Monday, November 30, 2009

Being a writer, thirty minutes at a time

Thanksgiving break, a time for family, feasting, celebrating, and fighting for every writing second you can grab.

You bring your journal with you into the bathroom and lock the door, ignoring the knocks from your kids who ask, "What are you doing in there, Mommy?" You stay up past midnight revising your novel, even though you're so tired you keep erasing and rewriting the same sentence over and over. You prop your lap top on the edge of the steering wheel while you sit in the parking lot of the grocery store before you head inside to buy turkey and eggs.

Or is that just me?

During the holidays, I long for quiet time to write. The frenzy of food and family makes me crazy. Don't get me wrong, I love my family and have fun hanging out with my daughter reading books and going for walks. But day after day of activity, interruption, and conversation wears me down. I need time to recharge, be creative, write... things that are almost impossible to find time for during the holidays.

Time is extremely precious. Although I live for those rare days when I can luxuriate in two or three hours of writing time, I've had to learn to be productive in thirty minute spurts. It may not feel like much, but I've learned that it is possible to write a full length novel, or a play in two acts, in only thirty minutes at a time. And I no longer feel cheated. Just writing a few pages is progress.

Blogging has taught me a great deal about staying focused and managing my time. I've now written 300 posts just by sitting down for thirty minutes and typing it out. Then I go back and revise the post a few minutes at a time throughout the day until it's done. I do this three times a week on average, sometimes less when my time is needed elsewhere, but I don't let a week pass without at least writing a blog post for each of my blogs.

We dream of being writers, of spending all day, every day, working on our novels in our peaceful writing retreat with a view of the sea, only taking tea breaks or a short walk around the neighborhood to revive our tired minds. All the bills are paid, the children are happy, the house is clean, and we no longer have day jobs. Our entire life is focused on writing. What joy!

I know several successful, published writers and none of them live that life. They still have day jobs and they still cram all their writing into a few hours, mostly on weekends.

Don't let the dream of being a writer stop you from writing. You could spend your whole life waiting for "the time to write." If all you have is 30 minutes a day at your kitchen table before you have to get the kids ready for school, that's still enough time for writing. Thirty minutes, day after day, for month after month, can equal a novel, or several short stories, or 300 blog posts.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New CD from anthology contributing band, Right Arm of Wyoming

All kinds of people contributed to the anthology: gay, straight, conservative and liberal.

Writer Michael W Dean's band, Right Arm of Wyoming, has just released a new CD, which they call

"libertarian, gun-nut punk rock"

The CD is called "Cling to our guns." Out now, and available to order from Libertarian

And check out Michael's essay in the punk anthology, "Punk Rock Saved my Ass," launching Jan 2010, from Medusa's Muse.

Friday, November 27, 2009

On Vacation. Back to the blog soon

My muse and I are enjoying a break from running the press and editing manuscripts. Am currently eating leftover Thanksgiving pie and playing with my daughter. Will return next week.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Is there anybody out there? Yes, as a matter of fact, there is.

Thinking about what I should write for my 300th blog post gave me a case of bad writer's block. I've been staring at this blog since Thursday, fingers hovering above my keyboard, thinking, "300th post. Better write something good to celebrate." Something good... uh oh...

Then Heidi, a friend of mine on the Medusa's Muse Facebook fan page (see side bar) suggested I write about the way time relates to writing. "How much time it took you to write all those posts that you weren't using for something else and to realize that all that time adds up even if it feels like you are always struggling to find time to write"

This is one of the reasons blogging and social networking appeals to me. Here I am, sitting at my desk all alone, trying hard to think of something to write that will entertain and inform, my muse a.w.o.l. (Johnny Depp won the People magazine "sexiest man alive" contest, so I think she went to France to verify that he is indeed THE sexiest man alive), when suddenly a woman who joined the Medusa's Muse fan club responds to my question "What should I write?" Just like that, I am no longer alone in my creative pursuits. My audience is immediate, the feedback instantaneous. There's a connection between me and my ramblings and there's a real woman from Oregon who reads those ramblings. It doesn't matter if 4 people or 40 read my work, just the knowledge that SOMEONE is reading encourages me to keep on writing.

That's what keeping this blog and putting time into social networking has given me: the proof that I no longer write in a vacuum. Writing is so lonely, no wonder writers put rocks in their pockets and take a walk into a river. We write thousands of pages, much of which will never be read (and probably shouldn't), all in the hope that someone, somewhere might want to read them some day. I am not famous or well read by internet standards (I typically have 22 "readers," far below the thousands that other writers get), but that doesn't really matter. What does matter is that I write, and if having a small audience encourages me to keep writing, then social networking and blogging have done their jobs.

Of course, spending too much time networking can take away from my writing, so there has to be a balance. I could spend all day reading Twitter updates, but what is the point of that? Does any of it encourage me to write? I do enjoy the comments and the links people post and I try to respond and share good information as well, but the goal is that I am encouraged to keep writing (and perhaps sell a few Medusa's Muse books along the way).

Blogging has trained me to be a focused writer. I write two or three posts each week on numerous topics, sometimes imaginative and other times purely informative, and while I write these posts I ask, "So what?" Why would anyone want to read this? What am I giving my readers? This is a tough question every writer has to ask about their work. No matter how much you love the prose, is the work giving something to the reader? Or is the writing just about you? I can self indulge just like any writer and sometimes I write a self-absorbed post just because I can. But ultimately, I try to give something of value to my readers.

Thank you everyone for encouraging me to continue writing, blogging, and ruminating. I will continue to do my best to provide interesting and helpful pieces in the next 100 posts.

And next time, I'll write what Heidi suggested.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blog Post 299

My Muse is grinning. "Do you know that you've almost reached 300 posts on your blog?"

"Really?" I look at my list of posts on Blogger and see the total is up to 298. "Wow. How did that happen?"

"Well done. You should be proud."

I shrug. "It's only a blog. It's not like I sold 298 books, or wrote 298 stories."

"Just a blog?" My muse crosses her arms. "It's more than just a blog. And what is wrong with writing a blog? It's still writing, you know."

"Yes, I know, but..."

"No buts. Are you writing?"


"Do people read your writing?"

"Yes. Although not as many as I had hoped."

"But do you have readers?"


"And how often do you update your blog?"

"I try for every two or three days."

"Then not only are you writing work that people are reading, but you write on a regular basis. I'm proud of you."

I look at my blog which is open on my screen. "I hadn't thought of it that way. I mean, I started this blog to promote my writing and then my press. It's a marketing tool. I didn't think how it's a form of writing all on it's own."

"You should add blogger to your moniker, right between publisher and playwright."

I smile. "I have two blogs, you know."

"Of course I know. I helped you start them both." My muse leans against my desk and studies my blog page. "What are you going to do to celebrate 300 posts?"

"I don't know. I didn't even realize I'd almost reached 300."

"You should have a virtual party. Invite everyone to stop by and write me a note."


My muse smiles. "Of course me. Who do you think got you to 300 posts?"

What do you think, everyone? How should I celebrate 300 posts?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ultra Marathon Library guest post challenge

Here's an interesting idea.

Josh Hanagarne of The World's Strongest Librarian wrote about his experience as a guest blogger. Feeling that he had fallen into a writing slump, he challenged himself to find 60 blogs where he could be a guest. The blog host chose the topic.

The response was overwhelming, and crazy making. Read this post to see how he dealt with the onslaught of requests and how the experiment helped his writing.

Could you write 80 different blog posts?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Marketing my Book more Effectively Challenge: Ezine Articles

The best way to market a how-to book like What You Need to Know to be a Pro is to build your credibility as an expert. The best way to do that is to attend conferences and give workshops on your chosen subject, using your book as your "calling card." Seeing as traveling and attending conferences is impossible right now, and teaching workshops is almost as difficult, I am using the internet to build my expert cred. That's why I've begun posting work on Ezine Articles.

I chose Ezine Articles because the site has popped up several times when I've done a Google search on a topic: any topic. Most recently an Ezine Articles essay showed up when I was hunting for a definition of a word related to book design. The articles have been well written and there's a strict vetting process that chooses articles for the site. Not just anyone can write a how-to and get it on Ezine Articles, at least not that I've seen so far.

So I signed up as a member and submitted my article, 20 things to do before you self publish. Happily it was accepted and is now available to read at the previous link. I plan to post more articles on Ezine Articles to try and build a strong, expert presence on the web.

I am also a guest blogger on Authors Promoting Authors, where I posted my essay on rejection. Follow the link to read my post, and please leave a comment to let me know you stopped by.

None of these are paid writing gigs, but for my needs, that's okay. I'm not looking to sell articles; I want to spread the word about What You Need to Know to be a Pro and Medusa's Muse, and hopefully help a few people who want to start their own press.

Where else can I submit articles, and perhaps guest blog?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ode to my Mac Air

A poem to my Mac Book Air, returned from the shop. Oh how I missed you!

Oh lovely machine that you are,
returned to me from afar,
humming strong and gleaming bright,
too long kept beyond my sight.

Who can resist your metallic gleam,
you light as air, fast, thin machine?
I write my worst (as you can see)
but your long battery life sets me free.

Am I insane to love you so?
You are such a joy to know,
but you are just my writing tool
and adoring you makes me a fool.

I don't care! I love you, Mac Air.
No other lap top can compare.
I let the words come pouring out.
Although my Muse has begun to shout


(And now you know exactly why I will never call myself a poet.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Being forced to be creative outside of your comfort zone is difficult. Without my laptop, I feel that I am trying to juggle five balls with one hand tied behind my back. My creative productivity has plummeted.

I am obviously too dependent on creating words on my laptop.

And that is why, two nights ago, my Muse handed me a stack of magazines and said, "Remember that dream you had two weeks ago? The one with the little girl and the stream and the large rock you waded out to."

"There were dragonflies flying all over."

"Yes. That's the one. I want you to create that with these." She tapped the stack of fashion magazines in my arms.

The magazines had been collecting in my living room over the last year until they were a large stack of dusty, glossy pages needing to be tossed in recycling. I don't typically buy them, but on occasion a particular article or cover will attract me and I'll spend an hour salivating over beautiful clothes and images, imagining what it must be like to wear Channel while sipping champagne at Cannes.

I dropped the stack on my desk. "I'm not a visual artist."

My muse rolled her eyes. "Don't limit yourself. That's the death of art." She opened the top right drawer of my desk and pulled out a pair of scissors and masking tape. "Go get that sketch pad out of the pantry."

I did as I was told, not wanting to piss off my muse any more than absolutely necessary. When she's made up her mind I'm supposed to do something, she won't let me sleep until it's done.

She was already going through one of the Vogues, pulling out photos of water and rocks. Nodding at the stack she said, "Pick a magazine."

I sighed, sat in my chair, and opened Vanity Fair. This is such a waste of time, I thought. I should be working on my novel, or finishing the synopsis of my play, or sending queries for my article, not pulling pictures out of magazines to make a collage no one will ever see.

A strange thing happened as the hour passed; the images absorbed me. I didn't look at the words, although a few phrases did catch my attention, such as "you are the dream." Pictures became the language. After I had several different images of water ( deep blue, fast moving, ocean waves, green algaed lake, tranquil stream, clear flowing from a faucet, reflecting moonlight), I began arranging them on a large, blank paper.

My muse found a black and white picture of a little girl wearing a tutu with a plastic sword strapped to her waist. "This is you!"

I laughed. "I love it."

Carefully trimming the little girl out of the background, I felt the dream become tangible on the paper. It isn't exactly how it looked, but all of the images recreated the feel of the moment in my dream when I stood on a rock and looked across the river at me as a little girl watching the dragon flies dance in the sky. The images told the story far better than any words I could come up with.

In our constant rush to produce literature, we writers tend to forget how to play. There is so little time to write it seems, every second is precious and must not be wasted. I can still write in my journal and on scratch paper, but my productive writing is all on my laptop. What if you were forced to stop writing for a while? What if your muse demanded you take a break and be non-verbal instead? Could you do it? What would you create without words?

Monday, November 09, 2009

My Author Page

Here is my author page on A basic, no frills page, with my picture, bio, and link to my book. There's also a section for discussions, and I'm currently setting up a feed from my blog to show posts on the Amazon site. I'll let you know if I run into any problems.

Right now I am steadily selling 2-3 copies a month of What You Need to Know to Be a Pro. Laura's book, Traveling Blind, continues to sell very well after two years in print and is ranked at 232,058, up from the 700,000's this summer. I have no idea what that number means exactly (no one really does), but the smaller the number the better the sales. In small press circles, Laura's memoir is a best seller with almost 1000 copies sold (4 copies sold in the UK).

I hope to increase Amazon sales of What You Need to Know to Be a Pro to at least 10 copies per month within 6 months. I know, not a lot of copies per month, but the book is for a specific niche audience (people wanting to start their own press), so I don't expect hundreds of copies sold each month. If this was a work of fiction, I would double my efforts to get those numbers up to 50 copies per month and slowly increase from there. Fiction has a potential audience of hundreds of thousands of people, but that also means the competition for those readers is intense.

Please stop by my amazon author page and tell me what you think.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Feeling inept without my Macbook

My Macbook Air was making an odd, straining, whirring noise, like the hard drive was protesting being worked so much. You'll have to force my clawed hands to scrape against these brick walls if you want another file written. My hubby took it to the Apple Store in Santa Rosa for repair and they're holding it hostage... I mean, storing it... until probably Tuesday when the part "should" come in.

There is a large blank spot on my desk now. My major writing tool is missing and I am forced to use the PC in the living room, which is where I do most of the business work for Medusa's Muse anyway, so it shouldn't be that big of a deal. But it is. I cannot work on my novel here. I can barely work on my blog. This is the desk where I do the bookkeeping and inventory for my press, not where I feel creative.

The tools we choose to help us create become a part of us. I am attached to the feel and sound of my keyboard as I type, the angle of the screen, the particular glare of the desk top as I work. I love how light my computer is, how portable and sturdy, how its shiny metallic surface gleams when the sun pours onto my desk in the late morning.

My Macbook air was a Christmas gift from my hubby last year and I'm saddened it already needs work; granted, it was a refurb (no way could we afford a new one). I'm also surprised at how attached I am to it, like it's a new car or my favorite pair of comfortable shoes. I don't usually get this attached to things, but I am in love with my Macbook, loving the furtive glances of laptop users as I whip out my ultralight in the cafe and don't even bother plugging it in. I can type for over three hours just on the battery. Yep, Dell laptop users, go ahead and sulk in jealousy.

To add insult to injury I've caught the flu. I can't lie in bed with my Macbook and surf the net or work on a short story. Nope, I'm forced to sit up at the PC Tower to work on my blog.

Perhaps this is revenge of the Dell laptop genie. I shouldn't have gloated so much.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Marketing My Book More Effectively Challenge -

The majority of the books sold by Medusa's Muse are sold via, so on day one of my marketing my book more effectively challenge, I focused there. I quickly discovered that Amazon is still the mysterious, controlling behemoth it appeared to be when I first started publishing books two years ago. I couldn't find a how-to or any kind of guide, so I updated my profile by trial and error.

After signing in, I clicked on "Terena's," then selected my profile. I uploaded a photo of me from the the What You Need to Know to be a Pro photo shoot, one of the top three we debated to be on the cover of the book, but wasn't the one we chose. I updated my bio and interests, added a list of favorites, and wrote a couple of reviews. but then I realized that although updating my profile was good to do, none of the information was appearing on my book page. Why am I spending all this time updating a profile that is basically there just to show off my reviews?

I noticed on Pete Masterson's page (I reviewed his book, Book Production and Design, which is fabulous, btw) there was a link to an Author Page. His was blank, so I went to my friend Jody Gerhman's Amazon page for her novel, Tart (also a fabulous book) and clicked on her Author Page. Scrolling down her page I found the link to make my own author page.

The process was quick and easy, but it takes up to 7 days for the profile to be "verified," so I can't post the link to my author profile yet. When it's finished, I'll let you know. This is a beta feature, which means it's new and may still have some kinks, so I'll also let you know how the feature is working and what problems I run into. One problem I found was that Amazon wouldn't let me use the word "ass" in my bio. Instead, I had to write the title of the punk book as "Punk Rock Saved my A**." I wonder how much of an issue it will be when the book launches.

Lastly, I contacted Amazon to upload text for the "search inside" feature, and requested more information about allowing my books to become Kindle books. We'll see how that process goes.

The next phase of the marketing on Amazon challenge is to post reviews of every single book I listed in the resource guide of What You Need to Know to be a Pro as well as the publishers/writers who provided advice in the book. This could take a while, and I already sacrificed writing time for navigating Amazon. But as my muse said, why did I publish my book if I didn't plan on selling any copies?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A middle-aged Emily the Strange

This Halloween I had class, so my husband Rick decided to join me in San Fran while my daughter's bio dad stayed with her at home. They went trick-or-treating and had a nice, long visit, which was good because she doesn't get to see him often. Rick rode the motorcycle down to The City which meant we could tool around on Halloween on the bike, rather than fighting for parking with the mini-van.

After class on Halloween, Rick and I went out to dinner then returned to our friend's apartment so I could put on my costume. I decided to be Emily the Strange, one of my favorite characters. When I was 12 I was just as dark and sullen, so I have a soft spot for that nihilistic child. With a long black wig, darkened eyebrows I shaped downwards to give me that angry-child look, and black lipstick, I embraced my inner goth-girl. Unfortunately all that black made me look as haggard and sleep-deprived as I feel. Whatever. I pulled on my Doc Martins and my "seeing is disbelieving" t-shirt and declared "I'm Emily the Strange at middle age."

We sped across town on the motorcycle under a moon that was just on the edge of full. Mist poured in from the ocean and I shivered a little in my black leather jacket. The sidewalks were filled with people dressed up in silly and seductive costumes, and the closer we got to Market street, the drunker the people seemed. I felt a rush of euphoria, a tingle of freedom. I was on the back of a motorcycle holding on to the man I loved in the city I loved and for one night I was free. No child to tend, no phone calls to make, no dishes to wash. I am Emily the Strange and the night is my friend.

A friend of ours is in a Sisters of Mercy tribute band called The Reptile House and that night they were playing at a bar called Annie's on Folsom street. We parked the bike and went to the door to pay the cover. $7.00, or $5.00 in costume. Cool. I handed him my $5.00 just as he said, "Seven."

"I thought it was five in costume."


"I'm in costume."

He looked me over closely, then recognized I was wearing a wig. "Okay, five."

When I walked into the bar I realized dressing up like an iconic goth chick wasn't exactly a great costume to wear to a punk bar on goth night. As I looked around I saw many people dressed in black with long black hair and black lipstick, only they weren't in costume. This was what they wear out, what I used to wear out before I was old enough to get into bars legally (but I managed to). I laughed. Rick said, "I told you."

Whatever. He bought me a saki (I LOVE Annie's because they serve saki) and we found our friend who was about to play drums in the first band, a tribute to Souxie and the Banshees. The lead singer had a bad cold so sounded terrible but had good energy, and the musicians were great. Dancing in the front row, I sipped my little bottle of saki and fell into the music. I have never outgrown my love for goth music and I felt that euphoric rush of freedom again.

That feeling was quickly followed by the stupefying realization that I'm getting old. This was the first time I'd been to a tribute show for a band I listened to when I was young and the understanding that I was that goth girl 20 years ago was stunning. It's all going too fast; I'm not ready to be middle aged. I just figured out who I am and what is important to me and it's too late to go back and start again. Can I please have a little more time?

More friends arrived, both parents who'd also managed to take the night off from kid duty. We drank and chatted and listened to the music and slowly my blues faded (I'd been channeling Emily the Strange a bit too much, I think). When The Reptile House started, I stood in the front row and danced every vestige of sadness away. The euphoria returned as I sang along to the songs I knew and felt my inner goth girl stir in remembrance. I may be older now, but that girl I used to be is still a part of me. She just needs to come out and play now and then.

My husband and I managed to stay almost to last call, then we hopped back on the bike and sped away through the nighttime streets of San Francisco. I held on tight and let him drive, not worrying about where we were or what we should be doing. Rarely do I have a moment where I'm not in control of something, so those moments on the back of his motorcycle were liberating. He's a good driver and I trusted him to get us home. I relaxed and watched the city zip by.