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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Successful Bar Flies

It's time for the annual guest blog! Please welcome Mary Ellen Martin back with a check-in on last year's resolutions...


What Does the Bar Fly Have That I Don’t?

Hello again! It’s so good to see you in the bright shiny 2014 we’ve got going on, isn’t it? The beginning of the year is always so hopeful, so full of promise. Until we have to get up and clean the cat box.

Many of us go through life with some pretty good intentions and plans. We make resolutions with the hope of becoming better than we are. Real life always has other ideas, though. Exercise hopes become dashed unless that piece of exercise equipment is covered in cheesecake, providing the only motivation to reach for it.

2013 was also a bit more challenging than anticipated. I wrote last year about resolutions and goals, and came out with my simple goal of publishing four items. That was it. Not a lot. But somehow, that goal became a mammoth endeavor that got lost in the flotsam of daily life. As most goals and resolutions do.

I submitted my short stories and flash fiction pieces. EVERY single one was rejected. Let’s face it. A bar fly on a Tuesday night had better luck than I did. I suppose, technically, I did get published, if you count my online post in this blog and a flash fiction contest for That piece, while posted on their website, did not win. But a few people did get to see it, and were very kind and encouraging in their comments. Yet no acceptance letter came, no small check for my work, no chance to post “WINNER!” by my name.

The year wasn’t a complete failure. The basement finally got a new floor, and I finally found a little peace in some personal struggles I had, and discovered a few things about myself. I did grow and change, but just not as much in the writing department.

I think my biggest regrets, when it came to writing in 2013, are missed opportunities and timing. In February, I traveled to visit a close relative who’d had a heart attack. While in the airport waiting for my flight, a woman approached me and struck up a conversation, that resulted in some fantastic ideas for an essay on weight in our culture. However, by the time I decided to write the thing, the media was so overloaded with fat mannequins and other related topics, it was clear that I was late to the conversation.

I also learned that my science fiction might be a bit more plausible if I kept up on science articles. Timing is everything when you write a fictional story, and the exact same idea gets published the next day in some science article. Very similar situations, except for one being, you know, based on fact.

So this year, my goal hasn’t changed. Four. Of course, last January, four seemed easy. But when September came around, with December not far behind, I felt like I went to class naked and didn’t study for the test.

This year, the rejection counter has been rolled back to zero. I joined a Facebook group that posts ongoing deadlines for publication in science fiction markets. I am going to get over my fear of self promotion, and pitch my ideas to my friends at the local newspaper. No, I am not going to stop watching Doctor Who and Sherlock, and yes, my writing will probably suffer for it. My goals are still waiting for me, and I will do my damnedest to meet them halfway.

And I will stop competing with bar flies.


Thanks for catching us up, Mary Ellen. I hope you'll check back in every so often this year to let us know how it's going so we can cheer you on.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Resolution, Shmesolution

Yay! A guest blogger!

Welcome my friend Mary Ellen Martin, the author of two short stories in A Shaker of Margaritas anthologies (Bad Hair Day and Cougars on the Prowl), a humorous blog about writing and life (A Wandering Writer), among other things.


Resolution, Shmesolution
by Mary Ellen Martin

Okay, show of hands: how many of us have already failed our New Year’s resolutions? Don’t tell me it’s just me. Come on, there has to be a twelve step group for this! “Hi, I’m Mary Ellen.” (Hi, Mary Ellen.) “I made my resolution to write more this year, but my journal has only seen me once this week..."

Wouldn’t it be great if society got on board with your resolution? Hey, you want to lose weight? Okay, you eat healthy, and we’ll get rid of all the junk food in the stores, and lose the unrealistic body images seen in the media today. Then you will lose weight, and never have to pay money for Jenny Craig, or Weight Watchers, or diet supplements...

Imagine the societal and economic chaos that would result just from the loss of that industry. Being a writer is no better. If society went hand in hand with that resolution, another economic domino would fall—the Internet. Hey, you want to write more? Okay, we’ll lose the Internet, so you can’t shop, or play games, chat, etc., and you have allll the time in the world to write.

Good Lord, it would be full on Thunder Dome.

I made a resolution: to write more. Okay, I say that every year. But this year, I didn’t just make a resolution, I made a goal. My goal is to sell twice as many items as last year. This may sound easy, because I only published two pieces: a fiction story to Mozark Press, and an article in the May 2012 issue of Idaho Magazine.

So now, I have an actual, tangible number. Four. This is my goal. Not very much, but I believe it is an attainable goal. Four short stories or articles, all while working on my crappy novel. That’s my other (secret) goal. I’ve been working on a larger story for about three years now. Hey, I’m a mom, and I don’t write in the bathroom. Sue me. So my goal for that is to finish it. Well, a draft, anyway. 50,000 words of pure aneurism-causing bad fiction.

Now, I’ll be fair. Considering how long it’s taken me to get where I am in my novel, I wouldn’t be surprised if it took another three years just to finish it. So having some small goals in conjunction with a larger goal may seem like a Trojan Horse, accomplishing the little things while the biggie wallows on my computer. But having an attainable goal can only boost your enthusiasm when it is achieved. And, while riding high on that feeling of success, maybe I’ll be more motivated to tackle my novel. Which may or may not see the light of day.

What writing resolutions and goals did you make this year? When the resolution quietly falls to the side, the goals will still be there. Waiting for you.

Just don’t ask me to resolve to clean my house. That will never happen.


Thanks, Mary Ellen! (and I wanna hear more about your novel-in-progress sometime...)

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Message to Myself

"I'd rather be a could-be if I cannot be an are; because a could-be is a maybe who is reaching for a star. I'd rather be a has-been than a might-have-been, by far; for a might have-been has never been, but a has was once an are."—Milton Berle

You know what’s interesting about blogging? Especially sporadically as I do (despite my best intentions). I can go back and read old posts and be inspired by my own words, as if they had come from someone else. Someone with a depth of knowledge and wealth of experience to draw from. Was it the Muse talking? Was I channeling a motivational speaker?

So I write this knowing I will need to hear these words this summer or maybe next winter.

Truth is, I probably spend so much time telling myself I should do better, try harder, be more consistent, not fall down, not stumble, that I start to think I’m a good-for-nothing sloth. The side effect of that is the more down on myself I am, the less effective I am in reaching for my goals.

The success is not in achieving success (I’ve heard from enough published authors that it never feels like a solid success so much as being one flop away from failure), the success is in continually _reaching_ for your goals. Success isn’t not falling down. “Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall.” – Oliver Goldsmith. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”—William Edward Hickson. Good quotes, but I think Milton Berle’s is the best by far.

Now go on, keep reaching for that star!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

A Sign Of Hope

Someone posted this video to Facebook this morning and unlike most mornings, I actually took the 5 minutes to watch it. I was glad I did. I watched it again this evening and was again struck by a sense of hopefulness. Maybe I'm just weird, but it seemed to be something without agenda, with only the purpose to share a love of music. People who might not ever get (or make) the opportunity to go see an orchestra, kids whose first exposure to classical music will be remembered in the same category as a parade (I'm guessing - but hey, play along with me, 'kay?). A sign of hope to bring classical music to the 'common' people instead of reserving it for formally dressed upper class with the price of admission. (Have I piled it on too thick yet?).
I know, there are hundreds of flash mob videos, and I have to admit that I watch most of the ones that come across my path. I'm sure someone will try crush my illusions with the argument that there is an agenda - if not monetary, then social, religious, or some other nefarious purpose.

But for now, I chose to focus on hope.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We interrupt this program for an urgent announcement....

I am sharing this for my friend, Sonia Todd. The post below was written by her husband, Brian. Please, if you know of any clinical trial cancer treatment centers, please let them know.

If anyone knows of a phase 3 clinical trial for small cell cancer treatment please let me know. As you know, my wife Sonia has cancer. The chemo and radiation were not successful and it is now in her liver. There is nothing more the local cancer treatment center can do for us and they have given her 6 months.
Her doctor said that her best bet would be to find a center doing a phase 3 clinical study and that she would be a great candidate because of her health (other than cancer) and age.
So, if any of you know anyone involved in cancer research please ask them for me. Six months is not enough.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

At first glance that old saw seems pretty trite. The sentiment is restated over and over with various combinations of words, applied to various pursuits, until we no longer hear the message behind it. It's pretty basic, though. To succeed, you only need to get up one more time than you fall down.

This blog post is me getting back up again after a six month fall-down. Life, crises, a disaster or two. . .does it really matter why I stopped? The longer I waited to post, the harder it was to get back on the horse and keep riding. But in the end, what matters is that I got back up again and am still pursuing my dreams and goals. Surprisingly, the fall-down turned out to be a major motivator to get my butt back in gear and put my money where my mouth is. Teach what I preach, walk the talk, and so forth and so on.

I started this blog last September on Debbie's birthday and, though no particular planning or effort on my part, I am coming back to it just a few days before my birthday. This one will be 48 and the clock is ticking toward 50. All of a sudden my goals have solid deadlines. (Well, some of my goals do. Some of them are farther reaching.) Somewhere in the past month or two, I looked at the calendar and freaked myself out. I don't have time to wallow around after falling, I need to get my feet under me, stand up, and start moving toward those goals. This time falling down served a purpose. It forced me to reexamine my goals and decide how important it was to me to reach them.

What goals do you want to keep on trying for?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Writing 'Castle'

(Just typing that subject line made me smile. 'Castles' was the working title of my first novel. Although I still believe in the story, some of it is almost painful to read it's so self conscious. But this post isn't about that story. Sorry, Lisbet.)

I just watched a movie called "I Capture the Castle" based on the novel by the same name. I read the book probably a dozen years ago or so, but it stuck in my head. I'd actually forgotten it was, in part, about a blocked writer. I was looking for movies about writers and was surprised to see that one on the list. And, lucky me, it was available to stream on Netflix AND I actually had time to sit and watch it.

I'll skip over the plot and synopsis and all those sorts of details in favor of one scene that captured my imagination. The father had published an acclaimed novel twelve years before the story opens. He hasn't been able to write since (for lots of reasons) and he is slowly going over the edge. In an attempt to help him start writing again, his daughter and son lure him to bring his typewriter to a landmark of their childhood - a free standing castle turret. Probably the rest of the castle had crumbled centuries before. Anyway, they all climb down the ladder to the grassy floor of the turret, where there is an old iron bedstead. They help him set up his typewriter, toss a picnic basket toward him, and then they climb up the ladder and take it with them. He is effectively trapped in this turret with nothing but his typewriter, and told they will not release him until he writes 50 pages.

Think about that. No phone, no television, no internet, no people, no internet, no nothing except you and a keyboard. Or maybe just a notebook. Food and drink supplied. . . . Heaven or hell?

I think this might be the writer's version of "If you were trapped on a desert island, and could only have one book, what would it be?"

So. . . what would your writing 'castle' look like?