Sunday, March 1, 2015

Winter hiatus

It's doubtful many people will browse back to my blog just to see this, but just in case you do, I'm still alive but on hiatus. I'm in the middle of designing a website for All Write Now! a local conference, working on edits for my anthology about colonizing Mars--Building Red--and still trying to keep my job. It's not impossible, but a little overwhelming and my blog, and a few other things, are on the low priority list.

Never fear, though. I have a list of topics that I'm anxious to talk about as soon as I put a few other babies to bed. Time is precious and I want to make sure I do WELL at the projects I'm working on.

Keep writing. Keep revising. It may be cold, but spring is coming.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

#1 Secret of Writing Is...

I went to a conference in 2014 and listened to a famous editor and author list his "secrets" of writing. The beginning of his list was pretty unremarkable. They were things I'd heard before: Write daily. Learn about the craft. Learn about your topic. Learn what your audience wants. Never give up. Read good books.

You know. All the basics.

Then he said something that stuck with me. He said the number one key to becoming a successful writer was...

Wait for it...

Stop watching TV.

I laughed internally. During previous years when I'd researched and written my master's thesis, I quit watching TV because I literally didn't have time to work, take two classes every semester, and read and write 50 pages a night. After that, I was out of the habit. So ha ha, big famous author! I didn't need your advice.

Or did I?

After I went home from that conference I revamped my blog according to his directions and began to get more traffic. So...he was right about that. I read his books on editing and started getting better acceptance rates on my pieces. He was right about that, too. But I wasn't watching TV! Why wasn't I finding time to write and read and do all the things HE was doing?

Oh. Did I mention I have a tablet with apps on it? Fun apps? That are distracting and mind-numbing?

I rationalized the apps as a way to calm down after a long day at work. As an introvert pretending to be an extrovert, having a mind-numbing game at home to look forward to is bliss. Just me and the tablet and some virtual cookies to match, some zombies to explode, some orange pegs to hit, etc. No people to talk to, no pressure, just me and my tablet and silence. Ahh!


One game lead to another and another and soon a five minute break turned into an hour or two. That's enough for several pages of writing and editing. Great work, Cannon. Blew your night's work on a digital sugar/zombie/peg blasting high.

So, I've decided this year things are going to be different. I deleted...YES...deleted my game apps with all the money, all the progress, all the special levels I'd opened and instead am starting a new habit. If I need a break, I'm going to read. Or write. Or edit. Or do something creative. Why?


It hurt. It really did. I felt depressed and angry and deprived. Why did I throw all that effort into the trash? Couldn't I control myself and only play just a little a day? No. I knew with my obsessive tendencies that little doses of something I crave never works, so I took a deep breath and closed the tablet.

And do you know what I've found? Wow! I now have time to make that home made moisturizer I've been wanting to try. And cook a home made meal since who knows when? I've already written two stories and kept up better with the dishes and laundry than I have in years. What can I accomplish now that I have all this time on my hands?

And instead of anger or depression or deprivation I. Feel. Free!

Revising habits is painful. Realizing you're in the wrong is even worse. But admitting you have a problem and fixing it can be freeing. Hopefully, this will mean a new my life. And maybe for some of you, too.



Next week: An open letter/rant to Brent Weeks about his Lightbringer Series.
"Week's Lightbringer Series: A Dark Review"

The Anthology Building Red: The Colonization of Mars
is due to be published summer of 2015 by Walrus Publishing.
Watch for updates and announcements.

If you haven't yet, check out Paradigm Rift a new book by Randy McWilson.
Conspiracy, alternative history, time travel, sci/fi, and thriller never had it so good!

Looking for some steampunk? Check out Brad Cook's Iron Horseman
(I'll be writing a review of it, soon.)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Their Year In Review

Wait a minute. Shouldn't the title be, "My Year in Review"? As in "Cannon's Greatest Hits from 2014"? All my writing achievements? All my running achievements? All the great and wonderful things I've done, seen, and experienced?

Well, who really cares about that other than me? And isn't it a little selfish at the end of the year to focus on only the things I've done and my achievements? What about all the amazing great and horrible things that have happened this year to other folks?

Folks like some good friends of mine who finally ... FINALLY ... have a daughter to adopt after years of having children placed in their home then ripped from their arms?

Folks like a friend of mine who had the courage to leave an abusive relationship, the courage to learn to love again, and the courage to get married?

Folks like my father who turned 80 who can still outwork any single 30 year old man I know simply out of willpower?

Folks like my 69 year-old mother who can power walk a 43 minute 5k and pick five gallon buckets of pecans the next day?

Folks like my brothers-in-law who both had colon surgery within a month of each other (different reasons), survived, and still kept the family business running. Amazing.

Folks like people in my running community who ran 500 miles, 1000 miles, 1821 miles (his number and the number of his daughter who died from cancer), 2400 miles and those I know who qualified to run the Boston Marathon? Again. Yes, I know people who can run that fast.

Folks like the people who own the local running store who help anyone and everyone who come in with advice and support?

However, this year wasn't without pain.

A friend of mine in his 30s died of the flu. It was sudden and all too real.

A friend of mine lost her father. Another lost her husband. Another is going through a difficult divorce.

One niece's husband's father just died. He was a grandfather and a pillar in the community. He'd survived cancer years longer than they expected, seeing his children grow and his grandchildren born. He died New Year's Eve.

Another niece's husband's grandmother died, too. His job wouldn't allow him to take off work to go to the funeral. So much for "family oriented business."

I know of people who work hard every day in service jobs who are underpaid, under-appreciated, and looked down on as "lesser citizens" by others when they are just as worthy human beings as everyone else.

My mother-in-law is in constant pain and none of the doctors know why or how to help her.

Teachers, nurses, firefighters, policemen: people who make it their JOB to help others and are bashed daily for their incompetence based on the behavior of a public few.


Because, dear readers, metaphors are a reflection of our lives. We need to live the story, both good and bad. We can't bury our heads in the sand and ONLY count our trophies at the end of the year and proclaim "I won! I won!" without losing some part of our humanity. As an introvert I'm guiltier than most about hunkering down and hiding when my emotions are overwhelmed, but perhaps that's when I need to get out there and truly feel what others are feeling. Because, dear reader, how am I supposed to write if I can't experience what I'm writing about? And if I lose touch with the world and stop caring, what good am I as a person?

Just some revisionist thoughts on this dawning of a new year. Make it one you're proud to have lived through.



The Anthology Building Red: The Colonisation of Mars
is due to be published summer of 2015 by Walrus Publishing.
Watch for updates and announcements.

If you haven't yet, check out Paradigm Rift a new book by Randy McWilson.
Conspiracy, alternative history, time travel, sci/fi, and thriller never had it so good!

Looking for some steampunk? Check out Brad Cook's Iron Horseman
(I'll be writing a review of it, soon.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Averting Rejection: An Editor's Perspective

As a writer, I've taken my share of rejections and will continue to be rejected. It's part of the process and I understand that. Sometimes someone else has a better piece similar to yours. Sometimes the judge likes another piece better or the judge just wasn't in the mood for my avaunt guard psychoanalytical thesis on the plight of the red gilled eel. Life happens. Get over it. Write more. Submit more.

However, as an editor, I'm now on the receiving end of entries submitted to my anthology Building Red: The Colonization of Mars, and I am the big "meaner" (as one of my former students put it) who has to send out those horrible emails, "Sorry, your piece doesn't fit the 'vision' of our anthology." The experience has been educational and humbling at the same time.

I've learned so far that I cheer for the great stories and groan for the ones who don't make it. Seriously, I'm a softie like that. I've learned that when faced with a sudden influx of 20 stories in one day that I'm not quite sure I can face my inbox, but a cup of hot cocoa and some soft electrotrance helps. I've learned also what I've known for a long time: people don't read directions.

That. Drives. Me. Insane.

Therefore, as an educator, it strikes me as my responsibility to share with anyone who cares to read such things, WHY so many submissions are rejected. Maybe it will help one of you get accepted next time.

1. READ THE WRITING PROMPT. If it's an open submission, you don't have this issue, but my anthology, you had to write about colonizing Mars. The writing prompt is specific in what I want and how I want it formatted. I received MANY well-written stories--publishable stories--that either had NOTHING TO DO with Mars or could have been on ANY alien planet. If the editor/publisher wants something specific, don't send them just any story. Send them what they want. And if they want prose, don't send poetry and vice versa.

2. USE STANDARD FORMATTING. Generally this is Times New Roman, 1" margins, double space, tab or 1/2" indents for paragraphs, but editors/publishers may have specific formatting they prefer for their reading ease. Yes, yes, I can, in a matter of 60 seconds or less, re-format a piece so it is readable, but then I'm already unhappy that the writer didn't follow directions. That predisposes me to not like your story. Most of us have full-time jobs and are doing this after a long day of work. We don't need one more annoyance. Hint, hint.

3. IF WE ASK FOR AN UNPUBLISHED STORY, DON'T SEND A PUBLISHED STORY. You see, this isn't just being persnickety, here, this is a matter of legal responsibility. If I ask for First North American Publishing Rights and you've published anywhere, including on a blog, it's possible there could be some legal ramifications, then lawyers get involved, and...nobody wants to deal with that. So, please, be honest, because in the end, everyone gets hurt if we have to go to court.

4. HAVE SOMEONE PROOFREAD YOUR STORY. Seriously. Don't throw down then send your first draft. Yes, I'm going to be working with my writers to polish their work, but I'm NOT going to mess with a piece that is clearly a first draft. I don't have time. I have a full-time job that pays the bills and this gig is supposed to be FOR FUN. In a few stories submitted I saw potential, asked for a rewrite BEFORE I accepted them, and when they sent in the rewrite, I saw that they could either 1. revise well or 2. still had a long way to go. The ones in the #1 category were chosen, in the #2 did not. It's a matter of how much time I have to help coach and a matter of how much time you're willing to do the work. Period.

5. BE SENSITIVE OF LANGUAGE/SEX/VIOLENCE PREFERENCES. Now on this one, I made the mistake of being too vague. All I said was "no erotica"  but I didn't define what I meant. Several stories described sex acts that to me crossed the erotica line. Another used the "N" word and lots of "MFs". (Thankfully, that one was NOT about Mars and I could reject it because it wasn't written to the prompt.) But, as I said, I didn't specify what I didn't want.

Here are two suggestions to keep in mind: 1. Consider that most anthologies written for adults are generally PG-13 to R rated, not beyond, and 2. Don't make the sex/violence/language THE story or THE focus. It's the setting. The window dressing. The color. When it becomes a distraction to the reader rather than helping tell your story, it's too much. And yes, I know, this is a subjective matter, so go back to point #4 and get some second and third opinions if you're not sure.

6. YOUR STORY ISN'T WELL-WRITTEN. There. I said it. I'm the big "meaner" and you can yell at me all you want, but many of the stories sent to me simply were poorly executed, head-jumping, shallow-character, grammar-error-filled nightmares. But in my defense, I've sent out a few stinkers in my time, so, I'm guilty of this as well. Writing is an art that takes years of practice and FAILURE to master. Yes. Failure. Bloody noses are the best teachers. Do NOT let rejection convince you that you're doomed to be a newspaper delivery person the rest of your life. Keep. Writing. Get in a critique group. Get in a writers' guild. Go to conferences. Practice. Get rejected more. I know this sounds like I'm advocating masochism, but you don't learn if you don't try.

I'm down to the last few entries to choose from and it's heartbreaking. I hate telling people "no" but again, it's a matter of what fits the prompt, how much time I have to work with the writer to polish the work, and the quality of the story. I can't wait to see how this collection turns out!

Revision. It's not just for writers. Editors have to change how they view the world, too.



Building Red is due to be published summer of 2015 by Walrus Publishing.
Watch for updates and announcements.

If you haven't yet, check out Paradigm Rift a new book by Randy McWilson.
Conspiracy, alternative history, time travel, sci/fi, and thriller never had it so good!

Looking for some steampunk? Check out Brad Cook's Iron Horseman
(I'll be writing a review of it, soon.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Paradigm Rift: A Review

Debut authors are often one-hit wonders or flops no matter how good the story, no matter how good the marketing or platform.

I certainly hope that won't be the case for Paradigm Rift.

Yeah, I'm a little biased because I know the guy who wrote it, one Randy McWilson. Yeah, I'm a little biased because I helped him edit the book. But seriously, this is a GOOD book. You should read it.

And if you're a fan of conspiracy theories, government cover-ups, and time travel, well, we have you covered there. You should read it.

As for genre, it's science fiction/mystery/ suspense/alternative history...ah...well, a little of everything. But in good proportions. You should read it.

However, the best parts of Paradigm Rift are the depth of character development and the plot twists. As a videographer, and screen writer, Randy knows how important it is to have unique voices and plots that make your brain say, "What?" and scream, "NO!" and want to beat the snot out of someone but you're too busy flipping to the next page to find out what happens.

His meticulous research into historical events, into the real city of Normal, Illinois, into the sights and sounds that his characters experience, and the etymology of words and items make the historical passages and vocabulary in the book authentic.

Paradigm Rift is the first of four books planned in the series that parallels Randy's screenplays that are now being represented in Hollywood. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. You might be seeing this on TV in the next couple of years.

So what's my advice? Buy it now so you can say, "Hey, I knew about this before all y'all did!" Just click on any of the titles to go to Amazon and choose your format today.

Here's an awesome trailer he made for the books and the movie. Enjoy!


Upcoming announcements:

I'm in the final stages of choosing pieces for the Mars colonization anthology, 
Building Red, for Walrus Publishing.

Stay tuned for updates on the list of contributors, cover art, 
publication dates, and much more!

Friday, October 10, 2014

True Love = True Revision

The Impressive Clergyman: Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder today. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam.... And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva.... So tweasure your wuv.

Prince Humperdinck: Skip to the end.

The Impressive Clergyman: Have you da wing?


As an early, cynical teen, I watched The Princess Bride for the first time and found to my heart ‘s delight a soul-mate in  William Goldman and Rob Reiner’s vision of “tru wuv” and the false trappings of Western romance. Buttercup was an idiot. Wesley only loved her for her perfect breasts. The Prince needed a helpless victim so he could justify going to war. Vizzini loved only himself. The only “tru wuv”s in the movie were the deep friendship between Inigo and Fezzik and the love of the grandfather for his grandson.

Which suited cynical me just fine. I cheered when stupid Wesley died in the first five minutes. My sister reassured me, “He doesn’t really die,” spoiling the rest of the movie for me. (I almost quit watching, but she insisted it got better, including the best sword fight ever, so I stuck it out. It was worth the sword fight.) I hated the fact it ended up being a “kissing book,” but when I read the REAL book and found out the REAL sad, depressing, heart wrenching ending, I cheered even more! Down with romance! Down with “wuv”! Romance is stupid!

So, I grew up, determined not to fall into the trap, determined to live single my entire life and, whoops, what happens? Uh, hmm. Yep. God has a sense of humor. Never say never. I protested too much. All that jazz hands. 

Seventeen years ago I married an amazing man who has cheered and suffered with me through all of what life has brought us. And not brought us. It’s been wonderful. It’s been awful. It’s been hysterical. It’s been depressing. But through it all, we’ve clung to each other, relied on each other, and supported each other with a singular focus: divorce is not an option because love is sometimes a choice, not a feeling.

Now I realize this is a philosophy not everyone can accept. I’m not going to judge, scream at, look down on, or make fun of anyone who disagrees with me or who had gotten a divorce. Everyone has to make their own choices in life. And it has to be a choice that BOTH parties make. For us, this is OUR choice and it has worked for us.

See, the Greek language describes love better than English does. We have this one word “love” and it covers a multitude of feelings. “I love pizza,” doesn’t really mean the same as, “I love Hugh Jackman,” and “I love my husband,” is in another category altogether. And when I say, “I love my neighbor,” I may not like them, but I respect them as a fellow human being and that is another type of love. 

In my opinion, Western love has been warped into this strange creature, flighty and unknowable, that changes with the seasons, is focused mainly on the act of sexual gratification, and carries little meaning other than what one feels in the moment: what is good for ME right NOW. That isn't love. That's selfishness. Greed. Self-gratification.

Wouldn’t the world be a strange place if—crazy concept—love was instead a commitment to creating an environment--a community--where other parties are uplifted and happy? Feel safe and secure? Where others' needs are put before the needs of the self? Delayed gratification for the self—especially physically—so that other people's needs are met first? Hmmm. A bit of life revision might be needed there. 

A strange thing happens when you serve others with this kind of love: you receive more love back AND you feel better about yourself. WHOA! I don't know if we're ready for THAT kind of world. No riots, no shootings, no rapes, no burglaries...I can dream, right?

But let's get back to reality. Can "tru wuv" exist in this awful world of ours? Can people stand each other long enough to live 20, 30, even 50 years together anymore and be happy? My parents have hit 50 and Husband's parents are close. They're happy. I know others with some time on their rings who are happy. Something has to be working for some people.

Therefore, I decided I would publish MY list of what I think are examples of “tru wuv” in my relationship. It might not be for yours, but it is real and it is raw and it is from the heart:

“Tru wuv” is:

  • A husband who quietly searches through laundry baskets for his clothes because the wife only does “emergency” laundry until there’s nothing left to do, then she does a panicked fury of seven loads in a day (the number of baskets we have) but doesn’t put the clothes up. 
  • A husband who patiently scoots over the wife’s piles of stuff to do his work. Note that “piles” is plural and that every flat surface in the house is covered with piles. Including sections of the floor.
  • A husband who calmly listens to his wife scream about how hard her job is, watches her fall asleep on the couch, makes her mac and cheese or chicken quesadillas for supper, then holds her as she cries and eats it. 
  • A husband who helps her find her lost keys. Again. And again. Did I mention again?
  • A husband who washes the dishes without being asked. And puts them away. Unlike the wife who forgets to put away the laundry.
  • Did I mention helping her find the keys?
  • A husband who knows when to comfort his wife, when to let her grumble in the corner, and when to ask her, “Do you want to go for a run, dear?”
  • A husband who is still at home when the wife doesn’t get home from work until 8:00 or 9:00 pm several days in a row. 
  • A husband who can discuss politics, religion, Dungeons and Dragons, Internet memes, and computers with the wife and not only keep up, but keep her intrigued. And teach her something. 
  • A husband who forgives his wife for what she can’t give him and lives with her depression and craziness when she can’t control it. 
  • A husband who isn’t perfect but tries to be the best husband he can, so the wife will reciprocate. 

I have to admit, I haven’t been the best wife I can be lately. My job, my writing, my editing, and my life in general have taken over and I haven’t been spending the time I should on my relationship. I aim to change that, though.

Revision. It’s what makes life interesting…and hopefully better.
To commemorate my step in the right direction, I decided to do something I’ve been putting off. Not out of any other reason other than forgetfulness. It has to do with that box up at the top. 

You see, when I started running, I began to lose weight. Soon, I couldn’t wear my wedding ring. So, I took it off and put it in my jewelry box so it wouldn’t get flung off or lost somewhere. Husband never complained but he did mention it a few times. I know he missed seeing it on my finger.

Last week I took it to a jeweler to have it resized. I didn’t tell Husband. During our anniversary dinner, I gave it to him to give back to me. He smiled, pulled it out, and slipped it on my finger.


Full-circle revision. The power of the One Ring.

See what I did there? (See last week's post.)

Now, you try.


Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Metaphor of the Ring in Fantasy

One Ring to rule them all, One ring to find them; One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Any fantasy geek that's read his or her share of lore knows where this quote originates. And he or she knows there's more to the story: there's not just One Ring. There are 20 total:

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

And if you've read J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, not just watched Peter Jackson's masterful interpretation of the series, you know these rings pack a powerful punch. They also hint of powers we don't see in the books or on the screen.

My question is, though, why a ring? Why not a necklace? Or a brooch or a button or a earring? (Those do exist, but...) What is so mythical about a ring? You know Tolkien isn't the first to use this piece of jewelry as a foil for a metaphor for power don't you? Here are a few examples:

Classical Antiquity:
The Ring of Gyges was found by a shepherd and could supposedly turn the wearer invisible. He used it to overthrow the king and become ruler himself.

The Seal/Ring of Solomon or Ring of Aandaleeb was purportedly given to King Solomon by the Archangel Gabriel to control demons who were interfering with the construction of God's temple.

Norse Mythology:
The Kingmoor Ring detailed with Viking runes was supposed to ward off sickness.

The plot of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel The Rose and the Ring revolves around a ring that made the wearer beautiful to those who saw him or her.

Piers Anthony presents a ring of wishes in Castle Roogna (a popular theme reflected in modern role-playing games, but GMs tend to be picky on the wording and don't give out pure wishes anymore. The Wish of Bureaucracy may be the worst.)

Forgotten Realms and other d20 role playing games include a variety of magic rings.

Green Lantern's ring that harnesses willpower and the various other colored rings in his universe.

C.S. Lewis' book The Magician's Nephew has rings that allow transportation between universes.

So...why do writers choose rings?

Here are a few of my theories:

  1. It's easy for both friend and foe to see, therefore you can show your power without flaunting it. Or flaunt it if you wish.
  2. It's easy to hide with a glove unless your bling is large and gaudy.
  3. It's easy to access if it needs to be activated (twisted, touched, pressed, etc.)
  4. You can access it without anyone knowing (behind your back, as your arms are crossed, etc.).
  5. As most powerful objects are cursed, it's an easy location to either (a.) get stuck and not come off or (b.) accidentally come off at the wrong moment.
  6. Point and shoot if it's that kind of power.
  7. Rings signify eternity (an unending band of material) and if made of gold or platinum, nontarnishable material. That in itself is powerful.
  8. Depending on the finger where you place it, supposedly you access different power centers in the body (I won't discuss that here. Too much conflicting info out there. Cool stuff, though.)
  9. If you're a bad guy and the plot requires the good guy to get the ring, it's generally a matter of "hack off the finger/hand" and run. Gross, but highly effective as a plot device. Trying to hack off an ear for an earring or grabbing someone's chest for a necklace can get a little slapstick. Works if you're writing comedy, though.
  10. They're in general small. Easy to transport, hide, and steal. Another cool plot device.
But what does this metaphor mean?

Besides being a fashion statement, rings symbolize our tie to something. It may be a person, a memory, a place or whatever else. That tie, though, is powerful. Every time we see that ring, touch it, spin it, hold it in our hands, we think about that person, memory, place, or whatever. It's an eternal band of emotion wrapped around our hearts and minds that we can't shake off even if the physical ring itself is lost or if the ring is no longer worn.

Rings are powerful pieces of modern magic that when used by the right people in the right way can forge amazing bonds. I hate it when I see people blithely throwing rings at each other only to split up a few months later because they now "love" someone else. A ring is supposed to mean a commitment, not just a gushy feeling of, "Ooh, this person is HOT!" 

What does love really mean?

Where am I going with this? 

Next week is October, my birthaversary month. (You read that right. Husband and I married on my birthday.) I have a very special post for my very special person and I can't wait to share it with all of you, too.

Revision isn't just for writing. It's for life, too. And boy, have things changed in 17 years!

What does the ring metaphor mean to you (either in literature or in life)?


Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
True Love = True Revision

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s