Sunday, December 30, 2012

More purple houses, Twin Cities

A couple of great purple houses from the Twin Cities, thanks to my superfriend Jill. She tweets at @SahveSays. Love the goddess moon detail on the second house.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Traffic school

It's time for my stop on the spectacular Holiday Blog Tour. Thanks, Kristy Harding, for the great intro and Q & A! I had intended a traditional short-short story but as often happens it took on another form while I was writing it. Here's Traffic School:

This comprehensive test includes essay, short answer, true and false, and multiple choice questions. Do not seek help from your neighbor. Please pick up your pencils.

      1. You live in an average middle America town. You are driving to work in the morning. You stop at the end of your driveway. Do you:

A.     Turn left and go directly to work as planned
B.     Hesitate
C.     Turn right and abandon your life as you know it
D.     Turn on the radio and listen to NPR, proceeding to work as planned
E.      Turn on the radio and listen to Rush, proceeding to work as planned

       2. Who made your smart phone? No, I mean who.

       3. If you drive through the fast-food restaurant for bad coffee and an instantly gratifying yet calorie-laden and greasy breakfast, how much closer are you to a hardened artery, really?

 4. What if you don’t get the hashbrowns?


1.      At what point in time did it become acceptable to eat food from restaurants that are attached to gas stations? At what point did it become acceptable to eat food made from the same product that makes gas? Did anyone object?

2.      There are no petroleum products in the hashbrowns.
a.       True
b.      False


1.      How many needles are on the Christmas trees in the discount store parking lot? (Hint: The number declines hourly.)


                  1. What percentage of Christmas trees will be decorated with white lights? Non-white? Other?


1.      What road are you on? How do you know? If the strip mall to your right is identical to the strip mall in Canton, Ohio, and the fast food restaurant to your left is identical to the one in Marshfield, Wisconsin, then how do you know you’re really where you are?

Now I ask you again: What road are you on?

                  1. If someone takes several days off of work to stand in line for a Black Friday sale that will save them less money than they would have made at their jobs during the time they stand in line, does that make sense?

                   2. Do you have enough stuff?

                  1. As you’re driving down your unknown road, view the house and property to your left. If you dug up the backyard, what are the chances you would find human remains? (Hint: Try under the garden shed.)

                 1. The county sees fit to spend millions of dollars to install a roundabout where previously there had been a problematic intersection. Over time they see a reduction in accidents, yet the number of curse words and flipped birds has increased exponentially. What is the difference in psychic negativity?


               1. It has been said that Midwesterners are nice. Yet once inside the insulated anonymity of their cars, they leave the Midwest and enter the embassy of Fuckudonia. Please explain how vehicles become hostile nation-states.


                1. If a man driving a Ford F-150 tailgates you for twelve minutes, passes you and cuts you off, what are the chances he will fail to see the utility truck installing city Christmas decorations over the road? If he hits the truck, what are the chances that the utility worker will be thrown to safety in a snowbank, yet one of the glitter angels will plunge through the driver’s windshield and impale his cold, cold heart? 


                         1. Would it be justice, tragedy or irony for a fallen angel to kill the driver? Explain.

               2. What if you found a body in his backyard?


1.      If a three-mile-wide asteroid passes by Earth mostly unnoticed, does it make an impact?


1.      Do you know where you’re going?

2.      Are we going there together?

Thank you for reading. Tomorrow, please visit the awesome blog of Sujeiry Gonzales, who has been called the "Latina Carrie Bradshaw". She plans on sharing a list of her favorite lessons learned from relationships featured in her book, Love Trips: A Collection of Relationship Stumbles. Also be sure to check out her relationship advice on her blog Ask Sujeiry and on the site Being Latino.

A day for writing (i.e. Every Day!)

Music to awaken the writing day. What are you working on?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday Blog Tour starts today!

Hey, the great Holiday Blog Tour starts today! Some changes in the lineup from my earlier announcement (and we have a man now!) Check out these great artists, poets and writers as they post new work:

December 7: Lupe Mendez
December 8: Gwendolyn Jerris
December 9: Natasha Oliver
December 10: Regina Tingle
December 11: Caridad Pineiro
December 12: Teresa Carbajal Ravet
December 13: Nathasha Alvarez
December 14: Stephanie Dorman
December 15: Karen La Beau
December 16: Annette Santos
December 17: Zoraida Cordova
December 18: Kristy Harding
December 19: Nikki Kallio (Purple Houses, woot!)
December 20: Sujeiry Gonzalez
December 21: Samantha Kolber
December 22: Thelma T. Reyna
December 23: Julia Amante
December 24: Icess Fernandez

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Done-o-wrimo, day (minus) five

Here's my Nanowrimo wrap-up: Word count, 82,808 on my existing manuscript, lots of editing/rewrites done. This was a great month to keep on track, and I've broken through the place that was hanging me up a bit. A stuck place often means you want the novel to go in a certain direction but the novel wants to go in another. You have to listen to the novel. The novel is in charge.

The total word count for all Nanowrimo participants was 3,288,976,325.

Next year -- gonna try a genuine Nano & write 50K from scratch. How about you?

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Just tweeted this story as my contribution to the Twitter Fiction Festival.  See @NikkiKallio.

There was a woman who filled her apartment with water. But no one noticed, and she kept trying to save everyone from drowning.
One day the landlord came by for her rent and while he was explaining what a problem it was that her rent was late, his lungs filled up with water.
She grabbed him under the arms and swam to the ceiling, where she’d cut a trapdoor to the apartment upstairs.
Somehow she managed to pull him up onto her neighbor’s living room carpet and squeeze the water out of his lungs, and when she did, he kept telling her why she must pay her rent on time, and that if she was late again, he’d evict her.
Then there was the time the maintenance man came in to change the batteries in her smoke alarm.
She found him floating unconscious in the hallway, the hammers and screwdrivers on his belt flaring out around him like a hardware tutu.
He spun gently in a kind of janitorial water ballet.
It was too hard to pull him up to the trapdoor so she dragged him out the front door and dumped him on the concrete walkway.
This time it took a passerby’s help to get him breathing again. The maintenance man thanked her and said he had seen angels.
From then on she put up warning signs because she couldn’t always be home to stop people from drowning.
But when her friends came to visit, they asked her what the signs were for.
When they started to gag she suggested they go outside and sit on the patio instead.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Camp-o-wrimo, Day 21

T-shirt arrived in time for the last big weekend push! Woot.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Some Tycho to kick off an imaginative week.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Distracto-Nano, Day 18

Crikey, it's coming toward the end, and I'm not even close, or that's the way it seems. I'm in a stuck place and all day I wanted to go for a long walk in the woods to clear my head, but I couldn't because I might get it blown off. Effing deer season. Yesterday when it was nearly dark (at 4:30 p.m., mind you) there were still several trucks tilted along the grassy shoulder of our road. Of course the vast majority of hunters know what they're doing, but we also know people whose houses have been shot. So there you have it.

The good news is I'm in a place where I need to start creating a few new scenes, so it will feel like genuine Nano writing for the next week or so. If I can get myself out of editing mode. Which is what Nano is designed for...

And I've realized I've been thinking about the whole social media thing the wrong way (Sssiiiiiiigh.....! You mean I have to do ANOTHER thing besides actually writing???) Today I looked up the hashtag #amprocrastinating on Twitter and found a bunch of other writers who were also procrastinating and it made me feel so much better! It was like a 30-second support group. I followed them all. A bunch of them followed me back. It was awesome! Go, procrastinating writers!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Opening the box

Yeah, those are the moments we like. Congrats Colleen and Wade on their short story collection, Black Coffee Fiction, stories from their blog.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pick-pick-o-Nano, Day 15

Picking at the manuscript, word by word. Not much time spent these past few days but progress nonetheless. Word count: 81,185. I thought maybe this book would reach 95,000; I'm thinking now it'll stay about where it is, maybe 85,000. One of the factors is I've decided it's going to end sooner -- I had planned two books but now it will likely be a trilogy. Who knows? Maybe more.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fang-o-Nano, Day 13

Slow going yesterday and almost nothing this morning (80,980). Part of the problem is during the work week I need to start at the crack of don't-even-think-about-waking-me-up to get anything done. I've worked on the East Coast and the West Coast, and as much as I love my native Midwest, gotta say, WHAT'S with the early meetings. For someone who prefers vampire hours, I'm turning into a zombie. Coooofffffffeeeeee. Coooofffffffffeeeeeeeee!!! Uuuhhhhhnnnnnnnhh!!! Crap, it's 6:25 a.m., I gotta go.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Edit-o-wrimo, Day 11

It's like I thought -- word count is declining. Today the manuscript is at 80,837, which is good, because it means I'm getting rid of the fluff and duplication. I'm about halfway through the manuscript as it stands, with a few early scenes that still need a superficial edit & a few later ones to add in. It's so much better to work on editing every day because it's far easier to notice things that have already been said, or to see the words that get repeated and overused. More tomorrow.

Super incredible holiday blog tour dates announced!

See caption below*
Purple Houses has been invited to participate in the Holiday Blog Tour 2012, a virtual Round Robin made up of writers and other artist-types, organized by the fantabulous Icess Fernandez (see Dec. 24). I've added all of these creative souls to the blogroll at the right; be sure to check them out. The tour happens to consist of all female bloggers this year. I know some of these great women and am looking forward to getting to know the rest. Here's the schedule:

December 7: Jasmine Clemente
December 8: Gwendolyn Jerris
December 9: Nathasha Alvarez
December 10: Regina Tingle
December 11: Caridad Pineiro
December 12: Teresa Carbajal Ravet
December 13: Natasha Oliver
December 14: Stephanie Dorman
December 15: Karen La Beau
December 16: Annette Santos
December 17: Zoraida Cordova
December 18: Kristy Harding
December 19: Nikki Kallio (Purple Houses, woot!)
December 20: Sujeiry Gonzalez
December 21: Samantha Kolber
December 22: Thelma T. Reyna
December 23: Julia Amante
December 24: Icess Fernandez

 *Our family's traditional Christmas cookie, the snowman. My grandfather fashioned the cookie cutter out of sheet metal; there is only one like it in the world. Much like the cyclops variation, which has been long since devoured.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

NanoFake-o, Day 10

I'm on track, possibly closer than I think. A lot of rearranging and chopping and adding. Today's word count (so far) is 82,480. Will probably drop by the end of the day once I edit. Now, need to spend a little time building my social media platform, or whatever it is we're supposed to do...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fake-o-nano, Day 8

I'm at 80,708 today on edits/revisions to my new novel. Slow going this morning; running myself down. Down time is at a minimum overall -- I need to take a breather, a cabin-in-the-woods getaway (not the Joss Whedon sort). Overloaded, drained, distracted...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pseudowrimo, Day 6

I think they should declare Nanowrimo a national holiday because the worst part is having to stop writing to go to work. Today's word count is 80,047. More edits and new scenes, some rearranging and working on continuity throughout.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Nano, Day 5

 Been working on edits/additions to my manuscript every day of Nanowrimo and had a good friend read the first 30 pages or so. It's largely shaping up with a few minor tweaks. Love restoring the focus of working on it every day. My word count for this morning is 78,547.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Beginnings, Nano Day 2

Yesterday morning and evening I spent editing the opening of my novel -- one that I had worked on quite a bit and was kind of married to, then decided it really didn't reflect my character's voice throughout the rest of the story. I worried about letting go of certain aspects that I really liked, only to find that it worked much better without them, and it works to incorporate the information into the story later on. The beginning is the most difficult (for me, at least) because it must strike that delicate balance of giving the reader enough information to be interested and not bombarding the reader with too many facts. It's the most important part in terms of engaging a reader. Doesn't matter if the rest of the book is stellar; no one's going to know it if they can't get into the book.

Couldn't sleep this morning -- yay! More writing time! Massaged the first chapter some more.

Since I'm doing a pseudo-nano (editing a near-complete novel instead of starting a new novel from scratch) I anticipate my word count will decline or remain about the same throughout the month. Today my word count is 76,361.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Good morning, sunshine

It's time to start writing. Happy Nanowrimo.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween.Tomorrow kicks off the marathon novel-writing month, Nanowrimo. I'm doing a "pseudowrimo," aiming to finish at least one project.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Purple mailbox

From my wonderful friend Regina; her recently-painted mailbox in New Zealand.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bye, summer

Sunday, September 16, 2012


It's still sucky getting a rejection but the pain of it has subsided from abject despair to something closer to "meh." What hasn't changed much is my level of anxiety every time I hit the "send" button on a query, despite the positive responses I've already received. Did I spell the agent's name right? Did I personalize it to the right agent or did I forget to change something from the last letter? Do I have a hidden typo? What if they tweet/blog/facebook about how ridiculous, silly, hopeless and delusional my letter is?

Probably the reason I haven't been sending them out in batches, why it takes a lot to build up to it. Also, I do a lot of careful research, or at least a reasonable amount of research, everything you're supposed to do -- what do the agents represent, of course (apparently a lot of aspiring writers don't care), what sorts of things have they sold, do they have a good reputation and do people seem to like them? Honestly, I tend to avoid the ones who say they won't respond if they're not interested. I get it -- they get hundreds of letters from jokers like me every day -- but I appreciate the acknowledgement of the time and work I put into sending a personalized letter, not to mention the time and effort I've put toward becoming a published author. (The act of finishing a novel alone should at least garner a polite "No, thank you.")

Yesterday's research-and-query marathon led to a restless night filled with dreams of haunted rooms and ephemeral blood-covered ghosts wielding axes. I'm afraid of the negative responses, sure. But it's crossed my mind that maybe I'm also afraid of someone finally saying "yes."

Something else to sleep on.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

How NOT to handle rejection

Another this week -- so the project for today is query-rama. An awesome new friend has rightly encouraged me to "carpet bomb that shit." No more of this one-letter-a-week silliness. Everything I read tells me I should be encouraged that I'm getting personalized, detailed feedback from literary agents, and I believe that more now after learning how often agents get hate mail, some of it threatening. Shouldn't surprise me, but it does mostly because it's so incredibly stupid. You've just shown that you're not someone anyone would want to work with, for one thing, and for another, agents know each other and talk to each other, so the next one you query will already have a bead on your insanity. Plus you've just made it harder for the rest of us who actually have a chance. Dipshits.

Sadly sometimes the threats are real. On Thursday night California literary agent Pam van Hylckama (@BookaliciousPam) was allegedly attacked by a disgruntled writer. Luckily her dog bit him and the guy ran off. She's rethinking the whole foursquare thing now. We're in this always-connected-always-sharing world and though it brings us together it also allows the crazies to have more access. (Though possibly easier to apprehend... he left his address on the query...)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Haunted Bookshop

Overdue post for my fellow Iowa City traveler friends: The Haunted Bookshop.
Love used books. Love indy bookstores. Love kitties. Love businesses that have kitties roaming around. Also love refrigerator magnets and finger puppets, and hey, they were selling finger puppets that are also refrigerator magnets! Literary figures! Hemingway, Poe and Orwell now on my fridge door.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Empty houses

My John Ford/Quentin Tarantino porch shot
Been hitting my 500-words-a-day goal (on average) -- helps to spend some weekends away in people's empty houses (When I'm not distracted by satellite TV. It was shark week, after all.) Chewing off little bits, nom nom nom nom!!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Rolling the boulder

A rejection today. More letters tomorrow.
Chris Runoff

Another day, another 500 words

The constant daily challenge has been to figure out ways to keep writing while working a full-time job (which also involves writing, different sort). But I've found a better challenge: The one posed by childrens' writer Debbie Ohi. Meet her fabulous 500 Words A Day Challenge. It's working for me. I'm counting both new work and significant rewrites (not editing) and so far I've been able to reach or exceed the goal. When I'm inspired I can do a messy 500 words in less than an hour. (That's about all the time I've got). I've been able to produce some oddball flash fiction and have pulled out my book-in-a-drawer, my first rebel child, and am working on a brand new draft. So 500 words translates into about two double-spaced pages, maybe a little less. Too much? You can choose a 250-word challenge. Too wimpy? Try 1,000 words.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th -- also a literary anniversary

Today is the 150th anniversary of a sunny afternoon boating trip during when Charles Dodgson told a story to family friend Alice Liddell about a little girl who jumped down a rabbit hole. Dodgson, of course, being Lewis Carroll. Currently reading Carmella Ciuraru's fantastic book Nom de Plume, all about the pseudonyms of now-dead authors and why they chose to hide their identities -- a bit different than now, when it's usually a matter of author branding. Loving the chapter on Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Strangers on a Train). Had the chance to see Ciuraru reading in Iowa City at the famed Prairie Lights bookstore in June while I was there for the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. She added a fun element by asking us to come up with our own pseudonyms (the best: "Alfred Lord Newman"). Mine also was selected as a favorite ("Sage Watson." I thought it sounded like a writer of westerns; Ciuraru thought it was a good name for a mystery writer. Perhaps western mysteries??) I won a notebook.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Celestial phenomenon

Sky and Telescope has a number of live video feeds of the transit of venus in case you can't see it in person (see the safe viewing options -- don't stare at the sun, people). Next chance to see it: Long after you're dead. Seize the day.

Total recall

OK, I did my part. Gonna be a close one, I think...

Rolling along

As I watched the word count increase bit by bit over Memorial Day weekend, it felt like I was putting a few miles on my manuscript rather than on the road (albeit, I was stuck in traffic most of the time...). But I prefer my friend Wade's analogy, comparing his work in progress to a partially-restored car (complete with frustrated spouse). Piece-by-piece, we keep at it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Today's lesson

It was the kind of day you don't waste on summer blockbusters or browsing at the mall, the kind of day that if you were a kid you'd stay outside no matter how many times your mother called you, and run around the yard like a hopped-up banshee and try to lasso the dog. As a grown-up, you settle for a long walk on the local trail.

The wind shivers through dark green leaves. Gets to sounding like the ocean if you listen carefully enough. Hard to hear cyclists coming up behind you and they know it, so they shout, "Biker on your left!" and startle you out of whatever thoughts you'd slipped into, which today were something like how to enjoy more days like this, how to worry less, how to get more writing done, how to keep from getting older and letting more time slip away.

The standard warning. Sometimes I want to turn around and say "Walker on the right!" because I'm obviously walking on the right knowing that bikers will come up on the left. It's not like I'm hogging the road. But I know they're just trying to be helpful and not run me over. And this latest voice came from a man that was at least a hundred and fifty years old.

"Are you having fun?" The old man asked, drifting by like a continent.

"Yes," I said.

"I am too," he said, and just kept rolling along.

Wisdom on wheels.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nine-digit nincompoopery

Dear Scam-Artist-Telemarketers:
 I happened to have my ringer on this morning because I'm waiting for an important call from someone I care about. Yet you insist on barraging me (at this very second, by the way) with continuous calls from various nine-digit numbers or from numbers with area codes that don't exist. I haven't picked up because I know you are not someone I want to talk to. I'll tell you what I have done, however is I've filed a complaint with the FCC. I'm already writing, editing, emailing, tweeting, hooting, facebooking, blogging, planning, working, calling, negotiating, texting, juggling, scheduling, dancing, cleaning, organizing, struggling, visiting, driving, listening, talking, teaching, reading and whatever-else-ing. I just don't have time to %*#$ around with this $#!^. Neither does anyone else. I realize my efforts are likely futile, but it makes me feel better to know that the feds know about you. Enjoy your day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What writing meant to me

Been figuring out the whole twitter-verse thing and discovered a writing challenge I missed from Thom G (almost a year late is better than never, right?). Here it is: What does writing mean to me?

I feel like I need another ten months to come up with the answer. It's like those questions in a 5-year journal that a friend gave to me -- instead of writing what you did each day, you answer a question -- some kind of innocuous, like "East Coast or West Coast?" and some nearly impossible, like "What is true?" Then you compare how the answer changes over the five years.

My answer to this question has changed over the years too. I'm using 'writing' interchangeably with 'imagination' because so much of writing occurs before you ever pick up a pen.

It started early. For the most part it remained in the background, a tool for playground games, a sand bucket to form imaginary rules and shape scenarios. I played with neighborhood friends long past dusk, inventing wild adventures, protected from real ones. Everything was as it should be.

But as Janet Burroway will tell any fiction writer, Only trouble is interesting.

When I was ten years old we moved -- only an hour and a half away, same state. But it was a different place with a different mindset, and I went from being well-liked to the object of ridicule in a matter of days. Painful pre-teen years are almost a universal experience; more so when bullying is daily and damaging and continues for years.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Super Saturday

Super Saturday seminar in Seymour (say it fast) by YA author EM Kokie, who offered helpful tips on agent searches and some reinforcing, common-sense advice: No agent is way better than a bad one. Take your time. (Deep, refreshing breath.) Thanks SCBWI for arranging the session. Also happened to be the city-wide rummage sale, so Colleen Sutherland and I picked through some bargains. Found this awesome vintage Juice-O-Matic. Love its sleek silver design, though it's a little scary looking at the same time ("Alien" made of liquid metal? With citric acid for blood...)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Purple door

Enjoyed this post by Kristin Cashore on her love for independent bookstores and rant about ebooks. I do have a Kindle now and like it but I'm definitely of the same mind -- printed books provide a different experience. So do indy bookstores (re: chickens at Wild Rumpus. Which incidentally has a special purple door...)