How Many Stages do You Go Through?

My spectacularly talented pal Rusty Fischer just posted his 9 stages of a WIP. He’s such a talent, I think I picture him simply cracking his knuckles, brewing a cup of brilliance, and tapping out a completed work in a day or so. Not so, according to him.

About 95% of the time, I live in stage 1:

1. SUPREME DOUBT, in which I wonder if I should write at all, think about taking up basketweaving, and alternately feel a strong compulsion to write. This stage is gruesome, akin to some hormone-induced meltdown stuck in perpetual motion until…. something… happens.

2. AHA is my second stage. This has absolutely nothing to do with anything that happens in stage one–it’s the polar opposite of it, and I can flip back and forth between the two for months. BUT…once in while the AHA actually clicks in. I get an idea. I like the idea. And the key–I don’t care if anyone else could give a damn about it. Don’t care about the market, whether it’s a romance or nonfiction or nuttin. It just is. And I want to do it just because. It’s quite zenlike, and is totally contrary to the “put your butt in a chair for x hours a day/week/whatever” mentality. Unfortunately, I do share the “this sucks” stage that Rusty talks about.

3. THIS SUCKS. I can’t write. What a stupid idea. What was I thinking, who would contract this, I don’t have a plot (I never have a plot). Depending upon the strength of the AHA stage, or upon “real world” mitigating circumstances–work, family, etc., I may move on to…

4. THIS MAY NOT SUCK. I may or may not circuitously run the idea or title past someone. I might noodle around the net, wondering if anyone has mentioned they’re looking for this “may not suck” kinda of title. At this point, I can circle back to number 1, Supreme Doubt. This is where the book may really die for good. I have a folder of them. The sinister cousin of Supreme Doubt, I Don’t Know my Genre, may also rear its ugly head. That can put me out of commission for months. But if I get past this, I usually move onto…

5. WORK. I got this. I know what happens. I will use a lot of dialog because it’s my strength. Each time I sit down, I edit what I’ve written previously. When I get to the end, it’s a pretty clean machine, if I do say so myself. Usually no crit partners, no beta readers. I…

6. SUBMIT. This has typically gone pretty well for me.

So, I have six stages, and I’m wondering what yours are? More like me or more like Rusty? He’s so freaking complicated… Sigh.


The Fish Out of Water CONTEST!

Love–another swing and a miss? Not this time!


In celebration of my new novella Fish Out of Water, releasing July 17, I’m giving away some trinkets that represent my heroine, Caren, and my hero, Eric Fisher.

First up: those really cute earrings from the Margaritaville store in Key West, made locally. Had to buy a pair for myself.

Second: a $25 gift card to Now what would you do with that? Well, you could buy a t-shirt like this one, except in your favorite team’s logo. Or gift it to your favorite baseball fan (they’ll know how to spend it, trust me! Think early Christmas).

Finally, you’ll get a Samhain book of your choice, to $10.

How do I get these cute things, Ciar? you ask.

It’s so simple. Take a gander at the cover, and tell me what you find in the water that seems to not belong there… Don’t answer here on my blog, of course! Just pop your answer into an email and I’ll put you in the drawing! Stop back on 7/17 and see if you won!

Cover Love! FISH OUT OF WATER Coming 7/17!

Love…another swing and a miss? Not this time.

At 35, baseball star Eric Fisher is washed up. He thought a vacation to his private island getaway would clear his head, help him accept the simple fact that his career is flagging. He was wrong.

In the middle of a solitary afternoon with the beach and a bucket of beer, a woman emerges from the ocean. She’s pretty, with a body built for the bikini she’s almost wearing. She smells like the giant fish she’s dragging through the sand. And she’s crying.

Caren McCabe is livid. Fish species are disappearing fast, no thanks to rich Hollywood types who buy up rare island habitats like St. Andres. Worse, her boat has just capsized, taking with it the bulk of her research—and any hope of getting tenure. 

It takes a hurricane to bring them to speaking terms. As the winds howl, they have a meeting of minds and hearts neither of them anticipated. Just as things heat up, though, the full moon forces Caren to answer the sea’s siren call and assume her true form. A form that no mortal man must ever see…much less be allowed to love.

Cover artist: the really talented Kanaxa!!!

Steampunk Fishing Lures? Things, wonderful things…

ImageI love old stuff. I’m not a hoarder, but once in a while, I get sucked into an arcane topic (and it usually involves a box of someone’s junk that isn’t junk) and have to do research. Vintage fishing lures? Snore, right? Heck, no! They are beautiful, odd, funny, worthless or priceless. And infinitely collectable.

Since I’m in a kind of pre-grieving state for a terminally ill family member, I’m not feeling free enough to write. So this is a good kind of task right now.

I have moved past the steampunk zeitgeist a bit and am having more fun poking around in real history. But if you wanted a steampunk fishing lure… they’re out there!


Moon People

You know that personality quiz: All things being safe, free, death-free, etc., would you pick 10 minutes on the moon or two months in Europe? I’m one of those crazy moon people who can’t imagine anyone would pick Europe (because, duh, you CAN go to Europe, but just imagine…). Anyway, Moon people don’t “get” Europe people. I could spend half the day just contemplating infinity and seeing faces in tree trunks and looking for twigs that look like broken fairy wings… well, you get the picture. Insanity in a relatively benign form.

But, I have to go to work, so I can’t just hybernate in the back of a cathedral or live in a Hobbit hutch. Today, a coworker asked me what I do for lunch. “You never come with us. Where do you go?” I’m a loner. A gregarious introvert who is incredibly uncomfortable with small talk. I don’t know how to ask about the weekend or the kids. I want to ask what you seem to be grieving or if you think you are reincarnated. And because I have trouble finding other Moon people, I spend my lunch hour alone. So, nice coworker, here is what I did this week on my lunch hour:

Monday: Walked along the towpath, jogged a little bit of it, ate soup at my desk

Tuesday: Edited a little at my desk, ate soup at my desk


Wednesday: Walked along the towpath, sat on a bench, cried a bit because my brother is ill and called him


Thursday: Sat on a bench in the gym and scribbled in a journal

Friday: Went to Mass, walked into town and went into the yarn shop so I can make this Pratchett DEATH of Rats, grabbed a slice of pizza and walked back.

Dull, huh? Tonight I’ll be home alone, and will probably watch Sherlock Holmes again, because, well, all roads lead to Robert Downey Jr. anyway. That’s the sort of thing Moon people do.

Postapocalyptic knitting and Robert Downey Jr.

Wut? 2012? What the heck have I been doing since I was here last? Um, knitting a very Matrix-y sweater (okay, a few of them)–you know, the kind in this picture (sans rips). I’m even using a pattern and yarn from the company that did the originals, called Skif. It’s probably no coincidence that I’ve been working on a somewhat postapocalyptic/dystopian Young Adult book. Things in my brain tend to run in packs. It brought out my 90s industrial music CDs and memories of clubs in which I wore unspeakable amounts of black stuff. Can there ever be too much black? Oh, yeah.

In the midst of all this torn and shredded knitting and writing, I went to see Sherlock Holmes II. And that launched me into an intense period of Robert Downey Jr. obsession. Look, it’s Holmes, and it’s Downey. You can only have so much genius in one place without nearly imploding with happiness. I’m not a child of the 80s, so the whole brat pack/John Hughs thing is lost on me. But I’m not dead yet! I stumbled upon this old photo of the aforementioned Downey, and bang! there was my YA hero–a wizard named Jonah. Yeah, he needs scruffier hair and a less 80s look, and should be 18, but crickey…  Anyway… what was I saying? Phew. The whole Holmes thing reminded me that I have this WIP hybernating somewhere? Maybe in the closest with the summer clothes. It tells about a young woman in 1890 NY who fantasizes she’s the daughter of the great fictional detective. I miss that story, and now that I know exactly what Holmes looks like, how he sounds, how he’s really the beautiful RD (track marks and all), it’s time to get back to that story. Isn’t life a jumble of things? Or is it just my strange little brain?

A Midnight Clear

I’ve posted this story two years in a row, but it’s the only holiday story I’ve ever written, so it’s now my signature Christmas card. I’ve made a few new friends in the last year, so perhaps this will be new to you.

That odd looking building in the watercolor is the Phoenix Shot Tower in Baltimore. If it weren’t for that building, I might not have been born. So I wrote a little story for you about how my great-grandfather saved a lot of men and captured the heart of his beloved one Christmas eve. The basics are true, the copy from the Baltimore Fire Dept. is true, the rest is just me adding a little flesh to the bones.

A Midnight Clear By Ciar Cullen
Copyright Ciar Cullen

1878 — December 24. The interior of the Merchants’ Shot Tower, southeast corner of Fayette and Front streets, an old landmark, and the most complete piece of work of that kind in the United States, was burned out entirely. In the darkness of the night the massive column of brick work, 217 feet high, resembled a gigantic torch, for its base was unscathed, while the flames flared out at the top, being visible many miles. While the members of No. 1 Hook and Ladder Company were assisting the members of No. 4 Engine Company with their hose up the steps leading into the tower, Mr. Simon V. Cullen, superintendent at the works, notified the firemen that there was fifteen tons of lead at the top. The men were ordered to run for their lives, and the last man just reached the pavement when this immense weight of lead was precipitated to the bottom of the tower. The absence of Mr. Cullen would probably have resulted in the killing of fifteen firemen. –from the official History of the Fire Department of Baltimore City

Simon Cullen was my great grandfather. I’d heard this story many times from my grandmother, my best childhood friend. I spent every weekend at her Victorian mansion (or it seemed a mansion to me—it was in disrepair and not nearly as grand as it appeared to a child). I’d wriggle on the couch, struggling not to drop a stitch as her blue-veined hands gently guided mine. Her voice would hypnotize me with tales of the family, some true, some partly true. All of them were designed to teach heroism and moral character. I always wanted to know about the “old country”, but Nan insisted that life started for the Cullens in America. In other words, we were poor potato-famine immigrants. So I settled for learning to knit, watching Perry Mason on TV, eating Nan’s terrible cooking, learning to play her tinny piano and listening to her stories. Continue reading