Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Writer's Curse No One Warned You About

Okay, as curses go, this probably isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it sure feels that way. Your body becomes rigid and it’s impossible to stand up from your desk without excruciating pain. And when you finally emerge from hours in front of your computer, pleased with the process you’ve made with your latest novel, essay, play, or short story, you realize that you’ve become Quasimodo. 
I know. I know. Every exercise guru and health provider will tell you never to stay seated at your desk for longer than 30 minutes at a time. And Dr. Oz will make you feel really guilty if you do. But the truth of the matter is, once you start writing, you simply cannot turn it off for those pesky stretching exercises.
And what about bodily functions? Hell, I once sat for four solid hours with my legs crossed because there was no way I was going to lose the dialogue in my mind that I had struggled so hard to find in the first place. I’m sure I’m not the only writer who does this. But I’m probably the only one who has managed to make complaining about my back an art form. By now, my husband is used to it. That wasn’t always the case.
“Why are you walking all bent over?”
“Why do you think? I’ve been writing for over two hours straight.”
“Well, who told you to do that? You look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame!”
“I’m in agony. I think some of my bones fused.”
“Just try standing up.”
“If I could stand up, do you honestly believe I’d be walking around like this?”
“You can’t keep doing this to yourself. Everyone takes a break when they work.”
“If I stop, I’ll lose my train of thought.”
“Then just write down your thoughts.”
“If I did that, then I might as well be writing.”

And then, there are all of these health related articles designed to help writers alleviate the stress of siting in one position. Are they serious?

            Sit at least 18 inches away from your computer screen with your head straight up.

            Got news for you, folks. That doesn’t work if you’re over 40 and wearing bifocals. I have to lean directly into the computer until the screen hits the bifocal lens and I can see what I’ve written.
            Keep your back straight at all times and do not cross your feet.

            Where do they think I am? Back in junior high detention?

            When you stretch out your hands, they should be at least 2 feet from the computer keyboard

            Some of us actually need to see the keys on our computer keyboard, let alone reach them.

            Purchase an ergonomic chair

            Who am I? Donald Trump? Have you seen the prices of those things? I’m going to be sitting in it, not driving it!

Don’t’ say I didn’t warn you. Yeah, it’s a losing battle, but a small price to pay for the thrill of completing a terrific hook, a fabulous dialogue, or an absorbing description. Besides, someone has to keep the chiropractors in business.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cockroaches and Parking Spaces - That's what happens when you write from your dreams

            It sounded so easy when author Stephanie Meyer of “Twilight” fame said she got the idea from one of her dreams. Oh…if only it were that easy. Maybe her dreams are orderly and sequential. Maybe her characters are well developed and believable, even if they drift by in a Nano-second of sleep. But I can’t rely on REM sleep to provide me with any of the fodder needed to craft one of my novels.
            It’s not that I don’t dream. I dream all right, but it’s a hodgepodge of weird images, unrelenting obstacles, endless frustration and the occasional disgustingly gross vision that inevitably wakes me up and begs me to head to the shower! Last night was a prime example.
            I dreamt I was getting my hair done, but when I leaned back into the sink at the salon, the hairdresser yelled, “Wait a minute! There’s a cockroach in there!” I awoke in an instant, immediately brushing off my hair and looking at my pillow for any signs of unwanted bugs.
            “It’s the cats’ fault,” my husband explained. “You let them sleep in the bed with us. They walk across our heads at all hours of the night. No wonder you thought bugs were crawling around.”
            Then, the parking lot dream. (This is actually a variation of the same dream I’ve been having for years. The one where you get to a goal, only to have someone or something take it away or prevent you from getting there. I think there’s a psychological term for this type of dream but I’ll be darned if I know what it is). Anyway, the dream was simple enough. I was trying to park my car in a parking lot near a building I had to enter, but every time I got into a parking space and got out of the car, a man in a long black trench coat stopped me and told me I couldn’t park there. This went on and on, and each time I kept trying to get a look at the guy’s face but couldn’t. I woke up frustrated and miserable.
            Maybe it’s because I have too many real things “hanging over my head” that are unfinished. Like my taxes. Every time I start on them, I suddenly stop and find myself working on my next novel. Or the laundry. Yesterday it actually made it to the washer. I’m aiming for the dryer tonight when I get done writing this blog.
            So you see, I really can’t count on my dreams to give me the ideas for my next novel. If I’m lucky, maybe the best I can hope for is a decent night’s sleep without cockroaches or parking lots.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Guest Author Gale Leach

Enjoy Gale's blog and please visit her website at

Welcome Guest Author Gale Leach!

When Ann asked me to do a guest post on her blog, I thought about all the research that goes into her books. They may be fiction, but they're based on fact, just like my children's novels are, too. It takes a lot of time, but the reward is knowing that what you include in your story is as correct as it can be. Not only that, researching to ensure what you say is correct often leads to new discoveries that enhance your writing in other ways.

My first series of children's books is about Bruce, a caterpillar. Bruce goes to school, wears a backpack, and speaks to birds, ants, and pigs -- he's definitely anthropomorphized -- but still I tried to describe the habits of a caterpillar and, in fact, his particular species of caterpillar accurately. Bruce has a great series of adventures, all of which involve many other creatures. Near the end of the last novel, Bruce and his friends are in terrible trouble: they're stuck in a quarry and an evil bat is trying to kill them. Two of his friends are a praying mantis and a moth. I did some online research about these creatures and happened to run across the fact that mantises and moths have evolved mechanisms for ultrasonic hearing that allows them to sense bats' echo locating calls. Suddenly, not only did I have the information I needed about the mantis, but I also had a new method for getting everyone out of trouble and back to safety.

For me, getting the facts right probably doesn't matter as much as it does for Ann, whose stories are depicting real events from history. But I know that my characters, who are very real to me, will be more real to my readers because I've done my research.

You can read more about me and my novels at

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Writing - It's Not The Disciplined Schedule You May Think It Is

I don’t know who came up with the idea that writers have a specific schedule for sitting down at their desks (or wherever they translate their thoughts into words) to work for a designated amount of time. Frankly, I’m lucky if I can string together more than two hours in a row. It’s not that I don’t want to be engaged in creative thought, but the demands of my part time paying jobs (yeah, I can’t rely on book sales alone to survive) coupled with family, pets and household needs pull me in all sorts of directions.

If only I could be as disciplined as J.A. Jance. Do you know that she actually wrote from 3:00 – 5:00 A.M. every day when her children were in school? I felt so guilty when I heard her mention that at a conference three years ago. Good grief! At 3:00 A.M. the only thing I want to see is the inside of my eyelids, and preferably from deep or REM sleep!

When I first moved into my neighborhood in Arizona’s West Valley, the woman across the street said, “I’m so impressed. Every morning at 4:30 A.M. I see your lights on in the front room. You must be busy writing one of your novels.” I should have let her believe that, but I just couldn’t lie. 

“Actually, my desk isn’t in the front room. It’s in the back of house and the only thing I’m doing at 4:30 in the morning is cleaning the kitty litter boxes. That’s what’s in the front room.”  If I don’t clean the boxes at the crack of dawn and again at 10:00 P.M., my cats will inevitably seek out someplace else to do their business. I’m disciplined all right but only when it comes to issues like sanitation! 

So when do I write? Whenever I can. At coffee shops, waiting for an oil change, at doctors’ appointments and even at the dentist while the Novocaine is starting to take. In fact, I almost pushed the panic button during an MRI because I finally figured out the dialogue I had been struggling with for weeks. I said almost. Sometimes common sense just has to prevail.

But the best moments of all are the few quiet ones when it’s just me at the computer with no obligations for the rest of the day. Unless of course, I forgot to clean the litter.