Slightly Higher in the West

State pot signOne year has passed since Colorado legalized marijuana sales. After a tidal wave of celebration and protest, gloomy predictions and giddy smoke-ins, the Rocky Mountain region has not become the most progressive state in the union or morphed into the back streets  of Amsterdam. The projected $70 million in tax revenue has not yet appeared. At this moment it’s more like $53 million plus or minus. Rest assured the first $40 million will still go to school construction, but I still want to know where the balance, what ever it turns out to be, will end up. Don’t Bogart those excess taxes, Colorado lawmakers…give us new roads or at least fill the Volkswagen-sized pot holes in Northern Colorado.Pot sunglasses

For those of you who care to indulge, know the rules.

1.You must be twenty-one.

2. No pot smoking in public or in vehicles, moving or otherwise. Violation of rule number two can result in stays in our friendly local jails or prisons.

3. Sales to tourists are limited to 1/4 oz. and 1 oz. for locals.

4. You can’t buy pot in every county or city in Colorado.

5. Any attempts to transport pot over state lines by car, rail, bike, plane or levitation can result in a legal search. K9 units and their accompanying peace officers have been spotted on the CO/WYO border.

To me, the most interesting part of all of this is the huge flurry in different counties over sales, profits, and taxes. This is a tremendous untapped resource, folks, and many entrepreneurs want to get in on it. Pot is taxed at 25% or 28% depending on who you ask. Broken down that is 15% excise (sin-tax) and 10% state tax. Wow.pot and bucks To stay competitive with unlicensed sellers, some pot stores are eating the excise tax – to keep the legal businesses in business. It’s complicated. The statistics change daily so don’t hold me to these numbers.

Just for comparison these are excise taxes on other legal items in Colorado:

$2.28 per gallon of liquor or wine

84 cents per pack of cigarettes

8 cents per gallon of beer (still the best value around!)

Right or wrong, we need all the tax revenue we can get because we are experiencing a huge boom in our population.  That’s as close to a pro or con opinion as you’re likely to get from me.

I’m just shaking my head over the irony. Who would have guessed that the Marlboro clutched in my hand as I rolled down highway 34 into Boulder all those years ago would be so reviled and pot would be legal. Life continues to amaze, doesn’t it?

 

What cool, awful, or amazing things has your home state done lately?

 

Statistics and art from: Huffington Post, KUNC, CNN, and others known and unknown

 

Hoarse Writer’s Voice

First in a series (hopefully a short series) of updates on synopsis for my second novel.

Synopsis still in the grinder. Why? WHY?

NWoman using laptopever let it be said I don’t listen to advice. I don’t always take advice, even if it’s good council, but I always listen.

First, Lynette mentioned how my POV’s snarky voice sparkled in my first novel.  It never occurred to me she might be hinting my second novel synopsis needed that same sarcastic tone and gently suggesting I need to let loose.

Then, after reading Kristen Lamb’s blog What is Writing “Voice”, I realized I’ve actually dumped my voice. Maybe writing in third person is unfamiliar enough to rattle me, but somehow my synopsis became rigid and far too serious. I am writing SFR here, not The Kite Runner.

Suddenly, like a retina-bending explosion, the truth emerged. The voice I hear in my head, the bad bold voice, isn’t there. Where the hell did it go? For some reason, it’s quiet –  replaced by nervous chatter. As you patient readers know, writing the synopsis first is new for me, but I’m still convinced it’s the right direction for this novel.  So, I’m letting the acerbic voices of my characters loose, and they’ll lead me from beginning to end. stranger-in-balaklava_l

How do your characters’ voices sound in your head? Are they the real you or someone you would like to be?

 

Photos from Foter.com

4 Good Legs

gallows humor

noun

humor that treats serious, frightening, or painful subject matter in a light or satirical way

The last six months I’ve learned a lot about the expression gallows humor.

Honestly, I used to cringe when I heard folks joke about disability, disease, or disaster. It took me a while to understand this dubious humor was a way of whistling in the dark, of making the inconceivable manageable. (Of course, I’m not talking about sick or cruel comments.)
My dog Abbie and I are disabled. My problem is temporary, but hers is not. My current pain is intermittent, and her initial pain was incredible. I still have my leg, and hers is gone forever. blue-rng-paw-print-th
Recently, I took Abbie for a walk – for the first time since last November. My husband watched us from the window, ready to rush to our aid if necessary. When we hobbled in, he was smiling. When I asked him why, he said, “Woman with cane walks three-legged dog. Between you two, you have four good legs.”
I burst out laughing and kept laughing the rest of the night. The relief was amazing. Suddenly, my problem was moving into perspective. Finally, after months of suffering, I began to understand how lucky I am and how courageous our beautiful dog is. She sets an amazing example for everyone, and I can only attempt to emulate her good nature.
So, in spite of hardships, keep your head up, wag your tail, and lick someone’s face every time you get a chance!
jason-edwards-dog-duke-lays-on-a-big-sloppy-wet-tongue-kiss-dog-show-in-morro-bay-10-may-2009-best-of-bay-pooch-pageant-is-a-dogs-mouth-really-cleaner-than-a-huma
How do you keep your sense of humor in tough times?
Photo by Foter
Art by Clkr

Word Wizards

vision-quest_l

W – People who write are always looking for a way to be heard. When did you begin longing for an audience? It took me about a year of pounding the keys before I realized I was on my own. For a while, I felt terrible. How would I know if my writing was any good? Why write if no one read my stuff? The old if a tree falls in the forest thing. I hadn’t started reading chapters to my husband at that point, so I was completely isolated.

Unlike painting, music, or dance, writing isn’t a social expression of art. For the most part, writers work alone. But, at some point, they need feedback. I always swore I would never join a writer’s group  but, out of the blue, through a series of coincidences, I found out about a newly forming group at a local independent bookstore. yes-would-you-like-to-buy-a-book_lAfter one meeting, I decided it wasn’t for me but, again, another coincidence brought me back to the fold. It was the best thing that could have happened for my writing.

One of the great things about a good writer’s group is everyone gets it. Each member has doubts, setbacks, and triumphs. And, as I got to know my fellow writers, I learned so much from reading and critiquing their work. I read genres I would never have touched a year before, I poured over non-fiction, and I even read poetry. Forming a kinship of compassion and honesty with other writers is priceless.

So, thankyou, my Word Wizards. Our group has accomplished so much. In the last year, four of us finished our books. One of us is selling her non-fiction book and increasing  sales every month. WIPs are still evolving. Memoirs are being refined.

Next time someone tells you about a writer’s group, consider joining up. It might be just the thing you and your writing need!

 

Photo credit: ALL CHROME / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: 0olong / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Building Blocks

B – My Building Blocks of writing started piling up when Mom showed me how to use a thesaurus. She wanted to share one of the greatest resources for word enthusiasts ever created.  I would pick a page at random, study words, learn new ones, and read for stars-thhours. The sheer number of words dazzled me.  And, even now, I close my eyes, rifle the pages  and, when I stop,   I’m always amazed at the beautiful and miraculous variety of our language under my fingertips. Some people do this with the Bible, finding endless affirmation and hope. To me the thesaurus is the bible of words, filled with inspiration and creativity.

What building block of writing sits on your bookshelf?

Writing Event Horizon

In general relativity an event horizon is a boundary in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. In layman’s terms it is “the point of no return” i.e. the point at which the gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible.1257596738438424553ywuwth-md

I’m approaching the event horizon of this project. My novel is almost done. Now, I’m being pulled by the gravity of completion toward the black hole of writing my query letter – the letter in which you write more brilliantly than you ever have in your life.

In the time it took me to write this novel I have figured out some important things:

1 – Finally, I can describe my novel in thirty words or less.

2 – After countless battles, I made Word 2007 my friend, sort of. I know how to replace words using edit, I have every chapter typed to the best of my ability, and I understand how to compile the entire novel into a continuous flow of numbered pages.

3 – At this moment, I have an outline of my query letter and a draft of the synopsis.

4 – And, most important of all – I am not, nor will I ever be, a proficient typist.

So, the big question is: who in hell is going to type this manuscript for me?  This is not a favor you can ask of your friend the office assistant at work. Not if you want to keep that friend.
So tell me. What are the going prices for manuscript typing? I know this is an expensive proposition, but will I have to mortgage the house?

How will you handle the typing issue when the time comes?

Chapter-20-to-end

WRITE IT LIKE YOU TOLD IT

Colorado Sunset

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone remember a TV show from the mid-late 80s called Amazing Stories?

The intro showed cave people sitting around a campfire at sunset, shadows flickering on their faces,  listening with great anticipation  as one of the group began a tale of wonder.

This is why we write. We try to capture that campfire moment, the instant the story-teller looks at her listeners and says, “You may not believe this, but I swear it happened…”

At another time in my life, I loved siting across the kitchen table from my roommate  and say, “Girl, you won’t believe what just happened to me.”
Now I want my readers  at the table saying, “Tell me everything!”

Spinning lies and truths with words is a great joy, and opening the worlds in my head still takes a lot of nerve. I hyperventilate a bit when I read out loud at Word Wizards, my writer’s critique group. But, they are my campfire listeners and if they lean forward as I read, with the tell me everything look on their faces, I know I’m doing something right.

Think about the last time you told a story. Then write it, exactly like you told it.

Oh, and if I’m wrong about the name of the show, somebody please tell me.

writing and no religion too

During my re-booting week I’ve taken my own advice, and I’m reading someone else’s novel. What a novel. Game of Thrones is an ambitious read, even for me. I love a long, complex book, but I’m not much of an epic fantasy fan. Intricate world building often  bores the hell out of me, but this book is different. Its rich and textured background makes me think about my own novel.

Turns out I left something big out of my characters’ world.

Religion.

Neither God nor gods  are mentioned anywhere in my book.

I‘ve thought about this a lot for the last few days. I know my novel by now. Every. Single. Word. There is one scene where a character performs a simple rite with his grandfather’s ashes. Only once in the entire story does anyone pray. However, I’ve never felt my characters were without spirituality. They do honor the dead, wonder about the infinite universe, carry talismans, and invoke magic – magic which works about as well as it does here on Earth. They are, for the most part, compassionate, trying to do as little harm as possible.

If I was writing an epic, I’m sure  religion would find its way into the struggles of my people. But within the confines of 100,000 words, it doesn’t. Or does it? In many human cultures, religion is  lived quietly day-to-day, lifetime to lifetime. The details of organized religion are so ingrained into our world that it would take only a few words to suggest the existence of worship and praise among my varied species and societies.

I haven’t decided whether I will or want to add this extra layer, even in the most subtle way.

Does your world building include religion? Is it necessary and, if like me, you have unintentionally omitted it, how would you weave it into your novel?

PIXEL LAND

A co-worker asked me today if I had excerpts from my novel posted on my blog. While flattered he wanted to read my work,  I wondered what I would post. How about a few paragraphs from a story I decided not to send to Fantasy and Science Fiction? Would the short contemplative paragraphs I wrote several years ago suffice? What did I have filed away I was willing sacrifice to the internet community?

Sacrifice. Operative word. Anything a writer slings out into pixel land is immediately absorbed and lost. While I’m not saying my plot, theme, and characters are particularly valuable, they could be stolen, copied, or reinterpreted. The way I write is unique, it is mine. I won’t share it. Not yet.

Being published is an affirmation many writers, myself included, seek. After publication sharing my work doesn’t seem threatening, but before publication it’s out of the question. For me.

I‘ve heard J. K. Rowling kept her first manuscript and ideas in a box. The contents of the box were off-limits to everyone. Everyone.  Maybe this is just a myth about a famous author, but maybe she still protects her writing this way.

If she does, I understand.

So, those of you who want a sneak peek, please be patient. Someday my novel will be available in a book store near you or on your kindle. And, I’ll be thrilled to autograph it for you!

Chapter 14 revision completed.

Onward!

Deep Well of Final Revision

Oh, dear. I’ve reached the dreaded center of my novel, the deep well of the middle. While writing the first and second draft, I struggled with chapters ten through thirteen. They are filled with necessary information, but I had a horrid time keeping everything in the present, showing not telling. And now, in final revision, I’m still unhappy with these chapters.

The problem is, I don’t like the plan I made when I was writing out my revision scene cards, and I don’t like my outline. My novel bogs down in the middle. It’s as simple as that. I feel as though I’m pushing a boulder up a hill with a straight pin, and I’m not sure what to do next.

Part of me wants to plunge on ahead, following the scene cards in spite of my reservations. Another part of me wants to combine the chapters, skimming off a bit of each scene, melding what remains into something tight and clear. Yet another side of my whirling mind says go back, do all three chapters over, from scratch.

I won’t do over, but I may combine the scenes into two chapters instead of three. All that’s necessary is a better outline.  After all, three chapters of crossing the universe in an escape boat the size of a school is more than my  stalwart characters can endure.  It’s certainly driving me nuts; I hate to think what it’s doing to them. I don’t even want to think what my beta readers would say about this.

Keeping the story moving, focusing on immediacy and intensity, will get my heroes to their destination with their lives and my sanity in tact.

Onward!

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