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.

Problem With Blogging The First: people seldom respond. I don't really like feeling like I'm shouting into the void; there is little interaction on this blog and so I tend to lose interest in it very quickly even though I know I should keep it up, that hopefully soon I'll have another book going out on sub and editors might possibly be Googling me and I really ought to look like I am a dynamic and charismatic person with interesting things to say. The reality is that I spend a lot of time taking long walks by myself, and drinking coffee by myself, and writing books by myself and shopping for dresses by myself and not a whole lot else happens in Libbieland. In short, I am boring.

But I do have fourteen years of acting experience behind me, so if I really wanted to I could ACT like I'm fascinating instead. If Deepak Chopra is right (spoiler alert: he's not), just by acting like I'm fascinating I might actually become fascinating!

Of course, after totally losing interest in this boring blog, I checked it months later to see that several people DID respond! Callooh, callay! Suddenly I see a glimmer of hope in the future. If people talk to me here, I'll actually pay attention, and then maybe you'll all be fooled into thinking I am fascinating. (Thank you, Deepak, you crusty old time-stopping fraud, you!)

Problem With Blogging The Second: life has had me down, man. Way down. All those "personal problems" I alluded to in a previous post are still lurking, although they get closer all the time to finally resolving, and I will be so glad if they do; particularly if they resolve without having to go to court. I have learned many, many valuable things from this miserable and frustrating experience. Valuable things I would like to impart to the young women of the world if only somebody would read this blog. The most important is this: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON'T HAVE SUCH LOW SELF-ESTEEM THAT YOU MARRY THE WRONG PERSON. Learn from my mistakes!

Problem With Blogging The Third: for quite a while there I was still working at the book store, with a very erratic schedule. This left me with little to no brainwaves for anything other than very weak scrabbling at my keyboard during my free hours. I pecked out perhaps 2000 words that I could actually keep during revisions while I worked at that accursed store. An ever-shifting schedule ain't no way to write. Being unable to set aside a specific time of the day to work on my books is hell on my productivity.

Now that problem is solved. I have a shiny new job which consists of sitting in a chair ALL DAY LONG, watching an old woman who has dementia sleep in her La-Z-Boy while The History Channel blares at full volume. Occasionally I make some toast or some soup for her and we do sometimes have conversations that loop endlessly into one another, a predictable Moebius strip of words, the same words every day, that continue on from just after lunch-time until she falls asleep again. I went from no routine to more routine than I could ever imagine having, just when I was beginning to despair that I will never finish a good book and never get published. I have hours every day to work on my stuff, I can block out most of The History Channel's drone with gun-range-certified ear plugs, and I am getting paid to sit here and write. Getting paid more money than I made at the book store, I should note, by a significant margin. This is almost enough to make me believe in God. But not quite.

So here I am, blogging again, and working on my book again, which seems to be coming along pretty well, as far as I know. I figured out why I hated the previous version of Baptism so badly, figured out how to fix that, and started a rewrite; in a couple of weeks I had rewritten more in the new version than I'd had in the previous draft. And I still feel cautiously optimistic about it, so I probably won't need to rewrite it again until I start to hate it once more, in a couple of weeks.

The lesson I learned here is this: FOR CORN'S SAKE, DO NOT STOP WRITING. I know things like unpleasant emotionally draining divorces that drag on way longer than they should will make it tempting to stop, just to give yourself a break...and I know that you'll sometimes have jobs that require you to work bizarre hours for no good reason, and that will sap your will to live, let alone to write. But YOU MUST KEEP WRITING. DON'T STOP. It is SO HARD to get back into it once you stop.

Anyway, now that my lengthy explanation for my long silence is out of the way, let me tell you what happened with my previous blog post, which I called Cover And Titlefest Episode #1.

Amidst all that craziness and depression, I did manage to read Mariette In Ecstasy, Ron Hansen's slim little novel, spending a few minutes a night on it before sleep. As somebody noted in the comments of my previous post, it was not the type of O-fest I thought it would be, but it was still O-inducing.

This was my first Ron Hansen novel, and from the first page I was totally in lust. Ohh, literary goodness! Oh, hedonistic Saturnalia for the senses! Oh, present tense!! Forget Mariette; I was in ecstasy. The book itself had a rather meager plot and a few interesting main characters with far too many uninteresting minor characters, but that's not why you should read it. And you should read it. Read it for the atmosphere and setting so real you are actually living amidst it. Read it for the unique imagery that stays with you long after you've put the book down.

"Sister Dominique says a prayer to Saint Peregrine for her Canadian nephew's cancer as she dashes flour on the kitchen table and turns over a great slab of dough that rolls as slowly as a white pig."

"Wind, and a nighthawk teetering on it and yawing away into woods. ... Cattails sway and unsway. ... Workhorses sleeping in horse manes of pasture. ... Mooncreep and spire."

"White hallway and dark mahogany joists. Wide plank floors walked soft and smooth as soap." Just read that one aloud...god, the music of it!

This book is rich with words. Rich with images. They overspill it. The most valuable thing I got from reading it (out of all the many valuable things) is the sense that Hansen took his time with every single sentence, that he must have tested each line to see how it fit into the overall flow of the scene. This book is all about taking time and about feeling everything around you -- for the characters and for the reader. And certainly for the writer.

I am going to remember this one for a long, long time, and I will be reading more of Ron Hansen, without a doubt. It was an extraordinary book that did not disappoint. Bravo for the cover that enticed me to buy, and although the book's plot did not contain the type of ecstasy I was expecting, its prose certainly did.

I will likely do Cover And Titlefest again, since I now have more disposable income for buying books and more time to read. Plus, reading is good for a writer, or so they tell me.

Anyway, that brings another boring, windy blog post to a close. I'll start being fascinating tomorrow, I promise.


  1. Trouble with Blogging, The First: Just in case you don't know this, you should be able to set up your blog to e-mail you when people respond. That way you'll get an e-mail when this hits your blog.
    2: I hope everything works out for you. Good luck!
    3: Congrats on the new job!
    Finally, even if you don't get a lot of responses, you probably have more readers than you think.

  2. I know what you mean about stopping writing. I stopped a few months ago for a variety of reasons, and now I'm trying to get back into it. Despite the fact that ideas are pounding on the inside of my skull, I'm having trouble fighting the inertia.

    Anyway, hope things continue to pick up for you. :)


  3. Aw Lib, not quite? <3
    btw- what are those 39 followers? Chopped liver?
    Going out to find that book...

  4. Hi Libbie. My name is Anna. I followed your blog over from AbsoluteWrite, where I lurk a lot but never post, simply because I don't know what to say (though it has been greatly helpful for me). I saw that you were writing Egyptian historical fiction. I don't know if you still are, as you seem to have not mentioned it in a while. I, too, am trying my hand at Egyptian fiction.
    I like your thoughts on writing, and also how genuine you are. I mean, you seem *real*, not plastic. I also see you like a lot of the same books as I do: Joy Luck Club, Memoirs of a Geisha, and a lot of the ancient historical fiction. Hence, I hope you don't mind if i 'follow' you.

  5. Grace -- it's really nice to have followers responding to what I write now! That's a change. ;)

    Anna -- welcome! You ought to just jump into a conversation over on AW. It's great there.

    I finished one Egyptian novel (18th Dynasty), wrote about half of another, and have a third outlined with a synopsis written. My hope is that some day I'll be able to sell all three off the strength of the first. If I ever do sell the first, I'll finish the other two and see if anybody wants to buy them, as well.

    The Egyptian book(s) went on sub with my first agent but we didn't have any luck with them. We got a lot of very flattering rejections that pretty much all said "We like it, good story and good writing, but we're not sure it will be a good investment right now." I guess them's the breaks with historical fiction. Unless it's Civil War or Tudors, the market can be very fickle.

    My present agent read through the first one and had some ideas for revisions, but I expressed my mental exhaustion on Egypt and commercial fiction in general, and she encouraged me to finish up the literary novel I'd been struggling with instead, since I'm feeling like it's a stronger book and it's more the direction I'd like to take my writing for the future. The historical novels are fun, but they're not what I feel I should base the bulk of my career on anymore, you know? So my current agent and I are going to see where things stand once I have this book finished, and if we want to keep working together we will. We may end up parting ways, though, if neither of us feels we're still a good match. (It happens!)

    If we do end up going our separate directions, I have been seriously considering selling the Egyptian books to a small press, possibly an e-publisher, under a different pen name. It's something I'm considering, anyway. They're fun books and I think readers would enjoy them, even if I don't want to be known for my historical fiction. :)

    That is really cool that you're writing Egyptian fiction! Tell me more about it! :)

    Thanks for the compliments on my character, too. I try to avoid plasticity, ha ha. ;)

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I've been wondering when you'd be back. Good to see you again.