Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When They're Over

The holidays, that is. I plan to go back to writing on January fourth. After this long break I’m both excited and apprehensive.

I have to make a decision between the book I started last winter/spring and trying a Young Adult after all this time. For those who don’t know, I published 5 YAs in the seventies and early eighties. Writing another one hasn’t appealed to me until now. I can’t say why this has turned around.

My agent has wanted me to do this for years, but I had no interest in it. Months ago it suddenly felt right. I’ll need to do some research (that means reading other people’s books) to get myself updated re clothes, language and whatever else is going on. I don’t mind that part at all. I’ll write in the morning and read in the afternoons.

I guess I’ve made my decision. Thanks blog.

This means there are twenty days until I start. I will be doing a flash fiction before that and I’ll consider it a warm up. And then back to trying to write another novel.

Be still my heart.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I knew I hadn't posted anything in a long time but I didn't realize how long. Seeing that it's almost two months reinforces my thoughts to close this blog.

Something else has come up that is keeping me from writing, going on with the book I started last spring. And I have no idea how long I'll be in this situation.

Then I think, why bother making it official? It can sit here and I can come back when it's feasible. I don't think I'll never post again, or never write again. So I guess I'll let things stay the way they are.

So you know, I'm not happy being in this quagmire. I'd like to be writing. Imagine that.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Not My Fault?

The question mark is because in a way it is my fault.  Not being able to write.  I hoped to start again right after Labor Day but circumstances wouldn’t let me.  I created the circumstance but had no idea that after L.D. this would happen.  I was living in a dream world, I guess.

I do want to go back to the novel I started last spring.  I have no idea when I can.  There might come a time when I can do a little here and there but that isn’t the best way for me to write a novel.  Probably isn’t best for anyone.

I’m not the kind of person who can write on the subway or in a diner so running in here and doing a paragraph or so doesn’t appeal to me.  On the other hand, over the summer I realized some mistakes I’d made and although I don’t normally go back over pages until I’ve finished the whole novel, these are not normal times.  It certainly would be a new way for me. But all of this is new.  No set hours, etc.

When I can I think I’ll give that a try.  Maybe it’ll work.  I’ll let you know.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Another Update

Thanks to all for your concern. I’m better. Mentioning Lyme and puppy was a slip. This blog is meant only for things about writing.

And I’m not writing now. But I want to. A lot. And that’s a big change for me, I think. I hope I can start after Labor Day, but things might keep me from it. Still, a day will come when I’ll get back to it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I have Lyme disease.  The puppy is here.  No writing being done.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dreams and Business

On DorothyL these last few days people have been up in arms because Chris Grabenstein's John Ceepak series hasn’t been renewed by Minotaur.  Some have suggested a write-in campaign and others are calling for everyone to go out and buy his latest hardcover or at least a paperback of one of his four previous books in the series.

For the sake of full disclosure I have to say that I’ve never read one of Mr. Grabenstein’s books and I don’t know him, although his picture makes me feel I’d like him.

He’s won awards, gotten good reviews and he’s the president of the New York Chapter of The Mystery Writer’s of America.

That’s all terrific but it doesn’t translate into having a series renewed.  It’s all about the numbers.  The numbers of your advance and the numbers of your sales.  If you don’t make back your advance, or if the publisher doesn’t make money from you, then nothing else matters.

It’s sad, but publishing is a business.  As we just found out from the automobile industry, if you don’t sell cars then you go out of business.  Or you get a bail out.  That’s where the comparison ends.  Nobody is going to bail out Mr. Grabenstein.

Some on DorothyL have said that they can’t believe another publisher won’t snap up the series.  I believe it.  Those other publishers will look at the numbers over at Minotaur and if the books aren’t selling why would any other publisher want the author on their list?  At least with that series.

I might be totally wrong about all this, but obviously I don’t think so.  I’m glad Mr. Grabenstein writes other books because no one wants him to fade away.  I’m certain he won’t.

This leads me to Shirley Ann Grau.  I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately.  What?  You never heard of her?  I’m not surprised.  In 1965 her third novel, The Keepers of the House, won the Pulitzer Prize.  She wrote a book of short stories and two more novels and then she was quiet for about eighteen years or so.  I was surprised just now to find that she’d published a novel in 1996 that I’d never heard about.  Imagine, this wonderful writer who’d won the Pulitzer was not even reviewed in The New York Times.  I’m pretty sure of that because had it been I can’t believe I would’ve missed it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that no one is safe.  Well, maybe some…you know who I mean, but most writers can’t count on anything.  So don’t hang your hat on your laurels and don’t expect that your career will keep getting better even if your writing does.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Another Form

Suddenly I have this idea for a YA novel.  I have to admit that my dentist gave it to me.  It was something he said and I thought, what a great title.  That’s all I have so far.  A title.  I can’t work on it now anymore than I can work on anything else.  But it’s in my mind.  And I’m about to read a YA that sounds like it’s much more sophisticated than the YAs I wrote back in the seventies.  Of course it would be, wouldn’t it? 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Too Much Else To Do

Okay.  I admit it.  I haven’t gone back to the novel.  I haven’t even reread it to get myself up to speed.  I don’t feel like it.  I’m going away in July so I tell myself it’s pointless to get started again when I’m going to have to stop.  Ridiculous.  I’m going away for about ten days.

But then there’s this other thing.  I’m getting a puppy the third week in July.  How can I write while I’m trying to train a pup?  Am I wrong?  Can I do both?  And how long will I be in that state?

I’ve always hated writing in the summer.  In the past I’ve done a lot of reading during summer months. More than I normally do.  That’s what I want to do again.  Will I be able to read while training a puppy?

The last time I put aside a non-contract book I never went back to it.  I have a sneaking suspicion this might happen again.  I suppose if it does it does.

In my mind I loathe the book I started.  Maybe loathe is too strong a word.  Despise comes to mind. 

I think I might be making a lot of excuses when I really don’t need to because I can do what I want at this point in my life and shuttered career. 

Not writing today or tomorrow.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Flash Fiction Challenge

The challenge was to get the words "a wedding cake in the middle of the road" somewhere in the piece.

Tit For Tat

Me and Timmy wanted to take a road trip but we couldn't drive cause I'm ten and he's eight and my mom said it would be six more years fore I could get my license but I don't have six years which is somethin my mom doesn't know cause I ain't told her.

I gotta get out of here now.

And I gotta get Timmy out, too.

The thing is our dad beats us up bad and Mom doesn't stop him. Maybe cause she's too busy doin her work.

I thought about tellin Mrs. Fisher at school, but then she'd have to tell my dad and after that he'd beat me worse. Mrs. Fisher didn't know what Dad did cause he never hit me on my face. That's why nobody knew.

Timmy said we should tell Mom. But what does an eight year old know? And what could she do about it anyways?

See, Dad knocked her for a loop. I didn't know what that meant but I heard her on the phone tell my Aunt Becky, "George knocked me for a loop last night." And then she started cryin.

At school I asked Charlie Dunbar what a loop was. He said his older brother, who was in the Air force, sometimes flew his plane in a loop. I didn't think that was what my mom meant. So I asked Mrs. Fisher.

"Well it can be many things." She showed me in the dictionary but none of the meanings answered my question.

I decided then and there that it didn't matter and I wasn't gonna waste any more time on it. The important thing was he knocked her around. Knocked her for a loop.

So why hadn't she run away herself? For awhile I thought it was because of us, leaving us alone with him and all, but she could've taken us with her. Couldn't she? I think she liked Dad too much to leave. She liked him better than me and Timmy. I figured if we ran away she probably wouldn't miss us. Not notice, maybe.

Whatever her reasons we needed to get out today. Before Dad came home from hanging out with his friends at Smitty's bar which he always did on Saturdays. The thing was he was always drunk like a skunk when he came home. And if we were still there when he banged into the house he'd beat the hell out of us. See. Now what did that mean? Hell was inside us? Hell was supposed to be below and heaven above. How could you beat the hell out of someone? But that was what he always said.

"Get over here Bill. I'm gonna beat the hell out of you."

He always made us come to him for the beatings, never came over to us. Sometimes Timmy would run outside, but when he came back, Dad made him come over and he'd beat the hell out of him.

Dad didn't usually get home on a Saturday until about five so our plan was when Mrs. Crawford came to the door for her pickup we'd yell to Mom through the window that we were goin over to our neighbors to play. But we wouldn't leave right away. Me and Timmy would stick around to hear what Mrs. C. said and then we'd leave and run through the yards and over the fences until we got to the highway where we'd hitch a ride with somebody. How hard could that be?

Earlier, setting things up had been tougher than I thought it was gonna be. We almost fell twice. What a mess that woulda been and not fun neither. We had to take it from the back porch where Mom put them until people made their pickups, carry it around the side of the house and go through some trees so Mom wouldn't see us and then get it out there.

The bell rang and Timmy and me looked at each other. My heart started beatin hard. "Mom, we're goin over to the Fergusson's."

"Okay. Be back for dinner."

"We will."

"We better go," Timmy said.

"Not yet, I told you. We have to hear what Mrs. Crawford says."

I heard Mom leave the kitchen and walk to the front door.

"Hello, Jane. C'mon in."

"What the heck is going on, Alice?"
I already felt like laughin.

"What do you mean?" Mom said.

"Well, there's a wedding cake in the middle of the road out there. I hope that's not the one for my daughter."

It was.

"What are you talking about, Jane?"

Timmy was pullin at my sleeve. I shook him off.

"I'm telling you, there's a beautiful three tiered wedding cake sitting right in the middle of the road."

"Ohmigod," Mom said.

"Now," I said to Timmy.

We ran fast as deer and made it through the yards and over the fences in no time. When we got to the highway we were out of breath but Timmy said,

"Isn't Dad gonna knock Mom for a loop when he finds out she lost that wedding cake sale?"

"Yeah," I said. "I expect he will."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I haven’t written anything since the last post.  And I probably won’t until June 8th.  There have been life things to deal with and this week left me with today, tomorrow and Friday.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know I wouldn’t go back to work on a Weds. and for only three days.  Next week I also have only three days.

Why hurry?  Why make myself crazy with a routine I don’t want anymore.  Actually, when I was writing with a contract I adhered to the above schedule.  Not, of course, when I was close to a deadline.

I did finish my flash fiction piece.  As I posted, it’ll appear here on June 4th.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Not Pressing On

I managed to finish Chapter Eight last week and then I stopped.  Two reasons.  I didn’t feel like writing and I didn’t know where I was going.  So I took a break.

This week I’ve been working on a flash fiction piece for Patti Abbott's challenge.  This is my third piece and it was the hardest one.  It will be posted here on June 4th.

It was lovely to have the freedom to take off and do this piece with no feelings of guilt.

Yesterday, when I told somebody in publishing that I had no illusions about selling the book I was writing, she said, “You’re being very realistic.”  Then later she said, “But you never know.”  So there are two sentences for those of you working on a book.  I suggest you take both.

I’m not sure if I’ll go back to working on my novel tomorrow.  I have to see what the day holds for me.  I don’t mean chores.  I mean my mood. I still don’t know exactly where I’m going, but a quick look through the manuscript will probably help me.  Taking this little break from it will also be helpful for me to look at it with fresh eyes.

I want to stress again this is no way for a new writer to approach a book.  You have to have a routine.   The only reason I can do this now is because I had that routine, was disciplined for all of my career.  That means many years.  And now that it’s unlikely that I’ll publish that 20th book I can take it easy, do what I want.  BTW, doing what I want is writing a crime novel.  I think.  I’m not sure what it is I’m writing but it does have a police detective as one of the leads.  So what does that tell you?  Yeah.  Me, too.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Niggling Things

I wrote today after a two week layoff.  The company was part of it.  Then I didn’t want to.  Today I did want to.  So I did.

I did do some fiddling last week.  Changed names.  When I went back looking for said names I discovered discrepancies like someone being Asian in chapter 3 and Native American in chapter 6.  Well, not quite, but almost that bad.

So I’ve started a character page.  Person’s name and pertinent facts and family.  I still need to do back stories on the most important people.  The trouble is that bores me.  I know I have to do it more now than I ever did because of the memory problem.  Still, it irritates me that I have to do it.

I’d rather write and catch it all later.  I might.  But I know some things won’t make any sense this way.  What does it matter?  Anything can be fixed.  And if I don’t feel like fixing them by the time the book is done? So what? Is Michiko Kakutani waiting to read it?

Forge ahead, I say.  Just get it down.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I did write last week.  Didn’t get a whole lot done.  But yesterday I finished the chapter I’d started.  And I felt good about it.  Today I was sure I was going to begin a new chapter and I did.  But after two paragraphs I stopped.

I’m tired and irritable.  I don’t feel like writing at all.  The most I’m going to do is go back through what I have and change the name of one of the characters.  Thanks Word for Search and Replace.  And tomorrow I won’t be able to write.  Most likely not until next Tues.

Company coming.

What does it matter?  I can take all the time I want.  Still, I feel disappointed in myself today.  Knowing I wasn’t going to have lots of time for the next week I was prepared for this to be a good writing day. 

Part of it is because I don’t know where I’m going with this chapter.  This is a novel with two voices.  And this chapter is told by the hardest voice for me to write.  On another day it might be different.  I have the luxury to wait for that other day.  I’m not talking about inspiration.  If writers waited for inspiration we wouldn’t have many books in the library.

Maybe I have to think about this voice more.  I have to give the character a back story.  Usually I do that.  I write a backstory for my protagonist and I haven’t done this.  Not with either of them.  I wonder why I haven’t.  I think it’s time for me to take this novel more seriously.  Not change my schedule, but do the things I usually do.

Ah.  Because I have no illusions about publishing it I’m being lazy, I think.  I’m not respectful of what I’m doing.  So, okay.  It’s fine to not have illusions, to write on a more flexible schedule, but when I do write I have to be serious about it. Treat it like I have all my other novels.  And do whatever I do to make it work.  Backstory is one thing.  I find that important and helpful.  Unlike an outline which, if you’ve been reading this blog, you know I don’t do nor do I want to.

After writing this post I still feel tired and irritable, but I know a little more than I did.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Getting Up Steam

It was a fallow week.  For one reason or another I didn’t write anything further than Chapter Six.  Most of my reasons were legitimate and some days I simply didn’t want to write.  I don’t have any sense of guilt about this as I would in the past.  This is because I’m not writing this book for anyone other than me.

At this moment I intend to go back to writing on Monday.  Who knows?  I feel I want to but that could change.  If I wait too long I’ll have to read the whole damn thing (60 pages) because I won’t remember what I’ve already written.

I know I have to make a list of the characters because I don’t remember all the names.  Does everyone have to do this?

So, I’m set to hit the keys on Monday.

Friday, April 10, 2009


One of the reasons I wrote the post below is because I’ve never written this way before.  Without a contract.  And because, as I’ve said before, I have no illusions that this one will be published.  Times have changed.

Another reason I wrote it is because I believe every writer goes through some form of this. 

I wish you’d tell me if you do or don’t.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Although I wrote five pages today I was haunted by:

Why am I doing this?  What for?  Why am I doing this? What’s the point? Why am I doing this?  Who will care? Why am I doing this? What is this book about?  Why am I doing this? What kind of book is it? Why am I doing this? 


Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Yesterday I wrote one sentence.  The start of Chapter Six.  Today I wrote two and a half pages.  Not a great output you say.  I say, too.  But I don’t really care.

I don’t feel like doing this.  I think I do the night before.  But when the morning arrives…phooey.  Still, I did write something.  It’s odd because I’m about to write a bunch of dialogue, which I think I do well, and I know where it’s going, but I didn’t want to do it today.

Tomorrow I’ll see if I want to do it.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

What A Difference A Day Makes

Today I finished that fifth chapter.  The one I couldn’t deal with yesterday.  This proves to me that as long as I have this luxury of no deadline, no expectations, I shouldn’t try to write when I feel like hell.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Guilt Free Decisions

It’s been a week since I wrote anything.  Well, today I wrote two sentences.  Today I have no interest in writing.  Other things kept me from writing since last Weds.  Last night I was sure I’d write today. I don’t know what happened.  While eating breakfast I could feel the desire dissipating.  By the time I sat down here my interest was gone, but I pushed myself and came up with two sentences.  Feeling the way I did I decided not to force myself.  Writing under my new regime I didn’t have to.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not talking about waiting for inspiration.  If you waited for that very few books would get written.  I certainly wouldn’t have written more than one, if that.

When I finish this I’ll answer email and then I’m going to read because that’s what I feel like doing.  Only a few years ago I would’ve pushed myself to go on and certainly couldn’t have stopped to read.   And guilt would’ve ruined my day.

Not now. It feels like a senior citizen discount.  I could watch a movie if I felt like it.  But I’d rather read.  Who knows, maybe I won’t want to write for the rest of the week?  So be it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Surprise, Surprise

I couldn’t leave chapter two in third person.  More accurately, I couldn’t leave character 2 in third person.  Now I’m going to have two voices in first person.  One fifteen, one forty.  One female, one male. Does it work?  Who knows.  I don’t want to give it to first reader because at this stage it would be a mistake.

I still only have four chapters.  And I’m not finished changing character 2 from first to third. As I do this I can’t help thinking why?  Why am I doing this at all?  As I’ve said before I’m a writer so it appears I have to write.

I shouldn’t read Laura Lippman’s Memory Project, but I like to check out what she’s up to.  Still, I’m exhausted from reading her schedule and her word count.  Even though she’s younger than I am, I didn’t keep up such a pace when I was her age.  I don’t know how she does it.  She even writes on tour!  I never did.  I was delighted to have a real excuse not to write.

I can’t help thinking I’m spinning my wheels, making busy work.  Well, not all the time.  Sometimes I feel that what I’m writing is good and no matter what, if I keep going this way, I’ll be proud of it when I finish.  Sometimes I think what I’m writing sucks and I’ll be embarrassed when I finish.

When I finish?  Only yesterday I didn’t want to come to this computer.  But I did.  I still get the Sunday night blues.  I try to remind myself that I’m not going to school the next day and that no one is making me write but me.  Even so I have those damn blues.  Do others have them?

I think it’ll take me the rest of the week to change character 2 from third to first.  I started chapter five before I realized I had to make these changes.  Only a paragraph.  I hope the changes will propel me and I can get back to surprising myself by what the people do in this book.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Going Back After All

I didn’t plan to go back to Chapter One, but it hit me that what I’d written in third person belonged in first person.  I thought it would be a snap.  It wasn’t.  Changing from third to first brought on other changes.  Still, I managed to do it in one session.

This came to me while reading a novel Tuesday afternoon.  It wasn’t a matter of copying someone else’s work. The spark of what I was reading ignited a flame. And I’m grateful because I would hate to have this come to me in Chapter Twenty or at the end of the first draft. The rewritten chapter is much better this way and it will make the character stronger in future chapters.

Now I’m going to go back to Chapter Two to see how that works in third person.  I plan to leave it that way, but you never know.<

There are always surprises when you’re writing blind, so to speak.  That makes it fun for me, even though it can create more work.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thursday, March 05, 2009

How It's Going

I now have three completed chapters.  I have no idea if they’re good or not.  I don’t look back, unless I’ve forgotten a name, etc.

The interesting thing to me is that while writing chapter three I completely changed who was going to do what in the future.  Suddenly my new thoughts made so much more sense.

Since I only know a few things about this book sometimes I get stuck.  Don’t tell me to write an outline. I get unstuck eventually.  It might take some time but it’s more interesting this way.

Again, I’m not being rigid about my time schedule and everything feels better for me right now.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Don't Try This At Home

Over the past three weeks I’ve managed to write two chapters and two pages of the third.  In the old days that would be a lousy output for me.  I was interrupted by the death of my cat so I guess I can call it two weeks.  Still.

But this isn’t the old days.  This is a new way to work for me.  As in, whenever I want to.  Whatever time I want to.  As long as I want to.  Having a schedule is no longer for me.  I don’t set an alarm anymore.  I don’t rush to be in bed by a certain hour.  It’s incredibly free.

If I had a deadline, a contract, I couldn’t do this.  But I don’t and that’s what makes it freeing.  I try not to wonder if anyone will buy it, but sometimes my mind will go there.  I shake it away.  We all know what’s going on in publishing and it’s a nightmare.  However, I’m going to keep writing this novel and hope that I get to the end someday.

The good news, for me, is that I think about it when I’m not writing.  I wonder about the characters. I know when I have to go back and change something.  This tip usually comes from a book I’m reading.  The point is, I’m interested.  I like this novel.  And yet I’m not obsessed by it.

For new writers please don’t follow this example.  I wouldn’t have published nineteen books if I’d done it this way.  It’s fine for me now.  Not for you.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Wanting to know an author because you like his work is like wanting to know a duck because you like paté.

Margaret Atwood

Monday, February 09, 2009

Flash Fiction #2

This is my 2nd try at flash fiction.  This time Patti Abbott asked anyone interested to send in three or four lines of a first paragraph.  Then she sent one of those to each of us and we had to do a 750 word story using whatever first paragraph she gave us.  The list of the other stories are here: Below is my story.  Remember the first paragraph isn’t mine and I don’t know who wrote it.  Yet.




          Davy Dunn was irritable. Stomping his black boots outside of Madison Garden, he bit his fifth cigarette out of a nine dollar deck of Marlborough Reds and smoked the hot marrow out like he wanted to taste the lips of hell.


          Ray was late and it was fucking cold. Colder than his old lady's heart. He blew out smoke that curled like a snake chasing a mongoose.  Shoving the stick in his mouth he clapped his leather-clad hands together.  They made a muffled sound as if they were underwater.  Dunn kept clapping but it didn't warm up his hands.


          Looking uptown he saw Ray limping his way toward him, the little prick.  He was wearing his grimy pea coat which was a size too big for him.  He'd told Ray to stop wearing the thing but Ray wouldn't listen.  He had on that brown cowboy hat that looked like a sewer rat had made it his last meal. Sometimes Dunn wondered why he kept the loser around.  But they'd known each other all their lives growing up in the Bronx, and the thing was Ray needed somebody to look after his sorry ass.


          "Hey, Davy."


          "You're late, asshole."


          "Sorry."  He looked down at the sidewalk.


          "Sorry ain't good enough, you moron."


          "I tole you not to call me that." 


          Dunn knew he shouldn't because Ray was something like a moron.  Retarded maybe.


          "You know how long I been standin out here waitin on you, Ray? Wanna know, huh?  My balls are like white hot ice."


          Ray looked up at him. "How can they be hot and ice at the same time?"


          "Shut the fuck up."


          "Sorry, Davy."


          "What're you doin wearin that asshole cowboy hat for? You know what it looks like?  Like somebody took a crap on it."


          "Nobody did."


          "Shut up I tole you.  I oughta leave you here.  You know how cold I am?"


          "Like hot ice balls."


          "Listen, Ray, you're gettin on my nerves."


          "Sorry, Davy."


          Dunn tore off a drag of his cigarette like a starving vampire, then blew the hot smoke into Ray's beat up face.  When they were kids Ray's old man used Ray like a football.  He kicked him anywhere he wanted.  If Ray was standing up he'd kick him in the nuts or ass.  Ray was sitting down he'd kick him in the face.  Broke his nose a dozen times until it looked like mashed potatoes.


          "So Davy, you got the tickets?"






          "Something wrong with your ears?"


          "I thought we was goin to the game."


          "Sold out."


          "You tole me you'd get them.  No problem, you said."  Ray's eyes began to fill.


          "Oh, here it comes."  Dunn wanted to bash him into the Garden wall like a rotten tomato.


          "I can't help it.  I was countin on the game, Davy."


          "Too bad.  Stop cryin like some pussy."


          "I wanted to go to the game.  You promised."


          "What's that smell?" Dunn said.




          "Yeah.  Like dirty feet or something."


          "Too cold to smell anything."


          Dunn leaned closer to Ray and took big long sniffs like he couldn't get enough.  Ray stepped back.


          "What're you doin Davy?"


          "Smellin the stink."


          "What stink?"


          "You. That pea coat. I tole you not to wear it no more, Ray."


          "I gotta, Davy. I don't have nothin else."


          "Well, you stink like rotten feet."


          "I'm sorry Davy."


          "You fuckin should be.  I have to smell it all night.  You can't even smell it with that nose, can you?"


          "Can't even smell my mom's corn beef no more."


          "Good thing.  She cooks like shit.  Everything she makes tastes the same."


          Ray looked at him with his brown eyes like slits in a devil Halloween mask.  "Don't, Davy."






          "What kind a thing is don't?"


          "It's what it says."


          "You're a dick."


          "I don't want you to say nothin about my mom, Davy."


          "I'll say anything I fuckin feel like sayin, moron."


          "And don't say that no more neither."


          "Listen you retard, you're lucky I let you hang out with me."  Dunn snapped the end of his cigarette into the street and watched it roll around the gutter until it stopped. "And your mother's meatloaf tastes like puke."


          Ray took two steps toward Dunn and shoved his knife through the black jacket and into Dunn's belly.


          "Ray." Dunn fell on his knees. He groaned then went over like a side of beef onto the freezing slab of sidewalk.

          Ray said, "Mom's meatloaf's the best."  He leaned over, pulled the knife out of Dunn, swiped the blood off the knife on his pea coat and limped downtown.


I’m back writing a novel and I’m so happy.  I feel like I’ve come home.  I’m not a short story writer, which doesn’t mean I’ll never write one.  But I’m so much more comfortable writing in this form. 

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Whether Or Not or Weather Or Not

I don’t seem to be doing too well.  I’m not able to stick to any schedule.  So in the morning it’s whether or not to write.  This is a question I never asked myself during years of writing novels.  I’ve tried to blame my vacillation on the weather, but I know that doesn’t make sense. 

Still, yesterday as the snow fell it was more a reading day to me than a writing day. I started off reading in bed, then moved to the living room and sat in a big comfy chair.  Although I could see the snow easily from my bedroom, the living room afforded me many more windows to watch through if I looked over my reading glasses.

But weather isn’t an excuse I would’ve taken if I had a contract for a novel.  Or maybe even if I was writing a novel without one.  I’m not sure this short story thing is for me.  I’ve always known that short story writing was an art unto itself.  And I always believed some people could and some couldn’t and I counted myself among the latter.

I’m used to the build of a novel, the many characters, the freedom .  A short story needs to be what it says: a story that’s short.  Concise.  It’s true that my novels have become lean in style, but there’s still a license that I don’t find in writing a short story.

I’ve written most of one story and the beginning of another.  I do like that I can go to any story I want on any given day.  Or start a new one without finishing another that I decide I’ll go back to.  Writing a novel I wouldn’t dream of starting a new chapter without finishing the last.

It worries me that if I start a novel my expectations will rise up and bite me.  I have an idea but it isn’t a burning idea.  It doesn’t keep me up at night or take my mind away from what I’m doing.  It’s just an idea.

I do believe I’d be more disciplined if I was writing a novel.  But so what? I see that I can start writing after nine in the morning.  That’s one thing that trying to write stories has given me.  I don’t have to be as inflexible as in the past.

So what if I started writing a novel and didn’t use my rigid schedule?  Would the novel writing police arrive?  Of course I’m the novel writing police.  What if I give writing a novel in a more relaxed fashion a chance? Although trying to write at least four days a week.  I think I’d be happier than attempting short stories and not getting to my desk more than two days a week at most.

There’s no one to stop me except me.  Still, I’ll have to stick to one rigidity.  I’d never start a novel on a Thursday.  I’ll think about this and then if that’s what I want to do I’ll start on Monday. 

I feel anxious simply thinking about it.  Maybe I have to let go of what day I start.  Maybe I have to let what happens happen.  Ohmigod!

Monday, February 02, 2009


"It's finding the emotional door you have to go through. You have to find a way, an angle in on the characters, so that your emotional dope, your limits, concerns, needs and hopes at that moment can be expressed through the vehicle of the made-up story. And then you have to shape the story as entertainment so other people can feel that same emotion."

Stephen King, on revising a novel

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Writing and Acting

The nice thing about writing for yourself, no agent or editor nagging you, is that you can go at your own speed, stop and write something else (like the flash fiction for Feb.) or take off the day without guilt.

I was too tired the day after the Golden Globes (all those parties) and the Inauguration took up a whole day and the next day I was too tired (all those balls).

With one thing and another I haven’t written more of the story I posted about below.  But tomorrow I’m going to give it a try again.  In fact I’m actually looking forward to it.  I think now I’ll do stories about the same characters I’m introducing in this first story.  Only a thought.

The back page of the NYTBR has an essay today about book promotion.  It’s about making movie trailers or something jazzy and different about books for the Internet.  The thrust of this essay seems to be that if you don’t do that you might as well flush your book down the toilet.

And I thought book tours were nightmares.  I mean, part of wanting to be a writer for me was that I could be alone.  But now I’d have to make a movie and be with gaffers and grips.

I guess this is the wave of the future (the future is now) and nothing will stop it.  For some this may be fun and exciting.  For me the excitement is the act of putting my fingers on the keys and … I almost forgot … shutting the door.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Writing One, Thinking Of Another

Strange what’s happening.  Or maybe not so strange.  I started a short story last week and I noticed this week that my mind keeps making dips like: maybe this can become a novel.  Why couldn’t this be the YA that my agent is always trying to get me to write?  Or, I can write connecting stories and……….

The reason I say it may not be strange is because at heart I’m a novelist.  I thought that writing ss would free me.  It did at first…by that I mean the first six pages or so.  But as the story kept growing, taking side trips, one thing reminding me of another, the long fingers of the novel snagged me. And what’s really odd (for me) is that my family keeps creeping into this thing.

Writing ss I know there’s not a chance in hell that I’d sell one and that’s where the freedom comes in. But with a novel there’s always that hope in me even though I know it’s one of the worst periods in publishing.

I don’t want to think about writing a novel.  But I also want to keep writing. I’ll have to press on and let my mind do its tricks and try not to pay attention.  I don’t hold out much hope for that.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Annoying Things

Good news and bad news.  I wrote again today and got a good chunk done.  I don’t mean that the writing is good…just that I did it.

BUT…I hate Word 2007.  I even bought myself a book called The Missing Manual.  It never has what I need.

When I finished my last word I hit the return, clicked on the icon for middle of page and to show a passage of time I did this *** .  First it made strange lines and borders and I’ll never know how I got out of that, and then it screwed up my entire format.  Two lines on a page.  Last lines of paragraphs in the middle of a line.  It took me 45 min. to get a format back.  Not the one I had, but something like it.  Something sane looking.  I’m thinking of going back to Word 2003. This is not what you want to do after writing.

Still, I got the work done and didn’t lose it.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Just One of Those Things

Everyday can’t be a winner when you’re writing.  Today was not so hot for me.  After yesterday I felt fired up.  But a feeling isn’t a fact.

I stayed at my desk for three hours, but I got very little done. I was disappointed.  Still, I wasn’t depressed by my lack of success. 

I have tomorrow and I can hope for a better day.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Time 2

It’s Saturday.  Less than two days left before I start to write.  Part of me feels like this is the last weekend of my life.  Another part is looking forward to Monday.

What if I just sit here?

What if I stare at this screen and nothing happens?

I do have a title so that’s something.  But what if I can’t even write a first line?

In the past two years I’ve written those 200 pages that I ended up stuffing in a drawer; a short story for the anthology A Hell of a Woman and a flash fiction piece.  Not my usual output.  Not me at all. Not who I once was. 

Time has passed, I’ve grown older and I’m rusty.  I have a new Word program.  I’m not even sure I know how to use it properly.

But here’s the thing I have to remember:  I’m not writing for anyone but myself.  This is both good and bad.  It’s good because I can be on my own schedule, take my time, screw up.  Bad because I’m not writing for anyone.  Agent, editor, publisher.  They aren’t thinking about me.  This is a whole new world.

Will I be able to do this without the carrot?

WTF, I’m simply going to try.