Friday, February 26, 2010

"I'm gonna be there with you somehow"

Two weeks ago, the universe sent me a little message from an old friend.  Today, he sent me the same one again.

I was sitting outside, alone, at a different coffee shop, concentrating on my MS, MP3 player plugged in, pen in hand.  Everything I have written thus far has been typed in as I promised myself I'd get done by the end of this week.  Way back last year I felt like my hero wasn't telling me enough about himself and I didn't understand his needs, secrets or motivations enough to provide him with his own arc.  I had written a scene that felt out of order, so I snagged another notebook and tried to fill in the parts in between.

That notebook wound up containing about 40 pages and three scenes, and in it, my hero got weirder and weirder.  Instead of loving all over the heroine like he had been before, he became strange, Distant Guy.  And as I typed in my work I realized that one of the reasons I don't know what to do with him is because while he's great for her, she doesn't really bring anything healing to his world.

He's already normal.  Healthy.  Happy.  (That bastard)  And well-adjusted people make for boring stories.  Of course, I need him to be a good guy and good for the heroine but, to provide a satisfying story for the reader, I need her to be good for him too.

So I've got myself a structural problem.  And I'm aware of it.  And I'm sitting at a dainty little outdoors table writing it out.  I'm basically talking to myself on paper about my hero and his problems and whether this damn book can be fixed.

I write down: The question is, can this book be salvaged?  And the answer is yes.  I know it can.
I was just about to add: But I don't know how.
-when a woman stops by my table and interrupts me. 

She was riding by on a bicycle and says that she just got this urge, a compulsion, a "message from God" (or the universe),  to stop by my table and tell me to keep working on whatever I was writing.  She thought maybe I was writing a song (I confess to probably singing out loud.  I do that when my headphones are plugged in and I think I'm alone, so she's forgiven for thinking that I was working on music) but no, I was working on deconstructing - and reconstructing - my MS. 

She said she was nervous about stopping, so she circled around a few times, but she couldn't get the urge out of her head that she needed to talk to me and tell me to keep going.  She was worried it was going to be awkward.  She was a stranger and couldn't imagine that I'd accept, appreciate or understand the message to keep working on whatever I was writing.   We chatted for a few minutes.  I told her of my frustrations with my structure and my issues with getting my hero to talk to me.  Hell, we were already in a woo-woo space, I figured she could handle my being upset that an imaginary character wasn't talking to me.

She reminded me that that's exactly like real men, they're not so much for the communication.  Interesting.

After a few more minutes of friendly chatter, she hopped back on her bike and rode away, back to her life.  I turned my MP3 player back on.  This time, instead of the song Tony had once sent me, it was a song I once sent him.  A song that, to this day, makes me smile because it reminds me of when we were falling for each other and how I just wanted to be with him forever and ever.

Within minutes of my personal messenger riding off (and the song ending, because, of course, I had to sit back and listen to it), I had a nice little breakthrough.  My hero expressed his frustration in that ultra-male way that they do.  He picked a fight to defend his woman's honor.  Heh. 

So I'm gonna keep working on this MS.  I was planning to anyway, (I have a stubborn streak in me) but with the upcoming changes in my life it seems the universe, in its own special way, is also determined to make sure I get it finished.

Just Finished: Perfect Chemistry 
Currently Reading: Witness In Death 
Currently Reading: G is For Gumshoe 
Currently Reading Baby In Her Arms 
Currently Reading: Collide

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I suck

A few weeks ago I was, again, lamenting my lack of employment to myself.  It takes a hideous toll on one's sense of self-worth to be chronically unemployed.  I spent some mental energy cursing the world and thinking about all I had to offer an employer:

I'm whip-smart, customers love me, I'm lazy enough to prize efficiency, I have integrity out the yin yang, I always get my work done, I don't watch the clock, I'm reliable and I mind my own business.  After patting myself on the back about how wonderful I am, I had one of those lightbulb moments.

I am an awful employee.

You know that whip-smart thing above?  I'm often smarter than my boss, and while I don't rub it in, the way I keep my mouth closed seems to tip them off.  Customers love me and often wonder (to my face) why the boss is such a tool.  If a system is inefficient, I'll say so - I'll also try to fix it, which, for some reason, bosses take as an affront on their authority.

My integrity means I won't break the rules - even for the boss.  While he's nudge-nudging and wink-winking I'm sitting there saying, "But that's illegal."  Yeah I always get my work done and don't watch the clock, but to me that means if I arrive 10 minutes late and then stay 20 minutes late it doesn't effing matter so long as the work is done.  Employers, however, tend to frown on tardiness.  Sure I show up every day, but I don't always have the best attitude because frankly, I'd rather be sleeping.

And that minding my own business thing?  What it really means is I'm not interested in your boring stories about getting drunk last weekend or the big client you're trying to schmooze on the golf course.  Even if you are the boss, I don't want to know anything about your personal life and sure as heck I'm not going to share mine with you.

Within days after my epiphany, I got a phone call offering me a job interview.  Was that all it took?  Just admitting it to myself?  Apparently not.  Cuz I SO didn't get that job.

Recognizing this failing in myself did make me refocus on my writing, however.  The people who need me on their staff are highly unlikely to hire me.  It was time to get back to my plans for myself.  Last May I sort of fell off the writing wagon.  I've certainly worked on it since then, but not with the energy and determination it needs.  In the few weeks since my revelation I've once again gotten back to treating writing like the job it is. 

In the past two weeks I've typed in over 50 MS pages, editing along the way.  I can see where my story is losing focus and rambling in parts and am actively engaging my brain to find a fix for that.  By next Friday I plan to have everything that I've written all typed in and then start a second pass at edits the following Monday. 

Why the new stringent schedule?  Because now that I've decided that I'm a crapass employee, and now that I've made a conscious choice to go back to treating writing like a job (instead of looking for a job and treating writing like a hobby) I got a job!  I start March 1st.

Let's all keep our fingers crossed that I'm well into a healthy publishing schedule before my new bosses discover what a schmuck I am.

Just Finished: The Groom Wore Tulle / Conyn's Bride 
Just Finished: The Screwed Up Life of Charlie the Second (skimmed) 
Currently Reading: Collide 
Currently Reading: Baby In Her Arms
Just About To Start: Perfect Chemistry

Saturday, February 13, 2010

He still visits

Five years and nine days ago, someone I was deeply in love with died.

Actually, by the time he died, I was no longer "in love" with him, but the depth of my love for the man had only expanded as the in love part of it compounded and intensified into regular old love.  We met online and never met in person.  It was one of those odd chance encounters when you're looking one way and life kicks you in the head to get your attention.

We met late one night.  I sought him out to address some random comment he'd made and three months later, we still hadn't stopped talking.  He was the first person to ever make me feel truly loved and cared for.  The first one to ever convince me that I was beautiful.  My own personal cheerleader in all things great and small.  He believed in me and supported me and made me a better person just for knowing him.  I can only hope that my contribution to his life was similar.

I'd known him for about four years when he died, but I'd been mad at him for the past two.  The sort of angry where you know you don't have the right, but you can't help your feelings.  The last time we talked, he called me on my birthday in July.  We're both cancers, and I'd missed his, but he was extending the olive branch and I was happy to chat with him, but not too happy, because, you know, I was still angry.  I was also at work, and therefore couldn't talk to long... ten minutes?  five?  Not nearly long enough.

I told him I'd call him back.  I meant it and didn't at the same time.  I knew I'd get in touch eventually, but righteous anger is a bitch of a thing to overcome when you're a natural procrastinator anyway.

That October he was in a very bad car accident.  He wasn't wearing a seatbelt.  WEAR YOUR SEATBELTS, PEOPLE.  His passenger, and wife (see: anger righteous and otherwise, above) went through the windshield and became an organ donor.  He was trapped and crushed and never got any meaningful part of his life back.

In that accident he lost his wife.  He was paralyzed with only limited motor movement in his left arm.  He woke up on a vent, which helped him breathe for months.  He lost him home, as there was no one there to pay the rent.  And he lost his favourite dog, who, without him around, ran away from the person who was taking care of her and drowned.

Still, he lived on for four months in the hospital.  Once I got over my shock, I also got over my anger.  I wrote him every day.  Real letters.  On paper.  He never wrote back (see: paralysis, above) and we never talked on the phone again (see: vent, above).  But those last four months formed an even tighter bond between us.

My guy was a really popular fellow and the web was abuzz with updates on his accident, his wife's organ donation and funeral, his recovery and eventual death.  People who visited him told me he used to light up when he got that daily letter.  They read my personal communications to him while he breathed through a tube. They spoke my secrets out loud. 

In February, long-term care was ready to take him off the hospital's hand.  He was slowly getting better, one baby step at a time.  He'd gotten off the vent, but was only able to say a few words at a time.  I never got to hear any of them.  Arrangements were being made to move him when, in the middle of the night, he died.  His heart just stopped.  I think it was broken.

I cried every day for six months.  I'm crying as I write this.  The pain has faded, but the love hasn't.  Over the course of our friendship, we exchanged gifts.  Those few things I have from him are very precious to me.  One of his gifts was a mixed CD of songs we'd discussed or shared.  The night he died I took a long drive into the rural desert and listened to that CD while I stargazed and tried to absorb the loss.  And, as songs sometimes do, one of them spoke to me that night--carved itself in my heart and is forever associated with him.

Here's where it gets. . .improbable (for the unbeliever).  I felt him around me after he died.  His spirit honored that connection we'd made in life, and stood by me after his death.  It was both comforting and odd.  He finds a way from time to time to remind me that he's still there, my biggest cheerleader, watching over me, reminding me to believe in myself, my beauty, my worth.

Last night, that special song came on while I was out writing.  I took my fingers off the keys and sat back to allow myself to fully feel the joy of having known him.  While seating myself in that old love I let my eyes wander and noticed a man across the way.  I observed him for a bit, and then went back to my song.

When the song ended, the man I'd observed came over and started chatting with me.  He said that I looked so interesting sitting over there, and wanted to know what I was doing.  We fell into conversation and he talked about allowing oneself to be open to the universe, and the importance of travel and pursuing the things that bring you joy.  When he left he smiled at me and reminded me to get this book finished.  It needs to be done.

My Tony, he still finds a way to visit. 

Currently Reading: Collide 
Currently Reading: The Dream-Hunter 
Currently Reading: Wolf Tales VII 
Currently Reading: Healing Luke

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I had a miserable fucking day.

Then I bought Godiva.

Then I came home, crawled under the covers, and stayed there until the day was over and it couldn't touch me anymore.

Then I ate the Godiva.

It's over.

Just Finished: The Mistake She Made 
Just Finished: With Extreme Pleasure 
Currently Reading: Wolf Tales VII 
Currently Reading: Collide 
Currently Reading: The Dream-Hunter 
Currently Reading: Caitlyn's Prize

Monday, February 1, 2010

The lies we tell ourselves may be true

My old local RWA still has me on their e-mail list.

I left the Tucson at the end of September and before that I don't think I'd been to a meeting since March--suffice to say I'm not very involved in the chapter.  But I am on their e-mail list, and I do get a lot of messages from them that I'm sure they don't even know they're sending me.

One of the things they've been going on about lately is the "false stories" we tell ourselves that get in the way of moving forward with our writing careers.  I wasn't at the meeting where this was brought up (apparently to profound effect) so I have no clue about all the details.  But I garner from the resulting online discussion that the group was challenged to think about all the things that keep them from writing / revising / submitting etc. and acknowledge in their heart of hearts how many of these things are real barriers and how many are mere excuses.

I did a 100 / 100 challenge last year at this time.  I heard every excuse in the book from the participants.  Do you know how little time it takes to write 100 words?  Do you know how much energy it takes to actually talk yourself into giving over that time to writing instead of the forty-eight other things you could be doing?  It doesn't compare.  Still - I didn't make my 100 words per day on a regular basis.  I gave in to the excuses, and I knew I was doing so as I did it.  It was a lie I told myself, and I was prepared to believe so long as it got me out of doing that minuscule amount of work.

And now I'm thinking about these false stories that my old RWA is chattering about.  I have read and heard almost every story of writing and publishing adversity out there.  Most compelling to me is Sherrilyn Kenyon's.  That woman persevered.  Look it up yourself.  I don't want to check facts on her story, because so long as I believe she walked uphill in the snow both to and from school for the sake of her art--and then succeeded--it's good enough for me.  "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story."

I read a lot *points to the right side of the page* and some of what I get my hands on is DAMNED good.  Some of it, of course, is damn rot too.  Then there's everything in between.  I know my writing is good.  How do I know?  The same way I know that I dance and sing well.  People tell me.  No one who's willing to pay me for it, mind you, but no one who was otherwise required to render an opinion either.  I also know my writing is not as good as those "damned good" works I come across on a semi-weekly basis.

It is not, however, as bad as some of the damn rot that has been bound and published for my pleasure.  I have a relatively healthy ego.  Shocking, I know, but there nonetheless.  I have long been detached enough from my writing to stand criticism.  But that was before the prospect of publication.  Now, I want my work to be good.  Really, really good.  Because, like the Internet, once in print, it's gonna be there forever. 

So I don't write.  I don't work on my work.  I fear editing and revisions because, what if I never reach the pinnacle of "damned good"?  What if I am destined to sit in fair-to-middlin land forever?  What if my imagination isn't big enough?  My plots not tight enough?  My characters so shallow I can't even wet my toes in them?  Aaaarrrrrrrggghhh!!!!!

This isn't one of the false stories.  It's true.  I'm not good enough to be great.


Every book I pick up is a double-edged sword.  (Triple-edged? Quadruple?)  The first slice is an opportunity for me to learn.  Learn what I like, what I don't, what works, what I believe, what comes off as insincere...  The other side of the blade I take as a chance to castigate myself.  The doubts creep in like mealworms, trying to ruin me ... I tell myself, "I like what she did there.  I would never have thought of that." "Man that's a great idea.  My brain doesn't work that way, I'd have fucked it up if I tried it."  "Check out that plot twist.  I'd have totally gone the other way."

The third edge of that sword reminds me that it's time to put the book down and pick the pen up, and then that fourth cut to the gut is all about "Yeah, but this author is better / luckier / smarter / more ambitious / etc than I am."

How much of it is true?  I'll never know until I submit, will I?

Just Finished: Break 
Just Finished: Unleash the Night 
Currently Reading: Now & Then 
Currently Reading: Wolf Tales VII
Currently Reading: Dark Side Of The Moon 
Currently Reading: Divorced, Desperate & Dating