Writing is just like rowing – I bet you never knew that! by Trish Morey
Like most writers I know, I love reading. I love to find a great book, a simply unputdownable book, and get transported away with the characters, the setting and with their situation. I will fly through it, relishing every word, eating up the prose until, with a final sigh of satisfaction tinged with disappointment, the book is finished. Those books, those fast reading, page-turning, non-trip-uppable stories that flow like ribbons through your mind’s eye, they must be easy to write – right?
Wrong. As someone once said, easy reading is hard writing.
It’s like that with rowing. I used to row many moons ago, in single and double sculls, and in a four when I lived back in Canberra, Australia’s capital city. I used to head lakewards around every morning and slap my boat onto the mirror finish water and row for an hour or more, covering kilometers at a time. But when I first started, I could barely balance in my narrow scull with its long fine oars. I used to wobble my way around the bay, too scared to venture outside, in case the worst happened and I was dumped into the freezing waters.A lot like when I started writing. I wasn’t game to send my first tentative words away to contests and risk being torn to shreds.
But gradually, the confidence to exit that bay built up, much as my confidence to send my work out to editors and contests slowly grew. I still wasn’t rowing well. I certainly didn’t have great technique and there were many a time my blade would dig in way too deep and I’d in rowing terms “catch a crab” and stop dead in the water. In writing I’d catch a rejection. Lots and lots of rejections. I won a few races as a novice sculler, and boy, did that lift the spirits. I won a few writing contests. I had great rowing coaches. In writing I had critique groups and fabulous writing colleagues.
I used to love skating over the millpond surface of the lake on those frosty morning, like a water insect darting over the surface and I did pretty well, actually made it to a couple of Nationals downunder although I never brought home a medal. I finalled in the Golden Heart, although the necklace eluded me.
And one day I worked out what it took to be a great rower. It was during the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games and I was watching a rower who looked so utterly relaxed and fluid as he powered his boat through the 2000 metres to win a gold medal. Just looking at him you couldn’t tell how much he was working, how much effort he was putting in when those blades dug into the water, how much it hurt when he rammed down his legs and pushed back, how much his lungs burned with the effort. He made it look so utterly easy.
And that’s the mark of a great writer too. Remember that last great book you read? You didn’t see how hard that book was to write, you didn’t feel the pain when things didn’t go well for the author, you didn’t see the blood, sweat and tears that went into its creation. What you read was smooth, fluid and seemingly effortless. It’s a worthy goal.
‘Tis the season, and as I stare down the brightly painted eyes of the four foot tall Nutcracker guarding my fireplace hearth, I realize that the Norman Rockwell moments I plan for the holidays, involving crafting, baking, and entertaining, rarely come to fruition. In a perfect world, my house would be completely decorated, inside and out, by the end of the first weekend in December, which would leave me plenty of time to invite friends over and complete those craft projects hiding in my guest closet. But my Decembers aren’t perfect. What usually happens? I’m filling stockings Christmas Eve and wondering where December and all my good intentions went.
Last year, I bought supplies to make a nice wooden sign proclaiming “Merry Christmas,” only I went too late to the craft store and all the c’s, s’s, r’s, and t’s were gone. Luckily, I grew up in Louisiana and decided I could say it in French instead, so I ended up with letters for “Joyeaux Noel.” Have I assembled and painted that sign yet? In a word, no. With visions of a gingerbread village dancing in my head, I also purchased clay polymer houses and trims. I pictured my daughter and me building our village and placing it on a blanket of glittery batting on the dining room buffet. We did attempt one house, but the glue wouldn’t hold, and the village components are still sitting in a big plastic bag in my guest closet. My baking goal was accomplished by donning plastic gloves and a silk scarf to cover my nose and mouth so as to prevent passing along the Christmas cold I seem to get every year.
I swear this year will be different. I got the cold/flu out of the way at Thanksgiving, so fate wouldn’t be cruel enough to visit another illness upon me for Christmas. Right? And it’s not even December yet. I have plenty of time to decorate inside and out, bake sugar cookies, finish those craft projects, and watch all of my favorite holiday movies (Read the December Wet Noodle Posse e-zine and find out each posse member’s favorite holiday movie!).
May your holiday plans for this year bring you only promised joy. May nothing go awry.
A Soldier's Tale by Elizabeth Rolls Dominic, Viscount Alderley's family are looking to him to marry an heiress, but only his downtrodden, compassionate cousin Pippa seems able to ignore his scars…. A Winter Night's Tale by Deborah Hale
This year's festivities for Christabel and her young son will be sparse and cold--or so she thinks. When the man she'd loved and lost returns, offering her warmth, comfort and a true family Christmas, she can't resist!
Persistent people begin their success where others end in failure
Today my fourteen-year-old daughter turned to me and said, “I found a new quote that I’m going to live my life by from now on.” The quote goes something like this: Every minute you spend being angry or sad is a minute of happiness that you will never get back.
This child of mine has always been fascinated by quotes. She has bought three books of quotes in the past year and some of her favorites are plastered to the walls in her room. For a school project she used the quote, “Only dead fish go with the current…” I like that one. Quotes are fun and inspirational, which is why I’ll end my blog with a personal favorite. It’s actually a part of a quote by Marianne Williamson that was used in the movie Akeelah and the Bee:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
This is still the Thanksgiving weekend, a good time to reflect on blessings. With my new book just out, I'm in a state of euphoria, remembering all the blessings of a writer's life.
Creativity, that building of worlds and creating of people. The sudden enlightenment that fiction really is truth. Swallowing your fear back down your throat and submitting to editors. Getting rejected by editors. Good reviews. Bad reviews. The anxiety of waiting for your sales numbers, knowing low numbers can spell the end of your career. Wondering why your editor is not responding to your email. Wondering why your editor didn't let you know she was leaving to go to work for Microsoft in Timbuktu. Watching your chosen genre fade away, and wondering if there's anything else you can write instead.
Okay, crazy woman, you say, hold it. That sounds more like Life in Hell. You're calling it a blessing?
Well, yes. And being a writer, I'd like to explain by waxing allegorical. Another way of saying I'm going tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there was this guy who discovered a stick with a flattened end, and it occurred to him it might be fun to hit that little round rock with his stick to see how far it would go. So he stood beside the little round rock, hauled the stick back over his shoulder, and swung as hard as he could. Lo and behold, the rock rolled forward, kind of wobbling a little to the left, and came to a stop right at the edge of a little hole in the ground.
That gave him an idea. Wouldn't it be fun to see if he could knock the rock into the hole from a distance? So he picked up the rock and paced off a short distance, where he set himself up to take another whack at the rock. As the rock rolled straight for the hole, his heart began to race. It was going to make it! It was going to... going... going...
The rock veered left and rolled away from the hole. It had just enough momentum to crest a tiny ridge, and then it was on a downward slope, and it kept rolling, rolling, rolling, all the way down to the bottom of the hill.
Oh good grief. Okay, okay, so what he really said was full of asterisks, ampersands and pound signs. Anyway, he got the notion maybe this wasn't as easy as it looked. But maybe his equipment was a bit primitive. The rock wasn't perfectly round, and maybe too heavy. And the stick was a bit crooked. Maybe if he dug a hole in his beautifully groomed front lawn where there weren't any bumps or clumps, the ball would roll straighter.
So next thing you know, the guy was trying out substitutes for the rock. Nope, feathers were too light, and it sort of went up into the air and, well flopped to the side. He tried one stuffed with cloth. Same thing. Okay, half rocks and half cloth. Better, but still not right. Pretty soon, he discovered string, which he wrapped around a tiny core, while his wife was wondering why he'd spend hours wrapping rocks in string if he wouldn't help her wind her yarn into balls.
He kept on working, trying new things, making new sticks with wedge-shaped heads, and re-seeding and rolling his lawn. Pretty soon, every spare minute of his life was taken up with trying to hit little balls into holes with his latest stick design. His language had more and more funny typographical symbols in it, and his wife was seriously considering divorce, but he just knew one of these days he was going to get that rock into the hole on the first try.
So one day this guy went off to the day job, all the while dreaming of the weekend when he could get back to banging balls into little holes, and there in the cubicle across from him was that crazy woman writer. I mean, you'd think she'd have caught on by now. She sells a book and then turns around and spends every dime she makes promoting it so she can sell another book and spend every dime she has on that one.
But just to be sociable, he asked, "Hey, how's it goin'?"
Well, she told him. Seems she had some godawful number of stories out at bunches of places, not that the names mean anything to him, and for some reason he couldn't comprehend, some editor wanted her to re-write her Cinderella Story yet again, and not only that if they did buy it this time, all they'd give her for it was a few thousand dollars. She'd been working on that story for three years, for crissakes. For a few thousand dollars? IF they buy it?
"I don't get it," said the guy. "If it's all that hard, I don't understand why you keep putting yourself through it."
"Sure, you do," she answered. "You play golf, don't you?"
So the guy bought her latest book. Yeah, he thought, here's a woman who understands the importance of golf.
And that brings me to the best blessing of them all. I get to indulge in my obsession sitting in my nice comfy chair inside a nice warm house. I don't have to be out there in the freezing rain whacking sticks against little white balls.
Scoundrel, Seducer. Sir Ian MacKay deserves to be called the Thief of Hearts. But he’s also a man on a mission: to keep Scotland safe until his rightful king can be returned to the throne. But first he must learn the true identity of the mysterious new arrival whose beauty and charm has dazzled the court. Can it be possible Kate Templeton is an English spy?
Kate, determined to find out why the Scots have yet to ransom their king, has vowed to resists the Thief’s scandalous charms. In an effort to accomplish her mission. she leads him on a merry chase until a passionate confrontation brings them together and the only word on her lips is yes...
How It Came About:
Per reader request, Ian MacKay is back...in all his golden glory. But finding his perfect match was no easy task. Because he had a fondness for petite brunettes and loathed women with secret agendas, I’d created a petite and beautiful Sassenach spy, but the story just wouldn’t gel in my heart. Then I received a letter from a reader who said she lived vicariously through romance because she was very tall and rarely dated. Hmm...What if Kate was very tall, making it impossible for her to go keep a low profile? (Women of the period were five feet or less.) And what would Ian’s reaction be when he discovered he didn’t have to fold in half to kiss a woman? When he discovered his body parts aligned almost perfectly with hers? What if she was an intellectual match and as devious as he? Oh ya...here we go. Thank you, dear reader. I hope you enjoy your story.
“Blair’s attention to historical and regional detail supports a fine balance of action and romance, making this political potboiler a winning read.” ~ Publishers Weekly
“With a magical blend of humor, passion, and adventure, A Thief In A Kilt is sure to steal hearts.” ~New York Times Bestselling author Lorraine Heath
In our family, we start our morning off by watching the Macy's Day Parade. We paid special attention because the new Oklahoma float was in the parade. It's in celebration of Oklahoma's 100th year. We became a state in 1907.
As I was looking at the float, I was thinking of the importance of milestones. Milestones mark great achievements. But I often wonder if we place expectations and shoot for milestones that are not really real. As a writer, the milestones I placed on myself were finaling in the Golden Heart and getting a book contract. But those weren't realistic at all - they weren't at all in my control.
Right now I try to mark my milestones in word count. That's something I can control.
On the radio the other day, I heard some nifty little facts about Thanksgiving that demonstrated to me how far off our "grand, old traditions" can be sometimes, and thought I'd share them with you.
1) The Pilgrims that we hear so much about did not, in fact, call themselves Pilgrims. They referred to themselves as Saints.
2) Pilgrims (Saints!) never wore big hats and shiny, big buckles like every elementary school pageant in the country would have you believe. That was the invention of 19th-century painters who thought the outfits looked 'old-fashioned'. Besides, forged metal was extremely expensive to these immigrants and not something they would have wasted the metal on when they had it.
3) There was no turkey the first Thanksgiving. No, really. Apparently, if you want a traditional Thanksgiving, you should be eating venison.
4) Thanksgiving was not in November, but sometime in late September or early October, which as any of you who've lived on a farm know, is the actual harvest time.
5) There was no Second Thanksgiving to follow that landmark First Thanksgiving. The harvest was meagre that year and a whole boatload of new immigrants had just arrived that had to be clothed, housed and fed for the full winter, so the food could not be spared.
6) The main activities were eating, drinking, and games.
#6, at least, is something that has not changed. So enjoy whatever game is on TV (or enjoy the preoccupation of the game-watchers), loosen the waistband of those slacks, enjoy a beverage of your choice, and count your blessings. Then you will be following the traditions of Thanksgiving, no matter what other trappings it comes with.
Thanks and giving. Two great reasons to celebrate all the good things in our lives.
Tomorrow my small family will swell to a remarkable seventeen. My brother and sister-in-law are opening their home to family and family's family, all for the purpose of welcoming the season. Now that the kids are growing up and marrying, their spouses and sometimes the parents-in-law, join in the celebration. The more the merrier, I say. I don't even mind washing the dishes.
Happy Thanksgiving to all the readers of the Wet Noodle Posse blog and your families--no matter what shape they take.
A special wish goes out to my WNP sisters. My life was blessed the day you came into it. For that I give thanks. And I give you my heart.
Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month, a challenge to write 50,000 words in a month, the better part of a complete manuscript. This was my first year to take the challenge, and this is what I know about myself now.
1) I can write 1000 words in the morning before I go to work. 2000 words a day is doable. I never could do more than 3500, though.
2) I don’t need no stinkin’ plot. Heck, I barely needed characters. The story took a life of its own and never slowed down.
3) I can lose myself in a story and be late for work. I can lose myself in a story and forget to go to bed.
4) I like counting by word count instead of page count. Goes faster. I can also use cooler fonts.
5) If I’m too focused on word count, I tend to skim over emotions.
6) I can plan a story to go one way and it can turn out to be something totally different – and more interesting.
7) I can only work on one project at a time.
8) I can skip my favorite TV shows because I’d rater write.
9) Even though this month has been CRAZY – PTA, Science Night, my brother’s play, visitors from out of town, I got my butt in the chair every day and felt good about it.
10) I will need big revisions when it’s done. My hero changed, and I need to even him out. My heroine fell in love with him too fast, so I need to work on that, and flesh out her relationships with the other men in her life, including her son. But I’ll have a good skeleton to work with. While it may never sell (the hero changed, after all), I’m having a blast writing it.
I will definitely do it again next year if I don’t have any other obligations. It is a great boost, though, just what I needed at this point.
At this time of year -- no, not the Holidays -- Golden Heart Contest time, I hear many of my friends moan about having to write a synopsis. See Lorelle's Blog of November 15, for example. I used to have difficulty writing synopses until my friend Darlene Gardner (Assignment Humbug in Dashing Through the Mall, Nov 2006) gave me this synopsis formula. Darlene did not claim to have invented it and neither do I. I've seen similar versions by several authors, so to whoever first thought this up, Thank You!
This synopsis formula provides a structure which gave me a simple way to include in the synopsis the Goal, Motivation, and Conflict (concepts from Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation, & Conflict:The Building Blocks of Good Fiction)of the hero and heroine and their backstory without having to try to weave it into the plot. My most difficult problem was solved. I used this synopsis formula on my 2003 Golden Heart Winner. So here, it is, and I hope it helps some of you Contest Hopefuls out there.
Diane’s (and a bunch of other people's) Synopsis Formula
A paragraph or one or two sentences that gives the story premise, like a back cover blurb.
The Goal Motivation and Conflict of the heroine (or hero) Include necessary parts of their backstory
The Goal Motivation and Conflict of the hero (or heroine) Include necessary parts of their backstory
The Plot (Just say, "The story begins with...") Major turning points only. Focus on the romantic plot, too.
The Black Moment
Use as few names as possible. The hero and heroine, and one or two important characters. For everyone else, use terms like, the cousin, the heroine's best friend, her neighbor, his father, etc.
In Romance, it is the romantic plot that is most important. You can leave out or give only the barest summary of the external plot
That is it! My holiday gift to you!
What is the hardest part for you about writing a synopsis? Do any of you have a synopsis formula that works for you? If so, let us know!
"List, list, O list! If thou didst ever thy dear father love..." Kiki Clark
I’m in the middle of my holiday gift shopping, and here’s my question for today. Do you like to tell people what to give you, or be totally surprised?
“I have everything I need. Just surprise me.” Those are words you will never hear from me. While it’s true that I don’t need a thing, I want plenty and can provide a list of fifty items spanning the entire price spectrum. I’ll forget half of them by the time I start shredding snowman-themed paper, so what’s with this devotion to getting me something completely unexpected? If I would never, ever expect it, it’s probably not something I want. I don’t want a subscription to the 12 Beers in a Year club, or a calendar featuring pigs in costumes of many countries, or a candle shaped like a Great Horned Owl. Other people, perfectly nice people with good taste, may want those things. I do not. This is why I prefer that people buy things that are on my list. If someone doesn’t want a really specific list (the store, the price, and the stock number), then I can give them a themed list that outlines certain parameters. There’s the tea list, the book list, and the underwear list. There’s the CD list and the chocolate list. My family can buy me something I’ve never clapped eyes on, perhaps never knew existed, but which, extrapolated from my tastes and hobbies, is sure to be a success. For that reason, most people love the list.
There are exceptions. My friend Heather says she’ll buy certain things from a list, but she has to get something that’s a surprise, as a test of how well she knows you. Well, okay. Make it small. Make it inexpensive. I understand that it’s a fun challenge. If someone doesn’t give me a list (and most people don’t), I absolutely enjoy trying to find something they’d like. But if the list is provided, should you ignore it because you want the fun? In that case, it really is better to give than to receive, because you had a great time finding something the receiver may not like.
In the final analysis, being unsurprised doesn’t disappoint me. Asking for things I really want and not getting them does. My advice to all you gift-givers out there – don’t fight the list. It’s for everyone’s own good.
(The quote in the title of this blog is from Hamlet, act 1, scene 5, lines. 22-3. Shakespeare probably bemoaned the fact that his children gave him Turkish dates and a new kerchief instead of the quills and ink he asked for.)
My fabulous cp Suzy Welsh not only proofs and helps problem solve when I hit a wall but has single-handedly generated more interest in my work than any other person on the planet. And one of her converts happens to be her talented daughter Lyndsey Lewellen, a wonderful graphic artist with a modified (Americanized, in her words)Manga styling. She did this wonderful rendering of Ian and Kate after reading A THIEF IN A KILT. What do you think? She has offered the original as a prize for my website. (I'm floored.)
It’s that time of year again—Golden Heart Contest deadline time. A time for wishing and hoping, a time to make your list and check it twice—re-vision list, that is. You know, that opening scene that drags with backstory and clever lines that take the reader nowhere? Break out the hatchet and kill your darlings. I had a killer line about Perry Mason, but it had to go. Bummer. But in reality, how many of my readers would have even known who Perry was, anyway? Sorry, Mr. Mason, you’re history.
It never ceases to amaze me how we grow as writers. Six months have passed since I revised my current entries, one of them quite thoroughly, or so I thought. I’m still finding places to cut, adjectives, adverbs, and redundant qualifying clauses. Will it ever end? Who knows? One thing I’m sure of, in six months I’ll have increased my knowledge of writing and will revise again.
. . . And then there’s the synopsis, the cross of the unpublished writer, which I fondly call the suckopsis, Currently, it’s sucking up my writing time from my work-in-progress. Writing a synopsis is sort of like trying to squeeze a size 10 foot into size 8 stilettos. (If you wear size 6, go to the back of the bus and sit with Barbie.) Five hundred pages of story crammed into five. Why not give it a try? The men in the white coats get paid time and a half to haul away crazy writers. Besides you needed a vacation. Why not Bellevue?
The word synopsis brings to mind the children’s story, THE MITTEN. Remember the story where a little mouse found the nice warm mitten in the snow then all the other animals came along and wanted to get out of the cold. One-by-one, they squeezed in. Then along came a tiny cricket, and that did it. The nice warm mitten exploded. My old synopsis was getting like the mitten, a cast of a thousand all wanting their share in the story until it exploded in a tangled mess.
After two days in my grandmother’s rocking chair with only my laptop for company, I finally had a coherent rough draft and could open the door of my office again. It wasn’t five pages, it was a little over six, but it was half the size of the old mitten-like one, and it had FOCUS. Yes! It followed the heroine’s character arc without any side trips to Oz.
Whether the GH judges will like it, who knows? But they will understand the story line, provided they keep their own creative story-bending minds out of my story. Which brings me to the nitty-gritty of the GH--the judges. It’s a crapshoot, as is anything dealing with creativity. It’s subjective. Stephen King talks about your ideal reader, the one person for whom who you write. Well, guess what? Out of the five judges you are going to get, chances are they not all are going to be your ideal readers. The best we can hope for is readers that share some of our values and a few of our life experiences in the hopes that they will have the necessary empathy to connect with our characters. Sounds like a shot in the dark, I know. It is. Embrace the reality.
What’s really important is the writing and whether or not you have been honest in your story. Do you laugh and cry when you read it? I ask because when the spotlights come down and the conference goers shuffle off to the airport, that’s what you’ve got to be proud of—your amazing story.
When Ruby Clemenger discovers she’s been left almost half of the Bastiani Pearl Corporation, she knows that her life is about to get complicated.
Zane Bastiani, the pearl master’s son, wants rid of Ruby as quickly as possible – he thinks she was his father’s mistress and can be easily bought. But Ruby’s price is high. Unable to pay her off with cash, Zane decides to seduce Ruby into submission. He has nothing to lose – until he discovers Ruby is innocent… in every way…
"For readers who love romances that always soar to new heights of excellence and totally captivate the mind, A VIRGIN FOR THE TAKING is not to be missed. Well done, Trish Morey!" ~ Leena Hyat, Senior Editor, The Best Reviews
A VIRGIN FOR THE TAKING by talented Trish Morey will delight and entertain with its passionate story of romance.~ Donna Zapf Cataromance
"A Virgin for the Taking (4) by Trish Morey is a classic love story between two people who begin at odds, only to discover they're made to be together. Zane and Ruby are well-developed characters, and Morey does a great job of showing them resolving their issues slowly as they fall deeply in love." 4 Stars at Romantic Times
I had it all planned out. When I signed up for the Golden Heart and paid my $50 entry fee, I knew I would have to write 5 pages per day right up until the end of November to get my book finished in time. No problem, right? Normally the dh and I only work one or two days each month from September through January (construction biz), so that left me with plenty of days to write to my heart's content. I even optimistically thought I'd be finished by the end of October.
And then his uncle asked us to renovate his rent house so he could sell it. Instead of carefree writing days, I've been building, painting, hauling trash, and cleaning 5 days a week for more than a month. We leave at 7 in the morning and often don't get home until 7 in the evening. By the time I get dinner fixed, the kitchen cleaned, and caught up on email, I've been lucky to get 3 or 4 pages written. Then my mom ended up in ICU and stress has taken its toll. I'm zonked by 9 pm.
So it looks like the GH is out for me this year. I'll still finish the book, but not before Christmas, I don't think. Just in time to send queries out after New Year's.
A word of advice--if you're planning to enter the GH next year, start that book now. You never know what life is going to throw in your path.
How many of you remember that slogan? Or am I showing my age? For many years that was the slogan of ABC's Wide World of Sports. I loved sports then, still do. Sometimes, I'm the odd woman out, the only woman in a room full of men watching a football game. Last March I blogged about March Madness and men's college basketball. Now it's football season, and I'm cheering for my favorite teams.
A few years ago I convinced my husband that we should get season tickets for the Jacksonville Jaguars games. Watching football in Florida is a lot different than watching it where I grew up. Here we sit in the stands and sweat instead of being bundled up in coats, gloves and stocking caps. However this time of year is quite pleasant in the stands. I think in addition to the game, I love the atmosphere and pageantry of being in the stadium with all the other fans. The crowd noise can be deafening. A lopsided game, if we are winning, can even be exciting.
I love to cheer for underdogs and see them win. When underdogs win, I think it is a testimony to triumphing over adversity. This year one of my favorite underdogs, at least in football, is having a fantastic season. My older daughter graduated from Wake Forest. More often than not Wake and Duke are the whipping boys of the ACC football conference. But this year Wake Forest has 9 wins and only one loss--the best football record in school history. This little university, third smallest in division one college sports, has gone into many of their games as an underdog. They lost their starting quarterback early in the season, but a second string red-shirt freshman took over the spot and has triumphed.
Sports can be just a snapshot of life. People strive everyday to win at their jobs--the sale made or products and services delivered on time. We writers often strive against the odds to get published. Just as athletes show up to the game every week whether their team is a contender of not, writers need to keep writing. Just as athletes train day in and day out even though their team may not be winning, writers need to train and keep learning their craft.
We here at the Wet Noodle Posse are a team. We cheer each other on. We share joys and sorrows. Victories and losses. We cheers for more books sold for our published members and for first sales for our unpublished members. Let's hear it for the WNP. Go team go!!
Many folks get nervous at the thought of Friday the 13th. Today, after a loooong weekend chock full of theater workshops ending with parent shows, cheerleading competitions starting at 8:30 am, mounds of laundry, and a wood stove that is supposed to put out hot air and not acrid, burnt-marshmallow smelling smoke which kept me awake all night for fear of the house burning down....
Well, let's just say, I'd be happy if today was Friday the 13th instead of Monday the 13th. Then again, the way my weekends have been going, TGIF may not mean too much. :-)
Someone once said that "busy-ness" was becoming the 8th deadly sins. Some days, I'd have to agree.
Tonight, the family will all be home together. Hubby back from his hunting trip, play practice done by 7pm, tennis over at 5:30, theater class fnished at 6:30. My plan to regroup and re-energize starts with mugs of hot chocolate, a deck of cards and my family. We'll find 30 minutes in between food, extra curriculars and homework. Thirty minutes we all need to catch our breath.
What about you? When you're feeling bogged down, how do you regroup, or refocus? For me, it's either a good romance book or movie, or fun time with family.
I've just made a move to a nice new rental home. So today, let's hold hands and explore together the wonderful world of what real estate agents like to call my new "high end kitchen".
Ta-da! Let's start with the Sub Zero refrigerator. It's built into the cabinetry, so you don't even know it's there. But why hide a refrigerator, you ask? (It's not, like, a toilet or something.) I suspect it's because this is a colonial farmer's kitchen, with wide pine boards and exposed beams, and colonial farmers didn't have refrigerators. Wouldn't want to spoil the illusion (which is only an illusion if you're among the sheltered few who believe colonial farmers also had granite countertops).
Regardless, the "high end" fridge does have one feature I've never encountered before, which no one should have to live without: the nag-o-meter. The nifty nag-o-meter actually starts to bleep at you incessantly if you leave the refrigerator door open longer than ten seconds. Ten seconds? I'm lucky if I've remembered what I wanted from the fridge in that amount of time, much less retrieved it. Then, when the friggin' bleeping gets started, I forget *everything* except how annoying it is--which only means I spend more time with the door open, wracking my brain. Eggs? Orange juice? Lettuce? Close the door and start over?
Which brings us to another nifty "high end" appliance...the microwave with a handy "built-in-bitch" feature. This is in addition to a visual display which actually shows you an animated featurette of corn popping when you hit the "popcorn" button, though if you could be troubled to move your eyes one millimeter to the left, you can see the real thing happening through the glass door. But let me not be distracted from explaining the ingenious "built-in-bitch". If you leave your cooked stuff in the microwave longer than, you guessed it, ten seconds, it starts to play a perky little micro-tune. Da-da-dee-da-dee-da-dee, dee. Other microwaves might have a beep, but this one sings to you. And keeps on singing until you get the stuff out. My kids and I have even come up with words to the tune: I'd better not share them.
Instead, come, let me lead you to gape at the fabulous "Farmer's Sink"! It's porcelain-- a big white rectangle of gorgeousness. And it slopes gently upward in the middle. Ladies, this means *the sink doesn't drain*. Everything that goes into the sink ends up collecting in one of the four corners, requiring ten to twenty minutes of scrubbing and splashing to force it to run down the pipes. It would be easier if there were a hand held spray head, but of course Colonial farmers didn't have flexible spray hoses in their kitchens--ergo, none here. I hate to think of how much my kindly, wonderful landlords paid to have this smug monster installed.
You know all this stuff was designed by men. Men who never cleaned a sink or spent any time in a kitchen in their lives. "Farmer's Sink", huh. I hate to think what's next. The 'Farmer's Washing Machine' (silver-plated board in a stream)? The 'Farmer's Shower' (golden buckets in an authentic outdoor lean-to?) Let your imagination run free.
The first night I slept in sand in Saudi Arabia (not in a warehouse, not in the Khobar Towers), I found a pinecone in my sleeping bag. Of course, branches, pine needles, and leaves littered the sand around the tent, so a pinecone wasn’t that strange. We’d just managed to bring a little bit of Germany with us to the desert.
But the pinecone was inside my sleeping bag, not on it. Certainly I would’ve noticed that before now, what with weeks in country, not to mention weeks of sleeping in my sleeping bag.
I almost didn’t mention it, but at last I did, to Sergeant B. And I’m sure I was the picture of the naïve, perplexed lieutenant. Every scenario for how the pinecone ended up in my sleeping bag ran through my head except the obvious. The one that was now flat in the sand, unable to hold it in, laughing. At me.
“I’ll get you for that, Sergeant B,” I said.
“Sure you will, ma’am.” He looked smug. The implication? I was way too nice for anything underhanded.
But instead of tossing that pinecone into the sand, I tucked it inside my rucksack.
I’d like to say I remember this next part precisely, but I don’t. I’m not sure how I retaliated, only that I did. It could be that Sergeant B. left his shower kitbag on his cot in his rush to attend a very important game of spades. I might have been alone in the tent, writing a letter, when I noticed I’d arrived at the intersection of pay and back.
I might have slipped the pinecone into Sergeant B’s shower kitbag. In a few days, I forgot about it. In a few days, there were other things to think about. And when everything was over, we were still rationing water. So while everyone was thinking about showers, no one was actually taking any.
When he found the pinecone at last (and really, you don’t want to know how many weeks there were between showers), he was the picture of the perplexed sergeant (you could never call Sergeant B. naïve). Then it all came to him. The LT got him back.
But honestly? I don’t know if this is a true story, or simply the way I remember it. I’d have to ask Sergeant B.
From then on out, it was a free-for-all. Our motto: when you least expect the pinecone, expect it.
I vowed that I wouldn’t be the one to redeploy with it, but I ended up bringing the pinecone back to its native Germany. That Christmas, I mailed it to Sergeant B. A few months later, I got it back.
The last time I spoke to Sergeant B., it was October, 1996. My son was three-months old. Sergeant B. had just gotten engaged. He sounded so happy and excited about the future. I had the clever idea of sending the pinecone as a wedding gift.
But I hesitated. What if his fiancée didn’t think it funny? What if he didn’t? When it came to sand, pinecones, and time spend in the Middle East, my judgment was blurred. I didn’t send it.
I still have the pinecone, and despite a move a few years back, I know where it is. Someday, I’d like to send it to Sergeant B.
Last night the title on the spine of one of my old grad school texts caught my eye: How Writing Shapes Thinking.
I pulled the book from its shelf and flipped through the pages, skimming bits of the text I'd highlighted years ago. What I read brought to mind something a writer recently told me: storytellers tell their tales to help make sense of a confusing world.
I wonder what I'm trying to explain to myself as I write. Are there patterns in my characters' experiences? Are they telling me things I need to hear? Am I stretching a little as each of them grows and changes? Will I write different kinds of stories over time, as my needs and perspectives shift?
What about you? Do you find yourself writing stories about things you want to understand? Do you think your writing may have a message or a meaning beneath the tale on the page?
As newly-bought author, I’m discovering the joys of having a firm deadline. Here are some ways of finding more time to write.
1. Taking a shower every day is pretty hedonistic, don’t you think? Every other day is fine. Just as long as you don’t attract flies.
2. When it comes to personal grooming, forget about unnecessary luxuries like makeup and nylons. It’s faster to get ready each day when you have a “uniform” you don’t have to think about. My sporty signature look: a ponytail, a smear of lipbalm, and cleanish clothes that aren’t wrinkled. Voila! Eat your heart out, Paris Hilton!
3. Beg your family to help out by babysitting a few hours a week. Don’t be afraid to cry when you’re talking about your deadlines. After all, since you’re not wearing makeup, you no longer need to worry about raccoon eyes (see #2).
4. Introduce your family to their new favorite home-cooked meal: Lean Cuisine (any flavor they want!) and an apple. They’ll love it!
5. Cut back on TV and reading. TiVo your favorite shows and only watch them while folding laundry, unloading the dishwasher, or walking on the treadmill. Ditto for reading books. Multi-task-o-rama.
6. Avoid taking on new obligations. Only do things that you really *want* to do (like getting a pedicure to celebrate finishing your rough draft), or that you absolutely *must* do like (like paying your bills). Let all the rest go.
7. For holiday giving, keep it simple. Even gift cards are too much work – all that driving to stores, etc. To show you care, write a check and stick it in a plain white envelope. If you’re feeling particularly jolly, decorate the envelope with red-and-green crayons, if you can find some. If not, use black pen.
8. To make sure that your home doesn’t turn into a total pit, hire a cleaning service to come once or twice a month. It might not keep your house as immaculate as your neighbor’s, but at least you don’t need to worry about the mold in your shower giving a verbal critique of your singing skills.
9. Keep your writing time sacrosanct. Find the time that best works for you, whether it’s on your lunch hour, during the kids’ naps, or at before anyone else is awake, and don’t let yourself do anything else. Know your temptations. I like to go to a coffee shop. With no internet access and no ability to rotate laundry or clean the kitchen counters, it’s amazing how much I can get done in 2 hours.
10. And finally, here’s the fun secret of deadlines that no one talks about: they give you a great excuse to avoid doing things you don’t want to do anyway. “I can’t diet right now; I need to focus on my book.” “I know I need to see the dentist, but it will just have to wait.” “Oh gee, I’d really love to make six dozen cookies for the bake sale tomorrow, but gosh darn it, I’m on deadline.”
So enjoy your deadline, because sadly, it won't last forever ... then it's back to the real world of nylons, dentists, and carpooling. So love it while you can!
Hardly anyone is unaware that election day is only two days away. Many people in states that allow early voting have already made up their minds about the candidates and cast their ballots. Lots of absentee ballots are making their way through the postal service system even as we speak.
I still vote on election day. I like going to the polls, seeing my neighbors, visiting with the volunteers, watching democracy in action. Plus, they give me a little sticker to put on my shirt. Then I can go to work and feel superior all day because I feel as though I have a handle on what America’s all about.
I’ve found an interesting correlation this year between negative ads and how opposed I am to the policies of those politicians who run them. If I hear that snotty woman saying "Oh, Really?" on the anti-Alex Sink (candidate for Florida CFO) ad one more time, I’m going to throw something at the TV. I don’t have a lot of free time and it irritates me to have to spend so much of it researching what people say as opposed to what they do. Wouldn’t it be easier for politicians to tell the truth, rather than to waste my time (and therefore annoy me even further)?
Telling the truth. Think about that. Would our country be struggling through some of the issues and difficulties it is now if politicians (and the rest of us) would just tell the truth? Wouldn’t it we better if we voted for a candidate we believed in, as opposed to voting against some unknown we fear?
Freedom isn’t free. You’ve got to want it bad, and be willing to do your part. The first step is voting.
We all have our favorite actors or entertainment personalities, many of which are hotties with a capital "H". Names like David Boreanaz, Wentworth Miller, Eric Bana, Scott Speedman and Brad Pitt spring to mind. But not all these gorgeous specimens of manhood have what I'd consider a sexy voice. You know the kind, the ones where you could listen to him read the phone book or the IRS code for a week on end and love every minute of it.
I thought I'd toss out a couple of my favorite sexy voices to start the discussion. Please post to the comments section with your own faves.
The first person I think of is Sam Elliott, whose looks and voice make him the perfect cowboy. So what if he's old enough to be my dad? He's still got a great, distinctive voice.
Next is Clive Owen. Again, he's got looks, the voice.
So who do you think has the sexiest voice out there?
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