The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible - Vladimir Nabokov

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you - Zora Neale Hurston

31 December 2009


Summing up the last year seems to be a blogging tradition, so I shall bow to tradition:

I wrote two books in 2009, more than fulfilling my resolution from the previous year.

I hoped to query more agents (only 4 sent out--which were rejected. I decided to retrench before embarrassing myself further), but I altered my plan when I realized I should write more. I think my books are pretty good, but I know they can be better.

I started this blog and met 10 wonderful followers (thank you guys!!) as well as discovered a rich blogosphere that I could access for support and friendship. Probably the BEST discovery of 2009.

My husband finished his Masters degree. I'm so proud of him (off the topic of writing but had to mention it).

I told my boss that I didn't want to run my own lab (it would have left me no time for writing or anything else), which was very scary to admit out loud.

For 2010, I plan to write at least two more books, get good enough to find an agent, and make even more blogging friends.

I hope you fulfilled all your resolutions (at least the ones that mattered) and have a Happy New Year!

24 December 2009

What It's All About

I had a difficult time finding my Christmas spirit this year. I'm not sure why. Fear of the uncertain future and the writer's path I've chosen? One more year gone by without starting a family of my own? I'm the most optimistic person I know, so I've patiently waited for this disquiet to pass.

It happened slowly: a Christmas card from the aunt I haven't seen in a decade cheerily talking about her horses as if a day has not gone by that I haven't seen her; a heartfelt Christmas wish sent by text from a friend across town; me wondering if the Christmas gift for my brother on the other side of the world has arrived yet; drawing green holly leaves and red berries on white paper with brilliant markers...Slowly, that warm glow grew in my heart and spread to my head, to my fingers and toes, and now I feel like I'm floating, like all things are possible. Now, I remember what this holiday is all about--love.

May you all know it, whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Frau Holle, or nothing at all! Happy Holidays!

22 December 2009

Dirty Little Secret

I'm on holidays now (yay for me!), and, in addition to writing, I've had time to indulge in pre-Christmas sales and revel in a vice of mine--DVD watching. In particular, I couldn't resist buying an entire series for $20 per season (that's Australian dollars, which translates to about $17 U.S. See why I couldn't resist?). Now, this is the embarrassing bit--the series I bought is "Dawson's Creek". Yes, I love a teenage soap. When you stop laughing, I'll go on.

Now, I consider my love of the Creek my dirty little secret because of the way others, men in particular, react. I'm normally the chick who awes geeks with her encyclopedic knowledge of D&D, Warcraft and video games. I was buying "Borderlands" as a gift for my husband and chatting with the guy at EB games about how it compares to Fallout 3. There was nothing he could tell me that I didn't already know from my research, like the groundbreaking random weapon generator (which, personally, I don't think holds a candle to the devilishly brilliant AI developed for "Galactic Civilizations" but that's beside the point). I absorb knowledge without even wanting to sometimes. I don't play video games much, but when I do, it's usually "Sims", where I can create characters with different personalities and watch how they interact (the writer in me at work). Now, as soon as I asked the EB guy for the release date of the latest Sims add on, his smile vanished and I got the "you are such a girl" look. Sims is a girl's game. I got the same look when I asked for the last season of Dawson's Creek at my local DVD store. I HATE that look.

Allow me a moment to defend my forbidden love. First of all, the Creek has THE best vocabulary of any series I've ever watched. I'd never seen 'apotheosis' used in a sentence before and Dawson did it brilliantly. I know they're teenagers with a bigger vocabulary than most adults, but that's how I felt when I was a teenager--I thought I knew it all and was SO much smarter than everyone around me. Wisdom comes when you realize how little you truly know. Second, the show's writers were self-aware enough to make fun of themselves about the language and melodrama. I like self awareness. Third, the show tackled some great concepts (hidden cleverly behind shallow dramas to pull in the audience numbers) like platonic love, forgiveness and our self-destructive natures. When Dawson's mom cheated on her ideal husband and perfect life, she said it was because it was too perfect: "I wanted to want." Wanting to want is a demon I deal with myself. Fourth, I've mentioned I'm a sucker for romance, and I couldn't resist Pacey and Joey, especially since Pacey is like my husband (the cool slacker who is a hopeless romantic at heart). Finally, the reason I wanted to watch it again was the great ending. I love stories with sad endings (there was a bit of that in there too), but happy endings make me want to come back again and again to re-watch or re-read. The Creek has a happy ending.

Now, despite my irrefutable arguments in favor of Dawson's Creek as a storytelling vehicle, I am prepared for the jibes. Go ahead (not that I think any of you wonderful readers would say anything bad, but I support freedom of speech). Better yet, can you find sublime story elements in the basest entertainments? Do you learn from everything you encounter (be it Shakespeare or Dawson's Creek) or find wisdom in the strangest places? I'd like to hear about it.

13 December 2009

Sunny day, good food...bad mood

We had our work Christmas party this weekend, and, well, I was bored to tears. Normally, I love the holidays and the opportunity to relax and chat over a plastic cup of soda, but I was in a 'mood' this time. You know, one of those irrational, every-little-thing-annoys-you moods. This being Australia, we had the party at Centennial Park surrounded by palm trees, ibis birds, and black swans on the lake. I loved the view and strolling with my husband, but this was supposed to be a party, so I went back to the clump of people standing around talking about work--on my SATURDAY.

I wasn't enjoying any of the conversations, and whenever I tried to shift the topic to something a little more interesting, like NOT work, my efforts were resisted. I gave up and lay back on the picnic blanket with my husband, watching the sun move across a cloudless blue sky, wishing I was at the beach--without my workmates.

I tried to enjoy the food, but kept watching to make sure people were eating the coconut and cream cake I baked. Then it was time for the Kris Kringle. My boss has a long tradition of hosting 'The Present Game' where everyone takes a number out of a hat, with the lowest number picking a present out of the pile first. Everyone afterwards then has a choice of picking a wrapped gift or stealing (which is seldom done, since it's so impolite) the present of their choice from someone else. It's best to have the highest number, so you have more gifts to choose from. I had '3'. The one responsible for the hat draw had the highest number. Hmm... Of course this person, who is my least favorite, even on a good-mood day, stole my cinnamon scented candles. I love cinnamon. He stole the candles I got last Christmas too. My husband noticed my clenched fists and teeth-grinding, but I managed not to say or do anything I'd regret on Monday.

The agony eventually ended, and, as I was packing up the car to go snorkeling and wring some fun out of the day, one sweet person (a boyfriend of a friend) sincerely complimented me on the cake. I wished I'd chatted with him more, wished I hadn't been so uptight and had complimented other people's food more, and wished I hadn't felt so angry over candles.

It's amazing how your mood can color every perception and turn even a beautiful picnic into a chore. To relate this to writing, mood and perception is a powerful tool, especially when writing in first person. The point of view character is not necessarily seeing things clearly, and this can be used to hide information (like the cake-lover at a party) from the reader until you want them to stumble across it.
As for real life, my New Year's resolution is to focus on the good in every situation, whether I want to be there or not.

07 December 2009


My classically-trained artist husband only recently discovered the joys of cartooning. As you can see, he did a great pic of me at work, but it's highly inaccurate. I'm not talking about the big head (though sometimes I do have one) or the red shoes (I so wish I owned) or the typewriter (which I haven't used since 1992). The biggest mistake in this drawing is that he left himself out of the picture.

Clayton is my writing partner as well as my emotional support. He's dyslexic and can't read, but he loves books as much as I do. I read most things aloud to him, including blogs, and, with the rise of text-to-speech software and audiobooks, which he can listen to while painting, he's becoming more well-read than me. I still haven't gotten to the Time Traveller's Wife.

He doesn't understand the first thing about punctuation, but he has an ear for the sound of words, and he's insanely creative. We brainstorm ideas off each other, discuss characters, backstory... Sometimes he comes up with the inciting idea or a plot point, or vice versa. We both realize when something isn't working, and he'll often wake up from a dream with a solution for me. I do the nitty gritty work of putting words on the page, but he helps make them something better. I haven't joined a critique group yet, but I'm not writing alone, and that helps get me through the tough spots.

What about you? Do you work with a writing partner? Or, is there someone in your life who supports and inspires you? How do they affect your writing?

03 December 2009

Passing Along the Honesty

I've already thanked Michele for my Honest Scrap Award, but it doesn't hurt to say thanks again. Thanks! Now to follow the rules and tell you 10 true things about me:

  1. 1. I was once socially oblivious. For years, whenever someone asked me about my weekend, I'd tell them. After much practice, I learned to ask, "And how was your weekend?" I've improved so much that now I can listen to my friends, offer support, and not bring up my own self-involved worries until asked.

  2. I like to use Lorel Clayton as my writing identity rather than Lorel Colgin, because if you google my real name you get 10 pages of mostly science-related mumbo-jumbo.

  3. I've lived in Idaho, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington and Sydney Australia.

  4. I have 2 passports, which is very 'James Bond' and cool.

  5. I'm almost ambidextrous (can do everything except write with my left)

  6. I'm not afraid of heights, love 'em actually. But boats make me nauseous and eventually comatose.

  7. I audited Ancient Greek as a break from molecular biology in grad school (does that put me at the top of every nerd-ometer or what?)

  8. I'm a sucker for romance and action movies, though I usually don't like the subjects mixed. Also, I played with both Barbie and GI Joe as a child. I wonder if this is related to my pseudo-ambidexterity?

  9. I have a level 80 human rogue in World of Warcraft and not by choice. It's the only way I've been able to stay in touch with my video-game obsessed brother over the last couple of years.

  10. I own a monographed pool cue :)

Now, the hard part. Who can I pass the award along to that doesn't already have it (I'm thinking of you Elizabeth)? I need to get out there in cyberspace more.

  1. Justine Larbalestier's blog--She writes YA, but she's honest, entertaining and her book 'Liar' is so good I wish I'd written it.

  2. The Kill Zone--The musings of these thriller writers can be educational and make you paranoid about a career in writing, even if you're on the NY Times Bestseller list.

  3. Terry's Place--Interesting anecdotes, writing advice, and her storyboards are awesome. She's inspired me to give it a try.

  4. John August--It's screenplays and not novels, but there are some great thoughts about storytelling in general. It's also where I heard about Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (I think. My brain is melting so I'm not sure)

  5. Query Shark--THE place to learn about writing queries. It's enough to frighten you away from ever approaching an agent.

That's it. Like I said, I need to read more blogs and make more cyber-friends...and ask them about their weekend :)

Golly Gee, I better blog now

Thanks to Michele for saying such nice things about this site! She and Elizabeth have kept the chirping of crickets at bay as I establish my blog cred. Michele's a fellow traveller on the road to being published, and Elizabeth is a sweet, down to earth, published writer who generously passes along her hard won wisdom.

I could go on gushing about these great ladies forever, but they've also inspired me to take a bit of time away from novel writing and blog. Here goes...


I have hundreds of books stacked double thick on hardwood shelves all around my living room. I read a lot. I even list reading as my top 'hobby' on Facebook or wherever else these things are asked (I'm an utter nerd, I know). I can lend them, but I can never give a book away (or *gasp!* throw one away) because I like to re-read. Some books stand the test of time (all my long-out-of-print Walter Jon Williams stuff for example), but others I've outgrown. Things you enjoyed in your youth can make you cringe now (I once loved Tom Hanks' Bachelor Party, but Cast Away is more my style these days). John August recently posted on this, which got me thinking about how my literary tastes have matured:

  1. I'm less patient. Once able to endure chapters of description, I now prefer stuff to happen!

  2. Character is key. The books I remember decades later are the ones with unique, powerful characters. I identify with different aspects of them now, but I still identify.

  3. My interests have broadened. Used to be I had obsessions where I'd read only Nancy Drew, or Dean Koontz, or only sci-fi or fantasy. Now I'm willing to read anything that's good.

  4. Story isn't as important. I used to equate 'good' with an interesting story, but that's only part of it. I want the experience along the way to be enjoyable, every word, every scene. I want it to draw me in.

What does this mean for my own writing? I'm reading more and maturing faster. And I get harder on myself everyday. I thought my first manuscript was great. I had outside readers who loved it, and I gave myself a few weeks to cool off before editing. Voila done! Right. Another finished manuscript later, I go back to the first and cringe. I can do so much better than even a year ago. Fiddling and improving could go on forever, I know. So, I'm setting a deadline. Once I've written 5 'practice' manuscripts, I'm going to actively push the best towards publication and keep 'practicing' in the mean time. Two down, three to go.

Now, how have your tastes changed and what's your Bachelor Party?

01 December 2009

Style Hopping

I'm someone who gets bored easily. Don't get me wrong, I can lay back and enjoy a candlelit bath and a good book with the best of them, but I need action. I compose huge 'to do' lists and run around like a chicken with its head cut off, because I want the satisfaction of accomplishment. Getting in a morning jog and feeding ducks on the river before I blog and go to work, followed by cooking a great meal, watching an hour of a fav TV show then writing, is my idea of a day well spent. Even my holidays are jam-packed.

The key to a great day for me is variety. It's wonderful if I can spend ten hours writing, but if I don't get in some quality time with my husband (who I'm soppily in love with even after 20 years) and go for a walk, at least, then I feel antsy. Months and years are hurtling by at a frightening pace, but I've noticed that days brimming with variety seem to go on forever. I can slow down time this way. Time isn't measured by numbers on a clock but by experiences.

In terms of my writing, I get equally antsy. I like to try new styles, approaches and ideas. Stretching myself brings a feeling of accomplishment. I've finished two manuscripts, and I'm about 5,000 words into a third. They're each different:

Example #1: The fear he felt around his real dad was very different from the fear he felt around Jason. No telling when it would start. Sometimes, it started right at the beginning, sometimes on the drive home. This time it was after the sun set and a red moon rose into the sky.
“You have to be careful, Shawn. You remember what I said? You’re special.”

“Yeah, I remember.” He kept his voice even, playing along. If he didn’t argue, the episodes passed more quickly.

Example #2: There were three reasons I dreaded this meeting. First, despite the fact that Duane and my brother were best friends, Duane and I…"clashed" would be the polite way of putting it. I was seldom polite, so I called it "hating his guts". Second, during the disbursement of my brother’s will, I discovered that Duane was given guardianship of my five year old nephew. Uncle Ulric was contesting it--the boy was his only remaining male heir--and he would win of course, but I didn’t want to get in the middle, especially when I considered Duane and Uncle equally evil. Although, my sister could teach them both a thing or two.

Example #3: The six year old hung over the side of the boat and trailed his hand in placid water. Beneath the surface, a white form rose into the light. Dead eyes stared at the boy, and he stared back. Ralen’s throat was caked with fire. He cupped his palm to capture the yellowish water. So thirsty. He put the liquid on his tongue but it burned even worse than the air, and he spit it out again. The mouth of the corpse was open now, laughing.


The only good thing about being unpublished is that I have the freedom to indulge my desire for variety. It seems that once you're 'out there' you're branded. Your name has to mean something to readers; they want to know what to expect. All right, I'd be happy if anyone remembered my name, let alone thought of it as a brand. Still, it's easier to market yourself if you're consistent. If you must hop styles, as I do for my own sanity, what's the best way to work it into a writing career? Pseudonyms? Don't even dream about it until you're established? If you have to choose one genre/style to focus on, how do you decide? How can this headless chicken choose a niche?