madrugada*…

So, I was up at 4:00 a.m. due to some annoying post-nasal-drip crap that was trying to choke me to death. So after many attempts to find a position that was compatable with sleep, I gave up and and got up. Sigh.

I know it looks like I’ve totally abandoned this blog and, although that’s not quite right, I have found it hard to get myself excited about posting. Partly because I’m in that odd space where one book is finished-ish (in other words I’m sick of it so after my latest victim reader finishes with it, I will apply suggested changes judiciously and then release it into the cold, cruel sea of agent-rejections) and the next book still just some notes on my computer…so that’s been the repository of the drips and drabs of creative energy that I’ve had. But mostly I haven’t posted because, as usual, inertia has me firmly in it’s grasp (in other words, I’m a lazy-ass.) I suppose it’s a bummer that the ten many people who read this now have proof that I’m a slacker, but oh well. In the words of a member of the Rat Pack*** “I gotta be me.”

Hasta la vista…

*madrugada** can be loosely translated as butt-early.

**And who knew Madrugada was the name of a band? And not just any band…a Norwegian band with a Spanish name who sings in unaccented English. Life is funny, no?

***Interestingly different than Pack Rat. Hmmm…

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the shape of things

Okay this one is mostly for writers, sorta for readers, and possibly for those who might want to hear a very quick lecture by the man who said something this smart:

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

So instead of putting the video last, I’m putting it in the middle and some more junk after it.

So, Because it gave me a way to feel productive while not actually working on my novel, I took a minute to graph the shape of it:

Although this doesn’t really match any of Kurt Vonnegut’s shapes, I’m pleased to see it goes up and down enough that something must be happening in there.

How about it, my writer friends…any of your stories like one on the video or totally different?

And to all my reader friends–are any of you Vonnegut fans? I’m embarrassed to say that I’m not sure I’ve read anything by him…is that possible? Seems like at one time I owned Cat’s Cradle, but I don’t remember anything about it. And so I just hopped on Amazon and ordered Slaughterhouse Five because, honestly, if I haven’t read it, I should. And if I’ve read it and forgotten then I certainly should. (Unfortunately this is happening with increasing frequency. Sigh…)

And one last Vonnegut quote for the road:

Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.

And my response to that would be, “uh oh…”

I think I’m in trouble; I like semicolons.

Ha!

How is this for a resolution?

To live fully, to love wastefully and to have the courage to be my most complete self. *

I found this statement in a totally unrelated article, but I liked it so I stole it. (Yes, I plagiarized my New Year’s resolution. Perhaps this bodes poorly for my writing in 2012.)

So, because of a special event we have coming up later in the month, my job has been a little whack lately…and in just over a week we’re flying up to Boston with our youngest son to get him settled in at college. These two things and my usual freakish control issues tendency to worry have combined to create a ridiculous puddle of overwhelmedness that I keep wanting to splash around in. Prime time for wallowing is apparently 2:30 a.m. even though I do understand that there are few actual problems that can be solved at 2:30 a.m. **

But, I know the craziness is temporary and soon my job will return to it’s normal occasionally-stressful-but-mostly-fun self. And my house will be too quiet and calm with my musician son so many miles away. I might have to take up another hobby. Maybe chess. Or boxing. Or….

Oh just check out the video. Previously mentioned musician-son found it for me, and it’s so random and strange that it’s somehow totally awesome.

_________________________

*And finish, really finish, my stupid book and start another one. (This part is all mine.)

**Okay, some problems can be solved in the wee hours. Once we had a dog to whom my husband someone gave about a cup of bacon grease as a treat. As I recall we had to get out of bed at 2:30 a.m. and clean up, solve that problem.***

***Okay, I know adding an endnote to an endnote is probably against the rules, but did anyone else notice that I talked about a puddle in one paragraph, and then in that paragraph’s endnote I mention an entirely unrelated incident that also concerned a puddle of sorts? This was totally unintentional, but perhaps one more sign that I should be in therapy of some sort. Or maybe at least go buy red galoshes.

the most boring and random blogpost ever

What’s up around here? Well the tree is up and fluffed, but not yet decorated. (You can tell we have an artificial tree…you never need to fluff a real tree. They are naturally fluffy. Like Michael Buble’s hair.)

I had to go in to work on Friday and Saturday. (Be on the lookout for flying pigs, because let me tell you, getting this slacker to the office on a Friday or a Saturday ain’t easy, and I went in both days.)

Sunday, it was cold and rainy, and we went with some friends on a holiday tour of freakin’ huge big, lovely homes (benefiting Children’s Advocacy Center), Did I mention it was cold and rainy? There was even a golf cart ride involved to get to one of the homes. A cold, wet golf cart ride. Then we went out to eat at Chuys which has great tortilla soup, but I hate that my entire body and all my clothes smell bad after eating there. Sorta like when you shop in Abercrombie and Fitch* you come out smelling like Fierce, except at Chuy’s you come out smelling like B.O.**

I warned you this would be boring and I can’t believe you’re still reading. Shouldn’t you be doing a mole check, or plucking some nose hairs or something?

Anyway, I’ve been doing some writing, but not as much as I’d like since other real life stuff keeps getting in the way. Plus, a couple weeks ago I had someone who knows what he’s talking about read my novel (yes that same book I keep saying I’m almost finished fiddling with), and he gave me some very helpful feedback. This was almost as sucky as it was awesome, because he was right about the weaknesses he pointed out, and now that I can see them I need to fix them. Even though I’m amazingly just a teensy bit tired of working on the stupid fucking book.

*Speaking of Abercrombie and Fitch (and those are words I never thought I’d type) from that photo up there, doesn’t Michael Buble look like he could totally be on one of their shopping bags? Just slip that shirt off, honey…I’ll help…

**No, I didn’t sweat at Chuys…I just think cumin smells like B.O., especially when it’s on a shirt. And a sweater. And jeans. And I would add “my hair” but ever since I got the worst-haircut-ever it no longer reaches my nose (even the right side which is about a half-inch longer than the left.) Oh well, last night that was probably a blessing.

Now that this post has throughly toured boring, it’s time for random since I promised both. I’m not a huge Michael Buble fan, but this video made me smile. (And btw, I really like the whole song…so search for Feeling Good by Buble after you watch this and listen to the song–it’s great.

into the woods…

While waiting for the critiques of my manuscript, I’ve been venturing into the woods of my next book…considering characters and their motivations…daydreaming about plot paths… I’m trying to keep things casual; it’s not time for me to telling any tales about these people yet. But I’m dropping breadcrumbs to make sure I can find my way back when it’s time.

Meanwhile a second critique (thank you H—-) of my manuscript has arrived! Another very thoughtful and thought-provoking critique. I have such freakin’ smart readers helping me here. I obviously still have some work left to do on the book, but both of the test dummies readers who’ve finished the book have given me some great ideas of how to improve the novel. Yeah!

One of the things that I’ve discovered is that creating an unreliable first person narrator is tricky. When the character’s actions don’t really mesh with her inner thoughts, it can make the character’s voice feel uneven. Here she’s thinking she’s so tough, and then in a fight with her boyfriend she doesn’t act very tough.  Hmmmm….  The problem is, that’s what I want, but I want the reader to understand that she’s unreliable, not think that I just don’t know what the hell I’m doing (which may well be the case, but I don’t want the reader to know that.)

Several writers I admire make creating an unreliable narrator look easy, but here I am discovering that it’s more difficult than it seems. Reader H—- (Goldilocks) found that in some scenes the protagonist was tooooo tough, but in other scenes she was tooooo soft.  Now I just need to pay attention to the scenes that were baby-bear juuuust right so I can fix the others. I can do this…as my late father would tell me, “That’s no hill for a stepper.”

And so I searched for Goldilocks on youtube and mostly came up with exactly the lame videos you’d expect…except I also foud THIS!

See…I KNEW there was a reason I needed an iPhone!

on setting the right tone

I was reminded of the importance of tone the other day, when a friend mentioned on facebook how much she hated a particular song (see video below). I clicked on it and had to laugh. The girl can sing but my-oh-my…what a terrible song.

My work-in-progress is, I hope, a funny/serious book. While writing the first draft, I had to work to maintain a certain lightness of tone and it was more difficult than I expected it to be, especially around the middle where things in general tend to get a little scary for a writer (I got this Novel Chart from this post by  Sonje Jones--it’s brilliant)

I found that I had to be careful what books I read that year–reading a dense, downery book (even a highly acclaimed one) sucked all the fun out of my typing fingers. So I re-read some lighthearted favorites, PG Wodehouse, Richard Russo’s Straight Man, Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder books. Of course I read some new books (it was a freakin’ year after all) but I had to be careful. I have a stack of books that I bought and started before I realized their fun-suckeriness. They’re still waiting for me, accusingly I might add, on a table in the bedroom.

Now that I’m going back through and fixing things up in my book, eventually tone is something I’ll have to evaluate. A falter in tone is one of those “you know it when you see it” things in other people’s books.* I just hope I’ll be able to see it in mine as well.

__________

* One of my critique partners (whom you’ll notice I do not name here, so if and when you read this, Critique Partner X, don’t be angry) had a serious scene in which her characters had to get into a car with leather seats on a hot day. So, in this beautifully written, tender scene she described the sound that their damp flesh made on the seat as “farty.”  My tone antennae fairly quivered with outrage. I think I managed to convince her that she simply could not use that word in that scene. I’m not certain, however. You see, she’s French, and after some of our discussions about bidet towels, I suppose I’m never 100% certain what she’ll do next. Haha!

And finally, here’s the cheesy serial-killer love song that inspired this post. Obviously, it’s very personal to this young woman, but I’m sorry. Too bad. Anyone who can keep a straight face while singing, “You’re going to catch a cold from the ice inside your soul” is just asking for shit.

on music and life and soundtracks

First off, this isn’t a post about writing. (Finally, I know, right?) Because this is about music and I can’t listen to music while I write. Well, instrumental, maybe…but after awhile even it gets annoying. And music with words? No way. If words need to come out of my brain, I can’t have words going in, apparently. Now, when I’m painting I always listen to music–ridiculous music. (I’m 49 years old and I have a Flo Rida station on Pandora…I’m just sayin’…)

When I was a teenager, music was an important part of my life. If I was in my room there was always a record playing. But now, unless I’m cooking or cleaning, it rarely occurs to me to listen to music. Even in the car, 9 times out of 10 NPR is on rather than music. What’s up with that? I still feel like I ought to be a person who listens to music…but somehow I’m not anymore. I find that a little sad.

I remember once, a few years ago, deciding that I would teach myself to enjoy classical music. I put my satellite radio on a classical music station and left it there. I lasted less than a week. Every day I’d get in the car and within ten minutes I was grinding my teeth and I had to turn it off. No doubt it’s wonderful music, but it just wasn’t me.

The funny thing is, I still buy music. I’ll hear a song, like it, look up the artist on itunes and listen to some of their songs. Sometimes I just buy that one song, but sometimes download the whole album (I am frighteningly old-school).  Then, I’ll listen to it and think, “boy, I like that.” But after I shut down itunes, there’s a good chance I’ll never never to listen to that artist again. It’s inexplicable. It’s like I’m searching for a soundtrack to go along with my life but not finding it.

Once when I had a computer-guru (who’s also a friend) at my house scraping viruses off my laptop (this was before I got a macbook), he opened my itunes and immediately started laughing. I was annoyed but not really surprised. My itunes library is silly. It has everything from…uhm…hang on a second.

Okay, this feels a little like over-sharing for some reason…but here we go. Minus the random artists whose songs tagged along on some soundtrack…here’s the list (most of it anyway…several times I thought, “what the hell is that?” and left it out).

AC/DC, Amiee Mann, Alex Skolnick Trio, AliFarka Toure, Amos Lee, Amy Winehouse, BTO, Bad Company, Badly Drawn Boy, Beck, Ben Harper, Benise, Bill Withers, Bowerbirds, Buffalo Springfield, Canned Heat, Coldplay, CCR, CSNY, The Cure, Dave Eggar, David Berkeley, David Bowie, David Holmes, Derek and the Dominoes, Dixie Chicks, The Eagles, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton, Everlast, Five for Fighting, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Sinatra, The Funky Lowlives, Garmarna, The Gentle Good, Grand Funk Railroad, Jack Johnson, James Taylor, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, The Kills, Levon Helm, Loreena McKennitt, Louis Armstrong, Meredith Brooks, Michael Andrews, Miles Davis, Moby, Nellie McKay, Nick Drake, Paolo Nitini, Pink Floyd, Radical Face, Rasa, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rufus Wainwright, Sally Nyolo, Sheryl Crow, The Shins, Simon & Garfunkel, Staind, The Stone Roses, Suzanna Choffel, Thomas Newman, Tom Waits, Uncle Kracker, Wendy Colonna, Ziggy Marley, The Zombies.

You’re laughing now too, right?

So, have you got a soundtrack in your life? What’s it like?

By the way, want to see my newest favorite? And I don’t even like Kentucky Fried Chicken…