Writing is Not a Jealous God

I was soaring. It was April 2019 and I’d just finished the draft of my new novel Prowl, which I’d painstakingly written three times, each time starting from scratch. I was eager to release something new, but I needed feedback before publishing it.

But before I could get any Beta readers, I suddenly found out I had to move. Two weeks after finishing my book in Florida, I found myself trundling across three state lines with a yowling cat.

That move was only the beginning.  I moved several times in a one-year period, bouncing from Florida to North Carolina and finally on to South Carolina.

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How Cat Logic Vanquishes Worry

When life gets too confusing, when petty worries seem profound, I rely on three ways to realign my perspective. 

One is to ask myself, “What difference will this make in a hundred years?” That can quiet my thoughts quickly. 

Another trick is to imagine I am standing on the moon looking down on Earth with all its boundaries erased by distance. From far above the stratosphere everything appears silent and serene.  

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Why my Depression Got Miffed and Stormed Off to Starbucks

Over the summer my depression made an unwelcome reappearance on my emotional doorstep. For therapy I tried this exercise I had read about somewhere, which was to write an imaginary dialogue with my depression. This roll-and-tumble dust-up of a conversation was the result.

The transcript:

Depression: Gee, I just arrived. Why are you not smiling? After all this time, do I not get a hug? Have you forgotten about me?  After all the great times we have had together, the least you could do is invite me in.

Me: You are not welcome in these parts, buddy. Go. Away.

Depression: Why, you treat me like a total stranger. How could you? We share so many fond memories together.

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What Is a Hero?

The panelist seemed super-human. She had drawn awed murmurs after telling us at the indie writing conference in Orlando that she had written and published over fifty romance novels. She was barely over twenty.

I was eager to hear what the prolific author was going to say, especially when the moderator asked her a question I loved, “How do you define a hero?”

As a novelist myself, I had read many definitions of a hero in how-to-write books. Many were dry and technical: “A hero is the main character of a story who struggles against overwhelming obstacles, usually for some principle, ideal, person, or goal beyond the narrow scope of his or her own ego. Heroes may be flawed but, in the end, they will always act according to their conscience, even when it means risking everything, including, sometimes, their lives.”

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Why I Banished My Ego from My Writing Process


The silent inner voice that criticizes me as I write means well. It wants to shield my ego, to prevent me from saying anything embarrassing or offensive that might get me banished from the human race and possibly sent into the wilderness to survive on dirt and berries.

My ego does not understand that the only kind of writing that matters is honest writing. Mastering the art requires me to look at the world, including myself, in all its messy, multifaceted complexity.

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My Cat Counsels Me on Outrage Addiction

Weeks ago I found myself so outraged by an online news article, I had to remind myself to breathe. Enough, I told myself. It is time to be proactive. So I sat back in my sofa, massaged my temple — and did a rabid search for more articles I knew would rocket my outrage to a whole new level.

As I read, adrenalin surged. I became madder by the minute. When I had burned through my most incendiary news articles, I turned to Facebook for the solace of its snarky fury.  Before I knew it, hours had passed with my eyes glued to my smart phone. Now, blinking  up, I looked around the living room and wondered what I had actually accomplished, except for  miffing  my cat.

Some time ago she had dropped on the couch beside me a brightly colored fuzzy ball. She is the only cat I have ever met who liked to play fetch.  Now she mewled piteously as she nosed her violet toy toward me and looked up to gaze into my eyes, begging me to throw it.

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The Tightrope of Writing for Love and Pay

Money looks the same regardless of how it is earned. Money made waitressing or cutting lawns looks no different from the money you would make for publishing a bestselling masterpiece destined to survive for millennia. Maybe in the moment, when the bills are due, money seems paramount, but in the end it is the writing that compels interest, surprises, enchants, persuades, and inspires.

That being said, I must admit that when I was a child penning stories about talking animals and dreaming of being an author when I grew up, I also hoped that I would make a living at writing.

It was not because I considered writing to be an onerous chore that would only be worthwhile if someone greased my peanut- butter-and-jelly-stained palms. Writing enchanted me; Otherwise I would have chosen a different career to idealize. I imagined I would be paid because whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I knew they were not asking about my future hobbies. They were asking how I was planning to earn a salary. Salaries, I thought, made writers official.

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Penning My Way to Clarity

When I first began blogging, I began all my posts without being totally certain what they would be about.  I would ask myself questions without clear resolutions. I would probe hazy memories for meaning. Then I would set off like an itinerant mountain hiker, without a map, to explore them. I liked to get lost in my prose, to confuse myself, then forge a path to clarity as I went along.

I later learned I could speed the process if I wrote about something I knew for sure, an essay I could fully envision in its finished state, like how to plot a story or what a movie was about. I could just begin with a thesis statement like I had done for essays in college, then write an outline. Those blogs would usually turn out fine, but they were not fulfilling in the same way my inefficient, confusing meandering blogs were.

That was partly because with my pre-structured posts, I never “crossed.”

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New E-book Release for Kindle: The Dragon Proofed House

Ray Bradbury said, “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as though you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”

I love that quote. And I am tempted to whole-heartedly agree. Except video games are “dreams” made in factories, and I love video games, at least the great ones like Zelda and Skyrim. When I play them, I sometimes feel like I am “stuffing my eyes with wonder.” Is there really such a sharp divide between human-made wonders and what we consider real life? If architecture or other art can be wonderful, why not virtual worlds? Even if the games are made in factories, it is still people who make the creative decisions. And sometimes those decisions are “fantastic.”

My fascination with virtual reality is part of what inspired my new Kindle e-book, The Dragon-Proofed House. Just released, it is a blend of fantasy and science fiction that allowed me to indulge my fascination with virtual reality while also asking the question, “Can virtual reality ever be an adequate substitute for real life?” My main character Christine decides that it is better than her tragic real life, so she forsakes the real world completely for a game set in a dragon-infested town called Mirror Mountain Valley.

Here is the Amazon blurb:

They say there’s no place like home, but in Mirror Mountain Valley, they say there’s no home that’s safe from the randomized dragon attacks… except, of course, for a chosen few.

After suffering impossible losses, Christine willingly gives up her real life and even her memories to plug in full-time to an immersive virtual world where life is beautiful. The rules here are simple: gain currency, build the most beautiful house you can, and try to win a prestigious award which will allow your incredible dream home to be dragon-proofed, safe forever from the vicious and unpredictable attacks of the great dragon Cipher. Whenever the fire-breathing dragon comes along, houses crumble to dust and the owners are left behind to roam the virtual world as disconnected, bodiless spirits.

If Christine’s house can be worthy of being dragon-proofed, maybe that strange, ghostly little boy will stop haunting the edges of her vision. Maybe she can finally be free of whatever past she’s tried to bury and live happily ever after.

The only catch is the award is voted on by the elite previous winners, and their tastes are… extremely particular. Christine wants this award more than anything, but in order to make her house appealing to the winners, she has to sacrifice everything she finds appealing about it herself.

But hey – it could be worse… couldn’t it? At least it’s better than the real world.

I do not want to reveal too much, so I will stop there. But I will say the adventure is around 50 pages and it is the third installment of my Torn Curtain series of eBooks. The feedback I have gotten so far has been promising. One reader wrote to me:

It was amazing. My first thought was fantasy, yet the dragon was a philosopher, so real hard truth was there also. The mix works. I loved Christine and her strength. I loved the fantasy/realism of a darned good story. THANK YOU!

Another reader left a thoughtful review on his blog which I deeply appreciate. I have included a link to it here. In it he revealed that he could relate to my protagonist Christine because she had endured personal tragedy and he had also experienced loss.

Although I hate to think any of my readers experienced anything close to what Christine did, I love discovering how my stories change from reader to reader. It reminds me that my stories are not “fixed” once I have written them. When readers take up the story they complete it by transforming my narrative. They bring to it their memories, world views, and personal frames of reference. For that reason, no story I write will be exactly the same for any two readers and that is fascinating to me.

Thanks to my readers for “completing” my stories in ways I will never know! You have no idea how much I appreciate you! Have a happy Halloween and try to stay away from dragons. Unless of course they want to talk philosophy with you. In that case it might be wise to listen. Dragons are old. Their wings take them far and wide. They know things. And they are not always what they seem.

Buy The Dragon-Proofed House on Amazon

Why I Fired My Muse

Never trust a muse; they are more like drug pushers than art mentors. They will lay on irresistible charm to woo and addict you; then they will stand you up at coffee shops. They will disappear when you need them most and they will return when you least expect it. They will kick off their flip flops as if they never left, drink up all the milk in the refrigerator, and play loud music at 3:00 a.m. I prefer mind maps to muses. Mind maps keep their appointments. They wear shoes. They let me sleep. That is why I fired all my muses and hired mind maps.

But I must confess: Sometimes I miss the muses; they flatter you as no one else can. There is something compelling about the feeling they give you, that you are experiencing a mysterious part of yourself normally beyond your grasp, that some electrifying creative connection is happening spontaneously. Somehow not having to work for a story or poem makes it seem magical — special. It is a gift; therefore, you must be “gifted.”

But a gifted self that depends upon the whims of a “muse” is unstable. Depending upon its uncontrollable magic means that sometimes the writer is gifted and sometimes not, yet artists yearn to define themselves by their most inspired moments, not the times that their muse stood them up to go asteroid surfing.

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