Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Being an adult is kind of weird.

I'm nearly 26 and doing things like budgeting my grocery list and switching car insurance providers and paying rent and washing my own butt still feels weird, like someone else should still be taking care of these things for me. Some weeks ago, I fixed a red flag on my credit report and got really excited, like super triumphant, like Take that, The Man! And it became like my best story for an entire week, and I would tell everyone as if I'd just taken down a cyclops with merely my wit and a rock. At some point I realized this was the most boring shit ever to be excited about, but it made me no less excited. I just felt weird about feeling excited. Kids are always all like, Oh man it's not fair I want to be older so I can drive and eat cookies for dinner and stay up all night and get an STD. And sure, those things are great, but no one really warns you about the bills, and the making-your-own-doctors-appointments, and the bills, and the 40 hour work week, and the bills, and all the list-making, and the bills, and the Ambien. I think if someone did warn me as a kid, though, I'd still be like, "Fuck you, Pops, you just don't want me to live my own life! I have my own life, Pops, I want to LIVE!" Then Pops, if he was smart, or a smart-ass, would toss a pen and a checkbook at my pimply face and be like, "Start living."

Anyway, I have to deal with some car insurance stuff today, and get an oil change, and go grocery shopping. But before I do that, I want to spout off here for awhile, and tell you all about how much time I have been spending on Goodreads. Man, what a time-suck. I really like informally reviewing books because it's like thrusting my opinion on the world, but in kind of a benign way that I don't have to feel guilty about. I also like reading other people's reviews. Some people get really into it, and that always makes me happy, because people being into books is kind of a huge turn-on, amiright? I also find some cool titles to check out which I will read some day if they come into the bookstore or if I get less cheap and spring for them on Amazon.

Speaking of books to read, I am currently seeking some recommendations for: zombie fiction written by women, and/or sci-fi/fantasy fiction involving major lesbian or bisexual characters (they don't have to be, like, major lesbians, but they have to be major characters, like have a lot to do with the overall story). I found this cool site the other day that lists sci-fi books featuring lesbians/bi characters, so that's awesome. Anyway, help a sister out.

In my own writing news, there is none. I'm patiently waiting on my free bound copy of EAT YOUR HEART OUT (provided by Createspace as a spoil of winning the NaNoWriMo war), and then I will probably order some more to give to friends as gifts, but I can't make it available to the public until I figure out the laws regarding fictional depictions of real people, namely celebrities. Also, I might write a short story today or tomorrow. I haven't decided yet. But I am reading this amazing book of short stories, Jenny and the Jaws of Life, that is really inspiring, so who knows.

Anyway, go read some things. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Eat Your Heart Out

I made a cover, just for funsies:

Clip art courtesy:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Dead Shall Rise...

....And Eat Your Brains! And then vomit them up! In the form of words! How many words? Fifty thousand words, bitches!

Needless to say, I finished NaNoWriMo on time and won the sweet, sweet prize of personal gratification (and bragging rights). The story itself has not quite round down yet, but it only needs like 10 to 20 pages to get there. Pages I will work on next week, once school is officially over for winter break.

Speaking of school, I have to write an essay for my character-building class about my own "rules for writers" when it comes to writing fiction. I haven't had to write a final in so long that I was complaining about this to a friend and she was like, "How long does it have to be?" And I was like, "Five pages." And she was like, "Um." Then I was like, "And I only have to use examples from my own work." And she was like, "....." And then she slapped me.

Anyway, this post was just to assure everyone that I did make it to 50k (though it was looking pretty grim in that final 24-hours, staring down the barrel of 10k words), thanks to copious amounts of junk food, my boss giving me the 30th off, my lovely long-distance writer pals, and lesbians. (Who should be thanked for all things, really.)

I leave you with some NOVEL FACTS:

Title: Eat Your Heart Out

Chapter Titles: All's Dead That Ends Dead; Eat You? I Hardly Know You; The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Dead; A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two if You're Dead; Dead if You Do, Dead if You Don't; A Midsummer Night's Dead; And You Will Know Us By Our Trail of Undead; A Zombie For Your Thoughts

Number of In-Scene Deaths: 3 (awww crap, that's gotta be amped up!)

Number of Sex Scenes: 2-ish (that's right, -ish.)

Opening Line: "My first real-life zombie encounter was a pretty low-key affair, considering I didn't even realize at the time what I was dealing with."

Also of note, I was reading Middlesex all November, so at various points during my story, my main character inexplicably becomes omniscient. I LOVE YOU, NANOWRIMO!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

So little time!

This passed week has been a toughy for NaNo scribblings. Last week, I experienced a remarkable upsurge of productivity, pounding out 7,000 words in two days. This was only made possible because of Veteran's Day, which my class observed by not having it. So instead of doing homework for two days, I wrote. And then I felt hella burnt out. (About 5k of those 7 were written longhand, so not only did I have to generate new content, I also had to find time to transcribe the older stuff.) But writing so much pushed me back up to be trailing the ideal word count by a comfortable 6k. I've managed to write the minimum (1,667) every day since then, to keep the gap steady. Lots of things have kept me busy this week, and I don't anticipate another surge of productivity until next Wednesday, when class is out for T-Week. Until then, I plan to keep my head at least slightly above water by doing my minimums every day (most of these tend to be longhand also, as I spend a lot of time on BART and during break at work). Sure, my sleep may suffer, and my friends may forget what I look like, but it's all for the greater good. THE GREATER GOOD!

Anyway, here are some more juicy highlights:

From Chapter One - All's Dead That Ends Dead
"There in the soft haze of this perfectly surreal moment between myself and someone whose image I have repeatedly masturbated to, materializes my first ever real-life zombie."

"And because I've watched so many movies in this piece of shit, do-nothing town, and because I don't believe in God or divine invention, and because I've read about the fucked up experiments science has sanctioned in its quest for knowledge since the invention of psychoanalysis, I know this man is a fucking zombie."

From Chapter Two - Eat You? I Hardly Know You

"I guess, looking back, that's when the stupidity took over. Or it may have been this: Michelle Rodriguez shouts into my ear, "Rain, stop," grabs at my flailing arms, and I, caught up in the desperation of the moment, lost in the pale emptiness of Biff's half-closed eyes and swimming in his blood, I elbow Michelle Rodriguez in the face." 

"I close my eyes and bite my lip and pee a little but hopefully nobody notices."

" "You're not how I imagined you." It's not the first stupid thing I've said to Michelle Rodriguez, but it certainly is the latest."

"Her left hook connects with the zombie's loose jaw, sending its remaining teeth up into its skull with a sound like Gallagher sledge-hammering an unsuspecting watermelon."

From Chapter Three - The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Dead

"Michelle plunges a hand into the side pocket of her camo pants and pulls out her wallet. She takes out her insurance card and hands it over. "Yeah, she's my cousin."
    "I thought she was your friend?" The other nurse says.
    "We get along," Michelle says.
    "This insurance company only gives coverage to immediate family," the counter nurse says.
    "Yeah, she's my sister."
    "But you just said...."
    "Sometimes I don't like her too much so I pretend she's my cousin to piss her off."
    "Hey look, guys - I'm bleeding!" 
    While they were occupied in their verbal battle, I surreptitiously drove my fingers into my bandage until I almost blacked out from the pain and felt the bandage grow soggy with my blood. I am the queen of quick distractions. Also, I may need to throw up."

From Chapter Four - A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two if You're Dead

"Quick Shot Guns & Ammo shares a rectangular parking lot with two other stores: a Check & Go, and Quick Shot Liquors. Some years ago there was talk of putting in a Quick Shot Mini Golf course across the street, but the town ultimately decided against adding to the confusion."

" "Ever shoot before?" She asks.
    I pump the shotgun, open the barrel and load up nine cartridges from the box Michelle holds out to me, slap the barrel back in place and cock a round into the chamber. "Alaskan hunting trips every other summer since I was ten."*
    "Must have a pretty cool dad," she says.
    I grab the box of bullets from her. "My mom took me." "

* I am aware this is not exactly how a shotgun operates. NaNoWriMo is not for researching or editing.

Friday, November 5, 2010


This appeared when I googled "update".
Website News - I updated the "Published Works" section of my site to reflect the current availability of my book. Expect further updates in December, if I survive the insanity of November (holidays, prepping for finals, writing writing writing!).

Press News - Yes, I consider A Librarian's Life in Books to be the press. I have a nice interview over there where I talk about self-publishing, my Antioch experience, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and, of course, Rupert the Magical Pony. Check it out! If you look closely, you'll find a link to my infamous film project, Come Out! Come Out! A Magical Musical Journey.

NaNo News - You guys, I was so super excited to start NaNoWriMo until I sat down to do it and remembered what a soul-killer it is! Still, I managed to get through roughly 1500 words the first night (falling short of the daily goal, but it's something). I missed out on writing Tuesday because I had too much homework that I had foolishly put off until the last minute (plus also Rock Band 3 finally came, soooo...yeah). After my 12-hour school day on Wednesday, I managed a scant 260 words, and then on Thursday I pushed myself back up to roughly 1500 words long-hand, on the way home on BART. The more I write, the more I want to write, but finding time is always an issue.

Don't be emo, M.Rod!
Here is a NaNo Fact Sheet for my (untitled) future novel:

Basic Plot: Rain is a young queerling working at a furniture outlet store in rural Ohio, trying to make a go of it with former-stripper girlfriend Carmelle (aka Carmel Apple). She's plodding along in a haze of mediocrity until one day Michelle Rodriguez shows up to buy a couch, zombies start attacking anything alive, and, in the wake of M. Rod kicking zombie ass, relationships begin to fall apart.

Zombie Origins: A bored scientist created them. (It could happen!)

Where I'm at Now: About three thousand words in, Michelle Rodriguez has finally showed up at the furniture store.

That's more like it!
Highlights: From Day One - "Biff Tipping is a big man, like a bear who transmogrified into a person. He moves uncertainly in his new, plastic environment, navigating around desks and chairs like he wishes he'd just staid a frikkin' bear. " From Day Three - "Mostly I tune out and start thinking about things like Carmelle's boobs or a nice plate of seafood pasta, but I haven't had either of those things in a long time and it is getting hard to picture them. " From Day Four - " 'Want to know a trick I use to calm myself down during a tough sale?' Cherry asks. She leans in close to my ear and whispers, 'I simply picture all of the customers with a cock in their mouth.' I blink at her. 'A cock?' She nods and smiles, 'In their mouth.'"

Check back next week for more updates.

Goodreads News - So far, something like 567 people are hella eager to win some free shit, and there's still time for you to get in on this action! Click here to enter for a chance to win 1 of 5 free copies of my book! (Contest ends November 12th.) Also, there appear to be, like, 45 people who have tagged my book on their "to-read" shelves. I am not entirely certain what this means, but hopefully it means 45 people will someday read me book!

Thanks to everyone for your continued interest in my work or my rantings!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is it Taboo to Review Your Own Book?

Sleep Like This is alive and ready to be read! Click here to purchase from Amazon.

Here is my review:

"I think it is fair to say that this book is better than the Bible. It is less preachy but has approximately the same amount of plagues, and what it lacks in disciples it more than makes up for in girl-on-girl make-outs. It's shorter than the Bible so you can read it in a few hours and still make it to church before the first group prayer. Once there, you can tell the congregation how much time they are wasting on that ridiculously verbose tome of theirs, when there is a much thinner, superior version available on Amazon for only $12. Probably, you will not go to Hell for reading this book, but I can't make any guarantees because I would not like to be sued by your eternally suffering soul. I believe you will feel the Holy Spirit enter you about the same time Brena's tongue enters Regina's ear. By the time the crime is solved, you will be convulsing with joy and speaking in tongues, and only a few of you will experience the stigmata.

You know that part in the Bible when Jesus disappears for, like, twelve years? He was off in the corner of some quiet library reading Sleep Like This.

Disclaimer: Sleep Like This has nothing (or very little) to do with the Bible or any religion, but it does have sex and death, so it's still pretty rock n' roll."

There is also a legitimate review posted on Amazon and Goodreads by my fabulous friend Amy Campbell of A Librarian's Life in Books.

AND I am giving away 5 copies of the book through Goodreads in exchange for a review (please). What a deal! The giveaway ends November 12th.


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Sleep Like This (Paperback) by Dayna Ingram



          Sleep Like This


          by Dayna Ingram


            Giveaway ends November 12, 2010.

            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.




      Enter to win

I'm also gearing up for NaNoWriMo, so expect some posts about that in October. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I have a website now, but it is under construction.

SITE of the WEB

It's Week Nine of my third semester in this here MFA program, and I am super busy. Next month, I have decided to be stupid and participate in National Novel Writing Month, for which I will write 50,000 words of a zombie novel featuring Michelle Rodriguez kicking zombie tail. If I have the energy, perhaps I will chronicle my failure on this here blog.

Anyway, the website. Check it out. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Can I Take a Nap in Your Dorm Room?

"Revolutionizing the way people get hit by cars."
So I have this four hour break between classes on Wednesday, and this passed one (yesterday), I forgot to bring a book and I didn't have any homework to do! I ate some lunch at the mall and walked around and bought a video game. I went into a Border's and found a new book by Larry Doyle but it cost $24 dollars, and no matter how much I loved his first book, I can't take a chance for $24 dollars.

Oh look, a segue!

When I publish it, my book will only cost $13. Thirteen dollars. That is about the same amount most people spend on a single lunchtime meal. My book is like lunch for your eyeballs and brains! (Low calories, no carbs, mmmm!). Also, it will be available as an eBook, but I don't know how much that will cost.

Anyway, here is the jacket cover blurb:

Regina Scott, a freshman at a small town college, has many problems, all of which begin (and end) with the dead girl lying in the bed ten feet away. To deal, Regina's psyche breaks into two people - the first being zombie-led through the fire-rings of local police trying to squeeze out a confession; the second traveling back through her memories to trace the incidents that have landed her with blood on her hands and cuffs on her wrists.

Meanwhile, forensic pathologist Julia Breigan is called to assist Sheriff Davies in proving Regina's guilt. Breigan would be delighted to help out, except Davies happens to be her stepsister and the catalyst for her hasty departure thirteen years ago.

Having abandoned hope for finding resolution in her own life, all Julia Breigan wants is to help Regina find the truth in hers. All Sheriff Davies wants is an open-shut case. And Regina Scott, well, she just wants to wake up.

This blurb fails to mention that this story also includes lesbians. Not in a sensational way, although my professor in college did mention (more than once) that the sex scene made her wish she was a lesbian. I'm just saying.

Not a Segway
I'd also like to assure potential readers that I have personally edited out all spelling and grammatical errors. Well, okay, I can't promise that, but I did read this bitch like a twenty times, so if something's wrong, it's your fault. Also, the bulk of the manuscript was professionally edited over the course of my final year at Antioch, so again if there is something wrong, it's my professor's fault. Just kidding! Can't you people take a joke?

Anyway, my final proof is on order and will be here (probably) September 22nd. If everything's good, it'll be available in the first or second week of October. Then I will launch my grassroots marketing campaign which involves free copies (hard or electronic) in exchange for reviews on Amazon! More on that later.

Meanwhile, I must find a quiet place on campus to curl up and nap on Wednesdays. Time to hit The Craig List. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Experiments in Self-Publishing

There is a general belief held by The Public that self-publishing only happens because the author's work wasn't "good enough" to get a book deal (or "be published for real"). It's like when a college student and a professor hook up: it's not against the rules, but it is frowned upon (plus, sometimes, super hot). This same Public, on the other hand, praises indie rock bands and gets super pissed when their favorite underground band does, after many years, get a record deal, lambasting them for "selling out".

"Do I get an A, professor?"
Well, friends, the reality of the publishing industry is that it is a business; their bottom line trumps all else. While many a good book is published every year, there are thousands that aren't so much "good" as they are "marketable." The ridiculous hoops an author must push their work through just to get someone of any level of influence to read passed the blurb on their query letter is daunting, exhausting, and discouraging. Unless, of course, you have "networking skills," which basically means schmoozing your way into collecting names and numbers of the people who can help you out. Only the strongest survive in the cut-throat world of publishing - and, friends, strongest does not always mean "best," but rather "most persistent."

But there is hope! And that hope takes the form of technology. E-readers and internet publishing, along with print-on-demand publishing, are not only greener alternatives to traditional publishing but also take some of the power away from the publisher to decide what is "good" and puts it back into the hands of the authors and the consumers. Because a publisher's cost to put out an ebook is drastically lower than a bazillion hardbound copies that are on an indirect journey to the local landfill or recycling plant anyway, the cost to the consumer is also drastically lowered. Lower fiscal risk to the publisher means they will take more chances on unknown authors or unconventional work, and the consumer, paying now ten or fewer dollars as opposed to twenty or more dollars to try something new, will take more chances on these same books. Print-on-demand publishing offers the same benefits.

p.s. don't actually watch this movie, it is terrible
One advantage traditional publishing (or having a literary agent) does give the author is a paycheck. But most authors worth their weight in words (even those you suspect are being paid quite highly per manuscript) have a "day job", usually teaching or in a similar field, and certainly don't expect to make a living off their passion (though, wouldn't it be nice?). It's more about getting the work out there, finding a readership, and sharing the love. Which, I admit, traditional publishing, once again by means of shelling out the greenbacks, can help the work reach more readers than if the author does all the marketing themselves. But if it's a choice between letting your manuscript collect whatever the microchip equivalent of dust is sitting on your hard drive, or putting it out there to possibly connect with even one reader who doesn't know you or owe you anything who might just like it, then I choose the former.

All of this to say, I'm experimenting with self-publishing through Amazon's print-on-demand imprint, CreateSpace.  In the next few weeks, I am going to be publishing my novel Sleep Like This, which I would tell you more about but, man, I wrote a lot of stuff here already. So I leave you with the cover image of the book, provided by the awesome and generous Louise ORourke, and a promise to tell you more about it as the release date nears.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Summer Reading in Review

Gay, straight, whatever. Pls lern to spel.
My goal at summer's outset was to read everything by my current professors that I could get my hands on, everything by Martin Amis that I had recently purchased, and everything by Philip K Dick that I had also just purchased. Lofty, lofty goals. Here is what I actually ended up reading (in the order in which I read them):

1. A Boy in Winter - Maxine Chernoff. This story explores the aftermath of a child's fatal mistake from the point of view of first his mother and then himself. It's interesting terrain, but I must say I felt the ending was too "oh no this thing needs a plot?!? crap." Because, really, it didn't need that extra plottiness at the end; I was digging it as just a kind of portrait.

2. Battle Royale - Koushun Takami. Ohhhh yeah muthafuckin society all defunct to shit with government sponsored kiddie battles to the death, yo. This was really way more interesting to read to discover the parallels and disparities between it and its movie counterpart than for any other reason. Which I seem to recall having reviewed many months ago.

3. House of Leaves - Mark Danielewski. This is definitely one o' them love 'em or hate 'em books. My money is on love, but I do have to admit that I skipped sizable chunks of what I considered to be the secondary narrative and concentrated on only reading the "essay" of the house and its explorers. It was pretty creepy.

4. I Drink for a Reason - David Cross. Sometimes when I am on break at work I just try to read books that don't make me think too hard about anything. This is one of those.

5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Steig Larrson. I finally caved to the hype over a six hour plane ride and subsequent vacation cruise. There is not a lot to do on a cruise ship besides eat, drink, gamble, sunbathe and read. This first installment lives up to the hype - I especially like its "closed room" mystery feel, and the characters are definitely original and finely tuned. Too bad this is the only book in which the main characters, Lisbeth and Mikael,  truly interact face to face.

6. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K Dick. This book has, hands down, the most hilarious opening scene I've ever read. The entire book is actually quite funny (and brief), completely different from the movie, which was turned into some sci-fi crime romp entirely devoid of humor. And sheep, incidentally.

7. Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote. I'd seen the fantastic Infamous, which spurred me to read In Cold Blood, but never had I read any of Capote's straight fiction. This was a fascinating piece of literature, and I was surprised (though perhaps I shouldn't have been) at how little has changed over the years in regards to language and what is considered taboo. Sex and sex work, real or imagined, is kind of still regarded in the same "wow that's kind of erotic...maybe we shouldn't talk about it" kind of way. (Interesting side note, depending on what you find interesting: a had a customer sell some books the other day whose last name was Golightly. I asked if that was her given name, and she said, "Yes. At least my parents didn't name me Holly." I forget what her first name was.)

8. The Girl who Played with Fire - Steig Larsson. I ran out of things to read on my way back form vacation, so I bought this second installment in the airport, even though I had a perfectly good copy waiting for me back home. It got me through the flight, but it was not nearly as captivating as the first, especially with all the convenient "twists" in Salander's past. Whatevs, SAPO, who gives a shit...I wanna see Mikael and Lisbeth hug it out, dammit!

9. Soon I Will Be Invincible - Austin Grossman. Man, this guy killed a promising premise by faltering into the first-time novelist trap of summarizing instead of giving us scenes. I don't actually know if this was his first novel, but it sure felt amateurish. Seriously, I can pick out like maybe seven actual, full scenes that went on for at least five pages. SEVEN. It was all exposition, exposition, cardboard characters, exposition, explosions, the end. Disappointing.

10. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - Steig Larsson. Speaking of disappointing. This final installment takes this series into full-on conspiracy thriller mode and leaves me wondering why I wasted the time slogging through the six-hundred page tome in the first place. Granted, I did skip many sections, scanning the pages for mention of Lisbeth Salander. She's the real draw. NO ONE CARES ABOUT SAPO. It's like the editors were too afraid to dissect Larsson's manuscript after he passed, and the story suffers immensely for it.

11. Silent Bob Speaks - Kevin Smith. Haha, Kevin Smith thought Jersey Girl was the best thing he'd ever done.

"My mom says yum."
12. I Love You, Beth Cooper - Larry Doyle. This is the second best book I read this summer, and probably one of the funniest books I've ever read. It is an excellent example of how deeply a unique narrative voice can effect a story; I mean, it was all about that voice. Which, unfortunately, could not be translated to the screen, as the film adaptation clearly demonstrates. But Hayden Panettiere. Yum.

13. Geek Love - Katherine Dunn. This was the best book I read this summer, maybe even of all time, I have not decided yet. It is just one of those stories that claws its way into your stomach and nests there, seeping its juices into the rest of your bodily functions on the daily. It's just so incredible. I had the same reaction to this as I did when I first read The Poisonwood Bible a few years ago: "Holy shit, how have I not read this before now?" Life is not the same after you read this. Trust me.

Well, there it is. Only thirteen books the entire summer seems small for me, but let's not forget this list does not include graphic novels or books I started but could not get through out of supreme lack of interest (cough Children of Men cough).

Yay!  Books!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Some of the Rejection Notes I've Gotten Lately

"Thank you for submitting "Benign," but we've decided that A cappella Zoo isn't the best venue for this story."

From Hobart:
"Thank you for sending us "Benign". We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, the piece is not for us. That said, it is a strong piece and I both wish you luck with it and encourage you to submit again."

"Thank you for submitting to The Los Angeles Review.  While we have read your work with interest, it does not meet our editorial needs at this time. We appreciate your efforts, and wish you all the best in placing this work elsewhere. "

"Thanks so much for letting us read your work. We do so appreciate your interest in the Camera Obscura Journal and that your chose to entrust your story with us. Unfortunately, this story was not chosen for publication. We wish you much success with your writing."

From my brief semester as a Fourteen Hills staffer, I know the art of typing up the rejection letter is a fine one. In a rejection, you never encourage an author's writing unless you mean it, because when you say, "please submit again," they will submit again. I find each of these rejection notices encouraging in their own way. But goddammit, somebody publish my story because it's short and weird and I don't know what to add or remove to make it more appealing!

P.S. I use Duotrope for all my "trying to be a real writer who actually submits things for publication" needs.
P.P.S. Is "gotten" an acceptable term? Or is it like "boughten," which I accidentally say all the time?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

There Are No Stupid Questions

The other day, an elderly gentleman asked me to locate an old book for him. He said he was hard of hearing and I didn't want to continue yelling in his ear, so I told him we didn't have it. He then asked me if I could order it, and I said, "No, we're a used bookstore," to which he replied, "I'm not a bookstore! I live down the street, in a house." He was very polite, though.

This is the first image that came up when I typed in, "He lives down the street, in a house."

Awhile ago I overheard this exchange between two young adults:

"I like to read Stephen King, what about you?"
"Oh, I don't read, I write." 

I think any author worth their weight in words will tell you that a fundamental component of being a good writer is being a good reader. In a lot of ways, being a good, attentive, thoughtful reader is more difficult than writing, but the challenge gives you the perspective you need to be a better writer. It's like when you first learn to drive and highway driving is hella daunting (oh no! the California vernacular has invaded my speech!), but then you do it and realize, gee, highway driving is actually so much easier than city driving. I'm not sure which is reading and which is writing, highway or city driving....This analogy has gotten away from me a little here. I would delete it and start over but I never delete anything I write, I just save it in a different file. I have a lot of files saved on my computer titled "Crap."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Year of the Dayna

Some people's year begins January first. Some people's end December 2012. My year begins on the 24th, when classes start back up.

I seem to live my life as if my entire year were condensed into one month of competing in NaNoWriMo. In the first three months (week one on NaNo time), I get really excited about all the new projects I want to start and all the cool things we will be doing in classes this semester. I generate some new work and many, many lists of further things to generate. By month four (week two), I'm cruising along at a nice clip, confidant and reassuring myself that yes, I can do this writing thing, yes I can do this being-social thing, yes I can poop and eat a sandwich at the same time and not feel too bad about it. Then month six or seven hits (week three). Oh the dark, dark days of summer, where all my buried thoughts of self-loathing spurt up into the sparkly recesses of my brain and start setting fires. In response, I develop a "can't beat 'em, join 'em" mentality and allow the procrastination (which has always been there but in a slightly subdued form) and lethargy to take over my body, mind and sleep schedule. And Chris Baty isn't even here to talk me up! Only once I've completely given in, to the point of disgusting even myself, do I begin to start to commence to initiate to engage in an active role in my own life. Thus, by the final few months (week four) I have bounced back into a caffeinated delirium of optimism and multitasking, finishing projects and creating others, taking the world by the balls as long as it means never leaving my house. I feel accomplished! I feel like an Adult! I feel like sleeping, jesus I am fucking tired. I collapse and wake up three hours after midnight, crying into my worthless hands as I realize I have missed the deadline yet again. Wait, that happens in NaNo time. In Me-time, it's pretty similar except I don't cry. I'm a man, dammit!

The point is, here is a list of projects and other things to which I may try to apply myself this year:

1. Do homework the day it's assigned. Usually, I do all my homework the night before it's due and then I feel really shitty when I'm underprepared in class, and feeling really shitty about something I'm perfectly capable of preventing causes me to blame society and my mother and all these effing delicious drugs for all of my short-comings, and oh look a mouse! Anyway, do your homework, Dayna. It's fun! (Holy shit, I believe you! Now sign over that lease for my beachfront property in Arizona.)

2. Make my dog fat. I will begin with human treats such as donuts and twinkies, and move on to the fatty meats like beef and bacon. Ice cream topped with straight-up lard for desert. Absolutely no moving except to pee and poop, which will be excreted into tubes that run over the balcony and deposit into the neighbor's living room. Two birds, one stone! 

3. Engage online writerly communities. A blog is not enough! I must read other blogs, and make comments, and promote others who in turn can promote me. Because everything, in the end, is about me. And sharks.

4. Devote time/monies to reading more independent/small press/self-published/online-only authors. Most of the big-name and mainstream authors everyone reads today are disappointing. Time to think outside the bookstore. Plus then I can interact with the authors (maybe) and again get that wheel of reciprocal reviews-promotion thing going.

5. Punch a random stranger in the face or stomach. I mean, what would they do? Not talking some huge guy or a junkie or a homeless man with nothing to lose, I mean more like a soccer mom or, better still, her ten-year old child. What would they do? I bet it's cry and run away, maybe pee a little if it's a stomach hit. We shall soon see!

6. Finish dormant writing projects. In the pipeline are: first draft of a novel, a book of short stories set in a Nevada brothel, and a short story about an endless staircase (stolen idea? whose stolen idea?).

7. Experiment with self-publishing. It gets kind of a bad rap, as many people think self-published titles are those that weren't good enough to be chosen by publishers to back in the market. But there are many factors that can lead to rejection from traditional publishing means. I plan to use Amazon's Createspace to publish my Senior Project manuscript. More about this in the coming blogs.

Notice how nowhere on this list is the item Blog More.  Suckers.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

(Possible) Return from Hiatus!

Dear Fellows (and Fellowesses),

My third semester of grad school looms ahead, reminding me that I need to start writing again. "BUT WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME!?" You scream at your freshly polished toes. Why, dear fellow or fellowess, it means that I may be posting here more often during those prolonged bouts of procrastination from my homework and/or during "personal days." Before you jump for joy, I must warn you that such an activity is ill-advised; it may ruin the fresh coat of Flaming Red 95 on your feetie digits.

Hey look! According to this scientifically accurate program that is never wrong ever, I write like David Foster Wallace. I have never even read that guy! Perhaps I should?

Here are some things to look forward to in this blog:

Tricked you!

And now, a message from our Corporate Sponsor:

"I like cheese."

What the hell does that have to do with anything!? This place is insane. I don't like this anymore. Get me out of here. I'm calling my lawyer! ....Mommy?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Indefinite Hiatus!

Hey kids!

I'm trying to come up with a fun, pressure-less format for keeping up with this blog that won't leave me (or you) entirely bored and I am failing! I just don't want to do it anymore. So suck it!

However misguided, though, this brief experiment in blogging has at least given me an appreciation for those individuals who manage to blog regularly in both an entertaining and informational fashion. One such person is Amy Campbell, who writes A Librarian's Life in Books, a sort of haven for books-inspired tangents and life observations. I have been known to contribute to her blog, so look for my periodic posts there if you would like.

Thanks for reading! I will be back with a website as soon as I get more stories published (3-5 years?). KISSES!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Excuse, and a Rant

Hey guys, want to know what full-time grad school combined with full-time work feels like?

(please note, the above photograph has been totally jacked from some other dude's website.)

I have a list of things to do during my summer break, and resuming some kind of normalcy on this blog is about number six, so maybe it will happen?

In the meantime, here is another nonfic one-pager from my class:

What if I fall asleep on BART and someone decides to slam a fistful of their own feces into my face? I am serious. What recourse would I have? I mean, after the vomiting and the crying and the pitiful, pitiful bellowing coupled with frantic get-this-shit-off-me! dance.  There is literally nothing I would be able to do in this situation. Look, I’m not saying it is exactly a phobia, but yes it scares me sometimes. I still fall asleep on the train, but I always sit with my back to a solid surface. Nothing is stopping anyone from coming up in front of me and slamming feces into my face, but somehow, I am not as nervous about this happening.
In college, I knew this guy who claimed he would eat a bowl of his own poop for a new car. I don’t consider this even physically possible, but I did write a letter to David Letterman proposing he offer my friend a car and tape the waste consumption for a segment on his show. I guess nobody really reads those letters because I never got a response. Now that guy I knew is my roommate and, to my knowledge, has yet to eat his or anyone else’s poop, though he does have a new car.
This reminds me of the unfortunate time a few years ago when my friends showed me a popular erotic video clip entitled “Two Girls One Cup.” I’m not going to describe it for you because I think you already have a fairly accurate mental picture (just tell yourself it’s ice cream!). What disturbed me more than the actual video was the fact that these friends who showed it to me had now willingly watched the thing at least twice.
There are a fair number of people out there who appreciate the power of the poop.  Consider a recurring theme in the sketch comedy show Upright Citizens Brigade, in which  a home-security device is fashioned out of a piece of poop on the end of a stick. It never fails to intimidate. They took hidden cameras and tried to sell the poo sticks to passersby on the street. It was so effective that no one wanted to get close enough to buy one.
All poop doesn’t scare me. Bat guano downright fascinates me. I once saw a documentary in which all these bats laid so much guano that entire ecosystems were created. Insects thrived there. When a bat fell off the cave ceiling into the mountain it helped create, it was sucked deep into its frothy maw and devoured by insects and bacteria.
See, I respect the poop. If we poop too little, we could die. If we poop too much, we could die. We are born, bloody and silently screaming for air, onto our mother’s shit; when we die, we shit ourselves. Everyone has a poop story because poop is really gross and no one wants it in their mouth, unless that’s their thing, in which case, look, I don‘t want to yuck on anyone’s yum, I’m just saying, please don’t slam poop on me while I’m sleeping on BART. Or, you know, ever.

(I want to write a non-fic book entitled Some of These Things Are Lies, and when Oprah calls me out on the validity of my facts, I will be all, "Umm..." and tap the cover indignantly with my forefinger.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

I Only Have A Blog Because I Don't Know How to Make a Website

Here is a creative non-fic (whatever that is) story about Blake:

Blake is the kind of small baby anxious parents dream about accidentally drowning in the sink.
    “Where is Blake this evening?” Inquires a friendly luncheon guest.
    “Blake?” Mother raises a quizzical eyebrow as she swallows down a piece of quiche.
    “Your baby?”
    “My…?” She drops her fork to the floor as the realization falls upon her like a shroud. “My baby!” she cries as she springs from the table and rushes to the bathroom.
    But it is too late.
    Here is Blake, however, alive and…well, alive. Blake is one year old today and his mother has taken him to get his first professional photograph. She dresses him in a green sweater vest and khaki dress pants, visions of his future in the Ivy League dancing greedily behind her heavily made-up eyelids. Surely, he will grow into his cement-block-shaped head. Surely, that vein in his forehead which pulses with all the obscene ferocity of a demonic timepiece keeping the hour in Hell will disappear with age.
    I find Blake on the sidewalk outside of the travel agency next to the bookstore. The picture is face down so all I can see is the jagged row of letters that spell out his name; it’s as if he scrawled it on there himself. I put this picture on my stash at work, and he comes to life.
    “It’s my baby,” I tell everyone.
    “What on Earth did you get into this weekend?” Asks British Steve.
    “Clearly, the wrong person’s van,” I reply.
    I try to pass Blake off to a coworker.  I tape his picture up next to the swarm of photos she has of her six-month old Adonis.
    She points at it immediately upon entering the break room. “Who the hell’s baby is this?”   
    I throw up my hands in defeat. “Foiled again!”
    “And where is Blake this morning?” Someone asks as we price books.
    “I left him in the car with the windows rolled up,” I say.
    “And what is Blake up to today?”
    “He’s locked in the closet with seven feral cats I haven’t fed in a week.”
    “You know,” my shift leader grows concerned, “that is a real child you are talking about. That is someone’s baby.”
    “I know.” I sigh. “I pity them every day.”
    My shift leader has a difficult time understanding that when I speak of Blake, I am talking about a fiction, an unlovable baby who has the unfortunate look of a young Ben Grimm. The real Blake could be anyone, he could have any number of lives, he could be any age. My Blake is alone, he is immortal, he is always one year old.
    “What are you up to this Saturday?”
    I am going to feed my cat and watch porn until two in the morning.
    “I am going to take Blake to the zoo and see if they will keep him.”
    It’s a much more interesting life, with Blake around.

Monday, January 25, 2010

"Mary's Waltz" Now Available for Purchase!

These past couple of weeks have been unusually busy (what with the moving to a new apartment, visiting the ol' homestead, starting second semester of schoolin', adopting the sweetest pit bull in the world, and auditioning for Glee).

This is just a quick note to let you know that Volume 2, Issue 1 of Collective Fallout, featuring my story "Mary's Waltz", is now available for purchase! You can pick up a copy here for $9 + shipping (digital copies also available).

For those of you who are skeptical about spending money on something you may not fully enjoy, the good folks at Collective Fallout have thoughtfully provided excerpts of all the stories on their website (there is poetry too, but that is kind of difficult to excerpt -- "I have eaten the plums." READ THE FULL POEM NEXT ISSUE!). When my own copy arrives, I intend to post reviews of the individual pieces here as well.

In the meantime, below is the blurb I wrote for the coverletter for "Mary's Waltz", should you require further enticement:

"When Grace meets her new neighbor Mary, an enigmatic young blind girl, Grace is immediately drawn to her by a physical curiosity too new to name. But as the friendship blossoms, so does the nightmare, as Mary's secrets - and intentions - slowly creep out of her. MARY'S WALTZ is a speculative fiction piece that contains elements of horror and magical realism. It explores themes of sexual awakening, sacrifice, and love as destruction, while representing homosexuality as a non-issue."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Weak Stories and How to Spot Them, Part 2

(Continued from previous post.)

9. The "far-out" uncle or grandmother who is really just a vessel for the author's own political bias/racism/sexism/religious fervor. I like to say that I am all of my characters and I am none of my characters, but with this pet-peeve we have a clearly overstepped boundary line that is usually quite glaring. I'm sure there are many examples, but the only one I can think of right now is from the book Wit's End which I recently read for class. The godmother is preoccupied with liberal-leaning politics that just scream, "This is what I, Karen Joy Fowler, really think about the American government!" And when said author came to speak to the class, she totes admitted this. Alls I am saying is, try to let your ideas come out in the story, not through some preachy character.

10. Skinny bitches. Praise different body types, people! Especially if your story is set within a culture whose ideals of attractiveness are different from your own. Pay attention. It's called Realism. (....maybe?)

11. Heroic males. It's just played out.

12. Books without chapters. Now, I know this is a small structural thing, but I really admire chapter breaks. The point of them is to break up what you're reading and give you a chance to breathe, in the same vein of a period or paragraph break. They can also serve to break up the time-line of your story, or switch perspectives. Longer stories can certainly work without chapter breaks, but for me, it's a detriment to ignore them.

13. Overuse of internal monologue. "At the circus, I couldn't stop looking at Brian. Was he looking at me when I wasn't looking at him? Did he want me to look at him? Should I go over and say hi? If I went over and said hi the worst thing he could do is ignore me, I suppose. Or, well, the worst thing he could do would be to spit in my face and call me a cow and pants me before taking a picture as I cry and then run away and elope with my mom. But I don't think that would happen. Would it?" Versus, "I ran into Brian at the circus and I couldn't stop looking at him. Finally, I decided to say hello."

14. Single paragraphs that span entire pages. Again, it's a breathing issue. I open a book to a page and it's covered in text, I get overwhelmed and turned off from any desire I had of reading it. White space on the page is psychological oxygen for the reader; don't choke it all out!

15. Demonstrative dialect. "Didja wa' 'im ta put ou' da ca' now, Missa Rod'rick?" Just distracting.

16. Lack of quotation marks to denote speech. Lack of paragraph breaks or dialogue tags could also be added here. I'm not saying there isn't a way to make this work, but I haven't seen it yet. I (and many others) grew up learning to read a certain way, and so rather than being a stylistic choice or a narrative choice or whathaveyou, doing away with quotation marks is just messing with the signifiers I've been conditioned to look for. It gets frustrating.

17. Assholes we're supposed to like. Especially if also the female lead who hates the douche eventually ends up with him. I'm looking at you, every romance novel ever (not to mention innumerable crime novels as well).

18. Rhetorical questions. This is pretty much in tandem with overuse of internal monologue. Jodi Picoult, this means you.

Thus concludes that jumble of words and punctuation marks. I'm visiting my hometown next week, and school starts up again (finally!) the week after that, so my return to this blog may be even more sporadic than it already has been. But when I do return, we'll delve into what I think make strong novels, and maybe I'll list a few of my favorite novels so you know how many grains of salt to use when measuring my judgments.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Weak Stories and How to Spot Them, Part 1

Recently, I picked up a copy of No Plot? No Problem!, a rather neat little bundle of encouragement directed toward those brave souls who take on the National Novel Writing Month challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in each November. (Otherwise known as NaNoWriMo.) I didn't participate this past year because I was concentrating on short stories rather than longer works, plus building my Freeze Ray. The book is great for pumping you up to dive headfirst into a ridiculously long draft of something you may never look at again, but it feels pretty wonderful to churn out so much work in such a short time. If you find you are slow when drafting work (i.e. does it take you a year to write twenty-five pages? congratulations, you are me!) then NaNoWriMo is a great exercise for you to try.

The book comes with a few quick exercises to help you suss out this whole writing thing. One exercise I enjoyed was to list all of the things you think make good stories and all of the things you think make bad ones. Of course, I'd like to try to be a smidgen more objective by using the terms "weak" and "strong" instead of "good" and "bad," no matter how fruitless it may be to try to keep personal opinions objective. So here is my list:

18 Things that Make Weak Stories

1. Too much "romance". (I don't know why that word is wrapped in quotations in my notebook.) Look, I know love makes the world go 'round and all that, but throwing in a worn out love story subplot can really sap attention away from your main point and just drag the whole thing down into a sugar-sweet mess of "I am going to save this world...but only cuz you're in it and I got a thing for you something awful, baby." There are a million reasons people do the things they do, and boiling it all down to "love" is oversimplifying it.

2. Boring characters. to avoid boring characters? I would say give them unique quirks, but I do believe that is noted somewhere later on this list as being a no-no. I suppose Cliched Characters could substitute here. I want to read about raw, gritty, emotionally fragile, unpredictably damaged people, not archetypes.

3. Cliched or unrealistic dialogue. Especially when someone is obviously trying to write hip language. Remember Dawson's Creek? Kevin Williamson may have intended to write kids who are intelligent and not talk down to his audience, but he sacrificed authenticity for these aims. Let's see if I can think of someone who really knows how to write dialogue...let's think....hmmm...who could it be...could it be .... Satan? I mean, uh, Joss Whedon, oh yes, that guy again. Also Tine Fey did a good job with Mean Girls. I point out movies and television as examples because it's all about how you hear the dialogue, and thinking in this way allows me to better avoid the pitfalls of cliche. Word.

4. Too many characters. It's awesome you have all these wonderful people with whom you want to populate the landscape of your story, but be careful how many you throw at me and how fast. I want to remember more than their names, and I want each of them to have a meaningful presence in the story.

5. Unimaginative names. Some of the worst character names in contemporary genre fiction: Sookie Stackhouse; Bella Swan; any hard-boiled detectives named Jack, John, or Jake. This doesn't mean you should go out and name your character Dickie Moorcock, but come on, get creative! I must admit, though, that I do overstep my bounds with this one on occasion; I have a character named Placenta Vagina Female Smith. He's a real great guy.

6. Dense setting description. This can be a tough balancing act, but all I really need is a sense of temporal and spatial place and we're good to go. Unless the setting has some bearing on the psychological make-up or behavior of a character, or is written in a particularly beautiful way, it just does not need to go on longer than a few paragraphs (and sometimes that can be too much).

7. Lack of figurative language. I find this most annoying in young adult novels. They spell everything out for you. I understand reading comprehension grows in stages, but come on - let the teens work a few things out for themselves. YA is not the only fiction that does this (and not all YA does this), mind you. But there's something called subtlety that is sorely lacking in many of today's most popular titles.

8. Forcibly quirky characters. When you have to stick the nosy neighbor lady with twelve cats and a penchant for wandering outside in her knickers in there, for cheap laughs or to buff up your word count, it's's just time to reconsider. Now if she knows the secret formula for the viral infection that's spreading rampant through the city and the only way to protect this knowledge from the evil Martians is by harboring said twelve cats and performing odd knickers-only rituals by moonlight, then okay, leave it in. But don't do it just to do it.

Check back later in the week (or next week) for Part 2