Saturday Night Date

I dressed up for my date tonight — a black top, funky skirt, vintage black cowboy boots, and shimmery lipstick. The Barbera is plummy and dense, yummy. My date is patient, forever waiting on me, ready when I’m ready, even when I’m not.

Yes, it’s Saturday night, and I’m on a date with my manuscript. We’ve been in a long-term, off-and-on again relationship since the year 2000. After the initial infatuation that turned into an all-consuming affair for over a year, we faltered. Frankly, I lost interest. I thought it wasn’t the one for me. Another manuscript came along, and I cheated. It was time to move on. Time to ditch the lost cause.

These many years later, I noticed myself feeling nostalgic. Was that the manuscript that got away? I decided to go into counseling with the manuscript; my readers have helped me tremendously. Sometimes, you just need a new perspective. And let’s be honest, it’s not the manuscript’s fault it didn’t meet my expectations.

Sometimes, as we all know, it’s about timing. The timing feels good now. I’m in a better place craft-wise, and now I get the manuscript. It may need a massive restructuring, it may still cause me woe, but I’m going to give it another go.

So, I’m here in this chic bistro with my wine, ready to iron out an issue that I didn’t know was brewing until my readers pointed out one of my manuscript’s many flaws. Don’t you hate it when your friends, with the best of intentions, only notice the weaknesses? Here you are, trying to love on a manuscript, and you’ve got these nay-sayers giving you grief. The problem is, when they’re right, they’re right.

So, manuscript and I, we’re going to have a little discussion. Sometimes wine helps.

Making a Wish

dandelionsMy March Madness c’est fini, kaput, done for, finished, outta-here, and this morning I wished on a dandelion: Please, no more months like that. I haven’t thrown so many tantrums and broken into so many tears since I was a teenager. I’m on a high learning curve — call it trial by fire — with this new day-job gig I’ve got going. It’s completely insane, in fact. At one point, I left a screaming vent message on a friend’s voicemail, and she laughed so hard she had to share it with her workmates. (I don’t vent often; I’m the quiet sort.)

It’s not that I’m not still working like crazy, but I decided to switch off my tendency to take ownership. This is NOT my project; I’m just a pion writer, and if others don’t know what they’re doing, it’s not up to ME to instruct them, especially since I barely know what I’m doing as it is. Right? Right.

Also, yesterday I went to brunch with a couple of writer friends. Elizabeth Engstrom and Nancy Boutin — actually, I was meeting her for the first time. I haven’t felt like a fictionista for many weeks and talking with them helped me clear my head.  In reality, I hardly spoke — I was still so exhausted — but I left feeling better anyhow. I’ve gotta remember that I’m working the other stuff to pay the bills, that’s all.

So now, I’m about to spend the afternoon with my neglected manuscript. This work feels like a soul-sigh.

While I Wasn’t Looking

Spring happened while I wasn’t looking. All of sudden daffodils are blooming and trees are frothing. I vaguely recall a check-out clerk lauding the first day of spring (finally! but when was that?) and a sign-up for spring softball/baseball sign-ups. Our days sprang forward and I’m still catching up.


Yesterday, a good friend sent me this note: You’ve been MIA. Everything okay with you? That was enough to stop me in my tracks for an internal check. Am I okay?

Sure, I’m okay, but I’m not thriving to go along with this season of blooms. I’ve been too busy and anxious throughout March. So, I thought I’d take a TIME OUT (yes, capped) to blog after my unintentional blog-pause.

1. Gray roots. I’m prematurely gray (since my early 20s, in fact) and my gray roots are an inch-and-a-half long at the moment. Those are the kind of roots I’d prefer not to see, especially when they’re practically yelling at me to stop with the crazy obsessiveness and pay attention to myself already.

2. Earning the moulah. Thought I had this handled, but then the project I’m on took a turn for the outrageous. I’m talking rolling deadlines and unanticipated extra requirements and, oh I don’t know. Not worth describing the details. I suppose I’m still getting used to this gig, is all, and the high-learning curve adds stress to any already hectic deadline schedule.

3. Finishing the manuscript. But maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have stressed out about the project if I hadn’t first obsessed about sending the completed manuscript to Nice Agent before the outrageous turn occured. (I knew it was due — the project is that schedule-ized.) So I worked night-and-day, even procrastinated the project by a few days, which meant that I then I had to switch over night-and-day for that, and I didn’t get the manuscript finished anyhow, and I was disappointed, and then I got so exhausted that I cried, threw a tantrum, and gave myself an almost-migraine earlier this week.

4. Submitting a short story. And then on top of it all, just to add to the grinding pressure, I’d so wanted to revise the bench short story, really shine it up, for a March 31st submission deadline. Hah! I say double Hah! to that. Yet, I tried to squeeze it in, and then other night I was awake at 3:00 a.m. with a Lisa-freak-out. So, no go with the story for now, and I’m disappointed yet again. I’d so wanted, longed, to submit a short story to an annual anthology called Voicecatcher, which is a local women writer’s community effort — to be part of a community, you know? Now I have to wait a year.

The upshot of all this, the reason I’m only “okay” is that I don’t feel like much of a fictionista right now — I let myself down in that department. I feel like a work-drone, is all. This will pass, I know, but you might be wondering why I haven’t blogged much. When I’m in happy-fiction-land, I tend to blog more often, it seems.


Just paused within my blogger TIME OUT to coat my gray roots with Preference dark brown hair dye. This is a step in the right direction, anyhow. Taking care of the small stuff leads to taking care of the big stuff. And, I’ll just feel better without my Cruella deVille gray streak.

One Manuscript, One Dog, One King-Sized Bed

Big enough bed for all of us
Big enough bed for all of us

Frankly, I’m delirious with exhaustion. I’ve set myself another one of those quick-reading goals during another one of my self-imposed writer’s retreats.

It’s not so much reading a 400-page manuscript in 48 hours that’s got me tired. It’s this task after multiple deadlines I had to complete before I took off. I get that way sometimes, where I gotta clear the decks. So, over the past week, I completed the current revision (goes without saying since I’m here reading it), dealt with my taxes (yikes), met a day-job deadline (hefty), and wrote the short story I mentioned in my last post (compulsive purge).

Trellis wishing for its greenery
Trellis wishing for its greenery



I’m not going to pat myself on the back until I finish this quick-read. One-hundred-fifty more pages to go before I leave this sweet little hotel room tomorrow. And then? Pleasure reading and sleeping and nothing else for a solid 24 hours! I have a light novel waiting for me. The latest Candace Bushnell, whom I’ve never read before. I already can’t wait.

This time around, I’m not splurging on a plush ocean-front view. However, I am lodged on the grounds of a pet-friendly botanical garden called The Oregon Garden. The Oregon Garden Resort opened in October, and it’s so fresh the breeze smells fragrant as a horse stable — all that manure and spring planting. Mmm, I love that smell. It comforts me, reminding me of the horsey girl I once was.

Luna's probably nibbling a little manure back there
Luna's probably nibbling a little manure back there

It’s quiet up here in the foothills, in the middle of nowhere. The Oregon Garden is a tourist attraction that never took off, so I suspect. That’s why this resort now exists with its great package deals. Last night I snuck into the gardens after dark. Frogs and gurgles and weird rustlings accompanied Luna and me. A misty half-moon gave scant light, and I bumbled around with a scaredy-cat thrilled rush, imagining bogeymen, while my dog stopped every ten feet to sniff at doggy delicacies.

But tonight, it’s all work, no play.

And how is the manuscript this time around? Better, much better! Last November, in the ocean-front room, I was mired down with uncooperative story threads. Also, possible new scenes, flow issues, and so on.

First arrivals
First arrivals

This time, I’m hiccuping on smaller stuff like awkward sentences and overused words/phrases. I’m amazed, actually. My story is growing up!

I’m an efficient quick-reader by now, and I’ve created a convenient shorthand. Underlining means come back to this sentence or paragraph because something ain’t right. “WW” means “wrong word,” as in: Is this the best I could do? Or, as in: You’ve already overused this word; get a new one. “Segue” means crappy transition or jumpy thought.

I’ll be up late tonight pushing this exhaustion to the max. But so worth it!

Hello, Other Manuscript

snowday3Today, still snowy, and I’m officially back to where I was before November 21st. Writing-wise, I mean. You may remember that during the first half of November I took myself off for a writing retreat to work on a manuscript. I’d planned to send the new project to my agent by the end of November. I was in a good mood, hopeful even.


That was before my agent flew the coop and became Erstwhile Agent (EA). That was before I fell further into a slump because of my dire financial situation (which hasn’t changed, by the way; I’m just used to it now).

Last week I sent Nice Agent (NA), the one who inherited me from EA, the manuscript I’d worked on with EA. I’d spent a few weeks going over said manuscript. Did I mention that I found out EA had no editorial experience? Did I mention that I’d made plenty of changes to said manuscript per EA’s suggestions?

Enough said. I’m happy that NA is willing to read said manuscript. I’m hoping NA likes my writing enough to want to work with me even if nothing can be done with said manuscript because of the rejections it has already racked up.

It’s been a downer three weeks and now I’m staring at the other manuscript, the one from before bummer-dom. I’m not as motivated to revise it, I suppose because part of me wants to wait on a reply from NA regarding said manuscript.

manuscriptHowever, bunk to that. I’m going to work on the other manuscript anyhow. See here? See all these notes I made on the pages while doing the quick-read last month? I’ve got work to do, agent or no!

Like I said, work-wise I’m back to where I was a month ago. Feels surreal, like I lost a chunk of my life. I’ve bobbed back to the surface to continue on like the trooper I am. But not like nothing’s happened, unfortunately. My energy level is definitely at low ebb.

But, just gotta keep working so that’s what I’m going to do. We’ve all been there, right?

I’ve still got that quote up on my wall, the one from Thomas Jefferson about creating luck through hard work.

Free-For-All Friday

(What is this? My very own meme, which could take the form of other Friday memes out there — random five or ‘fessing up — or non-Friday memes, or anything! Point being to have a little fun and get a little interactive. Feel free to snitch my logo at left and do your Friday thing!)


cannonbeach8Today’s a question-for-you day because I’m feeling thoughtful:

What arouses your serene melancholia?

I describe this as a longing, or yearning, that’s unspecific, that feels like it’s one of the mysteries at humanity’s core. It’s a sweet sadness for no reason. It’s serene because it doesn’t require an answer.

Does this make sense? (It might be that I’m a melancholic personality, I don’t know.)

cannonbeach9In any case, the reason I pose the question is because walking into winds on misty beaches arouses my serene melancholia. (Took these photos the first day — before the mist and wind arrived.)

It’s something about the way my eardrums throb with the cold.

It’s something about the way my ears turn into echoing seashells.

It’s something about the way the wind almost drowns out the sound of waves.




cannonbeach10Now, one more dose of serene melancholia before I return to Portland, where the last 30 pages of manuscript quick-reading await me. Didn’t quite reach my goal for this retreat, but that’s okay.



And one last thought. Saw the following written in sand. “Isaiah 53:5.” It got the storyteller in me wondering why. Nearby, the same person (Robert?) had written “Robert + Kate.”


What do you suppose these lovers on their romantic stroll (because it was a glorious twilight) were talking about? Isaiah 53:5 says,

     But he was pierced for our trangressions,
        he was crushed for our iniquities;
        the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
        and by his wounds we are healed.

I don’t know the Bible, and I’m not religious. This quotation doesn’t inspire serene melancholia, only uneasiness. However, that said, in pondering Isaiah 53:5, perhaps Robert and Kate felt their own kind of serenity.

Quick-Reading the Manuscript

Here’s my improvised workspace, and I’m not letting housekeeping in! I pulled out the sofa so I can watch and hear the Pacific. I like to spread my manuscript around, as you can see. You might also say that I’m playing a mind-game with myself, because if I’m reading in bed, then I’m not really working, am I?


This thing I’m doing with my manuscript — I realized today that it’s part of my official “process.” Not that I have an official process, but still, I find myself doing it with every project. (And I always go on retreat, too; otherwise it won’t get done.)

I don’t think I’ve said exactly what I’m doing. It’s simple really: Reading the hard copy in a few days. The quick, big-picture read. I find this incredibly helpful.

Why is this helpful? For example, I’ve already noted internal logic flaws and other inconsistencies that I didn’t notice during the slow-paced revisions. Let’s face it, we lose track of the big picture, right? I can track the rules of my fictional universe when I read fast. I’ve managed to cut many an extraneous yet beautifully written (hehe) passage because they don’t fit anymore.

Also, painfully obvious now: All the squinting of eyes, cocking of heads, and raising of eyebrows. I’ve got the twitchiest cast of characters around. I’ve prescribed fictional Prozac: cut cut cut!

Not to mention the babies that I’ve kept since the first draft, mainly because they’re so familiar I took their existence for granted. Have you done that, read through sections without being aware of them anymore? They’re just there, innocuous as dust in the corners, until you finally realize they’re throwing off your internal logic or character consistency.

cannonbeach7It’s fun, but the challenge is staying big. I’m behind schedule with the reading (and leaving tomorrow!) because I keep getting caught up in the details. I’ll find myself line-editing and obsessing and analyzing — trying to fix the flaws I come upon instead of noting them and moving on. 

I’ve come up with many convenient words to stop myself from getting bogged down. The manuscript is littered with notations like “fix” and “clarity” and “awk” (for awkward) and “sensical?” and “transition” and “needs more.”

Does anyone else do the quick-read? Do you find it helpful? How so?

I’ve been getting my dog-walks in though. Always try to get them in between rain spurts.

Back to work!

The Manuscript Says “Hi”

cannonbeach5The manuscript, nicknamed “Red,” is loving the coast and this lodge. The view is wonderful. That’s Haystack Rock.

But, frankly, Red doesn’t want to be worked on yet. It’s tired and sore after the marathon revision its mistress of verbal torture put it through. It would rather cozy into a robe…


cannonbeach3and uncork the Australian Cabernet, or maybe read awhile before napping.






cannonbeach4Red thinks the welcome doggy basket is too cute and wishes it had gotten one. However, there are 24/7 cookies down in the lobby, hopefully chocolate chip, so it can’t complain.





Oh yeah, Luna says “hi” too. This place is so cool the dog-poop bags are scented!

Today’s Writing Task

I’m happy to announce that today’s writing task consists of printing out my manuscript. Yes, I finished my revision and now get to take off to the Oregon coast as I promised myself! I leave tomorrow. I can already feel myself decompressing…

Amendment: I finished this round of revisions, which was the big round, the I-haven’t-read-this-thing-in-years-yee-gads-what-a-mess round. Sitting before me is a 14-point memo-to-self that lists further revision possibilities. But only 14 points! That’s pretty good.

I’d been thinking about this project for eons but avoided going back to it in favor of writing new novels. But the notion of it — that it might be viable — bothered me. This was my “practice novel”, my first baby, and it’s finally grown up! Okay, maybe not grown up yet. It needs a few more rounds with me before I’ll send it off to the publishing battlefield.

Speaking of which, I wonder if my agent will like it…Stop! I must not obsess — but the thing is that this story is quite different from the one that led her to take me on as a client — STOP. When the time comes, I’ll wave bye-bye and be glad.

All this said, I have quite the to-do list (besides printing). Are you weird like me — before leaving town must you, like me, catch up on everything you’ve let slide?

1. Clean home — it’s a disaster area and might take all day.

2. Do laundry — I’ve been living in dirty sweats.

3. See to dog — she’s a mess too, and I don’t want her scooching her behind all over the lodge’s carpet. So anal expressing, bath, and nail clipping for her. (Crappy day for her.)

4. See to me — unlike Charlotte over at Charlotte’s Web, who’s secure enough to let her premature grays grow out, I’m not. I must see to my roots. I’ll let you in on a secret: I have one Cruella DeVille streak that’s kinda cool, but it must go.

5. Go to library — overdue books galore!

6. Drop off voting ballot at library — of course left this to the last minute.

7. See to finances/pay bills — don’t know where I am with my bank account and have a feeling the bottom line won’t be good.

I’M SAD | My Manuscript Didn’t Find a Home

When I received the message from my agent last night, I knew I wouldn’t be in for good news this morning. She wanted to touch base to let me know where we are with submissions.

Where are we? Nowhere. Thirty seven — count them, three tens and a seven — editor rejections. My agent has come to the end of her efforts with this novel. And I can now add 37 more rejections to the long list I’ve racked up.

This is irrational (what else would I be at this point?), but I feel like I have to start from scratch now, that the past decade’s worth of work meant nothing, that I have to re-think my way of writing novels. Or something. I know this is a lot of baloney, but this is how I feel.

Worse yet, I feel like the past year’s work on the current first draft has been a huge waste of time. I feel like since the editors didn’t vibe with the previous novel (even though they agree that I can write), they won’t like this one either because it’s the same style with similar themes, pacing, and etcetera etcetera etcetera blah blah blah fooey.

Frankly, I’m disappointed by the editors’ short-sightedness. So my novel doesn’t fit all the formulas, so what?

I’ll get up tomorrow; I’ll write; I’ll finish the current first draft even if it feels like a waste of time, because it will bug me if I don’t, and I’m just about done anyhow. Then, I’ll read through a previous novel that’s been sitting around in revised form for years, and I’ll send it to my agent because she’s still my agent, after all, and she’s interested in reading whatever I have to send her.

I like my agent, that much I can say. I’m not pleased with editors at the moment, but I like my agent.

But still…I feel like I’m starting from ground zero and it will be a few days before that bummeriness (not a word, I know, but I don’t care) filters out of my system. Oh, I don’t know. I’m rambling, and I’m not going to edit this post for coherency like I usually do. My manuscript deserves publication, and that’s my final word on the matter, full stop.

Now I’ll have dessert for dinner, watch some asinine show on the telly, and read until as late as I like.