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The Writer Writes...Meeting Other Writers

When you write, naturally, you seek to sell (unless you are a hobby writer, and I do know a few of those, but that is another blog).  When you sell to a professional publication, anthology or publisher, you then find yourself being invited to conventions and other events.  And of course, you meet other writers.

This is part of the process, and yes, there are times it is like dogs sniffing each other's rear ends to determine who is gonna be the top dog.  Writers are social animals by nature, who congregate to reassure themselves that they are not the only people crazy enough to spend their solitary hours creating believable characters and worlds.

Other times, it is a wonderful chance to see people you have only read the books of and admired and considered your inspiration.

Now as a rule, I am a quiet, reserved person (shut up, Selina  ;-)  ) who mostly sits back and listens to others.  Some times it takes me a few meetings to warm up enough to talk to another person whom I have admired for years.  Other times, there is a spark that assures me I have met a fellow goofball and am going to have a good time.  (Yeah, I am talking about you, Selina Rosen...)

Up until I became famous myself (well, in as much as I am known to a few fans and fellow writers), I was very reserved around big name writers.  In a group, I could stand quietly and listen to the conversation.  One on one...whee doggies, I turned into the trembling chihuahua that ducks under the table and whimpers, tail tucked.

I remember meeting Lawrence Block for instance.  He was teaching at the Craigsville Writing Center, and I has signed up for a one on one critique of one of my mystery novels.  When I sat down with him, I started biting my tongue because I was scared.  He was reassuring when he told me there was a talent visible in my work, and I just needed to work at it more, and I remember walking away thinking I was going to faint and puke at the same time.  I was in my early 20s at the time, and I still remember there were tears trying to track down my cheeks, not because of what he said about my work, but because I was so terrified at actually being in the presence of a man whose writing I had read and admired for years.

I got better, of course.  I think when you actually start selling what you write to professional publications, there is a change in your ego level.  Hey, I was published now.  I was an equal.


I sold my first short story in 1987 to Marion Zimmer Bradley.  She continued to buy my work until her death.  But in the mean time, I felt a little bolder when I met people in person.


The year was 1999, and I was a sort of "other guest" at ConCat 11.  The GoH was none other than Neil Gaiman.

I was a little surprised when I was asked by the ConCom to join their GoHs at dinner.  And suddenly I found myself sitting right across from Neil Gaiman.  I felt a little shy, and even a little guilty because nine years before when Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman was released, and I reviewed it for my local papers, I said that the novel was a collaboration between Terry Pratchett, the author of the Disc World novels (which I happened to have been reading at that time) and a comic writer named Neil Gaiman.

If Mr. Gaiman knew I was that person, he never let on.  Probably never even read the review.  He was polite and I loved the sound of his voice (okay, he's a Brit and I always love the sound of a British accent), but I think I spent most of the meal praying, Please don't let me spill food on myself or flip something across the table on Neil Gaiman because I would die right here!!!

Yeah, I was that scared.  I was never a neat eater, even though I tried to be.  But if one tries too hard to be proper and doesn't just relax and eat, one is more likely to have a food accident.  As I recall, I dropped my knife on the table and got a little food in my lap (on the napkin, fortunately).  Otherwise, I lived to tell the tale.

As time progressed, and so did my career, I learned to relax.  I still listen more than I talk (that is just my way), unless you get me started on something I actually feel comfortable expounding on, but for the most part, I tend to ascribe to the philosophy of Better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Over time, I have met a number of big names.  A few of them, I noticed were shy around me, not so much because I was famous but because they were just the sort of people who were introverts.  Others greet me like an old friend when they see me.  Some look at me like they might remember my name, or my face.

And some still make me want to squeal with fannish delight.

But in the end, to paraphrase my friend Selina Rosen, who says it best, everyone has farted and pooped in their pants at least once in their life.

Because we are all human beings.

The Writer Writes...Still Among the Living

I have been trying to post here once a month, but lately, I have been kinda busy.  Apologies.

Mom and I recently went down to Louisiana to visit my sister.  Her youngest turned 3, and Mom loves going to see the girls, and I love getting out of town now and again.  Win-Win.

Now I am prepping for SoonerCon.

I have a busy schedule:


2:00 pm: Ethics in Art
3:00 pm: The Seven Deadly Sins and Writing
5:00 pm: AG (aka autographing session)


9:00 am: KaffeKlatche
11:30 am: READING
12:00 pm: The Philosophy of Fantasy
3:00 pm: Fantasies Dark and Light: What's the difference.
4:00 pm: Yard Dog Press Traveling Road Show (a great venue)


11:00 am: Ball Jointed Doll Meet-up
1:00 pm: The Hobbit On-Screen: Enjoyable Films or Insulting LOTR fans
3:00 pm: Where Wolf: a Case for Urban Fantasy

As you can see, they are making me earn my keep (which I do not object to if it helps my publisher sell books).

So if you are going to be there, PLEASE come by and say hi.  PLEASE buy my books from Yard Dog Press and other sellers of my stuff.

Make it worth my time.

And Thank You...

I will be doing a book signing on Tuesday, May 13th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the Gallery Nuance in downtown Knoxville.  The above link is to the Facebook invitation.

And this one is the calendar for the gallery, including their information.

If you are in the area, please come.  There will be free refreshments and a cash wine bar.

And you don't even have to buy books.  Though I will have plenty for sale.

No, I am not depressed about my lack of fame and fortune.  It was just the first phrase to pop into my head.

As usual, I am just trying to keep this journal alive.

On the discussion front, I was talking about naming dolls, and it occurred to me that I have a lot of dolls, and so far, I have managed to name them all.  For those who worry that the dolls have taken over my life, they have not.  They are a joy and a pleasure, and they give me something to focus on while I am thinking things through.

Never let it be said that writers just write.  We think a lot too, mostly about writing.  But I am the kind of person who needs to be doing something even when I am thinking, and the dolls have provided me with the right amount of mindless distraction so my brain can work on the things it needs to work on.

But back to names.  As a writer, I name characters.  I keep lists of names, and I check them off when I use them (generally giving myself a notation so I know which story I used them in, and why they cannot be reused in a particular world).

Common names--yeah, they can be used more than once, though one has to be careful that one does not use them in the same tale.

It is the same thing with the dolls.  The ones I purchased to become characters from my stories are easiest to name, of course.  Conor, Eithne, Rhoyd, Anwyn, Alaric, Fenelon and many others are characters I have put into stories and novels, and they just amuse me.

Other dolls--I call them want dolls.  I wanted them.  Didn't need them.  Just found the sculpt attractive enough to intrigue me as to what I could do to them.

I recently added three want dolls to my collection.  All of them are Doll Leaves sculpts.  The Wish sculpt is a 42cm elf.  I fell in love with him the first time I looked at Doll Leaves, but I held off because I didn't "need" him for a character.  Recently, however, Doll Leaves lured me to get him and a little girl sculpt called Fay and because of those two, I earned a tiny doll sculpt called Ovid.

I did not have names for them when they arrived.  I sometimes don't have names until I actually do faceups or costumes.

But these dolls earned names rather quickly.  As a rule, I don't use a sculpt name as the actual name, but Fay is a cute name, the doll is cute, so Fay it is.

The Wish--his name came the moment I settled on what wig to use, and he became Finn.

The Ovid took a little longer, but she is now Olivia.

Meanwhile, a ResinSoul Lan I had gotten a while back had not inspired me to call her anything but Mi'Lady.  It might have been because until I sueded her (that is added hot glue to her joints to keep her from slipping and sliding around), she had kept kicking me, and being resistant to getting clothed.

Once I gave her a face and sueded her, she settled down, but there was still no name.

Then just when I was thinking she would always be Mi'Lady, I looked at her expression and said, "Elizabeth."  So Mi'Lady is now Elizabeth, and has more personality as a result.

Now before you start thinking I have gone around the bend and need therapy, there is a point to all this.  There are times when I start a story, and I have no idea what to call a character, so I randomly grab a name from my list.  Sometimes, the name will determine the character's behaviors and the story might launch in a different direction from what I planned.  Sometimes, the name becomes a place-holder and half way through the tale, it occurs to me that "Charlotte" is actually a "Serena" or an "Anne" and the personality that was trying to shine through bursts forth.

And yes, I know, many of my characters have celtic and nordic names.

The process is still the same.  A name can make a character more realistic.

And that is what it is all about when you write.  Making a character live and breathe so that your fans want to be that character and enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of that character.

Makes the world a little more realistic.

The Writer Writes...Wrong Way Harping

I am not that much of a stickler for details as a rule.  I watch movies based on books and know that the film and the book are two separate mediums.

But it never fails to yank my chain when I see someone playing a harp the Wrong Way.

And I am not talking about improper fingering or missing notes.  Stuff happens.

What I am talking about is artist AND doll photographers who draw or portray someone at the wrong end of the harp.

While cruising the web looking at harp art, I notice there are still people who think it is okay to portray a harp with the pillar against the shoulder of the player.  I have seen dolls posed this way a lot.

Well, it is WRONG on so many levels.  The soundbox is the part of the harp that should be leaning against the harper.  And I cannot understand why doll photographers and artist insist on drawing it the wrong way.  It's not like you cannot go to the website of someone who is an actual harpist and see photos of them playing harp.  It is not like you cannot go out on YouTube and see videos of harpist in action.

So why do these people insist on doing it wrong?  Granted, one can play a harp that way, if one knows how to reverse the fingering.  I have been known to stand near my harp Glynnanis while he is in his stand and pluck the strings from the wrong side and the wrong direction because I am trying to get a song in my head.

Would I play that way in public?  No.  Would I draw anyone playing harp that way?  No.

So get it right, artist and photographers.  The soundbox goes against the chest.  The pillar is away from the harper.

At least, if you cannot remember this, go out and look at the parts of the harp on the Lyon and Healy website, or any of the professional harp builder sites.

Otherwise, I am going to have to keep complaining.


The Writer Writes...Harp Happy

It is no secret that I am a lover of harps, and had I a house to myself, there would be more than one hanging around.

My love of the harp goes back to the days of sitting and watching Harpo Marx.  It was fascinating to see him play because here he was, a goofy character, but when he sat down and started playing, it was a changed man.  There was something in his eyes.

I understand he had his own way of fingering, and I sort of like to think I do too.  My musical instrumental skills as a child were limited to clarinet.  On into my teens, I took up classical guitar (yes, I can still play--just hand me a classical guitar at a convention some time and back away...).

I even noodled on the piano for a bit, took chorus (yes, I can sing, though practice is not something I get these days), and even took music theory.

Suffice to say music has been a part of my life.  It fills my writing as well.  Many of my stories will involve songs I have written.  My Harper Mage tales are about a young man and his harp.  Alaric in Dragon's Tongue is a minstrel and a bard.  Conor MacManahan of the Ard Magister series (and other tales) plays pipes and is known to break out in a ballad or two.

The was the musical instrument I coveted.  But the price...oy.  Lap harps (really cheap badly made ones) can be picked up for a hundred or so.  Good harps run $700 and up.  Floor harps.  You are talking anywhere from $5000+ and up (go visit the Lyon and Healy website if you want sticker shock.  Go look at the gilded harp and wish you were a millionaire).

I was fortunate enough to build my own harp with my father's guidance and assistance. Glynnanis was the result.  I learned to play from my stepmother, herself an accomplished harpist and a super jazz pianist.  Took to it like a natural.

So of course, I have a harp, and now and again, I pull that harp out and play with it.

Lately, however, I have coveted more harps.  I price them online, on ebay, at various sites.

And not just real harps.  Harp jewelry.  Harp toys.  Christmas ornaments.

Some of those harps I have purchased.

But of course, that does not stop me from making them out of beads, balsa wood and other stuff.

Below are some pictures just to show the ones I have.






From top to bottom:  Me and Glynnanis, Anwyn Baldomyre with the Lily 8 string harp by Roosebeck and the mini Glynnanis (1/6th scale) I made, the Glynnanis in the works that is closer to the doll's proportions, and Anwyn with the mini Glynnanis.

The Writer Writes...Life As It Is...

Not as it should be...

Or is it?  At this point in time, I am editing a manuscript that will end up being a collection of my dark fairy tales.  One or two have seen previous publication either in anthologies or on the web, but the rest are pretty original.  And it is comforting to print out the 156+ pages and sit and line edit like I used to do in the old days.

There are times when a writer does need to go back and get in touch with that part of their past that they liked best.  I liked editing hard copy.  I edit on computer only when in a rush and forced to do so.  But if I had my druthers, there would be a paper copy on my lap, me with pen or pencil in hand, scribbling in margins, slashing through words, correcting spelling and punctuation, adding words...

It is all part of that process.

Lately, I have caught myself questioning the purpose of my career.  I get too focused on what it should be at times, and forget that it is what it is, and I have to live with that and go back to writing because I like to write and not because I have some skewed impression that I should be rich and famous.

Years ago, I had a small booklet that was written by a fictional woman named Old Ma Barnes who apparently had a weird idea of poetry.  It was one of those little Hallmark Card books from back in the 70's.  I bought it on a whim because it made me laugh.

Laughter is important to me.  There were darker threads always running through parts of my life so I had to have laughter to keep from killing someone.  (No, not myself--I can honestly say I have never had a desire to kill myself, even when things got really bad at times--rather I had a dim outlook towards what I perceived as those who were determined to keep me from living my life and enjoying myself, and writing and laughing and sports and horses were always the ways I kept sane enough NOT to give in to baser urges.)

The little book was poems that made me giggle.

Though some gave me thought.

Particularly the following:

I probably won't never be famous,
Or Pretty or Rich or Well Read.
I probably won't never do nuthin'.
I think I'll go back to bed...

Dim and dark as that may sound, there is an underlying truth to it.  So I am never the Queen.  I am never the belle of the ball.  I am the bridesmaid, but never the bride.  I am the almost there.  I am the Salieri of writing.  Someone who is capable of perceiving genius even when the path evades me.

But the real thought that it provoked in me was "Yes, I could give up and go back to bed, but I would rather keep writing for me, myself and I and enjoy the act of writing.  If other buy what I write, fine.  If they don't, their loss.  I can be satisfied in knowing I have accomplished something without giving up."

Now before anyone wonders if I am losing my mind and going to the dark place where the IMPoster tells me I don't deserve to be a top dog, I am not.  I feel fine.  I am keeping busy.

And as I said, I am editing a book because someone is buying that book for publication.

Life goes on.  As much as I would like to go back to bed (it is warm and comfortable there, and cold and snowy outside, and with a good book and a hot cup of tea, it is the perfect place to be), I am staying up and trudging on.

I just came out here because if I don't, the kind folk at Livejournal will shut me down.

See, I can be motivated. ;-)

The Writer Writes...Alice Update

Okay, so there are times it might take me a while to get some things done.  A while back, I mentioned that I was working on a Delilah Noir, reconstructing her, restringing her if for any reason to prove that I could do it.

Not an easy task, I will admit.  There were trial and error moments.

And there were other things I needed to do that meant I put Alice aside.  Her steampunk persona was going to have to wait a while.

She has been a patient doll, I must say, sitting there in her flower dress and red shoes without a properly defined face...

Weather has not been kind either.  Doing faceups on dolls requires warm days with practically no humidity to keep the acrylic fixative from turning to goo, especially on a vinyl doll.  I kept hoping for good weather, but I would either get high temps and high humidity or low temps and no humidity.

However, the weather this past weekend decided to be kind.  I had an opportunity last week to start doing doll faceups again, and I grabbed my Hujoo Dana (Ginny Ni'Cooley) and worked on her, in spite of her being one of the newer dolls in my growing collection.

I felt a little guilty (yes, I know they are just dolls) about snubbing Alice that way since she was basically next in line for a faceup, but I was quite excited to get Ginny done.  So I made a promise to myself that I would paint Alice a new face next.  I had already made her a lovely gown...

This past weekend, the weather cooperated, and I had three days off, and though I was a bit beat down with a cold, I made the effort to prep Alice.  I was going to hot glue suede her as well, so there was to be a long project.

The results were, to say the least, quite pleasing.  Not only did I give her a lovely new face, I managed to restore her lashes, and fix her body so she didn't pop her middle joint so much.

And here she is...


Quite a lovely lady, if I must say so.

It seems to me that in this day and age of Internet Access, it is getting harder and harder for traditionally published authors like myself to get into the existing markets.  It is not to say it is impossible.  I have regular publishers who will still look at and consider my work.
It seems to me that in this day and age of Internet Access, it is getting harder and harder for traditionally published authors like myself to get into the existing markets.  It is not to say it is impossible.  I have regular publishers who will still look at and consider my work.

But we seem to be reaching a point in the publishing industry where it is getting harder and harder to earn kudos for good edited writing (as in, my editors are important people to me because they keep me from looking like an illiterate baboon on the keyboard) and the crap that is regularly pooped out of the backside of the bestseller machines. 

I catch myself no longer reading new writers, but instead going back and rereading the old ones who pleased me and inspired me.

I cannot help wondering if those people would have been published professionally (as in selected by the aforementioned editors and have their careers developed until they achieved bestsellerdom) in this new age of narcissism, or would they now be forced to take up the challenge of writing and selling their own stuff directly to a fan base by self-publishing?

My earliest works in the fiction department were published professionally.  I was one of "Marion's Favorites."  I was a writer who was selected by Marion Zimmer Bradley herself because she took a liking to my work.  She became my Literary Mother, encouraging me to spread my wings, write a few novellas and put them together and send them to a publisher and tell them I was one of her favorite writers.

I think I tried it once, and didn't notice any difference in the way I was rejected, other than getting a personal note encouraging me to try again with something else.

Which I did.  Again and again, to the point that I nearly got so frustrated, I almost made the amateur mistake of putting my own first novel together to sell via self-publications.  I knew there was a right way and a wrong way to do it, and I was getting just desperate enough to see my name on a novel...

But of course, I did not give in to the urge.  I sold my first novel instead to a small press (that is still one of my main publishers to this day because I like working with Yard Dog Press).

There was no instant fame or fortune.  Just because your book gets professionally published does not mean you will leap to the top of the charts unless you are willing to do a little song and dance routine to convince book lovers who still believe in the power of the printed word to take home your novel instead of the work of the Big Name Author readily available in every language piece of work.

And no, I am not knocking the writers who make it big.  Many of them, I know started small like me.

I have this long trail of a career behind me now.  I am getting older and less patient--more easily frustrated, as a matter of fact.  There are days I don't want to go into a bookstore and see all the shiny new novels by shiny new authors because they have not worked as hard or long as I have to achieve what little I have gained in this profession, and already, they are being called the Big Name Authors of This Week.  I catch myself grumbling under my breath that if they are under 35, it is not fair.  God only knows they have not lived enough of a real life to have anything real to write about.

Yeah, I know.  I write "fantasy."  Who am I to judge?

But I digress. 

I have a novel that "nearly" got published.  I say "nearly" because the publisher decided at the last minute that they were closing down their fantasy line, and instead of going ahead and publishing all the books they had contracted and paid for (and they had paid me an advance which I was not obligated for contract reasons to return because they initiated the shut down not me, and they had even hired a great cover artist, the one and only Alan Clark, to paint me a most fabulous cover--and yes, they paid him too), they decided to kick about half the books off the lineup and call it quits earlier than they originally announced.

So my Angels of Mercy, a dark urban fantasy novel about Elves in East Tennessee, never got to be read and loved and maybe live up to the hype all the folks I let read it before hand gave me about what a great bestseller it would make.  Shoot, I had visions of Tim Burton picking it up for a movie, and even letting Johnny Depp play the Erl King (he would have been SO good in that role) or even Crazy Tom.

Alas, the book sits on my computer, and Clark has the picture for sale on his website.

I debate taking that novel and self-publishing it.

But then, I debate a lot of things anymore.

The Writer Writes...Always

Or Bits And Bobs of My Life...

It was a good Christmas, but not a good healthy holiday.  My mother has had some issues (yes, she is much better, thank you).  I have been under the weather myself.  Life as it is.  Never as it should be.  But at least it is a life, I suppose.

We had family in and out.  My sister brought both her girls up from the coast.  Always love to see Lydia and Lily.  We took them for an after Christmas Dinner at my sister's (and admittedly mine and Mom's) favorite place, Red Lobster.

Things are slowly getting back to normal around the house.  I work on stuff.  I write.  I keep playing with the dolls.  New ones have joined my doll family.  One of my sisters actually got me a Monster High Clawdeen (one I was missing because I had not seen one as pretty as this), so I was pleased.

I started the year by getting a rejection that did not make me happy, but then, no rejection makes me happy.  I had my moment of sulking and then went back to work on writing more stuff to submit.  It is how I roll.  I don't know a writer out there who doesn't get a little sulky about a rejection (unless they are one of those writers who never get rejections--though as far as I am concerned that is a myth because everyone gets rejected one way or another...).

Rejection doesn't really hurt you physically.  It bruises your ego, but if you have enough of one, you just shrug it off as "editor had a bad day" or "I didn't do my job as a writer right and send them my best work" and go on.  No one I know ever died from rejection (though I knew someone who said they never submitted their work because if it got rejected, they would never write again...which in my humble opinion was a rather amateur thing to say, but then I was a professionally published author and they were not...)

To me, this seemed kinda silly.  A writer lives to share what they write with the world.  Yes, there are times the world might spit on your work.  There are people who could not care less about what you write.

Years ago, a famous writer teaching a class on how to get published said, "No one wants your stuff, no one cares about it, you are wasting your time.  So you might as well stop writing and go do something else with your life."

A number of students got up and left the room, muttering indignantly.  The writer waited until they stopped streaming out.  He looked at the rest of us as smiled and said, "Okay, now that we got rid of the doubters and pretenders, lets get down to learning how to get published."

It was a clever ruse in my opinion.  It removed those people who have the wrong idea about what it really is to be a writer and left the teacher with those folks who were serious enough about their craft not to listen to the doubters.

So yeah, I gripe and sulk when I don't make the cut.  I groan at the inequality of the industry.

But then I go on and write, because that is what I do.

Playing with the dolls.  Making them costumes and clothes is my way of clearing the cobwebs.  So is art and knitting and crocheting and pretty much anything else I do when I am not writing.

Because it is easier to write when you are not stressed out about life, the universe and almost everything else.

One can never take rejection personally.  Your job is to ignore it and go on and write more and submit more stuff.  Remind yourself that editors are human like the rest of us.

It is okay to have a moment of anger or frustration.  It helps us to see more clearly at times.  Just never give in to the urge to publicly call the editor names, or to write them back and tell them they are wrong.  Because I can assure you that editors also have "Poop Lists" on which they keep the names of writers who were stupid enough to let their egos and their anger overshadow common sense.

If you want to sell what you write, keep sending it out.  If you are persistent, someone will like your work eventually, and you will make a sale or two.

Just don't quit your day job.  ;-)

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