Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Still making some progress

I wrote another scene tonight in Baptism for the Dead and revised an existing scene. I think it's coming along nicely. the book is at almost 37,000 words and I've got a complete first draft of Part 4. (Parts 1 - 3 are on, oh, probably a third draft by now.) There are two more parts to go in the book. I'm not sure exactly how long each one will be, but my best guess is that this book will finish at a little over 50,000 words. That is a short-ass novel. I hope this won't be a problem in selling it.

I would be lying if I told you that my writing is just that concise. My writing is anything but concise. I am the wordiest motherfucker you'll ever meet -- I am prone to overadjectivizing like angry dads in the 1960s were prone to oversalting their food. I never let too many paragraphs go by without writing one paragraph that's actually just one really long sentence. I never miss an opportunity to add in some really weird, memorable sensory images. I do not write tight.

I could go in and "pad," but I don't like the idea of padding for padding's sake. This is just not a long story. It takes place over the course of maybe a couple of months, and a lot of the characters' time is spent traveling by car -- time that can be summed up in a paragraph or two of pretty scenic description before moving back to relevant stuff.

I am taking some comfort in the fact that it's a literary novel, clearly and undisputedly, and short novels that aren't quite short enough to be novellas are not that uncommon in literary fiction. So hopefully it won't be a deal-breaker that my book is shorter than your average YA novel.

We'll see, I guess. No sense worrying about all that until I've finished the damn thing anyway.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Just worked on Baptism for the Dead for five straight hours. Most of it was revision, so I could re-acquaint myself with the existing 35,000 words, but I was really pleased to note that after a long absence from it, I think this book is fucking kickass. Like, more kickass than I suspected it was.

Feeling very motivated to put in at least five more hours tomorrow, probably a lot more. I guess that's the nice thing about not having a job.

The self-published book is going fairly well, too. I'm spending a little time expanding my network of historical fiction readers and writers on Goodreads. I am really starting to believe that Goodreads is a powerful tool for authors to promote, and plus, it's just fun. I have sold something like 50 copies at last count, and reviews are starting to creep in, all of them positive so far. I have a feeling I just need to make some kind of breakthrough somewhere...getting an online book club interested in reading it, getting a review from a very popular reader on Goodreads, etc. -- and then it should start to take off. As much as a self-published book can be expected to take off.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

OH HI THERE, blog.

Hey, I still have a blog! And yes, I am still alive and kicking. I know it's been a couple of months. I've been busy.

Here's the short version: extensive travels throughout most of September (badly needed; brain needed to recharge), moved, threatening and preparing lawsuit against former landlord, settling out of court, getting appliances and furniture for new place, frantically searching for real jobs because writing doesn't pay crap. Yet, anyway.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Every literary writer needs to read this web comic.

Assuming I ever finish another novel and then attempt to get another agent, I'm going to make myself a nice little web site. Nothing fancy; just a place with information about me, how to contact me, a decent photo of myself, and a prominent link to this blog. You know the kind of site I'm talking about.

I've already considered what I'd like to say about myself on such a site, and the most important thing I think I can say about my writing -- my style and what I hope to achieve -- is to list my major influences. We all have influences, and I think it's important for a writer to understand how and why each of hers affects her writing. Right alongside my usual rogue's gallery of literary influences (Nabokov, Fitzgerald, Oates, Atwood, Martin, etc.) I intend to place a name you've never heard before, but you should have heard it, because Chris Onstad is one of the best writers of literary fiction living and working today.

You've never heard of him because he doesn't write novels or short stories. He writes a web comic.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A long poem.

Here's something I wrote for my last weekly writers' group meeting. It's a long poem, and it was my first attempt with poetry to not just capture a moment or a feeling or an idea, but to relate a separate, unaffiliated aspect of my life to an internal aspect of my life. I think in that sense it was successful. It's not my best piece of writing ever, but I'm proud of it because I set a goal and achieved it, and because it's long, and I haven't written this many useful words in months.

My writers' group is great. We're a small crowd and I'm the only one in it who has aspirations to be published someday (although not the only one who has the skills to be published!) but the critiques are fantastic. And they're good friends, too. I think everybody needs a good writers' group.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Freedom! The divorce was finalized yesterday. After all the time it's taken and the many disappointments along the way, I was not expecting it to be rubber-stamped and John-Hancocked as (relatively) quickly and smoothly as it was.

I hope this takes some of the strain off me so I'm able to write again. My writing has been almost non-existent for months due to all this stress. When it has been existent, it's been abysmal. Really terrible. I haven't written anything useful or that I could even consider keeping since April. This is very frustrating for me. Over the past several months I've basically given up any hope for having a writing career. I'm not sure why I was trying in the first place, to be honest. My writing has been just total shit for months, and I believe maybe it always was. There is still a tiny fragment of my brain that still thinks I can write and that still wants to have a career; the majority of my brain is just sluggish, all dead weight and fuzz, and I have no idea why I ever thought I could write in the first place.

In nine days things should be looking up for me considerably. I'll be very busy, so I may lack the time to write for several weeks, but I have a very small hope that this doubting of my capabilities and my future are just depression, and will lift once my life picks up a little once more, once all my free time and energy is no longer occupied by the divorce, by dealing with my ex's drama, and by frantically trying to come up with a little extra money every month to make ends meet. I have been under an extreme amount of stress, and that's probably what's making me feel so negative and listless. It's probably not really true that I suck at writing and should give up now. But it's hard to remember that sometimes.

Anyway, in September I'll be on a much-needed road trip. I am looking forward to a change of scenery and some serious mental stimulation...two things I desperately need for all aspects of my mental health, not just for my writing.

I will also be quitting my job next week, and while it sucks to face joblessness again, I think this job has been a big part of the no-writing problem for me. It provides me with no creative stimulation at all. I really need some interaction with people in order to write. I need an environment that changes...whether I'm actually going places, or working outside with changing weather, working with animals with their changing behavior, or even seeing different customers and co-workers every day, as in my retail jobs...I just need some variety in my life in order to be optimally productive...or productive at all. The job I've been working at since April has allowed me to pay the bills, and that's been important, of course. But I am ready for a job that gives me more than just a reliable paycheck. I need a job that doesn't crush my self-esteem by making me feel like I've wasted my entire life thinking that I can write at all. So I don't really care what job I take next, although I hope it's another job in zoo keeping, and if it's not, I hope it's got some creative elements in it. I have a few ideas, and hopefully they'll pan out.

Anyway, the important thing for now is that the biggest problem in my life has been largely solved, at long, LONG last. I am feeling cautiously optimistic. I even randomly composed a few nice sentences in my head the other day, something I realized as I did it that I haven't actually done for months. Maybe that's a sign that my writing will return to me. Maybe it's not. I don't know; I'm not even sure I can write anymore. But it's a change, and I'm taking any changes right now to be good things.

Monday, July 25, 2011

stab stab.

The hell-divorce keeps getting more hellish.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Something awesome just occurred to me! Now that I'm no longer under contract with my previous agency, I can polish up and submit some of my short fiction! Wooo! I haven't tried to sell short fiction in about three years (and I did sell some, to small but paying markets.)

This means I can hopefully find an appreciative home for John Muir Fucks a Robot...er, I mean A Light in the Merced River.


The old Men Vs. Women debate.

That same old subject came up on AW yet again (Why do more men win awards in literary and most genres of genre fiction than women?) I don't recommend you read more than the first post in the thread. It's long, and mostly full of angry female writers shrieking at other writers (non-angry female and male). This, along with the correct way of dealing with writer's block, seem to be the perennial topics on AW.

The last time I got an overload of the weird backward logic so many women use to spur their anger over the discrepancy in who wins awards, MacAllister freaked out at me and started deleting my posts. So I just stay out of those threads now, because my opinion isn't popular, and I am too outspoken and confident a debater to meekly back down and go with the status quo when I don't believe it's right.

This makes me rather unpopular among certain female writers on AW, which is kind of funny when you think about it, because aren't we all supposed to be in favor of confident, bold female writers who will stand up to anybody if they perceive a wrong? I guess you're only supposed to stand up against wrongs committed by people with penises. Huh.

Anyway, early on in the thread a writer named Lydia Netzer weighed in with her opinion, one I was astonished to read. Didn't she know that you're not supposed to admit on AW that maybe women just aren't as good (yet) at writing award-winning literary fiction? Apparently not. The thread quickly devolved into the predictable rigmarole, with some posters going so far as to compare her to notorious dickwad misogynist V. S. Naipaul. Nice, people. Really nice.

I thought Lydia's point was spot on target, and that her blog post on the subject was incredibly well thought out and helpful in gaining insight into why the discrepancy between the genders (or sexes, really, since we probably don't know the psychological genders of most writers) exists. Unlike the whole AW thread, you should read Lydia's post. Then read my response to her post here, after the jump.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Man...I hate query letters.

Well, fortunately I'm getting close to finishing Baptism for the Dead. I've been doing a lot of revising and polishing as I go, although of course there will still be plenty more to do when I finish the latest draft...but I estimate I've got about eight weeks of work left on the book. That's a great feeling!

Not so great a feeling is the realization that I've now got to craft a query letter. The last time I went through the process of writing one it was the fall of 2009. It's been almost two years and I'd forgotten how intensely I hated writing that last query letter. Uuuuugh.

Presenting more of a problem than the mere fact of query-writing is the unique theme and structure of Baptism for the Dead. It's got a whole bunch of parallels in it to a particular LDS temple ceremony, and because of that structure my protagonist/narrator has no name.

Where the hell do you start with a query letter for a book that has a nameless protagonist? Jeeze! At least with books that have named protagonists, you can start with the basic "When (protagonist's name) tries to (achieve goal), (conflict happens), and (stakes) are at stake..." and build from there.

Any ideas, party people? Help the Libster out!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How and Why I Decided to Self-Publish, and What I Expect Will Happen When I Do.

I know, I know. Those of you who know me really well, those of you who interact with me a lot on AW or who even just read my posts from time to time, surely know that I have a dim view of self-publishing, to put it mildly. You are probably picking your jaw up off the floor and looking at the calendar to determine whether we have collectively time-warped backward to April 1st.

Take a moment. Collect yourself. Then read on. I think this all makes sense, even coming from me, and so will you when you’ve read through this long post. Actually don't read through this long post. Page-down and read through only those sections (headed in bold and all-caps) which interest you. Because this blog post is a goddamn tome, my friends, and there's a lot of stuff here.

First, let me make this clear: I am NOT considering self-publishing Baptism for the Dead or any subsequent literary/contemporary novels. I am ONLY considering self-publishing my commercial historical fiction. I’ll tell you how and why I decided to look at this option with serious intent, what I expect the outcome to be, and why I am not (at this time, anyway) considering self-publishing the rest of my writing.

Read on, mi amigos.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Progress-ish? Progress-esque?

I have been able to turn out about 1000 words a day, except for a few days here and there where I had appointments to jet to or other stuff to take care of that kept me away from my keyboard until bed time. It's still too soon to say that I am "cured" of my "writer's block," but I do feel that I'm making some good headway. I've had to chop out a few scenes that just weren't working in Baptism, so the word count is just shy of 34,000 words at present, but I don't mind taking a few steps back if I can be assured that the next steps I'll take forward will really get me somewhere.

Interesting factoid: the theme of this book has changed a lot since I first set out to write it. Now it seems very intent on being about a woman reclaiming her sexuality and ridding herself of guilt in a post-religion life. I like where that's going. It's feeling more and more right all the time. I'll need to re-tweak the beginning just a bit, but only to alter some imagery to fit the new theme.

If I can keep up this pace, I should have the book ready for serious revision around this time next month. But I am not willing to celebrate yet -- it's still uncertain whether I can keep up this pace.

I've got my fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The YA Juggernaut

I have to admit, I've begun to find it frustrating how open the industry seems to be to new YA authors while seeming so reluctant to take a chance on new authors writing in other genres.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Word up.

I woke up this morning and wrote 1000 words. Not as much as I used to write daily, but more than I've written in ten days this year. It's too soon to say whether my horrid road block to productivity has been cleared away, but I did feel good enough to sing Lady Ga Ga in the shower. Maybe the high-waisted pants are already working their magic. We'll see if this positive streak holds out...I am off to co-host the radio show, something I also haven't done in a long time. I like how this day is going so far.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This post has nothing to do with my writing.

Or any writing. It is about...FASHION. Run away screaming now.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Love affair

I am making painfully slow, tortured progress on my novel. I still feel it's good, but my confidence in what other people think of my work is so badly shaken that I vacillate between feeling that I have a decent shot at actually selling this book and total, complete despair -- my other novels didn't sell; why should this one? I realize that kind of thinking will only inhibit progress, but "just think positive" is easier said than done.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The best job ever

So I'm watching back through my saved episodes of Game of Thrones on HBO, because it's just that awesome. It occurs to me that the best job ever might be an extra in a show/movie like this, where you just get to charge around in battle scenes wearing replica armor waving a battle axe and yelling, "RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!"

I kind of wish that was my job. I would be so awesome at that job.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Finger

I have been facing a bad stall of about eight or nine months. I lost confidence horribly when multiple people expressed interest in Baptism for the Dead, then promptly forgot that I exist and that they'd pestered and even brow-beaten me into sending them my unfinished book to read. That combined with the divorce from hell has drained me of creativity and motivation. It feels just about impossible to keep writing at this point, but what choice do I have? I can't do anything else with my life. And not in that awful, cliched "I CAN'T NOT WRITE, I BLEEEEED IIIINNNNK" bullshitty way. I literally have no other skills, no money for schooling, and I cannot qualify for financial aid. Writing is my only viable long-term option for supporting myself for the rest of my life. That's it. It's all I've got. All my eggs are in this basket. Fortunately I do it well, I think, but it's hard to remember that when people pay about as much attention to my writing as they pay to their own respiratory systems.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hooray for critiques!

I just received an amazingly thorough and extremely helpful critique from Mr. Jonathan Dalar and it made me want to write about critiques.

In general, I find that most writers are eager to get some feedback on their work. Most of us are writing in order to sell -- or at least to know we're providing a quality experience for our readers. "Good" and "bad" are subjective concepts, but still, input from fresh sets of eyes gives us access to new approaches to our works in progress.

I loves me some critiques.

More about critiques below the jump!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What the hell is Literary Fiction?

This question comes up with regularity on AW, and as we all know, AW is my personal frame of reference for all of reality. Invariably, everybody weighs in on the subject, and virtually invariably, the threads eventually devolve into this script:

(warning: this post is long.)

Monday, May 23, 2011


Wow. It's been a while, ne? Sorry 'bout all that radar silence and whatnot.

I have a few problems with blogging. Or had, I guess I should say.

Below the jump: my personal problems partially and tantalizingly exposed; fun with dementia; why you shouldn't fall off the writing wagon; and what happened when I followed my heart and bought a book solely on the strength of its title and cover.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cover And Titlefest Episode #1: Pudge, Hunger, and The Big O.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I think titles and covers are enormously important to authors' interests. Past surveys have suggested that as many as a third of all readers choose their next book based on either title or cover (or a combination of the two.) Unfortunately, you'll have to take my assertion about these surveys on blind faith, since I just got home from work and am far too lazy to look them up right now. But if you're a regular over on Absolute Write (and you should be), you've seen them, since the title/cover/how-do-you-choose-books issue comes up regularly, along with Who Would Play Your Characters In a Movie Adaptation, Should I Put a Sex Scene In My Novel, and How Long Should a Chapter Be. It's a perennial topic for discussion.

Whenever this subject arises, or whenever a writer wonders how important his or her title really is, I always side with the camp of Very Important Titles (And Covers.) This has, on occasion, been met with open sarcasm from certain forum regulars who will remain nameless and with snarky rep comments...par for the course on AW, where one must expect passionate behavior because the whole place is just crawling with writers. (I love AW; don't for a second think that I am disparaging it by characterizing it. It's the only thing any writer needs, I believe, to become a pro.)

Book Cover Extravaganza starts tonight!

...provided I will actually remember to post tonight after work. Ha ha.

Coming this evening: my analysis of covers and titles from Judith Moore! Ron Hansen! and Dave Eggers!

Enjoy, mon ami!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cover Art Extravaganza still coming...!

Fear not, I still plan to do a little miniseries of posts on covers and titles, and why these aspects of book development are so very important for writers. But the more I've thought about it and discussed this plan with my book-store coworkers, the more ideas I've gathered and the larger in scope this project has grown. So I'm brewing it over my weekend and will plan to launch it on Friday.

Meanwhile, I got a whopping good five hours of writing in yesterday before work (wooooo!), discussed some things with my agent (double woooo; I feel really excited about our chat), and am eating some ice cream right now. It's been a pretty good week so far.

Baptism for the Dead is sitting at about 25,000 words, which is just shy of halfway, I think. I believe it will fall just over 60,000 words when finished, which is on the slim side for a literary novel, but it's just not a very fat story.

Still doing more writing tonight as time permits, and will be having a full-on ovaries-to-the-wall writefest for two solid days over my weekend (Wednesday/Thursday), culminating in my weekly writers' group meeting, where the usual suspects will inform me that I'm not making my characters accessible enough...STILL! :D I love those guys.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Afternoon in Seattle

Walking down the Ave to work, I passed a druggie kid on the sidewalk. He said to me emphatically, "Your glasses bring out your eyes!" His fat friend: "He's lyin'"

I laughed at them both.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Importance of Titles and Covers

In an effort to get myself blogging again, I've come up with a few ideas for picture-rich and reader-interactive posts that I think will be a lot of fun for me and for any folks who still bother to check in here. :) I know it's been rather dead lately...sorry. Life has been a wee bit hectic!

Anyway, at the moment I am working as a temp at a very cool book store in Seattle. It's a used book store where most of the store's inventory is purchased from customers for resale. This, as you can imagine, provides the store with a more unique selection than your average store that sells only what's available currently from publishers.

While shelving fiction yesterday I noticed myself setting books aside that I wanted to read myself. Idly I asked myself why I was choosing these particular books. After thinking about it (while still working! I am a busy bee!) I realized I was attracted to either the cover art or to the title. The author had little to do with it, as in most cases I'd never heard of these particular writers before.

I've always sort of known that I am more swayed by title and cover than other factors in choosing my book purchases. In fact I've always thought MOST readers are swayed this way, but of course such a cliche admission (don't judge a book by its cover!) sparks debate on forums and at writers' group meetings. But still I stick up for the importance of quality (and genre-appropriate) titles and covers, and try to encourage my fellow would-be authors to put a lot of thought into titles, even if they think their titles might be changed later by Higher Powers, and to kick and scream if they don't love their cover art. Sometimes I've received the internet equivalent of eye-rolling for my crusade for better titles and covers. Since seeing first-hand just how much these things do factor a shopper's choice in what to read, I feel justified!

So I thought it might be fun to examine what I pull from the shelves for personal reading every week, and analyze what about the cover and/or title draws me to make that purchase. And of course you, my few readers, are welcome to join in the discussion! I hope you will, in fact. I hope to have it up and running in the next couple of days.

In other writing news, as the writing world now knows, the amazing Natalie Fischer announced a few weeks ago that she is heading over to The Bradford Literary Agency. After discussing my writing and where I see it going over the next few years, Natalie and I decided to part as client and agent; we both agreed that Dijkstra Agency was a great match for my potential career. I am now represented by Taylor Martindale, and am very happy about it! After a lengthy phone conversation with Taylor, I feel great about our working relationship and she feels like an excellent match for me.

I really enjoyed working with Natalie. She's a sharp editor and has a ton of enthusiasm for what she does. Her input made my two historical novels much better books, and I am so grateful! I'm sure she'll find lots of success with The Bradford Agency. :) Thanks, Natalie, for everything!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hey, what do you know.

After spending the past couple of hours on Baptism, I am really pleased with this book. I know it's terribly uncouth to praise one's own self, but I don't care: this book is fucking awesome. I feel great about it. I can't wait to get it done so I can revise it with my agent and turn it into something I can SELL.

I feel good about this one. It's a winner. Can't wait for tomorrow, my day off, when I shall make stew in my crockpot and work on Baptism until I literally cannot type any longer.


One-Word Journey

Back on January 12, my friend Stephanie Thornton encouraged people to describe their recent journey through life in one word. I think that's a fine idea, and challenging. Here's mine:


I'll let you take that any way you please.

I'm still dealing

For the past few months, I've been dealing with some stuff. Some people would call this stuff heartbreak. Some would call it bullshit. It's a lot of assorted stuff and it involves things I mostly won't talk about online because of the way it impacts multiple other people's lives, and I respect them even if they are the source of a significant portion of the heartbreak/bullshit/stuff. The stuff I will talk about includes a surprise move to a new place -- in the city itself, in fact, rather than on its outskirts where I've lived all my life. These are very new things. Big changes. It's made me neglectful of my blog, but who cares, because really nobody reads this piece of crap anyway.

I'm trying to assemble a better, stronger Libbie from all the stuff. This is much easier said than done. But I've come through a lot of stuff since last January with an aplomb that has surprised and delighted me. From a distance born of necessity, I've been able to watch myself move through this strange, fractured landscape and I am impressed with the way I've chosen my route carefully, picked my way, avoided pits full of rattlesnakes and anvils dropping from the sky. I am startled to learn, at the age of almost-thirty-one, that I have an excessive portion of what some might call grace. This is, I suppose, what is meant by growing up. Huh. Go figure.

The downside is that I haven't written as much as I'd like to, aside from a few poems for my weekly writer's group (not nearly as many as I used to write) and daily journal entries, which have helped keep me happy. Not much work to speak of on Baptism for the Dead, alas, aside from work inside my head, which will be translated to Actual Words Written starting this morning.

I am back at work on the novel(s) as of today. Yes, novels plural, because I've been putting together the next project through all the stuff. It's another darkish finding-self story but this time it centers on trains, not on Mormons. Plus, I get to make up some hobo names for my characters, so I'm looking forward to wrapping up Baptism and rolling out Tin Moan (working title, obviously.) And I've already started tinkering with my third project, the one that might come after Tin Moan is done, about a horse and his boy...in a shitty coal mine. Man, I like it dark. This is possibly a reflection of the fact that I've had to keep myself sane and functional through an extraordinary amount of stuff, so why not explore the dark side of things on my computer screen, where it's safe; and possibly a reflection of the fact that dark stories have always felt deeper and more real to me. Yeah. I like Cormac McCarthy.

Well, here I am, blog that never gets read, blog that nobody gives a hoot about. I'm still around. I'm wading through stuff and it's not over yet. I'm not even sure I've hit the shallow end on the other side yet, but I am getting there and I'm still on my feet. I wish I could say that I've been writing this whole time, but I haven't. So instead, I'll say that I'm writing again, as of right now. As soon as I take a shower and fold up my futon, I'm going to crack open Baptism and I'm going to make it sing.