Moving the Show

In the next few days this blog will be moving over to WordPress. Google’s new privacy policy does not sit well with me and I feel it is in my best interest to mosey on. I’ll post the details and my new link in a bit, and then all of the posts here will go away. Please follow me over to WordPress, where we can pick up where we left off.I’m sorry to do this, and to possibly lose some of you great followers who’ve jumped on board these past several years. But, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

 Details soon, and then I’ll try and think of a fun new post for my new home.

 Damn, I knew I shouldn’t have played the whale card so soon.



That is all.

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Thoughts on Whales

About a week ago I promised Kate Sterling a post on why I’m terrified of whales. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, of how to approach the topic so I don’t sound like a loon. However, I don’t think it’s possible, so I figured I’d just go whole-loon–with drawings!

Whales are huge.
No, whales are bigger than huge. You look at a bull, an elephant, one of those stretch Hummer limos, and you go, “Wow, that’s huge” (and in one case, tacky). But, a whale is somekindamathpercentagetimes bigger than all of those. In fact, a blue whale could be my house.
Let’s look at this boring drawing of a blue whale compared to a human:
Now, let’s look at my super-scientific drawing of that same whale being my house:
As you can see, the entirety of my downstairs could fit inside a blue whale. If you stacked two blue whales on top of each other, they would be my house. I could install a nice stairway between the two, and it would be exactly like living in my house (except moist and fishy, which I am proud to say my house is not). Whales are THAT big, and they’re just down there, churning through the dark, all big and monster-like. You can’t see what they’re doing, what they’re about to do. They could be hanging around near the bottom one second, and then decide they’re feeling a little vitamin D deficient and barrel to the surface the next. I’m aware (despite my fang depiction) that they’re most likely not the next incarnation of Jaws 3–mindful killing machines with a fixed, personal interest in filtering me to death. What matters is that don’t matter. This size advantage is clearly the whale’s. It is just going to do what it’s trying to do, and if I’m in the way, too damn bad. The whale is not going to see me, and even if it does at the last second, that doesn’t mean it won’t accidentally hurt me. Hell, I step on my cats all the time, just because they’re small and have decided to hang out in a place I didn’t expect them to be.
Not a smart person

You never see a squirrel strolling along suddenly stop, stand slack-jawed and goggle-eyed, and say, “Oooh, Mary, look!  A human!” as you pop out of nowhere in their general vicinity. No. The squirrel collects Mary and hightails it up the nearest telephone pole. He knows to get out of the way because HUMANS ARE BIGGER. And when it looks like the ocean has grown a brand new mountain right in front of you, it’s probably time to get back on land.
So, no. I don’t think whales are going to eat me. I don’t think they’re plotting some sort of Avery-involved hostile takeover down in the deep. I don’t think they’re evil (again, despite the fangs I drew). I just don’t want this to be my last interaction:
And this completes the post on my wholly irrational terror of whales.

A New Year, and an Apocalypse to Look Forward to.

Happy 2012, everyone!

2011 will not be missed by many. It was a rough year, to say the least. But, it was my first full year as a published author, and my first year as a roller derby girl. So, even though the socioeconomic aspect was fairly sucktastic, I still have to chalk it up as one of my best years ever.

I have several writing projects in the works, one of which is super secret and involves branching into other genres–something that is both exciting and intimidating. I have a possible anthology inclusion, and a few collaboration projects hanging on the back burner. Along with the three novel projects that have been slowly coming to fruition–Junket City, Harmony, The Harrower, I unearthed a discarded manuscript and realized it was fairly good.  So, I’m adding, The House of Doors to the lineup. Look for Junket City to make its appearance first. For those of you who didn’t participate in its creation, it is the story of demon hunter EllaNon de Mortens who sells demon nodes to the addicted, yet socially uptight denizens of Junket City, and her struggle to save her beloved city from enslavement by a dimension-traveling impostor.

In roller derby I am again on the travel team. I’ve managed to skate twenty-nine laps in five minutes (I used to sweat doing twenty), and I’m no longer afraid to put on either the jammer or pivot panty. This season we face some new opponents, including Charm City’s Female Trouble, and our travels will even take us to Puerto Rico. All I need for that last one to happen is to man up and get my tail on a plane. Yep, yours truly is not a fan of (the notion of) flying. I have been on a medivac helicopter, but no one asked me if I wanted to do it, and there wasn’t much I could do at the time to stop it. Other than that, I have never been in the air. My reasons for not doing so could encompass an entire post altogether, so I’ll just keep it at that.

Everything seems poised to stream in the right direction for the next twelve months. I just need a little luck, a little more perseverance, and for the apocalypse to hold off for another few years. If all of that can come together, I think 2012 should be pretty damn cool.

One of my “projects” also includes getting back to weekly posts. Maybe next week I’ll tell you why I don’t like flying, and maybe even why whales scare the crap out of me.

Until then, have a happy New Year’s Day.

Catching Up

It seems the past few months have been a race between time and me, with me struggling along in the back, trying to catch up to all of the things I need to do. This month marks a year since I joined SRG, and what I’ve learned, more than anything, is joining a roller derby league is not a trivial affair.  It’s not a drop in the bucket list, or the filler of an empty space on a college application.  Roller derby is a living, breathing monster.

And it will swallow you whole.

Once devoured by the monster, there are just two options: be spit back out, or settle down inside with thirty other ladies for a long, slow, glorious digestion. The first moment I laced up and stepped onto the track I chose digestion.  I practice for two hours, three nights a week.  At least one of those ends with someone offering to run out and grab a beer.  There are fundraisers, league meetings, committee meetings, and committee obligations.  There are gatherings, parties, and get-togethers almost every weekend.  With so many young women on the league, something is always going on.

I’m an all-or-nothing sort.  I don’t half-ass things, never have.  If I commit, I put my heart into it.  If I can’t commit, I don’t try to just squeak by with a marginal approximation, I simply don’t do it.  And that is why this blog has been such a wasteland the past few months.  I committed to roller derby, found amazing fulfillment in it, and let, well, pretty much everything else slack. There were other factors going on with my writing, ones I will not bore you with.  As many of you are writers you probably have experienced each of my extenuating circumstances, and I wouldn’t be sharing anything new, anyway. Whatever the root cause, my obsession with roller derby provided an excellent excuse for not dealing with the blinding white screen.

Sunday closes our official season–our team’s first. I started out having not skated in twenty years.  I was sedentary (save for a few short-lived spurts of “I’m going to get in shape with Billy Blanks!”).  Skating an hour during open skate exhausted me.  I geared up and pushed myself on sucky wheels and a slick floor.  I participated in my first bout, skating very upright and directionless.  Boomz from Charm City–a borrowed skater for our team–spent the entire night yelling my name and dragging me around the track from wherever I had wandered to where I was supposed to be (thanks for that, Boomz). I worked harder after that bout.  I learned to always ask myself, “Where’s their jammer, where’s my jammer, where am I?”  I learned to pick up my feet, to get in front of people and sit on them. I got faster, got winded less. I went from panting after one jam to being able to participate in almost every jam without exhaustion. I tore my PCL.  I went to physical therapy and pushed even harder once I got back on skates. I hit harder. I skated with more strategy.  I learned to crossover on the turns while skating backwards.  I jammed more to learn agility.  I hit harder.  And now I’m looking at this upcoming bout with confidence, knowing that all of those little struggles have added up to an entirely new me, both on and off the track, one that will keep growing and changing with every passing practice from here on out.

If I take what I have learned from roller derby this past year, it’s that achievements aren’t the big billboards we envision at the end of our path.  Rather, they are the small things that happen on a daily basis that add up to create an ever-shifting vision of who we see ourselves being. For a while there, I was concentrating on my billboard dream with writing. I kept slogging towards it, occasionally flinging myself forward in the hopes of making greater headway, but it never seemed to be getting closer.  Every choice I made seemed to fail, and I started to think, “Why bother?” And that’s where the disconnect began. Commercial/professional/mental progress is much trickier to track than the physical, however, and I failed to recognize how far I’d come from five years ago. The connections I’ve made with other authors–people who are great both professionally and personally–are enough alone to consider this venture a victory. Looking even closer, though, I see magazine articles; an entirely self-published novel with admittedly few, but stellar, reviews; invitations to join other writing friends on projects; and new avenues constantly appearing to help guide me through this path I’ve chosen.

Expecting the One Thing to tell me I’m doing well is like saving up all of my energy at a bout just to deliver that big hit where everyone goes, “Ooooh!” It might be cool and satisfying in the moment it happens, but in focusing on that single detail I would be overlooking the multitude of other opportunities to grow and achieve (and probably set myself up for a slew of failures in the interim).  You know that hokey saying about how it takes a village? I guess it’s true.  Except in this case, it takes a whole roller derby team to raise a writer.    

As this blog is about Hell and Wheels, about my professional and derby life, it seems only natural to treat them as mutually inclusive.  How I approach derby seems to be a success, so I’m going to approach this writing life in the same manner–one little victory at a time.

As for Sunday’s bout, well, I’ll let you know how that one turns out.  Here’s a spoiler, though, it’s gonna be a good time.

If you’re in the Wilmington DE area Sunday around six and have nothing to do, stop by the Christiana Skating Center and buy a ticket.  I’ll be in black, with the mark of the beast on my back.

(I’m not in this particular jam from our July bout, but this is SRG–purple–in our first bout against this weekends’ opponents)

Locking Wheels

It’s amazing how fast you can go on wheels.  Just a few sweeping pushes with the legs and you’re off, spinning around the track at breakneck speed.  Not many things come easily to me, but being on skates is one of them.  That’s not to say I don’t work at it.  I do.  Very hard.  But, it feels natural.  Safe, even.  I know that sounds ridiculous when I am on the track for the sole purpose of bashing into people, but there it is.  I feel safe on skates.

It’s the same with writing.  Even when I had barely mastered the basics of reading, when I was just learning the foundation elements of what comprised a story, I found I could not only immerse myself in a world created by another, but forge one of my own.  My stories were simple, of course, but they came to me easily.  I have since learned that there is also a hell of a lot to learn about storytelling, and have had to hone my skills a hundred times over, but still the basics, the “what if” comes with little effort.

In skating I allow myself to hit walls.  Not literally, of course; that would hurt. I’m talking about physical limitations.  I know I am still learning after ten months, that I can’t possibly jump on a pair of skates and know everything about derby in one, two, five years.  It takes time, and it takes time for my muscles to accept the fact I’m now expecting them to do more than just help me sit at a desk.  I can accept my failures, set goals to improve from those pitfalls, and understand with complete objectivity that the whole thing will take time.  So, my question really is:

Why the hell can’t I do that with my writing?

When I write, I want it perfect from sentence one.  I want the whole story laid out before me, shining and whole, no plot tangles, no ugly surprises somewhere around page one-fifty.  To have a day, week, or month with little output is so unacceptable that I would rather not do anything than face the fact that I might fall short of my own stupid expectations.  Like a fresh meat skater terrified of picking up her feet, I am barely rolling along, locking wheels with myself, hindering my own growth, and almost guaranteeing I’m going nowhere except onto my face.

I know where the problem lies.  Adventure.  I don’t have a sense of it when writing. I’m so bogged down with my need to have order that I’ve forgotten (so soon after Junket City, even) how to be spontaneous in storytelling.  To be organic.

I’m trying it today.  No outline, no starting from page one.  Just jumping into a random scene and writing until I’m done.  I’m unlocking my wheels and picking up my feet.  Let’s see how fast I can go.

Done With This

It happens every year.  My prized herb garden begins to bolt. Plants become leggy, and I wonder if I will pluck the caterpillars from my parsley or let them gnaw the lot to sticks. The grass (what little there is to be had amidst the clover and wiregrass) becomes my enemy, a vast refuge for countless mosquito swarms that swell upwards in a whining cloud the moment my feet brush its surface.  I begin to grumble about the heat and humidity, shrug off the raggedy appearance of my hedgerows.  Last night I dreamed the tree leaves were beginning to yellow, first one, then another, a creeping progression of golden, glorious decline.

It is now official–I’m done with summer.

I knew this moment was coming.  The past few weeks have been hot, intolerably so.  While cranking the AC and stalking the weather page to find the one acceptably-climed day in which to venture outside and quickly shear my grass, I have been perusing stores’ shelves, impatiently watching for the first peeks of fall decor, knowing the Halloween products will not be far behind. It is no secret I love Halloween more than Christmas, that I search for odd and wondrous decor like others hunt for the perfect holiday gift.  I walk through craft stores in late summer and breathe a sigh of contentment at the walls of orange, gold, crimson, and black.  Fall is my holiday season, and Halloween sits atop it like the cherry on the most perfect sundae.

It is by fortune my mother-in-law shares my zeal for All Hallow’s Eve.  We covet one another’s collections, share our spooky resources.  She gives me books to peruse for ideas and inspiration, brings me Day of the Dead dolls from her travels to Mexico, and finds the most promising shops in Florida for us to haunt when I go down there on vacation. She feeds my desire to have the Perfect Halloween. It is, then, no surprise I have decided this year I will have a party. What might be surprising is I have never hosted one before. Maybe it was because I never before had such huge resources of friends to fill my house, or maybe I was waiting to have a collection big enough to support my grand ideas.  Either way, I am ready, and stupidly excited about it. I have thus far planned on spooky projections (or maybe a silent film showing on a wall), a tree branch barrier, my huge ouija board collection displayed, my glittery Illuminations lanterns hanging from the ceiling…  I have more ideas than space, and more ambition than money, but that is not going to stop me from hosting one hell of a bash.

I’ve sounded summer’s death knell and begun counting the days ’til Halloween on my own internal, dark Advent calendar.  I will continue to tend my garden, of course, but my soul’s longings will stretch to October. My only concern is, can I spend the next ten and a half weeks sporadically breaking into, “This is Halloween” without going mad.

I guess we’ll soon find out.  

A Few Quick Updates

I’m backtracking a little through my progress with the Resonance sequel (titled Harmony), because I’ve decided–no, the story’s decided–there has to be a third book.  I never expected this to become a trilogy.  Well, once I had a notion that there was room within the plot confines for a third book, but I never really gave it much thought beyond that.  Then, the other night I was playing the “what if” game with the Architect and an entirely new idea twisted itself out of the current Harmony plot, and set about weaving itself into a whole storyline.  Because of that, some of the events that were going to happen in this upcoming novel have either been shifted to the final book’s plot, or have been deleted altogether.  I don’t mind the work, really, because it’s all going to make for a much more exciting series.  And that’s a good thing.  It’s just chewing up a significant amount of my extra time.

In derby news, we at SRG had another bout on July 17.  We won, by a significant margin.  I don’t have any photos to post, sadly, because no one I know has a camera that’s speedy enough to take the good action pictures, and I’m too lazy to contact the people who do to see if they’ll allow me publication rights.  But, I was there and I skated well.  Promise.  We had an unofficial scrimmage against another team on Sunday night, and we won with a similar score.  This all makes me very happy, and excited for our next bout in August.

I also got new wheels, Atom G-Rods, and my laps-in-five-minutes count went from 26 to 28.  Yay for magically awesome wheels!  Oh, and I have a new helmet.  It does nothing to make me faster.  But, it does a lot for the looking badass category.

This is probably one of my lamer posts, but the derby and writing have been warring for my attention, and I find I don’t have the time I used to for getting these posts together.  Just wanted you all to know I hadn’t died under a pile of cats or derby girls.

Oh, and I have an interview with Adam Slade up at Editing Hat, today, if you’d like to check that out.  I talk about writing, derby, and wading through flooded streets in nightwear.  It’s more amusing than this most likely has been.  Promise–yet again.


What I’ve Learned About Writing From Roller Derby, Part Three: Sometimes You Have No Idea What the Lesson Is

It was a normal Sunday night.  Scrimmaging had started three jams before.  I was in the center of the track, skating as a poor substitute for a jam ref due to some bruised ribs.  The girls were doing short pack scrimmage drills.  Three jams in, one of our girls went down, her ankle leading the way.  I stood and watched it happen, having no recourse to help.  It’s a gut-wrenching thing to see one of your teammates fall and not get back up.  Derby girls are tough.  We stand in less than three seconds if uninjured, ten if slightly rattled, thirty if we have our bells rung pretty hard.  Last night time stretched beyond those benchmarks.  We waited on one knee, silently willing our teammate to rise, knowing as the seconds ticked past the likelihood of her getting up on her own grew smaller and smaller.  

Since I was useless as a jam ref, I chucked off my skates and drove her to the ER.  Fortunately, it was a slow night and radiology came for her soon after I arrived from ditching the car in the garage.  The doctor came back with the results almost as quickly–broken fibula.  Just like that, in the odd bend of an ankle, all of her plans for the summer, for derby, for everything, came to a sudden and complete halt.  And there seems no apparent reason for it.
We’ve all had those slap-in-the-face moments of hyper-clarified reality, when life seems to be trucking along nicely; we’re enjoying ourselves, our jobs, our writing, and then a lightening bolt crashes from the cloudless sky and sets everything aflame.  We try to make sense of it, say things like, “There’s a reason for it,” but in reality we’re just ignorantly stumbling in the smoke, wondering what in the hell just happened.
As someone who always wants to know the reason for everything, I wish I had an answer to those moments, that I could locate the lesson within the haze.  Sometimes, years later, I do see a glimmer of a thread connecting a bad event to others, a tiny labyrinth of happenings that lead to my current happy situation.  Other times, though, the purpose is more deeply hidden, seemingly absent.  
Maybe it’s not the event, but the response that counts.  How quickly we pick ourselves up from that devastating rejection letter, from our dismal sales rankings, from that sidelining injury.  Some would say it’s a test of our mettle.  I agree, but not in any hand-of-God way.  Instead, it’s our own test, not something we set for ourselves, of course, but one to accept once presented just the same.  We are all stronger than we feel most times, and can take hits–even devastating ones–better than we can ever imagine.
Still, searching for the whys in difficult times can be counterproductive.  Coming from an obsessive background, I understand the allure of picking over minutiae, analyzing mental scenarios to find the cause, reason, truth.  The torrents of energy we pour into such thoughts, however, can better be served by moving on, even if the steps are slow and tedious.  If there is a lesson hidden within, no doubt it will present itself along the way.  Conversely, if the universe simply decided to flip us the double bird for no discernible reason, then what else is left but to flip it right back and go forth?
Divine lesson or no, chaos or no, the only thing to do is keep on rollin.’
Get well soon, Punk.  

Buy "Resonance" and Help an Author in Need

I had planned another post entirely.  Had it halfway written this morning, in fact.  And then I heard about urban fantasy author L.A. Banks.  She’s gravely ill and fighting not only a physical battle, but a monetary one.

Back in 2005 I had started reading Minion, the first book in the Vampire Huntress Legends.  I fell in love with the style and characters immediately.  I reached the end–an abrupt finale–and realized the original novel must have had been split in half because of the length.  At the time I was in a frenzy because I was halfway through writing my first book and was already beyond the 80,00-120,000 word count recommended by professionals.  I was writing a monster.  I was terrified, confused, wondering if I should shelve the behemoth, or start hacking at it like Michael Meyers on All Hallow’s Eve.  Discovering that Ms. Banks’ book had been divided in two gave me back a bit of breath, eased the rising hysteria.

About a week after finishing the second novel, The Awakening, I decided to email Ms. Banks about the whole mess.  I expected a quick, form note, or possibly nothing at all.  Instead, I received a sincere, helpful, inspiring letter.  In a single page (an outpouring of literary energy that could have been directed to benefiting her WIP and not mine) she gave me the courage to let Resonance be what it wanted to be.  I haven’t forgotten that.

I am deeply saddened to hear she is now so very ill and that her finances are also dire. I don’t have much, but what I can give, I give freely.  For the next week, the profits from any purchase of Resonance from either Amazon’s Kindle store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store, or the iBookstore will go to Ms. Banks.

If you don’t have an e-reader or would rather support her in your own way, please visit the L.A. Banks Auction and Donation Site.

I still have the email she sent me sitting in my inbox as a reminder that people can be good and kind, even the incredibly busy, bestselling ones.

I wish her well.