It’s great to be on Goodreads: Let’s talk about books and authors and awards and….

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I just added the link on my Crop Dusting the Web page for my Goodreads profile.  I resisted getting involved in another online community/presence; however, Goodreads is just what this bibliophile’s soul needed. I have struggled with wondering if I should include a separate section of my website here that highlighted my love of books, reviews, even author interviews. I may eventually do that down the road, but for now, Goodreads is fulfilling that inclination.

Today I just posted my review of Jonathan Evison’s WEST OF HERE, which I feel is starting to legitimize my presence on Goodreads. There are so many books I’ve read that deserve the same treatment and eventually I will update my Goodreads library to reflect the breadth of my actual library.

Currently, I’m reading the last of the Phillip K. Dick nominees in preparation for the award ceremony on April 6 at NorWesCon 35.  For those that know me well, Mr. Dick is one of my favorite authors. Ever. I dream one day of being on this nominee list and maybe even earning the award.

In the meantime, leave me a note here if you’re planning on going to NorWesCon 35. Also, won’t you come friend me over on Goodreads? Recommend some books you think I ought to read in my goal to secure this award. If you’re a writer, tell me what literary award you’d like bestowed upon your work one day?


Sticking together like beggars or thieves: Writers Worth

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Writing or talking about yourself can be a challenge, especially when you spend so much of your creative time within the walls of stories about other people — especially imaginary ones.  I had the opportunity to do an interview with Lyn Midnight’s blog WRITERS WORTH.  Lyn understands that readers and writers alike enjoy getting to know the person behind the words, the storyteller themselves. She also understands that Papa Hemingway’s advice that “Writers must stick together like beggars or thieves.”  Whether you’re a neophyte, emerging, or veteran writer, you understand that having great support is paramount to the success you achieve.  Throughout our writing career we must not only do what we can to support our own work, but that of others as well. Lyn got that right with her blog. She’s done a fabulous job of reaching out to a diverse group of writers, editors and indie authors to get us all acquainted and cheering one another on as our writing lives take shape.

We hall have our shingles out; Writers Worth gives us another place to hang it.

I’d love it if you go to the site and read about the silly things we talked about in her interview of yours truly, as well as check out some other word artists. All the interviews allow for a back and forth kind of discussion.  Send some love with a little comment or question.  I’m not exactly begging, but I’m drunk on sunshine at the moment — the first day of sunshine in my little Twin Peaks town in nearly 15 days and I’m about inebriated with the Vitamin D overdose, so begging wouldn’t be a stretch at this point.  I suppose it would be a better than me having to steal your identity and posting charming and interesting comments as you.  I’d really rather have the real you do that. I’m sure Hemingway did not mean for us to truly be beggars and thieves. He just wanted us to stick together.

Thanks again to Lyn and kudos to all of those that will find some new success thanks to the handiwork of community support endeavors like WRITERS WORTH.


Will the Arts of My Generation Denote the Greatness of It?

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“…the greatness of any society can be measured in its support of and investment in the arts.”

My husband often says this, mostly when I’m bemoaning the lack of money coming in for my literary endeavors. He’s unsure if this was organic or if he heard it somewhere.  I did some internet and library browsing and found quotes by President John F. Kennedy.  Allow me the luxury to spam you with all the promoting of the arts as central to our lives and culture that Kennedy purported about the arts (because I think we need a reminder):

“If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live.” Address at Harvard University, June 14, 1956

President John F. Kennedy spoke often of the importance of the Arts.

“There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo da Vinci. The age Elizabeth also the age of Shakespeare. And the New Frontier for which I campaign in public life, can also be a New Frontier for American art.” (Response to letter sent by Miss Theodate Johnson, Publisher of Musical America to the two presidential candidates requesting their views on music in relation to the Federal Government and domestic world affairs. Answer from then Senator John Kennedy was dated September 13, 1960.)

“…I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” Closed-circuit television broadcast on behalf of the National Cultural Center from the National Guard Armory in Washington, D.C., November 29, 1962

“To further the appreciation of culture among all the people, to increase respect for the creative individual, to widen participation by all the processes and fulfillments of art – this is one of the fascinating challenges of these days.” Magazine article “The Arts in America” printed in the December 8, 1962 issue of Look. (This was part of a special adaptation of Creative America The Ridge Press, Inc., 1962.)

“Too often in the past, we have thought of the artist as an idler and dilettante and of the lover of arts as somehow sissy and effete. We have done both an injustice. The life of the artist is, in relation to his work, stern and lonely. He has labored hard, often amid deprivation, to perfect his skill. He has turned aside from quick success in order to strip his vision of everything secondary or cheapening. His working life is marked by intense application and intense discipline.” “The Arts in America,” 1962 article by John F. Kennedy

“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.” Amherst College, 10/26/63

“I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty…an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft.” Remarks at Amherst College, 1963

“In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation.” Remarks at Amherst College, 1963

“It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society- in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may.” Amherst College, 10/26/63

“The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of a nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose…and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.” Statement prepared for Creative America, 1963 (Inscribed at the Kennedy Center for the performing Arts)

Beyond that there was nothing I could find in researching that came close to what my beloved had uttered. Yet, knowing him the way I do, it’s likely his own brilliant mind.

Regardless of its origin, the phrase got me thinking about how our society will be judged 100 years from now and beyond. Is our society more arts-focused than it was 100 years ago? 200 years ago?

Norman Rockwell's color study of Southern Justice

I look back much like Kennedy did and see that when we made great strides as a society, our arts were in the forefront. I remember as a young girl seeing the Norman Rockwell paintings that were his interpretation of the civil rights movement. They were powerful images for a young person in a racially divided city of Detroit. The paintings helped fuel what I believe was a core value of justice that seemed natural and organic, as if it was coded in my DNA. I remember looking at his atmospheric study of Southern Justice – I think I was at my great grandparents’ house and found this old magazine. Regardless, it was powerful.

During the same time frame there was the anti-war demonstrators; the music that goes hand in hand with that and of course the literature. For music there was The Byrds, The Doors, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Bob Dylan, and Barry McGuire. Hell, the first protest song I can remember from my youth: Peter, Paul and Mary – although Dylan wrote their famous “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Protest Music At Its Finest

The climate was also reflected in literature. You see it in Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s work. She wrote in OUTLAW WOMAN:  “At night on Sunset Boulevard, cars were always cruising bumper-to-bumper, blasting Dylan, The Beatles, the Stones, or The Doors…young freaks clogged the sidewalks, a mass of hair, painted bodies jingling Tibetan bells.  They were gentle people, but the cops hated the anarchy of the music and the freedom.” (This passage makes me think that maybe things haven’t changed all that much.)

Don’t forget some of the greatest American writers like William Burroughs, Joyce Carol Oates, and Raymond Carver hauntingly illustrated the divide and violence intrinsic in American life at all levels of society during that time, too. Oppression, Feminism, and Love in the modern era. I could go on and on about our late 50s, 60s and early 70s generation of artists, especially the writers.

Nevertheless, the arts got people involved. As Jerry Rubin (yes of the infamous Yippie movement guy) wrote, “Once they got attracted by the action, they discovered the issues.”

Then things get quiet as far as music and literature as a force for change once the “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades” 1980s hits. Maybe I’m too close to it to recognize stuff. I mean for literature this was the time for the Nobel Prize-winner Alice Walker and Toni Morrison (also a  Nobel Prize winner), Amy Tan, Rita Mae Brown and N. Scott Momaday. But not all of them were really main stream (Morrison the exception as she of Hollywood options). Protest music of the 80s and 90s? Wham and Pearl Jam? Not hardly (with apologies to the beloved Eddie Vedder et al). Did this stuff actually get people to do things? Maybe. Maybe it’s still processing and fermenting in our consciousness.

Who are the Dylan’s and Ortiz’s of our generation? Who is the Carver or Rockwell of our generation? What will peoples of the future say about what we did in 2012? Will they say that we spent more on corporate bail outs as opposed to art?

But then again I look at the protests in Tunisia, Egypt and all over the Arabic world. There is the #Occupy movement. We have war veterans returning to create protest art. I think of Coffee Strongnear me here in Washington. Regardless, this is all bootstrap art. These are not easily lucrative projects.

Occupy The Streets - A collective art consciousness?

Is it now that the arts will come out of protest as oppose to inspire it? But who will be their benefactors? The sponsors? Who are the supporters so that the artist can toil and do what they do to document life as it is or should be?

I will be considering this for some time. I find no definitive conclusion after all this rumination. All I can say is I hope that when my generation (supposed generation x) is long and gone, they will say that we valued our artists and their work. That we were the beginning of the measurement of greatness because we knew the value of art. We knew art was life. Our human life. And that is sacred.


Bill-Collecting Vampires Devour A Starving Writer

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Editor’s Note:  Forgive the replacement of a fiction story for a real-life rant, ala creative non-fiction. It’s hard to write fiction sometimes when real life is being an over-demanding, whiny monster. However, it still falls within some of the parameters of Chuck Wendig’s weekly challenge. See if you can find where I fit that in. It came in at 946 words, which for a rant is acceptably reasonable. Thank you for reading.


Being a freelance writer is fraught with worry. I never know what the mail man or random stranger will bring to my door. It goes with the territory. I knew that before I left a stable, laced-with-benefits job. One day I’ll get three checks, which promptly get turned around into bill payments or groceries; the next day there will be nothing but a cockroach in the mailbox. Then the next day, the letter carrier has a stack of bills – with no checks to cover it. Rinse. Repeat.

Yesterday, it was a bill for $3400 in the form of a court summons (which, by the way, in the state of Washington it is totally legit to serve a minor provided they appear “of a reasonable age” to the process server). To be paid within 20 – now 19 days – or face a fountain of legal ramifications, including the possibility of putting a lien on my family’s home. These collectors are cut-throat vampires. I could hire an attorney, buy some time, fight it a bit more, but I would incur even more expenses, so it doesn’t make sense to do that. I did get counsel from an attorney this morning, she basically told me I would have to pay the medical institution and then could bring suit against the insurance company. Again, more legal fees and drama, for which, I do not have the resources for either financially or emotionally.

Short of it:  I had a medical procedure done recommended by my doctor to deal with an old Army injury for which Veteran’s Affairs and I are still going ‘round and ‘round. My shitty insurance at the time of the procedure (all freelancers have shitty insurance, or worse none) said they would cover it. The medical team billed them. They denied it. (Anyone else want to yell, ‘Liar, Liar pants on fire! With me? Insurance companies are today what used car salespeople were in the 60s) We went back and forth. I got distracted, didn’t hear from anyone, changed insurance companies (the one I have now is a slight bit better, but that’s because it’s through my husband’s employment), and I forgot about the issue. Now said medical institution has employed hired guns to whip the funds out of me. Which I do not have. I wouldn’t be on my little rant box here if I did have it. My savings is tapped (remember July and August were full of zero billable hour days and dozens upon dozens of rejections). My only option, according to the woman I spoke with this morning, is to prove that the insurance company lied to me. I can’t do that – talking to a customer service representative on the phone and relaying my story does not make for legal documentation.

I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but something always falls in place. I’m also trying to recover a debt from another organization – but that’s tied up in legal mumbo jumbo (is it any wonder I’m thrilled my daughter said the other day she wants to become an attorney? Of course, that doesn’t help right now…). This year – 2011 – will go down in my personal history as the year of massive legal issues, to include battling the tax man. And perhaps they will leak into 2012.

I will, like everything I do, continue to fight the battle and survive – even if I lose the the war. I still believe that following my passion will bring me what I need in life. That includes dealing with this. Of course there’s always the trusted whiskey bottle (just kidding…or am I?).

However, it brings me to the fact that our country’s medical system is BROKEN. When I had that stable, laced-with-benefits job I oftentimes would contribute to other artists’ situations – dental problems gone horribly wrong (oh yeah, the dental system is broken even worse than the medical system), terminal end-of-life treatment which was necessary to die in peace, and even to help sick pets. I support my artistic community – especially the literary branch – because I know how important it is to our culture. You want to know what’s really happening in your community, your state, your country, the world? Look to the artists. And they have to pimp for projects to get off the ground (crowdfunding, kickstarting, or on personal blogs just like mine), change excellent work to fill ROI matrixes (do you think Shakespeare had to do that? Blargh.).

What is wrong here? When a pro athlete and questionable-ethics politician can get better medical care than the teachers in our schools or those that create the work that helps us escape or endure our existence, or worse, the veterans that helped give us the freedoms we enjoy. I’m starting to doubt that freedom. Freedom to be a cog in someone else’s profit machine (ala for-profit medical institutions, oil companies, et al.). When socio-economic status keeps people from being treated for medical conditions (especially those of no fault of their own), we have failed ourselves in irreconcilable ways.

I don’t feel like I’m in a position to ask for help. I still have much to prove that my decision last year was not fraught with stupidity and this was the best thing for my family (those that know have seen huge improvements in my family’s happiness, by the way) and my own physical and mental health. But what’s an artist supposed to do?

Sometimes I think I’ll win the lottery before I’ll see my world socially just where artists and writers are respected alongside engineers, scientists and doctors. For now, I have to go find a writing gig that will cover $3,400 in 18.5 days.


I am not Stephen King

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Over the past five years, the bubble of my life has thrown off any person who doesn’t get that I’m a writer. That it’s weaved into the cloth of my entire being. That telling the stories of the voices in my head is first and foremost what I must do each and every day. I have surrounded myself with people who are themselves writers, and only those non-writers that have taken a moment to realize that not every writer is Stephen King and still has worth and provides benefit to the greater global literary community.

This has been a theme even more pronounced in the last week or so — especially since Mercury went into retrograde. But when Chuck Wendig proffered this on his blog, I went all tunnel-visioned dream-sequence in my head and started reliving many of the moments Penmonkey Wendig details in his piece.

Like at age 13 when I told my mother I wanted to be a writer. She told me to take typing so I would have something to fall back on because the hookers on Eight Mile Road made more money than a writer.

So I took journalism in college. There I dabbled, too, in the literary arts school, who were none too interested in allowing someone from J-school to also be in the English Department. I got the same reaction from the Photography Teacher (fine arts major) when I tried to hand in assignments with a photojournalism slant. Everyone else was photographing the same stark tree or spiral staircase. I wanted to see the emotion in people’s hands and eyes. I flunked photography class, only later to win prizes and awards for my photography. Yes, I resisted mailing copies of the articles of those awards or certificates to that professor.  Us writers tend to be a humble lot for the most part. We save the revenge for the text.

Then I did a stint as a combat photojournalist for the Army. I experienced life for awhile, fully convinced by my dog-eared copy of Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas or the well-worn On The Road in my rucksack, that you couldn’t write about the human condition truly unless you’ve had you’re own experiences to write about. I was so busy living, I rarely wrote, save for that which paid the bills. Exposition to break the band of fiction voices who were clamoring for me to tell their stories. It was my life. One informative article after another.

The lights and waving lines of the dreadful excerpts of my writing life didn’t quit there, no, I had to see flashbacks of the relationships where the people wanted the fact that I was a writer to somehow enhance their lives and reputation. Not love my stories or support me in any way to create it. No, I endured disdainful moments like a lover who wanted me to only write about him, or a now ex-husband who felt, again, if I didn’t churn out the checks ala Stephen King, any time spent away from him because I was writing was a bad thing. Or friends who just wanted me to write hate mail to creditors or edit their job resumes. But to understand that I didn’t want to go out to drinks and dancing because I needed to write was beyond them. Key phrases here:  Not wanted, mind you, but needed.

About 2003, I realized that I had an us vs. them theme in my life.  I hate to seem like writers and non-writers are like democrats and republicans, but like I pointed out earlier, you have folks who do not understand the difficulty involved in having a career or job as a writer. Everyone thinks that being a writer is easy. Many people say they are writers or say “I can write better than that.” You can? Why aren’t you doing so? Why aren’t you the next Stephen King? I mean do non-engineers go up to engineers and tell them how to do their jobs? Do you decide that the police in your town are doing a bad job, so you suit up and jump in the squad car and start patrolling? Yeah, I don’t tell you how to create a class-action lawsuit without ever having cracked open a law text. Don’t tell me you’re a writer because you scrawled a haiku on your kid’s lunch napkin. You’ve dabbled. Just like I dabble in gardening and landscaping.

By 2005 I was realizing that I needed to only have those in my life who were truly supportive of my writing life. It sounds harsh, but you know those hookers on Eight Mile Road don’t tend to hang with Priests or Police either. Although that gives me ideas for a story. Eninem doesn’t have the only license to set a story near Eight Mile Road.

But the horizontal lights and dark spinning tunnel of my writing life reflection didn’t stop there. Enter today, current time stamp. My husband claims he’s married Hemingway. It’s strangely impertinent and complimentary all in one. However, I can concede he has a point (that humility thing again). I get irritated because the neighbor is cutting firewood with a chainsaw when I’m trying to polish a short-story for a literary journal and can’t concentrate; but, all three of my children could be talking to me at once and I don’t hear them because I’m deep in the land of treasure keepers and robot toys come to life. He finds this both endearing and hugely frustrating all in one. But, he loves me and married me. I have all his stuff. And I think he’s sticking around to see where the story ends because it’s so damn interesting, crazy and thrilling. Well, and one day I could be Stephen King.  Or at least have as much disposable income perhaps? Yeah, hopefully that won’t be fiction.

What I think most writers would like, and what I believe Wendig was trying to point out, is the sage old advice that you don’t know what it’s like to be someone unless you’ve traveled in their world. Truly. Not dabbling. Writers are not all the same, save in the fact that oftentimes being a writer is part of who we are and not just a job. It’s kind of like having blue eyes or red hair. Writing callouses on your dominant hand are a tell-tale sign if you’re truly a writer and you wear it proudly. And then some non-writer comes along and tells you to put ointment on the callous.  Look, I don’t ask bookkeepers if they would  like some anti-itch cream for their supposed accounting rash.  I support them in their number-y goodness. Live and let live.

Tell me about your interactions with a writer, your own writing life or how you combat these moments where people scoff at who you are and what you do. Vent, send it out into the hollow snakes of the internet here on this page. Then go out and live your passion. Whatever it is.