Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

When I grow up ...

A while back, I remember blogging (not sure if it was here or elsewhere) about how I sometimes still found myself thinking "When I grow up, I'm going to …", as if being forty-mmrmph and a business owner wasn't sufficient to make me a grownup. But some days (most days?) it didn't feel like it was.

At the time, I was willing to say I didn't need to grow up, that I liked still feeling like I had a ton to learn and lots still left to change. So it's interesting to realize that it's been a while since I last thought "When I grow up …"

Maybe it was the coffee table. This spring ushered in Arizona's and my first married furniture purchase (aside from our giant bed, known as The Big Soft, that is), when we upgraded our beat-to-hell sofa for a new one, and traded the ottoman for an honest-to-goodness coffee table called Bob's Enormous Coffee Table. (PSA, be careful when Googling 'bob's enormous'. I'm just saying.)

Though it seems like the obvious answer, I don't think it was having Wallaby that did it. I mean, sure, I'm making decisions for another human being, but how grown up can one be when the day's entertainment leans heavily on making noises like "phhhhbbbbllllttttt" against said human being's tummy, hiding behind a dish towel, and eating Cheerios with one's fingers?

All I know is this past weekend, as I manned up and said goodbye to my beloved Single Girl car in lieu of a new Familymobile, although it felt like a very grown up thing to do--it being my first new car purchase and Arizona's first not-handed-down-from-a-family-member car--I didn't find myself thinking "When I grow up …"

Does that mean I've officially grown up? Hells, no. I've decided it means that I'm no longer worried about whether I'm a grownup, a perpetual twelve-year-old who still thinks fart jokes are funny, or both at the same time. I am who I am, and I'm doing a pretty good job of it. This week, anyway …

Monday, September 14, 2015

Good company on my desert island

This past weekend, Wallaby, his grandma (J-ma) and I went to the Connecticut Romance Writers' fabulous conference. Before, my conference itinerary used to sound a whole lot like: Hang out in the coffee shop and write; go to workshops; give talks; meet with agent; meet with editor; hang out in the bar and socialize. Sleep a few hours when and where convenient; maybe hit the gym or go for a walk outside. 

Now, they're more like: 
Whee! It's five a.m. and we're someplace new! Let's investigate!
Whee! Let's zoom up and down the really long, nicely carpeted hallway and back!
Whee! Breakfast! Let's wear some eggs! Then hug mommy in her conference clothes!
And after that, there are high-level negotiations regarding when and where Wallaby and the Boobs will rendezvous in and amongst me giving talks, going to workshops, etc., and he and J-ma go off for their day's adventures. 
Then I take a breath, and shuffle my identity back to WriterJess for a few hours, before we rinse and repeat the above. 

Which, really, is lovely. But life then doesn't look much like life now, and vice versa. And neither does my writing. Where before, I could tune out the universe and write for eight or ten hours, or longer, these days I get two precious hours in the morning before Arizona starts working, and another couple after Wallaby goes to bed (if I can stay awake that long). Which has led to some self-kicking in recent months--you know, that inner monolog that goes something like:

I used to write fast.
I should have this book done by now.
I can't believe I'm not even halfway done.
This is crap.
No, really, it's crap. Why am I even bothering?
I need to throw out a chapter. That took me two f*cking weeks to write.
I suck.

To say that I wasn't really feeling the love of being at a writers' convention this past weekend would be a gross understatement of my angst. But I was scheduled to give a couple of workshops and see one of my best writer-pals (shout out, Virginia Kantra!!) along with one of my best gal-pals (shout out Gail Chianese!!) and many other awesome friends, so I couldn't very well bail. 

So I went. And to say I felt out-of-step with the crowd would be putting it mildly, at least when it came to talking about writing stuff. I don't have my next book scheduled. I'm not really ready to talk about the Trainwreck-In-Progress. I'm writing … sort of … but …


Then came breakfast on Saturday. I usually sneak out on keynotes, but the speaker was (fabulous mystery writer and Emmy-winning reporter) Hank Phillipi Ryan, who I've known since she first started writing, so I stuck around. I know she gives good talk.

I hadn't expected her to give me an AHA. Followed by a DUH. (Not that she said something stupid, but that what she said made me give myself a big old dope slap.)

Because she talked about Not Giving Up. About how she gets to a point in her writing where she just wants to chuck the whole project in the electronic garbage. About how Stephen King's wife had to rescue Carrie from the trash. About how the book is rarely (never?) as bad as we think it is in that moment, and we should just keep pushing through.

And you know what? Ninety percent of the audience members were nodding. Which was right about when I reminded myself (as I had been doing all week, but this time it stuck) that I always hate my book when it's about halfway done, and it's never as bad as I think it is. Or if it is, I always figure out how to fix it. (And, as they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it.)

Damned if I didn't come out of that breakfast, not just wearing some of my scrambled eggs (thanks, kiddo), but feeling like I was back in the tribe, no longer alone on a tiny little island in the middle of the Sea of What The Hell Happens Next? And knowing that no matter what, I'm not going to give up.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The POV of a Tree (hey, it rhymes!)

As a writer, I've put myself in all sorts of perspectives--or points of view (POVs) over the years, male and female, white knights, villains, children, animals, and everything in-between. My agent, upon reading Nightkeepers, remarked that with all the POVs I used, she kept expecting to hear from the perspective of the big tree at the center of Skywatch.

(I was a little abashed I hadn't thought of that. Because, World Tree!)

The fabulous and mega-bestselling Suzanne Brockmann taught me very early in my career (I was fortunate to share a writing group with her, Lisa Gardner, Hannah Howell, Patricia Grasso, and Judith Arnold, to name a few) to keep my POV pure. In other words, not to use language or thoughts that wouldn't be organic to the character whose head I'm in at a given moment, even if it would make my life a whole lot easier when it comes to descriptions and such.

For example, my cowboy hero might stretch his long legs out in front of him as he leans back against a tree, he probably doesn't note the powerful muscles of his own thighs, or the way his worn jeans showcase his bulge. Unless he's a narcissist or something of a dick, that is, and I don't tend to write those kinds of heroes. My guys is far more likely to notice that his knees hurt or his socks don't match. Or, better yet, how the heroine looks coming toward him with fire in her eyes. 

POV applies to everyday life, too, as we're expected to put ourselves in other people's shoes, to better understand their take on things. And not just people, either. Back when I owned the farm, I spent way too much of my time thinking like a horse--i.e., trying to see the world through the eyes of a suicidal prey animal with long, spindly legs and hooves that could get stuck in the darnedest places. A gopher hole? Obvious death trap. The metal bars covering a window at eyeball height, protecting the glass? Less obvious, but I knew not one, but two horses who rolled around and got a foot stuck way up high, and spent the night hung up by one back hoof.

These days, as Wallaby goes increasingly mobile Arizona and I shift into baby-proofing mode, I'm learning a whole new perspective--that of a small human who sees the world from shin high, thinks everything at twice that height is solid enough to pull himself up on, and doesn't yet get that going face first off the edge of a precipice stops working the moment said cliff is higher than a couch cushion laid on the floor. 

Thus, I find myself going through the house, seeing things with new eyes. Me? I'd never think to pop a dishwasher pod in my mouth and give it a chew. But it's so pretty! And shiny! And it bounces! 


So wish me luck, dear ReaderFriends, and I try to anticipate all the ways Wallaby (in collusion with his kitten) might try to hurt himself, and no doubt fail to anticipate them all. But at the same time, enjoy with me the fun of picturing yourself a foot off the ground, with no fear and the pure and innocent belief that there will always be someone there to catch you when you fall. And have a wonderful Labor Day week :)