Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, and that fight or flight response kicks in. Somewhere in the middle of 'losing it', however, crazy writers see a good slice of life scene or the potential for a book. I could have written many books during the past 3 months if my fingers could keep up with my brain once it's disengaged from structure. My friend Losin'-It will be my muse.
Psychiatrist: I'm sorry you've been waiting.
Patient Losin'-It: 40 minutes.
Psy: You're depressed.
Pat: I was depressed when I came in here. We're into something else right now.
Psy: Do you want to kill yourself?
Pat: Not really, but you're looking like a really good target.
Psy: Are you hormonal?
Pat: (thinking: Dumbass) No. I'm pissed. Do keep the crazy one waiting.
Psy: Do you have mood swings?
Pat: Are you familiar with the term 'roller coaster'?
Psy: I suspect a bit of bi-polar.
Pat: YA THINK????????
Psy: Did you ever get that follow up on the questionable mammogram?
Pat: No, I've been waiting to get in.
Psy: (shuffling paperwork, looking) But it's been 3 months!
Pat: Tell me about it.
Psy: Do you think maybe that's one reason you're depressed?
Pat: Now we're getting somewhere.
Psy: How are your relationships at home?
Pat: Their bruises are healing, but they all avoid me just the same.
Psy: Have you thought about taking a trip?
Pat: I'm visiting a friend this month.
Psy: This is good.
Pat: She's dying.
Psy: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. What's wrong with her?
Pat: Breast cancer.
Psy: (scribbling) I think you're depressed.
Pat: (starting to shake) You're the one with the medical degree. (thinking: My dog could have told me that one.)
Psy: Are you sleeping?
Pat: Every other week whether I need to or not.
Psy: I want you taking this drug and this one and this one. Come see me in a couple of weeks. You may need to talk about some of this.
Pat: So you want me talking to you while stoned? I thought we were talking now.
Psy: Not when you're this depressed. Do you smoke?
Pat: What do you think?
Psy: I'm only trying to help. Do you want to quit smoking?
Pat: Sure. As soon as I don't have a reason to reach for nicotine.
Psy: Why do you feel the need to smoke now?
Pat: BECAUSE I'M DEPRESSED?
Psy: I think you're depressed. I'm giving you another drug. Is there anything else I can do for you?
Pat: Got a cure for breast cancer?
Now I know why middle-aged women have drinking parties and get crazy now and then. Beer, anyone? Pretzels? Prozac?
Driving The Mood
Some writing days wear me out. Now and then someone has a shortcut or at least something that spins me in a different direction, though.
A day or so ago, Daisy offered up a terrific exercise on coming up with character names that I enjoyed, but when I tried formulating character names, for some reason all I could think of were the unusual names some of my friends have had for their cars, of all things.
Lee had the Trout Mobile, a foreign six-banger that looked like it lived for mud (his parents owned an RV fishing camp on the banks of the Illinois River at the time) and he also had the Spent Hog. Sal had Cougie, the Cougar. JC who unabashedly enjoys his porn named his truck Debbie (for “Debbie Does Dallas”). [Okay, so I’m rolling my eyes on that one, but hey…if that keeps the ole girl running for him to coo to her as Debbie, so be it.]
Daisy’s exercise had me thinking, though, and I came up with some interesting names that I didn’t know I had in me. When I tried her trick of using a pet’s name + a street where I once lived + the name of an elementary teacher I had, I wound up with Pita Pecan McCall.
I think my neighbor’s truck is called Whore. That’s what he spouts every morning when he jumps inside and cranks ‘er, anyway. Could be a 'pet' name for his wife for all I know. In any case, I make it a point never to attempt writing romance until after that truck starts and he’s on his way to work. Definite mood killer if I don't.
Sometimes one of the best things a writer can do for themselves when they’re searching for a ‘mood’ is to read other writers. One author whose lyrical language always puts me in great spirits is Barry Lopez. If you’ve ever read Arctic Dreams, River Notes, or Desert Notes (the last two are now in one volume), you know what I’m talkin’ about—the man is pure poetry, a wordsmith extraordinaire. I discovered him in the early 90’s and have been a fan ever since.
There are certain blogs whose words help frame my writing mood, too. Take just the first paragraph of this one by Samantha Winston on oranges and see if that doesn’t touch at least two or three of your senses. Pop into Merry’s place and view her latest photos of the dogs or her hand-made quilting projects if you want a visual.
Check out Douglas’s humor (I adore this inveterate smartass liberal who has a wicked wit and tons of information) at “Balls and Walnuts” (title of this particular blog—he has more). His Friday 13th post for January is typical of his self-effacing but quite revealing personality.
If you’re looking for mood music, Rinda at The Write Snark is your DJ. (She also has some pretty cute tee-shirts and tales from life at home to offer. Her hubby’s digging through a dusty attic and finding a particular romance novel she’d lost in an earlier move redeemed whatever un-romantic feelings I may have had that day.)
Many of my writer buds hate coming up with titles for their manuscripts. I seem to fall into mine; in other words they find me, not the other way around. I was writing a short story based on having to go to trial – one grandmother sued another for the land that she’d deeded her. Seems a land developer became interested, the whole fam-damily went to war, and I had to testify at the trial since I was there when Party A deeded over the property to Party B. Long story short, I was back in college for my master’s at the time, and one of the courses was on William Faulkner—the book of that month was As I Lay Dying.
Anyway, Party A lost the battle, flew back to California, and promptly died. Her daughter there, who had instigated the feud and talked her into suing to get the land back was pissed and shipped Gran’s body back home for burial COD…C.O.muther-fucking D.—and nobody would pay for it. Well, here I am, trial over, a test on Faulkner coming up, and I was still, after all a writer. Short story in question for another class became “As I Lay Flying” as my short story became my ventilation valve for what was happening within my own life. The family wasn’t amused when they heard about it, but the professor gave me an A.
My aunt in California eventually paid the charges, by the way, after Gran sat in the refrigerated section of the airport a few hours and it looked like she’d be flying storage-class back to California. And you thought you had some strange goins-on in your clan?
How about you? Do names find you, or do you find them? What are some of your favorites for your characters, stories, or cars? My favorite character I’ve named was Eazy (nickname for Elizabeth); short story was “What Do I Do With My Dead Husband’s Sperm?” (in the sperm bank, after the guy died); and car was “Slick”, the black convertible.
One thing I love to set the mood is music--another is a great photo. A friend of mine recently visited Peru.
Here’ something I found online describing the trip they took: "After almost four hours by train, on one of the most impressive and spectacular stretches in the world, from high, cold early morning plains down to lush vegetation in the frequently suffocating late morning heat, one arrives at the foot of the mountain Machupijchu. Then the eight kilometer road of thirteen zigzag hairpins in an acrobatic bus takes us up the mountain, and one arrives at the hotel. From here, it is only a few steps and the city opens itself. ..."
Descriptive writing that reminds me of Barry Lopez, which brings me back full circle. Read good writing, view great pictures, listen to inspiring music, and drive your own mood.
If none of the above provide inspiration, try laughing. Take a trip to the photo booth
What's A Writer To Do?
This has been a week of insight, commiserations, and flat-out epiphanies for me. Watched "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" for the first time, and I was amazed at the acting and directing talents in that little piece. Who'd have thunk Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes for such roles?
Tagline: Attitude is everything.
Was on the phone earlier with a friend from the past, and when asked what I was "doing" now, I told him...well, I write 'smut', for one, and other things that haven't been published yet. So I Google myself and find the one bad review quite prominent for my 1st book (not the one whose banner is above) - lol. Sooo...these things happen. The reviewer admitted she was a college student and that mine was her first e-book. But boy did she trash it. [insert WRY grin]
Considering he thought it kewl that I wrote period, I suppose it's just as well he find the bad as well as the good.
I have a confession to make...I'd like to be the next Olivia Goldsmith some day. Not to die on the operating table (well, shortly afterward) while a doctor removes a teaspoon of fat from my chin, but to have her tenacity. I read where that woman had like 50 rejections on The First Wives Club before she sold, and what a book that turned out to be. The movie wasn't bad either, despite Mr. Cranky's bad review. Seems even 5-million-dollar deals for the author are fair game. I could live with it. I'm sure Olivia and director Hugh Wilson (of "Police Academy" fame/infamy) cried all the way to the bank.
This from the Internet Movie Database info on her:
When Simon & Schuster accepted "First Wives Club" for publication, Goldsmith threw a party for all the top people in publishing, and decorated the room with all her rejection letters.
Have yet to receive my first royalty check for Star Struck, and I'm anxious to see if it'll be enough to cover my $75 renewal dues for RWA - lol. I've learned not to count on anything in this business, but it'd be nice to send myself to Atlanta for the national conference in July with monies earned from writing.
So many changes going on around me...life turned upside down. Sometimes I question whether I should be writing at all. Then I read about others like Olivia or my 1st writer icon, Sidney Sheldon, and I can't help but think...somebody is making a living at this...might as well be me. And the question then becomes, okay...so you aren't aiming for the millions, and you can blow off the occasional bad review instead of clinging to it...but...
(1) are you doing what you want to do?
(2) does it feed your soul?
(3) and can you be happy wearing yourself out doing what you love?
If you'd like to visit the Recipes blog, this week's offering is all about Cancer Crunchers, recipes and information on battling cancer.
Sometimes the most profound lessons come from the most unlikely sources. Life is set up so that none of us are getting out of here alive, but when someone we love is dying, creativity sometimes takes a back seat to grief, and it's difficult to punt the muse over the goal line.
One friend has no clue what's wrong with her, just that her health is deteriorating. Another knows full well that her cancer is consuming her. We've all been friends a long time, and I'm not famous for censuring what flits across my mind anyway, so the conversation went something like this:
Cancer Friend: I think I'm dying. I don't want to, but I can't get this under control.
Me: Well, you always were a control freak. Don't stop now, for godsakes.
CF: Yeah, but nobody else around here wants the job. Everyone waits to be told what to do.
Me: So tell them what you want them to do.
CF: What if God calls me?
Me: I dunno. Hang up on Him?[Inside joke. Back when CF assisted teaching Sunday School, the teacher asked that of a 5-yr-old: What are you going to do when God calls you? - To which the child, who wasn't ready to go replied: I'm hanging up on Him.]
CF: Remember when we went skinny dipping that last summer? And the snakes came around, and you bailed onto the bank, butt naked in front of all those fishermen?
CF: I wish we could go skinny dipping again.
Me: Look, I'm not getting naked with or for you ever again. Unless you figure that might slow things down a bit.
CF: I'd do it for you. Considering we're twenty-five years older, it might shock me into remission.
Me: Then okay. You bring the food and blankets, and I'll bring the narcotics, booze, & nicotine.
CF: Deal. And if I die anyway?
Me: I'd tell you to save me a seat, but I know how you've lived, so it's kinda iffy where you're gonna wind up, girl.
Silence. And I'm thinking uh-oh...that was tacky. Then peals of laughter from her end of the phone conversation.
CF: Trust me, wherever I wind up, you're going, too. You'll eventually find me, and I'll have your seat warm and ready for you.
Then she's thoughtful a moment.
CF: This is what I've missed most about getting sick. Nobody can joke with me about this, and I really need to laugh.
This is the woman who handed me my first Writers' Digest and told me to get off my ass and quit talking about it...to just do it.
Some stories are easier to write than others. We think we have the whole thing set up, and then something happens and the tale veers off course. Or does it? Only the charcters and the writer know for sure. As long as it's not boring. And trust me...you were never boring, my friend.
Another friend, Alex, usually has me in stitches to the point that I beg her to stop--telling her my cheeks hurt. Then one day she found the cartoon below and sent it to me.
Well, here's to more laughter for all of us, the kind that makes our cheeks ache with delicious humor that puts at least our negative thoughts into remission.
Happy writing, all. If you can, find the light and the gift in every situation. And laugh whenever possible.
Study the Jockey
Seasoned horse-racing fans will tell you--study the jockey, not just the horse. There are fewer Seabiscuits than there are Red Pollards, for one thing, and only a few Charles Howards.
Consider this - every time you send your manuscript into a race, you're the one who owns it, but once it lands where it's going, someone has to take over...your jockey...your editor. If you know the manuscript but nothing about the editor, your chances aren't as good as if you'd studied that editor and found out what they buy, what their preferences are, and whether or not they have a stable full of published authors with something to run that is equally as fast on track as yours and already has a record. So guess which manuscript will get the upper hand if the final decision rests upon you or a seasoned author?
Say you've hit the jackpot and have your Red Pollard editor. How about the owner of the publishing house? Do they have the finances and means of distribution to back your manuscript the way you
want it produced and delivered?
Your edge is this business is realizing that it is
a business and that you as owner of that horse need to know every aspect involving it from the ground up. If you know you have a winner, you'll need to find the right person to train (edit) it and sell it to the man or woman with the money.
Confession writers who had Pat Byrdsong as editor, for instance, knew that she preferred manuscripts that were thought-provoking more than titillating, and if they really did their homework, they found a way to meet her at conferences
or read interviews with her, because then they learned that she was also very spiritually-minded, opening up yet another door for their submissions. And if they wanted to stay on top of their game, they'd join specific writers' groups that share information so that they'd know she hasn't been with Dorchester Media for some time now and that they'd need to query a different editor.
A mystery writer who queries agent Evan Marshall
would know that Evan is a writer in his own right, that he not only manages clients who write everything from nonfiction to romance to mystery and mainstream, but that he likes cozy mysteries.
Romance authors who wish to submit to Kensington might 'google' Kate Duffy
Nobody expects you to know everything about the writing world, but the professionals you'll deal with take it as a compliment if you know not only writing but something about their profession. They can help you if you trust them to do their job, for one thing, and you'll find it easier to do this if you've done your homework on them.
For one thing, they don't like you telling them their job - most of them have done it long enough to have earned their titles as editor, copy editor, art director, and so on...and if they haven't, then they still have the credentials to have landed the job. If they offer a suggestion, at least hear them out and give them the benefit of the doubt before saying no to what they have to say.
Speaking of horses, I found what looks to be a fascinating book by a man called Fergus M. Bordewich
. If you've read My Mother’s Ghost
or Bound For Canaan
, tell me what you think.
Sorry to have been so lax for those of you who visit regularly - have a ton of medical appointments this month, and the eye clinic appointments tend to keep me from focusing well or too long at a computer. Have a great week, all...