Monday, June 20, 2011

On Submission...again

Image snagged from Source

I spent the afternoon revising and spit-shining a short story for submission. It's amazing how much easier the editing process is when you've put the project aside for a couple months.

I hadn't reread this particular story since early spring when I submitted it to a literary magazine called Independent Ink. That market generally takes 120 days to notify authors of acceptance or rejection, although they state on the website that if the story is of interest to them but not right for the issue they're currently preparing, they may take longer to announce the acceptance, to coincide with the issue it will appear in. I've now been waiting to hear a 'yay' or 'nay' for 139 days...A good sign or not, I can't guess.

At any rate, I decided to submit the story to other markets. If it is accepted someplace else, I'll withdraw it from Independent Ink's consideration.

I hadn't forgotten what the story was about, but I had become distant enough from it to enjoy it as a reader would. I wasn't skimming the words like I did when it was well-rehearsed in my writer's brain. I actually read it.

And, naturally, I found places where a tweak was in order. After some minor adjustments that, I think, strengthened the flow and overall emotional impact of the story, I sent it off. I don't think I'll ever get over the nervous, flip-flopping jitters I feel when I push the "Submit" button. It's a gulp from a big glass of exhilarating terror. Makes me sort of drunk, every time.

Now I have to settle in for another 90-day wait, on average. Plenty of time for cramps to take hold of my tightly crossed fingers. Going to try to put it out of my mind and just write.

Just write.




Friday, June 17, 2011

Facing the Fear

On a warm spring day this year, my daughter opened a canvas camping chair and settled in to read a book in the shade of our small front porch. That evening, instead of hauling the chair back to the garage like she should have, she pulled up on the four corners of the chair back and seat front, collapsing the chair up into a vertical bundle. She stood it in the corner next to the front door and then went into the house.

A week later, we noticed the nest.

A mama Bewick's Sparrow had discovered the hammock-y nook that the seat bottom created, sheltered on all sides by folds of stiff canvas. She'd deemed it the perfect spot to nest, and before long we spied six speckled eggs atop a bed of woven twigs and straw.

Try as we did, remembering to use an alternate exit from the house proved difficult, and the regular traffic of neighborhood kids ringing the doorbell in search of playmates increased with the lengthening days. Each time someone drew near, Mama Sparrow took panicked, sputtering flight, several times smacking into the porch eaves in her haste to flee.

Then one day, she just never returned. Without her attention, the abandoned eggs succumbed to the elements, their precious contents surrendering to the chilly spring air.

As a novelist I am like that Mama Sparrow. I build a story nest. I outline on paper, weaving character sketches with plot points, constructing something tangible from the ideas floating in the quiet safety of my imagination. A new project excites me; it consumes my waking thoughts. As I wash the dishes, the characters speak. When I fold the laundry, scenes play out. Driving the car, I see setting landscapes rise on the horizon of my mind. All the eggs are laid. Nothing left to do but roost and write.

Something happens to me at this point in the project. I get spooked. I stare at the blank screen. I begin the first chapter, but wind up scratching the first scene. I start over with a different character, or put him in a different room, outdoors, three days before, one month later...

I give myself time off. Sometimes, I'm told, stepping back from the project gets the creative fires burning again. I try anew, and the same thing happens. I jump back again in panicked, sputtering flight.

And I've learned that when I flee often enough, the fragile ideas sense impeding abandonment. They cool off and perish, like unattended eggs in a nest.

For whatever reason, I don't struggle this way with my short fiction. And I question whether I'm just being stubborn in my desire to write a novel. Then I recognize, again, the fear lingering in-between the words in that sentence. The urge for flight is strong, but my love for writing and faith in the process must be stronger. 

And the moral of this story is this: Story ideas, like any artistic inspiration, must be acted upon in the heat of that initial, stimulating enthusiasm. How many times have you been driving down the road and a brilliant idea for a character comes to you? And how many times have you later gone to your computer to write about her, and her essence has evaporated from your mind like mist in morning sunlight? Writers can't put off inspiration. Not for a busy schedule, not for lack of sleep, and certainly not for fear.

[The above article was originally published on June 15, 2011 in my monthly newsletter at]

As I face my fears and embark on my second attempt at a full-length novel, I wish all of you the same inspiration and perseverance for your current writing endeavors that I'm beckoning for mine.  Write on, friends! 


Friday, June 3, 2011

An "O-less" Short

Miss Match

         I’m hardly a girly-girl. I live large and in charge, and my tats, spiked hair and perverse jewelry keep any inquiring men at arm’s length when I’m in public. Still, as I rambled up the sidewalk flanking the Sunset Strip, I realized I was taking a risk. This late after dark, the freaks always emerged.

         I didn’t care. Fierce anger brewed in my gut. The fight with my beau, Dennis, lingered, eating away at me. Defiant, I trudged ahead, raging silently, turning excuses in my mind even as the actual argument slipped away. He’d dared utter that language at me, dared challenge my sincerity. Unbelievable.

         I raised my gaze and saw a man dressed in full Dracula regalia heading my way. His cape lifted behind him with haunting grace, as if in the still nighttime air an ethereal headwind blew just at him. Steps away, he halted right in my path. Drawing in a breath that puffed his chest, he tasted the air between us like a d├ęgusteur sampling a fine wine. Leveling his gaze, he addressed me.

         “Excuse me,” he drawled with an authentic Transylvanian accent, “but I seek asylum in a lieu rich with helpless victims.”

         Strange as it was and despite the dark, deserted street, I didn't feel alarmed. Instead I laughed, surprised at the sudden lightness I felt. My anger had seemingly vanished. I jutted my hip. “Where’s the party, dude?” I asked, letting my eyes finger his face. He had exquisite facial features, dark and beautiful in a gleaming, buffed marble way. Mercy, I suddenly felt drunk.

         Dracula’s red-rimmed eyes emitted an eerie light. “Party?” His lips curled, until they became a measured, sickle-shaped smile. Was that a fang?

         Chill bumps tickled my skin.

         “Yes, magnificent idea, my dear girl. Where is party?”

         Dennis (the Dick’s) stupid face entered my mind. I glanced at my watch; it’d be a while until Dennis started fretting, regretting what he did. Screw him. I was fine with him suffering all night, after what he’d said earlier.

         “Yeah, let’s party. There’s a wild dance club three streets that way.” I indicated with a skull-ringed finger. “I’ll lead the way.”

         As Dracula fell in silent step beside me, I asked, “Incidentally, why didn’t I seem like a--” I drew reference marks in the air with knuckle-bent fingers, “--helpless victim?" I jabbed him playfully in the ribs. "I’ll bet it’s my wicked attitude and punk attire, right?”

         He chuckled, a vibrating hum that encircled my head and rattled my essence. “It isn’t that.”

         I bristled. What else made sense?

         “Just aren’t my type, my dear,” he said airily.

         “And what type is?” I challenged.

         He turned and smiled, extended fangs sparkling in the streetlamp’s glare. “My preference, dear girl, is A-negative.”

 Thanks for reading!!  Hope you have a fantastic weekend!