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The (Mis)Adventures Of An Ongoing Novelist
by:  Missye K. Clarke, Team Harmonic-Power & "The Antioxidants Explainer"
web:  http://www.facebook.com/MissyeKClarke
twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/MKClarkeWrites
"There is no imagination without knowledge." --Albert Einstein
August 18, 2015

The Good, The (Really, Really) Bad, and The (#KeepinItReal) Ughly

As the open says, that's why this blog's been unapologetically dark. Life happens. It'a great for plots, characters, and storylines. Not so much when you're kicked when down, and life twists that knife hard in your side, a "Yeah, I Did This!" note attached.

THE GOOD
I'm writing more, thanks to citizen journalist sites, social media, and this here blog. Which, of course, makes for more practice (#Win360) to CV build for bigger and better things. And I've signed my McGuinness / Pedregon suspense mysteries and Adults Only series still in development with my house, Devine Destinies Books, and have a book cover to post bragging rights. I believe I'll be with this press for a bit. Most really like me (via e-mail communique), I'm in regular phone contact with Tina (my publisher), it's a small, unpolished establishment--and they like it that way. I do, too (but of course, things can and do change, so I'll ride this wave while I still can). I'm not a publicity hound, but should I be blessed to have my 15 minutes, I won't seek another second more willingly. Now I see why some established writers say, after their time in the spotlight, they just want to go back and write.

THE BAD
Well, there's just no easy way to say this, so I'll just say it. The day Devine Destinies offered me the contract, my husband's brother "Paul" had a car accident, and had refused medical help on the scene. Hours later, having gone to a bigger hospital to treat said injuries, Paul died during surgery; Peter only learning this two weeks later because he'd had lost his phone. In addition, Paul would only phone when he'd wanted something, so when that call had come in, Peter thought it was another what-did-Paul-want-now phone call. The death's still under investigation . . . which is weird in and of itself, but another topic for another post.

So goes the genesis of roughly two months of hell. Our car died as did my son's phone, his computer needs repairs, Peter was laid off for two weeks we're still playing catch-up on bills with, one of our cats gifted us with bed-bugs we needed to treat, and whatever that creeping crud was of a summer cold going around, Peter and I got sick, and I was in the sneezing weeds as he was getting better.

But those hits from hell just kept on coming.

My almost sixty-year-old sister-in-law "Mary," developmentally and neurologically retarded with the mind/personality of a ten-year-old kid, didn't know what's happened to her brother, and Paul's wife idiotically said they'd been on a vacation Paul wouldn't return from (though thankfully, this never came up with Mary). I sat with Peter while he handled the phone call. She was inconsolable. Peter, despite his relationship with Paul, cried, too. So did I. Death's part of life, I know, and I'd experienced it early in my life. But it still stinks. It never gets easier. And nobody said I had to like that part of life.

THE UGH-LY
JERSEY DOGS's edits. Oh, brother.

In late June, I'm assigned an editor for the novel. We begin well enough, I'm clicking along in my clean-up of typo gremlins, cleaning clunky phrasing, helping with formatting, etc., on the other 2/3rds of the book waiting on the first thirteen chapter edits. All the while, I did my best to ignore my instincts about her: I'd hoped for the best, but instincts never lie.

They were right. The edits came back. Taken out of context, they were mostly dumb suggestion changes / dumber comments especially. Really dumb.

I could live with her not liking Casper and Logan. I could live with her not finding major plot issues (thank you, Gawd! **she emphasizes in her NYC accent**). I wasn't even the least bit jealous, drama-inclined, or put out at us having near equal writing / editing experience, her thirteen years more on my thirty-four writing, twenty years editing . . . but that's because she's older than I by seven years and got started younger than I did. And I thought that would work in our favor.

You can stop laughing now :-).

What I couldn't hack: her not offering an example of improvements. Now don't get me wrong, I didn't mind doing some changes. But, I'd argued, the book was long enough; I want to trim this without a major rewrite (and I wasn't doing a major rewrite). In her not liking C and L, I'd asked, what was wrong I needed to fix? Nothing. Nada. Not a hint of what to change, and I began to wonder were she and I reading the same book. I found on my own something called external and internal characterization. (EC, IC). EC = beats, outward displays of knowing who the person is like you do Batman or Popeye. IC = thoughts, tonal inflection, responses in dialogue, etc. The book is loaded with this tool, and I showed examples.

No response.

Example: In the opening chapter, she's asking why does Logan call Casper "Gramps"--because Casper's super-book savvy to Logan's hobbling along, vice versa in Logan's street-cred to Casper's virginal side, but you'll have to read this story to know why :-)--then suggests I CUT the explanation why I have Casper's telling the reader why Logan's doing this!

It wasn't the first time I had to bang my head against the wall.

I was under the belief--or it could just be me--although editors didn't molly-coddle, they were eagle-eyed enough to know what to leave alone and what to ask questions about. No questions from her. No easing me into this. Yes, I know they're her suggestions, and, being an editor myself with another house, sometimes you have to insist something stays in or goes out for the sake of the story. This wasn't that. Nor could I wrap my mind around her logic in working on a book she wasn't liking the characters in. I explained, diplomatically--and for me, that's a feat in itself--if you don't like the leads, don't waste precious, non-refundable time on the story. And I took my concerns to her boss, my EIC. I didn't want to be rude, but I honestly thought that's what was supposed to be done: move up the line of command as proper protocol if an issue with an editor from a writer arises.

Boy, did I hear it good from my immediate editor.

She was highly offended I went this route, that it was HER JOB (emphasis hers) to read books with unlikeable characters, that she could offer suggestions on making them more likable (which she'd never delivered, and I'd found on my own, anyhow), and I was unprofessional in going over her head. But I stuck to my guns, asked the right questions, implemented some suggestions--several really good ones, too--and I said thank you for her time. The final break? Not that she had to, but during my recent somber events, not once did she offer a condolence. It's just the decent thing to do, IMO. And as one having worked customer service, you stroke egos a touch. Schmooze. Make the recipient feel good despite the crazy world around them and you both. Get more flies with honey, yada, yada, yada . . . ?

Nothing. Nada. This move showed more about her character than it did mine.

KEEPIN' IT 100.
Only for this book of the series, I'm doing JERSEY DOGS's final edits and read-through pre-galley in less than a month. The next time I want to see this novel is in galley form, and I won't pick it up to read, even in its end-result stage, for several years after :-). (I did ask about a possible study guide, but I'll let a teacher or after-school somebody or another tackle that project if they want to; I'm on burnout with this book already, and what they see in it might not be what I do. IOW, what's out there, let it fly. And it'll keep my publisher's costs down in pages).

But I'm having fun. And it's funny: as little as five years ago, I could've sworn I was ready for a book deal. No, I wasn't. There's definite steps to not overlook, skip over, breeze past. There's lessons to be learned, and you can't get to Lesson K without having learned Lessons A, B, C, and so on. Then, I just wanted to see my name on a spine . . . but the horror tales of disastrous books out there and reviewed as such, people complaining on time and money being wasted they couldn't get back, contracts ended, reputations shot scared me too much into--yeah, I know, I can say it--compliance. I did the query, composed the synopsis, went nuts and pulled together the book blurb. I did the edits until I've puked the Delete key. Now two book contracts are mine, the second on the weight of the first. Resilience. Hard work. Perseverance. Learned from my mistakes. Stuff the Good Book mentions, as did your grandparents back in the day. Earned because I wrote a damn good novel--and followed the book industry's rules to get that nice deal--not given because I whined I wanted a nice deal. And I sure didn't land my first publisher picks because I wanted it and I breathe. But that's another post for another day. :-)

And I'm smiling, knowing this story I've birthed might save a life. Just like books by Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton, Lawrence Block Beverly Cleary, Piers Anthony, and countless other authors saved mine.

Whew, these posts get lengthy. I definitely need my own website. But in the meantime, time for dreamland to write another day.

~ Missye

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July 13, 2015

The Day I've Waited For . . .

JERSEY DOGS, the series open for The McGuinness / Pedregon Casebook Chronicles, is contracted with eXtasy Books' imprint, Devine Destinies!

But for now, the specifics must wait; I'm desperate for REM sleep since signing on the dotted line Wednesday, 6/24/2015. It was a long time in coming, this blog's title change . . . and the moment has finally arrived.

Wow. Did I learn TONS on this journey! And still: it's just gotten started.

Will update soon, promise. In the meantime, stay loose while I capture some much needed ZZZZs. I've a lot of work ahead of me to meet an August 2nd deadline.

You know I'm excited when I'm sending you all many Xs and Os.

XOXO . . . XOXOs,
~ Missye

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June 30, 2015

#PayingItForward And #LightTheWritePath

Playing on repeat on my tablet via Spotify: "Fade to Grey," by Jars of Clay.

On a recent post of my Facebook page regarding the lunacy of a woman angry with her parents for saying she wasn't born African-American to her Caucasian family, someone noted my "delusion du jour" remark was an awesome description (My next blog post will be about why the need for creatives to share their views with the world--and the double-edged sword that holds. But for now, back to our program, already in progress).

I told him I'm a writer; descriptions and imagery is what I do, then thanked the poster and appreciated his comment.

But his next threw me:

"That is so cool that you are a writer. It all makes sense now that I look back on your posts with that perspective. I am a disillusioned writer, trying to build up confidence. Have you any tips or words of encouragement?"

Why did this throw me?

Because NOBODY'S ever asked me my input on writing before. I mean in my almost four decades of making words invoke emotions and experiences, I'd never, EVER been asked to encourage another writer in my place.

I mean, why should anyone? I'm not a NYT best-selling author, I don't have a bazillion units to sell or movies adapted into my stuff. Heck, as of this post I've almost three dozen JERSEY DOGS queries out, and with the exception of one house reading it--fingers crossed for this one, but if not, slog on--I've been met with a resounding silence (no worries: indie publishing will happen if this series doesn't land a small press).

But I don't have the mailbox checks, the millions of Twitter followers hanging onto my every word, asked to speak anyplace by anyone. Awards? Not a one, unless if we counted my nice mention / if-you're-receiving-this-email-you-didn't-win from the Black Balloon Press Horatio Prize judging committee last October: JERSEY DOGS was a novel in a novel. And my first--and so far, only--try of the first sentence for The Brucedale Press' Flash Acrostic Contest "Airborne at last..." in 2013? On their 2014's March announcement page: "We had a record amount of entrants this past year, eight Canadian provinces and a contestant from the USA!" (One guess who that USA entrant was. "Yeah," says I to my husband sarcastically, "I'm not 'Missye K. Clarke' anymore; just call me 'Contestant From The USA' from now on!"). But I held some consolation: another writer I know entered also, and he didn't win either.

So you can imagine my surprise when "Gideon" asked me this. Seriously? Me?

I guess so.

And spurned on by a fantastic compliment from Anne Harris on Twitter--she can be followed to @anneharrismusic--I thought about Gideon's request. She told me: "Keep on the path and keep feeding the souls around you with light."

Funny how this dropped at the "write" time. My character, Casper McGuinness, doesn't see himself like this anymore than I do, but has the strongest light, even a bit stronger than cousin Logan's. And why conflicts arise between Casper and Jay Vincent Pedregon; Jay Vincent senses this light Casper's totally ungrateful for in a disregarding sense, and envious someone else has what Pedregon, the paranormal enthusiast, wants. And naturally, I couldn't figure out why Jay Vincent and Casper were frequently at odds, even though they genuinely like one another (and one of many subplots) in my Casebook Chronicles series.

Keep feeding the souls around me with light.

Now I figured it out. And now know what to tell the poster, whom is deemed "Gideon" to protect his privacy.

So, Gideon, and to the other Gideons and Gideonesses stuck for inspiration, encouragement, and wanting to be pulled from the writing mire, I dedicate the rest of this blog update to you. Write on and prosper, friend. That's my light to your needed soul . . . and my way of #PayingItForward to #LightTheWritePath.

= = = = =
= = =
= = = = =

• Read everything you can; it's said once people leave college, their reading levels drop off the cliff like 150%, favoring that stupid glowing box called television. Another writer told me at a conference in Mechanicsburg, PA, called "Murder As You Like It," that "A home with books within its walls is a home filled with conversation, and like a room with much needed windows."
• Read what strikes your fancy, Gideon, read outside your favorite genres.
• Read, read, read. And read some more.
• Quit comparing your writer self with others, if that's what you're doing. Just because they're published and / or famous, that life isn't exactly what it's cracked up to be.
• Even if you could write like them, why would you want to? And maybe, but only you can answer this candidly, you aren't ready for the major leagues like you think you are; I thought I was, until I took a big step back and saw what I'd miss out in lessons, what to keep, what to toss, what to fall in love with . . . and what to steer from, if I skipped over them to get where those big bucks earners are.
• Find your voice, hone it, strengthen it, toughen it, and RUN with it! What's voice? That rhythm, cadence, stride, flow, strength and flaws in your prose only you have. Ever heard Yeardley Smith's ("Lisa Simpson") voice? Or the late Butterfly ("Lottie" in Mildred Pierce, "Prissy" from Gone With The Wind) McQueen's? Nobody can copy their distinctive timbres. So, too, is how you write. That's your voice. Use it shamelessly!
• Write for you, write what you'd want to read if you can't find that book or story out there quite what strikes your inner gong.
• Find another creative outlet, if you have any (draw, paint, sculpt, make pottery, tune an engine until its a symphony under a hood, whatever).
• Take time off from writing, if need, then come back to it. If it's work in a bad way, move on; if you genuinely missed it, stick with it.
• Exercise.
• Get your sleep.
• Keep your sense of humor.
• Don't take this damn thing too seriously, and don't sweat the small stuff.
• Most of all, relax.
• Have fun! If it ain't a kick, makes you go wow, kapow and cry and jazzed you banged out a great sex scene--oh for Pete's sake, did I just say banged out? Yeah, I did. Sorry (yeah, no I'm not *smile*) for that--then change your aim, perspective, or seek another creative outlet. You only have so much time on this planet, so find what you love doing and protect it . . . but if you want your gift to grow, whatever that may be, don't molly-coddle yourself or the talent you're looking to develop.
• Find a support system in friends, family, or local creators' groups. Meetup.com has scads of The Artist's Way groups, based on Julia Cameron's incredible book and workbook of the same name, and its theme is basically giving you permission to BE creative. Support is the hardest to find, and if you're not there yet to be open / exposed, then listen to TED talks or read books to encourage you. Start with The Artist's Way. I think it may help tons.
• Engage in a sport.
• Learn to dance, or play an instrument.
• Engage in nature.
• Stay in the moment. Because, really . . . that's all we have.

Now . . . light your Write Path and feed a needed soul traveling it with you. #PayItForward. May we click longnecks of Yuengling Black & Tans and Guinness Blondes along the way.

~ Missye

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May 3, 2015

Time Out For This Personal--And Brief--Interlude

Ahoy, Readers,

I was discouraged, downhearted, engorged myself on Netflix's DVD marathon of Downton Abbey (over after Season 6? Say it ain't so!, she wails like a heartbroken cat atop a wood fence) and working in retail to pay the bills rather than writing, although I did win NaNo 2014. But since, I've caught up with the cast of Downton, have been sacked in retail--just as well; I hated it anyway--love customer service so much I'm working to break in the restaurant / bar industry as a bartender (that's another story for another day!), and *might* have landed a cashier / busser gig on this side of Harrisburg's Susquehanna. We'll see come 8 May 2015, and I'll definitely update.

But this past week, I needed to sprint from complacency rather than let it kick me in the tush. God lets things happen for a reason; I came thisclose to giving up writing for good. Like Genesis is over, Mary Mary? on hiatus, 30+ yrs. at this craft, time of death, that's a wrap, that's all folks, callin' it. Until a former crit group member sent me a "Dear John" email, spelling my name wrong of all things. That tore it. I left, denying him the satisfaction of throwing me out. And I threw myself back in it, thanks to Sisters In Crime? and its sister group, Sisters in Crime Guppies?. Am I learning so much there and the camaraderie is immeasurably and without words amazing.

You feel a but coming, don't you? You felt right. But it HAS to be addressed.

Although I love my menfolk, y'all sometimes are just M E A N to us females about this craft both sexes can do. And let'a face it: Agatha Christie? STILL outsold y'all dudes in books to this day. Yeah, O Y-Chromosome One. Beat that. #Ill Wait, as will you. *grin*

Writing is a damn lonely business, as you know, and the world at large doesn't appreciate how tough it is keeping it entertained on creative, imaginary, higher conscious levels. And I'm the type to strive making friends anyplace I go; that wore out five years back w/ this online group. So when that poke in the eye arrived last week, a draconian air of superiority with it, I walked away on MY terms, baby--the mod's initials are International Thriller Writers' member H.M.L. (letters replaced to protect me and to disguise the moron)--because I yearnto find a way in the majors to become one of them. Do I want to be another Spillane, Block, Poe or Doyle? Nope (but it's nice to know Block liked my stuff and I write like Spillane). Or another P.D. James, Grafton, Lisa Gardner or Christie? No. Just be the best I can be, and find those writers who see that about me as I do (in honing craft, naturally). This tired group didn't have it, three there w/ ISBNs on their 10 pubbed books between them. No, y'all. I'm trekking to the book mountain of the misty Himalayas, to find authors with a decent backlist and zero attitude, find writing resources I don't need to offer my future firstborn grandchild or my DNA sample plus $$$$ for. Y'know ... basically rediscovering my joy with why I started writing in the first freakin' place and falling in love with it again.

The calling grows. But that spark refused to die. And it took that Dear John letter to fan it brighter. Maybe I should thank H.M.L for his brusqueness. Nah. Because when divas like him are that level of m e a n, they're too small to grasp this deeper understanding.

Thank you for indulging me. You and I now have a fresh blog post. <3

Keep livin'--and writin'--dangerously!

~ Missye

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October 10, 2014

In Tune With 'Toons

Hi, Readers.

Much has happened: I got sick with the summertime upper respiratory crud my sweet husband generously brought home, then he and my son took ill with said vicious crud, too. So while I nursed us back to health, I goofed around on social media, read a lot, watched TV (yes, Jerry Springer made the channel-surfing roster; I needed a good laugh) and worked out when I could. Plus I've been taking my workouts über-seriously, trying to stave off the doubts-like-kudzu of should I keep this writing life madness alive out of my head (an emphatic NO after attending a wonder day-long "Murder As You Like It" workshop this past September.). After said workshop, I'm drafting a synopsis for JERSEY DOGS, which means I'm re-reading the book for the 170th time and counting. Can you tell, much as I adore Casper, Logan, and Jay Vincent and they, me, we're as sick as can be of re-visiting this adventure? But it's a necessary evil. And a great lesson in penning a novel-in-a-page: it's Twitter for your book. Cast, high points, ending. Done.

God, if it were only that easy.

But it kinda is (though the explanations are far more complicated than need be, IMO). You see, in finding the high points for said one page summary, I'm scything more fat from this book than I thought I could ever do and thought I'd already done. Sentences are more condensed to clear redundancy; scenes trimmed to tighten pace; canned, expired beats swapped out for higher-hanging fruit beat ones, for, well . . . freshness (nothing stays fresh long in a can, after all.). And readying my sample chapters for potential indie publishers, could you honestly believe I discovered twenty-one misspelled words there? *gasp!*Twenty-one! No, I'm not above misspelling words, but whoa, the pros are spot-on: Edit your stuff. Or pay someone to do it for you. Then edit it again. And read the paragraphs out loud. Or backwards. What you'll catch will amaze you, even after you'd paid for it. I paid for mine. She, to put it plain, stunk worse than black-bagged, NYC trash in a noonday sun. But I don't list names; it's to protect the innocent and the moron. "The Female With the Green Pen" is the latter.

Now what's this gotta do with cartoons? Plenty . . . other than being a fan of them since I was old enough to start reading. And singing. When I was three and four, respectively.

I'm a devoted, hardcore fan of Regular Show. They have an eleven-minute window from start to finish to get the thrust of an episode's humor and story to the audience. Shorter time: Looney Tunes (the old-school ones, not the Cartoon Network's re-tooled, politically-correct vomited pig slop, post-Seinfeld alleged humor no kid will understand and Upper East Side adults think humorous.). I'm referencing the "That's All Folks!" 'toons where Yosemite Sam was always outsmarted by the smart-aleck, sarcastic "How's the weather out there, John L.?" Bugs. The Daffy who couldn't spin a quarter-staff on a bet or got crickets when performing with Bugs--until he lit a match after swallowing nitro and swallowed that, too.). Elmer was the animator who gave Bugs his come-uppance for once (as did the Dog did Foghorn and Bugs did Daffy. Gotta love Chuck Jones, who often broke the fourth wall in cartoons.). Pepe Le Pew, a deluded-but-loveable playboy, forgetting he's a skunk and thinking he'd slick over a female just because he was a suave, French bachelor misplaced as a skunk (aren't most bachelors skunks? Hmmm . . . there's a thought.). And c'mon, how can you not love Rocky & Bullwinkle, Underdog, Spawn, Popeye, Tom & Jerry, Tennessee Tuxedo, The Flinstones, Mighty Mouse, Casper, Heckle & Jeckyl, Mickey Mouse, Felix the Cat, Quik Draw McGraw, Top Cat, Thundercats, Josie & The Pussycats, and three current ones: Animaniacs, Pinky & the Brain and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? (Sorry, folks, I deliberately left out Scooby-Doo. Just wasn't my thing, but I'll grant this much: Fred was a hottie, though. For somebody drawn that way *grin*.).

Die-hard novelists, snooty among their writing salon friends with multi-syllabic words to sound more important than they are, argue TV writing doesn't belong in novels. Wrong. We're visual creatures and need that nugget to spur the imagination. Imagery brings this scene to life in our thoughts, in dreams and the mind's eye, but so what if a nod, a grin, an eyebrow hitch or a shrug makes the page? So what if a writer watches cartoons? Isn't it a great tool to write tight? Don't you do those body movements in life, chuckle at somebody else's slight misfortune, or try to one-up your fellow man while driving or at work? Or outsmart your kids? So why not put it in a book? 'Toons do said movements, too. (Yeah, they do that, too. Don't blame me, blame Drawn Together, South Park and Fritz the Cat. The only things I know 'toons don't do: obey our laws of physics. They never seem to need to use the bathroom, no matter how often they eat or drink.).

Some of the best writing has come from cartoons. The ending of PIXAR's Toy Story 3 was talked about for months. The ten minutes of no-dialog in Up where Ellie and Carl were kids, grew into adults, then he was alone, was the most expressive to show love words couldn't ever do. And the humor going over the head of kids spoofed in Rocky & Bullwinkle and Peabody's Improbable History is timeless. But before you dismiss this, consider E.M. Barrie (PETER PAN), A.A. Milne (WINNE THE POOH); L. Frank Baum (THE WIZARD OF OZ); Lewis Carroll (ALICE IN WONDERLAND); Dr. Seuss (CAT IN THE HAT); Roald Dahl (CHARLIE & THE GREAT GLASS ELEVATOR) and Maurice Sendak (WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE). Would we not have a Tim Burton, a Walt Disney, a Hanna-Barbera, a Chuck Jones, a Fritz Freleng, a Rankin / Bass, or a Mel Blanc were it not for the aforementioned?

I say no.

I'll never give up 'toons. In fact, I'm planning something pretty neat for my three protagonists that'll make then drop their jaws in fright and excitement simultaneously that might set the mystery genre on its ear. Yes, I'm going there. The aforementioned did it for me. I need to do it for those writers coming up after me. It's my dream to one day be animated as a 'toon. And if ever I give up writing, that's when the kudzu of doubt in my writer's mind has won.

I think I have just the cure to kill off that kudzu of writer-doubt once and for all. Time for a 55-gallon drum of turpentine, acetone and benzine. Commonly known as DIP to immerse it in. Survive that, you weed! *grin*

Been fun to visit. I'll work at it updating this space more often.

~ Missye

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A R C H I V E / H I G H L I G H T S

...And Back To My Writing Adventures, Already In Progress
originally posted: June 1, 2014

I know. It's been forever since I've updated this. But I've a good reason, apart from my dog not being big enough to eat my homework.

Life kicked me in the balls. Hard. And a few more times for good measure. They're well galvanized, but taking the hits and asking for another is still not fun.

My last post came from a hotel room while my family and I waited for an apartment to come around; three days after that post, we moved in. Right in the middle of a chaotic pigsty. The homelessness adventures dominoed from my husband's health problems earlier that year, and right after tax time when all our bills were paid. Money's helpful, sure, but as you know, health is priceless. You can't even rent that shit out for extra bread, either.

Then cold, otherwise known as winter in December and beyond, thundered in on epic levels, the roommates moved out, and 2/3rds of my place were otherworldly frigid (Just as well; I think they'd've skipped out on the electric bill after keeping their cheapskate hind ends warm.). Transmission sputtered at the start of January, but recovered, and my record run of not having the flu or its shots for nearly three decades came to a vomit-projectiling halt closed out the month. A new job awaits my guy and my returning, albeit budding, journalism career stretches its reach to the sun just last week.

Why this update now? Other than for building my resume, you readers needed a fresh-coat-of-paint post, I needed to put one here, and you might've wondered what's doing in my writing life (when I'm not reading, or poking around on social media--guilty as charged.). So without further ado, here we go. Buckle in, kids, you're in for a ride.

• Book 1 of the McGuinness/Pedregon Chronicles, JERSEY DOGS, is being edited by a fantastic freelance editor, Taryn Albright, and whom I might keep even if I get a book deal. I haven't received her JD notes back yet, but when I do, I'll be in heavy edits on it and have it finally put to bed by August. Of course I'll update this page with details as soon as I have them. In the interim, I'm working hard on the final 1/3rd of the second book of the series, called KINGS OF CASPIAN COUNTY. During NaNo 2013, I began ONE ASTORIA FOX, Book 3 of the series. I didn't win that marathon--came in 42K-something-words--but considering my previous circumstances, not a bad showing.

• Between this August and next March, I'll either indie publish JERSEY DOGS or have an agent by then, whichever comes first (But if I don't agent JD, I'll certainly hunt for one or have one for the other books.). As such, I've had to quell many dead followers on my Twitter handle (@MKClarkeWrites) to make room for more followers and follows in the pub industry.

• In updating my laptop, which I'm typing from now, I found a 2010 MG urban fantasy WIP in my e-mails while downloading my other projects. Thrilled, elated, exhilarated and just damn stoked wasn't enough to cover my happy dance that night. That's open on the new laptop and worked on daily, and tentatively called THE DREAMSCAPE SERIES: BREATHE: A Zak Newton Novel. Gotta love recurring dreams.

• Been sick as a dog and engaging in a battle of staying healthy and while recovering from setbacks. This time around I'm taking exercising seriously, and have been consistently doing so since the end of March. Nothing huge to report. Will do so when the time comes. But on an encouraging note: no way will I be in this Stay-Puft shape when I'm the Big 5-O.

• And I'm taking the writing plunge of something I've always wanted to do, but was too scared to for fear of someone calling me crazy for it. I'm putting myself, the author, as a character in my characters' worlds in a totally different setting. It's akin to putting myself in another author's character's world. I think Twain did that once with Sawyer and Finn. Hell if I were him I'd've done it without a 2nd thought; Tom and Huck are too much fun NOT to hang with. And if Einstein admitted to seeing himself ride a light wave next to a speeding train, this, too, can be done. The project's erotica with one character, a novella-length vignettes for the other. The third is in my urban fantasy series (which I'm not part of, I just write the stuff *grin.*). Feel free to guess which assignments Casper, Logan, and Jay Vincent were tasked. Hint: They all adore their Missions: Not Impossible.

When life happens, do something about it after the shell-shock wears off. Like with revisions, there's no point complaining about it; it's going to happen, regardless. And complaining only makes you a pain in the ass to those around you. So suck life up and get back in whatever saddle your creative outlet happens to be. Characters have to grow. Authors aren't immune.

Thanks for hangin' with me. And now I take my leave to return you to your writing life, also already in progress. Besides it's almost 4am ET and I need to catch my sleep. A sweatfest awaits me later today.

Glad to be back.

~ Missye

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The Softer Side of Hell
originally posted: September 4, 2013

I unapologetically defend my previous blog entry. And it'll eventually be archived for store in this vast place we call cyberspace, never to be deleted from its annuls. I do so not because this is my portal on Publishers' Marketplace's fantastic Website, or I'm marketing myself as an author, or even on the basis of liberty via the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights. Albeit colorfully--quite, sone would say--I shared my ick factor of drafting a novel synopsis (more on that in a bit). While one may perceive that entry like a tantrum-throwing four-year-old in Times Square on Saturday told no to a Toys R Us visit, another might read between the lines to glean a deeper point, elusive to tether a word to.

There's a third side this post will explore regarding the previous one, a softer side of the writing life sometimes mercilessly is. And through it, I hope my softer side avails itself.

Between the Internet, books, podcasts, conferences, classes, programs, etc., there's probably enough writing resources to cover every square mile of Alaska high to an elephant's eye, with references left over to dump into the Pacific. One such title, A YEAR OF WRITING DANGEROUSLY, Abercrombie's "Getting Permission" chapter highlight's ON WRITING WELL author William Zinsser making a crucial, brilliant point. People wanting to write are told what to write about, rather than go there and write what their instincts wanted them to put words to. A teacher may tell Student X he should write one way, when Student X's inner voice says--"him" and "he" used generically to encompass "she" and "her" for the sake of readability--to write another, unique, road-less-traveled way or topic. And the student doesn't write, or refuses to when the teacher is inflexible . . . which, unintentionally, begins a downward spiral.

It's hard to let yourself be okay with writing dangerously; I was scared to post something that explicit in the face of blunt honesty (this medium won't ever get that degrading, crass or blue; after seeing Miley Cyrus's "performance" on MTV's 2013 VMAs, I'm reformed. *grin*). Cost me a gig, too, but it's okay. The lesson buried in the bleep-machine post was about giving yourself permission to gripe about aspects of the writing life that really are God-awful, and it's okay to get that raw, if need be, about it. And it's also okay to accept your strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and to not devote time to those weaknesses that won't strengthen. For me, writing a synopsis ceilings at a 3 or 4 from a 1 to 2; I'd rather weather root canal without Novocain. On the upshot, drafting a 30-second pitch for JERSEY DOGS took 2 hours, was turned down twenty-two times and counting, the MS twice, and both are ever-tighter on each revision (kudos to Twitter pushing my brevity to its limits). Best to shore weaknesses within the strengths. As for what I want to write about, I do it, the previous entry reflective of this, come what may, I write for me and one more willing to read it. The rest is gravy. Life's too short. For that, I'm unapologetic.

The writing life--and life in general--is unapologetic. So, too, shouldn't the author always be, and leave it be when none will listen (my Granny, who would've been 98 last week, always said, "Child, sometimes being right has to be enough."). Permit yourself to be dangerous in what you create, and stand courageously in it. Ironically, that's where the softer side of Hell resides.

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R E A D E R   C O M M E N T S

I love feedback and read every comment. Please post your thoughts on this / other topics; I will reply in kind. If you prefer anonymity, that's fine, too. Be tasteful, however, as professionalism carries farther than ill-mannerism does. Thank you for understanding.

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R

Ms. Clarke is a fulltime writer building her mystery series, The McGuinness / Pedregon Casebook Chronicles. When not homeschooling her son or involved with writing-related projects, she helps helps and engages people to embrace a healthier, enriched life through nutrition and exercise. Ms. Clarke is a blog poster to her portal on Publisher's Marketplace, a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, SinC Guppies, and will never outgrow her love for cartoons.


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