Category Archives: news of the world

The other side of the coin

Water_for_elephantsWriting is about so much more than merely laying words down on a page.   Most people can do that, and can even whack out a creditable paragraph or two. But sustaining the momentum and carrying that vision through an entire novel is quite another thing.

I’ve read several disparaging blogposts where the authors have expressed their scorn and disdain of Nation Novel Writing Month, and that is fine, if it makes them feel noble and slightly more pure than the rest of us mundane hacks. But they are overlooking one important notion, and that is that to write a novel one must start a novel. If it takes a special month of writing and a group frenzy to get some people fired up about an idea they’ve had rolling around in their heads, who am I to complain?  I am a reader as much as I am an author, and I say the more the merrier!

Take a look at some of the most well-known NaNo Novels of all time:

the night circus by erin morgensternWater for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. On the best-seller lists for over a year, turned into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, started as a NaNo novel.

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. What eventually became The Night Circus began life in 2004, seven years before it was finally published, started as a NaNo novel.

Wool, by Hugh Howey. Howey’s dystopian sci-fi novel is one of those credited with putting self-publishing on the map, started as a NaNo novel.

So don’t give me any of your “poo-poo on the contest” crap. Whatever gets a writer fired up and writing is fine by me!

I think the notion that anyone with an idea can sit down and write a book in 30 days bothers some authors, as they feel rather threatened by the number of books being published post NaNoWriMo.  Fear and Loathing, we call that in the industry. It’s irrational, but then no one ever accused authors of being rational!

WoolMost people who begin a novel in November do not reach their goal of 50,000 words. They do not have the discipline to sit down every day and dedicate a portion of their time to this project. And some people just are not good writers. But so what? The cream always rises to the top, my grandma used to say.

Because of NaNoWriMo, thousands of people are now embarking on learning a craft, committing their time and resources to educating themselves about how to write a novel that others will want to read. Several years  down the road, who knows what wonderful works of fiction will have emerged from this year’s madness?

I only know that I am always looking for a good book, and so I will be first in line, hoping to be blown away by a fresh, new work of art.


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NaNoWriMo: The Final Push

edgar allen poe quoteI’ve been talking a lot about NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. My friends are curious and ask if it’s a contest.

The answer is yes, in a way, but no.

It is a contest in the sense that if you write 50,000 words and have them validated through the national website you ‘win.’ But it is not a contest in the sense that it is a month that is solely dedicated to the act of writing a novel.

Now lets face it–a novel that is only 50,000 words long is not a very long novel. That falls more into the line of a long novella and is only half a novel, in my opinion. But a dedicated author can get the basic structure and story-line of a novel down in those thirty days simply by sitting down for an hour or two each day and writing a minimum of 1667 words per day.

That is not a lot. Most authors, when they are in the zone, double or triple that.

And again, we must face an ugly fact: Just because you can sit in front of a computer and spew words does not mean you can write anything that others want to read. Over the next few months there will be many books emerging that will testify to this fundamental truth.

But also, over the next few months many people will realize they enjoy writing; that for them this month of madness was not about getting a certain number of words written by a certain date. This was about writing and completing a novel they had wanted to write for years, something that had been in the back of their minds for the longest time. These people will join writing groups and begin the long journey of learning the craft of writing.

neil gaiman quote 2They are the real winners.

These authors will take the time and make the effort to learn writing conventions, they will attend seminars, they will develop the skills needed to take a story and make it a novel with a proper beginning, a great middle and an incredible end.

They will properly polish and edit their work and run it past critique groups before they publish it.

These are books I will want to read.

It’s not easy. Sometimes what we hear back from our readers and editors is not what we wanted to hear. The smart authors haul themselves to a corner, lick their wounds, and rewrite the damned thing so it’s more readable. They will be successful, for a variety of reasons, all of them revolving around dedication and perseverance.

But when we write something that a reader loves–that is a feeling that can’t be described.

Success as an author these days can’t be measured in cash. It can only be measured in what satisfaction you as an author get out of your work. Traditionally published authors see less of their royalties than indies, but they sell more books. It is a conundrum, and one many new authors will be considering in the new year.

But if you don’t write that book, you aren’t an author, and you won’t have to worry about it. NaNoWriMo will jump-start many discussions about this very issue. At this writing there are 3 days counting today left for many writers to get their 50,000 words and earn that certificate. Some of us have completed our first draft, and some of us still have a ways to go.

Winner-2014-Twitter-ProfileMy book has a beginning, a middle and an end, but will not become a novel for two or more years..  It is, instead, a rough draft sitting in the pile of other rough drafts, waiting to be rewritten when that flash of inspiration takes me over and I am driven to make it real. Huw the Bard began life in NaNoWriMo 2011, under the working title, The Bard’s Tale. He was published in 2014, and his story makes a darned good novel, if I do say so myself. (Shameless, I know.)

But although he was written in 30 days, he was then rewritten over the course of the following year, and edited over the course of the year after that. The life of a book from concept to publishing is a process. Some are quicker at negotiating this process than others, but having once rushed to publish with unhappy results,  I now take a more leisurely path.


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Pumpkin-Pie-Whole-SliceTomorrow, here in the US, is a national holiday, a day of Thanksgiving. We gather at the homes of relatives, overeat, and then some of us embark on  the 30 days of Christmas shopping.

I don’t.

Oh, I will go to my daughter’s house and overeat, and I will give sincere and heartfelt thanks for all the many blessings I have been given in this life. And I have been blessed, far more than I deserve. I am comfortable, and I have the luxury of being able to write full-time, because my husband has a good, fairly stable job.

But grandma does not shop. Grandma does not go to the midnight sales, the door-busters, the Black Friday events that seem to be a national sport here.

Grandma does the internet for all her shopping these days. Amazon, Zulily,–these are the stores grandma shops in.

christmas-gift-bagsAnd it’s nearly all done already. All I have to do is get a few little thing-a-ma-jigs for you-know-who, and then we’re set!

Shopping for loved ones is so darned difficult. I can’t tell you how much I hate it. No matter how hard I sweat, no matter how pretty I wrap them, the gifts I think are awesome for so-and-so never seem to live up to their potential.

Thus I have become the queen of gift-cards.

Starbucks, Amazon, Barnes&Noble–gift cards are the way to go. The recipient can get what they want, and I am off the hook for another year.

But if you are looking for the awesomest gift ever, may I recommend a book?  Books are small vacations, little diversions into foreign lands and cultures, windows into other people’s lives.

Books can also change the world.

The company that publishes my books, Myrddin Publishing, just announced the successful campaign to raise funds for the international charity, Water is Life, via sales of their Christmas anthology, Christmas O’Clock.

christmas oclock coverChristmas O’Clock is a collection of holiday-themed stories including magic, space travel, and Rudolph. With two complete chapter books, lots of stories, and plenty of spirit, this anthology is great for kids of all ages. Two of the stories in this collection are mine!

In 2014 the publishing group donated all the revenue generated from sales of this book, totaling over $200.00 in royalties. This purchased three bucket systems and eight drinking straws, providing fresh water to three families, and eight individuals. Their goal is to double that in 2015.

It may not seem like a lot, but for those families who now have clean water, it was huge.  We can do better, and this year we intend to.

All proceeds from this wonderful book go to Water Is Life to help children and families in an international effort.

Christmas O’Clock  can be purchased at

Paperback via this link:  $9.51

And for the Kindle via this link  $2.99

a medieval tablesetup 1I live in a soft, easy world of plenty with clean, clear water and plenty of food. I have a warm, dry place to live that is safe and pestilence-free. Not every family has such luxury. My husband and I believe it is our duty to help those who don’t and we do this through actively volunteering in our community. You know that I am involved  as a municipal liaison for National Novel Writing Month and I contribute time and energy to literacy programs here locally, but my husband is far more active on a grassroots level, and what he does has a direct effect within our community.

MH900438718My husband, Greg,  is on the board of the Community Action Council, and has been for more than twenty years. Community Action Council is a private, non-profit 501c(3) agency governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.  Their multipurpose organization focuses on meeting the needs of low-income individuals and families through a variety of programs designed to help them become independent and more self-sufficient. They work collaboratively to develop strategies that address poverty in our local communities,  providing essential human services in Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties since 1966.

I am Grateful, with a capital ‘G’, for all my many blessings, for my husband who works tirelessly in the service of our community and for the opportunities I’ve been given to help make a difference in this sometimes terrible world.



Filed under Adventure, Battles, Blogger, blogging, Books, charity, Fantasy, Food, History, Humor, Literature, news of the world, Politics, Publishing, Self Publishing, Spirituality, Uncategorized, writer, writing

Good bye my friend: a dialogue about depression and creativity

robin williamsWe have all been affected by the suicide of beloved comedian Robin Williams. His was a death that touched us as deeply as his life had. We felt we knew him on a personal level, and though we knew he battled demons, we somehow believed he had survived them, and that all was well at last for him.

But if there is one positive thing to come out of this sad end to a beautiful man’s life, it is that people are at last having a dialogue about clinical depression.

This is something I understand on a personal level. My mother suffered from clinical depression, to the point that many times she was incapacitated during my childhood, and my maternal grandmother stepped in to care for our home and for us all. It was the 1960’s and miracle drugs were prescribed right and left–and Mama was on all of them at on time or another with varying degrees of success.

I have fought depression all my life too, and know firsthand that there is no ‘cure,’ no ‘magic bullet,’ no one-size-fits-all pill to solve the problem. Telling yourself to just pull up your socks and get on with your life doesn’t help much either. Because my mother took so many medications, and they often worsened her condition, I have avoided them except at my worst, lowest point.

There is no way to express what clinical depression feels like to a person who has never experienced it.  You are not sad–that word is an approximation, but not an accurate description. There is sadness involved, but for me it was more a deep lethargy, a lack of interest in life. I wanted to participate in the world around me, but I couldn’t pull myself together enough to get dressed and go out the door. It was like being stranded at the bottom of a well of confused misery and I loathed myself for that, but there were times in my twenties when I was so paralyzed by this disease, I couldn’t scrape together the energy to clean my house. I had no idea what was wrong with me, or why I was such a failure.

Fortunately I had children. I refused to just stay in bed as my mother did at times. I forced myself to stay involved with them, only booked music gigs for early evening in places like Wolf Haven or coffee shops where I could take my kids, and I wrote short stories, fairy-tales for them. Having to provide a decent life for my children kept me going to work and functioning on a superficial level. For them, I could get up, go to work, and pay the bills, but it was a constant struggle and in the late nineties my third marriage fell apart and once again depression hit me hard.

In 1998 I began having severe panic attacks to the point I was unable to drive across town. I opted to go into therapy, in the hope I could learn ways to cope. Thanks to an extremely caring psychologist who was not afraid to try new ideas, I found the tools and skills I was looking for. He showed me simple ways to physically alter my brain’s chemistry without resorting to medications, and as along as I practice these techniques I do well. For me, this was an answer.

It was not as easy as it sounds, but now I have some way to deal with this. I have sort of gotten a handle on it, and writing is part of my therapy. Interestingly enough, I recently had the indignity of being denied affordable life insurance because of this diagnosis being in my medical record.

The Journal of Psychiatric Research recently published a study, “Mental Illness, Suicide, And Creativity: 40-Year Prospective Total Population Study,” examined 1.2 million Swedish patients from the country’s national registry and compared this sample against the entire Swedish population. The most interesting and surprising results related to authors. Writers were a whopping 121% more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder than the general population. Moreover, Simon Kyaga, the study’s lead researcher, said that authors had a “statistically significant increase” in anxiety disorders: 38% to be exact. Rates of alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide also increased among writers.

Go figure.

In an interview on the website, Lit Reactor, Portland Oregon based author and psychotherapist, Philip Kenney, said: “It isn’t easy to see oneself, the strengths and weaknesses, the familiar imperfections, without a judgment that often spells, B-A-D. Inferior. I try to remember the beautiful patterns made by the cracks in the sidewalk. Practicing kindness is the best remedy.”

IMG727That is also my motto. Practicing kindness, forcing myself to be involved with life outside of my front door and pushing myself out the door to work in a coffee shop is an antidote for me.

I admit I am obsessive about my craft, and that has been both a curse and a boon.  It is a curse, because if I choose, I can use it as a reason to never go anywhere.  But it is a boon because through my involvement with  NaNoWriMo, Olympia Area Writers Co-opPNWA, and ABNA I am FORCED to leave the Room of Shame (my office) and through these organizations I have met some of the most wonderful, amazing people you can imagine.

And strangely enough–many of them frequently suffer from various forms of ill health, depression, and anxiety disorders. By staying involved, we raise each other up, and try to support each other when the road is hard.

I am grateful for my blessings, never more so than when someone  like Robin Williams, who gave us so much of himself, falls victim to the demons of evil, pernicious, clinical depression.


Filed under Battles, blogging, Books, Fantasy, Literature, news of the world, Publishing, Self Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

What I’ve learned from George R.R. Martin

George R. R. Martin photoI’m not a fan of George R.R. Martin’s style of writing, but I adore the man as a person. He has the courage to say out loud what many people would sweep under the rug.

Recently George R.R.  Martin told journalist Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times that although his books are epic fantasy, they are based on history. He said,  “Rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day.” 

“To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves. We are the monsters. (And the heroes too.) Each of us has within himself the capacity for great good, and great evil,” Martin said.

According to Martin, “History is written in blood, and although Westeros – the fictional continent where the series is set – is ‘not the Disneyland Middle Ages,’ it is “no darker nor more depraved than our own world. The atrocities in A Song of Ice and Fire, sexual and otherwise, pale in comparison to what can be found in any good history book,” he said. (End of quoted text.)

George is right, and he is not advocating or glorifying rape, in fact just the opposite. If you want to inject realism into a work of fantasy you must address uncomfortable realities that human history has shown to exist. The worst aspects of human nature are portrayed in our everyday life—things I could never dream up. Society at large is blasé about it—unless it affects one personally, it may as well not exist.  Rape in the military is a fact, friends, not a myth, and that is just within our own forces. Not only does she live in a danger zone while in the military, a  woman soldier also knows she faces rape and torture if she is captured by the enemy—that is the first step in breaking her. Many men also suffer sexual assault and torture for the same reasons, whether we wish to acknowledge their pain or not.

Image courtesy of CBS News, and Getty

Image courtesy of CBS News, and Getty

Consider this disgusting item of current news that only rarely makes it onto the nightly newscast in our town: To be a young girl in Borno, Nigeria is an invitation to be kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. More than 200 young girls are living this nightmare right now, because an extremist group, Boko Haram, who is against educating women, goes door to door, breaking into their homes and boarding schools and taking the girls from their beds. This is done as a way to maintain political control and  keep their fathers in line. The families of the stolen children are powerless against these brutal thugs.

Do you think these schoolgirls are not being raped and tortured?  If so, you are living in a dream. The leader of these radicals publicly flaunts their intentions to sell or marry all of them, bragging to all the media that they do it because God told them to.  They loudly proclaim that they will sell all of these girls, and believe me, the world is full of buyers just waiting for such an opportunity. So far, 20 lucky girls have escaped their captors.

If I was writing modern literary fiction or political potboilers, I would have tossed out such an unbelievable plot–it would have seemed completely unrealistic–I mean, a religious cult of pedophiles and rapists systematically kidnapping 200 girls, claiming divine privilege, and no one is able to stop them? Come on, get real.

A 19th-century depiction of Galileo before the Holy Office, by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury image courtesy Wikipedia

A 19th-century depiction of Galileo before the Holy Office, by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury image courtesy Wikipedia

I suspect God would prefer we  humans didn’t give him the credit for our evil, thank you very much.

So what have I actually learned from George R.R. Martin? I have learned to be true to reality in my writing or my story will never hold water.  Draw from history, mash it up all you want, but don’t deny the roots and don’t turn away from the ugly truth. Also, we must  never forget that there is as much beauty to draw from as there is pain, for it is that contrast that makes an intense story compelling.

No work of fiction will ever be more horrific or glorious than the true history of our humanity and inhumanity. We authors will only scratch the surface, and if that small scratch makes a reader slightly uncomfortable, the reader can easily retreat to their ivory tower and read bland romance novels written by someone other than me or George R.R. Martin, where everything is rainbow perfect and happy endings are guaranteed.

If you were privileged to be allowed to learn to read, that is.


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Standing Up

quote-he-behaved-like-an-ostrich-and-put-his-head-in-the-sand-thereby-exposing-his-thinking-parts-george-carman-31924I rarely discuss politics. I figure politics and religion are like sex–everyone has them, and no one wants to hear you go on  about your version of it. It’s not my desire to judge anyone I disagree with.

I’m not allowed to shoot the TV, which is what I want to do every time I see it nowadays.  My poor husband is like a deer in the headlights–he can’t look away. And yet, none of the so called news reporting agencies have the balls to report the truth about Boehner’s coup. For that we must go to the YouTube link and see actual videos of Congressional TV:

The GOP’s little rule change they hoped you wouldn’t notice

Public opinion is overwhelmingly against the minority Tea Party Republicans who have staged this coup and taken control of congress.

Instead of walking away, I choose to stand up and say this is wrong. This is the way Germany fell to to Nazis post WWI. This is the way all democracies become dictatorships.

This is not the way my country works. We cannot allow a minority of radical members of the House of Representatives to put a gag on duly elected representatives who are calling for an end to this stalemate that has been artificially manipulated by disgruntled power-brokers. These are people who would destroy everything America stands for just to see President Obama’s Health Care Reform Act dismantled, out of their hatred of him.

I am reporting this coup, because it needs to be brought out into the open.  We won’t solve this if the only way we are allowed to know what is happening in congress is what the news agencies are allowed to report. We have no impartial source of news in this country anymore, so we must turn to social media and try to sift the wheat from the chaff.

164896_593830007308922_371481903_nIt says something terribly important that the only way the American public can hear about this is through YouTube and Facebook. I have sent an email to  my elected congressional representative, Jaime Herrera Buetler asking her to force an end to this disgrace. This is the text of my email to her as it appeared in the form on her website:

“The actions taken by the congressional rules committee on Clause 4 of rule 22 are tantamount to a hostile takeover of our congress by a minority group. H res 368 is a travesty, and goes against everything our country stands for. I cannot support any member of congress who is supporting this.

Please, please, work to resolve this. Let your constituents know you are working to resolve this and that you do not support a hostile takeover of our government by a minority of congresspersons.”

I have no idea if the woman supported this move or not. I didn’t vote for her, but I live in a rural and traditionally conservative part of the country. I’ve done the only legal thing I can do, and if everyone does this, perhaps we will get this circus-train back on track. Time will tell.


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