The Roadrunner published at Okay Donkey

“Holly lays in bed, one leg bent over the edge, the other bare foot resting on the cool creased pillow. Pink toes. Avon Pink Minx. She idles the morning away, watching cartoons and smoking cigarette after cigarette. Charlie would not approve but Charlie is not here.

Holly throws an arm behind her head and stares at the television. Sly coyote – he’s painting a road on a desert floor that leads to a stone wall. He adds trees and a guard rail. Leaves no detail undone. He waits behind a dusty boulder for the Roadrunner to hit the wall. But the Roadrunner has a secret: she can turn paint into pavement, pavement into horizon, horizon into escape.”

Read the rest at Okay Donkey…

Photo Attributes:

Interviewed by Eric Scot Tryon

Eric Scot Tryon, writer and editor of Flash Frog interviewed me about my story Carhartt Brown (published in their July 2021 issue of Ghost Parachute) for his FLASH on the FIVE series.

“Ultimately, I wrote it with one goal: to find the truth of my reaction to a certain subgroup of men of whom I am intimately familiar.”

Check out the full interview here: https://www.ericscottryon.com/post/carhartt-brown

Related Reading:

It Doesn’t Get Easier, You Just Get Stronger: Thoughts on Writing

Note: This craft article was originally published at The Review Review. This is the second in a series of throw-back articles. This one is dedicated to my friend Becky: runner, writer, mom, teacher – sometimes jerk in text messages.

As a runner, I am unimpressive. Slow. Not middle of the pack slow – back of the pack. I shuffle and wheeze. When I picked it back up as an adult, I couldn’t run a full mile. I was inconsistent and sloppy. I was embarrassed at how out of shape I was. I didn’t even want my runner friends to know I was trying.

            But I kept with it and years later, I’ve done three half marathons, too many 5Ks and fun runs to count but most importantly, I’m still running.

            That same voice that urges me to run also urges me to write. Running and writing both require mental toughness and discipline. They demand practice and dedication. They can be unforgiving. Something inside me has always told me to go, to run, to write.

            When I’m at a low point in my writing – say I’ve hit a 26-rejection hot streak, not that that has ever happened! – or I feel overwhelmed by a project that once excited me, I run. When a story isn’t coming together, I hit the road. When my internal editor decides to get a little nasty and all I hear is, “You can’t do this. No one can possibly do this,” I remind myself that I do hard things every time I go running.

            Runners Run – The only qualification you need to be a runner is that you must run. Likewise, if you want to be a writer, just write. Publications, awards, connections – none of those things matter. Call yourself what you are. Define yourself.

            Run the Mile You Are In – When I start running, if I think, “Ok, five more miles to go,” I don’t think I’d bother to start. So, I break the run down into smaller, more manageable pieces. I run that first mile, live within that first mile. I don’t anticipate future pain or the enormity of what is before more. Then, I do the next.

            Writers think big, it’s our nature. Big ideas get us excited. And, then, those big ideas can start to feel impossible. But what if we just run the mile we’re in? Write the first the line or first scene. Runners and writers are at our best when we let our goals build organically, muscles pumping at a steady tempo. That first line leads to the second and then the third. The first scene blends into another and another until you are home.

            You Don’t Have to Go Fast, You Just Have to Go – When I start a run, I usually go a little too fast because I’m excited or too ambitious or, let’s face it, over-caffeinated. I have to tell myself to relax. Find the rhythm. Let go. If I don’t relax, I tire myself out. I might get hurt or discouraged. If I thought I was in a race with every other runner, I just wouldn’t run.

            I don’t have to be the fastest runner. I don’t have to be the best writer every single time, either. What does that ever mean? My writing feels the most successful when I focus on my own internal rhythm and relax into it. I remind myself that not every run is a race and not every single thing I write will be published. I trust the maintenance runs to keep my muscles strong and writing is no different. Excellence doesn’t just show up, we have to practice. Even on days we don’t want to. Even when it’s hard. Especially on those days.

Reaching the Magic Mile – If you write every day, chances are good that most of what you write will not be wonderful. But, that’s normal. That’s what revision is for. Nine times out of ten, the things I write come painfully and slow – similar to my runs. Growing is a painful process but we don’t grow as writers unless we put in the maintenance.

Here’s a secret you may already know: something amazing happens on that tenth time – we reach the magic mile. You know what I mean. That day when all your efforts align with the right circumstances. Your internal elements match the external elements and everything just works?

Those days, running comes easy. I can go on for miles and miles and never feel pain. I don’t get tired. The weather is glorious. My legs are strong. My form is suddenly, miraculously, perfect.

In writing, reaching the magic mile feels like your muse has returned. Something foreign is born within you. You write something new and wonderful and it feels like you are a vessel that is being filled by something else. Someone else.

This muse is not supernatural. She isn’t some magical deity. She is you. She is all your hard work and maintenance and all those external elements finally working together. She is the result of your writing muscles knitting themselves into stronger tissue.

It Doesn’t Get Easier, You Just Get Stronger – Remember, not every time you write will feel like the Magic Mile. But over time, the more you practice, the stronger and faster you will feel. But the work never gets easier. When I run the same hill for the sixth week in a row but suddenly feel strong enough to tackle it, it isn’t because the hill has gotten smaller.

The more you write, the more likely it is that you’ll reach that Magic Mile. But as a bonus, you’ll see improvements and gains in your daily maintenance writing. Editing gets easier. You won’t worry about cutting stuff that isn’t working. You’ll feel more confident. Creativity comes quicker. You’ll start submitting more and publishing more. You’ll find yourself moving from the middle of the pack to the front where you belong.

Up the Dizzy Hill: How Submitting Your Work Can Make You Feel Like Barfing

Note: This craft article was originally published at The Review Review. This is the first in a series of throw-back articles.

When my siblings and I were little, our father would drive us over the Dizzy Hill. Of course, it isn’t really called that. It’s just a hill on a country road on the way into town but we loved it. It has a steep climb with a sudden peak that tips seemingly into nothing. As we’d crest the hill, the road disappeared for just a moment. It doesn’t have any white lines where the pavement meets gravel and berm so it takes a careful driver to stay on the road or to not over-correct and veer into oncoming traffic.

            At the base of the hill, our dad would call out, “Close your eyes!”

            I’d grab my sister’s hand and wait, counting off the seconds in my head, trying in vain to predict the exact moment we’d careen over and the butterflies would fly up into our bellies.                       I’d wait to fool gravity for just a half a second as we’d come up off the bench seat of my father’s old blue pick-up. I’d wait to feel the fall of it in my stomach, that greasy feeling of nearly being sick.

            Our dad was a good driver. Even when he couldn’t see the road, he kept the truck steady until we came down the other side. We laughed and clapped and begged him to go again but the road leveled out and we carried on into town.

            When I submit stories for publication, I think about the Dizzy Hill. It’s a scary thing, opening yourself and your writing up for that kind of consideration. It takes a steady hand. It’s a tedious wait full of anticipation punctuated by a near-sick suspension of gravity.  

            Know the Road before you go – If you’re going to drive over the Dizzy Hill, I’d caution you to study the road a bit. Want to publish your work? Be mindful of the places you submit. Read those journals. Follow their submission guidelines.

            A lot of smaller journals with high acceptance rates typically cannot pay. Check their social media presence: do they promote their writers? Is their site professional and error-free? Do they demand a submission fee and ask you not to simultaneously submit your work elsewhere?

A lot of highly respected journals cannot pay writers but, in turn, will promote you and your work – this is a kind of currency that holds a lot of value because they have a reputation for publishing excellent work. Others can and do pay well in addition to promoting the writers they publish. Find those journals, follow them, submit to them. Support them.

Climb the hill to get to the other side – Be persistent in the face of nearly constant rejection. Rejections are tough, I know. Who wants to drive off the road? But unlike actually driving, there is no real danger here. You don’t lose control of the wheel. Give yourself a little time to recover and then start right back up that hill.

Rejection is not failure in writing. It is an absolute certainty. If you know this at the base of the hill and you trust yourself, you will be prepared for it. Then, when you finally make it to the top, and that acceptance comes, you’ll get to experience that wonderful dizzying feeling.

Grab someone’s hand – Writers need community. Other writers are not your competition, they are your support. They’ll hold your hand as you climb the hill together. They’ll squeeze it, almost unconsciously, at the exact moment gravity takes your breath away.

Be ready to wait – I’ve had days when I’ve checked my email a dozen times. I check my submission statistics on Duotrope and try to game the system. Has my story been out longer than a journal’s average? They love it! Or, they hate it? I don’t know!

The more you climb the Dizzy Hill, the better you’ll think you are getting at predicting when you’re about to hit the top. But you just have to be patient. And, remember:

You always lose the road at the most critical point – You’ve written something amazing. You’ve done everything you were supposed to do. You’ve submitted to the perfect journals (notice I said “journals” and not “journal” – I’m a big fan of simultaneous submissions). Now, prepare yourself for the unknown.

You can’t actually game the system because it’s out of your hands. Now is when you close your eyes and wait to come up out of your seat. I’ll be honest: sometimes it takes a really long time to get up the Dizzy Hill. But when you do, you’ll get that acceptance and you’ll beg to go again. Keep moving. The road is long, the next climb is just as steep so keep writing.

Men Stop Me Running | Catapult

 

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Men Stop Me Running published at Catapult

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Men yell at me from car windows. My stride is slow and steady. I’m training for the American Tobacco Trail Half Marathon, my first real race. Before now, I’ve never attempted anything over 5k.

“Hey!” a man yells and it sounds like he’s falling off a cliff. The car drives away and he’s still yelling the tail end of the word until the sound floats away to nothing and he is gone.

A mile later, a beige-gold Chrysler Town & Country swerves around me and a man yells, “I will fuck you!” The back window of his van is black with little white stick-family stickers: Smiling Mommy, Smiling Daddy, Baby Girl, Soccer-playing-Son, Silly Dog with floppy ears.

I watch the van drive away, cautious. Can you Stow-and-Go an adult human woman? I guess I’m just being paranoid.

He hasn’t really threatened me, has he? But, it wasn’t a compliment, either. Men do not yell at women from moving cars because we are desirable.

I keep running, imagining Smiling Daddy falling off the side of the cliff. His stick family stands at the top, dumbfounded. As he falls, he screams, “I will fuck you!” until his dying breath stretches out to nothing and he is gone.

No Resolutions, Only Thanks!

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License: Some rights reserved by Kisså: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9189954@N03/

Today, I am thankful for all the disappointments that broke my heart in 2013 but ultimately led me in new and exciting directions. Sometimes, when people or things let us down, it makes room for us to see all the other truly kick ass people and things we really need in our lives.

Rejections, loss of friendships, personal failures and moments I wanted to cry (or, I did cry) because I didn’t get my way – it is easy to forgive myself and others for those things when I take stock of all the really wonderful things that have happened this year. The good has easily outweighed the bad and any year we can say that, we should take a moment to be grateful.

So, I am thankful for my friends – new and old. For your support and your laughter. For talking me off ledges and sometimes egging me up onto the ledge when I needed it. I am thankful for the friendships that fell apart because I only had to look beside me to see that more people love and support me than have ever let me down. I am thankful for my shortcomings as a friend because I’ve learned a lot about myself through my own insecurities and weaknesses. I am thankful for the ability to do better in the following year. 

I am thankful for my family who are all insane. And complicated. And funny. And drive me up a wall sometimes. But I love you all anyways. Plus, you have to deal with my funny, insane, and very complicated way of dealing with the world. You gave me the freedom to do that so no complaining!

Thanks, especially to my husband who supports me and believes in me in this crazy way I’ve never really believed in myself. He holds me accountable when I slack off and he reads everything I publish. He encourages me and pokes at me when I fall too far into my own head. Plus, he’s super good looking. 

I am thankful for my unholy ambition for pushing me beyond professional disappointments and into arenas I previously thought unattainable. I am a card carrying member of the “Women Who Get Shit Done” Club and that is a phenomenal feeling. I’ve had my first publication in 2013 and then I did it ten more times. I’ve gotten money for publishing my work – which seems shallow but really just gives me hope for a true career doing something I love. I’m a listed author on amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. When I was a bookseller (for years and years at Borders and Waldenbooks), it was my dream to be able to say that. This year, it came true. But, I’m grateful that it is happening slowly and I have a lot of room to build on that fantasy. 

I am thankful for new readers and new opportunities to express myself artistically. Writing has kept me out of a therapist chair. Writing has given me a purpose and an excitement. But, writing was never enough – I had to share it with you. So, thank you so much for being receptive to it. Thank you for giving me this community.

Thank you to the editors that promoted my work. Thank for the editors that passed on my work but left a kind message or a note of encouragement. Thanks, also, to the editors that gave me form rejections or dismissed me completely – I take it as a sign of respect that you don’t handle writers with kid gloves. We are capable and hardworking. We take our lumps and we keep going. We don’t need to be coddled for doing our jobs. 

And, finally, I am really thankful for those Ritter Sport Chocolate Bars with the cornflakes in them which I discovered this year and now pray I will never have to live without.

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Happy New Year, Lovelies!

 

Get 35% off Spark Volume IV and win a new friend!

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Get 35% off Spark: A Creative Anthology Volume IV

featuring my short story

Quicksilver

by going here: Spark: A Creative Anthology Volume IV

and using this coupon code: KOHL-FRIENDS.

If you do, we really will be friends. 

And, you can never have enough friends, am I right?

Offer ends on January 31, 2014. 

***

I mean, the discount ends on January 31. If you are nice, I’ll still be your friend. 

Probably.

Unless you are weird. 

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Don’t be weird. People don’t like that. 

Now, What Happens…?

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I was supposed to be working today. I had planned to work. I was actually looking forward to the Christmas Quiet that falls over my office. Really. No lie. My inbox is in desperate need of a scrub. But, I had to send my work laptop off for a Holiday Break upgrade and that really limited my options for a productive workday. What is a girl to do?

No, really. What is a girl to do? Work doesn’t want me – I got up early and wrapped everything up for my holiday vacation. Tie a bow on top of it because I am finished. My house is clean. Beds are made. Laundry done. Packages sent and delivered. Phone is silent. I entered some writing contests. I followed up with editors and sent out a few submissions I’d been putting off. I have this one short story that is slowly working its way into a novella and is in danger of being over-worked so I set it aside until after the holidays. This morning, I found myself sitting on my couch, alone. Staring at the walls.

“Now what?” I thought to myself.

It isn’t often that I don’t have a project or task waiting for me. I’m happiest that way. I don’t do idle well. When I’m idle, I tend to get myself into trouble.

Like the time a friend and I visited that psychic in Kent, Ohio and we ended up cleaning her toilets and doing her laundry.

Or, like that time I ended up in that corn field while rollerblading.

Or, that time I was bored and thought I’d wash my car but then realized I was lazy and took it through the car wash and then got trapped in there.

Or, that time…ok, maybe I ought to wrap up some dignity and keep my trap closed.

For the first time in a very long time, I felt bored and alone and really pretty unwilling to change out of my pajamas. (So, ok, I work from home, mostly. The pajamas thing isn’t unique to today.)

I realize luck brought me this boredom. Normally, I whine about how busy I am even though I actually like it. But, to sit in a quiet house with no demands on my time? No chores set in front of me? That is pure luck, right?

So, now what happens?

When I was younger, my Dad would come home every day from work and ask us kids, “What did you get accomplished today?” This was his way of asking us how our day had gone. Happiness and satisfaction was and is still measured in our level of productivity. We come from Farming Stock and what we put off until tomorrow has a tendency to get out of hand pretty quickly. So, we stay on top of things and we get shit done. That way, when we go to bed at night, we know we accomplished something and when we wake in the morning, our workload is manageable.

But today? By mid-morning, my whole world had gone quiet. I’d found a lull in a busy life and I panicked a little at wasting the time. It is a dreary and rainy day that sort of begs you to sink into a couch somewhere. So, that is what I’ve done. Today has been a movie marathon and old fashioned pop corn day. I am alone but not lonely. I made the popcorn the way I like it and didn’t have to share with anyone. I had it with a big cup of chocolate milk with maybe a little too much chocolate but that was the way I wanted it, too, and no one said a damn word about it.

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I burnt my popcorn, of course. Because, while it was popping I thought I’d just run real quick into the laundry room and do that half load of towels and by the time I got back, the popcorn was a bit black. But, still, there is something special about popping the kernels on the stove. The house smells like a movie theater. I have the volume up a little loud while I watch the second Lord of the Rings movie on DVD. I can watch the extended scenes and no one is calling me a dork to my face because of how many times I’ve seen these movies.

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Dang, Frodo. You are pretty big for a little man.

I suppose we all need a breather, sometimes. I have been so lucky this year – 10 publications in one year (I am proud to say!) – two more (BIG BIG BIG ONES) coming out in 2014. I found a phenomenal writing community. I write, write, write all the time. I completed NaNoWriMo. I spent my ninth year at my job and managed to assist all of my employees in keeping busy and successful – as contractors, that is a big deal. I have absolutely no reason to believe that 2014 won’t be an amazing year. So, now, just at the end of 2013, I’m gifted with a free day before the absolute chaos of Christmas.

So, you know what happens now?

Not a damn thing.

I can’t help but feel like that is somewhat of an accomplishment for me. 

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So, multi tasking is a bad idea when making popcorn on the stove. Just so you know. Notice the char.

Quicksilver to be published in Spark: A Creative Anthology Volume IV

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Spark: A Creative Anthology Volume IV is currently available for pre-sale.

Officially, this anthology will be released in January, 2014.

My short story, Quicksilver, will be just one of many

incredibly entertaining speculative short stories to be anthologized.

Kevin J. Anderson offers a brilliant forward to kick us off which is a real thrill

because I read all of his X-files novels years ago!

I am especially proud of this story because it isn’t often that I

dip into the realm of Science Fiction.

As a reader, I love it.
As a writer, I fear it.

Because readers of Sci Fi are an incredibly discerning and vocal group.

If you don’t approach it with some authenticity and respect,

it is a group that will (rightly) eat you alive.

So just know this: I enter this field with utmost respect and terror.

And love, of course.

I couldn’t write it if I didn’t love it.