Saturday, July 07, 2007

Another one bites the dust

I only had two emails this morning. One was from the publisher of the Bylines Calendar and the other was from the publishers of Chicken Soup for the Soul. My story, Love is Enough, has been accepted for publication in Chicken Soup for the Adopted Soul due out March 2008. That means my stories will be in seven anthologies coming out next year. I also got the publication date for my novel, Past Imperfect; it will be available January 2008. The Bylines calendar story is a little bit different.

I sent my submission to Bylines and it bounced three times, but I'm a determined writer. Instead of sending the submission again through the right channels, I emailed the publisher directly and included the submission and the bounced email headers. Her email to me this morning was to let me know she was glad I was so persistent and would let me know about the acceptance after the submission deadline, which is February 2008. I can wait, but I guarantee my name will stick in her mind and that will help when it comes time to choose the authors whose stories go into the 2009 calendar.

Publishing is a lot of hurry up and wait, but it's definitely worth the effort, and effort is what you have to put into it. Don't let the dust cows graze on your keyboard or your word processing programs. Write and keep writing. Write every day even if what you write seems lame and not worth the effort. Writing is a muscle you must exercise to keep fit and trim and working at its best. Nothing you write, however lame or silly or stupid it may seem to you at the time, is a waste of time or effort because out of all that writing something magical begins to happen; you learn and grow.

Once you get the writing muscles warm and tingly and working at full power, don't forget to submit. Polish your work, edit it, prune those clunky sentences and over written paragraphs and phrases, check it again, and send it out into the wide world for publishers and editors and agents to read. You first crop may be rejections, but don't give up and don't become complacent. Keep submitting and don't ever stop. Eventually, your work will be accepted and you will be published. For some, it will happen almost immediately, and for others, it will take some time, but don't stop and don't give up. Keep writing. Keep pushing the envelope and learning new forms and styles. Keep submitting your work. Most of all, keep reading. Out of your reading will come insight and tips and new dimensions for your characters and your own writing. It's all connected. Don't give up. If seeing your writing in print is your dream, never give up. Editors and publishers will come if you write it.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, July 06, 2007

These are the times that fly men's souls

I received an email from someone I know who lives in Dallas. He emailed to let me know he had quadruple bypass surgery in February and to say, "Not that you care...". Like most people who have been part of a difficult breakup, he assumes things about me that are completely wrong. I have neither the inclination nor to personality to hate or dislike anyone regardless of our history and, yes, I do care, the same way I care about every other human being on this planet. I'm no longer personally involved in their lives but that is a choice one or both of us made and I have left the hurt and anger and confusion in the past. I have moved on with my life. If I saw them on the street, bumped into them at a store or party, or even received an email or letter or phone call from them, I would be cordial and interested to hear what they have to say.

People tend to believe everyone acts the way they do, and sometimes that's good. I like to believe that people are basically honest and decent and don't hold a grudge even though I know more often than not the opposite is true. People with small and narrow souls believe that when they have hurt someone that person will act the same way they do -- with malice and anger and bad feelings. They may say they do not, but their actions prove the lie, just like the guy from Dallas who decided I didn't care about what happens to him even though he expects validation. He thinks he hurt me but he didn't. He freed me and I'm grateful. Because of him, I moved to Colorado, which is where I've wanted to be. It's the old saying about the wind from one door closing opens another door.

Each action, like the butterfly in China, is part of a chain of events that leads to this moment, whatever that is going to be. For me, the events have led to a point where I no longer feel lost and without a home. I have a home here. I have a job I can tolerate without too much effort that provides me the funds to pursue writing and keeping a roof over my head near to friends who have become more like family, and I am getting more and more recognition for my writing. All of this is possible because the guy in Dallas changed his mind about the future. Other people have had a hand in my life, creating events that pushed me out of my safe zone, shook my foundations, and made me reach further for what I want. To all of them I say, "Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Without your influence in my life, even if it seemed negative at the time, I wouldn't be here celebrating happiness and freedom and the contentment that comes with knowing I am where I should be right now."

After one of my boys read the essay about my wedding he asked me if I regret going through with the marriage and having my oldest son. I didn't have to think about my answer and I didn't hesitate. No, I don't regret anything. It's something I've said many times and will say many more times, but every moment in my life, good, bad, and indifferent, is part of who I am now. If you take away one moment, even if it caused pain and scarred my soul (and there were a few of those), I no longer exist; I would be someone completely different. Sometimes it feels like getting past the pain is impossible and every moment is torture, but the pain passes and we move on to live another day, another year, another decade, or just one more moment. Life is about change and pain comes with change sometimes, but it is how we know we are still alive and able to choose the next step and the next turning in the path. It's all part of life and, if we're lucky, a part of living in interesting times. Hard as it is, it is worth it because there are days, like yesterday and today, when all the pain and sacrifice and hard work are worth it.

I know I won't always be happy or contented and I will lose more people from my life who mean a lot, but I don't worry because we will meet again, maybe not in this life but in lives to come, and maybe next time it will be easier.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


I am a spider spinning webs of words and fantasy in the forest of dreams across a vast fertile space anchored by two twigs: truth and observation.

Just as I cannot remember the first word I learned to spell or the first book I read, I cannot remember when I could not read and write. I do, however, remember the first book I wrote living at the edge of a dark jungle that I believed held a lost city overgrown by time just waiting for me to venture away from the trimmed lawn around the apartment building on stilts where I lived to rediscover its secrets.

I was eight years old when my father gave me a perfectly square slab of blank paper contained between red cardboard covers and stabbed through the spine with a steel fastener. I filled the pages with black spider webs spun of words on sunny days at the edge of the jungle and on rainy days in the carport a few yards away.

Drunk on Homer and Edgar Rice Burroughs, I plunged into the jungle down the bloody clay banks next to the cage built to house Chico and Chica, my pet marmoset monkeys. That is where the everyday world ceased to exist. I unlocked their cages, took their tiny hands and lifted them onto my shoulders. I climbed and slid down the slimy blank, getting its sweaty red blood on my hands. I took my father’s machete from its worn leather scabbard belted at my waist and plunged into the steaming leafy green darkness to find the city and chronicle my adventures.

Long decades lie between those dreams beside a Panamanian jungle and now, but I still spin webs of words and dreams. I am a writer.

Doesn't anybody read any more?

Or should I ask: doesn't anyone comment any more?

I know this is a holiday and people are on vacation and taking advantage of the beautiful weather, especially now since it rained here yesterday, but I'm not feeling the love for The Five Stages of Wedding Grief, not that I expect everyone to drop everything just to read what I write. Oh, yes, I guess I do.

One of the things I like most about the Internet is immediate gratification and notice that comes with being published in the virtual world. So, consider this your wake up call and an invitation to check out yet another piece of my life sold to further the cause of writing and art and buying me a brand new DVD burner and USB enclosure. I am a geek writer, after all.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

It is in the firing process

A friend recently wrote that she didn't like what she saw in herself, all the faults and flaws and cracks inside that made her less than lovable, and that she could not see why her husband, or indeed anyone, would love her. So many people I know, including me, have felt that way--and still feel that way. I don't think she'll mind me sharing here what I wrote to her today.

"One of the most beautiful pieces of art I have ever owned (and I own a few) is a raku vase. It is small and ugly to some people because the color is uneven with a dominance of black from kiln fired soot. Within the soot and unevenness is a shimmer of colors, different colors that show differently in differently lights. The vase itself is a solid and simply piece of pottery. What makes it special is the firing process that bakes in the soot and the unevenness, cracks in the glaze, and the elusive shimmer of colors. Without those imperfections, it is just another vase, an ugly vase many would say. To connoisseurs and artists, it is quite simply one of the most ethereally beautiful pieces of art."

The same goes for so many things -- and people -- that others dismiss out of hand because they aren't pretty enough or without flaws. The Grand Canyon is a flaw in the earth, a fault enlarged and gouged deep within towering cliffs of layered colors and dirt, grit, and stone hardened by heat and time into rock with a timeless beauty that can bring some people to their knees in awe. Old Faithful is nothing more than a crack in the earth beneath which pressure mounts until steam and boiling water fountain up into the sky at set intervals. The Himalayas are the result of an island banging into a continent and pushing its rocky innards high so high up into the sky that it is covered over by snow and clouds and absolutely magnificent in its grandeur. A volcano on the island of Akrotiri exploded in ancient times, destroying people and a flowering civilization, preserving the remains in ash and molten rock until the time when someone would uncover its beauty. In the meantime, Akrotiri is a beautiful island with a sheltered bay, the remains of that ancient volcanic explosion, where bright blue Mediterranean waters filled in the wound and provided a home for animals and fish and a place for ships to harbor during storms.

The list of the earth's faults and cracks and flaws is endless and there are always more to be found, like when Mt. St. Helen's erupted, raining ash and fire down on the land around it, and where now the ash has provided rich ground where flowers and plants and food crops flourish in abundance. It is the same everywhere. Faults, cracks, and flaws are arbitrary designations, words that in the grand scheme of things mean nothing. They are labels but they only hurt when we allow them to hurt, when we fail to see that everything has worth. From king to maggot, everything has a use and is useful and everything, even the lowly maggot, is worthy of love . . . if only to another maggot. Eventually the handsome prince who won his princess and became the king will die and his remains will rest in the earth to be devoured by maggots who will turn his flesh and bones and his royal clothing to useful earth that will supply nourishment for crops to sustain the next generation and the generation after that until it is their turn to become nourishment for the generations that follow.

In science, the law is that nothing is lost or destroyed. It merely changes form. Faults and flaws are evidence of change. They are the clay feet of the idol that reminds us that it is only a statue, a representation of the Infinite. They are the lessons of our lives by which we grow in wisdom or turn to pain, but either way they are useful.

The most beautiful diamonds in the world carry flaws (inclusions), some piece of the coal from which they sprang before time, temperature, and pressure changed them. On another world, to another species, the coal is more valuable than the diamond. Even here, coal that provides the means to light and heat our homes is more valuable than diamonds in the cold dark of winter, but we lose sight of the maggots and the coal because we are dazzled by the diamonds. Maybe it's time to look away from the blinding brilliance of the diamond and consider the lump of coal or the wriggling maggot.

That is all. Disperse.