November is National Novel Writing Month!

Is everyone ready for NaNoWriMo?


Yeah, well, me neither, so don’t feel bad.  I’m not even ready for Halloween.

But that’s the whole point of NaNoWriMo.  If I waited until I was ready to write the novel, I most assuredly would not be starting in two days.

Last year, I started NaNoWriMo with pages and pages of brainstorming and a sturdy little outline.  This year I have maybe 2,000 words of musings about a vague idea that came to me during a two-week fever brought on by the EFBISTD virus.

But that’s okay.  Because I have faith that in 31 days, I will have written another novel.  Hee.  Kind of feels nice typing that sentence out.  Let’s do it again.

In 31 days, I will have written another novel.

Cool beans.

So I originally wanted to write a pre-NaNo checklist, but I’m a little late on the uptake with that one.  The blogosphere is already bursting with chuckle-worthy checklists.  I figure the people who are already loading up their fridges with pre-made sandwiches (ahem) and setting up elaborate security perimeters around their work spaces don’t really need me anyway.  They are already committed.

Therefore, this blog post is dedicated to the folks who don’t think they can do it.  This is for the folks who think that their lives are too busy and too stressful; that now is not a good time; that there’s just too much going on; that their kid, their spouse, their boss, their noisy neighbor just won’t let it happen.

This is for the folks who do ridiculous commutes to support their families.  This is for the folks who provide any type of customer service.  This is for our teachers who don’t want to teach, our bankers who don’t want to bank, and our account managers who don’t want to manage accounts.

This is for all you busy, exhausted, overwhelmed folks whose idea of a vacation involves spending copious amounts of time in front of the computer working out the motivations of a person who doesn’t exist, researching what it would take to make the atmosphere of Mars hospitable for humans, and romping around a countryside of your own dreamings picking off people with you don’t like with your lightning sniper rifle just because you can.

You can do this.  I know, I know, you’re busy, you’re exhausted.  Trust me, I know.  We could swap war stories.  You could tell me all about the complicated legal brief you have due and a client who can’t be reached, and I could tell you how my daughter won’t sleep without me glued to her side and how I have to sneak out of the bedroom like a thief in the night to go to the bathroom.

But we have no time for war stories.  Why?  Because the time is nigh!  It is upon us and against us.  There is only now.  There will only ever be now.

So before you dismiss the possibility of completing NaNoWriMo this year and earning the right to call yourself a novelist, I have a suggestion:

Look at it as a vacation.

Think of it.  For a small amount of time each day, you don’t have to think about the job or the kids or whatever is stressing you out.  For a small amount of each day, you will be working on something that is solely and completely yours, that is under your control and design, and is something that is free from judgment from anyone else in your life for as long as you so choose.  For a small amount of each day, you will be making progress, however small and insignificant it might feel, towards your goal of becoming a published author.  You will be fulfilling your purpose, if not your responsibility.

If you hate your job and feel like it’s sucking the soul from the insides of your flesh casing, this, Brave Reader, is a chance for you to give it the bird and do what you want to do.  Let’s be honest.  When is your soul-sucking, unappreciative, unrewarding, crap-paying job ever going to allow you to rise above and beyond it?

And you do want to rise above and beyond, right?  Don’t you want to turn in your resignation letter sooner, rather than later, because “contractual obligations in my publishing career need my full attention”?  Can’t you see your boss’s face?  Oh, sweet day….

Of course you want this.  You think of this moment with every breath.  But despite all the cheering and good reasons and best intentions, there are still the logistics of shoehorning a 25-hour day into a 24-hour time period.  Where do you find the time to write a 50,000-word novel?  Where do you find the energy?

Don’t worry about the energy.  The energy will come.  Doesn’t it always come?  You know how it is.  It’s like trying to start an old car on a cold winter morning.  It ain’t easy.  It requires more than a few specialized terms uttered at just the right pitch and maybe a prayer.  But once you get that baby going, you’ll be rocketing down the road in no time getting an exclusive first-time look at a brand-new story.

As for time, hell, that’s for all of us to figure out, but I’m willing to bet you can find the time in the nooks and crannies of your day.  The extra time we all are dreaming of isn’t the time we think will arrive on our doorstep when we retire.  The extra time we’re looking for exists in the “dead zones” of our day.

If you’re have to sit in traffic on a horrendous commute, dictate your story into a tape recorder.

If you’re stuck in a job that keeps you chained to your desk, write the damn thing line by line in the bathroom.

Write when you eat.  Everyone eats.  I think most people get at least 5 or 10 minutes a day to eat in peace.  I hope.  I wouldn’t know.  I have a toddler.

And it goes without saying that if you get TV time in every day, you can do this.  If you know who wore that Stella McCartney dress better, you can do this.  If you have an unlimited text message plan for a reason, you can do this.

Now maybe you’re mad at me.  I’ve made you uncomfortable.

If that’s the case, I’m sorry.  Honestly, I am.  I hate being this guy.  But by the time you get to the 5,000th word around November 4, you’ll get over it.  Don’t imagine that you, me, or anyone else is going to make it to the Published Author Club without a good amount of discomfort.  And so I poke you with the you-can-do-it stick out of love.

You might be asking, “Why?  Why should I do this?  Why put myself through this?  Why can’t I pursue my dreams at a rate that doesn’t make me and my family crazy?”

To that, I counter,  “Why not?”

To me, the NaNoWriMo challenge is like a gift, an opportunity to stretch myself.  And to be doing this when 165,000+ other people are doing it around the world, there’s something almost spiritual in that.  In a field where “solitary” is the norm, for one month, I have lots and lots of coworkers, all doing the same damn job.

Last year, 30,000 participants completed the challenge.  I’d venture to say, in the month of November, there are more novels born than in any other month.  That’s amazing.

Can you stand another quote from Steven Pressfield?

“If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion (¹or write a novel) and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself.  You hurt your children.  You hurt me.  You hurt the planet.”

Do you need any better reason?  Do it for the children.


¹ My addition.


If you’ve read my blog before, then you might be aware of my undying love for Steven Pressfield’s wonderful book on the creative battle, “¹The War of Art.”   In the “Turning Pro,” section, Pressfield lists 10 qualities of a professional.  This is the most perfect set of instructions for success that I’ve ever read.

Using Pressfield’s criteria, here is how the writing is going:

1.  We show up every day. Check.  I do something every single day, even if it’s just a paragraph.

2.  We show up no matter what. Okay, I let the Death Virus beat me for two weeks, and the kid wins an awful lot…but she has the All Powerful Mama Ray that renders me into putty in her little paws.

3.  We stay on the job all day. No such thing with a toddler.  Since I can’t work in luxurious multi-hour stretches of time, I’ve started logging every single minute I spend on building this career and how I’m spending it (new fiction, reading, critiquing, blogging, rewriting, submitting, et cetera).  Doing this has helped me evaluate how I work, and it keeps me on task.

4.  We are committed over the long haul. I wonder what I’ll be writing about in my 80s.  Probably space ninjas.

5.  The stakes for us are high and real. It used to be all about me.  Now it’s all about my family.  I have to show them I can do this.  I want all of us to have a better life because I succeed at doing this.

6.  We accept remuneration for our labor. Cash, checks, money orders, PayPal, and all major credit cards, baby!  And the only way to collect remuneration for our labor is to submit, submit, submit!  My last story out for submission came home to roost, and so I’ve got no lines in the water right now.  But I should have one, maybe two short stories out in the world in the next couple of weeks, and I have been focusing on getting all of my completed stories finished and out of the house.

7.  We do not overidentify with our jobs. I received a pretty tough critique yesterday morning on a story I spent a lot of time and love on and thought was close to being ready to send out…and I am more excited about how I can make this story better than I am bummed out that I didn’t get a high-five.  I know this critique isn’t about me, just this one story I wrote.  And it’s okay if this story never pans out because I’ve got dozens more written and countless more coming down the pipeline.

8.  We master the technique of our jobs. Besides having my real-life writer’s groups, I have belonged to the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror for at least three years and never posted a story for review…until recently.  I’ve posted two stories in the past month, and I’ve posted four lengthy reviews.  So I am definitely working on it.

9.  We have a sense of humor about our jobs. If my husband happened to hear me cackling in my office the other day, it was because the perfect solution to my story was space ninjas…seriously.  I have waay too much fun.  I feel sorry for people who can’t utilize space ninjas in their line of work.  (“Hey, Joe, the customers are complaining that the food’s taking too long.”  “Hey!  Do I look like a frickin’ space ninja to you?  No?  Then you know I can’t slow time, so tell the customers to hold their damn horses!”)

10.  We receive praise of blame in the real world. That’s what the push to submit is about…as well as hanging my work on display in my virtual writer’s workshop.

I think the most positive indicator that I’m making my way towards the professional side of the spectrum is the fact that I’m stressed about it as if it were a “real” job.  I’m starting to take my own self-imposed deadlines seriously, and when I get behind, I’m evil.  (Well, eviler anyway.)  I’m making conscious and deliberate sacrifices to allow this thing I must do to blossom.  I’m always thinking about the writing.

When I first read this list a few years ago, I was a far and distant cry from meeting any of these criteria.  Now I feel like I’m making progress.  Progress makes me happy.  So do space ninjas!  Shoryuken!

Anyway, that’s how the writing’s been going for me.  How’s about you guys?

Oh.  And in case you’ve been living in a hole, NaNoWriMo begins in only three days away!  Yeeks!  Man the battle stations.  Deliver all supplies and rations to me.  I will keep them safe.  I promise.


¹ Pressfield recently wrote on his blog:  “…I’m hard at work on The War of Art 2.0., which I hope to have in six months or so.”  Glee!


THE VIEW FROM WHERE I'M FLYING ~ "Bird's Eye View of Kauai" by kimjew @ deviantART.com

I concede.  I admit it.  Summer is over.  The pomegranates are hanging low and fat, the local pumpkin fields are dotted with orange, and we are wearing socks on a regular basis.

I’m sad to see this summer pass.  Maybe that’s why I’m still surprised it’s cold outside and haven’t yet started on the Pupster’s Halloween costume.  Talk about long, endless summers.

I imagine we all have those summers in our lives that stand up to the rigors of time and imperfection of memory…the summer that we had our first kiss, the last summer before high school, summers where we arrive at the Labor Day barbecue somehow changed, grown up, more worldly and more forgiving.

This has been my summer.  This was the first summer of my marriage that I’ve been apart from my husband.  And so while Fat Cat was off in the Army working hard for the family, I was at home…alone with the baby.

Piece of cake.

Except for the Evil Faux-But-Incredibly-Similar-To-Death virus that Fat Cat brought home to the Labor Day festivities (thanks, hon), it really was a piece of cake.  I handled things like a pro — in large part due to incredible parents who will drop everything if I ask for help…even if it means exposing themselves to the EFBISTD virus.  But even considering the amazing support of my family and friends, I feel really proud of how I’ve done on my own these past few months.

So, anyway, I’ve been thinking about writing this blog post for a long time, probably most of the summer.  I’ve been searching for that one perfect morsel of English language to describe my summer.  I’ve been chasing it for the last few months, and it’s almost on the tip of my tongue….

Anyway, I haven’t found it yet.  But I finally had to write this so that I can move on and tell you guys about all the other cool stuff I’ve been saving up for you.  I didn’t want to find myself sharing summer revelations in the middle of Christmas shopping season when everyone’s obsessed with trying to find out what list they’re on and trying to get to everyone on theirs.  It’s bad enough that Halloween’s almost here.  In just four days, I am expected to dress my child in a funny outfit and go door to door begging for handouts from my neighbors.  Yay!

So here I am, perfect-morsel-less, ready to accept that this post will have to be less than perfect (what?!), and that for now, my summer will have to retain its working title.  Better that we just move onward and upward.

And maybe that’s what my summer’s been about.  Onward and upward.  I feel like for the first time in my life, I’m completely facing forward, no need for a rear view mirror.  I feel like Buzz Lightyear, my fist raised high above my head, one leg bent just so, toes pointed fetchingly, of course…and I believe.  And so I am flying…and the view up here is breathtaking.

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my life.

True, I’ve missed Fat Cat, there was that horrible death virus, and the dogs caught waay too many possums¹ … but still, it was a great summer.  I like to think I showed up to the Labor Day barbecue somehow taller and more relaxed, maybe even a little younger and prettier.  For the moment, I get it.  I get all the funny and sad bits, I understand what it’s all about, and I am incredibly grateful.

There hasn’t been one definitive event that has found me in this altered state at the doorstep of Autumn.  More like a string of delightful stories probably only interesting to me.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that these little stories that make up our lives are the most important ones.

Mostly, I learned a lot this summer.  I learned that a lot of stuff I care about doesn’t matter, and that a lot of stuff I thought doesn’t matter actually kind of does.

I learned how to drive nowhere, that it’s cool there are people out there who will mount giant chickens in their front yard, and that fresh-pressed apple cider tastes nothing like “apple juice.”

I learned that I can move at least two pallets of sod with a wheelbarrow on a low tire — confirming my long-time suspicion that I have superpowers².

I learned that you should always investigate meowing when it’s coming from your ceiling, that it’s more likely it’s a thirsty, trapped kitty than a supernatural being.

I learned that I don’t need nearly as much sleep as I used to.

I learned that one should always be packed for the beach.

I learned that I want to write more than I want to do anything else in this life, and that I was probably born like this.

I learned that there is a deep and wide swath that separates professionals from half-assers, and this chasm exists in every industry and shenanigan of our human tribe.  I also learned that more often than not, this separation between the cream and the cloudy water tends to forecast where to find the cool people.

I learned that I really want to be “cool people”…in a self-effacing, American-sweetheart meat-eating hippie kind of way.

I’ve learned that I’m the funniest person I know…and that the baby is well on her way to knocking me down to second funniest.

I’ve learned to watch what I say in front of the baby.

Most importantly, I learned that there really is no right way to live your life.  And now that I know, I’ve been having a lot more fun defining what I think a good³ life lived looks like.

Anyway, if you’re reading this far down, thank you for letting me share this with you.  It’s been a pleasure to write this post.  I think so far this has been my most favorite summer yet.

What was your best summer?


¹ Why don’t they run, for crying out loud?  Playing dead does not work at my house.  My dogs are not fooled.

² Eat yer heart out, Ninja Jim!

³ Incidentally, mine looks like a butt-dented denim couch with lots of crushed goldfish crackers under the cushion.


I suppose you probably want to know where the hell I’ve been.  No, no, you’re right.  I should have called or — no, it wouldn’t have killed me to drop a line or two to let you know I was okay.  It’s just that I’ve been busy, but…

*(I let my voice get sultry here, the way you like it.)

… I always meant to come back, my darlings.

There were countless times I opened the “Add New Post” window and pondered where to start, what to share with you, Dear Reader, of my whirlwind travels and battles waged with keyboard and mouse.  Naturally, only wanting to give you my very best, I would browse deviantART, looking for the perfect picture with which to accompany my affectionate return to communications with you.  Alas, there have been many a snake pit to turn me from the trail, losing me farther and farther into the jungle.

But I have returned, my sweet.  Scuffed up and travel-worn, yes — and, grant you, maybe not smelling so great — but I’m back, baby!  It’s been a long and wonderful summer.  I have so much to tell you.

So anyway, that’s why this post doesn’t have a picture.  I just couldn’t wait any longer to say hi to everyone…and show you my new tattoo!  Just kidding.

So there.  The silence is broken.  The ice is broken?  I’ve broken the ice…The icy silence is broken…only that implies hard feelings, of which all of mine are soft and fuzzy…(mind the gutter, please)…  Anyway, we can talk about word choice and diction some other time…and we will…I promise.

In the meantime, let it be known across the land, **ANG IS BACK!

Refreshments are in the back.  Somebody kill the deejay and put on some real friggin’ music.  Where the hell is the giant pizza?  Jerry, you give “monkey’s cousin” a whole new level of meaning.

Sheesh.  I gotta go handle this.  I should have know that this thing would go viral.  Now I’m going to have to deal with a shitload of fan mail.

Anyway, you sit back, have a cookie, relax and admire the…blank space where there ain’t no picture.  I’ll be back shortly.


*     Wow!  Who made this midnight chili I is eating (yum!), and what did they put in it?  May I have more?

**  Feel free to send gifts, but don’t make it like a big thing or anything.