Posts Tagged ‘novel’

Today I launch my Three Damn Things list for the Type-A personality. TDT is designed for the Type-A person trapped in a Type-B body. Or, put another way, the right-brained person trapped in a left-brained head.

You want to create, but you can’t with so much internal noise, the frustration of letting things go unchecked. If only the voices would stop yelling at you to fix this, call on that, sew this, trim that. The voice is shrill and always will be to the creative Type-A type.

This isn’t about basic life things that need accomplished. I’m talking about the things we can put off for later. And later never comes. If your car is due for an oil change, what’s another thousand miles going to hurt? If you haven’t balanced your checkbook in seventeen months, what’s another month going to hurt? You’ve been meaning to fight that erroneous medical charge, but fighting anything is unpleasant. Put it off. Besides, it’s extra. Extra as in I don’t have to do it and nobody will ever know.

We pretend we don’t care about the clutter that is growing like mold on a shower curtain. We pretend we don’t see the actual mold on the shower curtain. “The new me,” you say (the one who is pretending to be someone they’re not) “is blind to all that. I don’t care. I’m going to finish this novel if it kills me.”

And killing you, it is. BECAUSE YOU CAN’T LIVE LIKE THAT.  It isn’t you. That lifestyle doesn’t fit your personality type. Trust me; I know. You will remain preoccupied with whatever it is you are neglecting. The bigger the neglect (only Type-A would consider something like not color-coding her closet as neglect), the more apt you are to writer’s block. And neglecting your writing to take care of the internal nag doesn’t work either because now it’s your writing that’s nagging at you. It’s a vicious, never-ending cycle, and you need to do something about it, damnit.

When I hear about writers landing an agent eight months after they started the novel, I die a little inside. They are clearly Type B and right-brained all the way. They can write like there’s nothing else to do (I bet their CDs and DVDs aren’t even in alphabetical order). And the Type-A, right-brained can only write when there is nothing else to do.

Don’t take it anymore! Damn it.

Why “damn”? Because I’m fed up, damnit. Writing a to-do list is all fine and great and everything but most of what I put on mine are really just reminders of stuff I have to do and therefore unlikely to put off: scoop litter box, empty dishwasher, pay bills, etc. It’s the extra stuff that put me at my breaking point—damnit—and it’s messing with my creative flow. When I have too much stuff piling on, I can’t think around all the clutter. I can’t write. I can’t blog. I can’t move forward. I’m stuck in the quicksand of life, damnit.

Today. And every day from this one, I will do three things on my backlog. I have to be strategic. Photo albums will take all day so I will list it with two very small things like pull the six-foot-tall weed and find my glasses that I misplaced months ago. I use dime-store reading glasses as a replacement, but these are prescription, and I paid good money for them, damnit (I am fully aware that by searching for my glasses I will find many other neglected piles in my house. I don’t care. I’m ready, with my pen and pad to add those to my list too, damnit).

I can’t wait to wear all my clothes that needed ironed or needed a button. I can’t wait to see my hallway lined with my kids’ school pics from pre-k to current. I can’t wait to make that recipe that’s been glaring at me from a fridge magnet for, I kid you not, fifteen months. But just knowing I’m back in control will silence the internal nagging so I can focus more on my writing. Damnit.

What personality type do you think you are? Do you have any damn things nagging at you?


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There’s a piece of writing advice that stands the test of time. Much like the secret to weight loss is to simply reduce calories and increase exercise. No gimmick. No magic pill or elixir. No cream or special belt. Nothing but good old-fashioned diet changes and moving the body more and sitting less. There.

Now the same goes for writing. No gimmicks, music, scented candles, meditation, prayer, deals with the devil, or anything else that you need in order to write. Doing the above is fine. But not if it’s what you rely on to write.

The closest thing to a gimmick I found that actually worked to get my work in progress progressing is a subliminal message.  As my desk (I actually cleaned it up a bit to take the pic) gets cluttered with sticky notes of books to read, agents to query, and new gimmicks to try, I had the solution the whole time, right in front of my nose, a natural home remedy, trying to be noticed. I’m right here, it says, listen to me.

hint: it's a raised platform for my computer


So if you are wondering where I’ve been, why my blog is quiet, it’s because a certain subliminal message has taken over my brain.

Disclaimer: Sitting less is the very antithesis of writing more. Though I wholly recommend exercise. Writers need it. I need it. Oh, boy, do I need it. Bathing suit season …

Do you have any good writing advice? Or any advice that produces great results?

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Someone (Kasie) from my writing group compares her novel to the movie Sliding Doors. I’d never seen this movie until yesterday and only caught the last hour. I loved the movie and can’t wait to watch it someday in its entirety. But here is my favorite part: A guy meets his friend in a pub and declares excitedly, “I finished it!” His friend says, “Your book?” and the guy says, “No. I’m a novelist, it’ll never be finished.” (I’m paraphrasing here since I didn’t know at the time I’d be quoting this wise and true statement). Now I have the perfect comeback for such presumptions and can’t wait for someone to assume I’ve finished my book so I can say that.  

So this person (Kasie) from my group of four members has not only finished her book and can readily admit it, but just sold her book to a publisher. Or rather her agent did. In this day of dismal statistics for debut writers, this news is inspiring. It gives me hope that there are still agents willing to take on newbies and still publishing houses willing to publish them. Check out Kasie\’s blog where she will share the query that landed her the agent who signed her. She is not only an awesome query writer, she is also an awesome writer, writer buddy, critiquer, and all things writing and not writing.

Yay for Kasie.

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Since October, my vision has been failing drastically. Or maybe it just seems drastic. One day I can read with no assistance and the next, I need glasses. But cheap drugstore glasses aren’t helping with the computer screen. With or without them, my eyes strain on the computer. I’ve tried fiddling with the brightness and contrast and all that jazz, and nothing has worked. Even typing this, I cannot look at the screen.

I had hopes for the new “special” glasses the optometrist said would complete my life. And no, they don’t work, either. So I guess I’ll just rely on my keen sense of hearing to finish my book. (note: I have an affliction called CHS aka Can’t Hear Shit. So, uh, maybe not.)

Though, I once read that if one of your senses is impaired, another one will be stronger to compensate. It’s true. Because now I hear voices.

Whatever I’m doing, I hear myself narrating in my head.

As I’m driving, I hear, “…she slams on her brakes at the black animal in the road. She’s going to save it. Tears pool in her eyes at the heap as she tentatively approaches. “It’s dead!” she screams, then sees it’s just a tire …”

When scrounging for something to eat, I hear, “…she opens the pantry to emptiness. The fridge is bare. Listless, she trudges to bed where she vows to waste away to nothing. If only she weren’t blind, she’d have seen the pantry full, the fridge stocked…”

When I complain to the universe through my blog, I hear, “…they shake their heads, dab their eyes. Poor, poor deaf, dumb and blind Tricia (especially dumb). Maybe I should offer to finish her book for her. Maybe I’ll find her an agent while I’m at it. Must do a query letter …”

You might not be thinking you thought that, but you did. I heard it. Hey, wait I heard that too. Take it back.

“…she watches Spongebob marathons until the 3rd person narrative voices fade away, and soon after, she does as well …”

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April Fool’s day is my book’s 4th birthday.

I is four

My book turning four is not a happy event, just so you know. It’s just one more reminder of unfinished business. That hasn’t stopped me in the past, querying, that is. I made a vow every year to be finished, like in ready to query finished, by April 1st. On birthday number two, I queried two agents. Birthday number three, I thought I was ready and queried three agents. You see a pattern here? But I won’t. I will not query four agents today just because I made a silly vow once. Wait. I won’t promise that. I don’t trust myself. Maybe I’ll send just one.

I have a beta reader I’m handing this to tomorrow, and I’m hanging back to see what edits or changes she suggests. I would kick myself later if I queried and sent a sample chapter that needed work. So no, I will not send out a query today. I won’t. I might.

On other news, I received Golden Visions magazine in the mail yesterday with my story Male Pattern Deadness published in it. It’s a serious piece; a psychological thriller, if you will. Also, forthcoming in Slow Trains, I wrote another serious piece—am I losing my sense of humor?

I don’t have a link to Male Pattern Deadness yet, as it’s only in their print edition, It may end up in my unlinkable page above. But the exciting thing is my story is right in the middle where the magazine staple goes. So the magazine wants to naturally open there. People picking up the magazine will be FORCED to see my story—muhahahaha.

To prove I still have my humor about me, I have a flash piece up at Fear of Writing called Mango Man. Fear of Writing has a list of prompts you can choose from should you want to write for them.

Last and most important is Linda Cassidy Lewis, my friend and member of my in-person writing group, has her debut book, Brevity of Roses, up for sale today. She is the first in my group to publish a book, so this is all very exciting, it’s also very sudden, and I haven’t had a chance to post reviews of it on Amazon or Goodreads yet, but will shortly. For now, just trust me that this is beautifully written work and I encourage you to read it. I command it.

Though none of the above is an April Fool’s joke—nor is the mention that I just forgot how to spell “above” and tried five different spellings before I gave up and asked the computer how to spell it—do any of you participate in this silly tradition? Did someone pull any tricks on you today? I’m alone right now. The day is still young. For me, it’s pending. When my eleven year old gets home, I’ll be in for it.

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Yesterday I encouraged you to read my guest post at Fear of Writing. In that post I admit my short story publications are, in a way, a distraction from finishing the darn novel. I vowed to stop letting publication get in the way of publication. And I will. Right after this one at Orion Headless. (It went up yesterday but felt sheepish to admit it on the same day that people might actually take me serious. pfft)

In my defense, I still have some stories on submission. So there.

This story was originally accepted by a paying anthology. But when I read the contract it looked like it would be published in the later part of 2012. After getting advice from a publishing expert, I had to withdraw my piece because it is part of my book and publishers (if one was looking at offering me a contract) would see it as a conflict in many, many ways. The last thing I want to do is give a publisher a reason to reject me.

So the moral of the story is:  If it’s an excerpt, pay attention to the fine print. You don’t want to lose your rights to it or, in this case, tie up the rights. But I’m glad it found it’s way to Orion. Happy Ending.

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This counts as a blog post from me.  Come visit Fear of Writing, you might learn something on What Not to Do.

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An interview with Tooty Nolan 

  What I like about Tooty: He’s one-of-a-kind, that’s what. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to what he has to say then we can address whether or not a bronze sculpture should be made in honor of him, displayed on a raised platform, protected by a moat complete with water features such as dancing fire water and swan fountains, or he be committed.

I had to go all Elvira on this interview. My interruptions are in red.

Q: Why hamsters?

TN: Why hamsters? Well I had to come up with something vaguely analogous to human beings with which to people my world, and apes had been done to death already. They also say that you should write ‘what you know’: Well I’ve kept a few rodents in my time, and I pretty much feel that I got to know how they ticked. They are, generally speaking, nice but dim. Cavies particularly so. And to a certain extent hamsters too. Hamsters are also resourceful and relentless, and have many fine attributes – like inquisitiveness, fearlessness, a propensity to get themselves into dangerous situations, (like Richard Gere?) sharp teeth, and (in the case of the males) huge bollocks. And have you ever simulated the advances of a male hamster by stroking the back of a female? (not lately) She’s a right little tart, I can tell you. She turns ridged, her eyes bulge, her tail rises to expose her doo-dads, and she’s instantly ready for it – any time of the day or night. As a writer what more could I ask for? Nosey little bastards out looking for a quick shag, and getting themselves into all sorts of trouble while they do it. The perfect representatives for top honours on a world without humans, I do believe. Oh, and they have fingers too. Very handy those.

Q: Did Hamster-Britain evolve, or did you plan it all out first?

TN: I’m a great believer in evolution. Things – ideas and developments – must happen as they will. The only thing that I ever planned was my family’s move to Spain (which went unbelievably smoothly, I must add). But that was an aberration: Normally I just trust my instincts, rely upon nothing but a self-perceived élan, and hope for the best. All that existed of Hamster-Britain at the beginning were two hamsters – Horatio and Molly Horseblanket – waiting at a bus stop (in a story called Horatio’s Horrid Holiday, which didn’t make the cut into either of the Horatio Horseblanket Chronicles, but was reprised in The Psychic Historian). Then slowly it grew – involving more and more characters and locations – eventually moving the stories into other countries – and ultimately to alternate realities, where I could really let my imagination run riot. But no matter what happens in any of the books – they always come back to Hamster-Britain at the end. It’s the anchor that holds the series together. (Might I recommend you see Dinner with the Schmucks?)

Q: Were you sober during all this?

TN: Absolutely. I’m not tee-total, the consumption of alcohol is a rare event. I have the tastes of a child when it comes to the demon drink. (me too) It has to be sweet and bubbly. So don’t let me anywhere near a bottle of Martini Asti Spumante: I’ll get all giggly, and then go to sleep. Oh-no – to create a world with an internal logic that remains honest a writer must remain sober. And I have enough problems with short-term memory loss as it is.

Q: What is your daily routine? Do you write every day? Do you have rituals and/or quirks?

TN: My writing can be best described as sporadic. When the juices flow, so-to-speak, I can barely keep my fingers from the keypad: But getting started is another thing. Time is seldom my own, and there are always pressures to do something other than write. My wife and I both work, which means that I feel that we spend too much time apart – especially noticeable since her battle with cancer during 2007/8, so when the opportunity to be together presents itself I feel that it’s wrong to cloister myself away in the corner of the dining room, and disappear into another realm. And sometimes the thought of the sheer effort of looking at a blank screen, and then conjuring up some vivid tale is too much for me to attempt. For example – in November 2010 I put on my Clive Thunderbolt head, and finally (after years of promising myself to) I began work upon the sequel to Captive Echo. Then the build up to Christmas kind of got in the way, and after twenty-five pages I paused – not for dramatic effect, or because I didn’t know where the story was going (for once I actually had it all planned out: Not my usual style I assure you), but because I had real doubts that it was any good. With Christmas out of the way, I went back and re-wrote those twenty-five pages – at one sitting – and was quite pleased with the result. I’d proved to myself that I could write more than just rude comedy/fantasy. But having dotted the last I and crossed the last T, I put it aside once more – all interest lost in both the story and the characters. The passion to write a sci-fi-ish mystery/thriller, it seemed, didn’t burn right then. I will return to it, of course; but I can’t help thinking that there’s another Hamster-Britain story screaming to be written first.   

Q: How long have you been writing for publication?

TN: The first Horatio Horseblanket short story was written during a particularly hot spell of the Spanish summer of 2004. I wrote it because I was bored with lounging around by the pool or at the beach, (you poor thing) and I had a computer sitting there doing nothing. Previously I’d only ever written television scripts, and one of the reasons that I’d taken the (what turned into a fifteen month) sabbatical in Spain was my frustration with the British television industry, and it’s ever-changing mind. So trying my hand at ‘proper’ writing was actually quite an undertaking. The first-draft Captive Echo and Silent Apocalypse (both based upon my TV scripts) followed. I thought, “Cor, I aint too bad as this writing lark”, and duly ran off a few more Horatio Horseblanket tales before returning to the UK. Once home I continued, and I’d written the first four books before I actually tested them out upon the general public on my Windows Live blog ‘Tooty’s Purple Pencil’. Anyone remember that? The responses were great. “Why aren’t you publishing?” seemed to be the general consensus. But I wasn’t sure even then. So I began my first WordPress site (the name of which eludes me right now, but it probably had the word Tooty in it somewhere), and the public mood remained much the same. But let’s be honest – The Hamster-Britain stories aren’t really mainstream: (Tao Lin would agree) I was NEVER going to find a publisher who was willing to take a risk with it. But then someone introduced me to Lulu.com. I think it was the brilliant American horror/fantasy writer, James Viscosi. And in late 2009 I published the four books, plus my (then) newbie – The Psychic Historian – using the on-line POD format. Since then I’ve released both sci-fi books, and a further two Hamster-Britain stories using that company. Nobody will ever have a best-seller using this medium, (never say never) but it does mean that people with unusual tastes or a discerning nature, can read books that they would otherwise have been unable to – and for that I’m grateful. I just don’t understand why the incredibly cheap downloads don’t sell more.        

Q: What do you read? Favorite author? Genre?

TN: As a young man I used read all the time – including whilst visiting the toilet (guaranteed no interruptions there) – almost exclusively science fiction, but a few biographies and factual books thrown in too. But as I’ve grown older I find I have less time, so now it’s usually relegated to the occasional biography before bed (usually too tired to read), or whilst flying (David Brin’s The River of Time was my last read at Thirty-seven thousand feet). I grew up on Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, etc, and would have loved to be able to emulate any one of them. But alas I’ll never be in their class. Who is?   

Q: Coffee or tea?

TN: Tea at work. Coffee at home – out of a Philips Senseo machine. Both decaffeinated: (I suddenly don’t understand you. Did you say decaf?) Good for tinnitus apparently. Café con leche when in Spain, naturally. Not decaffeinated. (Okay, we’re on again) The rules are out the window when I’m taking it easy.

Q: Anything you wished I would have asked?

TN: Well I’d have liked to answer the question – ‘Who is your favourite character from Hamster-Britain?’- which, of course, would have been Horatio Horseblanket. Once I’d completed the thirty-something stories that make up The Horatio Horseblanket Chronicles Vols 1&2, I thought that I’d finished with him – even if he did receive a mention in The Where House. But a cameo in Fanfare for the Common Hamster was an absolute joy to write, and so he had to make appearances in both The Psychic Historian and Danglydong Dell. And he even had a chapter in Deep Threat named after him!

Also which of the HB books is my favourite? Undoubtedly The Psychic Historian (even if some people think that Deep Threat is better): Some of the stories in that are just so outrageous, even I blush. The thought of Lady Millicent Carport-Minge out jogging naked, and poking herself in the eye with her nipples…It makes me want to make a start on the next book right now. In fact I think I will!  

Thanks Tooty for entertaining visiting us today. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was in favor of the statue until we got to the last paragraph. Be still, the white coats will be at your door shortly. Cooperate. They can get mean with the straight jacket. Not that I would know.

Oh, and dear readers, in case you haven’t guessed by now, Tooty’s hamster books are not for children. I bought one for my husband (I haven’t read it yet, but will when he is finished). We don’t keep it lying around for young eyes. Although, if I really want to keep her from reading it, all I have to do is tell her she has to read it. For sure it will go ignored.

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The memoir that grew into a novel that shrunk into a short story collection. Almost. I still haven’t decided on that last part: the short story collection. And I wouldn’t say the memoir “grew” into a novel exactly. More like I changed lanes. The word out there is memoirs won’t sell, unless you’re famous. Unfortunately, I had already written it at this point.

I started out with the idea of humorous Family Stories told in short stories like that of David Sedaris. But word out there is short stories won’t sell, either, unless you’re famous.

I like my story better as a memoir, because to make it a novel I must actually follow rules, a formula complete with a beginning, middle and end and with plot points, character arcs, resolutions, and, omg, a likeable character.

So rules, I followed. And I rewrote and rewrote and read and read, not for pleasure, but for scene structure and pace and all the while I was impatient to be done … again. So I took bits of my book and reworked some of them into short stories and submitted to lit journals and some actually got published. But I’m not ready to submit the remaining thirty shorts from my book all over kingdom come. My dream is to be read (nice if I was paid too). My dream isn’t for this one big story to be read in bits and pieces. It’s like a series of one-night stands without any true bonding with the standee/characters. For any of you who have read my published excerpts—and admits to it—I want to yell, “But wait, There’s More.”

Then came the idea that I should publish all the stories to lit journals, then compile them all into a short story collection.

My indecisiveness is what keeps me from moving ahead. I need to decide its fate before I read my novel once more for plot holes. Should I choose to move ahead with a short story collection, I’ve got a little dismantling work ahead of me. If I choose to keep it a novel, I’ve got more rewrites—you mean there needs to be a plot? Easier would be to know the direction before taking the journey. 

Do you like reading short story collections or do you prefer a long-term relationship with your character? Come back on Friday to meet a special guest who managed to do both by compiling a short story collection and by linking the stories to create a thread through one character’s life. She will be discussing short stories vs. novels (she’s written both).

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I would like an expanded author page added to inside book jackets. In addition to the usual, I would like the following:

How long did it take, from start to finish, to complete this novel/memoir/true crime/whatever? Plus, a breakdown from first draft to revisions. (me: first draft one year exactly. Revisions going on three years)

How many hours a day did you devote to its completion?  (me: time is becoming extinct for me. I set it aside for now)

Are you a pantser or a plotter? (me: pantser)

If this is your first published novel, how did you break in? (me: [will be] by stalking an agent, breaking into their car and waiting for them to get off work, then pitching my book. If they take a subway, then I’ll hijack the public address system and pitch that way. If they take a cab, I’ll be the driver. If they walk …)

If you queried an agent, please share your winning query with us. Links to your website are okay. (me: perhaps I should ditch stalking and try the dreaded query. Not)

Do you have burning questions you’d want addressed on an author page? Plus, what are your own answers to my questions?

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