“The Quest for Perfection Will Murder Your Spirit” – Tag Line Tuesday with Red Tash

27 Mar
“The Quest for Perfection Will Murder Your Spirit” – Tag Line Tuesday with Red Tash

Today, Tag Line Tuesday is happy to welcome Red Tash, author and raconteur. I’m not 100% on what “raconteur” means, but it always sounded cool to me.

Ed: Hola, Red. As I hear writers are creative people, please answer each of the following biographic questions twice, once with the truth and once with a lie.


RT: Red Tash, or Yoda Hemingway

Ed: Where you from?

RT: The Realm of Phaze, or Southern Indiana, USA

Ed: Go, Realm of Phaze Colts. So, do you have the dreaded “Day job?”

RT: Topless Barista Trainer, or Author/Mom/House Ninja

Ed: Is “House Ninja” like being a House Band? Anyway, how about your “Dream job?”

RT: Academy award-winner for ice dancing choreography in an animated foreign feature, daytime division.

Or, Wealthy Author/Mom/Ninja (having been deposed from most household duties by my staff of servants.)

Ed: And now the inevitable, Why do you write?

RT: I was young and I needed the money.  No, wait!  Okay, full honesty, let’s get serious, and all that jazz, right?

I have written for so long, I guess I didn’t know anyone wouldn’t want to write until many years into it. I remember being a little girl on the farm in Indiana, marking on paper & asking my older sister if my writing meant anything. I guess little has changed about me & the writing!  😉

The audience has definitely improved. The penmanship ain’t.

But, what’s not to like? Writing gives you the chance to think about what you really want to say, before you say it (not that I ever do). I don’t have enough space in my cranial processor to pull that kind of thing off in person. When I was a kid, I did. I was a pretty good public speaker on the fly, and I have the scars & the trophies to prove it. Not anymore, though. Now I’m lucky to manage a trip to the Dr’s office for a very specific ache without a note taped to my forehead reading “Ask Dr. about specific ache.” (P.S. The Doc answered “Stop walking around w/ notes taped to your head, for starters.”)

Beyond that, writing is just fun. I love when people tell me I’m funny, smart, creative, entertaining, deep, cool, amazing, intelligent…and maybe someday someone will, if I write something good enough. I’ll keep trying.

Ed: That was very cool. And as far as taping notes to your forehead, always preferable to using a thumb tack. 😉

Macht Schnell! Lighting Round! Quick! What’s your favorite:

Band : Of Gypsies?  I take the Irish Travelers, please.

I have four kids.  I have no time for this “mewsick” of which you speak. I used to like this new little band called Coldplay. Did they ever get anywhere?

I actually look forward to when my kids start getting interested in music, because that means I’ll get to listen to something besides Cartoon Network and the hum of my cheap dishwasher all day.

(Ed note: I think the whole band Coldplay married Gwyneth Paltrow, or something like that)

Food: Yes.

Game: Diamond Dash on Facebook, currently

Album: Photos

Word: Up! (It’s the codeword.)

Color: You’ll never guess.

Animal: Tim Tash

Piece of clothing: Jeans

Movie: I am a Harry Potter girl, but I watch a ton of movies!  The best two I’ve seen recently were Tin Tin & The Big Year.  Great stories.

TV show: Dr. Who

Drink: Coffee

Song: Strawberry Fields Forever.  Not really, but it sprang to mind just now.  Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of birdsong.  It’s really pretty!  If I had to pick one, I’d go with today’s hit “Downy Woodpecker.”  It’s got a beat.  I’m not sure about the dancing.

Line from a song: I sing the theme song from the sitcom The New Girl to my daughter all the time, so the first thing that pops to my mind is: “Who’s that girl?  Who’s that girl?”  But, see…that’s not deep and meaningful or anything.  Trivia fact: I am partially deaf (and totally def), so I mishear most lyrics until I can google them.  The kids and I have some favorites.  One of them is “Corn on the Cob” to the Star Wars Duel of the Fates theme:

Pizza topping: I know I keep answering these questions wrong, but the thing is, I can’t help it.  My favorite pizza is Upside Down Pizza from my local Pizzaria/Brewery.  So that means my favorite is…crust!  LOL, don’t kill me, Ed.

Crime: Really?  See, I knew you meant gypsies. Real answer; since the marriage of two consenting adults isn’t yet legal in all 50 states, I’ll go with that one.  Legalize marriage.

Place: Anywhere Tim is.

Quote: “The quest for perfection will murder your spirit.”  I wrote that in another life, when I was doing a lot of blogging about grace & spirituality, all that stuff.  I didn’t mean for it to become a quote-quote, but it was my motto, and it still touches me when I see a friend use it.

Ed: Three random things about yourself, please.

RT: Lord, a-mighty, ain’t I gave ya enough?

  1. I played roller derby for Derby City Rollergirls  (Tyra Durden, #8)
  2. I gave birth to two of my kids at home
  3. I am actually painfully shy, despite all my web antics

Ed: And now, let’s talk the readerly talk of reading books, and what not. By which I mean: Book Chat.

What’s the biggest consideration when you are deciding what book to read?

RT: Used to be totally based on impulse.  I would get bored, look up books on Goodreads, see what the library had in, put my name on the waiting list if need be…if the book came relatively quickly, great. Often, if I had to wait forever, I’d end up passing on it. I like to learn as much as I can about the world, so I read whatever is germaine to that.  Building something?  There are books for that.  Escapism?  Books for that.  Homeschooling?  Books, again.  Whatever works.

Now that I know so many other authors who are eager for feedback, it’s a tougher call. I want to be helpful and kind to my friends, and I have all these ebooks on the Kindle waiting. I always read reviews when I’m selecting books, in general, but an author’s personality makes a big difference to me now that I’m interacting with so many on the regular.  I’d rather read a book by someone who is polite, friendly, posts funny status messages, or whatever it is about him/her that speaks to me in a positive light. If an author starts acting like a jerk (in general) and doesn’t recover within a reasonable amount of time, it doesn’t matter how many five star reviews they have—I don’t want to read his/her book.

It’s a real Catch-22, too, because I’ve had authors send me unsolicited critiques of my book, and I’ve had the pleasure of googling to find out who the heck they were to begin with, then sit and think about how to graciously word a thank you email for their original email saying “I hate your book but I love it and I need the sequel now so I can hate it, too, thanks, because I need to know what happens next right now and how dare you write a book like this in the first place and please hurry up and write that sequel, would ya?”  It’s a bit awkward, to say the least. I don’t want to impose that bizarre ambivalence on any of my author friends, so I’d almost rather NOT read their work at this point. However, when I do, I try to find all the positives about the work and lay those out there just like J.Lo does on American Idol, then make whatever suggestions I can, gently, if they ask. If they don’t ask, I don’t tell, unless I can say something glowing! It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice, right?

It makes me miss the days of just picking up whatever the most recent best-seller on my Goodreads list is, and diving into that, knowing there’s little chance Neil Gaiman is ever going to care that I loved his latest. With 2 million ISBNs registered last year, that world is changing, though, even for the non-author reader (what a weird way to think of it, huh?). The one-on-one relationship between reader and author has gotten a whole lot closer.  And as a reader, I think that’s pretty cool. But I don’t know if I’ll ever be an non-author reader again.

Ed: What genre do you enjoy most?

RT: YA fantasy, right now. The dark stuff.

Ed: What genre would you read only if you lost a bet?

RT: I’m not a snob, Ed!  I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t read. People would likely judge me if they knew everything I had.

Ed: Do you have a favorite author, and do you think they influence your own writing?

RT: A lot of favorites, sure. And I think everything we read, watch, listen to (tweet tweet!) influences our writing. Writers are thin-skinned people, made to absorb our influences, process them, and recreate from those materials into a new image. If you aren’t influenced by anyone else’s writing, you’re not reading enough.

Now, do I sound like anyone else? I don’t think so. Not even Stephen King, even though people have compared me to him a lot.

Someday hopefully people will compare my bank account to Jo Rowling’s. 😉 Seriously, though, I have her to thank for my current devotion to fiction writing. She is my hero and someday, I hope I can thank her personally for being awesome, for writing deeply and from the heart, and for inspiring me to take fiction seriously. What I’ve written thus far may not be Harry Potter, but if it wasn’t for Jo (and Steve), I wouldn’t be doing this thing that means SO much to me.

Ed: Do you have a favorite book, and how many times have you read it?

RT: Books I’ve read multiple times are definitely favorite books!

The Stand, Gone With The Wind, all the Harry Potter books, A Wrinkle in Time (and the whole Time Quintet), Watership Down, Lonesome Dove, The Stand, Piers Anthony’s Adept & Incarnations of Immortality series…there are probably more.  Of all those, I have probably read (with my eyes) The Stand more than any other.  Gone With the Wind and the Harry Potter books would be next, and I’ve listened the audio books of the Harry Potter stories so many times, I can likely recite them—if that counts.  Does that count?

Ed: You said The Stand twice, it was a sort of Blazing Saddles moment. 😉

What’s the first book you remember buying with your own money?

RT: With my own money, I do not recall. But I do remember asking my mother to buy me Of Nightingales that Weep, by Katherine Paterson. There were probably some Judy Blume books before that.  I was a voracious reader and read anything that fell into my lap. I liked those Scholastic book flyers so much, from school!  But I never had money of my own. Not until I was a teenager. I recall buying The Dark Knight by Frank Miller. Worth a lot of money now.  No idea where it is.

Ed: Any books you have been told you should read, and know you probably never will?

RT: People assume because I am a parent & wrote a column on family life, that I want to read books on parenting. BTDT.  I look into books like that when & if I need them. I also get recommendations for deeply spiritual, philosophical titles. Really scholarly, dry stuff. I like my God with a lot of humor, thanks!

Ed: Ever lied about reading, or not reading, a book?

RT: Yes. Not intentionally, though. Usually when going through Goodreads, trying to rank books so I’ll get recommendations. I sometimes forget whether I’ve only seen the movie version, or both. If I remember it was only the movie, not the book, I’ll go back and mark it unread because, on some level, way back in my earlier life, I was just that anal retentive.

Ed: Ever read a book you were sure you were going to like, and not liked it?

RT: Yes. Very disappointing! I hope I won’t feel that way about JK Rowling’s new book.

Ed: Ever grudgingly read a book, and loved it?

RT: I have to be honest—I don’t *love * a lot of books. Like them, yes, sure. I have liked a lot of books, but rarely do I love one. I was lukewarm about reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, because I did not think it was appropriate in my all-knowing, super maternal Ninja wisdom, for young kids to read about ghosts and dead families of origin and the like. That just sounded creepy and weird. Even through the first chapter, when we’re reading about the gory death of said family, I was going “Oh no.  No, no, no.  Why am I reading this?” But Gaiman is a great storyteller, and he sucked me in, and that book has become very much a favorite. I love it so much and hope desperately for a sequel. I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to want to read it.

Ed: What’s your favorite line from a book? (not your own)

RT: The first to jump to mind is: “Tomorrow is another day.” ~Scarlett O’Hara

But there are so many great ones in Lonesome Dove, as well.

Ed: Next up, let’s talk about books which you did just happen to write.

How, and when, do you tend to come up with titles?

RT: I came up with This Brilliant Darkness after a bevy of names I’d googled were already taken. Since the whole book is about everyone and everything being the opposite of what literary tradition tells us they are supposed to be, I tried to come up with a unique oxymoron. How is darkness brilliant? Darkness is…dark. Hrm. Regardless, it worked well with an opening scene in the beginning of the work, in which this time-traveling star is winking in and out of existence. A star would be brilliant, in the darkness, wouldn’t it? I got used to saying it. Then, in the time between working on it last and working on it most recently, another book came out with a very similar title! That was a bit of a bummer, but I’m over it.  The sequel’s title (That Crackling Silence) will follows in that scheme, and though I do not plan a third book, I like that eventually I could call it “The Other Stuff,” and have “This,” “That,” and “The Other.”

My next book, Troll Or Derby, was named by a writer friend of mine. I told her the premise (trolls, fairies and roller derby), and she came up with that punny gem.

Ed: How do your characters get their names?

RT: All my characters names are deeply meaningful, except for The Wizard, in the Wizard Takes a Holiday, and the upcoming Wizard Takes a Fitness Class. He’s mysterious. I don’t want to say more than that about my character-naming stuff, except to note that I spend a lot of time researching people and places and mythos before I name any character. Every name matters.

Ed: If you could live in the world / with the people of one of your stories, which one would it be and why?

RT: I would run away with the Wizard and have adventures all over the world. But I would like to take along my man, my monkey, and our mini-ninjas.  I’m not sure the Wizard could handle that. He’s more about traveling light.

Ed: What do you think your books say about you?

RT: Jeebus, Ed. I guess when I first started writing, I wanted them to say “Here writes the lady with the great big BRAIN and the dry, wry humor! Look at how smart she is!” But now? I think based on reader reviews and emails, I guess they say something much deeper and meaningful than all that egocentric stuff. After Troll Or Derby comes out, I hope people will see me as a much more “fun” writer than I was in This Brilliant Darkness.

Ed: That’s me…Jeebus Ed. 😉

Is there anything you have written which you would now like to change or revise, wish you had written differently, etc.?

RT: Not really. I bemoaned on David Gaughran’s blog how hard it was parsing the cast of characters I concocted for This Brilliant Darkness, but the thing is, a few months ago I *had * the chance to scrap that project as-is, and do it a different way. I tried. I tried to do what I think of as “dumbing it down,” because frankly, my husband was not enjoying the read at all and it was really wreaking havoc on my process. Not because I needed him to like it, but because I needed him to be able to verbalize why he didn’t like it. He just hadn’t had the experience with critique, editorial feedback, etc. that I had, as a professional writer and a long-time aspiring novelist, so all he knew was that he didn’t like it, case closed.

Eventually, after tearing the manuscript apart every which way from Sunday, I realized that I really couldn’t change it anymore. I was happy with the story as-is. I knew it was a weird book, but it didn’t bother me that it was weird. I am weird. I had never aspired to be one of those people who writes forgettable mass-market genre fiction. I wanted to write something really different from everything else, and I succeeded bigtime with my first publishable book. (I say first publishable because no one wants to read the Summer Camp pre-teen drama I wrote in the mid-1980s. I hope.)

The biggest gripes I get from readers are that I don’t have more books available for them in the form of sequels. Man, alive, that’s awesome. Why would I want to change?

Ed: Yeah, I generally don’t weigh in a lot in the midst of other people’s interviews, but I hear you on that “Dumb it down” sort of thing. It seems an awful lot of advice to writers boils down to those three words, and it vexes me. There is already so much out there to entertain people who have the attention spans of gnats and the intellectual range of a sea slug, would it be so tragic to have a few books available that mouth-breathers might not like? But I rant and digress. 😉

Tell me about your favorite character.

RT: In This Brilliant Darkness, I guess the vile, horrid Greachin is the star. Everyone certainly loves him. To me, when I read him, I think “You are overly dramatic, ego-driven, paranoid, and wrongly motivated.” But I admit, he was the easiest to write. What does that say about me?  (Don’t you dare answer!)

In That Crackling Silence, Captain Kurt is my current favorite.  Perhaps because he’s a woman in a man’s body, from the future—and the star of the TV show Star Trails. Tends to make a man complex, I reckon.

It’s hard to pick a favorite. Everyone in Troll Or Derby is either magical, trailer trash, or plays roller derby, so just choose anyone from that book.

Ed: Have your favorite character tell me about you.

Greachin: (cocks his birdlike head and says)

All you need to know about Red Tash is that she shall die a messy death, at my mercy, at my hands, at my pleasure, at my time. At my time.

Ed: Back to Red, what’s your favorite line which you have written?

RT: I know you have to ask this because it’s the tagline thing, but this question really threw me.  I slept on it! I guess I’d have to default to the aforementioned slogan I wrote for myself, a few years ago: “The Quest for Perfection Will Murder Your Spirit.” I shoot for excellence, I make progress, and I am content with that. My characters say funny things, weird things, sad things, but they speak for themselves and I feel as though I channel them, strange truth be told. It doesn’t feel right taking credit for their brilliance, when and if it does emerge.

Ed: Now to the more nuts and bolts and more nuts aspects of the writing process, and some Q’s about Red as a writer.

Plotter or Pantser?

RT: Both. Snowflaker. I do Ingermanson’s snowflake method, but about half-way through I go “Ah, hell, I’ll just start writing and see how to get this character from one side of the cliff-face to the other side of the ravine.” Whenever I do outline, even just leaving notes for myself, for the next day’s writing, my characters rebel and do their own thing, anyway.

Ed: Best/Worst advice you ever got as a writer?

RT: I can’t think of any particular advice that was bad, even after attending a half-dozen writing conferences. Oftentimes, I think people react badly to what is actually really good advice, because they are too emotionally invested in their work. I have become pretty good at sucking the wisdom out of most situations, even if unintentional by the giver.  😉

I will say that the most frustrating feedback I ever got from an editor was “You know, your writing has really gone downhill since you got a divorce.” I sucked it up, thanked him for his assessment, and asked him how I could improve—what, specifically, was he dissatisfied with?  Eventually, he wrote to me and apologized for having never addressed my question, explaining there was nothing quantifiably wrong with the work I was turning in, and regretting that I had stopped pitching him stories in the interim. He also confessed that there were budgetary concerns going on, leading him to cutting freelance projects almost entirely (I had been at the top end of the payscale there, I believe.) I guess if I had to distill that into usable advice, I would say not to take everyone’s feedback at face value, either good or bad.  My stories were often picked up by newspapers across the country, and the AP wire. No one ever told me “good job,” because they didn’t have to—the proof was in the papers sold. As a novelist, it’s a whole new ballgame. Until I get to the level of sales that equates to “no one needs to tell me I’m doing a great job,” then I’ll be sifting through advice from readers, other authors, and editors as applicable. I hope I have the foresight to tell good from bad!

Ed: Best/Worst thing about being a writer?

RT: The pay is awful, right now. On the other hand, I am a writer.  🙂  It’s never boring, and it’s something I want to do so badly, I will fight for the time to write. If you’re willing to work that hard to find time to do your work, you must love it! And I do.

Ed: Why Indie?

RT: My first novel was so untraditional that I didn’t want to waste time shopping it seriously. I had a few partial requests from agents I met at conferences, and got some great feedback from the ABNA contest the first & only time I did that—but I’m a realist. It’s not likely to be a mass market success. Too esoteric.

My second novel is a lot more commercial, and I’m totally open to a publishing arrangement. I just haven’t really tried yet.

Ed: Is being a writer what you expected? How so or how not?

RT: I did not realize how happy the reader feedback would make me. As a journalist, the articles lead to more conversations about the topics. As a novelist, I have people asking how my characters are doing, as if they are people. That means a lot to me. I also appreciate the “finish the sequel or I will beat you up” threats. Those are hilarious.

Ed: Have you, or would you ever, collaborate on a story?

RT: Right now I am actually working on two top-secret collaborations! They’re both a lot of fun to write, and both very different from one another. It’s a lot to juggle, but it’s really giving me a charge.

Ed: If you were starting to write for the first time, what would you do different?

RT: Start sooner. And go ahead and study literature in college instead of getting that “safe” degree in accounting that took an extra four years, after shifting gears from the School of Education. Always safe, safe, safe. Forget about playing it safe, and just write.

Ed: What is the most important thing you have learned about writing?

RT: Read it aloud. Fiction is harder to write than non-fiction. Revisions take more time than you think they will. You need more distance from your work than you think you do. Beta-readers are hit & miss. Professional editors are hit & miss. People will still find mistakes even though you’re SO SICK of revising and you’ve revised the book to death.

Ed: What’s the moral of the story?

RT: The writing story? Follow your bliss. My particular story? Love conquers all.

Ed: And now just for giggles, some real answers to hypothetical questions.

Your computer is smoking, wheezing, and sparks are shooting out of the back.  You can save one thing off the hard drive.  What is it?

RT: Baby photos/videos.  Ed, this actually happened to me a month ago or so!

Ed: You are looking at the back of a book in a bookstore, reading on online blurb, or whatever.  What sort of thing makes you say “yes,” what sort of things makes you say “pass?”

RT: Funny makes me say “yes.” A long list of dry awards makes me say “pass.” If someone spends all kinds of time competing to be the best writer, I get the sense deep down they’re not that much fun, as a person. I’m not trying to say you can’t be a high achiever and still have fun, but I’d personally rather be stomping mud puddles than sculpting clay, any day, if you know what I mean.

Ed: You have one perfect day of free time, no obligations, needs, or responsibilities.  What do you do?

RT: Write, drink coffee, take a nature walk with my kids, take a shower with my husband, have a lot of sex, go roller skating, go out for steak, watch a movie at the drive-in with the kids, read a book, have more sex.  😉  Maybe draw a comic somewhere in there. Probably not during the sex, although, you never know.  There are no “perfect days of free time” for a mom of four. If all this stuff happened, I’d be concerned I were dying and in that dream-like state as my brain shut down, like in that movie Waking Life.

Ed: Someone “in the business” suggests you change something you feel is a critical part of one of your books, and guarantees it will increase sales. What do you do?

RT: Consider it. I once had an agent ask me if This Brilliant Darkness had any vampire sex in it. I seriously thought about it! But I just couldn’t begin to imagine how that would work into the story.

Ed: You are offered just enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your life, if you will just stop writing.  What do you do?

RT: Laugh.  Look at him/her funny.

ED: What question do you wish I had asked?

RT: Do you have a week set aside for answering all these questions? 😉  Seriously, though, it’s been an honor!


Thanks much to Red for stopping by, and do please check out any or all of the great books she mentioned here, starting with hers, obviously. 😉 The covers below link through to Amazon, but all Red’s books on all ereading devices (plus a whole lot more) can be found on her blog at:

This Brilliant Darkness: Mad monster stalks clueless professor.

The Wizard Takes a Holiday: Mysterious sorceror attends horror fest.

Tales of Haydon (Red edited this one, Tim wrote it): Young mage explores hidden city.


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7 responses to ““The Quest for Perfection Will Murder Your Spirit” – Tag Line Tuesday with Red Tash

  1. Red Tash

    March 27, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Hey, I did say The Stand twice! But, you know…I did read two versions of it, the original and the uncut, updated version. 😉 Baby, can you dig your man, anyone? (Why did King not update that song???)

    Regardless, Ed, thanks SO much for having me! It was a lot of fun! And your chiming in about the mouth-breathers gave me a real chuckle-outloud moment!

    Your friendly neighborhood racouteur,


  2. medmcn

    March 27, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Happy to have you here, Red. Stop by any time. 🙂

  3. Red Tash

    March 27, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Reblogged this on Red Tash and commented:
    It was an honor to be spotlighted on Ed’s Tagline Tuesday blog feature! And so much fun.

  4. Jessica McHugh (@theJessMcHugh)

    March 27, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Great post! Very informative and entertaining…but it IS Red Tash, so I wouldn’t expect any less!

    • medmcn

      March 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      Yup, Red’s good people. 🙂

  5. Tara West

    March 28, 2012 at 12:41 am

    Great post, Jesus and Ninja roller derby girl. I think Red would give Tilda a run for her money. What say you, Ed?

    • medmcn

      March 28, 2012 at 1:04 am

      Well, Tilda has an advantage by virtue of being a fictional character. Hard to lay a glove on those. 😉


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