Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy 2007

First day of a new year. Firsts always feel so promising. New ground--uncharted, unscarred-- a fresh road rolled out before you. Blank paper. Clean slate. Starting over.

The problem is, you can’t really start over.

You can alter your course and change direction but you can’t go back to the starting line. You can't unhook your past and leave it behind you like an unhinged caboose. It is part of you.

Be thankful. All the wrong directions taken have narrowed the choices in the maze, getting you closer to choosing the right one. You are who you are because of the past and are who you will become because of the present. Pay attention to today.

May you find opportunities, fulfillment, or and/or love every day of 2007.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

King of Advice

I will be spending a good part of my free time reading now. For a few reasons, the least being all the Barnes & Noble dollars my all-knowing family have bestowed on me this holiday season. The most of which is-- I feel the need for inspiration and guidance right now in my own writing. So, my posts for a while will probably consist of little sparklies I encounter on my dig that I will be moved to share here.

I have started my search for guidance with Stephen King's ON WRITING. Here's a very good piece of advice from it:

(He's talking about things he's learned) "Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it."

Really? I know it gets hard sometimes and you have to push through a scene. I've definitely been there. But, when do you know when to let a story go and when to push on?

Right now I really want to dump my whole story because changing it would be harder than starting over. Do I just want to dump it because it's hard then?

This is the first question I need to answer for myself.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Science of Christmas

Why is it at this time of year, everyone breaks into "give 'til it hurts mode"?

In this article: an idea of "upstream reciprocity" is explained.

Here's a taste:

"Our analysis shows that gratitude and other positive emotions, which increase the willingness to help others, can evolve in the competitive world of natural selection." Scrooge himself would have been impressed by their arguments which show how, even in a nature that is supposed to be red in tooth and claw, a person who has just received help may go on to help several others in "an 'epidemiology of altruism' resulting in an explosive increase of altruistic acts."

I'm not sure this explains goodwill during the holidays specifically, but I found it hilarious that scientists are even trying to explain this. Gotta love these guys!

Happy paying it forward day!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Happy Winner

It's been a long time since I've attempted to write poetry in general and a haiku specifically. It's been an even longer time since I've actually won anything. (I think winning a blue stuffed bunny from a drawing at the dentist's office when I was eight was the last thing.)

So, I was excited when Mark Terry ( held a fun little haiku writing contest on his blog. It really got me out of my comfort zone. I should be good at poetry...I love words, I love the multiple meanings you can layer behind them, I love finding just the right one...but,despite this, I am not good at poetry. It's a completely different animal than fiction. And despite that-- I entered the contest...and was one of two lucky winners who will receive a free autographed copy of The Devil's Pitchfork! I'm so excited and can't wait to read it. Regardless of being chosen from a hat drawing or however he bestowed the honor on us, I thought I would share my silly little haikus (or is that haiki?) with you. Here they are:

from an open mind
between the covers, words spill
a public affair

one slightly used soul
sold to the highest bidder
a writer’s happiest day

So, there you have it. Maybe my luck is changing. Maybe I should try to write more poetry. (Thinking back to those volatile teens and twenties...years filled with misguided shots at poetry)

Maybe not.

Monday, December 18, 2006

And I Quote III

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
Walden Thoreau

Live. Dream. Imagine.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Loving Margaret Atwood

I went to the book store yesterday. Nothing makes me feel better than going to a bookstore, being surrounded by juicy gems of talent that actually made it through this whole grueling process and now sit proudly snuggled up against each other, enjoying their success. I don't think my daughter, who accompanied me, fully appreciates the desire burning in my little heart to have my words snuggled up against the others, because she actually said to me, "Wow, Mom, wouldn't it be kinda cool to be standing here looking at your book on the shelf one day." Sigh.

Yes, honey, it would be kinda cool.

So, anyway, I told myself I would not buy any books, I was just going to breath and rejuvenate and get my focus back.

I bought a book.

It wasn't even one on my twenty-four long must-buy book list. But, as it turns out, it was the right time to buy it.


I've picked this book up a half a dozen times over the years and thought, "Hmmm, this looks interesting." Didn't seem to be the right time to read it. I've also picked up the HANDMAID'S TALE and didn't feel I was in the right frame of mind to make it through in one emotional piece.

I'm not done with it yet, I'm about half-way through. But, the amazing thing to me is that I haven't found Margaret Atwood before now. Her prose make me salivate:
"It's discouraging how grubby everyone gets without mirrors. Still, they're amazingly attractive, these children-each one naked, each one perfect, each one a different skin colour-chocolate, rose, tea, butter, cream, honey-but each with green eyes. Crake's aesthetic."

Definitely a lover of words.

And let's not even mention the science, which she slips in unobtrusively. Hmmm, okay-let's.

My inspiration for THE MOTHERCODE was an article I read about scientists inserting jelly-fish genes into rabbits and getting glow-in-the-dark bunnies. I was amazed. I put them in my book.

ORYX AND CRAKE takes place in the future where these glow-in-the-dark bunnies have escaped and run rampant, glowing and breeding in the wild like...well, like rabbits. She also has the "scientists creating disease and then cures" theme.

Her father and, I believe, her brother were biologists which is why I think the science seems so natural, not in the spotlight but an important part of the background. No preaching, yet big lessons to think about.

I'm glad I picked this book up. It was the right time. It's both a neon sign pointing me in the direction I want to take my writing and a moment of rest and enjoyment as a reader.

Must go finish!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sinkholes Along The Road

It's one of those days here where the outside is a mute gray, and a light mist is collecting on the windows. There was no sunrise this morning, the sky wasn't raked with shades of gold and orange like normal. Instead, it just sort of got lighter behind the clouds, like someone was slowly turning the knob until it was sufficiently light enough to be called "day." This matches my inside

I finally got an answer back from a scientist, and he set me straight on a few ideas I had about my artificial chromosome. Straight enough that it's not going to work now. I mean, I could still make it work, but I specifically said "implausible is acceptable, impossible is not." My immediate reaction was "see, you're deluding yourself. You're not cut out for this. Stop living in this fantasy and go become an accountant or something."

Aren't we mean to ourselves?

Of course, I could stop being a woman easier than I could stop being a, it's back to the drawing board. No, it's not even back to the drawing's smash the drawing board and build a new one. I have to rethink my entire plot.

So, today I will let myself mourn the novel that will never be. The year of research down the drain.

Tomorrow I will begin the journey again. I'm already thinking- maybe this is good. I was feeling a bit like a sell-out anyway when I really wanted to write more literary fiction and was trying to force the thriller to fit the market. This feels right. Tearing down, starting over.

The hard part will be waiting for the new story to take shape. It's a long process. Don't you wish you could kick inspiration in the behind sometimes and scream, "get a move on, I'm not getting any younger!" Instead, I'll wait while my subconscious rolls it around and lets bits float up for me to catch before I fully wake up in the morning, or find myself scrambling for a pen while daydreaming/driving...

Meanwhile I'll be spending the day emotionally eating and chanting, "writing is a journey not a destination."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's a Fish

I love science. For those of you who missed my grand opening explanation of what I write--it's science-based fiction. No, not science fiction, because I don't have that good of an imagination. Think more along the lines of Micheal Crichton or Greg Bear, only without the money, fame, respect or a publishing contract.

THE NEURAL NET is about adding the power of thought to sound waves and getting a weapon so strong and precise it can break the bonds of DNA. I wrote this book because I got obsessed with energy, waves and the fact that everything in our closed little universe is just that--waves of energy. Everything. Anyway, I finished this book over two years ago (it's still making its rounds) and in one scene the subjects are attempting to move a 200 lb. slate rock by combining the energy of their thoughts (via the neural net) with the power of a sound wave. Here's a quote from one of the more cynical characters:

“Aw, I don’t know, Peter. To be frank, I’m just not sure I can believe in all this stuff. Our thoughts controlling things. Sound being used as a physical force to. . .to make things grow and levitate rocks. It just sounds like a bunch of new age crap. Sorry,” he added half-heartedly."

Yes, I believe this is all possible. Yesterday I ran across this article in Livescience and got very excited:

"Xie and his colleagues employed an ultrasound emitter and reflector that generated a sound pressure field between them. The emitter produced roughly 20-millimeter-wavelength sounds, meaning it could in theory levitate objects half that wavelength or less. After the investigators got the ultrasound field going, they used tweezers to carefully place animals between the emitter and reflector. The scientists found they could float ants, beetles, spiders, ladybugs, bees, tadpoles and fish up to a little more than a third of an inch long in midair. When they levitate the fish and tadpole, the researchers added water to the ultrasound field every minute via syringe."

A wave by any other it sound, light or still a wave.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Questions Need Answers

Working on THE MOTHERCODE this past week has consisted of tweaking and rewriting only. Ug. I'm at the point where I really need some clarification of my ideas...if they will be remotely possible in the future. I've written to a few experts with some questions, but so far--no response. I realize everyone is busy with creating their own successful lives, but a little charity thrown at one little writer by way of answering a few questions--is this too much to ask?

Actually, I didn't expect most of them to answer as I tend to shoot high and contacted the superstar scientists first. I will move my way down the totem pole and I'm sure some lab rat in some university somewhere--with their imagination and good will still in tact-- will decide it will be worth taking a few moments to reply and see their name in the acknowledgement section of my novel one day. This is my hope, anyway.

I really want to get the science as close to future reality as possible, so I'll pose one of my most important questions here in case some lab rat googles "lat rat" and can help:

Will it eventually be feasible to get a human artificial chromosome into an adult germ cell by way of some kind of vaccine? (emphasis on the germ cell)

As a side note, I'm wondering how this whole email communication thing is affecting how we relate to each other. It's so easy to pop off an email...and so easy to ignore them. At least in the letter writing days, you knew someone actually took the time to get a hand cramp and a sticky tongue, walk to the mailbox and lift the flag, so you felt obligated to at least acknowledge the letter.

Do we just not appreciate carpel tunnel and the energy it takes to hit "send"?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

And I Quote II

This is one of my favorites. It's actually taped to the top of my frustration-box (aka: computer)

"You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now (since you have allowed me to advise you) I beg you to give all that up. You're looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all-ask yourself in the stillest hour of the night; must I write?" -Rainer Rilke: Letters To A Young Poet

And of course the answer is-- yes. Writers cannot untangle the act of writing from their deepest longings, they cannot look at beauty without compartmentalizing it with language, and they cannot resist the urge to create and share from the depth of their own imagination. -me

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fear and Hope

I was reading Brad Listi's ( blog yesterday and read a story he told about a friend of his. It went something like this: This lady just had her brakes worked on and was driving down the interstate with her two small children strapped in the back along with her golden retriever. I think she almost missed her exit or something and hit the brakes too hard and ended up flipping the SUV. My heart sank at this point, being that I frequently drive my SUV around with my two small children strapped in the back and my golden retriever happily coming along for the ride. I also frequently run this exact scenario through my head as I'm driving and find myself paralyzed with the fear of having these precious lives in my control.

The story continues with passer-by's coming to help her. She's okay and asks about her children. They somehow are still strapped in, hanging upside-down and staring out the window. Great relief! Of course, I scanned the rest of the story frantically to find out the fate of her dog. Turns out, he had gotten thrown from the back window and was sitting on the side of the road, wagging his tail and waiting for his owner. Gotta love the breed.

Then I got to thinking about fear. I hate fear. It is something I'm constantly battling in my own life as I was raised to literally be afraid of everything. My childhood was full of so many warnings and overprotection, it's very hard for me to even get out on the road without all the terrifying "what if's" running like a cinematic production in my head. I am not resigned to this, and I am constantly looking for ways to rewire my thinking.

This little story helped a lot. The next time my imagination runs rampant when I'm on the road, I can squash it with the knowledge that even if the worst happens, it's possible to come out of it alive.

This is what sharing stories is all about, isn't it? Showing each other the dark side of life and how even in that there is hope.

If you're interested, Brad has got a cool little experiment going on where if you send him a letter, he will write you one back!

P.O. BOX 69A18