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…

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. 

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. 

Story of a Life In an Attic

IMG_0596In 10 days from the writing of this, I will move to another place, closing the door on decades of my life and starting something new. Today, I packed up my attic, separating trash from treasure and skipped rocks through the story of my life.

KateandStuff 028I found loads of pictures, thousands of pages of writing going back as early as 1981, material for hundreds of books I won’t live long enough to publish. I found music and memory in old journals.  I found an old flask among my daughter’s high school things that still had liquor in it. That made me laugh.  I kept the flask. She looked so innocent back then. You’d never think it, huh?

IMG_0585There were all my daughter’s beanie babies. At her birthdays from about the 4th birthday to maybe the 8th birthday, we used to hide all the beanie babies as a bit of a treasure hunt and the children would trade them in for prizes.  I couldn’t manage to let go of those either.

I found the last bill I paid my daughter’s private school. The last of her college stuff she dumped off before taking off for New York. There were yearbooks, grades, college acceptance letters, honor roll certificates, team pictures, and all that kind of thing.  Video games, old music CDs, a score of broken phones and sunglasses, shattered bits of memory and life, somehow all the pain absolved as the bad went into the trash and the diamonds made from all of it found places in well-marked boxes.

That was all the stuff I expected to find. Maybe not some of the writing. That was lovely as I had wondered where I had put so much of that.  Then I began to find things from my life, before my daughter came along. And so the story of my life played tunes in my head. In a recent blog post, Janet Reid, Queen of the Known Universe and agent extraordinaire, wrote about the The Distinction Between Rhythm and Cadence,  something Mr. Harry Chapin demonstrated as only a master of words can.

Yeah, he thought he was writing about his life and his wife. What’s genius is that we all have this thing that is the story of a life, not the same story. It was a wife for the song writer, a child for me, a husband or father for someone else. But holy shit, these words came crashing back to me today. I could remember 23 and 15 and then 35 and on until I this very day.  So, from the grave, I give you Harry Chapin as he recalls the story of my life.

 

IMG_0597IMG_0600I can see myself it’s a golden sunrise
Young child open up your eyes
It’s supposed to be your day.
Now off you go horizon bound
And you won’t stop until you’ve found
Your own kind of way.
And the wind will whip your tousled hair,
The sun, the rain, the sweet despair,
Great tales of love and strife.
And somewhere on your path to glory
 You will write your story of a life.

 

911newyorkafterAnd all the towns that you walk through
And all the people that you talk to
Sing you their songs.
And there are times you change your stride,
There are times you can’t decide
Still you go on.
And then the young girls dance their gypsy tunes
And share the secrets of the moon
So soon you find a wife.
And though she sees your dreams go poorly
Still she joins your story of a life.

IMG_0601So you settle down and the children come
And you find a place that you come from.
Your wandering is done.
And all your dreams of open spaces
You find in your children’s faces
One by one.
HouseHunt 034And all the trips you know you missed
And all the lips you never kissed
Cut through you like a knife.
And now you see stretched out before thee
Just another story of a life.

So what do you do now?
When she looks at you now?
You know those same old jokes all the jesters tell
You tell them to her now.
And all the same old songs all the minstrels sang
You sing ’em to her now.
But it don’t matter anyhow
‘Cause she knows by now.

Nanowrimo2016So every chance you take don’t mean a thing.
What variations can you bring
To this shopworn melody.
And every year goes by like a tollin’ bell.
It’s battered merchandise you sell.
Not well, she can see.
And though she’s heard it all a thousand times
IMG_0598Couched in your attempted rhymes
She’ll march to your drum and fife.
But the question echoes up before me
Where’s the magic story of a life?

Now sometimes words can serve me well
Sometimes words can go to hell
a3b6e4e3-c51e-46cf-b9b1-588b25e40f5cFor all that they do.
And for every dream that took me high
There’s been a dream that’s passed me by.
I know it’s so true
And I can see it clear out to the end
And I’ll whisper to her now again
img_0445Because she shared my life.
For more than all the ghosts of glory
She makes up the story,
She’s the only story
Of my life.

 

 

Living an Alternative Reality

So this happened. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Donald Trump of The Apprentice is president of the United States (a joke made on The Simpsons in 1997- not even kidding), and The Atlanta Falcons are headed to the Super Bowl. 

This is not normal. Being from Georgia, I am thrilled about the Falcons. Just amazed, startled. Like everything that has happened in the last 12 or so months, this is simply not the expected result. All that has happened is not necessarily bad, just odd. Reality has crashed into the bizarre. 

Disturbedly, my current book, a fantasy full of magic and all sorts of mystical creatures is far less odd than the real world. It makes me worry for my genre. 

At this point, if dragons suddenly emerged and took over the world, it might be less insane than the current goings on in the world. And that would quite spoil my book sales. 

Frankie, my pug, also quite magical, tells me to relax. Probably, Frankie says, I am simply in purgatory and to move on to something more wondrous, I must keep writing. So that’s the plan. For now.

If I manage to finish this book, find an agent, and publish this year despite having to reside in bizarro world, then I will know I have moved on. So back at it. 

Week 49-50 2016 Pug Dreams

It is less than 2 weeks until 2017 and I am wondering if I will squeak into the New Year. I have a mess of a 1st draft of my new book and 3 stories I am grooming for submission. 

The year has not turned out as I hoped. It never does. I have found new ways to fail and fall behind. Still, as long as I draw breath, fool that I am, I will keep trying for something better. If only I understood what better meant. 

Week 46 2016 Nap Time

So it’s cold. And me having been a bear in a previous existence wants to hibernate until Spring. Instead I am trying to complete a draft of my new book in a month. This was a very silly idea. 

I think I will hit the #NaNoWriMo 50k threshold in 10 days, but I won’t have a complete draft. I am a little sad about this. Publishing is such a long road, even after you have a finished manuscript. And I am not getting any younger here. So I am not going to hibernate or nap. I’m going to write.