Thursday, March 31, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Order and chaos have been on my mind lately.

What, you too?

See, I've been thinking about writing methods, because last week on Word Whores was all about pre-plotting versus misting through a novel and this week is about writing rituals, or lack thereof.

What I'm discovering is that these things have a whole lot to do with how we set up the rest of our lives. This should be no surprise to me. I'm a fan of tesseract theory and how a small piece of one thing reflects the overall thing. I've talked before about how the structure of one day can be the pattern of your entire life. (This is an over-time concept, so don't panic if you just had a nothing day.) So it makes sense that your overall life affects the pattern of a single day.

We all plan our lives differently. We have different amounts of pre-plotting or misting to our days. Some of us have structure thrust upon us in the form of jobs that require us to be behind our desks from x o'clock to y-thirty. Some jobs change daily and, though you might apply a tentative structure in the form of To-Do lists, this can change completely depending on phone calls and what hits the In-Box. I expect we find our way to jobs that suit us this way. I love my day job for an environmental consulting firm because all that matters is the quality of my work and that I meet deadlines. No one particularly cares what the clock says when my butt is in the chair, just so long as I get the work done and get it done well.

This suits me. I had one of those "be there from x o'clock to y-thirty" jobs before and hated it.

A friend of mine once told me she'd read a psych study that showed that people with very orderly internal lives have wild and disorderly gardens. Likewise, people with more chaotic internal lives tend to produce orderly gardens. She said this while looking at my untamed cottage garden. The photo above shows my usual gardening style, though we'd only been in that house a few years and I hadn't had time to completely convert it to a jungle-tangle. If I were to show you a picture of my friend's garden, you would see her neatly bordered rows, with bunches of plants set an exact distance apart. Very pleasing to the eye.

I was forever wanting to sneak over and plant a stray something in the wrong spot.

At any rate, I've discovered that, though I'm an orderly person in many ways: ritualistic about my days, methodical in scientific work and my love for spreadsheets is near legendary, there's another side of me that loves to fling order to the winds and embrace chaos.

I may never plot simply because I love the wildness of an unplanned novel. Oh yeah, later I'll go back and thin it out here and there, tweak the plantings for maximum effect.

But first I'm tossing my seeds into the wind. Just to see what I get.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's a New Dawn...and I'm Feeling Good

There's this song we sang in Girl Scouts that went

Why sleep when the day has been called out by the sun
From the night? Cuz the light's gonnna shine on everyone.
Why sleep when the sleep only closes up our eyes?
Why sleep when we can watch the sun arise?

It goes on from there in a perky fashion. And all you former Girl Scouts out there? You're welcome for the ear worm.

Now, I've mentioned many times that I am not a morning person. Never have been. At girl scout camp, when they programmed us with the song and then encourage us to go on the sunrise hike? I opted out. (Actually "sunrise hike" is a misnomer. It was a pre-dawn hike UP the mountain to then watch the sunrise. One girl in my group got hit in the face with a backlashing branch that split her eyelid open, so I felt totally vindicated.)

I used to make smart remarks like, why bother to watch a sunrise when the sunset is the same thing in reverse.

Over time, however, I've taught myself to get up early - not to hike up mountains in the pre-dawn dark, which still sounds insane to me - but to get all the things done that are important to me. And I've found that sunrises do look different.

I kind of like seeing them. I like how the sky goes from dark to day. It is like the fulfillment of a promise.

My friend, the fabulous writer and blogger, Tawna Fenske, let everyone know last week that her marriage is breaking up. Then she went on to mention conversations she and I had about her next husband, Xavier. I made him up for her partly to make her laugh when she was sad.

But also, I believe it's important to remember that there will be new dawns. It's easy, in the depths of despair over a breakup or loss, to think that you'll never meet anyone ever again. Building the fantasy of the possibilities is part of dragging yourself out of that mindset.

Why not imagine the fabulously wealthy man with a chateau in the South of France who learned sensual secrets in Thailand? Dreaming something wonderful lifts us up and opens our eyes.

I learned this from my mother, who's been widowed twice. And married three times. Always she looked beyond the dark days of grief to sunlit days ahead.

That's probably even worth getting up early for.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Got It for a Song

I did lower body weights at the gym this morning.

Usually when I weight-lift, I don't listen to music. The treadmill absolutely requires my aerobic track to keep me distracted. For weight-lifting, though, I'm counting and not fighting the certain despair that I'll never catch my breath again.

Today though, Air Force Guy had the TV up really loud with awful news about Libya. Since I have a strict policy about not depressing myself with news about events I can't affect, I jumped up from the adductor machine and grabbed the headphones.

Since I was mid-count, rather than searching out my weights playlist (why do I have one if I never use it? Hmm) I just clicked play. This one song that my long-time friend, Kev, sent me came on.

Because I could, I played that one song over and over. I love to do this. I can listen to the same song probably 50 times in a row. Something, I've discovered, the people around me don't enjoy so much.

Go figure.

Its an emotional song that strikes me on many levels. As some songs do, this one makes me want to write a story about it. I've never actually written a story from a song, but I think I might this time. As I kept clicking the back button to hear it just one more time (there's a way to put it on repeat, right? one day I should learn to maximize my iPod use), the story played out in my head, snippets of conversation. I could see the opening line, the penultimate scene.

It could be a great book.

Yesterday, I worked on two projects. If you follow this blog, you'll know I've been musing over whether I can move two writing projects forward at the same time. I'm a monogamous gal by nature, mainly because I'm simply not inclined to cheat. The thing I'm in love with is fine by me. It occurs to me now that this is the same aspect of my character that likes to listen to the same song over and over and over. Apple pie for the rest of my life? Sure! Still, with writing, I'd like to get more going.

So, yesterday, I clocked off the Internet for my usual two hours. (Yes, I'm weak and cannot stop myself from clicking if it's there to be clicked.) I wrote my 1K on the new novel, The Middle Princess. For the remaining 45 minutes, I worked on Sapphire revisions, from the editorial notes that came in this weekend.

And it worked!

Normally I'm not allowed to deviate from a current project, but since that experiment worked, I might try writing up a little of this morning's story - just enough to keep it alive and kicking.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I Feel Sparkly

The RT BookLovers convention is coming up next week in Los Angeles.

I know - already! April used to seem *really* far away. So, I'm getting my little act together. This year I'm signing at the Book Expo on Friday, from 4pm- 6pm. How does one sign an electronic book? An excellent question and one I worked on to answer.

The way the eBook Expo works - and yes, it's still a separate event from the "real" book fair on Saturday. It will be interesting to see if they're separate next year - is that the convention is using a third-party reseller to sell the ebooks. This is pretty much how it works at all book fairs and conventions. Usually a local bookseller is asked if they'd like to handle sales. The bookseller orders books for the authors, people go around and pick up books from the authors' tables, chat, get a signature if they like, then queue up to pay. The money runs through the store's accounts and they get a piece, the convention gets a piece, a charity might get a piece. And so forth.

For the RT Expo, they're using All Romance eBooks as their reseller. Authors will have download codes that readers can pay for, then take online and download the version of their choice. Sounds like a great system, right? Well, not for me because my publisher, Loose Id, says they won't work with a third-party reseller. Seems odd to me because Petals & Thorns is available from All Romance eBooks and they sell the hell out of it, actually. But Loose Id says they've had problems in the past with that set-up, so no download love for me. The very helpful RT folks said that authors in my position just burn their books to a CD and sell it that way.

I thought, who the hell uses CDs anymore? My new laptop doesn't even have an optical drive (no drawer for CDs or DVDs).

So I bought jump drives! Pink ones.

I also have other responsibilities to distribute swag, as all the toys and sparklies handed away at conventions are fondly called. The Word Whores are giving away a basket. We also have a table on Promo Lane. Plus little gatherings. I needed things to give away.

So I hit Michael's yesterday. I bought rose stickers to put on the jump drives, and little bouquets of silk roses to tie the jump drives to book marks I can sign. Extremely pleased with myself, I came up with a collapsible "basket" for our giveaway, so that the lucky winner can actually pack it and take it home. I'll post a photo of the complete basket next week, once I have everyone's swag for it. I also picked out table dressing for the signing and the Expo, and all sorts of Word-Whores and Petals & Thorns themed pretty things.

At the counter, the cashier asked me if it was all for my wedding.

I can just picture this wedding I would have, at this stage in my life, where I'd decorate with black tulle, red roses, sequins and magic wands.

Oh yeah - and you would wish you were invited, too.

At any rate: Behold my book!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ritual in Writing


I'm over at Word Whores, as I am every Sunday. Talking about writing rituals, my fave topic.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I'm Starting a Blog That...

This is my partner cat, Teddy. Lately she's taken to snoozing just next to me while I read at night. She also stares, but I think that's love and not necessarily plotting my demise.

I hope.

Sometimes the world of social media gets pretty amusing. Amusing in that "I have to laugh or I'll claw my eyes out" kind of way. A lot of people offer advice. Usually the same advice, over and over. xkcd, one of my very favorite comics these days, had a strip recently along these lines.

This is more true than I think many people want to believe. There's a nagging sense that most of the people who offer advice on maximizing social media don't do much else with their days.

And a lot of their advice just isn't very good.

For example, there is someone out there somewhere telling people that they should DM (direct message) new followers on Twitter and say hello or what have you. No no no! This is akin to being introduced to someone at a cocktail party, shaking their hand and having them yank you into an embrace, kiss you on the cheek and whisper about their website in your ear.

Yes - really creepy.

Few things on Twitter are ickier than following someone new - okay, give them a whirl, see what they have to say - and boom! getting a private message from them. Whoever out there is saying this is a good idea? It's just...not.

The other bit of advice floating around is that a blog should be specific, focused and informative. Okay, this is not such a bad thing in and of itself. But we're living in the Billion-Blog Ear. Yes, I made that up - snazzy, yes? No? Ah, well. It's nearly impossible to start a blog with a new concept. Really the only thing a new blogger has to offer that isn't already out there is themselves. But no, the Advice-Givers say that you must trumpet your new blog as filling some unmet need.

Thus, those of us on email loops, etc., are forever receiving posts that say "I'm starting a new blog that brings you the latest news in amphibian cancers!" Or "I'm starting a blog that chronicles my journey through retail hell."

Actually, those two sound kind of interesting. Most of the notices I see involve writing and there's just only so much you can say there.

So, in a fit of aggravation, rather than claw my eyes out, I threw this out on Twitter. I asked people how they would finish the sentence. Some of the best responses:

I'm starting a blog that...

...chronicles the minute-by-minute reactions of my cat to the royal wedding...and bacon. @theAntiM
...talks about the political ramifications of bacon. @Allison_Pang
...is nothing but randomness. @MichelleMiles
...celebrates bearded men everywhere. @pennyromance
...should have more zombies! @SullivanMcPig

Poor Sullivan has only cloven hooves and so his owner must blog for him. She tends to edit the zombie bits. So, for a bit of Friday Fun - any to add? What is the blog that Must Be Done?

(If my blog comment function hates you, email me at Jeffe at JeffeKennedy dot com and I'll paste it in for you.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Because I Say So

And so, the lines continue to blur.

It's been clear for some time that publishing is changing. It's just that no one is sure what it's changing into. It's kind of like the scene in a horror/sci fi movie, when one character begins to change into something else. Everyone around them stares in transfixed and fascinated fear while the person loses the hallmarks of humanity. While we wait to see what they become, they're this mess of jutting bones, sliding tissues and odd liquids.

Right? Exactly like publishing news today.

So, if you're not plugged into publishing gossip 24/7, the big news this week is that Barry Eisler - a well-known author, though I haven't read him - turned down a $500K book deal from one of the Big 6 NYC publishers to self-publish. He's a buddy of Joe Konrath, who has become kind of the foaming-at-the-mouth cheerleader for self-publishing. Don't get me wrong - a lot of people are inspired by Konrath and his tremendous ability to self-promote, but I find him a trifle on the fanatic side of being a fan of self-pubbing. At any rate, Eisler and Konrath took down their 12,000 word conversation on Eisler's decision and posted it to the internet. A couple of snide commenters suggested that perhaps they could have used an editor.

At the same time, as former Pocket editor and current Penguin Sekrit Projeckt Wrangler, Danielle Poiesz, notes on her blog, self-publishing luminary Amanda Hocking is close to sealing a major deal with one of the Big 6.

So many choices. So many shiftings back and forth.

Meanwhile I'm seeing more and more writers becoming editors for epublishing houses. They often pick up the work to supplement their incomes. In those transformations, though, a curious thing occurs. As they take on the editorial persona, they gain a certainty they never professed as writers. They start offering writing and editing tips, because now they have the authority to back it up. Sometimes this is like the B film to me, where the person is bit by the vampire and POOF! suddenly they have white skin, red lips and fangs. And a cape.

People are also starting up epresses like crazy. After all, what more do you really need than a computer? Declare yourself an editor, recruit some writers to be editors, too, and start offering book contracts. No need to invest money in advance. It's the ultimate start-up. All it takes is your time.

The most interesting part of all of this is that reputation, at least for the moment, doesn't seem to matter. It's a curious world where things are what people declare them to be. And whoever shouts it the loudest gets the most people to believe them.

Thus the Eislers and the Konraths post their conversations and declare their opinions Gospel truth. People announce contracts with week-old epresses, celebrating with the same fervor as they would a Big 6 contract.

The world will be as we want it to be, people shout out.

It's as if whoever describes their invisible outfit in the most exciting detail will actually be wearing the velvet and gold. And perhaps they will. Time will tell. Proof is in the pudding and all that.

For a long time, publishers have wanted readers to associate books with their brand. They've wanted readers to pick up a St. Martin's book and buy it because they know what they'll get with a St. Martins book, just as they would with a Big Mac. This is a basic marketing thing (says she who knows squat about marketing). Obviously this was never going to happen. Readers associate stories mainly with authors, possibly with genre. Most readers never notice the publisher.

As the epresses proliferate, I think this will change. Already I see people noticing that certain epublishers turn out less-than-wonderful books. I'm cleaning up the language considerably here. I hear people talking in terms of the publisher as in, I bought a ebook from Fringed Lampshade books and I wondered if anyone ever read it, much less edited it. Then they don't want to buy from Fringed Lampshade again.

Which is really how it should work.

It costs nothing to start an epress, to sign authors and offer them a percentage. Maybe you bring quality editing and a fresh perspective. Maybe not. As with all businesses, much will depend on the long run. It's simple to put a product on the shelf, not so easy to get customers to buy a second time.

And perhaps the big publishers will finally get what they've been looking for. After all, at this point the main advantage they retain is editorial and marketing experience. If they can convince readers to look to them for a certain quality, then it might be difficult for an epress to compete.

Meanwhile, we are all in the cast, standing in a circle and watching in fascination as publishing writhes on the floor, kicking out all kinds of ooze. What will it be?

Time will tell.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

All Jeffe, All the Time

This is Deliverance, by Manuel Nuñez. The same artist who did Strait is the Gate, which I mentioned previously.

Looking him up, I've discovered he does commissioned portraits, so now I've got this whole fantasy spinning about how I'll take money from my first wildly successful contemporary fantasy novel and have a portrait done.

Hey - a girl can dream.

At any rate, I'd had an image in mind of a painting of his I *thought* I'd seen, that looked like a woman laid out for a funeral, but I didn't find it in his gallery. (On the other hand, I see the piece I own has gone up considerably in value, so I'm feeling all nifty about that.) And then I see Elizabeth Taylor passed, so an image of a lovely woman resting in peace seems all fraught today.

My point is: I'm giving up the Jennifer Paris alter ego.

I know, I know. She was with us such a little time. We hardly knew her.

It was just over a year ago that I announced I'd use Jennifer Paris for my Loose Id erotic novella, Petals and Thorns. March 4 of 2010, actually, and now I'm feeling all astonished that it's been that long. I was all set to type something like "six months ago." Tempus fugit and all that.

At any rate, in conversations with the lovely Angela James over my contract for Carina Press, she pointed out that if I intend to use Jennifer Paris as an author name, then I should have her as a social media identity.

Angela is quite savvy about social media, I think. Her blog posts and challenges are frequently cited. She's all over twitter. And she's really a terrific person to work with. She has emailed with me, answering my questions with genuine friendliness. In an aside, the contracts/legal guy at Harlequin headquarters is also really warm and friendly. I'm already so impressed with this corporate climate. All of this makes me think they know something about creating a virtual community.

So, I've bantered back and forth with Angela on Twitter long before this. And with my fabulous new editor, Deb Nemeth. They know me there by my twitter handle, @jeffekennedy. In fact, I was pretty sure the Carina gig would be a go, because I saw Deb started following me on twitter a couple of weeks before I got the actual phone call. Some of that was to see if I'm psycho, I think. Fortunately I managed to fake that well enough not to set off any alarm bells. I would be very carefully composing tweets for a while, thinking through the potential impacts, then I'd forget myself and go off on riffs with someone and - oops.

It's a good argument for just being yourself on social media - cuz you'll forget and do it anyway.

I told Angela I was doing the "Jeffe Kennedy writing as Jennifer Paris" thing and she said no, no, no. Actually she said it's not the same thing at all. Since I really don't want to "flesh out" Jennifer Paris and tweet or blog as her (she was only a cardboard cut-out anyway), I decided to retire her.

Besides, there's also now a transvestite porn star with that name. I don't have to tell you that link is absolutely NSFW (not safe for work), do I? Yeah, click at your own risk.

So, there you have it. Jennifer Paris is officially a one-off. Goodbye, darling - it was fun while it lasted.

Now I'm All Jeffe, All the Time.

Let's get this party started.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The More We Know

I don't mind the overnight snow, since we need the moisture. Dust storms have been clouding the valley. Even the daffodils don't mind. They whispered that they're built to withstand this kind of thing.

Over at Word Whores - my group blog, if you didn't know - we've been talking this week about drafting styles. Whether you plan it all out ahead of time or discover as you go. Whatever terms you may assign to to those styles, writers seem to fall pretty solidly into one court or another.

On Laura Bickle's post from yesterday, she talks about her plotting method. The comments conversation has become very interesting, as other writers profess horror or admiration for her detailed outlines.

That she does *before* she writes the book. Ahem.

At any rate, in the comments, the issue of revising came up. It's long been the lore that the great drawback of not plotting ahead of time is that you spend a lot more time revising. KAK, who is a german dictator under all that red hair and those pretty smiles, declared that every scene must pass the "purpose" test. If it doesn't serve the overall story, off it goes.

She's ruthless. Believe me, I know.

I can see her point. And definitely the revising process is more cerebral than drafting for me. The drafting is all about the misting along and letting anyone and everything into the story. Revising brings the critical lens to the entire arc of the story. I'm not sure anyone can revise in a subconscious, misty way.

Except.

Okay, I'm a self-confessed sub-conscious, dreamthink, misty writer. I do believe the stories and characters exist in some reality and reveal themselves to me. I rarely feel like I "think" them up. Sometimes I can't logically defend why someone or something is there. The critical lens would have me delete that stuff. The purpose test would demand excision. Goal, motivation, conflict? They scoff at these bits.

This is where my gut comes in. Neither the conscious, nor the subconscious, but the deep part that is most me. If I don't trust that part, then I'm not me, for better or worse. The GMC stuff (see above) arises out of classic storytelling. People like to talk about archetypes of the hero's journey and so forth. The thing is, archetypes, which Jung originally described as subconsciously shared concepts are something, by definition, already exist inside us. We can critically analyze them, but on some levels, they defy conscious definition.

No, I can't always defend the purpose of a scene. Sometimes it's because the scene is junk, or something I needed to write through to get somewhere. But one of the most surprising things I discovered over the ten years I spent writing and publishing essays - the things people keyed in on the most, were those things I had not planned. Scenes or images that just popped up when I was writing. Things that, sometimes, I nearly skipped writing, or thought about deleting later, because they seemed extraneous.

I keep reminding myself of that lesson.

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's...



Supermoon!

Which sounds way better than Worm Moon. Poor Worm Moon, superseded by our current love of all things supersized.

In case you live under a rock, this particular full moon was to appear 14% bigger than the "regular" sized moon, because of the moon's proximity to earth. That's a decent amount of moon supersizing. From the left to the right is a 14% increase.

Several people commented they tried to photograph the Supermoon. It doesn't come out right, does it? It's because the cameras still aren't as good as our eyes. This goes back to the "we photograph light" thing. The great big full moon is so bright against the dark sky, that it ends up being just this blob of a spotlight to the camera. No picking up the subtle shadows of the Sea of Tranquility. No gentle smile of the rising moon.

You'll notice the best photographs are the ones where the sky is still pretty light, so there's less extreme contrast. Or, like this one, where a few clouds mute the brightness, allowing for something less than glare.

At any rate, hopefully you got to see it. Lots of people had clouds. Even if you didn't, it was really the same gorgeous moon we see come and go every night and day. The Worm Moon is for the advent of robins and the worms they eat. The soil is warming and thawing. The birds are singing. Yesterday was also the Spring Equinox.

I forgot to mention last month that the Chinese Year of the Rabbit that we just kicked into is also the year of the moon. Here's a neat bit I found:

According to Chinese tradition, the Rabbit brings a year in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves. Not many people know that the Rabbit is the symbol of the Moon, while the Peacock is the symbol of the Sun, and that together, these two animal signs signify the start of day and night, represent the Yin and Yang of life. It is said that anyone making supplications for wishes to be fulfilled are certain to get what they want... and in the Year of the Rabbit, the wish-granting aspect of the Sun and the Moon combined is multiplied. The Moon is YIN and this is the Yin of Heaven, signifying magic. Thus on each of the Full Moon nights of this year, go out into your garden to gaze into the Full Moon and visualize plenty of Moon dust and Moon glow flowing into you, filling your whole body with bright white light and granting you fearlessness, love and courage. This will not only strengthen your inner "Chi" energy, it will also bring wisdom into your life.


So, go make your wishes on the moon. Catch your breath. Calm your nerves.

Fill yourself with moon dust and moon glow.

Go be fearless and wise.

Supermoon!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Play Misty for Me


I'm over at Word Whores today, talking about Pantsing vs. Plotting.

(I know, I know - as usual.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Crazy for Feeling So... Busy

A soft, spring sunrise this morning.

The birds are full of springtime, too - swooping about and singing. They're terribly busy.

One of my writing friends made a comment not long ago that she feels like she's losing to time. She's revising and is afraid it's taking too long. I can understand this. You spend months writing a novel, then months revising the novel, then months waiting for people to respond to said novel. Sometimes those responses send you back to revising for more months and you wait even more months for responses, which are usually "no, thank you."

And it can feel like wasted time.

It's like you're forever working at a job, hoping to be paid one day. There's a crushing sense of urgency, that if you just worked a little harder, a little faster, that maybe you could cut out, oh, a decade or so of the waiting.

Yesterday I posted a chapter from the family memoir I started writing, oh, a decade or so ago. Several people who'd been fans of my nonfiction work from way back jumped on it and asked when I planned to finish that book. This book, in fact, was the project I won my Ucross fellowship for, and spent my time there outlining. (If you get a chance to do a writer's residency like this, it's OMG wonderful. They make you feel like you're curing cancer.)

See, my plan had been to break into genre fiction, have a nice income from that, and get to spend time on these harder-to-sell nonfiction projects.

Hey - the plan is totally working! It's just, um, taking a decade or so longer than I planned.

So, a couple of people have suggested I work on more than one project at a time. Even contemplating this makes me feel a little crazy. It's tempting. When I take a few deeps breaths, I can see the fantasy of it unfolding. How I would move forward the new new novel, The Middle Princess, finish one I'd set aside, expand a short story into a novella, write the family memoir, and and and...

Then I start to feel crazy again.

I think about how I could work it in. I could take my two hours of writing time in the mornings and split them - one hour each on two different things. I've thought about sitting down again at night and spending an hour on a different project than the morning one. Then I also start thinking about how I wanted to set aside more time to read every day, so if I'm going to restructure, I should do that, too. The only two things I don't think deserve more time are the day job and online socializing.

*Ahem*

At least I'm smart enough now not to consider sleeping less. Which is absolutely how I created more time when I was in college.

My day job boss argues that there's no such thing as multi-tasking. He says it's just pretending to pay attention to something when you're actually doing something else. But I suppose I'm talking more here about serial tasking. Like, some writers work on one project on alternate days, doing another in between. Or rotating three or four. Or just working until they get stuck on one, then switching.

I'm a monogamous kind of gal, really, but I can be convinced. How do you all do it?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Luck of the Who?

If you've been around any length of time, you know that the phrase "the luck of the Irish" is meant ironically.

Oh sure, the Irish have a certain gift for dragging the best out of a bad situation. A happy, go-lucky spirit that leads to dancing, singing and imbibing, but let's face it: the Irish tend to get themselves into bad situations in the first place.

Yes, I'm from an Irish family. I'm a Kennedy now, though that's adoptive. Before that I come from the McGees, the Lamberts and the McCoys. And St. Patrick's day always makes me think of my grandfather, Pat McGee.

It's ironic, because at the memorial I went to this week, I ended up in the kitchen with my cousin, Jane, and the newest addition to our family by marriage, Louise. We were screened from other conversations by an enormous spray of a Sympathy Arrangement. We filled Louise in on the family gossip, which is somewhat involved, goes back over 100 years now and includes complicated explanations of who is really whose half- or full-sibling. Jane declared that we were "behind the plant," so all restrictions were off.

Most of those stories center around Pat McGee. And his father, Ray McGee. For starters, I'll mention Ray had five wives. The McGees pretty much invented serial monogamy - and also weren't so good at the "serial" part. Oops. My grandmother's family wasn't much better.

Yes, I've outlined the book to tell this story, but I haven't written it yet.

But, just for fun, to honor my ancestors on this day, here's the first chapter.


Papa: Elegy for a Rapscallion

The story begins, as many American ones do, with the Irish coming over the sea. One by one, the players assembled in America. And though this is a story about a family in the Rocky Mountain West, their roots were in the South and Midwest. The last to arrive, John McCoy, came from County Cork in 1855 and found a bride in Elkhart, Indiana. It’s rumored Tom McGee came from County Wexford and certain he married an Irish bride in Texas. Where, coincidentally, also lived the ancestors of the woman his grandson would marry almost sixty years later in Oklahoma City. We can reach back further, catalog the arrivals of the Jones, the Hendricks, the Sanders, the Fergusons, Andersons and Richardsons. But one image stands out in the family history that seems as good a place as any to begin a story.

A confederate soldier is walking down the road.

His uniform is worn through. His name is John Anderson Ratliff and it’s the spring of 1865. Besides that, I know little about his life before this moment, returning home from the war. The Anderson is for his mother’s family. She in turn bears Hull as a middle name, for her grandmother’s family. His father is half Scot from his Ferguson mother, but otherwise, they’ve become a firmly English Methodist family, living in the northwest corner of Georgia. The farm is near Subligna. In Chattooga County. Not far from Chattanooga, almost Tennessee, almost Alabama.

But he fought for Georgia and now makes his way home along the road, his uniform so thin and worn as to being ready to drop off of him, his thoughts full of a girl. Martha Catherine Sanders. Born seven years after him on the neighboring farm, she is now nineteen. She may well have felt like his birthright. After all, two of his brothers have married Sanders girls. He could have been twenty-one when he left home, if he joined up when the war broke out and Martha only fourteen. But he knew she was for him. We know this because as he arrives home, his mother begins spinning and weaving to make him a new suit. A non-fighting suit. A courting suit.

He’s able to see Martha here and there, in glancing moments. John’s friendly with her brothers and they talk about the war while they play with the dogs. Naturally Martha’s family visits with their married daughters. And the crops can always be discussed with Mr. Sanders. But he can’t make his formal call, announce his intentions, until his suit is done. His mother hurried. Making enough cloth for a man’s suit takes time. She finally finished and boiled walnuts and herbs for the dye.
“Butternut yellow,” John called it all his life.

But he donned the ugly suit straight away — there was no waiting to correct the error — and headed for the Sanders farm to Call. He walked down the lane to the house, a path he’d walked nearly as often as the one to his own house. As he approached, the Sanders dogs sent up full cry. The pack charged. John was on his back, dogs standing on him and growling. Until Martha’s brother saved him. After that, Martha tied up the dogs so John could call on her in his Butternut Yellow Suit.

But my grandmother, as a small child, knew the joke. One of the aunties or uncles — Martha and John produced eleven children — would say “better tie the dogs!” And she would look out the window to see someone brightly overdressed, coming to call.
All eleven Ratliff children were born in Georgia, though the first boy died of the summer complaint — diptheria — just before his second birthday, while John was stranded away from home by floods in Arkansas. The last child was born in 1890. By 1894, John and Martha had relocated the entire family to Rogers, Texas, not far from Waco.

John, not content with farming his fields, also loved flowers. The flowers rampant in my Grandmother’s garden and mine might come from him. Their porch swam under honeysuckle, hid behind Bouncing Betty. He even — an extravagance — “sent off” for tuberose bulbs, which he planted on the south side of the house. They grew, bountiful and fragrant, perfuming the whole yard on summer evenings the first year. The next year, a dear friend died. With no florist for the community, John cut his tuberoses for the funeral. They regrew the following summer, but another funeral demanded they be cut. After a few years of tuberose funerals, one morning John shouldered his shovel and headed out to the garden. Martha, the young twin boys and Baby Jessie Mae came out to watch. John glanced up.

“They are sad flowers,” he said.

And no one questioned him.

Nettie, the eighth child, always Nanette to me when I knew her as my great-grandmother, was already a teenager by then. Her siblings gradually married off and farmed neighboring property.

Like her mother before her, she married at nineteen. Luther Hendrick, only a year older, also a farmer would not create with her the large, intimate family the Ratliffs enjoyed. And perhaps Nettie didn’t pick him for that. She was by all accounts ribald. In her wedding picture, she stands swathed in lace, her lips carefully smoothed over the buck teeth she passed down to all her generations of daughters, though we had orthodontia to save us. Or perhaps she’s sealing her lips upon some smart remark — she seems about to speak, her eyes slightly contemptuous. Maybe it’s the fur rug at her feet. Or Luther’s stiff pose, where he sits beside her. His hand dangles, a massive gold pinky ring catching the light. He is handsome, sharp, clean-lined features, dark hair, fine eyebrows. Nettie has our face, oval and soft, a mouth that tends to look sad in repose, cheekbones high but pillowed, eyes bright with passion.

Georgia is born a year later and Marie three years after that. They played with their many cousins, who all gathered at the Ratliff house where they climbed the chinaberry tree and, once, scaled to the widow’s walk on the roof. The sisters returned from their shopping tour in town to see even the smallest cousin, Veleria, no more than a baby atop the atop the house. Marie became known as the “the pretty cousin,” having inherited her father’s dark good looks, her mother’s eyes and complexion — and someone else’s teeth. Georgia was the “sweet one.”

Luther then introduced divorce into that branch of the family. He split with Nettie in 1913, taking custody of the girls and leaving the Ratliff bosom for Ralls, Texas, up in the panhandle, up the road from Lubbock. The family lore is that Nettie didn’t fight it. She said goodbye to her daughters and lit out for Oklahoma City, where some of her sisters had moved “to become millionaires,” in the words of a cousin left behind. Another cousin only notes about the divorce that “around that time, Aunt Nettie experienced a great tragedy in her life.”

Georgia and Marie were sent alone on the train to live with their father and meet their new stepmother, Clara — the second in a chain of five wives for Luther. I love the string of Texas farmgirl names: Nettie, Clara, Jewel, Siders and Flossie.
“He kept the children and ran the wives out of town,” my mother and aunts agree, though they barely knew their grandfather Luther.

“It was those bloodhounds,” my Aunt Carole said when I asked her how one runs a woman out of town. “He had all those great big, slobbery bloodhounds.”

On that last day at home, Nettie long gone, Luther awaiting them in Ralls to start a new life, a new farm, the aunties carefully bathed Georgia and Marie and set them in bed in their slips, their traveling dresses kept by, them and the dresses kept clean for the journey. As they lay under the sheet, all of their cousins, aunties, uncles, other relatives streamed past, saying their goodbyes. An image I grew up with — at nine and five, they were slight, all eyes and dark hair. White slips, white sheets, Texas dust creeping in around the edges. And then they step onto the train, hand in hand.

They came back to visit, of course. The farm in Ralls was grim, barren. None of Grandfather Ratliff’s Bouncing Betty graced that yard. Family who visited Luther in later years reported the yard around the house was hard-packed dirt, relieved only by the quantities of broken glass scattered about. In contrast, the farmhouse in Rogers took on an even sweeter memory. It became the place where Grandmother climbed Chinaberry trees, spent endless summer evenings on the porch with Georgia and her many cousins. A picture of it hangs on my office wall, as Grandmother had it on her office wall.

Off-center in the photo, the house is small with clapboard and gingerbreading. We can see the white picket fence, the Chinaberry trees, and the backs of two people in the doorway. They both face inside, as if talking to a room overflowing with people. The woman’s light skirt covered with a white apron blows in the breeze, pinned on one side by the baby on her hip. The man wears a white shirt and crossed suspenders hold up his black pants. The small railing of the widow’s walk stands outlined against the blank Texas sky.

By the time Marie was eleven — and Clara, run out of town in favor of Jewel — she and Georgia began to also visit Nettie in glamorous Oklahoma City.

It had long been the source of silk stockings, jewelry and other pretty, city things. Nettie had made a business woman of herself; later she become the Deputy Court Clerk. A 1925 photo of the sisters at the Leono River, just before they moved from Texas forever, shows Georgia and Marie posing in calf deep water. They’re wearing the latest thing, gifts from Oklahoma City. The matching bathing costumes stretch from shoulder to knee. Arms are flirtatiously bare. The silk clings to their slender bodies, Marie’s hands tucked in the front pockets, her bright smile tilted with her head. They both wear floppy-brimmed hats with fluttering scarves. It’s clear they feel frisky and fashionable, even not-the-pretty-one Georgia coyly flutters her hand towards the brim, carefully closing her lips over her teeth.
Georgia raised Marie. Grandmother talked of her all my life. How Georgia took her by the hand on that train and never let it go. How she was her real mother. A high school photo shows them, leaning back to back, gleaming heads pressed together. But Georgia married a farmer and stayed in Texas with Luther and with the Ratliffs.

When Marie graduated from high school, she decided to leave Georgia and Texas behind. She moved to the city, to the center of the universe, the source of all pretty things.

And where she would meet Pat McGee.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March TBR Challenge

Okay, I'm back from the memorial for my uncle. The celebration of life was well done and I enjoyed seeing the family. I'll tell you more about it tomorrow.

And thank you for all the wonderful thoughts on the car wreck and those artifacts I picked up. I really appreciated the suggestion from several people that I contact the local police. I'll do that today and let you all know if I found out anything.

For today though, I really want to get something up for the TBR Challenge 2011.

I totally signed up to participate in the challenge and here it is March already, with me having missed the first two months of the year, somehow. Has anyone seen January or February? They were here a minute ago...

At any rate, Wendy the Super Librarian, who is, not incidentally, also RWA's Librarian of the Year, is hosting this year's TBR Challenge. The idea is to pluck something out of your massive To-Be-Read (TBR) pile - yes, we know you have one. Don't lie - that loosely fits the theme, read it and blog about it on the third Wednesday of the month.

This month's theme? A new-to-you author.

So, Kate Elliott has been in my TBR pile for a long time. Spirit Gate and King's Dragon have both languished in the paper pile since before we moved. That's right - piled up with Eat, Pray, Love, which you all told me to go read to wash the movie from my head. I'll get to it, okay?

That's part of the point of this: to get to those books you've been meaning to read. KAK and I were just discussing yesterday how much less we read these days. I really want to devote more time to it. Getting on the TBR Challenge track is a great way to do it.

I also have about five pages of books waiting to be read in my Kindle. One of them is Kate's Cold Magic. Yes - a third unread book of this particular author who everyone and their parrot tells me to read and I keep not getting to.

So, there I was, struggling through the newest book in a series by an author who shall remain unnamed. Suffice to say I used to love love love this series. The last one was meh and this one was so unrewarding that I felt depressed reading it. Halfway through the book, I deleted it from the Kindle.

This is the modern, though less dramatic, version of throwing the book across the room.

I fumed for a bit, thinking it's me. I've lost my attention span. As one book blogger puts it, I lost my reading mojo. Maybe I just hate everything?

And, recalling the TBR challenge and that Kate Elliott is technically new to me, I opened Cold Magic.

Angels sang. Unicorns - yes, they were still dancing from before - capered madly.

You guys: This Is A Really Good Book.

I confess I'm only about 25% in. But immediately I felt in the hands of a master storyteller. I'm sinking into this world with the gratitude of a starving cat falling into a vat of tuna. It feels like forever since I couldn't wait to get back to a book. It's like discovering love all over again.

I would say more, but I have to finish my work so I can go read!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Detritus

Saturday night, we heard a sound.

Both deeply asleep, David and I jumped upright at the sound out our window. Though we live in a rural area, there's a paved two-lane road not far away. Given the way the houses are laid out, the road curves past, not really all that far from our bedroom window. We can't see it, because it drops below a rise, and usually we can't hear it.

But Saturday night, we heard the screech of tires, then a crash. A huge crash, like an enormous bubble popping. Suddenly and fully awake, I knew someone had rolled their car. I dashed for my cell phone to call 911. David grabbed the binoculars, to try to see. We have no streetlights either, so it wasn't easy. I looked at my clock - 12:37, because I'd set it ahead for daylight savings time when we went to sleep. We'd been asleep maybe an hour.

I feel like I was fuzzy, telling the 911 operator. By the sound I knew it was bad. She said they'd send someone to check it out. David could see a car dome light and people walking around. With my glasses, the binoculars wouldn't focus right, so I stopped trying to see. We debated putting on our clothes and walking the half-mile to see. But what could we do?

In the morning, I suggested that we walk over, to see what we could put together. We found the tire tracks going off the asphalt onto the soft dirt, right where the road curves from the straightaway. Dirt and weeds sprayed across the nearby walking path. Pieces of car were strewn about. Strips of shatter-proof glass, bits of bumper and so forth. We found another set of deep-dug tracks, where the tow-truck had pulled the car out.

And I found her things. It looked like stuff from her purse. The Lancome eye pencils, the eye-shadow brush and compact. A pair of dirt-encrusted sunglasses and Prada reading glasses, still in their case. A receipt for jewelry - from last April - and a lens-cleaning kit from Santa Fe Optical. Thirty cents in change. I picked it all up, while David waited on the walking trail with Zip, keeping him away from the broken glass. Then I started to pile it up, thinking she might come looking for what she'd missed, in shock and in the dark of night. But she might be in the hospital. Or dead. And kids would pick it up, keep it and not care.

So, now I have these things of hers. Along with a name on the nearly year-old receipt. She's not listed in the phone book. I'd like to find her, if I could. I've worried about her all day. Was she hurt? Maybe she's okay, just rattled by her near-miss. Pissed that the car was totaled.

David said he dreamed all night about cars crashing. He thinks someone died.

I just remember that sound. The screech and pop.

I put her things in a bag, just in case.

Dirty Neat

I'm over at Word Whores today, making my contribution to our Guide to Liquor.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dreading the Banal Finale

The first blossoms of spring!

So, never mind about devastating earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, let me tell you about my fingernail. Fair warning, this is frivolous and silly.

From the Department of Banal Details About My Life, here is Exhibit A:

Okay, it's the only exhibit. But see how my social finger has that big white mark? It's harder to see the bruise around it. Hey - it's really hard to take a photograph of your own right hand when you're right-handed. Anyhoo, that white stuff is my fingernail splintering apart due to the damaged nail bed around it.

Back around Christmas I injured that finger. I thought about making up a story here, about how I was snatching an orphan, or perhaps a kitten, from the path of an oncoming train. But I couldn't tweak the plot enough where I ended up with only a pinched finger instead of a severed limb.

So, okay, maybe I was luxuriating on my mom and Dave's fab patio in Tucson and reached back to adjust my lounge chair and caught my finger in the mechanism. I didn't spill my drink, but it *really* hurt.

Look - I told you this wasn't on the scale of 88,000 people missing in Japan.

The blood blister and bruising at the base of the nail healed in a few days, but I've watched this fault in my nail move bit by bit towards the tip of my finger over the last two months. I know when it reaches near where the nail bed ends, my nail will break, probably well below the quick.

I've been keeping nail polish on it, to fortify the strength of the nail. Now, I am not the kind of gal who keeps her nails polished. Special occasions, sure. In college, I used to go around saying "Show me a woman with a perfect manicure and I'll show you a woman with a lot of time on her hands."

Yeah, I didn't have a lot of friends.

I put polish on again last night, after I took this pic - which is why I didn't retake it for better focus. All you'd see is pink. But I can feel the instability on that side of the nail.

It's like this slow-motion mini-disaster. The tension builds over two months, reaching back to the moment of that initial injury, foreshadowing the ultimate breakdown. Now, finally, after following this story for weeks, I'm reaching the end and I'm dreading the finale. The blood, the shredded nail. How I'll have to walk around with my social finger sticking out so that it won't catch on things.

Maybe that part will be kind of fun.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Boy on Boy

I'm just about out of Tucson photos. I need to get busy around here again.

I'd hoped to be taking a lot of nifty pics in Boston this weekend, but alas we've canceled our trip. Ironically, I also finished my revision of The Body Gift, which had been consuming my thoughts and energy. So I don't even relish my suddenly free weekend to work on it.

I am, however, going back to the novel I started before Christmas, which I think I'll call The Middle Princess for the time being. No, I don't always do three-word titles. Sometimes I do one-word titles or, in a salient example, an eight-word title.

At any rate, I've been thinking about male/male romance.

What - you didn't follow that transition? Keep up!

For those of you living under a rock, m/m romance is a huge trend these days. These are essentially traditional romance novels, except that the hero and heroine are a hero and hero. The novels are largely written by women and read by women. There's all kinds of debate about whether or not the stories are accurate depictions of male homosexuality, and if they should be. Every once in a while someone will produce an article where gay men make scathing comments about the romance/sex/level of realism. And they speculate about why women want to write and read this stuff.

The astute women ask why hetero men like to watch girl on girl so much and leave it at that.

It would be kind of amusing to see an article about girl on girl porn scenes, asking lesbians about the level of realism and whether these scenes accurately portray a lesbian love-affair.

So, I read one of these books a bit ago, partly to broaden my horizons and partly because the book received such a good review. I enjoyed it, too. One of the characters was more dominant, a business-man who wasn't openly out of the closet. The other, flamboyantly gay, "never topped." The dynamic felt familiar. One man was more ambitious, busy and closed off, the other more emotional, who loved to cook and read.

Some conflict revolved around being out together in public, with the one being so flamboyant, dealing with family and similar issues that this less-acceptable sexuality brings. But the main conflict came from the balance of power in the relationship, vulnerability and intimacy. As the more flamboyant man sulked, threw fits and struggled emotionally, I realized that a lot of that behavior would have annoyed me in a female character. It was as if, by being male, he had license to behave as outrageously as he wished. In some ways, his emotions were more valid to me, than they would have been in a female character.

So, this is one book and I'm not a sociologist. Still, I've grown up in a culture where women's emotionality is considered boggy ground. As professionals, we're expected to behave more like men emotionally. In relationships, being too emotional is considered cheating. I wonder if the m/m romance gives more room to explore the love relationship without bringing up those damming triggers.

When I brought this up with a group of writer friends, though, the ever-saucy Darynda Jones blinked at me and said, "I just think they're hot."

There you are then.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mosaics and Misting

This morning at the gym, the guy lifting weights nearby had his music up loud enough that some leaked from his ear buds. He was listening to the Superman theme music. Somehow this both made me laugh and endeared me to him. Go Superman guy! Build those tasty muscles!

I totally want to build a character around that now.

Today is a very special Happy Birthday to my mom. Many of you already passed along good wishes last week during my surprise visit.

My mom's new project is making mosaics.She took a class to learn how and now she's creating this table top. It's really perfect for her, because she shines at combining shapes and color. Pressed into service - and because my avowed task for the visit was to do whatever she wanted to do - I helped her put it together. It's fun and different, like a puzzle where you don't know what the picture will be when you're done.

Oh, wait, that's how I write.

It's a good analogy, really. You choose the general shape of your story, the outline, the themes, the color scheme. You might have several really wonderful pieces that you know have to be in there, that you build around. But the final picture only emerges when you've finished.

This was actually the second time my mom put this together. The first time she had only the vertical border around the outside edge, which looked all wrong to her, once she finished. So, she took it apart and added the second, horizontal border. She kind of minded having to do that, but she's retired and has this lovely leisurely life, so she has the time.

One of my friends wants to "reform" and learn to be a plotter. She's said that she wants to save the time it takes by "pantsing" her books and plot first. It put me in mind of another comment I saw by a person who says that she's a pantser and that's why her blogs are so unfocused.

I think this last is like seeing the mosaic needs one more border and adding it in. The unfocused isn't from not planning every detail ahead of time, it's being unwilling to take the time to fix it. As for wanting to save that time in the first place, well, I understand. I totally do.

But I think it's the wrong reason.

The press of time is artificial, I think. It's emotionally driven. We want to write more books, faster, to make more money, to quite our day jobs and be rich RIGHT NOW.

It's a kind of hysteria, really.

Another friend of mine, Bria Quinlan, wrote a terrific post on this, called I Am Not Broken. She gets down to the point that writing is about doing the work. Let me add, it's about the journey, the creation, the spinning of the story. You might hasten this process with extensive pre-plotting, but you still have to write the story. You might plan out exactly how the mosaic should look when you're done, but you still have to put the pieces all together.

And be willing to take them apart again, if it doesn't look right.

I can understand wanting to get the product out there, but art, any art, is about engaging ourselves in the creative process. My mom isn't making mosaics to sell. She's making it for the sheer joy of it.

She'll have something beautiful when she's done, too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Big News

Happy Fat Tuesday, everyone!

If you're bored today, or simply need a little Mardis Gras fix, without the smells and lack of restroom facilities, NOLA.com runs the parade cams and Bourbon Street Cams. They can be pretty entertaining, but also a time-suck.

Fair warning.

So, a week ago today, I received a phone call, which I alluded to here. It seems appropriate to have excessive partying going on today while I tell you all:

I am signing a contract with Carina Press!!!

~cue happy dancing and jazz band~

The sun comes up over the mountains, shedding light on the happy valley below. Angels swoop through the sky and unicorns perform intricate jigs.

Yes, my new editor, Deb Nemeth, is acquiring Sapphire and Angela James is the one who called me last week. They want to see my other work, too, so I'll be sending that along. I'm very much excited to be part of the Carina Press family. If you don't know, Carina is Harlequin's digital imprint. I truly believe they're at the forefront of digital publishing. They have all the sterling foundation of the Harlequin empire, along with greater flexibility to step out of the mold. All those funny stories that are kind of fantasy, kind of sci fi, kind of sexy? They want to publish them!

So thank you all, for the love, support and excitement while I was being cagey.

And now...

Laissez les bon temps et romans rouler!

Monday, March 7, 2011

What Did He Use to Do?

Every morning while I'm in Tucson, I get up early and walk the circuit of the 9-hole golf course, before the golfers get going.

I miss going to the gym first thing, but the walk takes 45 minutes and makes up in length what it lacks in intensity. Plus there are bunnies and quail everywhere. Birds sing. This morning I saw an owl. I also saw a spot where it looked like an owl had gotten a dove. Feathers scattered everywhere told the tale of a midnight scuffle.

Every morning, too, I see the same two guys, prepping the golf course for the day. This fellow does the raking of the sand traps and grooms the grass with his Zamboni-ish machine that creates those long stripes. He looks African to me, both in his face and the way he doesn't look at me when I walk by. The other guy always says hello. He's tall with silver hair and a golf course jacket. His job involves testing the putting greens and tees. Or tamping. Perhaps he both tests and tamps.

I wonder if working at a golf course is a good living. Probably it's a better deal to be the tester/tamper than the raker/rider. Like most jobs, though, you likely have to start out as raker/rider guy.

It's funny because so many people in this neighborhood are retired. Sometimes, when they talk about their friends, my folks will mention what people used to do. "Oh, she was a lawyer, you know. And he held political office." At this time, though, they have no uniform that tips you off. They carry no briefcases, have no tell-tale packets of real-estate sell sheets. At the Starbucks, the retirees and vacationers stand out easily from the people heading to jobs.

I had a friend from Madrid many years ago and she commented on how odd she found it that Americans always ask each other what they do. She's right - it's among the first things people ask each other when first meeting. She thought it indicated that Americans define themselves by what they do for a living, where for the Spanish it means so little that they often have no idea what a person does for money.

So many of us writers have a dual answer to that question of what do we do. We say oh, my day job is ex, but I'm also an aspiring/freelance/well-published author. Sometimes we specify the day job, other times we leave it vague. It takes a while to fess up the writer part, too.

I like to think my raker/rider guy who never looks up is deep in thoughts about his painting or his poetry. The Zen of the golf course gives him time to think. He works early hours, then composes in the afternoons.

Or perhaps he hangs with his kids. Or has two other jobs. Maybe he breeds horses.

I'll just make up my own story for him.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hey-Hey

I'm over at Word Whores today, talking about euphemisms for naughty bits.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Surprise!

I'm in Tucson this morning. This photo is from my early morning walk around the golf course.

Me being suddenly in Tucson is why I didn't post yesterday. I left early and flew here to surprise my mom for her birthday. My fabulous stepsister, Hope, who's forever lurking on this blog and never saying anything, picked me up at the airport. She'd invited my mom to lunch, so when we met up at the restaurant, I just happened to be along, too.

Big surprise. Very fun. All went flawlessly.

I did try to post to the blog yesterday, anyway, but all I could think about was the impending surprise. I imagined it would come out something like this:

That's right [birthday!]: write every [Tucson!] day. Write at [no, no - I'm not flying anywhere today. Ha! Ha! Yes, I am!] the same time every day [Surprise!] if you can. Set your rituals and follow them, ahem, religiously. [Oh, boy! I can't wait!]

And then my mom would have read it and, well, all that subtext would have given it away.

So, today we're off to play. Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Good News and Random Bits of Exploding Matter

So, I got an Enticing Offer yesterday.

Every Tuesday for the last couple of months, I've been waiting for this phone call. Yeah, I'm enough of a Twitter/Internet stalker to know that this person makes calls with offers on Tuesdays. My cup overranneth (yes, that's totally a word) with conference calls yesterday. With all the serendipity I could ask for, my cell rang between work calls with a number I didn't recognize. The woman on the other end asked for "Jeff."

And I knew.

People who've only read my name inevitably go with "Jeff" first. I always respond, "this is Jeffe." (jeff-ee) Then they apologize and I tell them it happens all the time, which is does. Then I waited for her to make her offer.

Which she did.

Hooray!!!

So now I'm checking with a few agents, to see if anyone cares, just in case. I'll sign contracts next week and then I'll be less coy with the details.

It's amazing, though, how something like this blows my ritual and routine all to hell. Yesterday afternoon was a blaze of finishing day job and hitting queries, follow-ups and pitch polishing. I'm filling out forms, checking schedules, making plans. No writing done yesterday and I'm over an hour behind getting to things today.

I'm happy, but what are all these little whizzing pieces of shrapnel?
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