This Can’t Be Normal

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been hard at work. Every spare minute has been spent hunched over the keyboard, editing my manuscript. I’ve neglected this blog, Twitter, and the Internet in general, remaining oblivious to world events. There’s been no evening television with my husband, no watching Doctor Who on Netflix, no Pinterest. No nothing.

Then this past weekend I had no choice but to take a break. My mother-in-law came to visit for our daughter’s 13th birthday. We don’t see her often, so we stayed busy from morning until way late.

Several times I was struck with this odd sort of wistful, sad feeling. It took me a bit of time to figure out what it was: I missed my characters.

That can’t be normal. Right? I mean, these people aren’t real. How could I miss them? But there I was, wishing I could hang out with them instead of whatever else I was doing. Waiting for the weekend to be over so I could get back to them.

Have other writers ever experienced anything like this? I hope I’m not the only one. But I can’t ponder any longer. It’s time to sign off here so I can go play with my imaginary friends.

(Okay. Definitely not normal!)

Posted in March 2012 | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

A Peek Behind the Curtain

This past fall a small group of writer friends and I attended the annual Moonlight & Magnolias conference in Atlanta. There were novels given away for free, of course, but since one can never have too many books, I bought a few more.

The Accidental BestsellerOne that I’m just now reading is “The Accidental Bestseller” by Wendy Wax. It’s about four women who meet at their first writers’ conference. Ten years later they’re still friends and are all published. That was enough to make me buy the book right there: I was with friends at a writers’ conference, holding a book about women who become friends at a writers’ conference. That it would be a fun read was a no-brainer.

The main POV character suffers one crisis after another, to the point she’s barely able to function. The deadline for her next book is steadily getting closer, though, so the other three help by collaborating on the new novel – which happens to be about four women who meet at a writers’ conference, become friends and eventually all become published. They split the book into quarters so each woman can write one of the POVs. Their assumption is that the book will be pitched over the fence to meet the deadline, never to be seen again. I’m not finished, but the premise is that the new book becomes a hit and exposes the four of them to all sorts of scrutiny, at which point their lives as well as their friendship begin to unravel.

Wax makes you feel like a fly on the wall, reading about an editor at a major New York publishing house whose mood swings can determine whether a writer succeeds or tanks. And about the agents stuck in the middle, trying to make both the editors and the writers happy. But the biggest eye-opener has been what happens to a writer after she has managed – against all odds – to become published. For my friends and I, that’s the Realm Behind the Curtain. None of us are published, and it’s our only goal. We have no concrete plans for what might happen afterward because we haven’t dared to think that far ahead. Some of us might even say we’d be jinxing ourselves.

All four of the women in Wax’s book have their struggles with writing, just like we do, but have the added stresses of meeting new deadlines and dealing with a whole host of other issues. It’s almost enough to give a writer pause. Will it be worth it in the end, or will we wish we had heeded the warnings? Do we really want to be published?

Oh, who am I kidding? Of COURSE we do. We’re just like kids who won’t listen to stories of their parents’ mistakes. We want to learn those lessons ourselves. We can keep our fingers crossed and hope the bad stuff won’t happen to us.

Thanks, Wendy, for the peek behind the curtain.

Posted in February 2012 | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blessings from My Office Chair

Blessed are my writing partners/critique buddies, who’ve given me a one-hour massage gift certificate during this time of great stress. These women are talented and generous and they ROCK.

Blessed is my daughter, who navigates the daily dramas of middle school with maturity and grace. She turns 13 in two months. I suspect that’s when I’ll need that massage.

Blessed are all the men like my husband, who have the secret recipe to mix head and pillow and come out 30 seconds later with snoring. Whereas I toss and turn for hours, with the newly added joy of alternating between chills and sweats – pulling the covers to my neck and then tossing them off completely. Perimenopause does NOT rock.

Blessed is my brother in Texas, who has provided me with a new diversion in the form of Doctor Who. I’m up to Season Two (the revamped show, not the original), and am having a ball. I didn’t think Christopher Eccleston could be replaced, but David Tennant pretty much rocks, too.

And blessed are my fictional characters, quietly waiting their turn for my attention. I hope to shake myself out of this cloud soon and have a ball with them, too.

–End sermon>

Posted in January 2012 | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Passing

My brother passed away yesterday morning, after a nearly 21-month battle with lung cancer. He may have had cancer, but cancer never had him. Not until the end.

I never had anything but awe and admiration for this man. There was never a question he couldn’t answer or a problem he couldn’t solve, and I knew he would do anything for me. I had more respect for him than almost anyone else I’ve ever known.

He was very fond of my adult son, often describing him as “good folks.” Those are the best words I can think of to describe him.

I miss you, big brother. Please rest in peace.

Posted in January 2012 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

2012 Goals

Write your goals down; make them public so you’ll be held accountable. (Note: If you post this to your blog, then… check!)

Take Tucker out for a walk at least several times a week. You both need the exercise.

Spend no more than 30 minutes per day on social media. You can update your blog and your Twitter feed without letting them take over your entire day.

Finish your manuscript—the one that stays with you 24/7. That’s really all there is to say about that. Just finish the thing.

If you want to call yourself a writer, then you’re going to have to write. Figure out a way to write no matter what else might be going on in your personal life. No matter how much the sadness threatens to overwhelm you, no matter how exhausted you are, mentally or physically, there has to be a way to get it done. See if you can find a way that works.

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get a particular thing done every single day, because there are bound to be days when it can’t. Beat yourself up if you have the opportunity, but don’t use it.

Remember that in writing, as in many other things in life, your mental attitude makes all the difference.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Losing the War

In the beginning were my brothers.

I was the last of four and the only daughter. The youngest of my brothers was four years older than me. He was athletic, smart, and popular. The other two were older still, and growing up, they loomed larger than life. To say I looked up to them would be a gross understatement.

After our parents passed, the line between parent and brother sometimes blurred. No matter what question I asked, they could answer it. At times, I would go to them for their opinion before considering my own.

I remember the four of us sitting together after our mother died, another victim of the disease that runs in our family. We couldn’t help but wonder which one of us would be next.

We found out about eighteen months ago, when one of my oldest brothers was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. He has fought an unflagging fight, but his strength is waning. His doctors are working to make him more comfortable.

He told me last week he hopes this won’t be a long, drawn out thing. I didn’t know how to respond. I don’t want him to be in pain, but neither do I want him to go anywhere. I just stroked his arm as gently as I could.

There have always been my three big brothers. I don’t know how to consider any other way.

Posted in November 2011 | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Now I Get It

On the way home from college one weekend (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), I stopped by my brother’s house. It was Friday evening, but the night was young.

After stepping into the living room, I was astonished to notice that both my brother and my sister-in-law were dressed in pajamas and robes. I gave them 15 flavors of grief. After all, I said, it was ONLY 9:30 p.m.! It wasn’t even time to go out partying yet!

Flash forward to last night. After a full day of digging holes, planting shrubs and moving bulbs, my husband and I both collapsed into bed a little earlier than usual. We were exhausted, and the alarm would go off at 6:30 a.m.

Of course, that same brother called me about five minutes after I went to sleep. It was 9:15 p.m.

He called again this morning. Still laughing.

Now I get it.

Posted in October 2011 | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments