Life as a Moving Target review

Today marks the released of Life as a Moving Target, by Erin Zarro, a chapbook published by Turtleduck Press.

The publisher site describes it:

Life as a Moving Target is a poetry chapbook that explores living with fibromyalgia and intractable vertigo, from onset of symptoms to getting a diagnosis. Also the aftermath, learning to cope and manage the condition. Poems of hope, courage, and strength of spirit.

I know people who suffer from these problems (as well as others), and I know there can be beauty in our experience of suffering and our reaction to it, so I looked forward to reading this collection.

Some of Erin’s poems hark toward looking for that beauty in the pain, using imagery such as a chrysalis to describe how she felt, hibernating away from the world that she’d grown accustomed to. After reading lines like “I have no voice, no clean perceptions. / Lobotomized, silenced by the bell,” I will never look at a cocoon the same way again.

The lines that most affected me:

I tiptoe upside down
on the tightrope
of life.

Again and again, she uses metaphors for balance, for movement, for focus — tightropes and pirouettes, crawling, tops, the world pulling her along with it. Other images appear, rainbows and fog, medical terms and magic, shadows and shapes.

Overall, this is an incredibly moving and personal collection of poems, that deserves to be lingered with, reread, and shared. I encourage everyone to check out the excerpt at the Turtleduck Website and consider buying the chapbook.


You’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted as much the past couple of weeks. I’ve been under the weather and feeling like it was taking all I had to get my work done, spend time with my family, and try to get some words in for NaNoWriMo. Monday, I finally went to the doctor’s office and found that I have acute bronchitis. So the less energy, less oxygen for the brain feeling? Perfectly normal.

I now have a plethora of medications, and they’re beginning to help. Meanwhile, I’m going to try to be here (I have a review I need to post later today for a poetry chapbook), but if I’m not on as much, it’s because I’m still recovering.

What have I gotten done in the last couple of weeks? Proofread a book, read three books (Kraken by China Miéville, Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, and Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold), spent Thanksgiving weekend with my family (lots of cooking and movie watching), and wrote almost 1,000 words per day on average for NaNoWriMo. No, I didn’t win this year — second year I haven’t — but I feel good about the story so far. Fortunately, reading books and watching movies don’t take much energy.

Now I’m looking at December and seeing what I need to wrap up for the year, as well as looking ahead to 2011. I won’t post my 2011 ideas yet, but here’s what I’m looking at for this month:

  1. Get well. This may take a week or two, possibly even longer for the cough to fade completely.
  2. Finish writing the novel I started for NaNoWriMo. It’s a cozy mystery, estimating final word count around 60,000 words, which means I’m over half done with it.
  3. Finish the short story I started in November and send it off to its intended market.
  4. Round up the stories that I currently don’t have out at markets (I wasn’t particularly good at resubmitting things during November) and get them back out the door.
  5. Family time — birthdays, concert, holidays, luminaria, getting Christmas cards mailed.

That should keep me occupied.

Other things happening this month:

  • My book giveaway contest ends Friday, and I’ll be choosing a winner this weekend. If you haven’t entered yet, do so!
  • My drabble, “Heartbeat,” will be the e-mail story for Daily Science Fiction on December 7th.

What about you? What are your December plans?

Monday drabble: Silly string

The Silly String took over Joey’s brain when he was eight. He didn’t mean for it to happen — I don’t think anyone even knew it could happen. He held the can up next to his nose and pretended to sneeze the string out, as people do, but he goofed and inhaled. His mom took him to the emergency room, but the doctor said he couldn’t see anything wrong with Joey.

His grades got better after that; he could finally string his thoughts together.

When he grew up, he went to work in a gag factory. He’s working on upgrading himself.

Chocolate chip cookies Q & A

Chocolate chip cookies? Goodness, what is there to ask about them? Is this really worth a blog post?

Why not? It’s a topic I know.

In college, I was required to take a class in public speaking. I’m so not into talking to a group of people, but I did it. One of the class assignments was to give an informative talk — how-to, something like that — with appropriate visual aids. I did baking chocolate chip cookies, and I passed around samples of the dough at the various stages of preparation, with plenty of chocolate chip cookies for everyone to demonstrate that I knew what I was talking about.

On to the questions:

Q: Do you have a favorite chocolate chip recipe?

A: For the longest time, I used a modified version of the Tollhouse Cookie recipe (half-melted butter), and then for a while, I tried the one that comes with butter-flavored Crisco sticks. These days, I glance at the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip package, use a mix of butter and shortening, and occasionally even add baking powder for a more “puffy” cookie.

Q: Do you have any favorite brands that you use?

A: King Arthur flour. For the chips, not as much, although I’ve stopped using Nestle — they don’t melt properly for other recipes, so I don’t buy them. (Love oatmeal fudge bars, must be able to melt the chips!) For vanilla, not a brand, but a condition: No sweetener added.

Q: Cookie dough or cookies?

A: Both! I usually bake a couple dozen cookies and keep the rest as dough for people to munch on.

Any other questions? Leave them in the comments! As always, thanks for reading!

Monday drabble: Rain

The old man stared out at the night sky. He had not slept since the previous rains; he knew his next sleep would be his last sleep. He sat and watched, but no rain came. Did his watchfulness keep it away, though he hoped for its coming? Rain dances had not helped, prayers had not helped, even silver nitrate had not helped.

His grandson’s family would leave in the morning, seeking new land with water, hope, and opportunity — leaving the home of their family for generations. Tears welled in the old man’s eyes. Outside, drops fell.

Sleep came at last.

Rejection Q & A

Being rejected, like anything else in life, is something you have to practice. Fortunately, it’s something other people are often more than willing to help you practice. Don’t believe me? Quick, send your resume to half a dozen multinational conglomerates, along with a cover letter stating that you’d like to be their new CEO. See, now wasn’t that easy?

As a writer who wants to be professionally published (more on how to define “professionally published” some other time), I get a lot of practice at being rejected. This year alone, I have been rejected more than 100 times.

I’ve been rejected so often that I’m starting to get more acceptances. That’s the way rejections work. The more you put yourself out there, the better your chances of being accepted.
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NaNoWriMo Q & A

I debated off and on whether this was too obvious a topic to blog about, but I realize not everyone knows what it is, and I can offer my usual quirky opinions.

Q: So what’s the point of trying to write a novel in a month?

A: What’s the point of trying to write a novel at all? We’re creating!

Q: Have you done this before?

A: This is my eighth year. I’ve only missed the target once, the one year I got five days in and decided to change books. I only wrote 15,000 words that year.

Q: What’s the most unexpected NaNoWriMo connection you’ve ever had?

A: This year, I wore a NaNoWriMo winner’s shirt while flying across the country with my family. A man in an airport convenience shop looked at me and said, “Congratulations.” I had no idea what he was talking about at first, and he said, “NaNoWriMo. I tried one year and only got five thousand words.” I told him that was better than if he hadn’t tried, and encouraged him to make another go at it. I hope he’s out there NaNoing right now.

Q: What’s the latest you’ve ever stayed up writing?

A: Um. I know there have been some up-until-3 binges. I don’t remember pulling an all-nighter, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. Those things tend to blur the memory, after all.

Q: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever put into a book to hit your word count?

A: The strangest thing? Last year, I wrote about a guy traveling across the South with his zombie coonhound, a back-up singer, and a Neanderthal. It doesn’t get much stranger than that.

Q: What helps your word count the most, then?

A: Definitely the dead bodies.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions of your own, leave them in the comments.

publication news

My book review of I Have This Nifty Idea . . . Now What Do I Do With It?, edited by Mike Resnick, is up at Vision magazine. (This book was a 2002 Hugo nominee for Best Related Book.)

My short story, “Essence of Truth,” will be e-mailed tomorrow (November 5) by Daily Science Fiction. If you haven’t subscribed, it will be up on their Website next week. (But you don’t really want to wait a week to read it, do you?)

I now return to my regularly scheduled NaNo insanity.

Wednesday drabble: NaNoWriMo

“Whatcha doing?” Gena bounced to a stop next to her dad’s desk.

He didn’t look up from his laptop. “Writing.”

“Whatcha writing?”

He sighed but still didn’t look up. “I’m working on a novel.”

Her eyes widened. “Are you going to write it all today?”

“No, but I’ll get a good start this month — 50,000 words. It’s NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month.”

“Is that a lot?”

“Enough to start, although I’ll have to keep going. I promise we’ll do something together when November’s over.”

“You say that every year.”

He didn’t answer; he’d gone back to his writing.


In other words, I do apologize for not posting on Monday, but I’ve signed up for the madness yet again (eighth year in a row). I will try to be better about posting.

Halloween Q & A

It’s a bit of a trite idea to write about Halloween this weekend, I know, but I’m not going to stay away just because all the popular kids are doing it. Or because they’re not. As a quick trip to Wikipedia would tell you, Halloween is our current form of Hallowe’en, from Hallows, Even, from All Hallows’ Eve — in other words, the night before All Saints’ Day. Yes, this wonderful day is rooted in Catholic tradition, including the tradition of taking customs that existed before they converted the locals and putting a Catholic spin on them.

This week’s questions:

Q: What’s your favorite Halloween moment?

A: That’s easy — I met my husband at a Halloween party.

Q: How old were you when you stopped trick-or-treating?

A: Stopped? Wait, you mean I’m not supposed to carry a bag, too, when I go out with my kids?

Q: Seriously?

A: Okay, okay. In grad school. I took the kids out for the family I lived with, and I wore a costume, too. I wound up giving my candy to the little girl, who had dragged her bag on the ground.

Q: What’s your favorite candy to get?

A: Can I pick two? Smarties and miniature Reese’s.

Q: And to give?

A: Oddly enough, that’s what I have to give away, too. That way, if we don’t get too many trick-or-treaters, I’m set!

Q: Favorite bit of Halloween trivia?

A: Nevada was admitted to the Union as a state on October 31, 1864. Thus, Halloween is a holiday — Nevada Day (a fact I appreciated growing up!).

Q: Are you wearing a costume this year?

A: I just found my pointy ears, so anything’s possible.

That said, trick-or-treating here is Friday night, so I need to make sure my kids are ready. Have a safe weekend, everybody, and as always, thank you for reading!

(Don’t forget — you can still enter my Hadley Rille Books book giveaway!)