May 26, 2015

Flashes of War Turns Two!

Flashes of War is two years old, today. To my great surprise, I'm happy to report that invitations to read and present at colleges and organizations continue to come my way. It's been a learning experience and wild ride, including lows and highs. None of it would be possible if it weren't for you--darn near every single one of the 8,000 people out there in cyberspace reading this blog every week. Thank you.

To help celebrate this book's birthday, I'd like to publicly post this call for reviews or ratings on Goodreads and Amazon. It's a small favor that takes a few clicks to complete (or a few more minutes of critical thinking, if you prefer) and will add up to more than you can imagine. These reviews, whether you support book purchases through Amazon or not, add up for authors: publishers, agents, potential employees, and reading series curators sometimes scour these reviews. It's a very boots-on-the-ground way to get a sense for what the general population thinks of a particular author's work and readability. And above all else, your opinion counts! Good, bad, satisfied, or disappointed--I want to know how this book did or did not work for you.

Can you review or rate it for me? Here's how:

  • Log in to your Amazon account and search for Flashes of War (LINK). Once there, you'll see the small blue number just below the title. Right now it says "64 customer reviews." Click on that, and you'll see a white button about 2/3 of the way down the page that says "Write a Review." Click, rate the book with some stars, and add a line or two of detail (if you prefer). Submit the review (one more button to click) and you're done!
  • Log in to your Goodreads (or create) account and search for Flashes of War (LINK). When you're logged in and have clicked on the book page, you'll see the cover on the left, the purchase options in beige bubbles just below that to the right, and then My Review underneath that. Here, you can click a few stars and be done, and/or also click "Write a Review" and add whatever you see fit.

Thank you so much for your time and help. It really does make a difference!

{PS I've been away for a while...getting married! Pics and videos promised later this week!}

May 1, 2015

Getting Married

I'm getting married in 9 days!

Then, I'm going here:

{View off main floor deck.}


All of which is to say: The Writing Life Blog will be offline May 1 - May 26.

Meantime, my Writer at Large students have filled the docket through the end of the calendar year. But there's spaces for flash fiction and flash nonfiction via...


with 4 prompts, 4 critiques, and sample texts, plus
a Google Hangout video bash at the end!
Use the link above for details and email me to register.

Stay tuned for pictures, celebration, and of course, more blogging about novel revision, karate, jogging, and all the ins and outs of this grand thing I call The Writing Life.

Apr 28, 2015

Revising the Novel: Printing the Pages

Writing is a physical act; it is three-dimensional. It can't be limited to the distance between eyes to screen, fingertips to keyboard. It can't be limited to the space between notepad and pen. When push comes to shove--or more appropriately, when deadline comes to call--one of my most anticipated stages of revision involves printing the pages and holding them in my hands.

Starting Tuesday morning, I begin my first read-aloud of this fourth revision of the novel. To be clear--I've printed certain chapters of this draft and read them out loud before. But I haven't had a complete draft, beginning to end, located in the same Word document and pressed "print" for over 200 pages in quite some time. I know the last four chapters, in particular, need major attention. Even still; I've come this far and I'm excited!


The concentration required by this part of the revision process is visceral. I shut my office door. I disconnect the wi-fi. I pace the room and hold each page like a fragile object. Once I've studied its contents, that fragility fades and is replaced by one of two things. The page either starts to feel firm, finished, and ready...or it feels loose, open, and waiting. If it's the former, I'll set it aside. If it's the latter, I'll walk to the desk, hunch over the page with my blue Pilot G-2 in hand, and do the good work of sentence surgery. If several pages in a row require this level of attention to right themselves, I'll grab my clipboard, sit in the recliner (not at the desk--this is important; if I want to think differently, I have to sit differently), and ponder what's not working and why.

Sometimes an answer comes immediately. A few swift changes, a few cuts, or a note to myself to fix something in a later chapter--and voila, I can move on. Other times, an answer takes hours, days, or longer. A good, long walk can help. So can making a batch of homemade hummus. These things distract my mind and let the subconscious do its work. Then I can return to the same section and begin reading aloud again.

What am I listening for? Something that's not true. Something that isn't earned. Something that's trying to do too much. Something that doesn't mean what it says. There's always a crack in these places; a muffled message, a snag in the line. If I'm careful enough, I'll hear it. If I've honed my imagination enough, I'll be able to hold these places up to the light and decipher my way through, illuminating the blind spots one syllable at a time.

Apr 23, 2015

Jogging Writer: No Sprain, No Gain?

It finally happened. I'm running along, happy as can be, and the goats are up on the hillside doing their goat thing. They meeaa-aa-aa at me. I meeaa-aa-aa back at them. Around the far side of the barn, I see Bang Bang, one of two billy goats on this particular farm I run past. He's aptly named, but not for the typical goat behavior of ramming into things, rather, for his two distinctly curled, blond tufts of hair that arc like styled bangs over his big, batty eyelashes. Yes, Bang Bang is named for his hair.

"Hey Bang Bang!" I shout. Goats have facial recognition. I love this fact. "How's it goin'?" I ask. And that's when my foot falls down on the pavement. But not the pavement exactly, more like that awful edge where the pavement ends and the grass starts. On this particular curve, the height difference between the two surfaces is nearly two inches...enough to make me roll my left ankle fully, stumble for several steps, nearly fall to the ground, then regain balance.

How bad it is? I run a few more paces to gauge and I can't tell. Experience has taught me that "no pain" means "masked pain" and so, although every cell that ever played sports or trained hard is telling me to go-go-go, I stop. Look up at the sky. Let out a growling yelp of exasperation, and turn around.

Up on the hillside, Bang Bang comes around the other side of the barn. Spring-green grasses trail from his mouth, tangled in a prize branch. I look away, mournful. Already, I've gone to a dark place. Already, I've leapt to conclusions--no training for months, pounds of weight gain, permanent chair-butt. I have experienced so many foot and ankle injuries in my life, I know this dark place well. It lacks the voice of reason. It's a well of stagnation. And it's horrible for my writing, too.

I limp back to the car, stumble into the house, and eat two pieces of gluten-free cake left over from my Bridal Shower. I lick the plate. The cats stare at me, an inanimate object in the kitchen. That's when it hits me--I haven't stopped. It's two weeks until the wedding and I've been go-go-go. I'm trying to work ahead so that my time off can be fully covered. I'm trying to finish the novel, too. I'm trying to journal and meditate and schedule massages and do it all right. But in my hustle, I've been doing something wrong.

Within a few hours, I'm clear-headed enough to see there's not much swelling around the ankle joint and bruising is unlikely. I treat it according to Tom Bisio's Chinese medicine approach for sports injuries, a text that has saved me many times before. I rest. I elevate. I use moxibustion and trauma liniment. I call Shihan Baker and tell him I can't come to class--weight bearing is too painful, let alone rapid movement--and he calls me off Mercy Me Hill anyway, saying he has a salve for injuries that increases healing time. Brad takes me to town, I bow into the dojo and to my teacher, he dabs the ankle, and I go back home.

For the next two days, I try hard to ignore email. I try not to overeat, but fail. I forgive myself. I eat some more. I don't forgive myself. But through it all, I've finally pushed through the dialogue scene in Chapter 17 of the novel. I've figured out how to deal with the flashback in Chapter 18. I've fully revised Chapter 19. And although every page I've touched will need to be looked at again, this is still something I can call progress.

Or maybe slowing down is a better word for it.

Brad brings me flowers in a vase. He sings me ridiculous, rhyming songs about ridiculous things. The cats sleep on my lap. I watch a movie. I watch another movie. (This happens approximately once ever 24 months...a big deal!) By the end of the week I'm walking with a bit more ease. There's still a limp. Still pain. But I'm here. I'm breathing. I'm slowing down.