Tag Archives: Writing

@Laughing Planet

Sometimes the only way I get through a rough patch of edits is I take them out for lunch… or a drink.


@Laughing Planet

XTC playing over the speakers

Surrounded by parents & children… editing erotica with a pint of Diablo rojo 🙂



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Losing the battle, but winning the war (I think)

Monday: Today was the beginning…

Get up early and walk, then to work, meditation & yoga for lunch, and then home for more yoga and 2-4 hours on the novel.

Like that was going to happen.

More people came into the office during my 20 minutes of yoga and meditation than were in all morning (so much for that idea) and the allergy meds are making me yearn for bed, or a couch, or heck a piece of floor would do.

Losing ground fast… so tired. I’m sure the allergy meds are not helping. I can’t take Claritin because of the odd headaches, I can’t take Zyrtec because it makes my nose bleed, so I’m taking benydril (sp?) and feel like curling up on the floor and sleeping.

At times I hate being me.


Friday: And I thought Monday was bad…

It was a week. A week that took me by the throat and shook me proving once again that I have no control over my environment – interior or exterior.

So, it is Friday and I’m sitting here, sipping the last of the scotch, and licking my wounds. Migraines, a day on Vicodin for pain beyond the migraines, our server going down and the exhaustion of a 11.5 hour day yesterday, but I am still here and still staring at the plot on my wall.

’tis time to kill one of my darlings.

I adore Emmett and his family. He is one of the few remaining characters from the first draft of the novel, but he must go. Talked it over with a friend last night. Gave her the plot and she immediately focused in on the Emmett scene and asked, “Why?” I couldn’t defend the scene, I slowed the pace of the plot and distracted the reader from the business at hand. Leave it to AL to figure that out in 30 seconds…. and I’ve been trying to figure out what was wrong all week. (that would be a statement about the value of outside opinions)

So, back to the drawing board – or the post it map.

The story will be better for this. I truly believe it.

A crazy weekend filled with odds and ends of commitment (and taxes) which I usually don’t let happen because I worry I’ll have to cancel. But one event turned into two, and then three…. and well the sky is darkening with rain as much as dusk and it is time to pack for the weekend.

Happy writing,

~ Tess


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The Villain of the Piece

iStock Photo

A good villain is hard to find.

Much harder than a good man.

I’ve struggled with this since the beginning of my novel. Most of the time I move my villain around the plot like a piece on a chess board. Need to block the hero from getting what she wants, enter the villain. Need to up the stakes, enter the villain. Need to…. well you get the idea.

It feels contrived. I don’t want to take the easy way out by saying “Hey, he’s evil – he doesn’t need a reason.” I believe that often the most evil outcomes occur when people do the wrong thing for the right reasons. The road to Hell and all that.

Part of my dilemma is all the communication training I had in one of my previous lives. I just can’t help but ask….

“Why would a reasonable rational human being do that?”*

I know there are some obvious reasons I could use – my villain isn’t human, reasonable or rational. Yet at the end of the day their behavior has to hold water and not leak. Leakage, or rather seepage is what took me from absolutely loving Connelly’s The Poet to feeling a little let down. Brilliantly Connellly sets up a new flavor of serial killer, finds a voice for his hero that is both literary and believable, then he takes us on a plot that has twists and turns which kept me guessing until the very end… but that is where things broke down for me.

Part of the thrill I have when I read a serial killer thriller (forgive the alliteration) is finding myself in the inner workings of a world view I have little connection too. We all have fantasies – we all act on them from time to time – most fantasies that are acted upon do not involve killing/mutilating/raping individuals. My fascination is with the physiology of the monster inside. That is why I love Val McDermid – the physiology of her killers is precise, organic, and breathtakingly perverse.

(I hate spoilers but there is a sort-of-spoiler ahead – The Poet was written in the ’96 so I’m hoping you’ll forgive me – and I’ll try to hide as much as possible without making you read the book to follow me.)

When Connelly’s Poet was finally revealed, we were left not knowing the why behind the Poet’s actions. Our glimpses into the Poet’s head were limited, seen from the view of a third party, and used as much for misdirection as for revealing character. Beyond that, Connelly develops several characters all of which have surprisingly rational, abet twisted, back stories that could make the motivation of the Poet killings rational-ish – just not the Poet. We have absolutely no idea why he does what he does.

Don’t get me wrong, the book has made me a Connelly fan and I have a lot of catching up to do… but I wanted to know the why – to understand the why – to feel that sense of catharsis that is the reason I love thrillers so much.

Hmmm… it is just possible I’ve spent more time thinking about The Poet because it wasn’t tied up in a bow – no one lived happily ever after – everyone in the book had their world altered forever – no one really got what they wanted (yet again something that Connelly does brilliantly).

…and yet I still want to know, “why would a reasonable rational person do that?”

So, back to my personal villain problems…

He needs a code to follow, a history from which his actions organically derive, what he is doing needs to make sense to him and by extension to us. I want a great villain, one who could have been the hero but his path was twisted somewhere along the way.

That is what I’ve been working on because I don’t like the cardboard cutout that I’ve been moving around on the page and want Darth Vader – not the rent collector who bows out, at the end of the book with “Curse’s foiled again”.

Guess I need to get back to work… 🙂

~ Tess

*Crucial Conversations – the book is amazing (especially if you want to do things wrong, right is so much harder) and they also have Crucial Confrontations.


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Worshiping at the temple of Structure

Over the weekend I spent two full days with Story Engineering author/speaker/guru Larry Brooks. Now I didn’t swoon (which apparently disappointed him) but I did learn two things…

  1. I write awesome beginnings
  2. My middles are crap

My endings are erratic so I’m going to ignore that for the moment. But I’ve been spinning around the middle of my novel for almost a year, and now I have some tools that I truly believe will get me through the muck of it.

At least I hope so…

I won’t give away Larry’s secrets – which he gives away on his website – but I will say I spent half the night, post Day One, tearing apart my half finished novel which garnered me the first two pieces of information. Then as I tried to fall asleep – ideas about how to make almost everything I’ve written and not sold better flooded my mind until I just had to tell the damn muse to shut up because there was no way I was going to be able to learn anything Day Two if I didn’t get any sleep (besides the migraine issues).

What I was hoping this weekend would provide is grist for the planning mill… I was terrified that I was hanging too much of my future productivity on this one weekend, thank the gods I was proven wrong.

There is a plan…a structure…a skeleton from which to hang the meat of your story on.

I’m still working on what I started Saturday night – taking the novel as it now exists and divide it into the four sections of story, and vetting the currently written scenes and how they fit into the overarching concept. And what a relief to know I had a concept… so much of Day Two was spent in search of one as different writers offered up their stories or germs of stores to the group to be reviewed.

The interesting thing about that (and probably why I love Rose City Romance Writers so much) is that in the romance world there is room for all of us. No “new” writer is a threat, no established writer feels possessive of their craft, time or contacts. I was talking to a children’s writer who sat next to me and was so surprised that the weekend ended so positively. She said most Children’s events ended with a quiet sense of desperation.

I spent joyous part of last night talking through it with Jo and for the first time ever felt like I had head wrapped around the plot.


Don’t get me wrong – this is a bullet but not magic – it is going to take a hell of a lot of work to get my novel to the structural polish suggested by Larry’s structure. But having a structure, knowing where to stick my tent pole in the ground so I can write to it, is wonderfully liberating.

On a different note, my Mac has slowed down to a crawl so my depression (followed by a bout of self-pity) has to be officially over – I only have 37.95 GB left on my Mac’s hard drive and that is not enough for another season of NCIS. And I need to delete many of the ones I have to get my writing tool back to optimum working condition.

’tis good to be back.



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Hello, my name is Tess and I’m a Flake

Ah, the joys of a chronic illness.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time… and even though I tell myself I must NOT offer to do anything, say yes to anything, volunteer for anything – a part of me still thinks I’m super woman rather than migraine girl.

I loved being super woman – the go-to for making shit happen, the reliable one. Oh, how I miss her. But a chronic illness means you have good days, midlin days, and bad days – and none of them are under your control.

I have more midlin to good days these days than bad. Gone are the 7/8s, on a pain scale of 1-10, which would last for months at a time. Mostly gone are the days when a 10 would put me down for a day with no hope of any productivity.*

At the same time, gone too is the ability to rest up in the hopes of a good day, or make one happen by shear force of will and damn the consequences, since I’m now working a full time job.


The thing is, I still don’t see myself as having a chronic illness – and apparently neither does most of the population. After three and a half years I hide it really well and do a very good job of looking exactly the same every day (Nars I am so grateful) and acting the same (damn grateful to have a Boss who puts up with me).

I haven’t yet learned how to pace myself. Partly this is the J O B.

Some days are long (10+ hours) some are short (4-6) but none of them are the same. I think consistency would help me but I love my job and my Boss too much to think about changing that. So I do what I’ve always done – I get the job done and the rest of my life falls where it may.

But I have two jobs – the Clinic and the Writing – and one is taking more of the good hours, because no matter what, I have to do the time and deliver at work.

Then there are the random requests that throw the weekend into chaos.

Two weeks ago I got a mayday from my niece – she needed help on her chemistry and bashfully (or shamefully) texted her aunt for help – for days I tried but between the time difference – the fact she asked for it just as my two LONG days were happening – then a day and a half of migraine – we got right down to the wire and spent 9 hours on Sunday doing chemical equations from yield to titers to pH….

Ah, school how much I miss you.

Now, I saved her ass and made her promise to go find a chemistry tutor in the same time zone or I’d kill her. But so goes my one good, non clinic, day.**

I can’t do that every weekend, then there would be no writing, no blog, no short stories or novellas that I’m sure you are all chomping at the bit to read.

I have to choose.

Ah, there is the rub. How do you choose? How do you say no, when a part of you wants to say yes, when you know that the world only gives back what you put into it and your teaspoon full of participation isn’t nearly enough?

I don’t know, and I’m walking into the Lion’s Den (otherwise known as the RCRW’s Spring Intensive). Rose City Romance Writers is filled with women I worship and admire from afar – I want to be a part of it, give of myself to the group, and enjoy the positive synergy of it all – but I’ve let them down and if I don’t keep my mouth shut I’ll end up letting them down again, and they deserve so much better – they deserve super woman and all I can give them is migraine girl.

Friday afternoon I will get in the car and drive across town to face the Lion. Face my own failure, owe up to the person I’ve become, and hopefully find… something.

~ Tess

*Thank you my love!

** I don’t regret it at all – it’s been 12 years since Gen Chem and it was nice to feel like a smart contributing member of society.


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The Bend in the Road

They say that change is constant. The only constant we have.

They also say that chaos moves to order – and that one day the universe will succumb to entropy.

Entropy: a hypothetical tendency for the universe to attain a state of maximum homogeneity in which all matter is at a uniform temperature.

In my house – my personal tendency towards entropy leads to chaos not uniform order. So much for Cosmology!

Over the course of the last year my writing has changed. In form, structure, and content. I thought I had more control over this than apparently I do – so it took me longer than normal to figure out I wasn’t obeying my first rule of business… Fail Faster!

When something doesn’t work – try something else.

I didn’t get here by myself. It took my best friend – who’d been holding her tongue for months – to say it out loud. “You gotta kill Emma.”

I don’t know if that is really what she said but it is the summation of her intent. And I did it. I killed her. Wrote a nice Emma-ish goodbye on her blog and walked away from the majority of my publishing history. You see, Emma wrote sex, and sex sells. I, well, I write crazy children’s poetry, non-fiction articles, and 3-Day Novels – and I’ve made more as me than I made as Emma – but Emma wrote fiction that sold. We’ll sold for a while.

I need to stop mourning Emma and just get on with it.

Emma is Dead! Long live Emma!

So, what now?

I’ve been asking myself that for days now – and gotten some flack for how I’m dealing with this change. I’m a plan person – I feel uncomfortable without a plan. And not just a “What shall I do today plan?” I need a today plan, project list, all of which fit into a 5 year plan. Emma had one – and now I need one.

  • My writing friends said – just write!
  • My friends said – just write!
  • My Sig-Fig said – Just WRITE!

My best friend said – do what you need to do.

She knows me best.

When change happens, disappointment, or failure physiologists think of fight/flight or avoidance activities – but two woman researchers wondered about that. When things went wrong in the lab their male companions would escape to exercise, home, drink, et al. But they wouldn’t leave. They would stay in the lab and organize, clean and talk. Eventually – after much research – this behavior was labeled Tend & Mend. It is typically a female trait – and really, think about it – incredibly advantageous evolutionarily. You don’t want Moms running off and leaving the source of their stress behind – the screaming child for example.

My working style is messy – I create chaos around me – piles of books, research materials, mail, crap, random cords from peripherals I no longer use

– you get the idea.

I’ve found that when I find myself in a blind alley – or under crazy stress from projects or deadlines – I clean my office. Silly I know – and probably you could label it a form of procrastination (many people I worked with did) or avoidance (really some of my coworkers thought I was mad) but I go though the piles and somehow by organizing my physical space, simplifying the clutter, and throwing away what I no longer need – I clean and air out my own head. Suddenly there is space for the work – the writing – and best of all for the joy.

Now I just started – the desk was the priority since the arrival of my Mac nothing worked well ergonomically – and there is much more to do. I don’t even want to think about the closet – but it has begun and I feel so much better.

I have no idea what is beyond the bend in the road. But I’m starting to feel like I can handle it. I’ll figure this out…and the next thing…and the next.

So hear is a picture of my beautiful new writing environment!

Inspiring, don’t you think? Best of all no more neck pain from looking up at the monitor! Back to the job – I have a short story to get submitted today.

~ Just Tess


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Day 1 – Yet again

I always hated the line “the first day of the rest of your life” but for today it works.

There are watersheds: days that bring so much change you use them as milestones defining everything that came before and since. It is amusing to think of today as a milestone – but it is.

Today I go back to work.

Not a full time job – not a career job – just a part time job to help pay the bills and keep me financially viable. So crazy! I knew I needed to find something and to have it fall into my lap is still delights me. Yesterday I had nothing and today I have something. Some place that wants me! That is the most surprising point. I hope they won’t be disappointed.

Oh, and for the record. I found out about the job a few days ago, didn’t even think about doing it until yesterday afternoon, and by 9 pm had the job. Did I mention insane? Crazy?

In addition to starting a job today – today was the first day of my 21-Day Yoga challenge. So I got up, made a cup of green tea, and hit the mat. And was humbled. I was once in great shape – now I’m not – the class for the morning was insanely difficult for me. Spending a week learning how to ski didn’t help much either. There are muscles that are hurting like hell still. But I was disappointed when I realized that my major muscle groups weren’t up to the challenge – so did 20 minutes rather than 45 and will keep going. The big thing is to focus on doing something every day rather than worrying that I’m not strong enough, flexible enough, or fit enough.

But I’m working through it, which is the point…. Right?

The universe is being very kind to me – needed work, got work – needed accountability for my exercise program, got accountability in a Sunday check in with my friend D – needed accountability in my writing goals, got that too!!! J – sent an email out asking for volunteers to be part of an accountability group. Working in threats of chicken dances and other humiliations so I joined on.

I’ve read so many books about changing behaviors – most for business – and one of the things that I find interesting is how sometimes you can be open for change in such a way that it just flows through you and at other times you can avoid it, bemoan it, and fight it every step of the way. It always amazes me how easy it is to stand in your own way and the courage it takes to own up to the fact that you are your own worst enemy.

So, I’m taking my evil twin out for an airing and will see if she enjoys it enough to leave me alone because the next several months are going to be interesting.

~ Tess

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Year One…

Thank You!

A year ago today I posted my first blog post.

How time flies…

I wish I could say that everything I imagined it to be it was – it isn’t. But it has served a purpose. It got me writing. Most days I write now. There are days when I write a lot, and days when I write very little – but most days I write – and I have the blogs to thank for that.

I’ve written about privacy issues and dealing with my migraines. I’ve publicly mourned the loss of relationships and quietly celebrated the beginning of a new one. I’ve bitched about healthcare and calls from the DNC. I’ve waxed quazi-poetic on the value of friendship and my delight in my new Mac.

I’m not sure where I’m going now.

The blogs have been adrift for awhile – it is a hard thing writing a novel. I tried to split my focus, blogs, and short stories, and novellas Oh, My! But I’m finding it harder and harder to multi task. I find that I sequester myself away to write. I can no longer work in noisy places (I used to love writing in pubs and coffee shops) I can’t even have music going in the house.

So what next?

This last year has been about learning how to do this job. I’ve written a novella, articles for AOL, a poem for Dr. Wicked, written and rewritten several short stories – even sold a few, and started a novel. Gradually I’m learning how this works and what doesn’t.

The migraines are a constant battle but I now have the most amazing support so I’m hopeful things will get better.

I always expect things to happen faster than they do. Just as I always expect that I will get more done than I do. But this is an industry that moves slowly – and writing a novel takes time. I’m a quarter of the way through my first draft and hope to have it finished by the end of November since I have two short stories I want to write and a novella to reedit.

So things are sill moving – but as for my blog I’m not sure where it is going or what shape it will take. It maybe that I’ll write more once I’m out of the draft stage – maybe even write up some of my research on mythology and the different types of multi-verses. Who knows…

Those of you who have checked in from time to time, thank you! There is something extremely nice about knowing you are out there.

~ Tess


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Notes from the Pub

Me at McMenamins in Cedar Mill 😉

It maybe that I spend too much time at home… I’ve been working for two hours and have barely noticed the time go by. And yes I’m taking a break with a glass of old fashioned American Rye (see pic). Nice! And that is from the scotch drinker.

If I was a good person I’d let you know what kind of rye… but I have yet to figure out how to make Safari give me more than one window it’s called (ri)1 but I can’t give you the link ;-(

I don’t get out much these days – money and migraines – but apparently my requirements are the same as people on a first date (cheep with lots of people and multiple exits). It is so funny listening to the resume date. All the stats – where you grew up, went to school, previously married? Family? Parents? Interests? Favorite foods?

The date follows the same plan. Oh, I remember it well. Please, oh, please I really am enjoying not being single. I’m rather happy with what I’ve got.

So, back to the writing/editing/writing/writing…

~ Tess


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A very merry un-birthday…

Credit: Ardfern

Oops – not an Un but a real one.

I’m another year: older, grayer, happier, possibly even wiser, surprisingly thinner, more productive, poorer….

I’m not used to journaling at this hour. This is usually a morning exercise. But I’m here and thought I shouldn’t waste the moment.

I made a wish today.

A surprising, scary, who’d-a-thunk-it, wish that terrified me as it delighted me.

I wonder who came up with the idea of putting candles on things and blowing them out – one for every year of your life. We’ll the folks at the restaurant only gave me one candle but I made a wish anyway. It’s been years since I’ve made a real wish. This one had all the earnest quality of when I wished for a sister. (I did that once – in a wishing well) And in that moment held the thought so clear in my mind that it simply had to come true. I know my Dad was dreading calling us if I was wrong and had a brother instead – he didn’t want me to be disappointed – and I was so sure of that wish.

It was one of those moments.

I leaned in, took a breath, and the thing I wanted more than anything else in the world sprang into my mind fully formed. No one was more surprised than me. I didn’t wish for money, a job, or to sign a contract on my first novel… all the things I expected to wish for. Nope I surprised myself.

It’s kind of like first thoughts…

One of the reasons I write in the morning is the quality of the thoughts. The coffee is just kicking in and my mind is waking up and all the to-dos of the day aren’t swirling in my head. I’m always amazed at what comes out. The amazing things that sneak around and pop out – they are always better than anything my head can make up on a conscious level. In fact I am sure my consciousness is a very bad writer. It’s that other me – the one that I keep in the padded cell – when she comes out to play everything works and surprises lurk behind every sentence.   

The last month or so I’ve picked up a few books and magazines that talk about how writers write. Everyone is different – which makes me feel good – Everyone is the same – which helped clarify the direction I’m headed. When things work, they work well, it is that hesitation, the stuttering of my fingers and thoughts, as I kick start the engine of my head. Those are the rough moments.  

I was reading about good/bad advice successful writers were given early in their careers in the latest edition of Romantic Times. The ones I liked were (and I don’t have it here so I’m sure I’m misquoting)

Finish the damn book (good advice) and Have a backup plan (bad advice) Write every day (landed in both camps – a good idea but sometimes difficult given the structure of our lives).

I’m really thinking that it is all about finishing the damn book.

That said – I’ve spent the last few days doing nothing but reviewing old pieces that have come back and researching new homes for them. But I’ll get back to the novel soon – it’s just that if I don’t get things out there I can’t sell them. And I can’t seem to stop myself from being obsessive compulsive about things – I like to focus on one thing and get it done. Multitasking is a bad word in my household.

Hopefully I have now distracted you from my wish… you know I won’t tell. If I did it wouldn’t come true. Okay so I told everyone about wanting a sister and I got one – but it was a one off event. This one I’m going to hold in my heart a little longer, quietly nurturing it, in the hope it will come to fruition.

~ Tess

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