Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Banned Books Week

Celebrate Banned Books Week this week by reading a great book like:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger

His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Any of the Harry Potter Books, by JK Rowling

In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak,

...or any other book on the banned book list.

Every year, during the last week of September, the American Library Association hosts events across the country celebrating free speech. Follow the above link for more information, including a map showing where books have been banned in the US. It's not just happening in the backwoods of some Southern State, people!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Delays in Google Books Settlement

The latest from the battle over Google Books.

From an article written by Tom Krazit, at CNET news:

When the Department of Justice made it clear last Friday that it could not support the settlement as written--which would give Google unique rights to scan out-of-print books still protected by copyright law--it said the parties were in talks to amend the settlement. In a joint brief (click for PDF), lawyers the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and others asked Judge Denny Chin to delay a hearing on whether to approve the settlement while the parties work out the new terms of the settlement with the DOJ.

"Because the parties, after consultation with the DOJ, have determined that the Settlement Agreement that was approved preliminarily in November 2008 will be amended, plaintiffs respectfully submit that the Fairness Hearing should not be held, as scheduled, on October 7," the plaintiffs in the case said in a briefing. They said Google had given them permission to indicate that the company was not opposed to the motion.

The Open Book Alliance, a group of companies and organizations opposed to the settlement, declared victory.

Follow the above link for the full article.

For some background info on the Google Books Settlement, see my 11/2008 blog post, Agreement Reached in Google Copyright Infringement Lawsuit.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Equinox turns me on

Summertime is not my creative friend. I feel stifled and listless the longer the sun shines each day and the hotter the temperature gets. By July, when the thermometer hovers at no less than 95 and the sun stays up until 9 pm, my ability to write prose vanishes. Even my dreams are vapid (I actually dreamed about doing dishes two nights in a row last week).

Now that equinox has come, I feel like my muse plugged my mind into a nuclear power plant. Suddenly I am flush with brilliant ideas, vivid dreams, and an eagerness to sit at my computer all day, writing. Plots are revealed in epic detail. Characters who were once wandering along the page aimlessly suddenly know exactly where they should be going. Words rush through my mind faster than I can write them down, and some of them are good. I am eager to create and resent everything that inhibits me from spending hours doing so.

This is purely psychological, because despite it now being Autumn, the temperature is 100. Summer obviously doesn't care what the calendar says because she refuses to go away without a fight. Or maybe I feel this way because there is less daylight. Instead of crawling into bed at 9:00, worn out and discouraged, I write for an hour. The darkness is soothing. It chases the heat away and tells the world to slow down. Be still. It's dreaming time.

Last night I started rewriting a short story I haven't touched in five years. It's a story concept I love which isn't working, but right now I feel like I've found a way to express what the character is trying to say. The story revolves around a wounded woman, Johnny Depp, and a rock garden. This time, she knows what to do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reacting to Criticism

I read this great post on copyblogger about dealing with criticism, written by Johnny B. Truant. Here's an excerpt:

One of the most interesting lessons I learned about blogging happened in the basement of a Swiss pub on Christmas Eve.

Back in 1999, my brother and I went to visit our sister in Switzerland. Somehow, we all ended up in this basement room at a pub in Interlaken with some locals. For some reason, the lights started going on and off, and I caught this look on my sister’s face. There had been some groping during one of the dark intervals.

I went up to the offender and said, “Hey. You’re going to need to keep your hands to yourself.”

And he, quite drunk, puffed up and stared into my eyes. He said, “What are you going to do about it, friend? You’re a long way from home.”

Find out what he did by following the above link, and see how this incident taught him skills to handle online critics.

Criticism can be hard to deal with, especially when people get personal and attack me, the writer. No longer are we discussing the pros and cons of my writing, suddenly I'm being forced into defending my honor. It makes me furious when people imply that I'm a moron or an airhead, or even worse. Come on people, can't you be a little creative, or intelligent, and criticize my opinions or writing skill, rather than whether I'm "too stupid to know what she's trying to say"?

What can I do? Fight back, or not respond at all? How do I handle rude or outright nasty critics on-line without getting into a tit-for-tat, "no you're the dummy," "no you're the dummy," argument?

Read Johnny B. Truant's post and get some great advice.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ode to Opium

My muse lounges on my bed, dressed in a tight, black Victorian corset, black silk bloomers, and stiletto heels. Her snake hair is piled high on her head like a Gibson girl, but she looks more like a porn star vampire than an Edwardian icon. "You know," she says, drawing on a cigarette held in a long ivory holder, "Your surgery would have been a lot more fun with Opium."

I shake my head and glare at her. "Sorry. Can't take the stuff."

"Why? What happens?"

"Makes my psychotic. I see things and hear voices."

"What's wrong with that?" She props herself up on her elbow to look at me. "Lewis Carrol heard lots of voices and he wrote a masterpiece."

"I don't write stories for children."

She grins. "Neither did he." Rolling over on her back she stares at the ceiling. After a moment, she recites, "The blissful cloud of summer-indolence benumb'd my eyes; my pulse grew less and less; Pain had no string, and pleasure's wreath no flower:O, why did ye not melt, and leave my sense unhaunted quite of all but-nothingness?"

"Ode on Indolence, by Keats," I say.

"Very good."

"I love the Romantics, but I don't understand their need, or any other artists need, for narcotics. Opium and alcohol, the writer's crutch. It's bullshit. They're too scared to create something on their own, instead relying on drugs to fuel their imaginations."

She laughs. "I'm kidding! I'm not suggesting you become a drug addict. I can't stand drug addicts, especially the artistic kind. Their own muses have abandoned them so they try to fill the artistic loss with hallucinations."

"They don't have muses?"

My muse sits up slowly, takes a long drag on her cigarette, and then looks at me with such sadness in her eyes I am stunned. "They used to have muses, but the drugs drove them away. The drugs become their muse. And perhaps they are able to create beautiful poetry and images, but they lose their soul with every word they write. If they stop taking the drugs, their muse will come back. But if they can't stop, they will never feel the touch of their muse again, and no other will take her place. They are forever alone." Looking at the cigarette in her hand, she shakes her head. "That's something the Romantics didn't learn until it was too late."

She rises and walks across the room to stand in front of me. We look at each other for a quiet moment until she smiles gently, sadness still showing in her green eyes. "Forget I ever mentioned opium. I'm glad you can't take codeine or morphine, and I'm glad you don't drink or fool with drugs. I like that you're so clean cut."

Then she grins and walks out of the room, her hips swinging as she sings "Goody two, goody two, goody, goody two shoes. Goody two, goody two, goody goody two shoes... Don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do...?"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dirty Dancing

I just finished watching Dirty Dancing for the thousandth time and cried through most of it. I can't believe Patrick Swayze is gone. He was only 57. It was too soon for him to go, too soon for him to stop dancing.

Another icon from my childhood has vanished: Micheal Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, John Hughes, and now Patrick Swayze. All of these people had a big influence on my life, but none more than Patrick Swayze. I saw Dirty Dancing five times in a week and a half when it was at the theater, all just to watch him leap off that stage. I wanted to dance, too.

That was the era of the dance movies: Flashdance, Fame, Dirty Dancing, Staying Alive... and I was an aspiring dancer. I once got in a argument with my step-father when I was 17 about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

"I'm going to be a dancer," I said.

"What the hell are you going to do dancing?"

The Solid Gold Dancers were on TV and I pointed at the television and said, "That."

My step-father burst out laughing, which only made me more determined.
"I can dance on TV, and in the movies."

He shook his head and walked away, mumbling about how I was out of my mind.

"You'll see!" I yelled.

I didn't factor in to my future plans that I'd never taken a dance class in my life (there weren't any classes in Kelseyville, where I grew up). But I was determined. Armed with how-to-do-ballet books and a subscription to Dance magazine, I practiced every move I saw, from the ending scene in Flashdance to the merengue in Dirty Dancing. Luckily I was a natural dancer and when I moved away to college my dream came true when I made it into the Humboldt State Dance troupe. I performed in several shows and even choreographed one. But I could never leap high enough or get my untrained legs to turn out enough. I was competing with students who'd been dancing since they were five years old, while I took my first class at age 19. I wasn't stupid. No amount of determination could make up for lack of training.

So I hung up my dancing shoes and focused on acting.

20 years later, I'm a mom and a writer. Funny how life turns out. But the thrill of dancing never went away. I studied belly dancing for a while and fell in love with ballroom dance. When I'm finished with grad school I have plans to take up Flamenco. And every time I hear the theme song from Fame or Flashdance I get a tingly, move my hips feeling. "What a feeling...Take your passion... And make it happen..."

Patrick Swayze did. He wasn't the greatest actor in town, but boy could that man move.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Well, that does it. There's no way we'll make the deadline now. I had surgery this week which put me on the couch for the past four days, unable to do much more than watch old movies and feel sorry for myself. The surgery was minor and is nothing to worry about, but the recovery is taking longer than I anticipated.

Do I hear laughing?

Okay, okay... I know I'm an unrealistic over-achiever. Yes I had surgery on Tuesday. Yes, that was only four days ago. And yes, I suppose it will take more than four days to heal. But lying on the couch wishing I could take stronger pain pills (I'm allergic to opiates so can't have anything good) is putting a dent in my Wonder Woman image.

My muse just laughs harder.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Sometimes DIY is no fun

We are so close to finishing the punk rock anthology. I keep saying that, but it's true. So very, very close. There's just one last minute essay being revised right now and three bios coming until the entire manuscript will be complete. We've been working on cover designs and choosing photographs and debating which font to use for the title. The date of the launch is looming and now I'm starting to worry we won't make it in time. Not from lack of effort, believe me. I've been pushing this book forward with every ounce of will power and fortitude for two years.

Unfortunately, I am powerless against the forces of time and money.

So is my muse.

"You worry too much," she says while cleaning something blue from one of her snake-strand's teeth.

"The scanner won't work so we can't finish the photos. I have no money to print books, and no time to finish this project. Our deadline is Halloween, but with no time or money, there is no way in hell we'll make it."

"So what?"

"What do you mean so what?"

My muse wipes her fingers delicately on a tissue. "So what if you don't make the deadline?"

"Then I let a lot of people down, especially the writers, many of who have been waiting for two years."

She tucks her snakes back into her hair wrap. "So? Do you really think they'll be so crushed they'll never write again?"

"I've been putting off book launch for a year. I'm tired of writing to them with excuses."

"Ah... so it's your pride that is stressing you out."

"Well yeah. A little. I want to be professional and constantly putting off a book's launch is not professional."

She laughs. "Terena, you're not a professional. You publish books out of your living room and will never make a profit. You are a mother and a graduate student, which means you are sleep deprived and broke. Face reality, sister. It's a wonder you get any books published."

I hate it when she's so blunt, especially when she's right.

"This is supposed to be fun, remember?" She smiles and winks.

Right. Fun. Publishing books is supposed to be fun.

This is supposed to be fun, god-damnit!