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Friday, October 10, 2014

NaNoWriMo Upon Us

It is almost mid-October. The temps have begun to subtly decrease—the evenings are cooler. Leaves started turning golden and all sorts of beautifully earthy relatively early this year. It is autumn and a woman’s thoughts turn to NaNoWriMo.

For those of you not aware (where have you been?!), November is National Novel Writing Month and the lunatic fringe gets together (online and in real life) to write 50,000 words.

It is insane and exciting. It is a marathon for the intellect. It’s a challenge of wit and (yes) sanity. Why? Because we love to write; because the creativity is a heavenly high; because it stretches our stamina, our imagination, our personal threshold of je ne sais quoi

It goes beyond a love of language and writing. Participating in NaNoWriMo is about camaraderie (though you certainly can work alone). It tests your endurance even when creativity deserts you. It helps you redefine commitment against overwhelming odds. It allows you to delve deep into yourself and find alternatives to failure (yes, failure: you go in as an underdog!).

Creativity, a sense of honor and a sense of humor all come into play to get through an intense month!

You will not always win the challenge, but you should try.


NaNoWriMo is how I wrote my first novel, Justified, parts of the series for The Chronicles of Ash, and May You Grow Old and Fat

I intend to participate this year. I want to! I start at a distinct disadvantage because I am not only looking for a day job but also trying to procure freelance assignments.

Still the focus required to compete against your own self can be freeing, humbling, and a jolt of energy and self-confidence that is virtually rejuvenating! It’s like falling in love: a whirlwind, a joy, a mystery.

Don’t get me wrong, it can be maddening too. It can be a disaster from the moment you decide to jump in. It can be terrifying—especially when you run out of steam or story and you stare at a blank page or screen and the words won’t come.

So why do this to yourself? It builds character. Character is good.

I now have a couple of weeks to decide, to outline, to plot, to allow myself a tiny bit of whimsy. The question is whether to write a novella based on a new idea:
It's bad enough being charmed by a snake, but realizing it's just a lizard using smoke and mirrors... I mean, that's one talented lizard, but it's still just a scaly thing that eats small insects. 
The alternative is to pick up one of the ongoing projects and expand or renew the concept.


Last year, I started Magic Stilettos. I did not complete the challenge. Poetic Justice is missing the gut of the story in the new world (I have the beginning and the end). May Your Grow Old and Fat began as result of a conversation about child brides and the need to educate girls—perhaps Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize today is a sign from the Universe to finish that story. 

As some of the writing is already done, this is cheating – unless I rewrite what I have and start anew. (Not unheard of as this is what happened with Justified. I started with one story and wrote another.)
And then there’s Love and the Android, the proposed study of loneliness and sexuality, and the civil rights of artificial intelligence. I have notes and research but nothing written yet.
Decisions, decisions…
The question is will you join us? What will you write about? What worlds will you build? Which characters will be born during your NaNoWriMo? The clock is ticking!





Thursday, September 25, 2014

Writing Professional Resignation Letters

Actively searching for work means that your daily reading materials include a lot of writing advice. There are hundreds of thousands of articles that explain step-by-step how to write cover letters, resumes, query letters, status updates on LinkedIn…

The latest article that jumped at me from one of the writing boards explained, in a very simplistic way, how one must compose a professional resignation letter. I also fear this was repurposed from advice written in the mid-20th century and never updated.

I will not link to it here, but Step One was “clearly print the date . . . at the top right hand of the page.” Step Two was that the subject line should be “Resignation Letter.”

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/awesomer/occasions-that-definitely-call-for-cake#1v6mmav

After working for two decades, I’ve written a letter of resignation or two.

I’m fairly sure we covered the topic in high school, and also as part of the communications curriculum towards my Associate’s degree.
The letter should generally be brief and to the point, and addressed to your immediate supervisor. The gist is that as of a specific date you will be leaving the company, that you are grateful for the opportunity to have learned whatever you learned at that job, and an offer to help in whatever way possible for a smooth transition.
This gets truly epic at 1:35

Of course, this assumes that you are leaving amicably, and that HR and lawyers are not involved (or federal prosecutors).

There is always a pressing need to remind people it must all be done “professionally” or very bad things will happen!


I always take this advice with a grain of salt because there were two jobs that I resigned from for which I did hand in unconventional resignation letters – of course I had a very cordial relationship with my supervisors (and I also provided a back-up, more sedate note for human resources purposes).

The first included a half page with a fashion design that my editor found hilarious because the note looked like a cover to one of our books (I was working at Fairchild when it was “the” fashion publisher of note in New York).

The second made the marketing director and my publisher chuckle. There were a couple of private jokes involved – our magazine was about to collapse and life had turned into melodrama. We took any opportunity to amuse ourselves. Gallows humor saves the day!

To be fair, I had told my boss I was looking for work and had even shown him the campaign I had sent out (I was trying to branch out of publishing). Well, we were all looking. Nobody wants to go down with the ship, unless it’s the Enterprise! But that may be the geek in my speaking.


After I handed this to my boss and he showed it to his boss, I earned myself a very expensive lunch at the Algonquin. When the opportunity that I left for fell apart before 9 o’clock the first Monday I started the new job, my old boss told me, “Screw it, come back! We’ll just rip off your resignation letter.”

Stupidly, I did not take him up on that offer, but when I started freelancing soon thereafter, I found myself taking contract jobs with him. We worked together on at least three startup projects after that.

Yes, my work ethic, and the results of my efforts while in his employ were contributing factors. But you cannot convince me that the “I WANT A DIVORCE!!!” resignation letter hurt.

Creativity isn’t always the right answer, I know that. And it isn’t 1990 anymore--when we were all younger and care free! Professionalism always wins, but you need to be able to know when a little pizzazz or levity can give you an edge and take it! Writing advice is well and good, but don’t ever allow step-by-step tutorials replace your personality if the position and company you are in allow for individuality.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It Hit The Fan

Isn’t it the case that the moment you are hit with tons of time, the desire to write goes out the proverbial window!

Of course, the situation is a little more complicated than that last sentence. In the absence of a day job, writing is relegated to a tidy corner of your mind as you are left to ponder your next move in life.

There is an excitement that propels you, but then there is also a bit of panic when the worst-case scenario plays out in your head and then you realize, “Ah the curse of being a writer!” 

That's right: a writer will imagine the worst possible outcome and all its alternatives in exponential horror!

The moment you recognize that your mind is still writing even when you are not, you smile and realize there’ll be another day to fight the good fight. (Just gotta remember to take notes because these details will be used in a story some day.)

The real value of being creative is that you see an end game when others get bogged down in minutiae.

This does not mean that writers are possessed of magic and can come out of vicissitude unscathed. It just means that we view the process in a rather unorthodox way and if we skin our knees in the process, more writing fodder for us!

Until things settle down, I’ll have to rearrange my attitude, my routine, my priorities… For now, I have uploaded the second editions of Because She Was A Woman and Justified at Smashwords.


Getting a day job is the top priority (although writing another short story, even a dark one is a close second). In the meantime, I must remember to take notes.

Far more challenging will be to stay alert and motivated, and use all the time before me productively.

Forward! 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Getting My Groove Back

The day job included some grunt work last week as well as working with invoices that translated to thousands of dollars and require monastic focus to make sure no details are missed when finalizing each step of the process.


Some people find the fact of a day job to the very description above a creativity killer. In my case, it’s a means to an end (it pays the rent, for the most part). Last week, it created an indirect funnel for creativity.

Work itself was not the inspiration, mind you. Being at work and having to adjust to both projects to complete them led me to the path of inspiration.

The grunt work required no intellectual capacity, it was automaton work. I can do that and do it like a robot! If you break it down something, a production line style, you can rely on muscle memory to move from step to step and create a rhythm – so that when you deviate from the rhythm, you can stop, back it up, and fix whatever went wrong.


How does this help creativity? It frees your brain to wander any fantastic realm it wants to inhabit.

Some would use this freedom (from reality and responsibilities) to push the envelope on repressed sexiness. Some would use the opportunity to imagine comebacks to situations they’d lost control of earlier in life. Some can fantasize about things they may not yet have found the courage to do in real life.


But to build these mindscapes in which to operate and manage these reveries, one must be in the right state of mind: It’s a studied meditation of sorts.

For me music sets the mood. It can relax you, it can evoke color, texture, flavor, and it can suggest so much more. To me music is tied to specific memories and emotions and these affect the stories and landscapes in which these stories exist.

Music may also suggest dance, and in turn also affect how the characters interact.


It was music that took me out of the mud and propelled me to write two stories last week.

They are unrelated short stories, and the first is awfully dark. Content is not the object, but that I was able to sit and knock out a couple of short stories.

The second is well-rounded; the first is a rough draft. Ultimately it’s the simple act of writing that, the facility of having words follow other words, sentences turn into paragraphs; characters speaking to others and dialogue flowing; things happening…

It was the creative kick, after weeks focused simply on getting well and getting back to normal.

There are only a couple of stories and there is no particular project plans for it. I wrote. The Muse hasn’t left me. (I need to get back into my RPG but that has been a little more challenging.)

Now, to create a routine until writing feels instinctual again. 

It was a song that got me started on Because She Was A WomanSo, let the music play! 


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What I Did This Summer

Sometimes I question my sanity.

Then, it is the nature of humanity to experience moments of uncertainty and to wonder if we have what it takes to endure.

But sometimes it is unclear whether I can attribute my reaction to things as strength or the fact that I am a sociopath. Okay, I know that's extreme! I am my worst critic, and besides I do have a conscience.

My concern is more about my emotional health.


I just told somebody I spent three weeks in the hospital and the abject horror in their eyes left me a little confused.

No, everything is okay,” I reassured them.

But it wasn't okay, was it?

I went into the emergency room, voluntarily (a rarity in itself). They admitted me because they were not sure what the hell was wrong with me. For a better part of two weeks my condition was a mystery!

There was a steady stream of specialists coming through my room, each trying to determine whether my malady was part of their collective font of knowledge. 

They poked me every day, bled me daily, they changed my diet three times, they X-rayed me, threw me into a CAT scan machine, then confined me to an MRI machine. And I lived in those hospital gowns that leave your butt exposed.


In the meantime, because I just started this new job, I was missing work and not getting paid at the same time as my insurance was about to end.

And yet, I had no nightmares. I cried exactly twice: the night I was admitted (because I had promised myself that I'd never spend another night in a hospital for as long as I lived); and at the 28-minute mark I found myself trapped in that damned MRI. 

In the first instance, I teared up and felt a great sadness and some fear; in the last, I broke down because even if you are not claustrophobic, the experience is likely to freak you out. It's loud, cold, restrictive, and alienating.

I either took it really, really well, or I am better at compartmentalization than even I suspected.

The only way I could manage was to focus on the immediate problem before me and only on whatever I could control.

You'd think that the potential for drama, comedy, tragedy, quirky behavior and bigger than life personalities would get the creative juices running. It's all there! People in pain, relieved, terrified, overjoyed, at their best, their worst, their most vulnerable...

I managed to read a book, which was about as much escapism as I could handle. My own creativity took a back seat. I am not sure that I will be able to look back at the experience without a jaundiced eye and extract story material.

I am not that strong. But I am good, physically. Mentally and emotionally, I kept it together because I have a stupendous support system and because I couldn't allow myself to fall apart. Other than that, I haven't given it much thought except to question my sanity.

Is there a mini-memoir in that? Probably. 


I haven't put it all in perspective, I've just kept moving through and past it. I'm also not quite ready to look terror in the eye so close to the metaphorical abyss--because the terror was in not knowing and now that we solved the mystery and fixed the problem, there's no emotional baggage to drag around. 

Beyond this, it seems especially important to preserve the privacy and dignity of those who went on the journey with me (some because they wanted to, others because their path traveled through shared roads).

I did take notes for myself, but that required more honesty than creativity. Are these mutually exclusive? I'm not sure, some days they are.

The question is whether I can get back to writing and other creative pursuits. My head isn't in it right now nor is my heart. I want to, but there are other priorities that call to me.

Big girl decisions need to be made and action must be taken.

And that is what I did this summer! And that is where I am headed!


Friday, July 4, 2014

SPOTLIGHT: Justified

Justified is a crime novel with a dark humor satire screaming to come out!


Purchase the e-book at http://amzn.to/1oyJtSP
and the paperback at http://bit.ly/KaliJustified

There is no mystery: we know what has happened from the very beginning, even if not all the characters share in this knowledge.

There is a crime committed, but as is the case in real life these days, the crime becomes secondary to the reality of media coverage. 

The truth becomes sound bites and the faces of the talking heads giving credence to the facts they want to assume are in evidence.

No crime in the 21st century is truly complete without a media tour and a spokesperson.

Justified offers all that plus a road trip that transports the freak show from Brooklyn, NY under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, to Los Angeles and then San Francisco, under the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Justified also offers a diverse cast of characters from the Colombian sexpot, to the angry African American lady, to the queer anti-hero and the Israeli commando with the faint Southern drawl… 

The book also savages two special cameos by media stars (both old and young), and how we treat crime stories differently on a generational level—but always in the interest of selling soap and bigger ratings.

Is morality dead or does it manifest differently to accommodate the ridiculous times we live in?

Race, religion, and politics all play a role in the story Justified tells, but it’s the characters that will stay with you: from the police detectives investigating the story, to the opportunist lawyer trying to cash in on the action, and especially Edmond Styles, the protagonist, who is a whole lot more than the quiet, aging civil servant everyone assumes him to be.

What makes this good summer reading? The scandal! 

The raw element of reality (as well as our own guilty pleasure and our part in the conspiracy as we follow the details, the blood trail, the facts that lead to the inevitable end). 

And it is an inevitable end, because at heart, Justified is a conventional story of the good triumphing over evil despite our basest instincts.

Sex, murder, violence, and objectionable language: it’s all there! The only thing missing is a car chase, but there is a scene in a crazy cab in San Francisco that fills in for it. 

More than that, Justified has heart, passion, and laughter. And in the end, you'll also learn what a manly haiku is all about.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Paperbacks are Here


These are the choices from Amapola Press to start your summer reading: a collection of vignettes of a dozen women taking the reins of their own destinies or the story of a queer man from humble beginnings to a life of civil servitude in Brooklyn, to a life of crime and a road trip and instant fame... Slices of life, rolling out of the pages and inviting you into a dozen different worlds, or one strange trip. Short stories or satire.

Of course, the Kindle version is also available at Amazon, but some people have a pathological need to lick a finger to flick a page and to dogear the corner of a page. Some people get a special satisfaction to carrying a small paperback with them to the beach or the pool or a lake... And their predilection for paper is okay.

In fact, if I could get myself doodling again, I was thinking of putting together a coloring book for the bored.