Pets, Writing

Week 29 2016 – Send in the Puppies

 

IMG_0245I find I can’t write this week. Only that I must. I promised I would chronicle the year, even if it is in rants and shadows. All I can say about this week is that at least there are puppies. The rest I hope I forget. I peppered my new book with all the pain and fear. Fiction is the only place those bits of me should be allowed. If they ever get out…well, I hope you have a good place to hide. As I have mentioned, my demons are not tame. That’s why I have a dog. My pug keeps those demons well in hand.

PuppyloveDogs see us as we were meant to be, perfect and worthy of great love. So play with the dog. Take a walk. Read a good book. Lose a day or two. The world will still be here tomorrow, and one day, each of us will wake as a curtain of silver rain falls back and reveals a bright green country. For now, there are puppies.

PuppiesInbasket

 

Pets, Writing

Week 27 2016 – Darkness Creeps

So often in these days all around me once decent people answer hate with hate, darkness with darkness. No one is listening. I am retreating into Alleysiande, praying for peace, trying to keep my own anger in check. It is fitting that I am delayed in my book production. Paradise is further away than ever. 
Perhaps, look to your dog. He knows how to love unconditionally. Right now, we are all wrong, everyone of us, and we all need love. 

Let us try to be the people our dogs think we are. Perhaps then, we can turn back toward the light instead of this useless state of being perpetually offended. Forgive. Unburden our weary souls. Forgive. 

Pets, Publishing, Writing

Week 14 2016 – Frankie’s Spring Break

IMG_0433This was a splendid week devoted to nothing but writing and editing, and then more editing. A wonderful respite from the drudgery that comes with a day job, but now it is over. Tomorrow I return to the real world. My pug will be most sad. She has been terribly spoiled this week, getting to spend practically every moment within my reach. Still, it’s good to have the day job as I like being able to support myself, but still, what a thing it would be if my writing alone could pay my bills.

This week was the first full week of the A to Z blog challenge. My theme is beer, sort of – I wanted to see if I know enough beers for each letter. Also, there were lots of previews of my book because I am editing. I combined proofreading my book revisions with my blog challenge.  I must cross Query Lake, turn in my full requests and my partial requests so that one of these weeks, I can write my “How I Got My Agent” post.

IMG_0496The best part of this week is that I got to spend the whole week with my dog at my feet. Frankie is the perfect research partner for finding all these beers. There are a couple of pubs close by that allow me to take Frankie with me. I love that.

I do not actually drink alcohol at all when I am writing. It may have worked for Hemingway, but my poison is coffee and tea for the early and late hours when I am chewing over my latest manuscript. Beer is a social thing for reconnecting with people, getting caught up with my now grown daughter, a way to draw stories out of friends and strangers, a way to leave the real world behind, and travel deep into my imagination.

Books, Literature, Pets, Writing

Week 12 2016 – The Last Good Bye

HeavenlySkiesI can picture Hell. It’s all too easy these days. Just turn on the news.  A place without love, without compassion, full of selfishness, ignorance, oppression, totalitarianism, and violence. Hell is nothing more than the absence of God, although there are plenty of false gods and theocracies formed to keep the drivel in line.  There are no miracles, no magic, no dragons, demons, or ghosts,  and no happy endings. Everything can be explained. It is all terribly shallow and mundane. Imagine a life occupied by only the most base of human experience. There is no need for fire and brimstone. While humans suck at power to do any good, we are quite adept at making our own little Hell dimensions, especially if we are given any power.

There is pleasure in Hell, fame and riches, envy and lust, but it is all empty, meaningless and always surrounded by horrors.  Hell lacks subtly and is so prevalent in its creeping tendrils in our world, we scarcely notice it. And we certainly do not dare call it by its name.  We live in a fallen world where glimpses of Heaven are fleeting.

Heaven is found only in moments of pure joy, unconditional love, and painfully beautiful visions that take our breath away, a sunset here and a clear blue ocean there. It is quiet, always there just in your grasp, not on the other side of the clouds, but rather on the other side of your life. In my belief, a man of love was nailed to a tree for our crimes so that everyone of us might conquer death and gain Heaven. This man descended into Hell, rose again on the third day so that all of us might one day dwell eternally in a place that is filled with love so bright that even the most glorious of poets could never describe it.

J.R.R. Tolkien gave a wondrous description at the end of Return of the King which comes pretty close to my meager imaginings of what paradise might be like.

“And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the gray rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

AuntBarbara

I like to think that my Aunt Barbara is there in that far green country reunited with her beloved horse, Annie, both young and whole again.

 

This week we said our last goodbyes, and though I will miss Aunt Barbara from this day until that day, I do believe we will meet again. I might go fishing with my granddad first, my dad (if he beats me there), and my old Springer Spaniel, Winston. That dog loved to jump in the lake, especially when a fat brim began to nibble on my line.

So Aunt Barbara and her horses may have to wait. I am sure she won’t mind as there will time for everything and everyone. For now, I will try my best to fight the good fight, live my life as full as I can until the good Lord calls me home at last.  At least, I will write more whatever comes along.

Pets, Poetry, Reading, Writing

Week 8 2016- The Desiderata

My grandmother used to ask what I would like of hers after she died. She was determined to leave each of her grandchildren something to remember her by so she was always asking from even my earliest childhood. I wanted something impossible.

I wanted perfect spring days and our talks on her screened in porch over iced tea as we watched the birds flitting about the fountain in the garden, petted her dogs (there were never fewer than three) laying at our feet, and the occasional graces of the cats wandering in and out to see if there was a bird or a lizard they might be able to catch.

I have come to believe that porch exists in my heaven, and it’s always a fine spring day with birds chirping about and cats hoping for prey while dogs are cradled at my grandmother’s feet. She is young once more, and she always has fine company and new stories to tell. One day I will visit her there again.

As the mysteries of the afterlife were not on the table as things my grandmother might leave me, I asked for the framed poem that hung outside her bedroom. I remember reading it the first time. The peace that came over me was mystical. I asked her about it, and she told me of a trip she took to Baltimore ages before. She liked the poem and purchased it from the gift shop of some ancient, historical church. Whether or not the words of this poem had the same profound effect on her as it did on me, I do not know. Perhaps, she never needed these words and they were already part of her soul.

My grandmother left this world four years ago.  The poem, still in its original frame, dingy with age, now sits above my writing desk. When the world tosses and turns me in its fury, these words restore me and calm me.  This is what keeps me going until I find those perfect spring afternoons with my kindly grandmother in the fullness of eternity.

This week started stormy in my head, full of worry and doubt, and ended with me returning to the peace I find in these words.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Books, Cafe, Literature, Pets, Publishing, Reading, Writing

Week 7 2016 – The Slush Pile Cafe

SlushPileSo I am opening a café. It’s virtual because my funding for it at this time is virtual (non-existent). It is a café for writers at all stages of their career, and those who help us, delight us, improve us all the while tormenting us (beta-readers, editors, agents, cover artists, marketers, publicists, book critics, and fans.).

After a writer completes a book, most of us would like there to be readers. Lots of them.  This involves a great deal of waiting, and usually that waiting is done at the bottom of a slush pile. This idea came to me when reading this post by Janet Reid about an agented author waiting to hear about her second novel placed with that agent. I just want to hear about my first novel,and realized I am way on the bottom of several slush piles. Hence, I give you the Slush Pile Café.

The Slush Pile Café

SlushCafeFloorPlanImagine a 4-story circular building that opens into a lovely outdoor café and garden at its center. Think miniature pentagon. There is free WiFi (naturally), and it is pet friendly. Writers get awfully attached to their animals.

IMG_0299Note: If you have a horse or a dragon, please call ahead. We can only stable so many horses, and we can only provide so many treasure hordes for dragons. And some people become unglued when they see a dragon outside the pages of books.  Most writers are totally fine with them. The café is divided into several distinct areas to accommodate the entire writing process (from start to fans).

The Query Trenches

SlushMenuThis part of the Slush Pile Café is for writer’s who are deep in the Query trenches or trying to finish their book. The Query Trenches is located next to the coffee and bakery station. If you wish, there is an app available inside the trenches that will hit refresh on your email every two seconds and alert you when an agent or editor has made some reply to your query or request. After 90 days, it will send a gentle follow-up to non-responding agents. If the agent is one of those Normans (No Response Means No), it will pipe sappy love songs from the 70’s elevator music into their office.

The Plot Thickens Craft Bar

IMG_0152In the basement of the café is a craft beer and whiskey bar. This is primarily for writer’s with works in progress. This area seeks to satisfy the writer’s needs so they can keep editing and writing. The beer, various bar classics, and generous offering of typical pub fare should keep them calm or at least inspired until they pass out and dream up that next plot twist. *NOTE: Magic mushrooms are available at additional cost.

The Critique Corner

Both the café and the bar cater to this little corner where beta readers and critique groups gather, discuss, and offer feedback to all those works in progress. Agents and editors are welcome here as well.

The Slush Pile Itself

IMG_0160This room is covered with unread pages and manuscripts waiting for review. There are printers and e-readers, and of course, ample numbers of cushy chairs to allow agents and editors to work their way through their individual slush pile. 

A relaxing atmosphere is provided to keep those gatekeepers at peace as they read their way through. For each manuscript reviewed, the café offers one free beverage of the reader’s choice. Each week, The Slush Pile Café will sponsor one agent or editor to answer writer questions for two hours.

This week’s special: Zombie Killer Ale

The Dream Shelf

UnattendedChildrenCurious as to where your book will live on bookstore shelf?  This is the place where anyone can go and do some reading while sipping on Fantasy Mochacinno or Mystery Espresso. There will be displays devoted to writers who have successfully navigated the query trenches and found their way to print. Three times a week, authors will be invited to do book signings and readings of their work. A Slush Pile Café app will be available to mock up a cover for an aspiring author and put it around a standard size debut novel. The author can then put the book where it will one day live on the real world bookshelves just to see what it will look like.

The Board Game Loft

IMG_0452A second bar area will be located upstairs in a two story loft area where writers and readers, agents and editors can unwind with some friendly board game competition. All those hostilities that build up in the glacial process that takes a writer from idea to print, an agent from newly discovered talent to six figure book deal, the editor from the slush pile to the best-seller and movie deal, the reader to the discovery of a new magic in the universe in book form can be distilled in friendly and often humorous competition. Once a year, I will capture (invite) two to three established authors to join us at the Loft for a game of Cards Against Humanity. That will be lots of fun, and we can all learn something from those who have already survived the query trenches and found writer nirvana.

 

I hope to see lots of you at the Slush Pile Café.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Film, Pets, Publishing, Writing

Week 6 2016 – The Divinity of Ants

 

IMG_0433There’s an old saying here in the south, “if you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plans.” I make God laugh all the damn time. It’s not a divine giggle, not a holy snort, but deep, side-splitting laughter that has been known to disrupt the space-time continuum. .

I made God laugh so hard once that the Dark Ages kissed this millennia, dropping off a few of its barbarians, a couple of tyrants, and diseases. I am telling you, Einstein’s theory of relativity is nothing but the scientific explanation for what happens when the mighty universal creative force laughs at us insignificant ants.

 

gravitationalwavesBe happy I don’t tend to plan a whole lot or the momentary tear in the space-time continuum would pull velociraptors out of the Jurassic period. They would end up running about eating politicians and energy efficient cars. Not that this would be an entirely bad thing. Just saying.

velociraptor

In order to have a more coherent blog, I jot down possible themes for each week. So far, not one of those ideas have become an actual blog. Which is why so much of this is gibberish. I should stop making plans before someone really gets hurt or disco makes a come back. I’d much rather deal with the velociraptors than go another round with Saturday Night Fever.

 

The plan this weekend was to have the blog done by 3:00 PM Sunday. That didn’t happen. I meant to revise my query and synopsis and organize my next round of queries in case my other requests and this R&R go belly up. That’s not what happened.

 

I ended going to see Deadpool with my brother and nephew. The best things in life are always unplanned. They just are. My daughter, my pug, and going to see this movie today. All happy accidents. A movie hasn’t made me laugh this hard in well, never. Funniest movie ever. If you have a strong stomach and are not easily offended, screw your plans and go see this film. You could use the laugh.

That is not to say, nothing should be planned.  A strategy is necessary to accomplish anything. I am on course to become a fully functioning, successful writer, but it’s not the course I originally set out on. Don’t be too upset when life blows your plans up. Yes, we are all ants in the eyes of Eternity, but each of us, in those unplanned little moments, where we are forced to abandon a plan and react, when we just let go, there’s a bit of something divine in each of us. And it’s that little bit of divine spontaneity in us that makes us create, change, learn, evolve. So let God laugh. Velociraptors and disco are small enough prices to pay.