28 March 2009

Off and Running

I will be on holiday for the next week or so, so I apologize in advance for the paucity of new posts.

Before I go, however, I want to leave you with yet another list I found when I was cleaning out my desk:

The Seven Blunders of the World

1. Wealth without work.
2. Pleasure without conscience.
3. Knowledge without character.
4. Commerce without morality. [Hear that, AIG?]
5. Science without humanity.
6. Worship without sacrifice.
7. Politics without principle.

- Mahatma Gandhi

There. I'll leave you to chew on that for a while until I return. :-)

24 March 2009

21 Rules for Writers

I was cleaning up around my desk last night, and I came across something that had fallen off the corkboard on the wall above my computer. I've shared it before with my closest friends, but I thought I'd post it here as well, if nothing else but to remind myself of a few home truths. My comments are in italics:

21 Rules for Writers (by Erica Jong)

1. Have faith - not cynicism. [In other words, don't let the Inner Editor get to you.]
2. Dare to dream.
3. Take your mind off publication. [This is a big one for me.]
4. Write for joy. [Something I seem to have forgotten lately.]
5. Get the reader to turn the page.
6. Forget politics (let your real politics shine through).
7. Forget intellect.
8. Forget ego.
9. Be a beginner.
10. Accept change.
11. Don't think your mind needs altering.
12. Don't expect approval for telling the truth.
13. Use everything.
14. Remember that writing is dangerous if it's any good.
15. Let sex (the body and the physical world) in!
16. Forget critics. [Especially the one in your head.]
17. Tell your truth, not the world's.
18. Remember to be earth-bound.
19. Remember to be wild!
20. Write for the child in yourself and others.

That last one is the biggie for me - at times I get so caught up in the way I think I should be writing that I lose all joy and spontaneity in the story I'm trying to tell. So this is my reminder...there are no rules.

I'll let you know later if I actually take that to heart....

21 March 2009

What Makes a Good Story?

Ask this question to five different people and you'll get five different answers. Writing is subjective; so is reading. One person's keeper is another's wall-banging dreck.

With this in mind, I've been soldiering through the stash of non-romance novels I bought lo those many months ago at Barnes & Noble. Most of them I haven't been able to finish, for one reason or another. The historical fiction piece set in China? Yawn. Too detailed, too precious, too boring. The Japanese crime thriller? Ick. Unlikeable characters, fragmented POV, gloomy setting and atmosphere. No hope anywhere. That, and the translation sucked.

Current read: modern, intelligently-crafted thriller with a morally ambiguous hero, intriguing plot, lush writing. Not a keeper, but head and shoulders above the others.

That got me thinking...what characteristics must a story possess to keep me interested?

1.) Likeable characters: If everyone in the book is an asshole with no redeeming qualities, forget it. Who wants to read about people for whom you feel no empathy, and you'd rather just shoot and put out of your misery? Feh!

2.) An interesting, well-paced plot: I have no interest in reading about the day-to-day minutiae of a Chinese girl's life in excruciating moment-by-moment detail. What purpose does it serve, save to stroke the author's ego and display to his/her writing peers that he/she deserves to be published simply on the depth of his/her knowledge of that subject/time period? To me, that's nothing but literary masturbation. Again, feh.

3.) Finely crafted language: Alas, even the most interesting plot and sympathetic characters can't save a book if the clumsiness of the prose keeps pulling me out of the story. It's like looking at a Degas through a smudged and water-spotted camera lens; you can glimpse the beauty beyond, but your view of that beauty is hopelessly obscured, and you will never grasp the true nature of what is depicted on the canvas. Talk about an exercise in frustration.

So there you have it in a nutshell - my benchmarks for quality. What about you? What do you look for?

19 March 2009

Know Thyself

I remember taking a Myers-Briggs personality test in the early 1990s as part of a "team building" exercise at my then-current job. My BFFs, Carrie and Nancy, have been using the MBTI lately in either their writing or their personal lives, so I decided to give it a shot and find out if I've changed or not; this time, I'm taking the test for me, as part of who I am, rather than who I think I want to be in a work environment.

My results? I'm an INFJ - Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging.

Here's what Wikipedia says about me:

"INFJs are conscientious and value-driven. They seek meaning in relationships, ideas, and events, with an eye toward better understanding themselves and others. Using their intuitive skills, they develop a clear vision, which they then execute decisively to better the lives of others. Like their INTJ counterparts, INFJs regard problems as opportunities to design and implement creative solutions.

INFJs are quiet, private individuals who prefer to exercise their influence behind the scenes. Although very independent, INFJs are intensely interested in the well-being of others. INFJs prefer one-on-one relationships to large groups. Sensitive and complex, they are adept at understanding complicated issues and driven to resolve differences in a cooperative and creative manner.

Accounting for 1–3% of the population, INFJs have a rich, vivid inner life, which they may be reluctant to share with those around them. Nevertheless, they are congenial in their interactions, and perceptive of the emotions of others. Generally well-liked by their peers, they may often be considered close friends and confidants by most other types. However, they are guarded in expressing their own feelings, especially to new people, and so tend to establish close relationships slowly. INFJs tend to be easily hurt, though they may not reveal this except to their closest companions. INFJs may 'silently withdraw as a way of setting limits,' rather than expressing their wounded feelings. This behavior may leave others confused and upset.

INFJs tend to be sensitive, quiet leaders with a great depth of personality. They are intricately and deeply woven, mysterious, and highly complex, sometimes puzzling even to themselves. They have an orderly view toward the world, but are internally arranged in a complex way that only they could understand. Abstract in communicating, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. With a natural affinity for art, INFJs tend to be creative and easily inspired. Yet they may also do well in the sciences, aided by their intuition."

Oy. That's me to a "T". Especially the part about silently withdrawing as a way of setting limits when my feelings are hurt. I'm going through that right now, and this is exactly how I'm reacting. Kinda scary, actually. Enlightening, but scary. Then again, that's what enlightenment does - shows you the truth. How we react to that truth defines depth of character.

How am I reacting? Right now, I'm going to have another cup of tea and meditate on this. More to come.

18 March 2009

Spring is Here!

Forget what the calendar says; spring is definitely here. Not only is the weather warmer, but the migratory songbirds have arrived en masse, and are serenading me and the cat even as I type.

I *must* have SAD. I say that 'cause the happiness I feel at the sunshine, the warm weather, and birdsong is almost indescribable - serious words coming from a writer.

I'm happy. The cat's happy. And, judging from the twitterpation going on outside, so are the birds. Everyone's happy.

Hope you are, too!

14 March 2009

Oy, What a Week.

Once again I find myself writing more apologies than posts these days. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I just simply didn't have the energy. However, being Saturday, I feel more relaxed than I have all week, and am now able to encapsulate what's been going on.

#1 - The Saga of the Sump Pump

Our house was built in 1940. Over the years, previous owners have made various "improvements" (and I use the word loosely) which, from what I can see, translates to shoddy, cheap, half-assed do-it-yourself work. Our plumbing is a disjointed maze, and you don't wanna know about the electrical - to call it a nightmare is a gross understatement.

Case in point: our sump pump. With all the rain we've had lately, we were just glad the thing worked. Then, on Tuesday, it decided to give up the ghost. Replacing it was a two hour ordeal for my husband (on top of his 10-hour day) involving much cursing, a discovery that the mooks who'd installed the first pump and the piping had used 60 degree angle connectors, not proper 90 degree ones, and two separate trips to the hardware store. The old pump was noisy, swirled the water around, and only spat out water from the exit pipe in a series of thin gouts. The new pump (1/2 horsepower!) drained the well in 5 seconds flat, resulting in a gush of water at the exit pipe that would do Niagara Falls proud. that's what a proper sump pump is supposed to do! (*smacks forehead*)

#2 - HRT and the Consequences Thereof

I blogged earlier about my visit to my doctor, who turned out to be just as arrogant, superior, and entitled as most other physicians I've known. She is, however, treating me for my perimenopause, which at this point involves HRT (hormone replacement therapy).

I started the HRT on Monday. By Wednesday, I was feeling very strange: bloated, irritable, and tired. By Thursday, I knew why - I started my period. Damn. Strange that my doctor hadn't mentioned this possibility. That in itself pisses me off, but add to it the fact that I'm now experiencing crampus maximus and I'm worn out, and I'm seriously torqued. This had better stop within a week, or I'm going to unleash hell on that supposedly superior bitch.

#3 - Murphy's Law, Otherwise Known as Work

Our "new" check scanner at work has broken down three times in the past week. Three. Which means I and my work partner have had to spend copious amounts of time both on the phone with the maintenance company and with the tech, who *still* doesn't know what's wrong with the damned thing. After the third incident I made a command decision and swapped out the malfunctioning scanner for an older, more reliable model, and work progressed as it should.

Then our second scanner went kaput. Nothing mechanical, but something software related, and serious enough to warrant a call to our software provider. The problem could potentially cause the bank some nasty consequences, so until it's resolved we can't use the scanner.

So, going in to Monday (our heaviest work day), we're down to only one machine. Yesterday evening, in addition to helping close branches - imagine a work version of a Filene's Basement sale - I was also dealing with the tech for scanner #1, and trying to make arrangements to get a second scanner set up before the Monday morning deluge.

Part of this is my fault: I wanted more responsibility, and I got it. Living proof of the maxim, "Be careful what you wish for."

#4 - A New Hope

There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel, and bright enough to sweep away all the accumulated dreck from his week from hell: I have a title for my WIP. Everything is coming together - the characters, their motivations, themes, and the plot; I just have to keep writing.

Thanks for sticking with me through this, and for making it this far. Chalk it up to me wanting to make up for lost blogging time. And hopefully I'll have more good news to post in the future.

Stay tuned!

09 March 2009

Sunshine. Finally.

Bad enough that I have a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Add to that the fact that it poured rain the entire weekend, that our basement is wet yet again (*cringe*), that I had an abysmal doctor visit where I was treated like poo, and that I got squat done (including writing), and I had an absolutely dismal weekend.

But this morning the sun is shining, there's birdsong in the air, and I'm determined to shake off the blues. I'm even taking my laptop and my iPod to work with me in the hopes of spending my lunch hour happily immersed in my latest story.

It will get better. That's what I keep telling myself.

05 March 2009


My husband's birthday is at the end of the month. As long as I've been with him, he's told me he doesn't want me to go to great lengths to celebrate his birthday. He's never had someone to spoil him (this includes his abusive family and his narcissistic yotch of an ex-wife); he thinks he doesn't deserve to have a big deal made of his natal day.

So, knowing this, what do I go and do?

You got it. I'm gonna spoil him rotten, 'cause he's totally worth it.

The presents started arriving today, and I'm doing a little happy dance. I managed to find some really good stuff, and I can't wait to give it to him!

Everyone's happy, it seems - it's warm enough here to open the windows and let in the birdsong. Yep, that's right - the robins are back! Spring's coming, baby, this time for sure! And the cat is simply beside herself with joy at the antics of all the little birds gathered on the back deck.

Happiness. Great stuff, inn'it?

04 March 2009


You may recall that last month I had a series of blood tests done to try to determine the underlying cause of my perimenopausal symptoms. Well, yesterday I got word from my doctor's office - my estradiol levels are in the basement. Not normal. Way outta whack.

In other words, all these symptoms I've been experiencing are not in my head!

Aha! Vindication at last!

But the diagnosis is only the first part; I get to meet with my doctor next week to talk about my options. So watch this space.

02 March 2009


My apologies for my absence. Last week was...well...hideous. I won't bother to go into the gory details, but suffice to say it had to do with an expensive (and defective) treadmill, a spousal meltdown, and more water in the basement.


Fortunately, it's a new week. And I started it off with some wild dreams. Allow me to back up a moment and mention that yesterday morning I met with my BFFs and fellow writers Nancy and Carrie for some much-needed recess time. Being with them got me thinking more about my writing, and realizing how long it's been since I've committed to actual writing, as opposed to noodling.

Now...cut to last night. I dreamed that I discovered a gap behind the bathtub where the backsplash met the wall. It was was our house, yet it wasn't. Anyway, I got a flashlight to look more closely at this defect, and discovered that 1) the gap was big enough to squeeze through, and that 2) behind the wall there was another huge part of the house that we didn't know existed: another bathroom, a second kitchen, a couple of bedrooms, and a gigantic family/rec room. It was all dusty and in disrepair due to having been walled off and ignored for years, but I was very excited to find it, and couldn't wait to go back and get my husband to show him my discovery.

In most dream interpretations, the house stands for your sense of self. If that's true, then my re-discovery of the walled-off section of the house means that I'm on the brink of re-discovering part of myself that had been closed off, forgotten, and my writing. And the fact that my dream-self was excited about it, and welcomed it, is a good thing. Perhaps this means I'm finally going to be able to throw off the shackles of my self-doubt and embrace my creative side.

As a very strong believer in the power of dreams, I can only see this as a Very Good Thing. Can't wait to see how it pans out!