Sunday Confessional: murder

I started the quarantine with only about eight checked-out library books that I read *sob* and then held onto for months until my library system started accepting returns again. While I did download a few ebooks this spring, I don’t enjoy that format, and instead concentrated on my bookshelves. The bad news is, I’ve already read most of what I have at home. The good news? I don’t mind rereading books.

This past week or so, I’ve reread three Raymond Chandler novels featuring Philip Marlowe (The Big Sleep; The High Window; The Lady in the Lake) and two Rex Stout novels featuring Nero Wolfe (Might As Well Be Dead; Death of a Doxy).

Witty private detectives + murder = self-care.

Bunny Monday

Spotted this rabbit in Nebraska. The attitude feels a bit different than Colorado bunnies. Anyone else picking up on a General Woundwort vibe?

Grand Island, NE. June 2, 2020.

(Full disclosure: During my time in Nebraska, I saw very few people wearing masks and sensed hostility toward me and my mask-wearing ways. Which is to say, this bunny was probably chill and a total Bigwig, and I’m just projecting.)

Hoopy New Year!

It’s the last day of 2019 and the final day of the decade, which feels like an awful lot of pressure. What exactly have I accomplished in that time?

I quickly realized that contemplating this past year and the previous nine years was not morale-boosting if I only focused on my quest for traditional publication of my novels. So. I shifted my gaze to another aspect of my life.

Self-portrait, December 31, 2019.

I just went through my calendar and added up all my 2019 hoop-dancing sessions. And you know what? I hooped for 1,162 minutes this year (and there’s still time to add more today)! All those minutes translate to just over 19 hours of hoop-dancing this year. Nineteen hours of me dancing, whether I felt like it or not, knowing I always, always feel better after a hoop session. I didn’t sell the novel about my beloved character Poppy Valentine this year, but I danced myself through that disappointment (and the overall fog of hard-times-on-the-planet) and drafted another book.

Hoop-dancing and drafting? Not too shabby. Turns out I did accomplish a few things in 2019.

Happy New Year to everyone! May we all keep dancing in 2020!

The shape of one-dimensional characters

Zippy and I just returned from our weekly date. It was his turn to choose and he chose Guillermo del Toro’s THE SHAPE OF WATER. I would not recommend the film. However, Sally Hawkins’s performance was lovely and the movie was so visually pleasing that I debated whether to recommend watching it without sound. Alas, I believe the heavy-handed characterization and plot line would still sledgehammer their way into your consciousness even without audio.

As a writer, I’m kinda pissed. The characters were lazy stereotypes, including Michael Shannon’s character who was so  over-the-top I nearly burst out laughing. That character didn’t have one shred of decency. Not one. Plus, there wasn’t a whole lot of nuance in the film and absolutely zero question as to justice vs injustice. Zero question.

And you know that quote from Chekhov about the gun? (“One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.”)  Yep, THE SHAPE OF WATER committed that sin when a hard-boiled egg didn’t go off.

 

 

 

 

I’m out.

Today, it made sense

One of the best things about being a writer is that we can always learn and become better storytellers. Today, I happened upon two insights regarding character motivation (wants vs needs, and choices)  that were worded in such a way that I immediately spotted what was wrong with my work-in-progress. What I read wasn’t new to me, but information doesn’t always sink in the first (or second or fifth) time I come across it. Today, things clicked. And that makes this writer very, very happy.

Art can’t be taught;
passion can’t be taught;
discipline can’t be taught;
but craft can be taught.
And writing is both an art and a craft.
~ Elizabeth George

When it’s all too much

I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by all the horrifying happenings in the world right now. In an act of self-preservation, I’ve spent today in a fictional world that exists in my head. I’m revising my middle-grade novel, spending time with some funny girls and “bad” guys who, in the big scheme of things, aren’t really all that bad. I know that I need to return to reality tomorrow and behave as a contributing member of society, but right now I’m hunkered down in a happier place.

Feeling a bit like this

I’m writing the final scenes of my middle-grade novel.
I know where the story goes and how it ends.
However, that doesn’t make the process  any less exhausting.

I’ve got lots of characters coming together,
and they’re all toting individual motivations and plot lines.
Choreographing these scenes feels a bit like juggling chainsaws and kittens.

The good news is that it’s only a first draft.
I need to remember that these scenes do not need to be perfect.

Steve Holt!

I spent the day reading and critiquing a writing friend’s middle-grade manuscript, and just hit SEND.

There’s only one man on the planet who truly understands how pumped I am right now, and that man be Steve Holt!

 

SQUIRREL!

Actually, unlike Dug the Dog from the movie UP, I maintained my focus today. I woke this morning with a game plan for working on opening pages of a new middle-grade, and I kept to that schedule. I made good progress and am feeling (slightly) less nervous about sending those pages (plus more) to my critique group on Monday.

I declare today a WIN for this writer.

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Don Draper would’ve done it better

I don’t watch much network television so usually avoid commercials. But because I’m all about March Madness, I am now, unfortunately, also all about commercials.

Which is how I know that there’s a pharmaceutical targeted at those with opioid-induced constipation.

Granted, it’s a tough sell. Still, I have to believe Don would’ve found a way to inject some magic into the ad campaign.

 

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Is that you?

I spent a fair amount of time yesterday and today searching for character images. I’m writing about a girl and her little sister, and want to have touchstone photos I can refer to when I feel myself veering off track.

I love this photo, but it’s not quite right. There seems to be something off about each image I find. The expression is wrong or the hair is too long, too blonde, too short, too punk. Or the hair is perfect, but the eyes don’t speak to me and the body language is wrong.

I guess what I really need is a photo-based Mr. Potato Head.

 

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Pinky Whitehead for the win

I loved HARRIET THE SPY from the very first time I read it, which was approximately one thousand years ago. Harriet inspired me to carry around a notebook so I could jot down whatever thoughts came to mind. (I remember that my furtive watching and scribbling creeped out one of my good friends, probably because I hadn’t fully absorbed the importance of how Harriet’s friends were hurt and angry after getting hold of her notebook and reading about themselves.)

I know I’m not unique; plenty of writers were inspired by Harriet. But to this day, HARRIET THE SPY resonates with me. I love filling notebooks. I love watching people and making up scenarios for what I observe. And I love my cat who conjures up one of the all-time best character names:

marcel-as-pinky-whiteheadPinky Whitehead!

My cat’s name is Marcel, but those pink ears and nose always transport me back to HARRIET THE SPY. Maybe someday I’ll know a cat that brings to mind Ole Golly . . .

 

 

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A Meditation on Orange

Good thing I’m not planning on getting sent to prison
because if it’s true that Orange Is the New Black,
I’m in serious fashion trouble;
I look great in black and pretty close to dead in orange.
(I appear equally deadish in tan/beige which is what the inmates on the
show wear after they’ve been fully processsed into the system.)

I’m several episodes into Season 4 and am enjoying it more than
Season 3 which I thought was awful in a lot of ways.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Piper is best as a seasoning,
rather than an entree.
Most every other character is more compelling.
In fact, I can’t think of one who isn’t.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s the point.

Either way, I’m going to watch the rest of the season
and be grateful I can choose what I wear each day.
Because not all of us wear our orange as well as these poppies.

Happy poppies one day in May.

Happy poppies one day in May.

 

 

My Insides Match My Outsides

For the past several days I’ve been working on the first 90 pages of my YA, zooming in on one particular relationship between two characters. I first went through the pages and highlighted every interaction between them in yellow. Then I went back to the beginning, highlighting in red the words I want to delete and using green highlights for the new words I added. It’s been a slow process but I feel as if finally, finally these characters are unfolding at the right pace and that I’m avoiding the dreaded Emotional Ping-Pong (something that was rampant in a YA I read over the weekend).

So imagine my delight when a few minutes ago I opened my computer to resume work on my project and I realized the screen mirrored the glorious colors outside.More fall leaves and computer screen 001

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson