Thursday, January 29, 2009

Maybe I'll just close my eyes for a few minutes . . .

The world smells like Liquid Smoke. I got some on my hands tonight at Time for Dinner, and though I washed up right away, it seems to have penetrated my soul. Or at least my pores. And perhaps I rubbed my nose or brushed my hair back from my face at some point? At any rate, my "birthday cake" flavored milkshake tonight was a little unsettling. I felt like I was drinking it at a campfire. Or, worse, like it was spiked with meat.

We made it through a second snow day in a row, though I did cave and allow a video this morning so that I could take a shower, drink a cup of coffee, and read a couple of chapters of the book I want to return to the library tomorrow. Over the past month, I've read 3 George RR Martin novels and 3 Desden Files novels. Tomorrow I start a trilogy of thrillers that have nothing to do with fantasy - epic or urban. I am ready for a genre switch! (I also recently finished a Carson McCullers novel, but we don't need to talk about that. And some other books, too. But we're really getting far afield from my point, here.)

I got my word count in last night, but tonight's not looking so good. I've already convinced myself that I'll take my laptop and "write in bed," but that never goes well. I'm also convinced that I can do three things at once tomorrow morning, which is how I get into trouble, schedule-wise. I'm planning to drop off Ada at school (her first day in a new classroom!), register Ellie for Kindergarten, and find a quiet corner somewhere to write. One of these things is unlikely to happen.

I'm still loving the weather here. It's cold enough to preserve the snow, but not cold enough to hurt: highs around 20 with sun and little wind. Ada loved playing in the snow today. This afternoon, while I was shoveling, Ada worked alongside me with a little plastic trowel from the sand table. I scooped big shovelsful of snow off the driveway, and she followed along, scooping tiny chunks of snow back onto the pavement and saying, "I cleaning! I helping!" Ellie enjoyed playing at the sand table (?) and sitting on the sled asking to be pulled around the yard. Kids today. Life is easy! Back when I was a kid we had to haul our own sleds up hills. 5 miles long, they were! And when you got to the top, well, you'd just climb some more to get back home! (Because it was uphill both ways, of course.)

Then Paul came home and matched what I'd spent an hour doing in about 15 minutes. Whatever. Since it's likely to be my only shoveling experience of the winter, I didn't mind the work at all. Although I never realized just how long and wide our driveway really is.

Now give me 1000 words of page-turning, tension-building fiction in which nothing really happens. Then I'll let you go to bed!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Soft, White, Pillowy

School is canceled again for tomorrow, but at least it's a real snow day this time, complete with snow! This morning, I could still see the dead leaves through the 2-3 inch dusting on our front lawn, and it just felt silly to have school called off for something so . . . insignificant. (Note that I used to live on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, and lake effect snow is . . . beautiful, fun, and significant!) This evening, it started to snow for real, and everything outside is now magical. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's snow day even more than today's . . .

Except that Kindergarten registration is postponed again and that means that I don't get either of my two writing mornings this week, a week before I practice pitching Seek Ye First at a writer's conference. Gulp. (It's not ready, though it's not nearly as bad as my outdated sidebar would suggest.) Plus, the girls will be very disappointed when they realize that there's no MusikGarten this week.

But, hey, there's snow! It's amazing how that really does cheer me up. Our finances this month look . . . unpleasant due to heater repairs and my conference bills hitting during the same pay period. (We'll make it, no worries, but we're having to be more organized and disciplined than usual.) But I can't be pessimistic about it. I keep qualifying the bad money news and not understanding why Paul's crabby about it. "We had to juggle some things around, but we've dealt with it. Cheer up!" I told him. Apparently, snow isn't a magical cure-all for my Wyoming boy.

Anyway, today I stumbled upon a fun blog quiz thingie on someone else's blog while I was doing a little administrative work. What does your sleeping position say about you? (It's so true! I am a big, cranky, light-sleeping baby. Except when there's snow! Also note: comfort can be spelled S-N-O-W but also C-H-I-P-S-&-S-A-L-S-A.)

Your Sleeping Position Says You Need Comfort

You are secretly sensitive, but you often put up a front.

Shy and private, you yearn for security.

You take relationships slowly.

You need lots of reassurances before you can trust.

If you don't get enough sleep, you are: Cranky and a big baby

It's hard to sleep next to you because: You are a light sleeper

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

One at a Time

I mentioned a few of the books I read over Christmas break, but not all of them. One book I've been particularly enjoying, and thus sipping oh-so-slowly so as to savor the experience, is Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Now, I can easily imagine reading and enjoying Lamott's grocery lists, so of course her book on writing is of great interest to me. I didn't know that she'd written such a book, until a friend recommended it - a friend who has never mentioned to me that she's a writer. In the interest of preserving her privacy, then, I'll just assume that she too would happily read Anne Lamott's shopping list, and that's how she came to read her book on writing. And I'll keep assuming that until she decides to come out of the closet!

This book is beautifully written and serves as an example of the craft I am working so hard to learn, in addition to being chock full of terrific bits of wisdom and a great deal of humor.

I wrote at Kaldi's again this morning, for the first time since two weeks before Christmas. It felt so good to be back into it, I was actually grateful that their WiFi was malfunctioning. I only got about a thousand words down, but I'm pleased with the words and the scene I wrote. I'm pleased with the way the book is coming together. I'm pleased to be writing on this novel again, and am bolstered by confidence from Lamott's book.

The most valuable thing the book has given me so far is a restored sense of confidence. I am a writer. I might still be learning the craft, I might still be producing decent short stories and amateur novels that I'm not ready to show anyone yet, but I'm still a writer. I've written (almost) three novels, and that's a lot! Many people - like me, for years - talk about wanting to write a book "when they have the time." I made the time, while being a full-time caregiver for two very young children. That's an accomplishment indeed! And I am proud of it.

But best of all are sections like those on Page 22, "We all often feel like we are pulling teeth," and "The right words and sentences just do not come pouring out like ticker tape most of the time." She goes on, later, "For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous." I hear so much from other writers about their characters' voices in their heads, about how writing is always so much fun, after a while I got to wondering if I was doing something wrong, or if, worst of all, perhaps I just wasn't meant to be a writer. Perhaps I was meant to be a reader.

I am a reader. But I'm a writer too. I love writing, and I write something nearly every day, even if it's not always fiction. I have hard places. I have doubts. And they're normal! They don't mean that I can't write. They don't even mean that my current book sucks.

The Monday Mentor on my Sisters in Crime discussion list this week was Elizabeth Lyon and she said that right where I have been - around two-thirds through a novel - is where a lot of writers hit the wall. Ah hah! Again, I am in good company. Fortunately, today's writing pushed me past that point and I think I'm ready to, well . . . not coast, but at least make steady forward progress without yanking out my hair.

I am excited by what I'm doing, again. And it feels good, even if it is also hard work sometimes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Shh! I'm reading!

I might be playing, but I'm always reading, and this vacation has been no exception.

(In fact, last summer my mother-in-law gave me a great coffee mug that says, "Shhh! I'm reading." I think it's hilarious to walk around saying that to people while I'm carrying my mug. Paul et al seem to think it's actually rather annoying. Alas.)

Anyway, I've been reading so much that I don't even remember everything I've read. I know that I started with some light holiday fare: Joan Dideon's memoir about her husband's death, The Year of Magical Thinking. It was good. The first anniversary of a friend's husband's murder is coming up. I'm thinking that passing my copy along to her would either be a thoughtful guesture or a terrible thing to do. Hmm.

Then I moved on to some of the rest of my "most pressing" to-be-read pile. (This is a stack that now sits beside my beside table and is of a height with it. The stack doesn't include my "eventually" to-be-read shelf on the bookshelf at the foot of the bed.) Next up were the first two books of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. 2000 pages of George R. R. Martin and I blew right through it. I was hooked, engrossed, obsessed . . . and complaining loudly all the way. Martin breaks all the rules. My favorite point of view character? Dead with no warning! Another favorite character? Permanently and seriously maimed. One thing's sure, going into any scene, you can never be confident that anyone will come out alive. It definitely added tension, even as it made me miserable. Still, I kept asking, "why?" as I read. Does the world really need yet another epic fantasy set in a pre-industrial society where rigid gender roles, sexism, chivalry, and feudalism are de rigueur? There's a lot of creativity in the story and storytelling. (Not to mention quite a bit of surprising crudity.) I just wonder why it's so common to tell these epic fantasy stories while relying on a tired old framework.

Righto. Anyway, I ended my low-key vacation with the first of Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files novels. How have I never read these before?!! So, that was fun. (Lilsis, this one's coming your way whenever I haul myself to the post office.)

Next up: The Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers, a book club selection. Life is still good!