life

Childhood

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The evolution from baby to kid is slow but sure. Mimi has blossomed into independent imaginative play, in the last month or so. For the first time she will draw pictures and build things on her own, without help. For the first time she will mashup her toys: she has a Little People Cinderella, and her Abby Cadabby doll is the Fairy Godmother, and her Hansa Gelbhals Field Mouse is Gusgus, and so on and so forth. She really loves to assemble the casts of her favorite movies.

I was lying on her bed one recent afternoon, playing “naptime” while she messed around with her toys, and for a fleeting moment I felt it: childhood. That snug, secure feeling of enclosure. It was raining outside but it was cozy inside. There had been some morning errands, and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and now we were in her room with her toys and nothing in particular to do. It was a sock-footed kind of feeling.

I thought it was odd that I could see her room from her point of view, however briefly. Childhood for her is parenthood for me, with laundry and shopping and cooking and the endless small distractions from everything that I want to do. I know about car maintenance and taxes and those days when you have to go out in the rain if there is to be milk for breakfast. I constantly have a dozen imminent tasks niggling in the corners of my mind.

But for a moment it went away. Her cheerful blue furniture was my furniture. The pictures on her wall were mine. Her bed was a familiar place to sleep.

We have lived in this house for four and a half years now. It’s by far the longest I have lived anywhere since I was in middle school. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s familiarity of place.

It was nice.

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life

Crafty interlude

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I have the sequel to my first book mostly finished. I am in the “polishing” stage, and I may end up re-writing one big scene toward the end, in the interest of creating emotional coherence where, right now, it’s possible none exists. I can’t really tell. I don’t have enough distance to tell, right now.

I’m having a brief spell of burnout, bitterness, and self-doubt about the writing. This is apparently endemic to the creative process. I’ll get over it. It’s just… hard while it lasts. Many people have been kind enough to read my stuff, but I’m left feeling like every single one of them was some combination of disappointed, bored, offended, or entertained by my incompetence and inaccuracy. I’m also more and more convinced that I badly flubbed the beginning of the first book and have thereby turned off many readers, forever.

I will keep writing and keep getting better. Some day, I might write something that becomes popular. Then people will read these early books because they’re in my laundry list. But these early books… nobody will ever love them. And that makes me sad, because I love them. When I’m not in the middle of one of these crises. Oh well.

So this morning instead of editing (how many times must I go through this manuscript before I can read it without spotting a correction in every other line?) I got out the scissors and glue and construction paper, and made collages. I made a nighttime scene and a sunny day scene and a rainy day scene. I made half a dozen houses.

Then Mimi showed up and guided me through making an apple tree (like ours), a pear tree (like ours), a big oak tree (like ours), each member of the family, a deer, and the inflatable swimming pool.

I wasn’t much interested in the process or the product, but it was soothing to feel competent and, however briefly, appreciated. Mimi showed her dad each figure as we finished it. Then she wanted to play games on her tablet.

It’s good to have a lot of different things to do.

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life

The flood of ’14

Last Sunday morning, it started to rain. I mean it poured. Biblical proportions. For several hours. We live directly under the spot that got the most rainfall.

Nobody’s completely sure, but we got somewhere in the neighborhood of 7″ – 9″ of rain. There had been rain the day before, too, so the ground was saturated. The river ran over its banks. I don’t know how high it was initially. 48 hours later, when I walked on the trail, it was at least 12′ above its banks. It was crazy. Normally we have four ways to drive out of town. Three of them were flooded out.

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This last picture is taken on a section of the trail that is not beside the river. That mud line is where the water was. It’s about neck-high on me.

Mother Nature freaks me out.

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life

I meet Diana Gabaldon

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This post is written solely for the benefit of my friend Wendy. She’s the one who pushed me to read Outlander in the first place, so in a very real way, she’s directly responsible for all of the reading and writing madness that has ensued.

When I posted a picture of myself with Herself on Facebook, Wendy replied:

I need an extensive description of the entire evening, including smells, sounds, and if you get to lick the cardboard cut out of Sam.

Okay Wendy, you’ve got it.

First point: there was no cardboard cutout of Sam.

The talk was in the City Opera House in Traverse City, Michigan. The morning before, Diana tweeted that she was listening to seagulls on Lake Michigan, which was not strictly true. She was listening to seagulls on Grand Traverse Bay. But I digress…

The opera house is a historical theater with 700 fixed seats and about that many more chairs set up on the main floor. People were lined up to go in over an hour in advance; I assume most of those people were the ones who had purchased general admission rather than reserved seats. People who are affiliated with writers’ guilds got advance ticket sales, and they bought those tickets out completely. My mother forked over real cash for our reserved seats.

Inside the theater, the lobby was set up with a lot of tables selling signed and unsigned copies of the books, Starz miniseries broadsheets, and A. Malcolm Bookseller signs. There was also red and white wine, and very suspicious banana and peanut butter cookies that I didn’t try.

Two separate speakers introduced the talk, one of whom hadn’t read the books before Diana was signed to do the talk, and who admitted that the first one was published before she was born. She was booed. The long version of the American trailer for the Starz series was shown. Then Diana and the interviewer came out, to much applause, and the mayor gave Diana a key to Traverse City.

Then followed the interview. Lots of clapping and laughing. Diana is a witty person and has her repertoire of things to say down pat. Some of them I’d read on her Facebook page and elsewhere, some others were new. New tidbits include:

1. Her husband is the body model for Jamie. He grumbles that the whole world knows what he looks like naked.
2. Storytelling is the second oldest profession, and it holds a huge advantage over the first. Storytelling can be done to lots of people at once.
3. She supposes the appeal of a man in a kilt is that you could be against a wall with him in a second.

The program started at 7:00 and the interview ended at 8:30. There were fifteen minutes of questions. Three people with microphones roved the audience and tried to control who got to ask, but Diana began calling on people herself. Had she not done that, I would have gotten to ask her whether she finds it easier to write in the first person or the third… I actually had a microphone in my hand, but she called the last question-asker of the evening, and it wasn’t me. Alas.

After the program, people who didn’t want autographs left. That was about 2/3rds of the audience. I stayed and got in line; because I had reserved seating I got somewhere in the first half of the line, and stood in it for about 45 minutes before it was my turn.

She was on full-on robotic survival mode. I told her it was a pure pleasure to hear her speak and got a soft “mm hm,” then, tongue-tied, forgot that I’d wanted to say something about also being a biologist and Ph.D. who’d also written my first novel in my thirties but I finally got around to it because she’d provided exactly the mood/feel/genre/themes/zeitgeist I’d been looking for… but alas. I did bring myself around sufficiently to ask for a picture, got another soft “mm hm” and a smile, and that was that. End of game.

Oh, and her fingernails were metallic turquoise. But I told you that already.

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A Fabulous Fourth

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We spent the week surrounding Independence Day at my parents’ house, this year. It was our fifth wedding anniversary by the way… can you believe it? Good grief time flies. Anyway: on the fourth we went to a cookout with my parents’ friends at the North Branch B&B, which is where most of these pictures were taken. There was a lot of food and a lot of people to talk to, and Mimi… goodness. She took everybody to the front hall to look at that elk head, and also showed everybody her sparkly sneakers. By the end of the evening people were greeting each other by holding up one foot and asking “Do you like my shoes?”

Then we went back to my parents’ house and gave sparklers to Mimi. Sparks, who got into a lot of dicey situations as a child, was beside himself with nerves. You can see his face. Ha!

By the way, he says the beard is pure extruded testosterone. I have to agree.

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A new title

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My wunderbar beta reader and all-around deep thinker Nikki got my newest manuscript back to me yesterday. I rewarded all of her careful thinky-thoughts by amending the manuscript yesterday afternoon, doing a final read-through yesterday evening, and hastily publishing in the middle of a thunderstorm last night. The new piece is now live on Amazon, as well as the heavily revised version of the first piece. The new one is a prequel to the old one. They can be read in either order, it doesn’t matter.

They will both be on free promotion this weekend, so don’t pay for them, if you’re interested. Hang on and get them for nothing. I had really wanted to make this new thing permanently free, but it turns out that Amazon won’t allow it. They want to make money or something. Go figure.

And now back to the sequel. I’ve got about 60K words of it right now. I will spend much more time on polishing and revising than I did with the first book. I have leeeeaaaaaarned my lesson, yes I have.

What does all of this have to do with Pudding? I don’t know, but she was right here beside me so I snapped a picture. She is turning ten years old right about now, poor snookums. She isn’t slowing down any, though. She has gotten more aggressive about seeking out attention, possibly due to the competition. She will give me love-bites now, which kind of freaks me out, but I’m getting used to it.

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life

And general updates

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Hello all. Long time no see. I think I have the big stuff all nicely encapsulated in previous blog posts, so here’s the omnibus update on family life.

Mimi is three, and she is a ton of fun right now. Some breakdowns and frustrations of course, but all in all, she’s a scream. She has a sense of humor and makes us laugh out loud every day. She loves “flamingo” music. She loves frogs. She thinks that the gas that goes in cars is the same gas that… well. Let’s say that her best friend at school is a boy, and he brings the potty humor likewhoa. Also, yes, Mimi’s nose is yellow in the picture. It’s flower pollen.

Sparks grew a beard. He also just got front-page billing on a major audio magazine in their July issue. I’m super chuffed for him; he built his first tube amp over a decade ago and has slowly grown his hobby into a business that now supports our family and gets him worldwide recognition. He’s a rare one, and a special guy, and I feel lucky to know him every single day.

And me. I am still writing. Every day. It’s the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about at night. I’ve written a prequel novella to my first book, and am halfway through a sequel. I have also done a couple of major rewrites of the first one. I think I’ve said so before, here on this blog–but oh my, those rewrites weren’t as major as the ones that have happened since. If you already had the book, unfortunately you won’t get the updated version. If you buy it now, you will.

Learning to write novels is really a learned thing. I guess you can take creative writing courses, and they might teach you important things about the writing process, and they would definitely give you the benefit of feedback–of which I have gotten precious little (probably because early versions of my novel stank, especially the beginning! If you bought it, HOLD ON FOR 30%. Or just skip to 30%. It gets way more interesting after that.) Still, it’s something you just have to do. A first novel is a first novel, and it’s a love-hate relationship FOR SURE.

As I learn more about my characters and become more confident and capable, though, I enjoy it more and more. I’m not stonking out two thousand words every single day, the way I did at first, but I am certainly doing a lot more rewriting and fine-tuning, and that’s where the magic happens. The fact that I want to die of embarrassment because I released early versions on Amazon, well, that’s life. If you don’t put yourself out there, you’ll never… well… be out there, right?

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