Quick post

I’m very busy scrambling to change cover art (and make sure the right ones are properly attached to books – just had a mixup that needed to be fixed, ugh!), and get things loaded onto my new snazzy (hoping I get accepted into the catalog)….

SMASHWORDS

Please go take a look – the first book in the RSI series is free to read!

The second book is available there as well, as will be the first book in the Sleep trilogy soon (as soon as I can get the file fixed up and transferred to the website).

Road to nowhere

Had meant to say in the last post that I’ve been struggling for a week or two with the dilemma of *which book to work on*. For a while, the motivation to write has been the urgency of wanting to get a decent body of Stuff out there. In the course of that, there are now three books in one series, and one in the other. The other series is the first book I’d ever written to completion, though it very little resembles the original “finished product” that I thought was done.

It’s been gutted, redone, and given an angle that finally made sense. And yet, I’m having a heck of a time getting rolling with its sequel. Maybe it’s just the distraction of online shopping, of looking for a telescope for the older kiddo, shiny lights to jokingly outdo the neighbors’ outdoor lights, and I would get myself completely sidetracked here just thinking about all the things to think about. No! Stop it…::slaps hands::

ANYway…the other option is to work on book 4 of the primary series. This is the series that could go on forever, I suppose. The other, I’ve concluded, ought only to be a trilogy. That’s what I put on the cover, anyway, so I guess it’s true.

It makes sense, right? If one thing isn’t working, try another line of approach? Zen writing? Find the plot of least resistance?

Wandering through the (dis)comfort zone

I hope I’m not the only one who procrastinates and avoids things…it’s a not very helpful habit, and keeps having unintentional side effects. I hate this about myself, but it’s a work in progress as far as getting rid of it. It was a long time in being built…I suppose we all seek out things that are soothing or pleasant…I just tend to avoid certain things until, say, it’s the night before a paper is due. That was for sure my college M.O. – and it typically had mixed results.

Those mixed results eventually taught me that I needed to strategize better at that type of work (it hasn’t spread acorss the spectrum yet) – but I remember professors at UNC giving me a gimlet eye a lot of the time. I was a laissez faire student once I got there (after hammering out a 3.8 gpa at my CC, it was zeroed out by transferring – a little depressing) – putting in effort precisely where needed, and not a ton more. But I remember my damned Poli Sci class (the one and only I had to take) – American Political Theory – the prof was just a little older than we were (and was let go after our term) and wrote on my massive term paper, “You proved your point, but I disagree with it.” And the grade to go with it was Depressing. At a university the size of UNC, you quickly find that you can’t fight the system too much – it will either bite you back, or ignore you.

Now, fifteen years later, I’m still doing that night before thing. What is it, the burn of adrenaline and fear, is that what makes you able to set to and pound out something right at the wire? Sweaty palms, upset stomach, eyes stinging…here we go again…. I’d like to have everything tidy and under control, for once in my addlepated existence.

My sister is good at doing what needs to be done, when it ought to be done. She’s got the opposite issue – the burning need to just do it, or not be able to sleep until it’s done. Well, except for a scientific paper she cowrote with her boss…but he kept changing things along the way, so I think that wasn’t entirely her fault. Which is more challenging to deal with, though, or is it the same effect – is there no real escape from that sense of panic – I guess getting it over with probably is a tiny bit better, if only by virtue of not prolonging the agony.

I’m sorta stuck there right now with the book – I need to finish it – I want to finish it – but there’s something hanging me up. I shouldn’t be too afraid by now…except I still haven’t seen any mediocre or negative reviews on the first book, and I feel like I’m waiting for a shoe to drop. I also need to put the first book onto the other sites still. I’m my only dictator of deadline – which doesn’t go well for an ADD procrastinator like me – but I guess I can overcome that. *sigh* Time to take the car to the repair shop.

year of the dragon

Evy2Evy1

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…..

When brains go bad….

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [to Igor] Now that brain that you gave me. Was it Hans Delbruck’s?
Igor: [pause, then] No.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Ah! Very good. Would you mind telling me whose brain I DID put in?
Igor: Then you won’t be angry?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I will NOT be angry.
Igor: Abby Someone.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [pause, then] Abby Someone. Abby who?
Igor: Abby Normal.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [pause, then] Abby Normal?
Igor: I’m almost sure that was the name.
(Young Frankenstein)

My mother likes to tell a story about a time, when I was a teenager, that she came in to wake me, and swears that I mumbled, “Brain and brain, what is brain?” Like Spock, my brain had apparently gone on the fritz. Or on the lam. I don’t remember saying any of it, and I don’t normally somnambu-vocalize, but I used to be one of those people who didn’t function in the morning. I’d be up, late at night, drinking coffee after coffee, feeling fine, and have no trouble going to sleep.

These days…at the age of 35 (and my darling hubby a little beyond that) we find ourselves obsessing over sleep, whether we had enough, whether we got the right kind, and what the hell was up with those LOONY dreams last night? Seriously. We’ve actually had conversations where we wondered whether our house was built on a temporal rift, an ancient burial ground, something that would explain some of the wacko dreams we seem to have in concert with each other. I do wonder whether science can provide an answer to why it is that we both dream heavily during the same night, even though, obviously, they’re different dreams. Other nights, we’re both out cold and can’t recall anything.

There are reasons to stay awake at night, certainly. Number one is that your kids are hopefully asleep (although I see an alarming number of my friends who have insomniac offspring – I feel for them…not fun!). And if  your kids are asleep, your house suddenly becomes the adult playground. All the off-color language starts flowing like Prohibition has just ended. We look at movies we’d never dare to with small people on the loose. And, of course, the other thing, which is supposed to only get better as we get older, right?

I mean, the thing is that, with your kids underfoot, you just try to have a conversation. You can’t. Kids have a set of directives, I have come to see, that when they see someone trying to talk on the phone or to someone, that’s when they suddenly need everything that they’ve been putting off for the whole day. I get the “I’m hungry, I’m bored, I want you to read a story, I need to suddenly paint a portrait because I’ve been studying Da Vinci’s techniques,” every single time I pick up the phone when my mother calls. Right now, I’m getting the, “I need you, I want you,” from the wrong party, if you know what I mean.

I know I can’t blame them for everything, including for why I might be overtired (they have their flaws, but they certainly sleep), but it has to be a contributing factor. I have moments when I know I had a conversation with someone about something but I will be damned if I can think who the heck I was talking to. I think also that having kid in your life, with the parental-ADD that comes in the package, means that you have to be a little more careful about trying to remember. I have moments when I am certain I had a conversation with someone, only to realize that I was playing out a potential conversation in my head, or that I dreamt it….

When I write, and am distracted, or affected by my memory gaps as I write ~ well, you can imagine how well that goes from time to time. There have been things I wrote, and went back to read, and found that none of it made sense, or that I was evidently under the influence of aliens or rampant hormones (that’s a whole book on its own!). Brain and brain…. Not all of it makes it out there for everyone to see, thank goodness, but some of it does. I’m coming to view this as part of the territory, that I will stray, “speak” out of turn, irritate, or upset the apple cart a bit. I don’t plan on sharing huge swathes of personal detail, but yes, it’s still possible to mess up and say something that doesn’t sit right with everyone.

As I can’t fully blame my kids (at least not for too many more years…they are learning how to read now), neither can I just blame it on a faulty noggin. Mine is faulty here and there. I know I don’t have total recall. How much use it not to see a photographic image of a page and everything on it, but only a fuzzy photo of the page, and roughly where the thing you’re trying to think of is on that page? Only a tiny bit of useful, I can tell you.

Our brains are the single biggest asset we have…. I have lost one grandparent to complications from Alzheimer’s for instance, and my father’s parents are both slipping into the ether of dementia, right in front of us. My other grandmother, whom I don’t get to see very often, is also affected. It terrifies me. Of the four of them, three are college graduates. They were all voracious readers. The only thing I can see that was a risk factor they all had in common: they never really participated in any kind of cardiovascular exercise. I hope that as I go along (and I do exercise for that reason), and Generation X ages, we all can escape this fate.

But in the here and now, I have to say that I probably am going to screw up and/or have brain farts with the best of them. At least I am not like a Sue Grafton, who writes her crime books, envisioning her ex-husband as the murder victim in each one. Or Hemingway and Fitzgerald, who seemed to have written self-destructive prophecies. Or the Eat, Pray, Love author, whose ex was unhappy enough abut her portrayal of him that he penned his own book, apparently in response. And one does wonder what Jane Austen’s contemporaries thought of her mocking them quite blatantly in her books. It seems to come with the territory, in a way that not much of the other aspects of the arts seems to. Nor, in fact, that much else in this world seems to. The written word has a power unmatched, probably because it does come from the mind, the seat of intellect, origin of emotion; it is the reason our hands, hearts, and mouths move. Perhaps it is necessary to recognize that power and submit to it a little, so that we can understand how much it can affect and alter our world.

In other words, keep learning.

 

Defying gravity

My husband made an observation about me the other day…I was a little surprised that he hadn’t either noticed or noted it before, I suppose. He observed that I thrive with my back to the wall – which is to say: I love proving people wrong, I procrastinate and produce (things that sometimes amaze me) under the gun, and when I only have myself as a critic, I start to unravel.

It’s probably good then, that he was doubting whether I’d be able to get this particular agent person to take me on – (note: he has clarified and said he was referring to this based on a short story that I had written, that he thought it would be a bad idea to send it to this agent, I guess he feels it was not one of my better moments in writing....) I shall refer to this particular agent person as just that, or maybe, “this P.A.P.,” at least until I have unleashed myself and my mountain of wordiness onto the poor soul. I had been secretly worrying about it all, but once the Husband voiced his concern, I could feel the tiny little fire – even if now I find that it was a focused concern, on one particular thing (this was the story I sent off to this Glimmertrain submission process – I don’t have extremely high hopes for it. My short stories sometimes don’t seem to do what I want them to – I guess that’s why I tend to focus more on longer fiction – more narrative to engulf myself in. I’ll post it after I find out whether it was rejected, I guess…!)

This is the wee flame that propelled me from community college into UNC, as a junior transfer. I’d originally applied as a sophomore, and they called to say, jeez, you have too many credits for that, and not enough for junior…I don’t know what came over me, but I pounced. Maybe it was the thought of being in Jordan-land. Or the look I’d had at the campus, with its old, old atmosphere. I just rounded the corner, contacted a few people (thanks again to my high school AP English teacher!), and fought my way in. I had to do that a bit at UNC, probably because it’s a 50k student population, instead of a tiny liberal arts school…but yes, I managed to get my degree, even after being told I was two courses shy of graduating, mere months before I was due to hit OCS for the USMC. Again, under the gun, right, yessirree.

Sometimes, it hasn’t panned out 100%, but by and large, I find that I can really gear myself up when a deadline is looming. I recently found a paper I wrote for an astronomy class, under the same pressure. Somehow I had absorbed all this data about theoretics, quantum mechanics, and wrote about wormholes in a way that was clear I knew what the hell I was saying when I wrote it. Rereading it, however, holy cow…I could barely make sense of it.

Not just academics, either. After our first child was born, and shipped to a NICU out of state, I fought with everyone over the bill we were sent by a private doctor who saw him during that time. In the end, the doctor decided to write it off, and the whole thing was resolved peacefully.

In the past few years, my skills have slipped, though. I guess life got a little stressful, and I bundled myself up in the shell of protecting myself and our kids from the big bad world. It sounds ridiculous, unless you’ve been down our road. When you have a child with a major disability, you tend to be either really reactionary, or else, like me, becoming like a tank, heavily armored, and ignoring everything.

This past year has dumped me on my head here and there…and I was really starting to be stressed out and unhappy over everything…but, of course, bottling it up until my guts hurt. And then, I started talking to whatever it is out there that might be watching over us…I don’t know what to call it right now, obviously that is a whole different story (I grew up a “PK” – a priest’s kid)…but I was asking for a signpost, basically something to tell me in which direction to head. If it’s to be writing, that’s where I would love to go, but I don’t want to be selfish and do it if it’s not the right thing for me to do. And, when and where I least expected it – that was when my dad jumped out of his seat the next time I saw him, and he dug out a business card from his date book, and handed it to me, with this particular agent person’s name on it. If that’s not a signpost, I don’t know what is. Anyone could have given me a name, but this came from my dad, and it’s someone he has known for a long time. And this person’s family are a truly amazing bunch. I could hardly ask for a clearer roadmap, I guess.

So that lit the first fire of “gotta do” under me, and thankfully, my husband and his tiny expression of doubt have pushed me quite a bit further down the line. Where to now…?