"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

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Another conference. Done and done.

I've just spent three-and-a-half days in San Diego, at the Southern California Writers' Conference and I'm both exhausted and supercharged. I was up every night until after midnight, and up every morning by seven a.m. and there was copious amounts of sushi and wine and discussion and laughter and hijinks in between. So it was a success.

Here are the highlights:

1. I kept my voice for the entire conference. This is a highlight because, for the past TWO conferences, I have lost my voice on Friday night and had to power through teaching my workshops. I owe this to avoiding all colds and viruses, and beginning every morning with a witches' brew that looks like this:

It's oranges, lemons, honey, ginger and turmeric. I put a hearty tablespoon in hot water and drink it. What a throat soother!

2. I got to hone my pitch/logline for A MORE DEADLY UNION in Jenny and Marla's Pitch Witches workshop. Now when someone asks me what my book is about, I can tell them,

"Peri is a 50-year old private investigator who knows two things: She doesn't want to get married AND she is happy to stick her nose in police business when she's solving a case. Suddenly, her boyfriend Skip is in a coma, and her case is interfering with the police's ability to find his shooter. Now all she knows is, she'll do anything if Skip will wake up--even marry him."

Jennifer Silva Redmond and Marla Miller, taking your calls.

I recommend their sessions highly for cutting through the fat of your pitch or query, and getting to the meat. 

3. Every night ended at the bar and every morning came too early, the sign of a good conference.

4. My workshop went well, so well that we were still talking when Laura Taylor came in to teach hers--oops! My apologies to Laura, and I tried to get out from under her feet as quickly as possible.

5. It was the conference's 30th anniversary and we celebrated!

With cake.

Wes Albers (left), and Michael Steven Gregory, blowing out the candles.

6. I came away with renewed energy, fond memories, and a burning desire to see these people again. What shocks me about this group of people is that we're not actually a group of people. We're not an organization - there is no membership roll, no dues, nothing but two conferences a year. And yet, we are a tribe, a community of writers who love to gather and discuss writing and feel that no one has an agenda, that we are happy for each other's successes, and that we are in safe company.

This particular weekend was about the quality of our writing. Without going into detail that would be unnecessarily painful and harsh, our tribe recently experienced a disturbance in the force. Someone we thought was one of us turned out to be not-so-much. Most of us spent the weekend going through the five stages of grief every half-hour. But it's okay, because it allowed our relationships to be cemented stronger, and to improve our writing even more. 

We will lift our words up until the universe sings our stories. We will aim for excellence and settle for exceptional. And in the meantime, we will write more and suck less.

I can't wait until September. Go here if you can't wait, either- http://writersconference.com/la/

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A pirating day

I'm still choosing a cover and refining the jacket copy for Peri's latest adventure, A MORE DEADLY UNION. Currently, I'm striving for a June release date, although I may push it out if necessary. I'm also planning a big, fat launch party. It's been awhile since I had one of those, but as my age advances, I feel the need to celebrate milestones.

Life is short. Celebrate the happy.

In the meantime, I'm still working on my girl pirate book. It's fun to write, because it's like Play-Doh, molding and massaging and creating whatever comes to mind. I'm not sure where the story might go, and the characters and their motivations keep getting stronger, and they reveal secrets to me the more I write them. 

So much so that my first chapter got scrapped, and I'm now writing it all in first-person because Lisette wants to tell this story. I don't know whether it's because she's nobility or just strong-willed, but she's a girl who will do anything to get to her goals, including narrating her own tale.

And then there are the dragons.

Here is the new first chapter of the current work. I hope it whets your appetite.

* * * * * *

When I was five years old, I saw a dragon kill my uncle. This would be unremarkable if dragons existed, but my entire family told me I had a wild imagination and dissuaded me from telling anyone else. For anyone I had told, they tsk-tsked and explained that, poor child, I was so traumatized by witnessing my uncle’s death, I had dreamed up a horrid beast to explain it to my wee five-year-old brain.

When you’re young, parents are always telling you the vegetable on your plate is really magic candy, and it’s midnight on New Year’s when the clock rings eight. You believe them because they are your parents and they are wise and you love them.

So when they said I must have been mistaken and frightened and there are no dragons, I tried to believe it was a knife and not talons that slashed my uncle’s throat, and it was a torch and not a beast’s breath setting fire to his body.

What my parents did not know, what I never told, was that after killing my uncle, the dragon came to me. His image is seared in my mind. He was the size of a horse, crimson and black, with a line of golden spikes down his back to his tail. His coat was not scaled, as the tapestries portrayed them, but silky and long, like luxurious fur.

As he sniffed me, his nostrils widened from narrow slits to rounds, and the crescents in his eyes glowed, matching the waning moon. His breath smelled of ashes, and he brought his tremendous talon to press me against the wall. My body quivered, waiting to be sliced into ribbons, but I faced him. His eyes drilled into mine, searching for something within me.

After some moments of what I can only describe as a combination of terror and excitement, he turned from me and flew away, with a cry that expressed both anguish and victory. Even if I could have forgotten the smell of his breath, the weight of his claw upon my breast, I could never forget that scream.

I am now on the eve of my 18th year, a grown woman, preparing to be a bride, and leaving behind my childhood dreams and fantasies. I must learn to stop looking for great beasts of fire and claw. Still, there is a corner of my heart that keeps watching, both fearing and hoping to see another.

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