On Friday, I talked about ideas and how they find their way to me from wherever they come from.  Perhaps I made it sound too easy — true, these days, it’s easier than it’s ever been — but it definitely wasn’t always like this for me.

It makes me laugh now (in a painful sort of way) thinking back on those young, naïve days –when I had all the time in the world (and didn’t know it), and only myself to take care of (and didn’t appreciate it) — when I would sit in front of the page just stumped…petrified.  I felt at the time like I was stuck in proverbial mud with no clue how to haul myself out because I wouldn’t know what to do next if I got out anyway.  Horrible.

If only I had just opened my eyes!  I would have seen that there was never any mud at all, only dust beneath my feet.

See, I believe that if someone were able to invent some sort of Idea-O-Scope to allow us to see ideas, we would discover that ideas lay like a thick layer of dust over everything.  There’s ideas everywhere.  You just have to train yourself to see them.  It’s super easy.  It’s just like trying to wake up in a dream, hauling on your eyelid levers, willing those lids to crack open and let in the light, for God’s sake!  But once you get good at it, you’ll never want to sleep, you’ll be too busy creating.

“Very fancy,” you say, “but I don’t think no fancy metaphor is going to help me come up with good ideas.”

“Ah,” I say, holding up one finger in anticipation to the enlightenment I am about to cast upon thee, “but it really is easy.  And I will tell you how in true eHow fashion.”

~    ~    ~

Things You’ll Need: A flayed-wide-open mind, a sense of humor, some self-awareness, good manners, a taste for ice cream, and a supply of your best poison.  Good depth perception is always a plus.  Dinosaurs are optional.


1.  Get prepared. Do whatever it takes to make sure that wherever you go, you have a way of catching an idea.  No sense in going on safari with no camera, right?  So get your equipment together.  Remember, nothing can ruin a day quite like a great idea forgotten.  You know.

a.  Memo Pads. Buy them in multi-packs and stash them everywhere…in your car, in your purse, in the bathroom (oh, yeah!), by the remote control.  Seriously.  Put them everywhere.

b.  Voice Recorder. I have a hand-held microcassette recorder left over from the pre-smartphone days of Yesteryear (magnetic technology, yeah, baby!), and I love it.  I use it mostly in the car, but I also take it on walks.  It’s an immediate way to clear your mental RAM and store ideas safely, freeing up brain space for even more ideas.  Most cell phones these days have some sort of voice recorder, but I prefer the cassette recorder simply because I can actually feel the buttons and don’t have to look down when I’m driving.  A good thing.

2.  Take a moment. I think it’s easy to constantly barrage ourselves with information.  We’re constantly checking our smartphones, multitasking, multitasking, multitasking.  It scares me that I sometimes lay in bed with the Toddler waiting for her to fall asleep and wishing I had some sort of laminar biotechnology installed in my eyeballs so I could get some work done.  The iEye, right?

But there’s a tremendous value to be found in sitting still for 15 minutes a day with only a pad of paper and a pen.  Even the busiest of peeps can scratch out 15 minutes of quiet time.  It just has to be 15 minutes where there’s nothing else but you, the paper, and the pen.  Just pay attention to the world. Close your eyes if you have to, and open everything else up.  You’ll start to notice the sounds of pigeons from the neighbors’ chimney where they put up that now white-stained plastic owl.  You’ll wonder bemusedly what that owl would say if it could speak…or what the pigeons think of the whole scare effort…  Just go with it.  Let your mind wander down as many What-If Alleys as it finds.  There’s stories everywhere at your feet, waving wildly at you, trying to get your attention, shouting, “Me!  Me!  Me!  Pick me!”  Once you start haunting the what-if scene behind everyday life, you’ll see them.  You’ll see them all the time.

3.  Subscribe to awesome magazines. Recommendations?  Well, being of a science-fictional leaning, I think ScienceNews is a great one to start with.  I just started up again with National Geographic. Seems like there’s always three or four potential short stories to be found in each issue.  Actually, if I might be so bold, I think one could even build an entire writing career off of one issue of this magazine if they wanted to.  It’s just a jumping-off point, and there are hundreds to be found in any good quality magazine…and even not so good quality.  National Enquirer is fab. I also like Food Network Magazine. Yes, there are great speculative fiction story ideas to be found even there…and yummy recipes to boot!

4.  Very Important — Do Something With The Idea. Don’t waste it by saving it for the future when you’re more capable, learned, and experienced to do it justice.  That’s a slow, painful death for ideas.  Show your gratitude by fulfilling its promise as soon as possible.  Just write the story.  That’s how you get experience to do the next one better.

Remember, fulfilling one idea attracts many, many more ideas.  If you do a good job — and you will, won’t you? — word will spread, and they will start lining up for you.  You spin enough of those ideas into stories, even if some of them suck, it won’t matter.  They’ll forgive you and keep coming because they know you do the work.

This is the linch-pin of the all-important self-perpetuating motion machine of the creative process:  the artist must fulfill her vision.

Now, go forth!  Catch lightning in a bottle!  Make lots of rain and thunder!



*     *     *

When I sail the dark and stormy night on a ship I cannot name,

You mark it on the map.

When I wander lost in strange countries,

You cast yourself down like breadcrumbs.

When I fall fighting the demons,

You throw yourself between.

When I hit boulders in the trail,

You heave me over.

When I run into someone whose name I can’t remember,

You step in.

When I make promises I’m likely to forget,

You remind me gently.

When I am ineloquent, you forgive me.

When I am not being true, you give me a second chance.

Past bogs of home-made taffy and everyday sirens,

You see me safely to the end,

For you are my bridge over muddy waters,

Trail of lanterns across moonless landscapes,

Stepping stones across rivers wild.

Like black snowflakes falling on white,

To star in typographical constellations,

Understated and elegant,

Beautiful first draft companion,

Amazing, wonderful asterisk.

~ by Angela McConnell ~


C.J. Cherryh is probably the first “adult” author I ever read.  When I was in grade school, maybe 5th grade, my dad used to take me down to “The Bookstall,” in Lawton, Oklahoma.  It was this tiny little used bookstore crammed into a strip mall where you could trade in books for credit and pick up new ones.

When I laid eyes on the cover of “The Book of Morgaine” by C.J. Cherryh (a hardback consolidation of three novels:  “Gate of Ivrel,” “Well of Shiuan,” and “Fires of Azeroth), I just knew I had to have it.  It depicts a warrior woman galloping on a white horse, shock of snowy hair streaming in the wind.  This book affected me in ways I can’t even articulate.  It opened up wormholes in my imagination.  It’s definitely what turned me on to science fiction, and I still have it, beaten and love-worn, on my desk.  I’m thinking it’s time to reread it.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled to come across a flash fiction piece by C.J. Cherryh, and it’s really lovely.  I also noodled around a couple of new-to-me markets, and then returned to the convenient bite-sized fare of “Every Day Fiction.”

Next week I’ve got my eye on an Orson Scott Card short story over at Lightspeed, as well as a few others.  But before I get ahead of myself, here’s this week’s reading list:

29.  “The Last Tower” by C.J. Cherryh (Abyss & Apex)

30. “Dancing Lessons” by Aaron Polson (Basement Stories)

31.  “Grave Digger” by Tara Fouts (Dark Wine and Stars)

32.  “Valentino, Not” by James C.G. Shirk (Every Day Fiction)

33.  “The Art of Opening An Oyster” by Sierra B. Ryan (Every Day Fiction)


So how did you guys do?

You were kind of hoping I forgot all about it, huh?  I don’t blame you.  Keeping a time log is a habit that needs to be consciously and consistently worked on…at least for me.  It’s an easy enough thing to do, but it’s also easy enough to not bother.  So I’m working on this.

I would post a picture of this week’s log except it’s mostly a blank page with a handful of start times.  But even so, it served its purpose.  I have enough information to figure out what I need to work on and where I’m doing fine.  Let’s analyze this past week, shall we?

All-Nighters:  2

Blog Word Count:  3,701  (8,713 for the month)

Fiction Word Count:  0  (305 for the month)

Hours worked:  30-40 (estimated)

As much as I’d like to claim that pulling two all-nighters means I’m outrageously hard-working, I think it actually means I’m incredibly slow.  Although, one of those nights was actually spent working on a transcript for that other job.  The other one was spent cutting out and coloring clip art and writing a blog post.  That was actually pretty fun.  But all-nighters should be a no-no for me.  Seriously.  I’m not exactly a fistful of daisies the next day, if you catch my drift.

My word count for the blog is fine…doing great…and actually, could go down quite a bit.  I think shorter posts are easier to digest and more desirable for most readers.  So I’m working on slimming things down so I don’t risk splattering people with brain vomit…at least not all the time.  Plus, I’m hoping that focusing on writing shorter posts will help me write tighter and more effective pieces…and eventually lead to less hours on the blog.  It’s not that I don’t love you guys, it’s just…

…well, the fiction ain’t getting no love.  No love at all.  And if I’m not writing fiction, then I don’t have any business writing this blog.  Truly, the fiction should be getting the bulk of my attention.  So I’ll be working on that this week.  I have a story due to my writer’s group that needs probably — gosh, the way things have been going, the darn thing may need 20 more hours.  We’ll just have to see.

It does help me a lot to think of these things in terms of hours.  It keeps me from believing the pernicious lie I always tell myself:  “Don’t worry.  You got time.  This won’t take long.”

Though I wish I had kept stats on how much time I spent trying to get the Toddler to go to sleep.  Hmm.  Hang on.  There is a scribbled, frantic-looking note here that says it took — somebody help me — FIVE HOURS to get that kid to go to sleep one night…from 7:00 p.m. to midnight.

Ah, I remember now.  That was the night I not only posted late, but I actually skipped a post.  The first time this year.  I was a little mad.

Here’s the deal:  I really can’t get any real writing work done with the Toddler awake.  Even occupied in other activities, she still needs my attention every five minutes…and every interruption is like a bowling ball busting apart thought molecules that were just beginning to come together.  It’s frustrating, to say the least.  But I know she’s only 2, and this is par for the course.

However — this is a big one — HOWEVER, it’s long past the time I should have sleep-trained her.  She sleeps with me, and she wakes frequently through the night if I’m not there.  It’s exhausting work…and it’s part of what leads me to do all-nighters…because I know I’m not going to get a chance at it the next day.

So we have started sleep training this past week.  We are getting better.  I am constantly reminded, though, that any kind of training we perpetuate on our children is really just training ourselves.  We’re doing much better, and I am hopeful that we can get into a nice groove soon.

That does mean I’ll have to deal with myself.  Any attempts at keeping myself on a schedule seem to bounce off of me quite ineffectually — just like orders to a Toddler.  (I’m shocked that, “Go to suh-leeee-pah!” doesn’t work.  Wouldn’t it be great if it did?)  So this week, in addition to working harder on the fiction and getting quicker to the point on the blog posts <ahem>, I will be working on getting me and the little one into a real schedule.

So anyway, my compass has been reset, and I am forging onward.  And, of course, I will report the results of my efforts next Saturday.

Now, seriously, how did you guys do? 🙂


Note:  I just updated our cumulative word count so far, and we stand at 10,841 words!  The dinosaurs are pleased.  Only 39,159 words to go!

Much thanks to Kathy from Haiti and apparentbook for their word counts!


My old meditation spot.

Before Fat Cat shipped off to the Army last year, I used to spend a couple of hours each morning at the local Starbucks to write while he watched the baby.  Our Starbucks is barely a mile away, but it always took me 20 minutes to get there.

Just up the street, there’s this empty, odd little lane that runs behind some houses where there’s a great view of the mountains and the massive concrete curves of the freeway interchange.  I used to park next to the same hardy sunflower plant, in this little pocket of peace in the middle of the neighborhood, the stereo turned up, my notepad and pen ready, and the windows rolled down.  And I would wait.

And like sunshine in Southern California, they always showed up, surfing the breeze like dandelion seeds on a wish.


Sometimes they were minor in scope:  topics for blog posts, lines of dialogue, metaphors — lots of metaphors.  But just as often, they were substantial:  short story ideas, novel ideas, series ideas, movie ideas, glimpses of some great, wonderous, epic potential, if only I would agree to put my hand in.

And they weren’t always related to writing.  Business ideas, choreography ideas, song lyrics, costume design ideas, art concepts, photography concepts…you name it, they would find me.  It seemed if ever an idea passed overhead and caught a whiff of me sitting by my happy lonesome with the windows rolled down and my mind and heart full of music and welcome, it would immediately drop into a barrel dive to crash-land right into my waiting notepad.

Now that Fat Cat is off being all he can be, I no longer visit my meditation spot.  I miss it.  But it’s just me and the Toddler right now, and not surprisingly, the Toddler has no patience with sitting in a parked car for 15 minutes for no apparent reason.

It’s okay though.  As it turns out, it doesn’t matter where I am or what time it is…they still find me, they still seek me out.  I just make sure I leave the window open for them.

Some of them show up late at night, sexy and full of intrigue, regaling me into the wee hours with grand promises of adventure.  These are the trendy, cool, adventurer ideas with berets and trenchcoats, wine glasses and long, elegant cigarettes.

Sometimes they show up in the mornings, even if my window is closed against the chill.  They are patient.  They just huddle together along the sill waiting to fall into the warmth of the house when I hoist up the window.  I welcome them like old friends though we’ve only just met.

But always they are there, tugging at my sleeve, waking me at night, interrupting me when I drive.  I don’t know where they’re coming from…I only know that they are real, and that they have destinies and hopes and dreams just like we do.  Only they have to depend on us to bring them to life, to draw them transformed from their cocoons.  It is an awesome responsibility, and I take it seriously and humbly.  I am grateful they have chosen me.

They put so much faith in me, allowing me to capture them on wrinkled napkins and uncountable Post-It notes, freeze them in stasis in digital folders labeled “Ideas,” knowing full well if I were to die before getting to them, that they would truly be lost, for even if someone else were to find them, they would be something else, children of a different parent.

If you think this sounds hopelessly romantic, a bit melodramatic, and a whole lot kooky, I don’t blame you.  But this is how it is for me…and I am not unique in this regard.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s fantastic, awesome, you-shouldn’t-miss-it, should-be-required-viewing-for-every-creative-person (read that:  everybody) TED talk, she tells a story that has struck me as so wondrous and true and strangely familiar, I just have to share it with you.

Gilbert says: “I had this encounter recently where I met the extraordinary American poet Ruth Stone, who’s now in her 90s, but she’s been a poet her entire life.  And she told me that when she was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out working in the fields, and she said she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape.  And she said it was like a thunderous train of air.  And it would come barreling down at her over the landscape.  And she felt it coming, because it would shake the earth under her feet.  She knew that she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to, in her words, ‘run like hell.’  And she would run like hell to the house and she would be getting chased by this poem, and the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page.  And other times she wouldn’t be fast enough, so she’d be running and running and running, and she wouldn’t get to the house and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and she said it would continue on across the landscape, looking, as she put it ‘for another poet.’  And then there were these times — this is the piece I never forgot — she said that there were moments where she would almost miss it, right?  So, she’s running to the house and she’s looking for the paper and the poem passes through her, and she grabs a pencil just as it’s going through her, and then she said, it was like she would reach out with her other hand and she would catch it.  She would catch the poem by its tail, and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page.  And in these instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact, but backwards, from the last word to the first.”

When I first heard this story, I cried.  I did.  It strikes something soft and tender and deeply cherished inside of me.  It reminds me that I have a duty — that we all have a duty, an obligation to these motes of inspiration that seek us out.  Even though my files brim with their cut-and-pasted bodies waiting for their first breath of air and queue is long and unending, they still come and I still welcome them…and I still work hard for them.  They know this, and that is why they still line up.  They are putting their faith and trust and hope into me, and I owe it to them to get to each and every one of them.  For all the love and passion and possibility and life they inject in me, I owe them my best, and I believe that together we can make something epic and long-lasting.

I imagine that at some future date, I will have to make arrangements for the ones at the end of the queue.  Perhaps there will be some sort of karmic recycling when I pass from this Earth, give those little guys a second chance with the next generation of up and coming.  I hope so.  But just in case, I’m writing as fast as I can.


Hi, Everyone!  Sorry I’m running late with posts.  And don’t worry…I’m not going to hand you some lame excuse about the Toddler being highly allergic to sleep and having five-hour flare-ups that left her mother exhausted and rendered unconscious two nights running.

Unfortunately, it’s a little more complicated than that.

See…it all began a few days ago.  I first noticed it on the side of the front lawn as I was pulling in the driveway from running errands.

“What the hell is that?” I asked the Toddler.

“Wha-bah hell izzat?” she replied.  (She’s going through a repeat-everything-especially-the-words-that-make-Momma-look-like-a-bad-momma phase.)

I groaned.  Yep.  Sure enough, there was some kind of animal part on my lawn.  Crap.  I mean, bone.  Anyway, it looked like the head of a very large femur, from a baby mastodon perhaps.  How it got here, I have no clue.

All I know is that ever since Fat Cat left for the Army, all manner of things icky and unsavory have shown up on my property.

Now, one thing you should know about me, I have no problems working outside (I can lay sod like a machine!) and I believe in equal pay for women in the workplace (actually, I believe women should get paid more because we can multitask, wear pantyhose without acting like a dog trapped in a plastic cone — even though that’s what it feels like — and, ya know, we’re pretty), but here at the Pink House, there’s a clear dividing line between things Indoor and Outdoor.

I am The Momma, and I am responsible for Indoor things…like the Toddler…and whatever else I can fit in after I’m done with said Toddler duties  (Hahaha!).  The Great Outdoors is Fat Cat’s purview.  That includes picking up dead animal parts that find their way onto our property.

So I sat in the car in the driveway and stared at the thing.

“I miss Dada,” I said, gripping the steering wheel.

“Miss Dada!” said the Toddler.

“Why do these things always end up in our yard?” I asked the Toddler.  “Why?!”

“Why?!” she said agreeably.

Well, as you might imagine, I did what any hot-blooded American woman would do…I ignored it and waited for it to go away.

“Did it?” you ask.  “Go away, that is?”

[Bitter, ironic chuckle]  Sure.  Do you think we’d be talking about a knee joint on my lawn if it had been considerate enough to go away before it came down to me blogging about it?  Nooooo.

Not only did the thing not go away, it started migrating around the front lawn, like it was looking for a nice place to snooze…or hunting for something to eat.  It’s a good thing I read Nadia Bulkin’s excellent story “Pugelbone,” just this past Sunday, so I knew that I might be dealing with something dangerous.

Fortunately, however, I had an ace in my pocket:  The Gardeners…a pack of dusty, behatted men who arrive with engines roaring once every two weeks and blast the yard into some semblance of order in 15 minutes flat!

And The Gardeners come on Thursdays…today.  Yay!  There’s no way they’re going to mow around that thing.  They’re men.  They’ll take care of that for me.  Sure, they will.  They’re men. Oh, I see what you’re saying.

Anyhoo, after The Gardeners left, I bundled up the Toddler for a visit to Grandma.  And sure as all things Murphy and worse, that stupid thing was still out there, tucked beneath the sapling.  At first, I thought the gardeners just kicked it over there, but now I know the damn thing escaped the wrath of the lawnmowers by pretending to be a gross rock.

Damn.  Apparently, I was going to have to Deal With This.  Not my favorite solution to problems of this yuckitude.

I decided my first course of action would be to get a better look at it.  That was a mistake.

As you can see from this photo, it’s ugly…and gross.  I think it kind of looks like a bony sculpture of an octopus, with a great big snout…only, you know, gross.

But looking on the bright side of life, there were no bits of rotting flesh clinging to it, and I thought — mistakenly — that this might be something I could actually Deal With.

My intention was to grab it real quickly — to minimize exposure to cooties, of course — and toss it in the trash can, mitigating the stress of the situation with a series of, “Ew!  Ew!  Ew!  Ew!”

But as I reached out for it, it opened its eyes!

I don’t know who was more surprised…me or…it. But I didn’t get much of a chance to figure that out as it recovered from its apparent shock rather quickly.  In fact, it looked a little mad.

Then it started to growl….

That’s when I hightailed it back to the car screaming, “Pugelbone!  Pugelbone!”

I jumped in the car and locked the doors lest the thing come hurdling across the grass and find a sweet, drain-worthy treat strapped conveniently in a child’s seat.

But it must have just eaten because it promptly went back to sleep…and it’s been there ever since.  I don’t know what to do.  I called Animal Control, and discovered that (a) they don’t come out to pick up just a knee joint (it’s gotta be a whole carcass — bless my lucky stars…); and (b) they don’t believe in pugelbones, something about them being just a story to scare little children.

Sure, just a story.

In the meantime, I will keep the Toddler indoors and see what happens when the mailman crosses the yard tomorrow.

Maybe it will just go away.


The speed of story is how long it takes for an idea to become a first draft.

Let’s say you type 30 words per minute.  It stands to reason that you should be able to produce 5,000 words in about three hours.  If you type around 60 words per minute, even better.  You should be able to write 5,000 words in an hour and a half.

“Scoff!” you scoff.  “Nobody thinks that fast!”

Oh, really?

According to researchers at John Hopkins University, the speed of thought has been measured to be 300 milliseconds.  Add to that full comprehension, another 250 to 450 milliseconds, and we’re looking at up to 750 milliseconds.

Even if you typed 225 words per minute, there’s no way you’re gonna even touch that thought.  It’s already around the corner and racing down the causeway shouting plot twists over its shoulders, counting on you to keep up.

So then why does it take so dang long to write a story?

Well, first of all, I think it’s helpful to take a look at what the creative process looks like.

(By the way, if you’re looking to get me a present, a personal artist monkey would be swell, thanks.)

Right.  So we’ve got four major steps an idea needs to work through before it becomes a story.

1.  The first area, “Yon High,” you don’t need to worry about.  This area is out of your control, and it works fine without you trying to figure it out.

2.  The lightning bolt. This is tricky; however, in this discussion of speed of story, you don’t need to worry about it either.  As long as you’re having ideas at all, then you’re fine.  Yours works.

3.  Ah…the brain.  This is the complicated chunk of dense fruitcake that an idea needs to travel through to get to a keyboard.

4.  Output.  This, of course, can be accomplished via pen, marker, crayon, eyeliner, hammer and chisel…as well as by keyboard.  Oh.  And I suppose you could use a typewriter too.  That would be so retro.

So you know where this is going, right?  If we don’t have to worry about Nos. 1 and 2, and No. 4 is what it is for the moment, what the heck is gumming up the works?

That’s right.  You are.  Your brain is to blame.

It’s true.  The journey of an idea through the dense spongy interior of the human skull is akin to a protagonist struggling towards her goal…obstacles thrown up left and right, rocks thrown, and tears a’cried.  Let me show you.

You’ll notice that most of the junk the brain throws up to diffuse the idea/lightning bolt keeps us stuck at Square One.  This is paralyzing stuff.  This stuff isn’t just slowing us down…it’s not even letting the engine turn over.

Just imagine if we could get rid of all this junk.  What would that be like?

You like the sound of that, don’t you?


Before we get too far afield, I wanted to address the word count widget and the accountability I hope it brings with all its dinosaur goodness.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote:  ” The goal is 16 consecutive 3,000-word-days. This is my plan, and it is Good.  So starting tomorrow, at the bottom of each blog post will be an update on my quest to develop a 3,000-word-a-day habit.… […Public floggings are a hassle….]  … Let’s just say that if ever I show up empty-handed, then you are welcome to start a good old-fashioned cyber stoning in the Comments section.”

Wow.  Look at me.  I’m like a little word politician…promises, promises.

Then just the other day, I tried to involve all of you in my word count shenanigans by utilizing the pronoun responsible for aiding and abetting:  “This month is going to be all about speed.  Speed, speed, speed, my friends!  We are going to drill.  We will time ourselves.  We are going to kindle life into as many story ideas as we can.  This month we are going to see just how many words we can write to keep the Muse Patrol away.”

Then I promised again:  “I will share my word counts each day [cough], and you can post your word counts in the comments [ahem!…excuse me!…tickle in my throat].  I will put together some sort of cumulative word count widget that I will install along the side here so that we can see just how big a pile of words we can make together.”

Okay.  In all fairness, I could not find a widget that suited our purpose here.  Perhaps I will just have to make one at some future date.  But in the meantime, I have resorted to jerry-rigging and prehistoric wildlife.

Behold, to your right (and a little bit up on the sidebar) is a picture of a dinosaur.  According to our resident expert, the Toddler, this is a momma dinosaur.  I snapped this photo in the wilds behind the Pink House after spending days with the Toddler in a sweltering blind with only graham crackers and energy drinks…which is really why I haven’t been fulfilling word count promises.¹

Now, I know everyone keeps telling us dinosaurs are extinct…ya know, “scientists” and stuff.  But you have to remember, back in the day, “men of higher learning” used to believe that the world was flat.  Centuries later, we are still pointing and laughing at them.

Here’s the truth:  Dinosaurs are real, and they are very much alive.  They like to keep a low profile because of the paparazzi (they ruin it for everyone) and because of government contracts (they easily scare), but they are really just people like you and me.  How do I know this?  Because they love a good story, and they’re total suckers for what-ifs.

So actually, it was pretty easy.  She’s a sucker for High Concept stories, so I left out my novel draft and yelled, “‘Eat Pray Love’ meets ‘Sliding Doors!'”  Sucker!

It was obvious she meant to scoot right on past for a quick glimpse…being not terribly fond of the camera after the “biting incident” with a paparazzi that resulted in a restraining order — against the pap, not her — but there was a passage that caught her eye…and snap!  Got her!

(This puppy’s going to National Geographic, baby!…or US Weekly.  What?! Momma needs a new laptop!)

Anyhoo…this is our widget.  As our team-effort, cumulative word count goes up², so will our pile of first drafts.  As our pile of first drafts gets larger, so does our chances of attracting more dinosaurs (which means more pictures).

And as everyone knows, dinosaurs are totally good luck.  If we’re lucky — and if we’ve got dinosaurs, why wouldn’t we be? — at the end of the month, if the household dinosaurs are pleased with our pile of first draft, they will show us favor by holding a secret celebratory ritual in our honor…and we’ll be invited!

Surely you want to see that, don’t you?

Yep, me too.

In order to make this happen, however, the dinosaur shaman’s public relations rep tells me they want at least as much as NaNoWriMo gets, so we’re gonna have to muster up 50,000 words by the end of the month to see this secret dinosaur thing.

The bad news?  We’re off to a late start.  But who cares?  Nothing wrong with jumping in midstream.

The good news?  Everything counts…and everybody counts…and there’s no sign-up, no fees, no requirement to participate every single day.  Just…if you drop by, and you really want to see the dang secret dinosaur thing at the end of the month, type in your word counts.

And then maybe I can finally find out what the hell it is they do at night that makes that weird squeaking noise!


¹ All of this is not true.

² Word counts will be collected from the “Comments” section and tallied up by the little mice that live beneath my desk.  They will then communicate their data via smoke signal, the Toddler will translate it, and I will update the widget.  Technology…ain’t it great?


Thank goodness we’re working on speed this month.  I can’t wait to get faster. 🙂

Here’s the reading list for this week.  A little light, I admit, but a damn good selection.

26.  “A Loss for _____” by Brenta Blevins (ChiZine) Surprisingly emotional end.  Really sa- sa- sa- — total bummer to imagine this happening to the world.

27.  “Pugelbone” by Nadia Bulkin (ChiZine) Absolutely stunning world-building.  This is going to stick with me for a long time coming, I can tell.

28.  “Last Days” by Dave Chua (ChiZine) Not really original in terms of subject — zombies roam the Earth — but the imagined details are memorable.  My favorite bit:  “Jo folded paper airplanes of the books we no longer read, and threw them out the car window.”

That’s it, folks!  Short and sweet.  I think this is the first time I’ve read anything from ChiZine.  Good stuff.  Dark. Apparently, they’re on a temporary hiatus to overhaul their website (so they’re not currently taking submissions), but will be back with bells on come April 1st.  I can’t wait. 🙂  In the meantime, their archives of past issues is still up and accessible.

Happy reading!


(In case you’re curious, the Jeopardy question was, “What did Spock find in the Enterprise toilet?”)


Well, unfortunately, circumstances were such that I was not able to proceed with my originally planned post tonight — those circumstances being two years old and having missed her momma very much after hanging out with Grandma and Poppa all day while Momma wrapped up court reporting work…which took all day. But have no fear, that particular post is only briefly postponed, not lost.

One of these days, though, I’m going to have to talk about the time-expanding phenomenon that seems to surround deadlines...but, again, not tonight.  Instead, we will continue our discussion regarding speed (and how to get faster as a writer).  And today we will talk about practical matters, like…


Why Writers Should Keep a Time Log

Anyone who’s ever dieted has heard of keeping a journal or a food diary as a way to discover where they are in terms of their current diet.  Having to document what you eat creates the database of information you need to honestly answer important questions, such as, how much am I really eating?  What kinds of food am I eating?  Am I getting enough protein?  What foods send me directly to the bathroom for extended periods of reading?  😉

It’s been my experience that I am never quite as honest with myself as I think I am.  Writing down what I eat removes that very forgivable human error factor.  And I think this holds true for keeping track of how you spend your time writing.

If you already consistently keep a time log, then you rock.  Give yourself a pat on the back, a self-satisfied smirk to everyone else, and go find yourself some cookies (before someone finds a pen and stabs you with it).

If you don’t already keep a log, then let’s talk about why you should.

First, let me ask you a few questions:  Do you know how much time it takes you to produce 1,000 words of fiction?  How much time should it take?  How many words can you produce in an hour with no interruptions?  What always trips you up when you’re on a roll?  How much time do you spend in front of your computer “writing”?  How much of that time is actually spent writing?  How many projects do you say you’re working on?  How many projects are you actually working on?   How fast a writer are you really? Are you as productive as you would like to be?

If you know the answers to all these questions, then you, too, rock.  You may collect your cookie and be excused.

Now, why is it important to know the answers to these questions?

Because if you want to be a faster, more productive, better writer, then it stands to reason that you need to know what kind of writer you are now.  Knowing your actual speed will help you figure out strategies to keep you focused and make you even faster.  Being faster leads to more productive work sessions, which means more words are being written.  And of course, the more words you write, the more practice and experience you gain, which unavoidably will make you a better writer.

This is a no-brainer, folks.  But don’t make it difficult, and don’t make it a time-consuming task in itself.  These things are work documents.  They are meant to be stained and wrinkled, written in different colored inks, and doodled on.  That’s okay.  Potential agents, editors, and readers will never see this thing…unless, of course, you are foolish enough to post it on your blog, like this:

This is a snapshot of my log from early last month.  I selected this page to share as it’s probably the most readable, being in black ink and not orange.  Not really sure why I have an orange ink pen.

Anyway, as always, I started out noting the time, what I was working on, the word count, and total time spent.  As is my custom, I like to use the left column to make notes and plan out future tasks…and apparently draw silly cartoons.

The point is, I am sharing this with you to prove that these things are no big deal and that they don’t have to be neat and pretty.  The only requirement I place on this thing is that I note the time.

Just the very act of noting the time I start sets me firmly into work mode.  I never note the time I start and then wander off to  I don’t want my goofing-off time to be factored into my writing speed averages.

I do often note my goofing-off time though.  My hours at the desk are limited, and so I like to know that I’m spending more “desk time” writing than surfing.  And oftentimes, even noting surfing times helps me to keep it reasonable.  I’ll tell myself, “15 minutes of OMG!, and then it’s off to England to help a protagonist get rid of unusual garden pests.”

So having this thing open next to my computer keeps me focused…and makes for a great idea catcher.  No need to stop in mid-flow and open up a new file or find paper and pen to capture a new idea.  I’m ready.  Just jot it down and return immediately to the project at hand.

I confess I am not as diligent in logging my time as I’d like to be.  I have countless missing days where I know I wrote something, but never bothered to even open the darn thing.  And of course, there were days I just wasn’t writing.  But sometimes it just means I was so busy with the writing that I didn’t even think to note the time.  I love those days, and I’ve been having a lot more of those recently.

Even so, I am not near as productive as I’d like to be.  So I stand by my glorifications of the humble time log.  And to prove it, I will commit to keeping a full and accurate time log for the remainder of the month, which I will use in my own quest to becoming a faster, more productive, better writer, and to further illustrate and elucidate its magic as occasions arise.

So whaddaya think?  Are you in?  All you need is an old blank notebook — I know you’ve got dozens — something to write with, and a commitment.  I’m not asking for your first-born or the most favorite leftovers you’ve got stashed in the back of the fridge.  I’m just asking that you commit to doing this just for the month of February.  We’re already five days in.  It’s a short month.  It’ll be easy.  Just write down the details of your writing sessions until the end of February.  Keep it brief, but be open to whatever ideas come your way.  At the end of each week, we’ll compare notes.

I have a bold prediction:  After just one week of consistent, diligent timekeeping of your writing sessions, you will feel more productive, you will be more determined, the ideas will come flooding — I promise you! — and you will have written.  Quite probably, you will lose a couple of pounds and feel sexier.  And there’s always the possibility that you will become a better cook.

All this just from keeping a time log.  Who knew?