Thursday, October 31, 2013

Writing Life: NaNoWriMo 2013

I'm doing NaNoWriMo again this year. I just decided this about an hour ago.

I'm a glutton for punishment.

The timing for it is right, though. That was a major factor in my decision. I just completed a second draft of a novel I'm working on and need to let it "cool off" AND I need to work on doing a "white paper" draft of this other novel.

Yes, there are a lot of novels flying around. Whatever.

Doing NaNoWriMo is a guaranteed way to get a first draft or "white paper" draft done. It's punishing, exhausting, and an emotional roller coaster ride but still worthwhile.

This will be my fourth one. And, yeah, I'm going to make 50,000 words in 30 days just like I did THREE TIMES BEFORE. It'll be a pain, a slog, and all kinds of euphoria.

Definitely worth my time.

November is coming up in less than 2 hours. Wish me luck.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Clothes Revamp - Project 333

I don't usually write about clothes but I reached a major milestone today. Inspired by Janice over at The Vivienne Files, I decided to take on her version of the Project 333. Project 333 is living with 33 clothes for 3 months then doing a switch out. The concept was started by Courtney Carver in 2010 and was/has been embraced by many fashion minimalists.

Today I got a bee in my bonnet and just decided to go for it. I used one of Janice's articles as a jumping off point. Her article is very helpful as it takes the reader step by step through her version of the process. Janice writes extensively about Project 333 and how to adapt according to the season and how to switch things up with accessories. I highly recommend hanging out there if you want some ideas.

The 33 items includes clothes, outerwear, shoes, jewelry, and accessories but I didn't stick to 33 items. Instead, I ended up with 46 items not including outerwear, shoes, jewelry or accessories. I also gave myself unlimited numbers of yoga pants/sweats, camis, and my black, gray, and white layering t-shirts. I was over at JC Penny the other day and found a bunch of layering t-shirts on sale for $2.99 each so I bought all the ones in my size and replaced my old stained ones. And I let myself keep two dress up tops which I hardly use but am ever so grateful to have when I need them.

I may attempt to pare my clothes down some more but we'll see.


Here's what I ended up with:

2 black blazers both with schoolboy elements (one velvet, one heavy knit)
1 pair plain side zip stovepipe pants (which should probably be snugger fitting)
4 pairs of slender leg cords (1 red, 1 navy, 1 black, 1 black ankle length)
3 pairs of skinny jeans (1 black, 1 very dark wash, 1 medium dark wash)
1 pair of dark wash bootcut jeans
1 pair slender cut maroon pants
2 pencil skirts (1 black, 1 with small black/white checks)
1 short navy tencel jean skirt
3 pullover sweaters (1 black cashmere with collar, 2 dark gray)
1 short-sleeve black top with puff sleeves (may replace this with something else)
1 deep v-neck longer black sweater
5 cardigans (1 regular black, 1 v-neck black (which is very warm), 1 regular red, 1 regular navy, 1 looser gray)
3 hoodies (1 black cashmere, 1 sweatshirt black, 1 sweatshirt gray)
2 white button down shirts (1 from Lulu, 1 "work" type shirt)
2 flower pattern button downs (1 red/white, 1 multi red/blue/green/yellow/white)
1 dark denim button down
1 black plaid button down
1 red plaid flannel shirt
1 plain black button down
1 black turtleneck
1 short sleeve, peasant style button top in black with white/tan pattern
1 drape neck dressy knit top in burgundy with leaf pattern
1 olive button top with military elements
1 fuchsia t-shirt
1 cobalt knit top
1 black t-shirt with red/white graphics
1 navy wrap knit top
1 oversize fleece pullover
1 black sheath dress

This is still an amazing revelation for me even with 46 pieces instead of 33. I was able to fit all my clothes on one side of the closet, including pants and jeans, and I cleared out one drawer. I still need to do a bit more laundry but will likely either do a switch out instead of adding to the 45, save for later, or toss. It will be interesting to see if I actually end up wearing everything.


Editing my shoes will be a problem. I don't have a zillion of them but I do have plenty which I'm loathe to part with. Many of my shoes are too small on the left foot so I have to take them to a cobbler to be stretched, such as a few of my Cole & Haan shoes: black with red accent patent leather loafers, neon yellow loafers (don't ask), black leather with patent leather accent flats.

There's also my high-end shoes which I won't part with:
Tods black patent leather driving moccasins so shiny I can practically see myself in them
Gucci black leather driving moccasins
Giuseppe Zanotti silver/gold almost gladiator style sandals
Tods cognac colored lace ups that I found at a Goodwill for $30, barely worn

And my first pair of Gucci's: black leather work-style ankle shoes with lug soles - these shoes are trashed but I want to take them to a cobbler to see if they can be refurbished. I've worn them hiking at Castle Rock State Park, while leaping from tide pool to tide pool at Fitzgerald's near Half Moon Bay, running on 5th Avenue in NYC in the pouring rain, standing in the surf at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, and while taking care of penguins when I used to volunteer at the aquarium. They still fit but they squeak and they look like hell.

And there are other shoes I won't part with:
My seven pairs of black boots (3 ankle, 1 cowboy, 1 knee high, 1 with buckles and straps, and a pair of Frye Harness boots)
My three pairs of chucks (black/white, purple, all white)
And my "aquarium" shoes, that is, my second pair of black/white chucks and black/white vans I used to wear while volunteering. I'm keeping them for sentimental reasons. They have bleach stains, pureed fish stains, salt water, fresh water, fish scales, squid ink on them, and who knows what else.

Yep, I have a feeling I won't be getting rid of many of my shoes.

Accessories will be easier but not the jewelry. I'll probably end up keeping everything in my jewel box. I have some good stuff in there. Going through my outerwear should be fun. Maybe I'll do that next.

This has been a really good exercise. I can see myself having to do more laundry but loads will be smaller. I'm hoping that paring down my closet will make my mornings easier.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Writing Life: Angels

"You seem more comfortable lately."

"Work is better and I'm writing regularly again," I say picking up a cupcake and peeling back the paper. There's a small jolt and a few chocolate crumbs drop to my shirt.

"Sector 7. Australian desert habitat," announces a mechanical sounding female voice.

I nod towards the glass dome. "So what's your fancy? Do you want to hang out down under?"

"Nah, let's keep going. I'm in the mood for a safari. Okay with you?"


He leans forward, looking at the hovercraft console then punches in some numbers into the keypad. There's gentle surge forward.

Mr. Gryphon and I are sitting in a large hovercraft having tea. There are no teacups or teapot, instead we brought along small thermoses of hot water and a selection of tea bags for each of us. We have the usual assortment of tea sandwiches and small cupcakes and we are sitting at a table built into the hovercraft, facing each other.

We are on the Ark, a massive spaceship which is part of a huge fleet. The Ark is a setting for one of my stories. I haven't finished it yet but Mr. Gryphon and I really like to come here and hang out.

The fleet houses every living human being, all in cryogenic sleep, while the Ark houses every earthly habitat and every species of animal. Each Sector is a different habitat which has been spatially shrunk down to fit inside massive domes. When you look inside the glass, they resemble snow globes, but when you go inside, each habitat is experienced as realspace and many are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of square miles. When I say "glass" I mean a transparent substance which is only a few atoms thick but is virtually indestructible.

The largest habitat is the ocean. All of it. The dome is so large that it sits at the very top of the Ark, the glass jutting out into space.

We are riding along one of the "boulevards," huge corridors for transport. Each corridor averages about a mile wide, are hundreds of miles long, and snake through the ship.

No one else is around. Everyone is still asleep. The ship's sensors don't detect our presence.

"Can't you write another story for this setting?" says Mr. Gryphon. He drinks some tea and picks up a cupcake.

"I suppose I could," I say, looking around. "I have grown fond of this place."

"The current story is such a downer, Miss Turtle."

"No spoilers."

"It's true," he says, waving his feathery hand. "All this is fascinating yet you tacked it on like an afterthought."


He puts his thermos down. There's a slight breeze of filtered air. "What's wrong? You're distracted." He is looking at me carefully, his ears twitching.

I'm getting a bit warmer, blushing. "Angels," I say.

"What about them?"

"They always appear, Mr. Gryphon. You are one yourself."

"And they always leave, Miss Turtle. Except me."

"That's true but I created you so you wouldn't leave."

"I'm not complaining."

"Sector 9. Black Forest," intones the mechanical voice. I look at the glass dome at the lush dark trees. Shafts of sunlight illuminate velvety green carpets of wild grasses and other underbrush.

I lean forward. The hovercraft picks up speed. We are on a long stretch between domes. "When I need someone and all seems dire and lost, an angel appears. It's the third time it's happened so far."

Mr. Gryphon blinks his great yellow eyes slowly at me. "Consider yourself lucky."

"And yet, I am doomed to never express my gratitude eloquently enough. I can never repay the favor. It doesn't seem fair."

"Maybe this is an exercise in accepting gifts."

"I always muck it up, Mr. Gryphon. I can never be elegant or restrained about it."

"That's because you always fall for your angels. Maybe not in a forever way but in a magical way."


"You know, all brilliant imagination and the like. You want them to catch a glimpse of your inner world."

"I just want to share a little."

"Will you immortalize this one too?"

"I don't know. There's a bunch of other things to write."

The hovercraft is moving smoothly along. Ahead of us the lights begin to dim. I nod at him. Mr. Gryphon turns around. I focus forward, waiting as the hovercraft moves closer to a fork in the boulevard head of us.

We take the fork to the right and a few moments later the ship seems to vanish, and it looks like we are out in space. The number of stars is dizzying. Above and below us is nothing but the shock of endless space. We can see a small planet to our left, far off in the distance.

This part always takes my breath away.

We are still on the boulevard but this section is all "glass" and was built as an observation "road." It will continue this way for at least 10 miles. When the people are around, this section is a very popular place for walking, running, riding bikes, and driving, of course. The only thing you really can't do is walk your dog on it or ride a horse. The animals freak out when they see vast expanse of space.

It takes some getting used to when walking or running on the road for the first few times. You can't see the road so it feels like you're running in mid-air. Instead, you have to get used to the focusing on the small, bright red signs placed at regular intervals. Sometimes people get disoriented and run into the glass walls. It's easier if others are there so you can follow each other.

"I think you're immortalizing him now, Miss Turtle."

"Yes," I say absently. "I suppose this post is for him."

"Do you think he'll like it?"

"I have no idea. I don't even know if he's going to read it's here and that's good enough for me."

Mr. Gryphon sits back in his seat. The hovercraft continues forward. I ponder my own gratitude for the current situation and hope I don't muck it up too bad.

"It will be all right, Miss Turtle."

"I hope so."

There's a bright light appearing on the planet edge to our left. Dawn is coming and it will be a new day in that world. I relax, taking a sip of tea.

Write. Good. Shit

So I've been wandering around lately looking for posts on how to work the social media and I see articles (formatted into lists) on how to effectively blog, and I keep running into the "write good shit" mantra. That is, write great content. Because, these people say, if you write good shit you can break almost every other rule about blogging.

Rules. About blogging. Yeah.

I guess I don't follow rules. This is why I have a very small readership.

Setting aside my feelings about "blog rules," I can't help but wonder exactly what is good shit? There seems to be a kind of consensus that writers need to write "good shit" but I have yet to find anything that explains what that could be.
How about this?

It was cold but the chill in the air appeared to be standing in the room, a small entity in itself. She raised her hand, feeling for a breeze or the indication of a crack or some breach in building structure but there was none. Just the cool, slightly damp of a large basement with a single column of cold right in front of her.

The lights flickered, not that it was very bright in the first place. They'd installed old lights overhead that gave off a tired glint. The kind of artificial light that drains your energy if you stand under it too long.

She sighed. The smell of moldy, damp earth filled her nose. She shouldn't be surprised about that. She might be in a basement but she was deep enough under the building to be standing on dirt.

A sound. Scratching. How cliche, she thought. She looked down at her feet. Always the same, never different. She thought about how people are so wrapped up in themselves, how easy it would be for someone (or something) else move around you without your knowing. Someone could be standing right next to you or right behind you if you're wrapped too much in your own head space.

Head space...  She tried not to think about that. She tried not to think about how she hadn't looked around herself in the last five minutes or so, and that if she did now, there might be someone or something standing right outside her field of vision.

Something brushed the back of her hair. She glanced to her right, perfectly still. Sometimes these things don't jump out at you like a guy with an ax in a horror movie, she thought. Sometimes they don't jump at all. Sometimes they're just standing there, waiting.

She took a breath and then slowly turned around.

Sorry about that. Definitely NOT good shit but having written this little pathetic missive makes me wonder some things. Could good shit be about telling a story even if you're trying to sell something? Is good shit a story and is it possible that stories, told well, are one of the best ways to move people?

Okay, how about this?

Ice plant flower. An invasive species scattered along our California coastline. Taken at Gazos Creek State Beach along Highway 1. Who might consider this good shit? My mom? She loves my flower pictures. A botanist? A beachcomber?


Or what about this? The fabled formatted-into-list post which appears to be everyone's, and I mean EVERYONE'S favorite type of post. Apparently, blog stats show consistently that if you want to increase the chances of having your post shared, you write a listed post. As in:


These tips are in no particular order, I've just numbered them so Google will pick up that this is a list when it crawls through my little corner of the web.
  1. Pay attention to the light (and by extension, color). Whether you're outside or indoors, pay attention to where the light is coming in and the angle. For outside pictures, it's widely said the best light of the day is at sunset but even if it's high noon, you can still get a decent shot if you pay attention.
  2. Move around. Or better yet have your subject move around. If you're taking pictures of people, don't just settle for everyone standing in front of something and smiling. Watch what people are doing, and see if you can get some group shots where they're interacting with each other or with some landmark. And try running, jumping, walking, dancing, any kind of movement pictures, especially if the light is good and you're in a nice location. And definitely do this is you're photographing kids.
  3. Vary the perspective. As in, zoom in, pull out, get low to the ground, or high above your subject.
  4. Explore your surroundings. Keep looking for a better background, a better angle. Sometimes it's all about standing, watching and waiting for the light to shift a little. An obvious situation would be during a sunset but this tip applies to all photography.
  5. Experiment. Keep shooting and trying different techniques, equipment, places, ideas.
Good shit? Naw, just the usual list of tips, right? Plus, it's too damn wordy.

Round two of the fabled bulleted list post:

(even though this is posted on Blogger)

  1. Consider how you're using the site. Are you showcasing your photography? Selling something? Blogging? There are a zillion themes that tailor to whatever your objectives are so take a look around.
  2. Ease of use. Do you know nothing about website building and need something you can just upload and start blogging on? Do you know CSS? Do you have a web designer and/or webmaster who will be maintaining the site?
  3. What's your learning curve? Are you planning on getting in there and learning how it all works so you can do it yourself? Will you hire someone to help you? Or do you just want to throw money at someone or a team to do it all for you?
  4. What's your budget? The possibilities are endless. You could go with the free Wordpress theme 2013 and do just fine for the most part or you could pay a yearly license for a Premium theme that allows you drag and drop functionality and flexibility.
Still not making it. Sigh.
One of my friends occasionally writes these great little posts with useful links. If I post a bunch of links about writing good shit, does that make the post good?

Write Epic Shit by Corbett Barr. Barr states you need to write posts that make people think, that are useful, and inspiring. Okay, that makes sense. He also says epic doesn't mean long. Uh oh, I think I've already screwed up there with this post.

The Number One Secret to Growing Your Audience: Write Good Shit by Ricardo Bueno. I'm not sure if this a good article on writing good shit but it's a nice list of tips for writing in general.

How to Write Great Shit and Own It by Kristy Gardner. I have to say I kind of like this post, particularly her number one suggestion.

The Most Important Lesson I Ever Learned by Steve Pressfield. Um yeah. This is a GREAT cold water splash of a post. Definitely worth reading.

Aright. I'm tired and I don't think I've gotten any closer to figuring out this epic shit thing. The cure for that is to keep writing. At least I think so.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Hummingbird by Wilco

"Remember to remember me..."
In this video, Jeffrey grows up and stops drawing his funny little bird, leaving his childhood behind.

When I was getting ready for my wedding one of the things on my list was packing away my stuffed animals.

I'd been avoiding this task because I was packing them up and putting them away in my parents' house, not taking them with me. I was a grown woman, an adult, so there was no place in my life with my new husband for old stuffed animals in various shades of pink.

I finally bit the bullet and did it. I cried the whole time.

And they are still in boxes in the rafters of my parents' garage.

I wonder about that idea, that there's no place in an adult person's life for childish things. We put our toys away when we outgrow them. Or in the case of the video, we stop doing childish things such as drawing funny birds having adventures. What is the point of that exercise? Why can't there a place in our lives for these things?

I'd promised all my stuffed animals that I would come back for them, that they would continue to have their parties, wild ones, tea laden ones, at night when I was sleep and when no one was home. If you've read this blog even a little you will know that those childish things continue in my adult imagination and in my writing life.

There's a whole entire world out there and in me where these things still live and grow. Maybe it was necessary for me to put away those childish things to come back to how important they are. Or maybe they were always important.
I listen to this song all the time, it's in my top 25, but this video always makes me misty-eyed especially when the bird whispers "Jeffrey..." It's a fitting reminder of those old, pink friends still in those boxes.

Edit: Okay, I lied. Watching this video makes me bawl my head off...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Counterpoint: The Honest Scarecrow

Since I posted Chipotle's The Scarecrow recently, I just had to post this parody, The Honest Scarecrow, which suggests that this video is a mere tool of manipulation from a large food corporation.

Here's an article from The New Yorker about it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Scarecrow Ad by Chipotle

Just marvelous. I got tears in my eyes...

If you'd like to read an interview with the creators, here's another link.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Inertia is the Problem

I spent some time with an old friend who was in town recently. While at dinner we talked about how difficult it is to get yourself to do things.

Considering where I live and the amount of free time I have, not doing things is positively criminal. Here in SF alone, there are a million opportunities, and many of them are cheap or free. Yet here I am, sitting on my butt doing a blog post and getting distracted by surfing the internet.

It's not that bad. I do get a lot of stuff done but I could be doing more. My friend says not to worry about it but I know my life would be way more fulfilling if I put a little more effort into it. Here's a random list:
  • Cooking for myself. I'm not a bad cook and I get so much pleasure from making my own food. Plus, if I cooked a little more I might try some interesting dishes or different ingredients since I like to experiment.
  • Getting out into the City and attending free fairs, museum nights, walking around in different neighborhoods, taking short day trips here and there.
  • Bringing my camera with me or using my phone camera more.
  • Keeping a Spark File of impressions and hunches to review regularly.
  • Reading.  For the love of GOD I need to read more!
I've tried many techniques to get myself to do things such as scheduling, making lists, dangling rewards in front of myself but I've only had some success. One thing that's been working for me is I tell myself I can do anything I want before 8:00 pm but after that I have to write for at least an hour. This means I can be distracted by the internet, worry about all the emails I'm not replying to, go for a nice walk, things like that. Of course, it didn't work this past week because work was so crazy and I was worn out most nights.

Oh well. Doesn't mean I can't keep trying. I suppose that's the key to this inertia thing, I just have to keep trying.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Things Have Been Empty As Of Late

"I've gone ahead and changed without you.  Things have been empty as of late."

I stretch my legs out on the sand.  It feels cold on the surface but if you dig your fingers deeper, it's still warm from the afternoon sun.  We have no blanket to sit on.

"Empty as I said but they're still going on.  Moving forward."

It's a gray overcast day and a mild breeze is blowing.  I am dressed in slim cut blue pants, nearly new ankle boots, a black cashmere sweater, and a corduroy peacoat.  The sea is the color of silvery steel tinged with white and blue.

I am wearing Raybans.

"Have you forgotten about me?"  Mr. Gryphon looks at me, his great golden eyes blinking slowly.


"Then where the hell have you been?"

"Not in Hell, not here.  I still haven't missed the story, though.  It may seem things are moving on but they haven't.  The story still remains to be told."

"Take off those damn sunglasses, please.  I never get to see you anymore and I want to see your eyes."

I pull them off, squinting at first, tucking them into my coat pocket.  I do not reply to his comment.  I don't do this because I don't have to.  He merely wants to vent a little so I let him.

"You are insufferable, Miss Turtle."

"Your patience is much appreciated, Mr. Gryphon."  I am not looking at him instead I stare out to sea.


"Mock Turtle and Gryphon are always together and you are always here.  With me."

"What about those others?"

"Yes, they are here as well and perhaps I've been focusing a lot on them lately but you're the only one who actually follows me around.   You're sitting behind me right now on our red couch as I write this post.  The others usually only show up in the stories."

"Except for that one guy who just sort goes where he wants."  He sounds sulky.

"He's an angel.  Leave him be."

"I was an angel.  Did you know there's some evidence that griffins originated as angels or vise versa?"

"I think you might have mentioned that before."

"He must have an ingot to have that kind of free access to everywhere.  Can't he stay in the library with the rest of the folks.  Or in the mansion?  Aren't there enough tunnels and blue doors for him to explore?"  He kicks a little sand.  It's low tide and the water has peeled back to reveal dark brown sand.

I smile.  "He just likes hanging around in places.  Don't worry, he will soon fall in love and stay within his story after that.  Besides, why can't he or anyone else in the stories wander around?"

"They don't know all the rules and start confusing things.  There are a lot of them.  And they always freak with they see T-Rex and they gawk at the frogs.  They just...mix things up."

"That's not the only reason why you're uncomfortable, Mr. Gryphon.  You know just as well as I do that there's plenty of room for everyone."

"They don't know us at all." He is hugging his knees and looking down at the sand.

"Maybe you should all try to get to know each other."


"You're just grumpy today."

"Grumpy everyday," he mutters.

"Yes, and I know that's my fault."

"Been too long," he says.

"Yes, it has been.  I'm sorry.  It's just been tough lately."  I scoot closer to him.  He glances at me then tentatively reaches out and puts his feathery arm around me.  I settle against him.  He is warm and his scent is comforting.

"Someone once told me my problem wouldn't be writer's block.  It would be that there are too many damn stories and I would have difficulty with sorting them out and getting them done.  He was right about that.  And now my attention suffers from the lack of time and energy."

"You're mentioned that before, Miss Turtle."

"I mention it because it's something I need to work on.  Better scheduling, focus, or something."

"Just a variation of your Endurance concept."

"Is that all?" I sigh.  "You make it sound so easy."

"It's not easy.  None of it is.  You think everyone can write a blog post like this one?"

"I suppose not."  I hear the strains of a quartet behind me.  "Speaking of the frogs, what have they got up to?"

"I asked them to set up at the edge of The Forest and play a few tunes towards sunset time."

"Is it that time?"


"Well, lets go in for some tea before dinner."

"We need to have an adventure.  Everyone is restless about it."

"You especially, I'm sure."  I stand up with his help and we walk across sand towards The Forest.  The frogs are dressed beautifully, all in lace jabots, velvet waistcoats, and fine frock coats.  Their music is lovely.  We nod at them as we pass.

"I've asked them to play during dinner."


"You'll join us, won't you?"

I smile up at him, tucking my arm in his.  "Of course."

We walk on.  The Forest is bursting with green even with the overcast day.  We take a well-worn path to my Library.  The Forest recedes and we walk down the gentle rolling hill towards the pond.  Swans drift in majesty.  I look up at the huge doors and massive stone steps.  It has been a long time since I've been here.  We climb the steps and take one of the smaller side doors in.  When I step through the massive threshold, the Library staff are waiting, all decked out in velvet robes.  They bow.

"Guys, no need to be so formal," I say but I'm still very pleased that they've come to meet us.  One of them helps me out of my jacket.  Mr. Gryphon reaches out to take my hand.  I slip my hand in his and give it a good squeeze.  We walk down the steps into the massive reading room with its stunning cathedral architecture.  It's good to be home.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Writing Life: Howdy/Some Impromptu Writing Advice

I'm listening to Eminem right now.

My garbage disposal is broken.

And I kinda like Psy's new video "Gentlemen."

In August, I'm going to see Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in Pinter's play "No Man's Land" and (FUCK.YEAH.) I'll be sitting in the second row.

I saw the "Girl."  Twice.

And I like the word Huzzah!

I saw a play called "The Motherfucker with the Hat."  We gave them a standing ovation.

The guys next door, the ones who live with a dachshund named Oscar, were shouting and whooping.  Must have been Giants game playing (random image).

I'm writing up a storm, as usual.  And I write on our writing group's Facebook page sometimes, when I feel like it.

I have not been writing here.   Dry as a bone with the blog posts.  Focused elsewhere.

I have nothing interesting to report.  That's because I'm working a major project which I'm not going to reveal to the vast majority of you.  Sorry.

I live a split life.  On one hand, I go to work, check FB, check email, sometimes post statuses, go to writing group, see friends and family, go to the theater, hang out in the city.

On the other hand, I'm seriously focused on this project, working my ass off.  Other writers keep asking what I'm writing.  I either give them a very vague description or refuse to tell them.  Trouble is, a few of the participants in my group have become regulars and they want to know when I'm going to start sending out my work.  I'm not going to do that so I say something vague about looking into self-publishing and change the subject.

I'm closeted, in a way, and it will remain so for the foreseeable future maybe for the rest of my life.

I'm seriously okay with this idea.

It's always a mistake to think that everyone is going to be interested in your stuff.  Your job, as a writer, is to identify who your readers are and go after them.  Or rather, it's your job to HELP your readers, the people who are going to love your work, to find you.

And it's not going to be all your friends and family either.

Who is going to love your work?  What are they like?  What are their interests and where do they hang out?  These are important questions.

Even more important is how you market to those readers.  I heard on a podcast that the best way to market your book is to write a second one.  This way when a reader finds you and loves your stuff, there's more for them to buy.  Ideally, you'd have at least five books in the hopper so you can keep some momentum going.  Yes, this is a long term project.

Blitzing people with emails about your book is just spam, gets lost in the shuffle.  It may work for a little while but you can't sustain your sales with that.  You have to get yourself out there in other ways.

What's your website like?  Is there a lot of content?  Have you been writing/blogging on it for a while so people can get a sense of your writing?  Is your face plastered all over the place but you have no content up there to show for it?  Take that shit down, for crying out loud.  People don't care about what you look like or that your name is in a giant sized font, they want to know if they're going to like your writing, and you.  The only way they're going to know that is if you give them something to read.  Free first chapter?  Pzzt!  How about a free short story or two?  This way people can get a good sense of your writing so they can make an informed decision about whether to give your book a shot.

What?  You don't have a website?  Get off your ass and set up a WordPress site somewhere!  Use the default theme, Twenty Twelve if you have to (it's not bad, by the way).  Get yourself a domain name and start cranking on that baby as soon as you can.  You need to start this shit when you start writing your book.

If you finish your book and people are curious about you but you don't have a website or your website is paltry and neglected looking or your website is all images and links to Amazon but no content for the reader to explore then he/she will move onto the next book (not yours).

Lastly, remember that writing a book and marketing it are two different skill sets.  Do not underestimate this truth or the attendant learning curve.  Do not ignore that you're going to have to do marketing and find your audience whether you get picked up by an agent and published traditionally or decide to self-publish.  There are a zillion articles, online courses, books that tell you how to leverage social media, blogs, etc to get yourself and your book out there.

Writing, like all artistic endeavors, requires a measure of ego.  It's the only way to steel ourselves against the people who aren't going to like our work or any scathing criticism that will come our way (and it will, believe me).  Not everyone will like your stuff.  I'm sure there are people who think this blog is crap.  That's okay because I'm willing to tell those people to 1) go fuck off, and 2) wish them good luck with finding a blog they do like, thanks for stopping by.

Besides, having faith and confidence in your abilities is not about ego, it's about being realistic about where you are in this process and giving yourself some credit.  I'm a pretty good writer and a better storyteller.  I really like my own stuff and the reasons why I'm doing this, the very core from which I operate, are rock solid.

It's an important mindset to evolve to.  It can be hard to maintain but if you can keep yourself there most of the time, you're doing all right.

Psy's video, by the way, is about an obnoxious jerk who plays pranks on people but I like his low crotch pants, bright jackets, sunglasses, the hip rocking dance, and the song is catchy.  I like this parody and especially like it when the women start hitting back with the pranks.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2012: Finished This Draft - 76,666 Words

That's about 307 pages and it's the second longest thing I've written so far.

As always, it was a tough slog and this time it took even longer to finish.  My last NaNo novel tops out at 76,761 words but I managed to finish it by the middle of January.  This one took almost another month of work.

There are huge plot holes.  I'm not satisfied with the end.  There are a couple of plot points which might not work and by the end I was just laying down words and leaving out some details so there's a stilted quality to the writing but this is a first draft and first drafts are shitty.

On the plus side, my characters really seemed to grow in this story.  They seem authentic and their character arcs fit them.  The story is exciting and takes place in New York City, Europe, and Asia.  And I cried at the end of the Epilogue.

I'm taking a week off from writing (this blog post excepted) then I'll finish another project that's waiting in the wings.  I'll start working on revising this draft in another month, maybe six weeks.  We'll see how I feel.

It feels good to finish.  The great thing about writing, about many endeavors for that matter but especially creative ones, is each time you finish and complete another milestone you add to your skills, increase your endurance, and learn a little more about how you work.  Writing is building slowly, completing work, working hard.  There's no getting around that fact.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

My New Gallery Wall

As I mentioned in the previous post, I've been working on a Gallery Wall for my living room.  This is a big deal for me because there wasn't anything on this wall for the past seven years.  Why?  Could be any number of reasons but I'll be honest and say it was a combination of thinking I wouldn't be living here for very long and not feeling like I deserved to live in a place that was lovingly decorated.  Thankfully, I've finally gotten past those dumb ideas.  Below is the result:

The wall.

As you can see my Gallery has a combination of my own photographs, photographs by others, original art and prints.  Yes, that's my lipstick red couch.  As I continue to declutter and slowly decorate, I may decide to get a new set of slipcovers for it but for now the red works.

I noticed several things while creating this Gallery.  First, there are a large number of photographs of me.  They are either self-portraits or photos taken of me by very significant people.  I kept thinking that I should put up pictures of important people in my life but decided that I would put up what I felt was best instead.  Second, there are a large number of bird pictures on this wall, and all over my apartment for that matter.   Birds figure prominently for some reason and they're not all penguins either.  Third, there are skeletons there and there.  I used to have a collection of calaveras, skeleton figures from Day of the Dead, but all I have now are images.

I spent a lot time (over two weeks) deciding on the pictures, which frames to use if they weren't framed already, and deciding on placement.  I put the pictures up slowly, two or three at a time, and lived with them for a couple of days before making adjustments and planning for the next group.  I took into account size, frame, and, most important, color of the picture.

I read many articles about creating Gallery Walls but ended up doing it my way which I think is the hard way.  I could have laid everything out on the floor or created paper versions of the pictures but I wanted everything on the wall so I could see it.

The area above the couch.

I created a canvas print of the typewriter from one of my own photographs which I turned black and white then overexposed.  It wasn't cheap but turned out great.  I really wanted a typewriter image on this wall.  The penguin print was discovered while purging and is a print sketch of Pilgrim, a bird I used to work with.  The print is a limited edition and was a gift.  The black and white photo above the penguin is an old picture of me wearing a man's jacket and looking into a bakery on Valencia in the Mission.  The baker's assistant is walking towards me and has his hand raised in a little wave.  This photo was taken by an ex and while not one of my best pictures, it's still one of my favorites.

The woodpeckers on the top is an original watercolor.  The two photos below the typewriter sort of echo the green of the woodpecker picture mat and are pictures taken at Kew Gardens (the one of me was taken by my brother).  The picture next to the typewriter is an original print of goblins drinking tea.  Below that is a sketch I did of a skeleton wearing a jester's hat.  The trio of photos are all of my brother.  I took those pictures during our trip to London.  What I love of those photos is that you can't see his face in any of them.  The picture below the trio is one of my favorite self-portraits which I've posted here a few times.

Second half of the wall.

The blue heron print was a gift from my brother.  The picture below that is an original block print of red skeletons wearing suits.  The picture above and below the canvas of me are photographs I took.  The other large picture on this wall is of the Terracotta Army in Xian, China.  There was an art exhibit of them probably something like two decades ago where I bought the print and eventually had it framed.  I used to keep it at work when I had an office and it never failed to astound everyone who walked in.

I have two of these black shelves from Pottery Barn.  I hesitated hanging them because they make huge holes in the wall so I decided to prop them up on my credenza and bookcase.  The shelves have a narrow lip and are specifically for holding pictures and books.  I change the books and pages occasionally.  The book on the left is Animal by DK and The Smithsonian and has magnificent photographs.  The book on the right is from my favorite photographs In The American West by Richard Avedon.

The photograph of me was taken by a friend during Pride Weekend.  I'm standing in the crowd on Castro Street.  I smeared out the background to give it that watercolor look, upped the saturation so the colors would pop, then had it made into a canvas.  I love it.  The small print next to the picture of me was a gift from the person who took the photograph.  The Bird of Paradise was taken by me.  The picture below is of a good friend taken while we were hiking The Narrows at Zion National Park.  The picture of the crow is just a print.  The last picture is actually two small watercolors given to me by an attorney I used to work with.  I haven't talked to her in years but I love them.  I should get in touch with her again.

The opposite wall.

As I mentioned in the previous post I also set up a blank wall to hang white paper so I can put up pictures, documents, etc. of my current writing project.  You can see another one of those Pottery Barn black shelves on the bookcase there.  On the left is a book of Joseph Cornell Boxes.  The book on the right is a book of cathedrals and churches.

So happy this little project is now completed!  And I have some leftover frames I can use elsewhere.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 2013 Junk Mail

The holidays were good and I'm feeling optimistic this year.  I think I'll see the fruition of some of my personal projects and maybe I'll finally get some longed for stability in my life.

  • I'm writing and writing.  I'm still working on the first draft of my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel.  It's up to about 66,000 words and I believe I'm in the last quarter of the story.
  • Work is going well.  I like the company and the people I work with.  Can't complain there.
  • I've been developing some good household habits and the big news for me lately is I've been working on decorating my apartment.  In the past, my apartment's walls have been barren (even though I have some original art and a lot of good photos) and there were boxes all over the place.  All that has changed as I slowly work on decluttering and decorating.  The big project right now is creating a Gallery Wall of some of my art and photographs.  It's taken over a week as I've been putting up pictures, a few at a time, living with them, then making modifications and planning the next group of pictures to put up.  I'm almost done but it will likely take until next weekend before I'm finished.  This gallery is on the wall above the couch.  If you can believe it, that entire wall was blank until last weekend.
  • There were a few pictures on the opposite wall, the one above my desk, but I took those down and moved my bulletin board all the way to the right.  This left more than half the wall blank.  I bought some white three foot wide rolled paper, taped the paper to the wall, and unrolled a four to five foot section.  This swath of blank white paper is being used to post pictures, maps, spreadsheets, timelines, articles, etc. for my current writing project.  I have a box where I store such things so I can reference them but it's great having them up on the wall where I can stand up and look at them when I need to.  Having a visual reminder of the story up at all times also helps keep it in the mind as I go about my daily activities.  If someone comes over and I don't want them to see all my notes, I can take the paper down and roll it up.  My living room is really starting to feel a bit like an art studio which is what I was going for with these changes.
  • Shooting pictures.  I've been trying to keep in mind how important it is for me to be out and about using my Nikon 1.  I really need to learn to use all the controls so I'll be focused on that in the coming months.  You'll see the results here.
  • I'm still working on my Luis Buñuel film survey.  I need to watch his last three films:  The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Phantom of Liberty, and That Obscure Object of Desire.  Learning about Luis, his friends, his influences, etc. has been very satisfying.
That's pretty much it for now.  When I've made good progress on the decorating/organizing front, I'll post pictures.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Fire and Brimstone

Step forward into the light, calls the sound.  A blast of trumpet, a musical scream that wakes everyone up.

We all get up from our beds and graves.

We look at our hands and the sky and the mist and shiver in the cold.  I wish for the boatman but he isn't coming, not this time.  Too busy.  A blast of light overhead.  Fire.  Brimstone.  I taste bile in my mouth.  My perfect hatred of fire and brimstone, of shouting and screaming, men being dragged out and thrown into the street makes me bristle with anger.

Everyone gets up.  Even I hear the call.  They all move across the misty ground, deader than doornails, towards the light.  I don't move.  Someone comes up behind me.  I don't bother looking to see who it is.

"I'm not going so leave me alone."

I feel a hand on my shoulder, a gentle squeeze that makes me start then a gauzy, sheer wisp of whiteness brushes past me.  "I'm not going," I say again as I watch those raptured souls move around me.  They are all taking deliberate steps, floating over the ground.  After a while I am alone.  Sitting in my own grave, the ground a grayish blue, the light fading in the distance.  The fire in the sky had turned to black, charred and smoking.

I get up and walk in the opposite direction towards darkness.  Though the light is fading, I'm certain I can create my own as I go along.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Writing Life: Ten Lines (or sets of lines) From Novels And Stories I Haven't Written Yet

This is the time of year for top ten lists and Miss Turtle has decided to compile her own. Keep in mind I don't know how these lines will fit into the story, when they will be written, or even what they will be about exactly. Also, they are all from separate stories, minimal editing has been done, and, with the exception of the line from Story No. 1, they were written cold. When I finally get around writing the stories down, these lines will likely change.  The numbering is purely for reference.

Story No. 1:
Revenge is the purest form of self-destruction.

Story No. 2:
Character 1:  Why do you keep following me around?
Character 2:  Because you need following.  If you keep wandering around in these dangerous parts by yourself something bad is going to happen.
Character 1:  Why should you care?  We don't even really know each other.
Character 2:  Hell if I know.  Must be your big blue eyes or, more likely, my own damn boredom.  Not much is happening right now and this is, well, it's a form of cheap entertainment.

Story No. 3:
He sat as he had for days.  Mute, virtually paralyzed, unable to respond to any stimuli until he saw the flash of needle and the syringe being filled.  There was no change in expression nor did he move but a single tear managed to leak out of his eye, running down his cheek when he finally blinked.

Story No. 4:
You're not going to shoot anyone!  You're just a damn accountant!

Story No. 5:
The house dreamed, stretching and reaching.  Its own hunger had finally been satiated and the desire to take more and more had subsided.  Now it sat, looking regal with its old architecture and strangely elegant broken down insides.  No one would go there anymore, it had done all it could to keep all the living things away.  If anything or anybody tried to breach its walled and glass skins, it wouldn't just take lives, it would take everything that existed outside the overgrown garden walls.

Story No. 6:
The water pouring into the narrow space was warm at least.  I looked up as the opening was sealed shut.  I waited for them to turn off the lights but they remained on.  The water was already up to my waist.  I looked at my hands for a moment then up again.  I couldn't figure out why they left the lights on.  I took a deep breath.  At least I'd learned to swim and tread water that would keep me alive for a little while.  My heart was pounding.  I was really going to drown this time.  I'd almost done it twice before but this time it seemed inevitable.

Story No. 7:
The President sat alone in the Oval Office.  He'd come to Washington riding on the backs of those voters who had high hopes for him.  And he'd believed that he could live up to those hopes, but it was after 2:00 am EST on Wednesday and he'd seen the very last of his idealistic plans vanish in this week's round of grueling late night meetings.  At least he'd held onto those plans until after he'd passed his first hundred days milestone.

Story No. 8:
The first time I saw my true love, I was getting on a train.  The power had switched off for a few minutes as it does underground, and everyone was looking at their phones, their faces illuminated with that cell phone blue light.  He was the only one not looking at his phone.  Instead, he was looking at me.

UPDATE:  This one wasn't written cold, actually.  A friend posted on FB that she'd gotten on MUNI and the lights went out for a few seconds and everyone's face was illuminated by a cell phone.  I asked her for permission to use this striking image in a story.

Story No. 9:
Character 1:  I liked you a lot better before.  At least you seemed to like me then.  Now you can't wait to get rid of me.
Character 2:  What else am I going to do stuck with the likes of you for 50 years?  The whole universe in front of us, decades of time, and only you for company?  I had to compromise on something.

Story No. 10:
This time I'm getting everything back.  Everything I lost, that I hold dear is coming back to me.  Just this once.