Monday, April 22, 2013


"Stories set the inner life into motion, and this is particularly important where the inner life is frightened, wedged, or cornered. Story greases the hoists and pulleys, it causes the adrenaline to surge, shows us the way out, down, or up, and for our trouble, cuts us fine wide doors in previously blank walls, openings that lead to the dreamland, that lead to love and learning, that lead us back to our own real lives as knowing wildish women."

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves, p. 20

Story certainly did all of the above for me, first the stories of someone else, then my own stories.

I read the Southern Vampire Mysteries in the early summer of 2009. I bought one paperback a week at the Borders, which sadly since closed, in Riverhead, NY. I tried to write for years but always in someone else's voice or style. When I read Charlaine Harris's hugely popular books, I realized I can say that. I can use that language. It's okay.

 I had a somewhat vague idea for a vampire story in mind. I didn't really have the whole story, just the characters, and I couldn't think of the perfect opening line. That tripped me up for years, too, wracking my brain for the perfect opening line. I decided just to start writing from the scene I knew, which was a few chapters into the book. I wrote that scene. Then I wrote all the way to the end of the book. Then I went back and wrote the beginning. Then I wrote another book. Then I wrote two more.

Without story, my life would be vastly different, and not in a good way. My inner life was frightened and cornered. I had no door. Story allowed me to open the door.

I don't know where story will lead me next, but I'm just going to trust it and follow.

"I've got an open didn't get there by itself." - Annie Lennox

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Work in progress excerpt

I didn’t have a computer anything. I didn’t trust them. People shot their mouths off too much on the computer and secrets got told, and they could even be broken into, and all one’s secrets stolen. If any of my secrets got told it would be by a tongue I would then cut out.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Emily Dickinson - The Soul Selects Her Own Society

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I've known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —
~Emily Dickinson 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

WOW it's been a long time since I posted...

...but the subject is the same as the last post! I've been revising nonstop and it seems my characters have a favorite phrase: I have seen it. It kind of reminds me of Snow White and Charming on Once Upon a Time and their classic phrase: I will always find you.

Have to start posting here much more often! Place is positively dusty!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hooked on a Phrase

I have recently discovered that I like the phrase "a little" a lot too much. Someone is always smiling a little, laughing a little, or sighing a little. I'm a little over it. I'm searching them out and destroying them. "A little" is just the first on my hit list of phrases that must go.

What are your inadvertently overused phrases?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Stop It

One thing that you must stop doing is reading every blog post, article, and book about THE ELEVENTY ONE THINGS YOU ARE DOING THAT MAKE YOU A HORRIBLE WRITER. If you read all of these articles you will inevitably see that you are doing that, and that, and that, and oh dear God even THAT wrong. You will terrify yourself into a state of being unable to write at all. If you are doing it, if you are reading these things, stop it right now. If you aren't doing it yet, don't start.

One of the many highly contentious debates amongst writers is plotting and outlining versus just writing, seeing where it goes, and spending more time editing later. If you find yourself spending so much time outlining and filling index cards with character descriptions that you never actually get around to writing line one of chapter one, stop it. Stuff it all in a box so you can refer to it later if necessary, and then just start writing. A sentence, one sentence. All the outlines and note cards in the world will not serve you if you cannot put one sentence on paper. I am not disparaging outlining. Many writers use it fantastically to their advantage. I never could. I spent years outlining and making notes and making little character cards and never got a book written until I just sat down with a random, out of order scene in my mind and ran with it. Honestly, I do have to refer back in my manuscripts sometimes for full names, former names, and other details, but I'm okay with that. I keep buying little notebooks and telling myself I'm going to start making notes...but I'm almost afraid to stop what I've been doing, and break the spell.

If something is stopping you from actually writing, put a stop to that thing. Put something on paper, or your hard drive, or whatever, and then fix it later. You can't revise it if you never write it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Page 398

From The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice:

"Somebody knew what the light had been like in the late afternoon on the day that Troy fell to the Greeks, and someone or something knew what the peasants said to each other in their little farmhouse outside Athens right before the Spartans brought down the walls."

That is my favorite line from a book. It isn't necessarily my favorite book...I don't think I have a favorite book...but this is my favorite line. I first read it 22 years ago. Something about that line stopped me, made me mark the page. I still have the same copy of The Vampire Lestat. It moved with me from North Carolina to New York and back twice. I have always been able to reach out for that particular book with the corner of page 398 folded down, and read that line. And it always strikes me the same way that it did when I was 17.

"Somebody knew what the light had been like in the late afternoon on the day that Troy fell to the Greeks"

Somebody did, indeed, and perhaps, in our subconscious memory, it is all of us who ever watched dust drifting in a sunbeam on an afternoon, that sunbeam slanting in through a window, filled with the dust of books and cat dander and shed human skin cells. The dust in the light of the late afternoon in Troy that day was probably comprised of dirt floor and threads of linen robes and perhaps, perhaps, in the case of Marius, the narrator, the pages of the book in which he fanatically recorded the history of the world as he saw it.

The history of the world as every single one of us sees it is nothing more, and nothing less, than the fantastic, sunlit bits of what we leave behind, illuminated for a moment in a sunbeam.

Consider all the skin cells that you shed in a day. Consider your pets, your clothing, what you track in from the yard...consider your books.

Tomorrow, go to a window that admits the afternoon light, and see what exists there, in a sunbeam. Consider the fact that, if you live in a house that was ever inhabited by someone other than yourself and your family, you could be watching bits of them drifting in the sun.

Consider the fact that in the late afternoon on the day that Troy fell to the Greeks someone your age, your sex, your race was idly mesmerized by the dust in a sunbeam, just before their life fell to shit.

I grew up with the dead, in a house where my ancestors lived and died. We looked out the same antique, wavery window glass and saw the sun at the same angle, and dust in it. I read Marius's words from Anne Rice's fingers and I saw that sunbeam, that same sunbeam that slants across every great and minor event of every generation that has ever walked the earth and I determined to write books that brought that dusty beam of light into the life of every one of my readers.

And, like Marius, and Lestat, and so many of Anne Rice's other characters, my characters remember that sunbeam only faintly, only dimly, because they exist now in a world of total darkness.