Goodbye

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing on December 30, 2010 by Trina

As my blog posts become more infrequent, I realize that it is time for me to take another hiatus from blogging –maybe temporary, but most likely permanent. When I started this blog back in September of 2006, I intended to post about science education as my career up to that point had been as a science teacher.  Then as I finished my first young adult novel and began work on a short story collection and a new novel, my posts turned toward the process of writing fiction .

Now I find my time so taken up by my day job as a educational test developer that I have little energy to devote to my fiction writing or blogging, so I will say goodbye for now. I will update my Web site frequently, so check there for more information.

Here’s to finding balance and the happiness it brings!

Trina

Time flies faster as we age

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2010 by Trina

Alex barks, strains and emits a low growl that increases in volume. I know that growl. All ninety pounds of black lab rear up, testing the strength of his leather leash and the power of my grip. Too late I see a German shepherd looping toward us. My blood sounds loudly in my ears like waves crashing a rocky shore.

The large dog’s owner stands in his yard, makes no attempt to corral his dog, even while Alex continues growling and lunging. I make a futile attempt to drag Alex away.

“Gizmo is friendly,” the man says. He is actually smiling.

“My dog is not!” I yell. Alex is a rescue dog and even three years after we adopted him, he is still aggressive toward other dogs.

Hanging onto the plastic bag of poop I captured from earlier in the walk with my left hand, I jerk Alex’s leash with my right hand. It is like trying to drag a tank. Struggling to keep my footing, I wonder why I am still clutching the bag of poop like it was solid gold. I throw down the bag, grasp Alex’s leash with both hands, while using my body to block Gizmo.

Dragging ninety pounds of a Labrador in the opposite direction he wants to go is impossible. So as the laws of physics decree, I tumble face forward. Eat gravel. Fortunately, the bag of poop cushions my fall. I am astonished that I’m still holding the leash. This is only a small victory because at the end of his leash Alex has Gizmo by the throat.

In a daze, aware of an ache in my knees and blood dripping from my chin, nearly overpowered by the stench of dog shit clinging to my shirt, I stand up. I grab both of Alex’s back legs, hauling him off the larger German shepherd. I hope Gizmo’s owner is right about the friendly bit, because if Gizmo attacks me, I’ll have to let go of Alex and run.

I notice Alex’s legs are bloody either from my cut lip or Gizmo’s teeth.

Gizmo’s owner runs up–a little late for the party. He grabs Gizmo’s collar and drags his dog away muttering “Sorry . . . so sorry.” He doesn’t look back, doesn’t ask if Alex or I needed help.

“You’ve got to keep your dog on a leash, man!” I yell and mutter, “Asshole.”

I wipe blood from my mouth. My upper lip is split where it had lost the battle with the gravel, but at least I didn’t break any teeth. I pull Alex to the side of the road on wobbly legs. “Sit,” I command. He does. How nice. What a model citizen.

I sit on the curb. Tears run down my cheeks and I am aware that I’m shaking. I wipe the moisture away with my hand. The smell of dog shit grows stronger and I realize I’ve just smeared the stuff on my face. I wipe my hands off on the grass and then check Alex for injuries. No blood in his teeth or on his tongue. He must have only gotten Gizmo’s fur. I couldn’t find any cuts on him either. He is lucky.

I am not. My knees hurt. Both are scraped. I brush off my knees, smearing brown stripes down my legs. It could only be dog shit. I fume, cursing Gizmo’s owner. I’m a mile from home. I’ll have to walk back covered in dog excrement. Angry, and, I admit, embarrassed, I curse myself for not bringing my cell phone. I stand up. Or at least try to. My legs don’t hold. I sit hard on the curb, probably adding a bruise on my bum to my other injuries.

 

My grandmother said that time passes more and more quickly as we age. I didn’t understand her words when I was twenty and she was still alive. Now with my 48th birthday approaching, I understand. It seems like only a minute has passed since that day in July when Alex made Gizmo’s acquaintance. I was walking Alex early in the mornings then to avoid the brutal Carolina summer heat. Now, when I walk Alex in the early morning–in a route that takes us nowhere near Gizmo’s home–it is still dark and I’ve traded the shorts and tanks I wore this summer for gloves, a hat and an insulated sweat suit. Now I’m suddenly crunching acorns under my feet and the leaves remaining on the trees have traded their greens for the colors of autumn.

Likewise, time seems to be flying by faster the harder I work at my day job. I have put in hard hours for months at the testing company where I develop science questions. Hard because the project is massive: 30,000 questions. And hard because we have been understaffed. At first the challenge was enough. But, now I want more. As the company gears up with additional staff, I am ready to take a lesser role.

I thought by now I would have made some progress on  THE RIPPER. Instead four months have passed without me opening the Word doc containing the novel. Likewise I have sent out no story submissions. Life is passing me by.

But it took a coworker to help me see how fast. I mentioned that I am the fiction editor of Pig in a Poke to a new manager and he asked me to send him a link to the magazine. When he e-mailed me that he was reading my blog, I was embarrassed. My last blog post was over a month ago.

I’ve started a new writing project that I think will help me get back on track. I am only in the contemplating stage. I’ve made notes and am thinking about how the story will come together. It will take a close up look at how dissociative identify disorder (DID) affects a woman, her relationships and her children. It is different from anything I’ve done so far. I’m excited to get started, which should motivate me to work on it.

I think THE RIPPER novel will take the back burner for now. The characters have grown cold. I think part of the reason I had lost momentum for my writing is that I couldn’t get excited about Rosa’s character.

 

Pig in a Poke update:

Harry has 11 poets lined up for the January issue. I have accepted three stories, but am considering several others. I am still deciding on a few stories sent in as far back as September. If you haven’t gotten a rejection it means I think your story has merit and may place it in the January issue. I have sent rejection letters to all those I know I won’t use. I’m going to try to read all the submissions by next weekend so I can reply to writers.

Yesterday I read ten stories, rejected two and am considering the others. I have 21 more to read before I make my final decision. I plan to read 10 more today and the rest next weekend. The good news is that the quality of stories I am receiving for the Pig is high. I think this last round of submissions is the best I’ve received. But, the high quality makes it tough for me because I will have to reject stories that are good.

Issue #3 of Pig in a Poke now alive and oinking!

Posted in All posts, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2010 by Trina

Here we go again …

Pig in a Poke, issue #3, is live today … enjoy!

The third time’s a charm, and Pig in a Poke is charmed to be here. And we hope you’re charmed by the great lineup of poets (fiction writers and essayists) we have for you. I still can’t believe the amazing writers we’ve managed to attract, and Trina and I are grateful for that. As always, we try to put pearls of superb writing in our swinish sty. I think that once again we’ve put together a good mixture of poetry, fiction and some fine literary essays. Trina and I are proud to call this our magazine. A Pig in a Poke it is, because you might never know what you’re getting, but you know it’s going to be good.”  Harry Calhoun, editor.

Harry Calhoun, a.k.a. my husband, edits the poetry and I, a.k.a. Trina Allen, have picked out the stories and laid out the pages. The two of us have pretty much collaborated on choosing the essays.  Not only is there new talent here — new to the Pig, that is — but for this issue we asked several writers to submit stories including Christina Hoag, Lynne Barrett, Anne Woodman and Mark Howell.

I do hope you’ll drop by, give a read, spread the word, and maybe donate to the cause. Let me know what you think.

http://www.piginpoke.com/ currentissue.html

The lineup for this issue includes:

Poetry by

A.D. Winans

Tim Peeler

Robert Demaree

Louis McKee

Lyn Lifshin

Karla Huston

Donal Mahoney

Michael L. Newell

Corey Cook

Doug Draime

Sandy Benitez

M.P. Powers

Mather Schneider

Carol Lynn Grellas

Luis Berriozabal

Fiction by:

Jane Banning

Lynne Barrett

Christina Hoag

Mark Howell

Thomas Sullivan

Laura Garrison

Laurence Klavan

Michael L. Newell

Nathaniel Tower

Essays by:

Anne Woodman

Michael L. Newell

Amanda LaPergola

As always, quality stuff all around . Drop in and wallow a while in the Pig sty … it’s not a bad place to be! Thanks in advance for your support.

Poetry by

A.D. Winans

Tim Peeler

Robert Demaree

Louis McKee

Lyn Lifshin

Karla Huston

Donal Mahoney

Michael L. Newell

Corey Cook

Doug Draime

Sandy Benitez

M.P. Powers

Mather Schneider

Carol Lynn Grellas

Luis Berriozabal

Fiction by:

Jane Banning

Lynne Barrett

Christina Hoag

Mark Howell

Thomas Sullivan

Laura Garrison

Laurence Klavan

Michael L. Newell

Nathaniel Tower

Essays by:

Anne Woodman

Michael L. Newell

Amanda LaPergola

The wheels on the bus go round and round

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2010 by Trina

When one foot is precariously on the tight rope and the other in the air, life has a way of knocking that one steady foot off the tightrope and destroying any semblance of balance. So it was yesterday when I left for work an hour early. Having skipped my morning walk, I planned to walk after work–the weather has been so beautiful in the afternoons. I was less than a mile from the house when my daughter called from New York with an emergency. I ended up turning the car around and heading to the post office, spending that extra hour overnighting a money order to my daughter.

I didn’t want to alarm Harry at work first thing on a Monday by telling him about the crisis, so I didn’t call him. Instead, he called me about an hour after I arrived wanting to know if I’d spent a lot of money on his upcoming birthday. He’d seen the large withdrawal from our checking account. Needless to say I didn’t have a very productive morning at work.

Life has threatened my balance in other areas as well. I didn’t know back in March when Harry and I first talked about editing a literary magazine how much work it would be. (If I had, I would still have agreed to start up the magazine). Nor did I know I would resign from Measurement Inc. in May and then come back as a regular employee in August. I had walked away from my day job, intending to finish my novel in progress, submit my short story collection to publishers, and do some freelance critiquing to bring in some cash. It didn’t work out quite that way. I found I hated being home all day with no schedule. And I missed my coworkers after I resigned. I also like the independence having a steady pay check gives me.

So, I’ve had to do some shuffling with my schedule. It takes up a lot of my free time reading the stories for Pig in a Poke. I have 19 yet to read for the October issue. I do have the luxury of reading them right up until October 1. Because I am the Web site developer, I can post a story five minutes after I accept it. However, it also means that I have the work of laying out all of the pages in “the Pig.”

I love to read, so I guess being a fiction editor is a perfect second job for me. Some very talented writers have submitted their work, which makes my job easier and rewarding. I have to admit that I’ve also read some very bad writing. There doesn’t seem to be much in the middle. The stories tend to be excellent or, well. Not. I tend to scan through a story after downloading it, not really reading it carefully, just seeing what it’s about. Then I write the title, author, and length on my tracking spreadsheet while I’m thinking about the story. Next, I download and scan the next one. After I’ve scanned and recorded 5 or 6 stories, I go back and carefully read each one.

The rejects I know from the scan, but I still try to read each with an open mind to see if there is anything there. I usually find my first impression was right. If I reject a story it likely just didn’t hook me in to make me want to read past the first few paragraphs. Or it was overly long–stories over 3,000 words are hard for me to like, or it just wasn’t right for the magazine. Erotica, romance, or children’s lit will not be accepted for “the Pig.” I get all three. Guess I should put more detail into the submission guidelines to save myself some work. I recently received a story titled “Got a Spare Dick,” which was actually humorous, just not right for the magazine.

There are always exceptions, of course. If I’ve accepted several humorous stories, I won’t need another for that issue, for example. Or if I already have 3 or 4 very heavy stories, I don’t want another.

Most of the stories that I’ve accepted for Pig in a Poke I knew I would take after scanning the first few paragraphs and for sure after reading the first few pages. These stories drew me in and kept me reading. I always read a story more than once to be sure it really has what I want–an emotional pull. But, it really is pretty black and white for me. I either like a story or I don’t.

But. I haven’t opened the Word doc containing my novel in weeks. I just can’t seem to find the motivation to work on it after developing test questions all day. And there’s always another submission from Pig in a Poke to read, or dishes to do, or paperwork to get together for refinancing the house. My novel in progress just seems to come last. I never used to feel that way about my writing. I guess I’m getting as much satisfaction from reading other people’s stories as I used to get from writing my own.

And the wheels on the bus go round and round.

Luna Station, the Pig, and Harry Calhoun

Posted in All posts, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2010 by Trina

Luna Station Quarterly

Read a short story based on the characters from my novel in progress on Luna Station Quarterly, a magazine focused on genre fiction as written by women. In “Payback is a bitch,” when a personal tragedy costs Detective Rosa Wolfe everything–her marriage, her career, and her badge–she returns to the streets she once patrolled, finding satisfaction in high-payoff vengeance for hire. Read more on a previous post. I am pleased that “Payback” is currently the story of the week.

Pig in a Poke

We’re ramping up for issue 3 on October 1. Harry has chosen the poems and essays. He is excited about the line up. I confess that I’ve gotten behind in replying to the story submissions writers have sent to Pig in a Poke magazine. If you sent me a story and I haven’t yet responded, I’m still considering it. I have made the choice to return to Measurement Inc as a regular Monday – Friday employee. Therefore, my time for reviewing fiction is now limited to nights and weekends. I’m wondering how I am going to get the pages up by October 1. Maybe sleep is overrated.

Any Web developers interested in converting Word documents to HTML on a nearly voluntary basis? I could use some help. Contact me if you want to be part of “the Pig.”

Meet Harry Calhoun at the NC Writers Network Raleigh Region Open Mic Night at PoetrySpark

On Sept 17 from 8-11 pm Harry will be reading some of his poetry 

Location:Isaac Hunter’s Tavern on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh

Payback is a bitch: life of a short story

Posted in All posts, Health and fitness, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2010 by Trina

I am happy to announce that  Luna Station Quarterly magazine accepted my short story “Payback is a bitch”  for their September 1 issue.  I took only one day from submission to acceptance. I had just submitted to them on Saturday as part of my getting back into balance campaign. This is quick, although not the record for me. Chiron Review accepted one of my stories after only an hour.

About Payback is a bitch

When a personal tragedy costs homicide detective Rosa Wolfe everything–her marriage, her career, and her badge–she returns to the streets she once patrolled, finding satisfaction in high-payoff vengeance for hire.

On creation of the story

I had fun writing the story because it is my first attempt at writing a detective thriller, the genre I love to read. Payback was born over a year and a half ago. It took that long to find a market for it.  I wrote Payback back in November of 2008 after Harry bought me the Rambo collection for my birthday–wonder where I got the idea for a story about a vigilante.  See previous post.  Since then, I’ve submitted Payback to 18 magazines.  Thirteen rejected it.  One magazine collapsed before they could even reply to my submission.  Three other magazines have not yet replied–I’ll have to let them know its been accepted.

This is why it is so easy to get discouraged with writing and submitting short stories.  It is rough out there.  It took me 18 tries before Payback was finally accepted. I think about that when I have to reject stories for Pig and a Poke, like I did on Sunday. I try to take the time to give reasons for rejection.  It isn’t always possible, but most of my rejections are personal.

I liked writing Payback so much that I decided to expand it into a novel.  “The Ripper” is in draft stage. The outline is finished and about half of the chapters, but not in sequence. I’ve written bits and pieces here and there as the ideas come to me. The beginning, some of the middle and ending is done. The rest needs to be filled in. I decided to expand Nick the Nick’s role. Nicholas Nicholson is a former Green Beret turned vigilante who teams up with Rosa. He may end up being a bad guy. I haven’t decided yet. Rosa believes that if she and Nick can find and apprehend  the serial killer responsible for the string of rape/murders that has continued during the three years she has been working without a gold shield, she might be able to turn her life around.

Update on balance

I lost Friday as a writing day due to being pulled over with expired registration.  Sigh.  I spent the afternoon at the DMV.  Saturday I sent out short story submissions.  The Luna Station Quarterly acceptance will go a long way toward giving me my ambition back.  I think it will even motivate me to work on the novel again.  Sunday, I reviewed all of the stories submitted to Pig in a Poke. I found two that I liked well enough to accept. Unfortunately I had to send out some rejection letters.

I am continuing the walking, working out at the gym, and healthy eating.  Look for more posts on that.

How Trina lost her balance and other stuff

Posted in All posts, Health and fitness, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by Trina

Am I a fiction writer, magazine editor, Web designer, or test developer? Can I really wear all four hats? Apparently not very well.

I have been doing too much, or at least trying to. Until I had a scare two weekends ago. My blood pressure shot to 150/102 and stayed there, even while taking my blood pressure medication. I had to go to the doctor and add another medication in addition to the one I was taking. And I have to slow down.

I drive from Raleigh to Durham four days a week, where my day job is developing educational science tests.  During my three days off, I select the stories for Pig in a Poke magazine, as well as laying out the HTML for the pages. I am also the leader of a fiction writing group.  So, it is not surprising that I quit writing my own fiction and let my exercise drop off to one or two days a week. I have not worked on my novel in two months. The same goes for my short story collection. Nor did I send out one submission for my finished stories. As you can see from the infrequency of my postings, I have not been blogging either. The combination of sitting at the computer with little exercise and eating out or ordering in did me in.

Determined to get my blood pressure under control, I had to make some changes. I am walking or going to the gym every morning. I have cut out alcohol completely, and Harry and I are back to eating healthy and cooking together, something we both enjoy. One trip to the farmers market gave us veges for the week. Yummy.

In one week I’ve lost 5 pounds and I’m not starving myself. I am not hungry. My blood pressure is now running around 115/80. I feel both relieved and energized! My goal is to lose 20 pounds and keep it off. That means exercise has to come first. And I’ll have to lose one of my other hats to make time for it.

Yesterday, I sent out a story submission for the first time in two months. It felt awesome. I’m ready to start working on the novel again. I’ve made some notes, which is a good start.

I am also doing some soul searching to determine how I let myself get so out of balance. When I decided to take on the fiction editing and Web design for Pig in a Poke I had resigned from my job as a test developer, effective May 1, the same day the first issue ran. I had planned to take on a few freelance critique jobs as a source of income and finish my novel and short story collection.

It didn’t work out that way. A senior project director at Measurement Inc. (MI) offered me a part time contract position (four days per week), so I went back to my day job. I enjoy the work and the pay is good.

So, which hat will I drop? Not Pig in a Poke. Harry and I enjoy putting out the magazine too much. It has been very rewarding work. Something else has to go. I no longer offer freelance critiquing and I’ve made arrangements to work at MI only seven of every ten business days. I hope cutting back on my hours will be enough for me to schedule my fiction writing back into my life. I would hate to give up the day job. I like the money too much. But I also want to be around for the next 50 years or so. My health has to come first.

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