Angels and Demons · Writing

Angels and Demons – Gabriel

GabrielAs a small child, there was a tiny picture at my bedside of the angel Gabriel speaking to the Virgin Mary. This was very early in my life before I knew or thought much about angels. I knew Gabriel because of my Catholic upbringing. And Michael. If felt like the majority of little boys I knew were named for him, and not a one of them seemed much like an angel to me.

It was in this very innocent time, I had my first dream of angels. Perhaps, it was more of a night terror. It had to be the early 70s, perhaps 1975 at the time. If I cared, I could research the old microfiche of the local newspaper to find the exact date of this nightmare/dream/vision – whatever it was.

I woke in the middle of the night to one of those heavy rain storms that come in the summer in the South. I was frightened so I went to turn on my night light, but the power was out. I hated being alone in the dark and for whatever reason, the dog was not sleeping with me that night. I would have been fine if the dog had been there.

So I wondered out into the hall, intent on finding my parents, but outside the door of my room, there was nothing. The hall was gone. The bathroom was gone, and the door to the front of the house was gone. It was only darkness so I retreated back into my room.

EeyoreI thought, perhaps, my parents had gone to visit their friends. They did that sometimes. So I crawled out my front window into the rain in my Eeyore nightshirt holding my picture of Gabriel in my little hand.

I ran down our hill to the street and followed it to the corner. I turned and left my quiet neighborhood, well out of bounds from where I was allowed to wander. I found the main road utterly deserted. No traffic lights (I do not think there were any back in that time), no cars, no street lights, no house lights. Just a dark-paved road with a yellow line running down its middle and rain. Loads of rain. I was lost alone in the dark. And the wet. And I was getting cold.

I turned and could see nothing. For a terrifying moment, I believed I had been struck blind or something. I wanted to go home and a voice cried out.

“Run and hide, little one.”

A light shone from the picture I held in my hand. I suppose that is when I woke up. My mother was in my room as the first light of dawn came through my open window. She was cursing that I had knocked out the screen again. I did that a lot. It was much later before I really saw much difference between doors and windows. My mother fussed at me as she packed a bag, sometimes sniffing a shirt that I failed to throw in the laundry closet, giving me the “when will you ever learn” glare.

“You and your brother are going to stay with your grandmother,” she said.

“Why?”

“Your father and I are taking a little trip. Don’t worry. It will be fine.”

I heard a siren outside. It caused my mother to jump and me to run to the window. Children so love flashing lights, and there were two police cars, sirens blaring, blue lights spinning, racing down our little country street.  I looked to my mother for an explanation, but her attention was elsewhere.

“Child, you’ve removed Gabriel from his frame again.” My mother was very angry about that. I made her angry a lot. “Why do you do that?”

“To keep me safe,” I told my mother in a small voice.

It would be years later before I learned why the police had been racing down our street and why my brother and I had been banished to my grandparents that summer. Two doors down from us, two men broke into the house, robbed it, stole the car, and murdered everyone inside; the mother, the father, and their two children. Children I had played with. Little children.

For years, my parents told me the family had moved away while we were staying with my grandparents. They would say little else. I do wonder, now, looking back. Did Gabriel keep me safe that night? The bad men could have chosen any house they wished.

Back then, we did not often lock our doors.

#WD17 · Writing

A Yokel in QOTKU’s Court #WD17

So day 2 in New York is day 1 of the Writer’s Digest Conference 2017. The thing I am most looking forward to at the crack of dawn, after bidding my daughter a good day on set, is meeting my queen, Janet Reid.

I make my entrance to the first real day of the conference with an over-priced cup of coffee. Turns out I could have gotten it for free but who knew? The first session I attended was “Pitch Perfect” because as I mentioned in the last post, even though pitching is a tool of the devil, I was doing it.

I had no idea how to pitch my weird-ass fantasy novel. The best I had that morning was Paradise Lost meets Robin Hobb. I would figure it out later, maybe five minutes before walking in the pitch room. I still have beta readers to meander through so I wasn’t worried. I wanted mostly to avoid any terrible pit falls like “don’t stab agents with sharp objects.” I am a writer and ever so slightly psychotic.  I need to be told this.

Then there was the first page seminar. Great openings are a good way to get agents and editors reading. I knew about 90% of the examples given as great openings to several masterpieces. I felt so well read, but again, I have no idea if my weird book has a fantastic opening. Someone gets punched in the face. That is more or less a stock opening, wouldn’t you say? Maybe, I should change it.

Finally, it is time for “Ask the Agents” panel and my queen approaches. Janet Reid is a force of nature as you would expect a shark to be. She, Abby Zidle, and Barbara Poelle should go on the road as a comedy act. They were hysterical and super informative all at once. What a perfect combo, two agents and one editor.

Yes, Janet Reid is a shark. She is probably a very tough negotiator. Also, she is quite direct. She tells it like it is. She is also the most generous person in publishing. The word has gotten out despite all her bluster.

After the session, a huge gaggle of writers flock around her with their questions. I hang back until I can say hello. I agree to try and see her after her last session. She changed my writing life. I want as many other writers as possible to experience that whatever it is that keeps them writing. Already, the conference feels complete.

There is one more panel I am really looking forward to, the fantasy world-building seminar. Will Jeff Somers wear pants? At this point, we don’t know but Janet assures me that there is bail money in case the pants and Jeff are not properly joined.

Turns out fantasy writers simply don’t wear pants once they are all published and stuff. The conference cleverly put a skirt on the table they sat at, and all was well. What a great panel! I even said hi to Jeff and he bore my nervous chattering surprisingly well. He’s nothing like scary as one might expect.

I felt accomplished and now it was time for drink. It’s a writer’s conference, right? My daughter arrives earlier than expected this evening so we can visit somewhat properly. We try leaving the hotel in search of food close by hotel. We are both tired, her even more so than me, and it starts pouring rain. Of course it does. So back to the hotel for bar food and more drinks. The kid is on the verge of a breakdown, and this is when we spot my queen at one of the two bars in the hotel.

I suppose it was a little crazy what I did next considering my daughter and I both looked rather like drowned rats.  I introduce the kid to my queen. She is, of course, gracious and we bow and take our leave across the lobby to the bar with the food. I am happy. I would call that a successful day.

The next morning, I do the pitch slam thing, 3 minutes per agent to get their interest in my book. Yes, food of the devil. Whatever. I pitch to 4 agents, one who I would love to have represent me (based on his client list and the possibility of getting signed books from those authors) I get 4 requests. Excellent. I know, it doesn’t mean anything. I still must prove I can write.

I leave early. I need to go to Brooklyn to spend the rest of the day with the kid. I feel like I have a very marketable concept based on agent reaction so all is right the world, and it is a perfect sunny Saturday in New York.

I have an email from my queen instructing me on the best way to get to Brooklyn via train from Manhattan. I step out of the hotel. A street market has broken out. I take a right turn toward the train station. What could go wrong? Funny you should ask…

To be continued

#WD17 · Writing

Life is All a Prologue #WD17

Where does this story begin? For the second time, I decided to go to the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. The first time changed my life forever so why not give it a second go?

I am always startled by New York. It reminds me of Mos Eisley space station in Star Wars – a meeting place for all the universe. All are welcome but you must adapt quickly or the city will eat you.

People from another galaxy seem as likely as the myriad of people from the other side of the planet. I think Men in Black was serious on that account. I do think I saw a Wookie at 6th and 53rd street where my Uber dropped me off at about 3 PM.  There I stood, just another alien on Broadway attending another writer’s conference with my pocket full of dreams.

My cell phone buzzes.

My daughter, who now lives in New York and is working in the film industry, texts me to say she thinks set will wrap by 6 PM, plenty of time for us to have dinner and a visit before the conference really gets started.

That is perfect. I check into the hotel, drop my bags in my room, and register for the conference. I got a ribbon for being a repeat offender, I mean attender.

I am happily playing with my ribbon when my phone buzzes again. Another text from the kid.

It’s looking like 7 PM for a wrap and she has to go out and buy swim suits for the shoot. Fine. Fine. It’s New York. I can find something to do.

I make like I’m brave and walk out of the hotel. No direction or anything. I find an Irish Pub around the corner and decide my mission has been accomplished. Kate and I love pubs. It’s close to the hotel. Even if she’s a bit late, we can make the walk, have a couple of pints, share a couple of nibbles and laughs, and there will still be time for me to prepare for the morning.

Cell phone again. It’s going to 8 PM on the wrap. Sorry mom.

Not a problem. I am tired anyhow. It has already been a long week. Back to the hotel room. Turn on my laptop and play with my WIP. I paid for a pitch session, and although my queen tells me pitches are the tool of the devil, I’m doing it.  I find I, myself, have always been one of the devil’s favorite tools, and I think a little face time with agents and editors can only help. I can tell if they are worthy if I get a good sniff.

Why did I write such a damn weird book? What was I thinking? I mean I love it, but are there millions of other people out there willing to go full weird? I worry. I order room service.

Cell phone once more. Another text. A long barrage of random curse words from my daughter followed by, maybe 9 PM. Maybe. She’s starving, she says.

I order salad and sweet things. We can crash in the room. She has to be back on set at the crack of dawn the next morning. Paying those dues sucks and honestly, it never ends.

I continue playing with my WIP – it really is just playing at this point. Parts of it are pretty damn good. Parts still need work. I should get it to my beta readers soon. Oh, perhaps I should formalize the whole beta reader thing soon? I make a note of it. Some of you may get pleading emails from me in the next few days. I’ve been at this writing thing for a bit so feel free to reject. I’m used to it.

Maybe the structure needs a tweak or small explosion here and there. Why did I write such an odd book? I must be as insane as my reputation claims. Ah well, what can you do?

Cell phone buzzes in another text a good bit after 9, another barrage of curse words and murderous thoughts. The kid no longer has an ETA.

I caution the kid that homicide of directors is not a career building activity despite the wisdom of that movie, Swimming With Sharks.  What a fantastic film.

The last moments of Thursday are almost gone when my daughter appears at my door. She woofs down the salad, strips off her clothes, gets in the shower (after rifling through my suitcase to borrow some clothes), and then collapses on spare bed. I was marginally prepared for this so she has a clean t-shirt to sleep in.

So I am at the gift shop at dawn, 6 Am on Friday, buying clean underwear and a toothbrush so the kid can be marginally less grimy when she returns to the set. And so this story begins.

To be continued…

Writing

Coffee, Tea, Revisions, and The Pug Method

Ah, revisions. Endless revisions and a long, hot holiday weekend with too much light and one pug. I am running out of clean coffee cups rapidly and actually losing my mind. 

It starts at 4 Am the first day off my day job.  I light candles, put myself under some headphones to block out the world with ambient music, and on comes the computer. I write and revise until the pug wakes up and demands her morning ritual – a walk, breakfast, and a cuddle. For me it’s more coffee and a protein shake. More revisions. 

Then there is passing out, perhaps lunch or something like it, more revisions until the pug needs another walk. Then outside I go for a swim, maybe to read a little (clears the creative palette), and then up for a shower and more revisions. I accidentally walked into the wrong apartment on my way up from the pool today. It’s day 3 of this routine. And my mind is beginning to blow apart from reality. 

There is no bedtime. I try to sleep the last few hours of daylight. Then as the sun is quitting for the day, the pug and I venture out for a final walk. Then it is more coffee and more revisions. An hour of sleep here and there in an attempt to revise 99,145 words in a long weekend. This is in hopes of having this book ready for beta readers in 5 weeks. 

I suspect The Pug Method is employed by precious few of my fellows.  I have tried the stay healthy and sane methods, a few hours here and a few hours there worked into the routine of a responsible adult.  It doesn’t work for me. A routine of that kind renders my writing dull and predictable.  Only when I deprive myself of sleep so I can write in the darkness am I able to call the magic.  It is not a fault I seem to be able to fix. 

How do other writers manage? Can a real writer work their craft like a 9-5 job? I can’t imagine that myself. If only I were not so rapidly running out of time. 

Writing

Hot Pug in the City

Frankie  is a bit unsure how she feels about this new fangled city living. She is learning about elevators and little parks with area designated for dogs. There are no little streams and woods, and she laments the turtles, foxes, snakes, and rabbits we no longer encounter on our walks. And it is hot and muggy with many hills and stairs to climb. 

Everything is changing, but Frankie has all of her beds and toys, and her odd writer human to walk her, feed her, and rub her tummy. She is content. 

Frankie worried for a day or two that the human who feeds her might be devoured by all those boxes. It was a close thing too, but they were unloaded and their contents put in order.  Why does one human need so many books?

Frankie is pleased at how excited her human is about the recent feedback she received on her WIP from an actual editor. As Frankie sees it, if her writer human can publish, then perhaps the frequency of her day job jaunts will be shorter, and there will be more tummy rubs for her. 

The office has 2 beds that suit Frankie. That will make enduring the writer human’s long hours of revisions easier.  

With each hour, Frankie is happier and really, it is almost like that other place with the foxes, turtles, rabbits, and snakes was a dream that evaporates in the morning late. Time for a new chapter.