Browsing Writing Life

Story addiction, or how I flunked 8th grade English

June2

Yesterday the Beekeeper and I were headed down to Vegas, he had work and I had errands and it was shaping up to be a busy day. Before the busy could get started, though, there was the three hour drive from here to there. This is secretly the best part. We complain, a lot, about the distance, the time it eats up, oh, and the gas prices are killing us, but really, I get nearly three hours, each way, of uninterrupted, kid-free, almost phone-free, me-and-him time. We have… conversations! :::gasp:::: Not that we don’t talk all the time, but it’s different, you know?

Anyway, yesterday we were driving along and I’d been admiring the spring wildflowers and gazing off into space for several miles when he asked what I was thinking about. “Pivotal moments in my early life as a reader,” I said.

“Seriously?” he said. “Sometimes I wonder about you.”

“Yes, seriously.”

“Okay. Like what?”

So, I started telling him stories about first readings of books and stories that shaped, changed, or completely re-wired me. The Beekeeper didn’t start reading recreationally until adulthood, so he tends to look at my uber-geek childhood with detached alien-like interest. He suggested that some of my more outrageous book relationships really should be documented. In that spirit, I’m going to tell the world how I utterly failed 8th grade English. Read the rest of this entry »

Things you can get away with as a writer.

March29

There are a number of disadvantages to writing as a career. For instance, there’s that thing about making enough money to actually live on. And then there’s that thing about people thinking you watch tv all day. So, obviously, since so many people want to do it, there has to be an upside, right? Right. There are perks. You get to do things professionally that most people consider unproductive, if not downright rude. Here’s my list of favorite writing perks:

  1. Daydreaming. My personal favorite. I can’t tell you how often I was in the principal’s office for this one, or how often my parents were told that I was really (probably) capable of passing (some of) my classes if I would just “apply” myself. As a working writer “daydreaming” becomes “plotting” and “getting to know your characters.” It is the essence of the work, the heart and soul, the fun part.
  2. Eavesdropping. Writer eavesdropping is a completely different thing from what your gossipy old Aunt Pauline does when she stands in the greeting card section of Walmart pretending to look for a birthday card for her neighbor’s cat while she’s really listening to the woman on the other side of the isle crying into her cell about how her boyfriend, Dwayne, forgot their anniversary again and she just doesn’t know if it’s because he’s secretly in love with his dental hygienist or if it’s just the playoffs keeping him preoccupied… and you know Pauline’s neighbor doesn’t even have a cat. No, writers eavesdrop because we love to listen to dialog. We love to read it, hear it, watch it play out. We love to listen to the way people put their words together, the way they say what they mean, and what they don’t mean, and what they don’t say at all. Writers are word-junkies, we can’t help it. If there’s words going on within earshot, you’d better believe we’re listening.
  3. Fabrication and/or Embellishment. My 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Dooley, was a hell-fire and damnation evangelical educator, with a Texas accent, a rock-solid beehive hairdo, and a seething contempt for dishonesty in any form that could come from a 6 year old. It was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in her class. I liked stories, and even at that age I knew the truth was sometimes not really what people wanted at all. It was a difficult year and I came out of it even more deeply committed to fiction as a viable alternative reality, a philosophy that served me well through the rest of my educational career. Writers, in general, aren’t in it to lie. We just want to make the story more interesting, more entertaining, more exciting … more fun. Since this is frowned on in polite society, we get to write books.
  4. Imaginary Friends and Playing Pretend. When I was little, Fridays were best because we were allowed “free play” at recess. It was a tiny little reprieve from the hell of dodgeball. Every other day of the week I was the last one picked, the one nobody wanted because I couldn’t catch, throw, or run worth beans, but on Friday I was in demand because the game was Pretend and I made good stories. I am blessed/cursed with a VIVID imagination. If I don’t give it something constructive to do it will run around in my head like a hyperactive border collie puppy, chewing up the furniture and painting scenarios of impending doom. When I am working on a book I can listen to my imaginary friends, I can play pretend with their lives, and it’s my job.
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The problem with infrequent posts

February27

…is remembering the log in password. But, like Hansel and Gretel, I eventually found my way home.

Things have been one continuous round of excitement this winter, what with the holidays, and moving, and my husband attempting to die of pneumonia, and that night the bull got out. FYI – you cannot make a bull do anything he does not want to do. You must convince the bull that what you want him to do is really his idea. Which is really all you can do with anyone, but a loose bull has such a way of focusing the attention. Truly.

So, work on the new book has been slow and sporadic, but progress is being made. The biggest breakthrough was finally determining the right way to take the story apart so that I could put it back together. It may be true that one eats an elephant one bite at a time, but it also helps to have a plan, a general idea of where to start and how to proceed. Up to now I’ve always been pretty straightforward, a “begin at the beginning and quit when it’s over” type of girl, but this time it wasn’t working. I started over and over but I couldn’t get the flow. It was brutally boring, which drove me nuts because all these characters were talking all the time in my head, telling me about themselves, and each other, and what happened, and they weren’t boring so I knew I was the problem.

At last there was one of those lovely scenes where the heavens part and the light comes on and suddenly you know what you need to do, and now it is going much much better.

I’ve received the cover art for Bitter Blessings and I love it! I am supposed to begin working with my editor in March, which is day after tomorrow, and it’s all going to be up and running from here on out. Very happy. Yep. There may be whistling, dancing, possibly even skipping. I’m just warning you. It could happen.

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Who? What? When? Where? How?

November17

The five questions of journalism? Nope. That’s me trying to figure out how to promote a book. I’m just the tiniest bit completely overwhelmed. Blogs, tweets, blog tours, reviewers, give-aways, promotions, contests, signings, and on and on. How does anybody get anything done? Seriously, a person could spend all day every day just keeping up with publishing industry blogs. There has got to be some balance to be found here. Something between living in a cave and only coming out to deliver manuscripts (admittedly my preference) and never finishing another book because I’m too busy trying to sell this one. I think I need to take a break from thinking about this, maybe just for a day or two. I’m going to step away from the laptop and hole up with the brand new spiral notebook I bought yesterday. Time to start pulling the next book out of my head.

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Dear Diary,

November5

In a box somewhere I have probably a dozen journals from my teenage years. They all start with some variation of “Here I am starting another diary. I really mean to keep at it this time…” followed by five or six, sometimes even ten, pages of painfully self-conscious descriptions of high school life, followed by a lot of crisp clean blank pages. I hope this time will be different. I mean, for one thing I did finally make it out of high school (we’re not going to talk about how long ago), and for another, I’m standing in the doorway between struggling wannabe writer and really truly published author. I like it here. The path to this doorway has been long and mostly uphill, but it has also brought me to some fantastic places and into the company of exceptional people.  I’m excited to step through and continue on. I hope you’ll drop in from time to time and say hello.