year of the dragon


And here we are, nearly at the end. Some people think the world will end soon, too. I hope not, because I don’t feel like spending the rest of eternity as a free-floating mass whose only thought is, “Why didn’t I finish my last book this way instead of that?” Or something like that. Actually, I’m sure I’d have bigger regrets to dwell on while my molecules slowly de-coalesce. What would your regrets be? Or, better question, what would the end of the world look like, in your opinion? 2012 (the movie), or just a sudden flash of light and fizzing like opening a champagne bottle with a sword…it could come in any form (if I believed in such things).

As of right now…I have written one book pretty much completely from the beginning (I had about 30 pages just sitting around in a word file for a couple years), edited it, allowed my close friends to read it and give me feedback…which wasn’t so much feedback as admiration. I’m reasonably certain that it was all sincere – okay, I know it was – but I’m still waiting for the boom to come falling off the mast of this otherwise seaworthy vessel. I have three “Loved It!” reviews sitting on amazon. So yes, like I said, I’m waiting for the “Meh,” reviews, or even the, “I find this book pedantic,” or “What the hell was she thinking?” or even, “I’m astonished by your crap,” reviews…yes, that’s me. I’m an expert at expecting to be disappointed.

From this comfortable bubble, I have plowed on, however. I got absolutely nothing done during summer break. Those are the days when my husband leaves for work saying, “Go with god.” As our boys are wide awake at 6am every day, and typically are full of far too much energy and mischief…I’m sure their father is laughing his way to work every day. Ok, he doesn’t do that, but maybe he does once in a while. Just as he imagines I sit around eating bonbons and doing things that he’d like to, ahem, see me doing.

As many of us who are willing to be honest will tell you, Mother’s Day is not in May, it’s whatever the first day of school is. That’s when I get back my workout schedule, and the ability to write. I’ll also be perfectly honest here – I don’t labor intensively to keep my kids healthy because I’m such a good mom, it’s because I don’t want them home more than necessary! Knock wood, we do manage to stay pretty healthy around here…. And because of all that hard work, I am in the home stretch of a massive rewrite.

This was a book that I literally dreamt up back in, oh, 1996. It took me until 2002 to finish writing something resembling a first draft (in reality, more like an 18th iteration…I kept going back before I was even done, to add and dither, and generally create more work for myself). Then, I entered it into this “contest”, it won the popular vote, and the real judges told me that it needed a “lot of work”. Well, no shit. As an amateur, I had no notion of how to fix the stupid thing, or so I thought. Instead, I tossed it aside and didn’t look at it for the next 5 years. Maybe more, I forget. In the meantime, I read, and read, and began to really pay attention to how other writers write. Just as you can watch a movie and see why it was: a blockbuster, a flop, a critical success, or a cult-fave in the making…you can easily detect these things in a book. Except for the whole 50 Shades thing…that defies logic.

I read good stuff, and I read some yawn stuff, and I thought back to stuff I’ve read before. For instance (my apologies to my younger son and to Mr. Lucas), if you want to have a lesson in how NOT to write dialogue, one need look no further than both the Star Wars screenplays and in Lucas’ collaborative series that was a sequel to Willow. I’ll apologize to the talented Chris Claremont as well, because I suspect he could do little to tell his co-writer that what they were writing was practically impossible to read. I mean, we *know* he can write….

Even the best writers stumble, obviously, and it can be pretty instructive to read those instances as well. I will admit that I prefer (as any sane person would) to read the really good stuff. I read the Hunger Games trilogy, Oscar Wilde, PG Wodehouse, all of Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Anansi Boys, Good Omens, Kate Atkinson…and many others, but that list covers the summer, if I remember correctly. Once I start writing again, I don’t tend to read.

So, when I started in on editing, I think I had a pretty good idea of what Really Good could look like. I’m not saying that I will come up with it on my own, but I can try. I am hoping to have Sleep up and live on amazon no later than year’s end. My friend, and all-around awesome lady Gail is designing the cover, as she did for my previous book. All I have to do is think of a good ending for the beginning of a series (which this is, just as the other book is – but that’s a separate series, just so you know!).

My goal for the blog right now is to post bi-monthly. We’re mid-month December. The next one will be right when I’m aiming to publish. I’ll work on the format for the blog at that time, but I welcome all….

And if you’re looking for a really great book for the winter break, I recommend Susan Henderson’s Up From The Blue. It’s her debut novel, and I do “know” her from interacting in her writing community over at LitPark for quite a few years now, but the book took me on an unexpected journey. I don’t always like contemporary lit, but this was like stepping through a time machine into my own past. It’s straightforward, elegant, unpretentious, and really a work that I can only aspire to. Her ability to evoke memory through small detail is…I can only compare it to Ellis Peters or

Tolkien (but a lot easier to read!). I hope you’ll take a moment and find a copy at your local store, or at the library!


How I earned my first 2 dollar bill….

I have to thank my husband’s auntie for this experience. She, of her own volition, got on the stick and asked whether she could use my short stories for a reading group in her retirement community. It slays me, really! I don’t know what I imagine, but it’s nice so far, and having a deadline looming overhead is keeping me moving a little bit.

Actually, if I’m being quite honest, reading critically for short story writing has turned out to be much more helpful than I’d guessed. First off, you don’t want to be a rambler if your narrative is supposed to be succinct by nature, so you start thinking about how to say everything in much smaller, more meaningful mouthfuls. When you write long, you get a little lax. I’ve used the running metaphor for writing before, and it still holds true. When I set out on an hour or more looooong run, I’m only worried about being able to make it for the return leg, so I take it easy, and coast, and delve off into fantasy or two. On the days I go fast and short, I have to remain in the moment, focus on form, and push myself. This is exactly how I am feeling as I move through short stories. A little bit of endorphin, a little panic, a glance at the clock every few moments, and eventually, I can see the end nearing. I’ll breathe when I’m done.

Through the auspices of this reading group, I’m expanding a story I mentioned before, based on someone I observed in our neighborhood. Instead of one tiny piece of his pie, I’m making the rest of it, into a village narrative. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m in the home stretch of the second in the series. I wish it had been easier and more quick, but holy hell, we got the mother of all snowstorms last week, and I’ve been on my own with our kids, with my husband overseas on business. To quote Metallica, “…frayed ends of sanity/hear them calling me….” Tonight was a particular challenge, with our younger child going apeshit several times. He’s always been high strung, a colicky personality to the bone, but tonight was a new level of freakout. It’s tough to get him ramped down from those moments – you tell him he’s got to chill and do some breathing, and he screams that he’s CALMED DOWN NOW!!!!!!! I have never met this kind of kid before…and it’s chemistry, too – his extra-extrovert to my sanguine (normally) introvert. We collide like matter and antimatter – and clusters of black holes are littered around us by day’s end. I love his passion, for the most part, but it might kill me.

And for my efforts, I have gotten a modest fee, and a genuine two dollar bill to frame and baffle my husband with when he arrives home. It’s not perzactly publication, but if I can get a little feedback, and a collection of stories to play around with, it’s well worth it.

To be continued…..

progress report….

Well, I’ve managed to get a little completely off track since, a) deciding that my kids need less time on the computer and television (I may be a little nuts, but it had to happen, but it means less time for me as well: guess who’s entertaining them!) and, b) a case of food poisoning knocked me on my ass, and apparently breached the castle walls for a really bad cold (which felt like pneumonia for a couple of days).
I’m still trying to get my head back in the game – especially after a random case of the blues hit…nobody ever expects Pablo Picasso!!

And then, spring (against the odds, man) seems to have arrived – adding further distraction in the form of blue skies and temperatures that don’t make you want to immediately run back inside. But this happens every year, so that’s why I’m countering it with goaltending. My writing being the puck, and distractions being the jerks on skates trying to steal it from me. On target…yeah…here’s what else is on my mind as the warmer weather looms:

  • Finally getting all the unused, garbage-y, purposeless (to us) stuff out of our house – really. Well, I’m not going to go all minimalist or anything,  but a purge is overdue. And I’m a magpie, so it might be hard….
  • Get the garden back in running order – going to ditch the hesitancy in planting, and go ALL OUT. Just need more dirt and maybe another raised bed. Maybe a LOT more dirt.
  • A camping trip from our New Englandy roost down to Missouri, where 3 of 7 of my hubby’s sibs reside – one of whom will be a first-time dad with his wife (yay!). I foresee traveling through North Carolina (where I went to school), and finding some awesome barbeque – I do love a pig pickin’…and it’s why I can’t ever be a vegetarian.

Through all this, I must find a way to stay on course, somehow, so…yeah, that’s why I do this blogging thing. To remind myself of what I’m supposed to be doing. Yeah. Thank god the kids aren’t home yet!

Where did I put that notebook/pencil/medulla oblongata…?

So yeah, my goal is to finish a pretty hefty number of writing projects over the coming year. As of now, I have one thing done. Somewhat done. Almost there…it’s a children’s book, with the wordy parts done, but the part where the kids look at the pictures, that’s not so much there yet. I should probably sit and sketch it out, at least. I’m not certain that I’m the best artist for the whole thing, though. So, maybe my part is 80…70% done. That’s the part where I pat myself mentally, and say, “Good job, now you can have your coffee.”

I’m a procrastinator and a distractable tangent queen. I invariably forget and remember and forget again several times before I do things like, finally get my birth control pills refilled. It’s not a subliminal attempt to have more kids! I swear! We don’t even have enough bedrooms in this house to consider it, let alone wiggle room with what little sanity I probably have left. And I’m distractable. Did I say that already? No, really, it’s not like that, it’s more like, I get started on one thing, like trying to write, get sidetracked because of the smell coming from the refrigerator when I opened it, looking for creamer, and by the time I throw out everything iffy, it’s 3pm, and the bus is honking outside. And as we all know, when the kids come home, nothing else gets done.

So, I try to do what I can while they’re at school, if I can stay on target. Sometimes I end up doing things like cooking nine dinners to freeze. Or cleaning the fish tank. Stuff that still can’t be done while they’re home…unless I’m feeling psychotic.

Today, the day I’m writing this, I got distracted by facebook, the aforementioned bcp’s, going to Target, and then a frantic call from my son’s school, because he had an unfortunate incident in his pants. And that’s where my day went, well away from a trip to the library and settling in with my thoughts, to write. At least I’m not going to end up in real trouble in nine months….