Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Convo with the Devil

He showed up on the screen a second time in a bowling shirt.

"Where's the Armani?" I typed an asterisk in my Word doc and enlarged the Skype screen to full view. "And Skype? What happened to the hologram?"

"I like to stay current." He grinned, the Grinch kind. He began tossing the keys in front of the camera. "Looking for these?"

"It'd be nice to have them back, but I thought, you know, at least you'd give me a year or two, maybe even five before you exercised the clause. Huh?"

His laugh shook my computer and made the screen sizzle. "You didn't specify. Aren't you still writing? Feeling it? Pouring out the words? I read them every day."

"No fair. That wasn't part of the deal."

"But no one's harshing your word count."

Harshing my word count? Bowling shirt? Skype? A lot had changed in a year. "Very hipster of you." I blanked on more chit-chat to stall.

He kept tossing. "Now, the way I see it," (was there any other way with him?), "you still owe me."

"But you've got the keys. What else of mine could you possibly want?"

"It's more complicated than spending a few eons here later," he said. picking a tooth with a long fingernail. "When you get published, you'll need to give me a token while you're still alive. Freebies aren't my style."

Hell (no pun intended), he could read my work, steal my soul and waltz into my computer at any time. What else did he need? A pinkie finger? A roll in the sack? Weird. I preferred neither. "I've already promised you my afterlife."

"I want recognition."

"Come again?" Footnote in Word doc: Devil = slithery egotist + persuasive + able to damn for eternity. Divide by self-esteem issues. Subtotal = leverage for the crafty negotiator.

"Then I get an exit clause."

"You do?" He grinned, again with a wide, creepy glint. "Name it."

I had to be quick or his sudden good graces would vanish.

"If you maintain my output, AND I get a six-figure advance, AND I sell 200,000 in my first run, AND I am reviewed decently in the NYT Book Review, I'll let you write your own dedication for the second run and the follow-up books. All of them. But, I get the keys back after book three."

He stopped tossing and tapped on the screen, making my bones cringe. He nodded: Certainly.

"Do we need to sign that in blood or something?" Sweat soaked my armpits.

"You watch too much YouTube."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rules to Break

Romance novels are designed for a specific audience. Namely, my mom, who reads romance. She'll read a book a week. She wants a story that's easy to get in to, isn't too complicated, is full of steamy scenes and promises a good plot. She doesn't care much for details or strong writing or getting caught up in the heads of the characters. She likes the bad guys to be bad, the good guys to be sexy and the women to end up with them.

To reach Mom and the many other readers like her, writers are expected to adhere to certain expectations:

The boy and girl must meet ASAP.
They can't be married/attached to someone else. Read: no infidelity.
They must spend most of the book together.
Heavy themes, like suicide, are better left out.
The women must be overwhelmingly strong.
And, a Happily Ever After ending is imperative.

I didn't write such a book. I wrote something more akin to Historical Fan Fiction, if there is such a genre, with a strong romantic element. I wrote a book with fewer fairy-tale qualities than "ever after." Swashbuckling, yes. Pumpkin carriages, not so much. I want men to read my book. Definitely. The sex is not gratuitous but a crucial part of the storyline. I'm told my rule-breaking will make selling the story more difficult.

Will it? Hmm, once it's published, readers can decide if it is satisfying. Did my mom read it? Of course. And that's a therapy session in the works.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It Came in the Night

The dishes will toast.
The dust bunnies will mingle.
The socks will eat their young.
The beds will make whoopie.
The laundry will pucker.
The vacuum will sulk.
Let them.
The words are hungry.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

More Words to Write By

From writer Gary Lutz:

"...there needs to be an intimacy between the words, a togetherness that has nothing to do with grammar or syntax but instead has to do with the very shapes and sounds, the forms and contours, of the gathered words. This intimacy is what we mean when we say of a piece of writing that it has a felicity—a fitness, an aptness, a rightness about the phrasing. The words in the sentence must bear some physical and sonic resemblance to each other—the way people and their dogs are said to come to resemble each other, the way children take after their parents, the way pairs and groups of friends evolve their own manner of dress and gesture and speech. A pausing, enraptured reader should be able to look deeply into the sentence and discern among the words all of the traits and characteristics they share. The impression to be given is that the words in the sentence have lived with each other for quite some time, decisive time, and have deepened and grown and matured in each other’s company—and that they cannot live without each other."

See full text of his speech to Columbia University, The Sentence is a Lonely Place.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Feeling Feisty

My tools.
Nice word: Feisty. Mix a decent mood with a shaker of belligerence, a tablespoon of cat-scratch and a dollop of uppity, and Tah Dah, FEISTY.

Can't say why I feel feisty today, except that: 1) I've found a Portland critique group to join after months of searching; 2) I've discovered a friendly local writer who has a webpage full of resources to help others; and 3) I generally want to quash all negativity. I wish I had the kind of personality that prevents bad thoughts from seeping under the ball cap (wearing mine now. GO UB!). I've got a psychobabble friend who says it's okay to have an open mind. Generally, staying open to ideas is a positive attribute. But, she says, be careful who you let come in and sit on your mind couch and eat chips.

"Hey, you prickly, devil-horned editor who says my writing is graduate-school dribble. Take a hike!" Whew, that was easy. Better yet, treat the couch hog like a blood-sucking vampire (no, I don't write about vampires), and refuse them welcome in the first place.

Okay, time for a little self-assessment of why I want to continue clawing (see, cat-scratching comes in handy) for a career as a writer:

--I've written some books. Hey, that was fun.
--I have way too many ideas for several more. Whoa, Silver. (I loved the Lone Ranger as much as parenthetical material).
--I could actually get paid to do this someday.
--I almost care less if I get paid to do this someday. Emphasis on the almost.
--I love filling up spiral notebooks and reading things I like in them later.
--Writing makes me happy.

So, on with the feisty show, and maybe a few words worth a few cents. This one's gratis.