Friday, December 30, 2011

Letting Go of the Past

            Another year has almost run its course, and a new year fast approaches.  It seems that each year we look back and remember both the bad and good; and think about the opportunities yet to present themselves.
            But this year is different.  My new opportunity came as a Christmas email – after a decade of work and years of sending out submissions – my book series is going to be published.
Friends I tell are happy for me.  My mother is proud of me.  And me – I'm scared stiff!
Since I was a child, I've been teased about my planning and perpetual list making.  I am not a 'spur of the moment' person.  For me, half of the vacation is the preplanning. 
And now I have pages of questions to answer: about me, my characters, the first book and how I think the cover should look.  Now, while I'm perfectly able to answer questions about me; and I my characters and stories are a part of me – I am ashamed to admit that I never thought about what my book cover(s) should look like.
I wouldn't say I didn't believe in myself – of the quality of my work, or that a publisher would see merit in it.  However, I will admit that after four or five years of sending out queries and receiving the same, short rejection – sometimes after months of waiting – I hadn't spent much time imaging a book cover.  And now I do not have the luxury of mapping out the future.
So, as the year passes, my one New Year's resolution shall be to try to not spend so much time and effort in the planning of life's adventures and more in the living them.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Let's Do The Time Warp Again . . .

Time is a funny thing.  Remember when you were a kid?  New Year’s to Christmas seemed like an eternity.  Yet, somehow summer vacation, smack in the middle of that desert of time, skipped by in a flash.  Ah, the conundrums of life.
I had found how quickly college whizzed by disturbing, but then I graduated and ‘life’ happened.  Planning a wedding, finding a job and setting up an apartment rushed, tsunami-like, over me, gave me little time to think.  And so it went.
Somewhere in my thirties, I think I did have a fleeting notion that time had somehow ‘sped up’.  But, back then, we didn’t even listen to ourselves.
My forties brought about an interesting paradigm – sickness, death and unhappiness.  Now time slowed to a crawl.  Sitting with my dying mother-in-law for half an hour – listening to her struggle to breath – was torture.  And the nights spent lying awake, crying because the love of your life doesn’t love you any more, was even more terribly slow.  Time had stopped.
As I approached fifty, I’d made some changes in my life.  I’d moved on and carved a new, happy life for myself.  And even though life – well, really death – invaded once again.  But it was all right.  Time had returned to normal.
But now, as I’m sliding towards sixty, time has sped up again.  I don’t feel ‘old’ – until I see some ‘60s rocker doing a commercial for reverse mortgages or funeral insurance.  Even then it’s more of a ‘How the hell did that happened ?’ thing.  Nevertheless, I felt the world speeding up beneath me. 
However, the fact is that it’s only our perception of passing time that’s quickened.  Time is a constant.  It is we who change.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Switching Gears

            It’s been about three weeks of insecurity, uncertainty and non-productiveness.  Well, that’s not altogether true.  I have been reorganizing my drawers and closet.  And, even bigger – I had the family for Thanksgiving; and we had a good day. 
            I’ve tried to work on the next book in the series, but only spent a lot of time playing a game of mahjong or FreeCell and then checking email every ten minutes.  Even I saw that couldn’t go on, so I began playing ‘real’ computer games that meant I couldn’t check without saving the game and closing out the program.  That worked for several days.  Okay, a week. 
            This morning I knew that I had to move on.  So, since working on the next book wasn’t working, I decided that I’d try expanding a short story into a new romance.  And, I’m getting some writing done.
            But I’m still checking the email too often.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Always Do The Right Thing - And Cry About It Later

            I’d never really thought of what it would be like to get an offer of a contract from a publisher.  Well, I had, but not like I thought about what my wedding would be like.  You know – the kind of thinking you do as you lie in bed at night. 
            So, when it arrived I felt as though I’d just entered ‘The Twilight Zone’.  To begin with, for some perverse reason known only to my server, it was relegated to ‘Junk Mail’.  I opened it expecting to see another ad to delete, and found instead – paradise.
            Or was it?
            The publisher – the one I’d described as my ‘last, best hope’ – said that she liked the series concept, I wrote well and was prepared to offer me a contract for the series, if . . .
            Come on, you knew there was an ‘if’, didn’t you? 
            The little ‘if’ concerned a plot element.  Now, I’m not an unyielding person.  I’m willing to work with editors, agents and publishers.  I'm a team player, or at least I want to be.  I'll do just about anything short of selling my soul to get my writing ‘published’.  
            The trouble is I pitched the book as the first in a series of four completed, with more planned.  The publisher was offering me a contract for that series.  And after all, she was only asking me to remove a seemingly non-essential plot point in the first novel.  However, it’s a plot point that affects Book Two considerably, and Books Three and Four are non-existent without it.
            I could have lied to her.  I could have told her that I’d do whatever she wants and signed her contract.  But then I wouldn’t have the series I pitched.
            Why is it that I keep trying to do the ‘right thing’ and it keeps coming back to haunt me?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Staying the Course

Well, the submission query has been sent in, and if it’s not immediately rejected, I’ve got six to twelve weeks of nail biting in front of me.  Luckily, the annual holiday insanity will help fill up the time.  I’ve taken a day off – and just did nothing, so now I have to get back on track. 
The problem is that nagging negative voice inside me.  You know the one.  We all have it.  Edgar Allen Poe referred to it as ‘the imp of perverse’.  This insidious creature perches on your shoulder, leaning close and whispering in your ear; reminding you of all those secret fears and insecurities.
My little devil is pointing out the futility of believing I’ll get these books published, so why waste even more time and energy on writing.  It’s time to leave ‘lala land’ and re-enter reality.  Trouble is, I’ve been to reality; and personally, I think it’s highly over-rated. 
However, I also have an oven I’m kind of afraid of roasting an innocent turkey in it for Thanksgiving.  Let’s just say that if Gordon Ramsey showed up, I’m pretty sure he’d shut my kitchen down based on the condition of the oven alone.  There’s a pile of mending and a couple of things cut out in the sewing room, waiting patiently. 
And, then there’s the laundry.  I’ve put off doing it for a while now.  After all, I do live in a desert; and I want to be sure I have a full load.  But, the truth is, that ship sailed a month ago. 
So, should I spend a little time in ‘the real world’?  Or, continue with my dream?  I think I’ll stay the course . . .

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Taking the leap . . .

           Well, once again I’ve swallowed hard, set myself up for rejection and sent out a query to a publisher.  I know, every writer gets rejected.  We need to expect it, because it comes with the ‘job’. 
            I’ve been working on this submission for at least three weeks.  I’ve gone over the guidelines – and fulfilled every requirement.  I read everything through at least three times again this morning.  And still, it took real effort to hit that ‘send’ button.
            It’s sent now, winging it's way thorugh cyber-space.  All I can do is go back to working on the next project, hope for the best and wait.  The irony is that the title of the novel is Leap of Faith and that's exactly what I've done.
            Well, I've taken my leap.  Maybe this will be the right time, the right publisher and the right novel!  But whatever happens, I’ll just keep trying.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Inner Space

           We all begin writing for different reason.  However, once we start we are compelled to continue.  This is a good thing – on the whole.  And yet . . .
            The problem is the stories want out.  They demand our concentration and expect nurturing.  This tends to isolate us.  Even when we’re with others, we are inside ourselves, cultivating our children. 
We are torn between living in the real world or in our imaginary one.  Should we take time from our writing to interact with friends and family, or live through our characters?
My hope is that if I breathe enough life into my characters and stories that others will live through them as well, because that will make the isolation worthwhile.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sometimes the Simple Things Work Best

            Do you know the most valuable lesson I ever learned - way back in grade school?  Before you do anything - stop, take your time and read the instructions all the way through.  No matter how easy that first or second question might be - don’t  answer it.  Take a deep breath, read the all directions and then take another few seconds to process them.
            Think about it.  How many times would a task - like building a computer desk or assembling a bicycle - have gone more smoothly, with less angst and swearing, if we’d just read direction?
            I even had a college professor who tried to drum that idea into our thick heads for an entire quarter.  And if only more of us had listened - because at the end of the directions at the beginning of an exam several pages long said, ‘Go to the last question on the last page.’
            When you turned to that question, it said ‘If you’ve read the instructions, you don’t need to take the exam.  Enjoy your weekend.’
So often, we’d all save so much time and energy in our lives – if we just followed those simple instructions.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Healing Power of Writing

            I believe in ‘HEA’ – Happily Ever After’.     When my fairytale life came crashing down around me, I began writing to feed my dream, to keep me sane and give me hope.
            I was never ‘physically abused’; and I’m sure that to be in such a relationship is awful – that someone thinks that they can beat you would be horrible.  However, at least black eyes and broken bones are visible proof of abuse.
            Being unappreciated is difficult – being constantly belittled demoralizing. To have the person you love – the person, who should be your biggest supporter – look through you, as if you didn’t exist, is disheartening. 
It is even more insidious because there are no visible signs – no black eyes or broken bones.  There are nothing, but accusations of mental instability, of imaginary wrongs and paranoia.  And the invisibility of the abuse is excruciating.
So I began to write to heal myself . . . to reinstate my Happily Ever After Life!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Live and Let Live

I’ve already posted for the day, but something is bothering me – and since it could be considered related (it’s a stretch, but still) to today and tomorrow’s postings, I’m going to give my opinion.
            This morning, when I launched IE, the headline on my home page had a picture of Sir Paul (McCartney – for you youngsters, out there) and his new bride on the steps of the registry office where they’d just been married. I’m a child of the sixties – so I read the story, as well as the comments under it.  And it is the comments that have me writing this.
             There were more than a dozen posted when I was reading them; and with the exception of two or three offering congratulations, they were a series of rude, unnecessary statements.  Apparently, rudeness now passes for wit. 
Personally, I’d love to hear what a good Freudian psychiatrist would say what these comments revealed about their posters.  Even I can see they’re filled with jealousy and spite.  Do mothers no longer tell their children ‘If you can’t say something nice about something, don’t say anything.’? 
            I am, without a doubt, a hopeless romantic – perhaps one of the last of a dying breed – I admit it.  But I think it’s wonderful.  Congratulations to the happy couple.  Rock on!  

There Really are Ogres in Fairytales

I’ve always believed in the fairytale.  At fifteen, I fell in love with my high school sweetheart, convinced a higher power had chosen him – just for me.  At twenty-two, I married him with an absolute faith in the immortality of our love. 
            However, faith isn’t always enough.  As his career blossomed, his devotion withered.  He was a good man once; but he was weak and easily impressed with himself.
            He climbed from upper-middle management in a large corporation to vice president of manufacturing in a tiny one.  And he swelled with his own self-importance.  Later, he returned to a large corporation, and while no longer a VP, he managed a number of facilities in poor countries.  The old saying is true: Power corrupts.
            He believed all those press releases; and became a ‘legend in his own mind’.  I still remember when he had a soul – when he had values and wanted to do good works. 
            But somewhere, he forgot.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Halt! Who Goes There?

            In my on-going battle to set up my website, I spent another frustrating evening arguing with cyber space about my password.  I was abandoned on hold for approximately thirty minutes. But, at least I could choose to listen to music or not.  And then it was light jazz instead of Rap music slowed for the average elevator ride. 
This was a vast improvement over my last skirmish with corporate ‘hold’.  On that occasion I was subjected to a barrage of advertisements that alternated with the same three notes – over and over and over again.  It was like listening to the same commercial loop while Norman Bates stabs you. 
But, I digress.
Eventually, an actual person answered and helped me reset my password to exactly what it was before.  Now, it is this sudden rejection of my password on Face book that has made me just give up going there.  Well, that and the thing about all those strangers who claim to be my friends!  Someone once IMd me asking for ‘paint and boards’.  I don’t have a clue what they were doing.  It’s the internet, you can’t really paint it!  Even I know that.
Anyway, what started me on this sad, sad tale of woe is that I talked to a friend earlier, and had to relive last night.  Why?  You guessed it – the internet refused his password.  He too was forced to change his password back to what it always was. 
Why?  What suddenly causes the cosmos to inisist your password is no longer valid?  I didn’t think computers were so capricious.
You remember the old ‘Twilight Zone” series?  There was an episode where William Shatner (a young, pre-Kirk Shatner) is on a plane and watches as a gremlin sits on the wing, chipping away at the engine.
Well, that’s how I feel about computers, and by extension – the internet.  It’s not scientific or amazing.  There are these little gremlins that live inside our computers and the internet, and every now and then they just decide to mess with us.
But that’s all right, because I’ve working on figuring out a way to mess with them.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Writer Within

            Each of us has a story within them.  Most people have more than one, and a few have many.  So why is it so few of us try to share ours?  Is it fear or laziness?  Or could it be we just don’t know how to begin?
            My advice:  Find your inner child.  Think back to when you were seven and your hairbrush was a microphone and your bed was a stage?  Go back to that moment in time and free yourself.
            Remember that great scene in “Risky Business”?  You know the one, with Tom Cruise in his tightie whites.  That’s where you need to go; and write as if you’re naked in your living room, singing and dancing to the ‘oldies’. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Standing at the Edge

            I’ve never been a good sleeper.  Okay, make that a good ‘fall-a-sleeper’. So, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been telling myself stories to help me sleep.  The result is that I have a mind chocked full of storylines, just waiting to be nurtured to their full potential.
            Throughout my lifetime, I’ve attempted to add flesh to some of these story skeletons, but I always got in my own way.  At first, I blamed my failure on my OCDC.  Now, I’m no ‘Monk’ – but typos, strikeouts and eraser smudges always did make me cringe.  And let’s face it; even the most proficient typist (which I’m not) is going to make a mistake now and again.
            Then the world changed and computers became as common as coffeepots.  I have to admit, this freed me of my housekeeping worries.  It was time to put up or shut up. 
          So I made my first foray into cyberspace and searched for writing classes.  I found, what I thought was perfect – a novel writing course. 
The instructor—a certified published author—was using the book “Get That Novel Started” as a text.  There were about seven of us—from all over the country (and at least one from England), from all different walks of life, working in different genres and at different points in their writings.
This is how the class went:  She’d tell us to read the first two chapters.  Then we were to ‘continue working on our chapter’. 
Now, my mom tells a story of when she was first married.  She had somehow remained blissfully unaware of anything to do with cooking before she wed—my dad even had to teach her how to make coffee.  As her first Thanksgiving as a wife approached, she planned on cooking her first holiday feast.  (Why, I’ve never figured out, since even after I was in college, my great-grandmother cooked Thanksgiving dinner—but I digress.)  She pulled out the cookbook she’d received as a wedding present and turned to the pages on ‘Turkey’.  And there, in what she had expected to be her bible of information, she found the words:  “Prepare turkey for roasting as usual.”
So there it was:  Instructions technically correct—and absolutely useless.  I learned a very valuable and expensive lesson then – there are some things you just have to ‘do’.  Just take a leap of faith and go for it.
And there begins my journey.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Is Anyone Out There?

            Okay, assuming I’m willing to entered into this electronic age and decided to blog, who am I blogging to?  Since my divorce—okay, let’s be honest and admit—probably for the last twenty years or more, I’ve become more and more withdrawn and isolated.
            I’ve often found it odd how my brother always had about a dozen ‘best’ friends.  Isn’t that contradictory?  On the other hand, I had one best friend, supplemented by one or two supporting friends.  Now, this worked out well for quite a while; and then life started getting in the way. 
            Time and distance had their inevitable effects on college friends.  High school friends drifted off into their own lives, and then I married and moved to another town.  The fabric of my relationships was getting stretched thinner and thinner.
            Then, after several years of shuffling, people seemed to settle down and the friendships seemed to re-establish themselves.  We were all grownup—or so we thought—and pursuing new paths, but the old ties were there.  Life was pretty good, at least for a while.
            And then . . .
            Well, you know, our lives began to intrude into our relationships once again.  A few new friends filled the void left by those lost through chance and circumstance.  Then something unexpected happened—I lost friends to death.  However did that happen while we were still so young? 
            It turned out we were so very grownup after all.  We’d married the wrong people for all the wrong reasons.  Once the initial newness of ‘playing grownup’ lost it’s shine, cracks began to craze the eggs we were all juggling—struggling to keep aloft.  Then one by one, those eggs came crashing down.  People realigned and re-positioned themselves, and slipped away again.
            But the big surprise came when I decamped!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

To Blog Or Not To Blog

            On more than one occasion over the course of my life, I have succumbed to keeping a handwritten diary or journal.  These times have always been in conjunction with a class or self-help course I was engaged in.  And always, in the matter of a few days, I felt like that unprepared third grader trying to spin out the paltry available verbiage to the required number of pages by making the margins wider and wider.
            This said, I think you can appreciate my confused feelings about blogging.  Am I supposed to confess my inner most dreams?  Publish a record of my day (or maybe week)?  Or use the blog as a forum to rant on whatever life incident that twisted my knickers on that particular day?
            The strange thing is I can think of any number of things NOT to blog about.  Religion and politics are at the top of the list—that covers a multitude of topics!  
            And, assuming I figure out the answer to those questions, who is it I’m writing for?