"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Saturday, February 3, 2018

A new workshop is exciting...and frightening

I've been asked to teach a new workshop at the Southern California Writers Conference this month (in beautiful San Diego, click here for details) about story. The workshop came about after my hubby and I visited Michael Steven Gregory (conference director) and his wife Chrissie (conference behind-the-scenes organizer-problem-solver) over the summer.

Michael and I stayed up late a few nights discussing books and movies that we liked and didn't like and why we liked or didn't like them. We talked one night until the wee hours (I think it was, like 3 am) about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Although I liked the re-immersion into the Stars Wars world, I had a couple of problems with the movie.

First of all, I wasn't sure who the main character was. At first, I thought it was Finn, the black guy who turned from being a storm trooper and joined the resistance. Then it seemed like maybe it was Rey, the orphan girl on the planet Finn crash-lands on. Or was it Poe the pilot? My problem with not having a main character is that I have expectations of being able to relate to the MC and experience the movie through them.

Maybe I need to adjust those expectations.

My second problem was that, with all the battles and attacks and dodging and weaving, I couldn't tell what this story was about. In one sense, it was about seeing old friends Luke and Leia and Hans again (and thanks for ruining it, J.J. Abrams), but it needed to be more. Just announcing with the title, "The Force Awakens" is not SHOWING me the story. It's TELLING.

What are the rules, kids? Show, don't tell.

So I'm teaching a workshop called "What's the Point? Story, Subtext, and Plot." I'm excited to do it, but I'm frightened beyond reason that I won't do the subject justice. If you come to the conference (why wouldn't you?) and you take my workshop, be warned that I will be my usual maniacally overachieving self and will ask you to do a few exercises while I throw mass quantities of information at you. 

It'll be fun.

In the meantime, I'm going to put up two movie trailers here. One is for The Big Sleep. The other is for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Watch them both.

Now...what is each one of these movies about? And, if you've seen both, did the movies live up to your expectations, based on the trailers?

Feel free to discuss.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Long time, no see

It's been a while, yes?

Here's what happened: In August, I got incredibly sidetracked by my latest WIPs, not to mention my horse (see Snoopy's blog). The manuscript I thought was ready for its closeup turned out to be not-so-photogenic. Every agent passed. So many agents...but a few of them gave me solid comments, which I am taking to heart and using to revise. 

In the meantime, the three other books I plan to write are in various stages of 1) I'm 2000 words in and I don't like the way I started this; 2) I've written an outline but I'm not certain if I'm on the right path; and 3) the idea is swirling about in my head if I could find time to open a file and begin.

It was business as usual, until October 21 rolled along. I was giving a riding lesson to a 7-year old, when I tripped and fell backward, breaking my left wrist. The upside is that it was my LEFT wrist and a clean fracture, not displaced. The downside is, I couldn't bend my left wrist in a position to type. I managed to type out my columns one-handed, but any attempt to work on any WIP was impossible--I was thinking faster than my right hand could find the keys, and getting frustrated.

So I stopped writing. Yes. Stopped. I didn't work on anything. Mentally, I wrote a blog every day without actually trying to get it onto the screen. Weekly, I pecked out my column. But no words were added to any of my novels. 

I've experienced short periods of extreme sadness. Who hasn't? I've never gone through anything that could be called depression. These last three months come close. Not only didn't I write, I began to think I might not write any more. I still "showed up" for my columns, gave them my best, but I didn't look at the words with any sense of pride or ownership. I simply did my job.

Today I'm in my office, at my computer, and not playing on Facebook or Twitter or anything. I'm opening my manuscript and creating. Is my long shadow of sadness over? Almost. I at least see the sun peeking over the horizon.

I'd love to stay and chat, but I've got work to do. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

If you don't invest in yourself, who will?

I am in the midst of writing two books (possibly three), marketing my latest mystery, agent-shopping for the one book I've completed, and preparing to teach three workshops at September's Southern California Writers Conference. 

As you can tell, my mind is in a complete whirl and the more I try to focus my attention on one thing I could get done, I feel compelled to click on that article about the Best Examples of Payback on some clickbait site.

This is why, instead of completing the form for the latest contest for my book, I clicked on "Why You Should Do Your Yoga Teacher Training at a Yoga Retreat." 

I'm not interested in yoga teacher training. I don't know why I clicked on it, other than work-avoidance. But I do know I'm glad I did. 

I know all the technical reasons to attend the Southern California Writers Conference. There are writing skills to be gained, business savvy to be learned, agents to be approached. 

But the yoga article gave me four new and excellent reasons to attend the SCWC, beyond the physical, to address why you go to any kind of "retreat" for yourself. 

1. You'll connect with like-minded people.

I know you have your writer's group. Or maybe you're an introvert. Maybe you deal with anxiety issues. 

When you attend SCWC, you can't help but meet people and you don't have to be a party animal. One of the nice things about the workshops is that the rooms are all set with tables. You sit around the tables, pull out your notebook (or laptop), and someone is bound to sit across from you and say, "Hi." 

Just say hi back to them, maybe give them a bit of a smile, and continue to write. You are among like-minded people, often people who are introverts with anxiety issues. They understand. 

And if you want to talk about your latest writing, or what you like to read, or what you dream of, we understand that, too. We speak your language.

2. You'll get to fully absorb and immerse yourself into yoga writing.

Think of it--three whole days to do nothing but think, speak, dream of writing. Maybe even three whole days to write. Picture a jacuzzi filled with words. Dip your body in and let them swirl about you. Bathing suits optional.

3. Change old thought patterns and habits.

I hadn't really thought about this one, but it's true. When you are present in the moment, it's easier to recognize when you veer off-road. When you're given permission to focus on your writing, you can see what you do to sabotage yourself (like clicking on random articles).

4. Come back with new, daily rituals.

Well, yes. You've recognized where you're going wrong, and after three days, you will be energized to go out and do it write right. 

*  *  *  *  *

Join us this September in Irvine, or next February in San Diego. 

Immerse yourself. 

Feed your passion. 

Invest in you. 

Here's the link:


September 22-24, 2017. Friday until Sunday. Do it.

I will be teaching three workshops. I hope to see you there! 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Episode 612: Gayle whines

Lordy, I feel bad for being selfish.

I think everyone is, but I still feel the weight of my sin when I realize I'm thinking about me-me-me nonstop. But I'm having a rough week.

On the horse front, I'm shopping for a new show horse. I've had to retire my love, my baby, my Snoopy, due to the fact that he can't be shown or even ridden without the kind of medical intervention that is sometimes called illegal doping. Which I would never do, for the simple reason that numbing a horse's pain can leave him open to further injury. So Snoopy is in a retirement ranch in Temecula, where he is sharing a paddock with two bachelors and is quite happy about not working anymore.

I visit him once a week.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried out a horse. She is everything I want, and does everything I want, EXCEPT...she won't lope to the right for me. As soon as I ask her, her back humps, she throws her head in the air, and we either long-trot, or "boing," which is a short-strided, quick-legged gait, only suitable to Pepe Le Pew when he's in love.

I know this horse has been shown by a darling young woman who suffered a brain injury when she was young and now wears the sturdiest of helmets to ride. No one would put her on an unsafe horse.

So if she could get the mare to lope, why couldn't I?

To compound my problems, there's the little matter of my manuscript. Between April 20 and May 29, I sent out 50 queries. I've gotten 30 responses. 28 were "No." One request for a full is still waiting for a response. One agent seems interested, except that he's only ever emailed me, and we can't seem to make time to talk (he travels to Germany a lot).

I told myself I'd give this querying business until October. I know this is the way it all works. I know of all the manuscripts that were passed on, yet survived to become bestsellers (hello, Harry Potter). I know this. And yet...

As the doctor told me, I'm older. Even if I get the agent now, they have to get the publisher, and they have a year or so to do that. Even if they get the publisher, my books may not get on their production schedule for two years. That's three years, folks. Do you know how old I'll be?

Maybe not quite hella old, but older.

So I'm in this horrible, downward spiral of, "If SHE can lope this horse, why can't I? If THEY can get an agent, why can't I?"


Tomorrow I shall meditate and do my yoga and go about my day, meeting my appointments, and I shall feel better, I'm sure. Because somewhere along this line I shall take up the reins of my own life and do SOMETHING.

Thanks. I feel better.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The livin' may be easy, but the writin' is not

A quick post here to say that I'll be gone for a week, where I hope to get some writing done in between hiking and hanging out with friends (and taking care of our two maniacal canines). BTW, if you're planning to rob me while I'm gone: 1) the house will not be vacant; 2) our neighbors are very nosy, and 3) there's nothing of value to take (I'm a writer who owns horses--you do the math).

In the meantime, here's a summer song (love that Ella).

And another.

One more (what IS it with the mutton chops?)

Okay, ONE more.

In the meantime, keep cool and keep reading!

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