50 Weeks of Living My Novels

As a pretend Fictional Woman of Action (is pretend plus fictional redundant?), the first must-do on my list is to clean out my energy.

Did you expect me to say, “Work out hard”?  Oh please, I’m already in pretty good shape, and no doubt I’ll spend a few of these 50 weeks hurling myself into harebrained jock stunts.  In the meantime, it’s my mind/ body connection that needs a lube job.

meditation

My character Layla doesn’t do any meditation stuff in her story, but in her backstory she’s dabbled in it.  My character Charity MacCay, in contrast, can be superstitious but doesn’t have a mystical bone in her body.  But then there’s Modesty Blaise, who I want to be in my next life and who spent time in India mastering advanced mind control.

Me? Hell, I’ll try anything.

Thus I found myself… um… kinda naked, lying flat on my back on a table in a dark room and receiving the sometimes painful energy massage of a Lomi Lomi ritual.  It’s from the Hawaiian spirituality of Huna, which has long fascinated me, and during it I felt  very exposed.  And weird.   Especially since I can get self-conscious over things like nakedness.

For me, relaxing and concentrating took a lot of effort on my part, but I though I succeeded.

Turns out only my mind went where I wanted it to.  The Lomi Lomi therapist told me that parts of my body never seemed to let go.   This explains why some muscles in my legs and hips that have tightened up from injuries still won’t stretch normally.   I’ve really got to work on physically relaxing.

See, one reason I used to meditate is ’cause I can go to bed and sleep while still so tense I’ll wake up sick.  Once I woke up with bad hives from nerves. Physical relaxation that others can take for granted I’ve gotta work at.  And Action Women have GOT to be in control of their bodies.

AND NOW FOR A NEW FEATURE:

Funny and way-too-smart Mike Offut (www.SLC Kismet.com) and I both have a thing for the show Sleepy Hollow, and he suggested that we pose a question to each other each week on our blogs.

Mike asked me, “How would you describe the moment you realized Sleepy Hollow was something you would watch faithfully every week?”

My answer:  When I saw Ichabod Crane, as played by Tom Mison, and fell madly in love with him.  And because I really liked Abbie’s character and how she and Crane used their brains and skills to escape the headless horseman.  Then there’s the atmosphere, which reminded me of Halloween, and the way Police Chief Irving appeared to be in on Sleepy Hollow’s ancient secrets, which go back to the American Revolution.  Oh, of course I’m a history buff.

I’m FINALLY changing this ol’ blog around.

Obviously Becoming Layla needs to be shaken up.  It’s tired.  I’m tired.  And I haven’t updated the ever-so-tame layout since I started this sucker.  It’ll probably take me another month to make the visual changes, but in the meantime we’re two weeks into 2015, which means there are 50 weeks left in the year.  That’s 50 once-a-week postings.

modesty in car

And what I’m gonna do each week for the rest of 2015 is this:

Anything I damn well please.

So long as I spend several hours every week living like a woman from an exciting novel.  Preferably one of my novels, but vintage Modesty Blaise stories (LOVE ‘EM) are also candidates.

I mean, here I am writing stories like The Compass Master and my two Charity MacCay historicals, and even a screenplay with a (very young) brave heroine, and what have I let my weekly life devolve to? Working in the office.  Coming home.  Either doing chores and errands or crashing on the sofa because I’m exhausted.  Putting off writing and editing and publishing because I’m so discouraged as a writer.  Not going out and having fun because of time and money limits or the weather stinks or there’s no one to play with.

So for my own sake and to give you something worth reading, I plan to do some fun, exciting, weird, glamorous, dark, or just plain silly stuff.  Then I’ll write a BRIEF and FUNNY report.  Definitely briefer and funnier than this sad post.

action novel

When I started this blog I wrote about becoming Layla, which entailed my learning to do what my Compass Master heroine could do, from skydiving to paragliding to parkour to lock picking and other challenges.  I’m still an epée fencer, of course, and once the weather warms up I’ll get in more physical action.  But instead of banging myself up this time around I’m going to focus on crazy or serious or just plain very different (for me) experiences.

PLEASE NOTE:

If you have a book being published or in any way need a shout out from me, I’d be delighted to add them to a post or have a middle-of the week post about you and your novels and stories.

Got any great non-writing plans of your own for the year?

Weird Inspirations

on January 11, 2015 in Misc | 9 Comments »

So you know how last week I mentioned (humorously) flying saucers.  In the comments I also wrote that my mom and sister had witnessed a weird UFO thing in New Mexico, and Carol Kilgore commented that she too had seen something weird there.

Carol, my dear – I WANNA KNOW WHAT YOU SAW!  Please tell me.

close-encounters-truck

As for Mom and Sis – like I said, it was straight out Close Encounters.  You know the great scene with Richard Dreyfus in his truck being rocked by an unseen UFO?  After that we see a brilliant spotlight shooting down from somewhere above and onto the road ahead… and then nothing… and then farther down the road it shines again… and then nothing.

That’s what happened outside my sister’s home.  This was near Santa Fe where the adobe houses were widely scattered, with only acres of desert brush in between and no roads or streetlights or noise except for the occasional coyote yelp.  Mom and Sis were looking out the glass doors on the south side when a massive ray from above suddenly and in complete silence appeared… then blinked off.  Then a little farther along it appeared again… then blinked off.  Then nothing.

If there was a huge UFO up there sending down those lights, they never found out ’cause they stayed inside.

spotlight

Anyway, this wasn’t the incident that inspired my (still in progress) sci-fi novel.  Instead, a story took root in my mind when The Denver Post ran a front-page article about a rancher in southern Colorado who had two bizarre cases of mutilated calves.  One night, he said, he and his wife saw silent and “translucent blue” lights in the sky.  In the following days the two calves turned up dead and with certain body parts neatly removed, yet there were no signs of predator or even human involvement.

And that’s how a weird news story gave me an idea for a story.   Have you ever come across something so weird it inspired you to write a book?

One Last Year

on January 5, 2015 in Misc | 18 Comments »

For 2015, I declare that these are my literary resolutions.  The details may sound a little crazy to some of you, but that’s because I’m finally diving off the literary deep end.  See, one year from now I plan and really want to quit writing (except privately and for fun only).  So if this is my last year of trying to get published, whether traditionally or indie, I might as well go crazy and wild.

With this in mind, I henceforth resolve to…
cow 2

  1. Finish my sci fi novel.  This will entail photographing a flying saucer as it teleports a cow for dissection, then drops it back to earth in yet another mysterious case of cattle mutilation.  Besides the cool publicity this will generate for my similarly-themed story, my photo of the saucer (not the dead cow) can serve as the book’s cover.

  2. Finish polishing my two Charity MacCay novels.  I will simultaneously make frequent hiking trips to the mountains, where I plan to find and film a Bigfoot.  Odds of this happening:  better than the odds of my getting a decent book contract for my Charity novels.  At least the hiking will get me away from my computer once in a while.

  3. Finish my screenplay.  This means ghost hunting in Ireland, which is the setting for my supernatural-themed screenplay.  Such hunting may not get my screenplay read, but I can write off my expenses tax-wise.

  4. Finish and self-publish an essay, the short form of which is Layla Daltry’s master’s thesis in The Compass Master.  I must therefore obtain copyright permission from the estate of a late British author’s book in order to complete my effort.  Again, photographing Bigfoot might be easier.

bigfoot field

That’s pretty much it, folks.  The year 2015 will be for me the year of serious writing and crazy living.

Do you have anything crazy planned for your own writing year?

By the way, the UFO calendar and Bigfoot Field Guide were gifts I received at Christmas.   So in their own twisted way my family is being supportive.

Seasonal Writing

on December 14, 2014 in Misc | 8 Comments »

‘Tis the season when we writers get neurotic.

You know what I mean.  We pause under the mistletoe, or beside the warm embers in the hearth, or while imbibing wine and good cheer and ask ourselves, “What did I write this last year, and why isn’t it enough?”

naughty

Sure, there are you disciplined, successful writers who could pull out a list of what you’ve written and what you’ve seen published, to say nothing of the hot irons you’ve got in the literary fire for 2015.

But when I cast my gaze over the previous twelve months, all I can think is, why didn’t I finish polishing my two Charity MacCay novels?  Why didn’t I finish that offbeat scifi novel I started just for fun?  Why haven’t I finished the screenplay, never mind that I just started it in October?

Some of you may remember that a couple Christmas holidays ago I pretty much swore off writing. Well, that resolution fell off the wagon.  But in some ways I did stop writing, because ever since then I haven’t set a single writing deadline.  I have little faith in my writing and especially in my get-it-published ability.  And since I have scant free time I’ve even found myself resenting having to spend it on writing.

But you know how it goes, don’t you?  Just when you think you’ve given up the literary ghost, the urge to finish telling a certain story, to find out what happens to your characters, to get your novel into some kind of print so that a couple friends and maybe a stranger or two will read it—that urge comes over you like an addiction and you find yourself at the keyboard and typing away.

reindeer

This season, things are a little different for me.  I’m pretty much resolved to finish that screenplay soon.  I’m writing an essay-length non-fiction piece.  I’ve even figured out what to do in the sci-fi story. And Charity will be in print in 2015. And that’s that. If I never write another story, I can live with myself. But I do have to finish what I’ve started or I’ll go crazy.

This will be my last post until January.  I hope to see you back here, and I really hope you have a happy, healthy, and peaceful holiday season that’s full of love and other good stuff.

Take care. And please tell me about your own writing plans.

Wilde Promotion

on December 8, 2014 in Misc | 8 Comments »

oscar ny

This last week I learned a literary fact that surprised the heck out of me.

At the age of 27, Oscar Wilde set out to become a great celebrity.  Not a great writer, not a brilliant playwright and poet and essayist, but simply very, very famous.  So he set sail from England to the United States in 1882 and within days gained access to “America’s best-connected writers, scholars, salonistes and politicians, though he jawed just as jauntily with farmers, miners and cowboys.”

He quickly arranged to sit for a prominent photographer in Manhattan. Why? Because “New Yorkers were obsessed with collecting 4-by-6 cardboard-backed celebrity portraits, the Pokémon cards of the fin de siècle.  The image-conscious Wilde instantly saw the value of the trend:  The right photograph would burnish his image and magnify his mystique.”

(These quotes are from a New York Times review of a new biography, WILDE IN AMERICA, by David M. Friedman)

wilde colored

No one before Wilde had used the press so skillfully to establish a claim to renown,” Friedman argues, ably proving his point by following his subject from interview to interview, state to state, charting the shrewd steps Wilde took to build his brand, “devising a formula for creating fame that other modern celebrities — all of them far more shallow than he — are using today, whether they know it or not.”

Did you hear that?  Oscar Wilde built his brand first.  He first made himself a commodity the press eagerly covered.  He realized that “celebrity could come before accomplishment.”  Then only after he was famous did he sail back to England and launch his literary career.  Of course, unlike most celebrities he really was a genius and produced several literary masterpieces.

Obviously I’ve been going about my literary career (a word I use as a joke) all wrong.  Fame should have come first.  The trouble is, I lack not only Wilde’s literary genius, I completely lack his genius for self-promotion.  And honestly, the idea of promoting myself as opposed to my novels just seems…. weird.  I would feel so fake, so self-conscious, so strange. And yet, there’s something deliciously appealing about Wilde’s plan.

What about you?  I mean, we’ve all read the advice-to-writers about building our “brand” first and so on.  But do you think you could launch a self-promotion campaign the way Wilde did?

Have a great week.

It’s Sunday night.  My long holiday weekend has drawn to a close, and I figured I should write down a few things for which I found myself grateful.

fat cat

Much as I am grateful for my job, I am also grateful that I could sleep in for four days.

I am grateful that I love my cat so much I didn’t kill her when for four days in a row she woke me up early by repeatedly sticking her face in mine and walking around on my bed until I got up and fed her.

I am grateful that I had enough discipline to get in four good workouts in a row.

I am grateful that when I go to work on Monday I won’t have to go down to the building’s workout room because my body will be too sore and tired for more exercise.

I am grateful to my friend Linda for having me to her home where more than a dozen friends and family had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

I am grateful that she only wanted me to bring a loaf of bread from a local bakery so I didn’t have to bake anything.

I am grateful that I didn’t have to clean my place because I didn’t have anyone over.

I am grateful that instead of coming over my friends Ann and Rich invited me to go with them to a comedy club where all of the comedians were excellent.

I am grateful that I didn’t plan to get any writing done but I wrote anyway and am happy with what I scribbled down.

I am grateful for my warm place on these cold days and enough money that I can buy food whenever I want, because too many people aren’t that lucky.

Finally, I am grateful for all of you, my wonderful blog friends.  I hope your own Thanksgiving was a feast of love and joy and wine and turkey meat.  Or soy turkey, if you’re vegan.

Take care.  Love ya.

You know what’s kinda incredible?  I might have a better chance at selling a screenplay than I do a novel.

As y’all know, I’ve recently become very discouraged about simply getting an agent.  What doesn’t help us novelists is that far more people than ever are writing books, so agents and publishers are overwhelmed with submissions.

old movie set

Yet the possibility of selling a screenplay is supposed to be far tougher, especially for feature films—the odds are about 50,000 to one. It can even be extremely tough selling a made-for-TV screenplay for, say, the WE or SciFi channels (home of such film classics as Sharknado and Big Ass Spider).

So it’s really kinda wild when I found out that the odds of selling a screenplay are now tilted ever so slightly in my favor.  Say, only 10,000 to one.  You know why?

Because I know someone who knows a couple people in “the business” and he said he’d be happy to pass on my screenplay to them.

OMG!

Okay, sure, I still have to write the freaking thing.  I had only completed the first 15 minutes when I set it aside because I was too busy, too discouraged, and too much of a realist to think there was a chance in hell of selling it.  But the facts are these:

  1. If I finish my screenplay and it’s very good, someone who matters might read it.

  2. Since the story is set in Ireland, I can submit it to the Irish Film Commission and they might send it on to producers.

  3. I just plain love the story and want to write it.

irish sheep

So there you have it: a little bit of encouragement!  It’s kinda nice to head into the holidays with a faint glimmer of hope.

May all of you have a fantastic and happy Thanksgiving.  Please let me know how your own writing plans are for the upcoming holidays—I wish you the greatest of success.

Me Bad, Milo Good

on November 16, 2014 in Misc | 12 Comments »

Today I’ve got good news and bad news

The good news concerns Milo James Fowler and his new release, Yakuza Territory. 

bore cat

But first, the bad stuff.  A second agent has rejected my Charity MacCay novel.  What hurt so much this time was that she criticized my book, whereas the first agent had praised it.  What’s more frustrating still is that these two agents had polar opposite opinions on a couple points.

First agent:  “Moreover, you have a keen eye for detail – sensory, emotional, and historical – that brings the setting vibrantly to life.”

Second agent:  “I had a hard time investing the historical setting of the novel…  I also didn’t find enough in the descriptions or the social exchanges between characters to really bring the historical setting alive for me.”

My reaction:  Stunned silence.

Anyway, when Mike Offut (the gifted scifi writer over at SLC Kismet) found out I was feeling down he wrote me a great email.  It was wise and deliciously snarky and made me feel better.  He pointed out that just about the only people getting major book contracts these days, besides established writers, have great connections or they’re famous or in the news.

Mike is right.  For so many of us obscure writers the traditional publishing scene is tougher than ever and can be spirit-crushing.  So I have made a couple of decisions.

As Mike advises, I am going to get on with my life and will write only when it’s enjoyable for me and ’cause I want to tell myself and my friends a story.  The ultimate goal of getting traditionally published MUST NOT be in the back of my mind.

Also, if I want to line up an agent and publisher, I should make them come to me.  And that means I have to become famous.  Since I have no idea how to get famous, I am willing to entertain any suggestions or ideas you may have.  The wilder the better.

Yakuza_Territory_-_Cover_Art_-_FB

AND NOW TO THE IMPORTANT GOOD NEWS…

Musa Publishing is proud to announce the release of Milo James Fowler’s most recent science fiction novella Yakuza Territory.

Take a moment to discover what happens when a hardboiled detective story is set in a science fiction world:

A detective with no way out.

A telepath with something to prove…

World-weary detective Charlie Madison has seen more than his share of war. When he stops by the 37th precinct late one night to check on his old friend Sergeant Douglass, the place is as quiet as a morgue. The last thing he expects to find: half a dozen Russian gunmen with a score to settle.

What starts out as a vicious Alamo-style battle soon evolves into something more sinister as Madison’s past comes into play. Will his ties to a branch of the Japanese mafia be a help or a hindrance? And who is the strange man in holding? Why are the Russians determined to break him out?

Struggling to survive the night, one private eye must rely on his wits to solve a mystery where he’s outnumbered, outgunned, and trapped inside a police station with a soulless killing machine.

Available from Musa Publishing

Add Yakuza Territory to your Goodreads bookshelf

MJFprofile

Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. When he’s not grading papers, he’s imagining what the world might be like in a dozen alternate realities. He is an active SFWA member, and his work has appeared in more than 90 publications, including AE SciFi, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, Shimmer, and the Wastelands 2 anthology.

Visit www.milojamesfowler.com and join The Crew for updates about new releases as well as exclusive promotions.

Seriously, do yourself a literary favor and check out Milo’s book. Meanwhile, have a very good week, please tell me how to get famous, and go say hi to Mike at http://slckismet.blogspot.com/

blaise sword

I am way, way too old to be reading graphic novels. Especially ones that are mere collections of comic strips.  Because obviously comic strips are unintellectual, juvenile, and just plain beneath a smart (allegedly) writer person like me.

So maybe now I should confess to my addiction to Modesty Blaise.

You’ve probably heard of Modesty, although she’s a lot more famous in Europe.  Her strips were often absent from U.S. newspapers because she was sometimes scantily clad and on a few occasions naked.

Peter O’Donnell created the Modesty Blaise comic strip in 1963 and continued to write it until wrapping up in 2001.  He also wrote thirteen Modesty novels and one collection of short stories, all of which got great reviews from critics; a few even said they were better than Ian Fleming’s Bond stories.  But while Bond was turned into classic movies, Modesty had the bad fate of appearing in a few stinker flicks, even though one was made by her fan Quentin Tarantino.

While I enjoy the graphic novels, I like the real novels much more.  They’re well written and plotted, come with requisite preposterous villains, and they do a good job of getting into Modesty’s brilliant cool head as well as that of her loyal sidekick, Willie Garvin.  On the down side, several of the older paperbacks have silly, too-sexy and irrelevant covers.

 penthouseA while back I wrote here about the great backstory O’Donnell gave Modesty:  how she was a young orphan refugee who survived WWII and by the time she was a teenager headed up a lucrative crime syndicate (mostly gambling and high-end thievery, and absolutely no drugs or prostitution, which she hates).  While in her twenties she retires—which means she starts to work in an unofficial capacity for a friend in British intelligence.

But it’s the life O’Donnell gave Modesty that really appeals to me.  She is what I wish I were:  wealthy, free, gorgeous, in perfect physical condition, a martial arts expert, speaks about ten languages, is pursued by loving lovers, and is deadly when taking on bad guys.  She has homes in London, Morocco, Malta, and Paris, and servants who do the housework.   She never worries about money.  Above all, she has an inner calm and unshakeable self-confidence.   Mentally and emotionally, she’s not messy like me.

Peter O’Donnell passed away just a couple years ago, and I wish that I had discovered his Modesty Blaise earlier and written him a fan letter.  I’ve never written to any public figure before, yet I wish I could have told him thanks for his creation.

Is there any semi-famous writer you wish you had written to?  Or maybe you’re corresponding with one?

Have a great week.