Random Thursday: Writerly Soaps and Struggles (and Shakespeare)

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

The readers in my life were happy this week.

The writers, not so much.

Some of them are the same people . . .


What Time is It?

Time for Book

 Our Reference Department is now in charge of reshelving the New Book section,
so we can assist patrons in finding the latest titles
and also help keep an eye on titles that should be moved to the regular collection
to make room for new releases.

Since we’ve started doing this,
our circulation stats have skyrocketed.

Because anyone who shelves New Books
goes home with at least two of ’em.
From each cart . . .

(thanks, caitlin!)


 I could teach these . . .

Writers WorkshopClick the images and follow Mr. Gauld on Twitter.

You will be well rewarded.

(thanks, Dee!)


Shakespeare’s Swag

 I can’t tell you how tickled I am that
one of my favorite playwrights is responsible
for naming one of my favorite cookies.

Two great obsessions that go great together, they are.


Yes, the Book is Going Very Well . . .

Creative Process Timeline

  . . . could you please pass the tissues?


I’m surprised it isn’t fifty shades of sparkling gray

The Whiskey River Soap Company
heard that writers can get into a real lather if they get blocked.

And someone said, “Hey!”

writer's block soap

According to the website, it smells like cheap whiskey.

if you want to get fancy,
Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

If that scent doesn’t bring all the plotbunnies to your yard,
browse through their soaps and candles
for something that’s more . . . you
and check out their About Us page
and see how creativity is done.

(Thanks, caitlin!)


That is the Question

“Yeah, it is.”

Part Two of Brian Cox’s Masterclass with Theo is here.

You know you want to
(for a minute or two to two).


The nuts must flow, so let ’em go . . .

There’s a useful story out there about how to catch monkeys—some of you already know how it goes.

Find a tree with a small hole in it, opening up into a larger space, like an abandoned nest—or weave a basket with a narrow opening or mold a pot with a narrow mouth.

Drop some large nuts into the tree or basket or pot, place a couple outside as encouragement, and wait.

When the monkey shows up, they’ll see the nuts, stick an arm through and grab a handful. But since the opening is so narrow, they won’t be able to pull their fist out.

The monkey will screech and dance and yank their poor arm half out of its socket—anything but let go of those nuts.

Even when they see the hunters coming.

I don’t know how many times I’ve set my own traps with insane word counts and scenes that don’t work, characters who don’t belong, weird plot points, obscure references, the One True Writing Habit of other people, and even whole stories that arrive DOA—or not at all—no matter what kind of surgical procedures I try.

If I let ’em go, I could move on to something that works, or at least something that’s more fun that swinging one-armed from a #!%&%ing tree.

And then there’s the assorted fears and self-esteem issues that are only insurmountable if I keep holding onto them and screeching and pulling and kvetching and deliberately mistaking for real problems instead of nutty ones.

If I let these go, I’d be a lot less likely to tie myself up in knots when the going gets rough.

The worst part of this is that I’m not only the monkey, here, I’m the hunter. 

And also nuts.

Neurologist and addiction psychiatrist Judson Brewer doesn’t use this analogy in his talk about getting out of our own way—though I’m sure he’s aware of it—but that’s what instantly came to mind after I watched it.

Because it’s kind of hard to feel that writing rush I love so much when I can’t see over my own elbow . . .

Walnuts or Cashews?

Slow and Steady Confuses the Enemy

I don’t like football* much.

FootballSure, I’ll root for the Bengals out of hometown loyalty whenever they hit the Superbowl—and sigh sadly when they choke—and display appropriate pleased surprise when I’m told that Miami of Ohio actually won a game, but after nine years in various marching bands, the merest glimpse of a gridiron tends to give me a damp wool stinking, sun glaring, out of tune-ish, heavy hatted,  flashback headache.

Plus, it’s essentially boring—like a real battle,** it’s made mostly of Hurry Up and Wait.  If I had my way, the clock would only stop for halftime*** and every single time out—team or referee—would cause an immediate electric shock to be administered to a favorite body part of the person who called it and the general manager of that team and the owner.   We’d see some freakin’ hustle then . . .

But there are exceptions to my general apathy of the sport—and some analogies are too good to pass up.


If you can see Number 14 as a writer, the players in yellow as all the I Don’t Wannas and I Don’t Have Times and Oh, God This is Complete $#&%s that make up Writer’s Block, and the players in white as the I Think I Cans, I’m Gonna Do it Anyways, and Just One #$%& Word at a Time of the writer’s interior support team . . .

. . . then I can admit that football has its uses after all.


*American football, that is.  Soccer, as most of the civilized world doesn’t call it, is fine by me.  As is rugby, which I consider GBH soccer—or maybe land hockey.  Tomato, tomahto.

**Which it isn’t.  No, really.

***Which would be broadcast in full, commercial free.  Musicians suffer for those shows, damn it.

Random Thursday: Write this down . . .

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā):  the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s acquired during the week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as actually sitting down and creating real content.


epic win photos - Font Graffiti WIN


Twenty Years is a long time to wait for one sentence . . .

. . . unless you’re John Irving.


So, You Want to FTF?

Zoë Sharp, who is one of my favorite author-people,  interviewed Timothy Hallinan—author, instructor, blogger, cool guy—the other day on Murderati,* one of my favorite author-people places.

It was mentioned that Mr. Halligan  teaches courses on how to start and finish novels and had gathered his thought on the subject in one place on his website.

So I clicked over to check them out.  I read one or two of his articles . . . then a few more. . . and then  . . .

I bookmarked the page, closed out and started writing.

They’re that good.

And they’re right here.


Nice One, Kid . . .

These are the earrings I picked up for myself at the Mall on Sunday while I was trying to ignore Janie.

“Those are perfect for you, Mom!” said Janie, as I was paying for everything.

“Why?” said Sunny, momentarily distracted from her new yellow flower purse.**

“Because they’re little pencils,” said Janie.  “And she’s a . . .”

“A Mommy?”

“No.  Well, yeah, but she writes stuff.  And writers need . .  .”



Garrison Keillor says I can write fanfiction about Pirate Ninja Nuns from Mars***

So there, nyah.


Social anxieties and spontaneous credit card combustion be damned—I registered for Bouchercon last night.

I also scored accommodations, though not quite what I’d wanted.  The convention center has already sold out of the reserved block—the only room available in the hotel, if the reservation person was to be believed, was a three-person suite for $339 a night, which was tempting . . . but no.

I booked a room a block away and will frugally, if not cheerfully, schlep myself and my stuff back and forth.

So the only things I’m missing are a signed vacation slip^ and transportation, since my beloved Rocinante is in no shape to make the trip and I’d rather not fly if I can help it.^^

So if anyone within reach of this post hails from my part of the Midwest and plans to go to Bouchercon—or has always hankered to explore scenic Cleveland, it’s not my place to judge^^^—I’ll pay my share of gas and parking if you want to carpool or guard your stuff if you want to train- or buspool.

And if any of my posse are interested in sharing expenses for a suite . . .


*While you’re there, check out the amazing Q&A by Gar Harwood and Brad Parks.  Two brilliant men riffing off each other—priceless.

**It should be noted that she was sitting on the counter through this exchange because she refused to be parted from her new favoritest thing ever long enough for the clerk to scan the tag.

***Because I miss the Biker Mice, that’s why.

^I have to wait for the quarterly forms to come out, but it shouldn’t be a problem.  If it is, I’ll either cancel or hold one heck of a poetry contest.

^^It’s not fear, it’s impatience,  disgust, and expense, pretty much in that order.

^^^Though I’ll do it anyway, since I was born and (more or less) raised in Cincinnati, which means judging Cleveland is a deeply ingrained tradition.  But I hear the river up there is gorgeous now that it’s no longer bursting into flame on a regular basis . . . and for Laura, I’ll keep quiet—if she promises not to bring up the Reds or the Bengals or Jerry Springer or Mapplethorpe . . . never mind.

I’ve been wondering about that myself . . .

(Jane’s World is the brainchild of the awesomely talented Paige Braddock)

I can daydream all day, chewing on pencils, playing endless games of Winter Whirl,* while my characters dance through my head, conceptualizing their feelings and events and shootings and smooches.

But that doesn’t get stuff written down.  Eventually, if I want to have a novel written, I will have to make new marks on paper or throw new pixels up on a screen.**

That’s a pretty basic concept right there, and it’s amazing how many excuses I can counter-conceptualize for not actually doing this.

The only cure is to get something down—even a single sentence about what I want to happen next.  And then another sentence, expanding on the idea a little . . . and another so it’s a full paragraph (according to Janie’s teacher, three sentences make a paragraph, and who am I to argue?) . . . and a fourth that makes the adverbs in the second moot . . . and then the clock strikes eleven and there are four pages here that didn’t exist before that one small sentence was written.

I’m not knocking daydreaming—it’s not a waste of time, until it is, and without conceptualizing, you get alphabet soup in three-sentence groups.  But there comes a time when the only way to call yourself a writer . . . is to write something.

Ideas are only as valuable as their execution.

Suck it up and get it down.

Butt in seat.  Hands on keyboard.



*You shoot colored snowflake balls at a great whirling structure of colored snowflake balls, trying to match at least three so they’ll fall off.  It’s like structured transcendental meditation with poingy sounds.

** Supplying, one can safely assume, my own poingy sounds.

Jane’s World is the brainchild of the awesomely talented  Paige Braddock