutions are strictly bloggish and bookish.

And here are mine:

  1. Blog more often and more regularly – I’ve been blogging more this year; this will be my seventh post, putting me on pace for twenty-one this month, roughly five a week.  But I also want to be more consistent, maybe have certain days of the week in which I blog about specific topics.
  2. Comment more – I read a lot of posts.  I try to read all the posts of all the blogs I follow, or at least most of them.  The problem is I don’t comment a lot.  I’ve already made a few friends blogging by starting conversations that began with noting more than a blog comment.  Besides, I love comments, and I know others do, too.
  3. Post more stand alone content – Once you take out blogfests, challenges, and Top Ten memes, there’s not a lot of stuff left, really.  I’d like to start a series on how to improve your writing: Description, character, that kind of thing.  I’m just looking for an original take, so I’m not treading over trampled ground.
  4. EMS more – I made a choice when I started this blog to leave work out of it, but I think the occasional medical article, the what-to-do-if, post wouldn’t hurt and might actually convey some useful information.
  5. Blogfest – It’s not unreasonable to expect I’ll hit 100 followers sometime in the next few months or so.  I want to mark the number with a blogfest.  I actually had a great idea for one, but I forgot it, of course.
  6. Get my Library card – This one’s done.  I moved to Illinois a year and a half ago, but for multiple reasons I hadn’t gotten a library card for my new home town library.  That’s fixed, and now I have it.
  7. Read better – I want to not just read more, I want to read more efficiently, more diversely.  I want to read as a writer as well as a book lover.  If I’m going to call myself a serious writer, reading is no longer just a casual pastime I get to when I can.  It’s now part of the job, too.
  8. Help out my local libraries and promote reading – I love my local library, I really do.  In fact, I live in a cluster of small towns, so I've got quite a few around me.  The thing is, though, they’re small, and worse, they’re underfunded.  I figure now that between the blog and the newspaper, I’ve got something of a platform, though it’s really more like a bathmat than a platform at this point, and maybe I could do something to help.  Books drives, fundraisers, literacy drives.  Don’t know how I’d go about it, but it’s certainly worth looking into.
  9. Read all the book on my eReader. – I acquired a ton of ebooks during the first year owning an eReader.  Didn’t read a lot of them.  I plan to rectify that.  For more details on this one, click here.  Because I know you’re dying to know.
  10. Start a reading group – Believe it or not, I’ve actually found people around me lately who read.  You know, books and things.  Something besides Facebook status updates, I mean.  Posting my favorites books of 2010 list and my want to read in 2011 list made made me realize two things: one, I love discussing books with people, and two, it’s been years since I’ve been able to do that consistently.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Life is Good

Life Is Good AwardThe wonderful and awesome Patricia Timms of Simplicity in Volumes has given me an award (She was wonderful and awesome even before she gave the award, by the way).  The Life is Good Award.  And it is, you know.  So I gladly accept it.  Thanks, Patricia!

The award comes with a series of questions (“What…is the airspeed velocity of a sparrow?” “African or European?”) which I will endeavor to answer.  I’m also supposed to pass this award along, but I’ve been so swamped lately, and it’d take me hours to decide which of the many great blogs I follow I should pass it along to.  So I’ll wait on that part, and dish them out later.

So here are the questions:

1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing this? If you are not anonymous, do you wish that you had started out anonymously, so that you could be anonymous now?
I don’t blog anonymously and never intended to.  The original impetus was to “get my name out there” and build a platform for my book should I ever get Published.  It’s funny to think back to my motivations and expectations of just a few months ago.  My blogging experience has become so much more than I ever imagined it would.

2. Describe an incident that shows your inner stubborn side.
I could come up with quite a few examples where I’ve stood my ground or beat my head against the wall over and over rather than admit defeat, but I’ll go with this: I refuse to abbreviate text messages.  Not only won’t I even acknowledge that LOL, OMG crap, but I’ll even eschew acceptable abbreviations like Sat. for Saturday or AM for morning.  I cannot really do anything about this brutal on Mother English, but I refuse to participate.  I also use punctuation – correct punctuation.  I might be the only person who consistently uses semicolons in his text messages.  I’ll often spell out the numbers, too, though my resolve’s kind of slipping on those lines.  Try typing on a phone keypad “seventeen” while your trying to check out at Wal-Mart. 

3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?
I see my life, I guess, in the gray hair at the temples, the extra pounds around the waist, the heaviness under the eyes.  Looking in the mirror reminds that I’ve lived, a good life, too, for the most part.  But most importantly, a life.

4. What is your favorite summertime cold drink?side.
Iced tea with lemon, no sugar.  I also like lemonade, but it’s really hard to get it just right.  God, I’m old.

5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?
Time for myself?  I…I don’t understand what you’re saying.  Seriously, I love spending time with the family on the rare occasions I’m not working or doing something related to writing.  It doesn’t even matter what we do, as long as we do something.  I don’t want to blink and open my eyes to have it be twenty years later and I missed everything.  Even if we’re boring, we’re boring together.  And that’s what counts.

6. Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life? What is it?
Of course, I want to be Published.  I want to be read.  I want crazy-loyal fans who dress up like my characters, who write fan fiction based on my books, who get into heated arguments over which boy my MC should date, who carry with them an encyclopedic knowledge of my made up worlds that surpasses even my own.  Of course that’s what I want.  That’s what we all want, in some manifestation of that; that’s why we’re here.

However, there is something else.  I’ve been wanting to go back to school again, but time and money constraints have made that impossible.  My goal is to complete a political science degree.  I’ve been fascinated with politics for a long time – just ask me about anything remotely political and wait through my twenty minute response – and have thought about some sort of political career.  I wouldn’t be a politician, per se, because I hate going up to strangers and talking to them (which is, of course, why I’m both a paramedic and a reporter).  I’d love, however, to be a speech writer or some other behind-the-scenes type.  I’m getting older, but there’s still time.  For now.  Just look at John McCain: he’s 132, and he still blocks progress and bipartisanship like a forty-year-old.

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person, or always ditching?
I guess I was the shy kid, although I wouldn’t have described myself as such.  I never really like talking to people back then, even in person (I’ve gotten over that, at least) so I usually didn’t.  It wasn’t so much shyness as a lack desire, but either way, I stuck around my little circle of friends and rarely ventured beyond.

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what would you see?
I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “poignant” in my life, so forgive me if this answer doesn’t quite fit the bill. 

I got a dog years ago for my birthday; my ex-wife “gave” me the gift of going down to the humane society to pick one out.  The first dog I saw was a black and tan shepherd mix of about medium height, clearly a puppy and clearly on his way to be huge.  And clearly covered in dog shit.  I didn’t want to pick the first dog I saw, so we walked the whole place the the end result was that I picked the first dog I saw.  We connected somehow, I can’t explain.  Dr. Jeckyll was him name.  Good enough for me; I called him “Doc”.  He was such good dog, so full of energy and love, and we bonded like I wouldn’t have thought possible.  A boy a his dog, even though the boy was in his mid-thirties.

Long story short*, after less than a year, my marriage fell apart and my wife moved out.  I’d already been working sixty or more hours a week and I was then compelled to work more.  I decided to give up the house.  Doc was already faced with spending sometimes thirteen or more hours at home sometimes ten, fifteen days in a row.  And now I was moving into an apartment.  I made the difficult decision to give him up.  Fortunately, my soon to be ex-mother-in-law already had two dogs and a big enough house to support a third.  She took him in.  My plan was to spend one last day with him, all day, just the two of us before my ex took him, but because of work, and because of schedule conflicts, she took him before my next day off.

She still let me have my day with him, though, two weeks later.  She told me how happy he was in the bigger house with the other dogs and constant attention.  He was happy to see me, but not like before.  We played catch, I took him to the park and to Pet Smart.  We even stopped in the McDonald’s drive-thru which he loved because they always gave him a free kids cone.  He seemed happy but subdued.  I think he’d have preferred to stay at his new home.  His attitude was what I can only describe as polite, and when I drove him back home, he was at the front door before I could get his stuff out of the back seat.  He went inside without looking back.  That was the last time I saw him.  I know he went to a better home; I know he was happier, but I just can’t help feeling I let him down, that I failed this lost soul that put his entire trust in me.

Anyway, he’s happy.  I still get reports on him from time to time.  So it all worked out.  Well, you asked for poignant, damn it.

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people or events?
Um…did you just read the doctoral dissertation I wrote for number eight?  It’s probably too easy for me to share, at least that’s what my readers might say.

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?
If I had the choice to stick a porcupine down my pants and do lunges or to talk on the phone, I’d ask where I could get me some porcupine.  So it’s not a fair contest.  I HATE talking on the phone.  I have to call four or five people tomorrow – today actually – for a story I’m doing, and I’m absolutely dreading it.


* too late!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Beginnings Blogfest


0330001437The New Beginnings Blogfest is hosted by Summer @ My Inner Fairy.  Happy Birthday, Summer!  The idea is to take the ending line of something you’ve written then write a brand new opening line for a project you haven’t started yet (or are just planning).

The ending line is from a short story I wrote six years ago (yikes!) called “The Wind Maiden”.  For those of you keeping score, you that’s the name of the novel I’m querying.  I let a bunch of people read it and they all suggested I try expanding it.  I did, and now my little short short story is a 122K word novel.

Just a little setup: Thea is a seventeen-year-old track athlete who finds herself in the middle of an interplanetary war on her home planet.  After the resistance cell is ambushed, she decides to help, using the only thing she has: her gift of speed.

The beginning sentence belongs to a vague, unformed desire I’ve had for a little while to do something dystopian-esque.  I know dystopias have been done to death, but the idea of getting to make up my own future history brings out the nerd in me.  I have no details, but this sentence came to me a few days ago.  Maybe it’s a character wanting her story told.

Old Ending:

She looked off into the east, tightened the laces on her mother’s gift to her, and did what she was born to do: she ran.

New Beginning:

I don’t care what the old folks say about me, but I was only seven when the world ended, you know; I just don’t remember it enough to miss it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: I Can’t Promise to Try, but I’ll Try to Try

For my Eye Candy entry, click here.

For my 100 Words entry, click here.

For my Show Me Yours entry click here.

tttThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday, as always hosted by the Broke and the Bookish, involves books I resolve to read in 2011.  Most of these are books I’ve owned for years and have sat ignored while other things came up.  Even without a reading list, 2011 eleven promises to be the busiest year of my life.  But I’m one of those weird people who actually seems to get more accomplished when he’s too busy to breathe then when he has loads of downtime.  So who knows?

These aren’t in any particular order, although I’m most eager for number ten, and I’m currently working on number four.


SCHINDLERS_LIST1.  Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally – Yes, I know it was originally titled Schindler’s Ark, but this is the title of my copy.  I was assigned this book in a college history class two years before the movie came out but never touched it.  If the adage of the book being better than the movie holds true, I could be in trouble; that movie stayed with me a long, long time.  Just typing this, I can hear Itzhak Pearlman’s haunting violin in the background. 


images (1)2.  Moby Dick by Herman Melville – Not much to say about this one.  Arguably the greatest American novel ever written, this massive guide to deep-sea fishing has managed, like the titular mammal, to evade my grasp for decades.  Unlike Captain Ahab, though, I haven’t obsessed about it (yet).  I just hope I can read about Starbuck without getting distracted by images of Katie Sackoff in a tank top.*


shouldersgi3.  The Motions of the Heavenly Bodies by Nicolai Copernicus/Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems by Galileo Galilei/Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton/Relativity by Albert Einstein – These are also collected in a Stephen Hawking-edited compendium entitled On the Shoulders of Giants, but since I already have all but one of them, I’ve listed them individually.  I chose these not as a science nerd, but as a history nerd.  These four books, particularly Copernicus and Galileo, changed the world with their observations. 

All the President's Mne4.  All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Berstein – I was fascinated by the Watergate Scandal when I was a kid and wanted to learn as much as possible about it.  Somehow I managed to not only not read this book, but I’ve also never seen the movie.  I want to rectify that on both counts, especially now that I’m dabbling in journalism myself.



lolita.large5.  Lolita by Vladimir Nobakov – I know very little about this book except that Lolita’s a young girl and Humbert Humbert’s the creep obsessed with her.  Thinking about this book is like thinking about the mysterious room at the end of the upstairs hall at Grandma’s house that you’re not supposed to go into: you don’t know if you’ll frightened by what’s inside, but you know you have to look.



51pP0WQMAIL6. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu – This intriguing work of prose fiction – hence, a novel - was written in Japan in the eleventh century, beating Don Quixote by 600 years. 






000c1d44_medium7.  Memoirs of the Second World War by Winston Churchill – Churchill is probably one of the most underrated authors in history, simply because his political overshadows his writing career.  I read his four volume History of the English Speaking Peoples, and it was one best history books I’ve ever read.  He could have eschewed politics for the pen, and still he would have been a household name.



05903534038. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling – being a Science Fiction and Fantasy writer with a bent toward YA and never having read any of the Harry Potter series is kind of like being a filmmaker who’s never seen the Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and Casablanca.




corrections9.  The Corrections by Jonathon Franzen – I read a review of this book recently that essentially described it as 600 pages of people thinking about things (my words, not his), but he meant that in a good way: a thoughtful, thought-provoking piece about what happens when life doesn’t work out how you wanted.  Also, there’s something about this book that’s been pulling me towards it since I discovered it.  It could be an enjoyable read (and judging by the first few pages, I believe it will be), it could be an “important” work of literature and the latest Great American Novel.  Or it could be something I put on top of my lizard’s cage to keep the cat from jumping on it.  Hopefully, this is the year I find out.


herodotus (1)10. The Histories by Herodotus – You know that kid Justin Bieber, or whatever his name is?  You know how some teenage girls just freak out at the mere sight of him?  Yeah, that’s kind of how I feel about this book, which is why I’m waiting until my next stay-at-home vacation to read it, so I can give it the undivided attention it deserves.  And so no one can hear me scream.  Don’t judge me.


Honorable Mention:

  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 
  • Beowulf
  • John Adams by David McCullough
  • Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

*Or better yet: Katie Sackoff in a tank top holding a venti mochaccino.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Show Me Yours Blogfest Entry

For my Eye Candy entry, click here.

For my 100 Words entry, click here.

DISCLAIMER:  I haven’t touched this since NaNo.  I’ve made no attempt to edit, revise, polish, whatever.  What you’re getting is pure first draft.  So, considered yourself warned.

This for the Show Me Yours Blogfest, host by Hannah @ Musings of a Palindrome.  I signed up for it before I remembered my NaNo novel kind of blows.  Well, it’s not that bad, but it needs a lot of work, as most first drafts do.  So I’ll show your mine, just promise not to giggle.

The setup: This is from Kids Eat Free, a YA horror novel.  Sixteen-year-old Wendy died when the bus she was on crash into a lake.  She died saving others.  Wendy’s boyfriend Doug couldn’t handle the grief, and made a pack with a mysterious figure who promised to give him Wendy back.  Unfortunately, he didn’t say anything about “alive”.  Wendy comes back, but as a revenant, basically a zombie with a brains and a personality.

Despite the creep factor, things go well at first with both Doug and her family a accepting of her new status.  But when Wendy starts give in to new urges, everything falls apart.

The setup for this scene is that Wendy has killed a fifteen-year-old girl, Cami, and Doug has finally realized how dangerous she is and tried to kill her…or whatever.  Feeling hurt and betrayed, she pays a visit to Doug’s house.

Remember: Rough Draft.  Very, very rough.

She can’t feel the pain, but Wendy knows something’s wrong.  She must have broken something. He must have broke something.  Doug.  The boy of her dreams.  The love of her life. Well, her life’s over, isn’t it?  And her dreams are as dead she is.  She had to stand there and listen to him as he tore her apart with his words, murdering her with hate.  He called her a monster, and his “mess”. He dragged her across the ground to the bridge as she begged him to stop, begged him to just talk to her, but he wouldn’t. He didn’t give her a chance. She was good enough for a cheap fuck in the stockroom, but when things got tough and she needed him the most, he turned on her. 

It’s good that she can’t cry anymore, because the tears would never stop. She doesn’t need tears. There are other, better ways to express grief, and she can’t wait to try them out. They want a monster, guess what? 

The door opens and derails her train of thought.  This is her first visit to the Stanton home; she’d never yet been invited, big surprise.  Behind the door stands a blond girl about seven years old with wide blue eyes: Doug’s sister.  She wears a pink cotton nightgown and clutches a white stuffed bunny to her chest.

“Well, you’re up late, Cutie Pie,”  Wendy says, though she knows the girl will hear nothing but a sick moan.  “Aren’t you afraid the monsters’ll get you?”  The girl slices the air with a scream that hangs in Wendy’s ears as the girl gets a good look at her.  She doesn’t blame the little thing.  She’s young; she doesn’t know what else to do. She doesn’t know that it won’t do her any good.

Remember, it’s a very rough draft.  Just saying.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

100 Words for $100 Blogfest Entry

For the Eye Candy Blogfest Entry, click here.

Elena @ You’re Write.  Except When You’re Rong is hosting a blogfest this month.  Write a 100 word sentence (give or take five words).  It doesn’t have to follow any particular theme or formula, just one long sentence and that’s it.  It’s perfect for those of us like me with short attention

This is my entry.  It’s exactly 100 words.  It’s not from anything, just wrote it for this.

0121091348aIt was on one of those blindingly bright January mornings for which a word like “cold” – a word used to describe a refreshing bottle of Bud on a hot afternoon, or day-old pizza, or that girl from the drum majors who unapologetically (and even a little cheerfully) rejected your prom invite louder than she needed to in the commons just after fifth period – just couldn’t come close to painting a picture, a day for which words like “blistering” and “frigid” were invented, a day in which the sun was little more than decoration, that Jack finally realized he loved Emily.

Go Away, Dude, I’m Blogging - Eye Candy Blogfest Entry

I have to confess: I use a ghostwriter for this blog.  And here he is:


Or not.  This is my entry in the Eye Candy Blogfest, hosted by Rambles and Randomness, which I just found out about two days ago and unfortunately have not had time to properly promote.  That little guy’s name is Navaan.  He and his brother were named after characters in my novel.  It was my wife’s idea to do that (though I may have slipped the kernel into her brain – I admit nothing), so it’s only slightly self-indulgent.  Besides, after nine months, I associate the names far more with the dogs than with my characters. 

The weird thing is, the dogs actually fit the characters’ personalities perfectly.