"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Sometimes you go with your gut

For all my readers who are clamoring for the next Peri book, it's on its way. I'm about 20,000 words from the end of the story. I know where the story is going and how to finish it. For the past few weeks, I've been writing feverishly, madly, quickly, just to get to "The End."

And then my intuition started to nag at me, telling me more than a few things.

1. This book needs more care, more thought than a race to the finish line, even in draft form.

2. This book will never been published this year. It needs time.

3. I need to have a book out this year.

In the old days, I never listened to my gut. That's how I married the wrong man and got bucked off my horse. Now that I'm older and wiser, I pay more attention.

One of the neat things about 2015 is that it's the 10th anniversary of my column in the Placentia News-Times. I have two books of columns out, but haven't put a new one out in four years. I've been puzzling as to what to do to celebrate ten years of telling tales about my family, my community, and myself.

Then it occurred to me, why not a book for my P-Town friends? As a matter of fact, why not two? Or three?

What I'm doing is a little unconventional. When I go to the Placentia Heritage Day festivities this year, I'll have three brand-new paperbacks. One will be columns about my family, one will be columns about Placentia, and one will be columns about the holidays. They won't be available before then. They won't be available in ebook. Not until my P-Town readers have the opportunity to have the books first -- and of course, at deep discounts. 

It should only take a couple of weeks to get the books ready to go. After that, I'll return to Peri's story and wait until October to release the anniversary books.

Be patient. I promise you good stories!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Connie, Selfies, and RBF

I liked Connie Schultz when I first heard her speak at the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop in 2008. After she spoke, I bought her book and stood in line to have it autographed. As I approached, we chatted a bit while she signed. Of course, I was babbling about being a humor columnist because I'm incapable of shutting up. 

Later, when I read what she'd written, I was officially a Connie-Schultz-Read-Anything-You-Write-Follow-You-Anywhere fan.

Now I follow her on Facebook, where she maintains a lively discourse on today's current events. She's a thoughtful moderator of her posts, keeping the conversation civil but never one-sided. 

Today's post was about another author blogging about having to re-model her own looks in order to look presentable on a TV show. This is an author whose female characters rise above this societal pressure, so Connie was shocked and wanted to talk about what makes people want to dissect others according to their own standards, and why we succumb to them?

She asked us to post a picture of ourselves on her comment thread, along with #thisiswhoIam. I scanned through my photos for a picture, one that wasn't professionally taken. The only ones I have of me alone are my pitiful attempts at selfies. I don't take good selfies, and here's why:

I love my car. Why aren't I happy about it?

I try to smile, but all I end up with is a look that says, "Pfft. Who do you think you are?" 

"Well? Who are you, little Miss SmartyPants?"

I finally settled on the one above, but I'm not sure it shows the real me. I'm such a happy gal, it's a shock to know that I have RBF (Resting Bitch Face). There's nothing cute about this. How do the rest of you make your selfies look so appealing? And is there a cure for RBF?

Attempting a smile. Hurts. Hurts so bad.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Raising a glass to a mom

Mother's Day is long gone, and I think you know how I feel about my own mom, but I need to give a shout-out to my mother-in-law. 

L to R: Dale, Me, Marcus, Barbara, Traci (cousin)

Barbara is an amazing woman. She raised four boys, all a year apart in age. Consider this: there's 11 months between Dennis and Dale, 13 months between Dale and David, and 11 months between David and Daryl. So when Barbara brought baby Daryl home from the hospital, she also had a 1-year old, a 2-year old, and a 3-year old. And she survived it all.

Impressed? I am. But wait, there's more.

Those four baby boys grew up to be four stellar men. Upstanding, responsible, family guys who support each other. They even show up at each other's kids' events. 

I'm sure Barbara takes a certain amount of this for granted. In the Carline household there were expectations and consequences. She and Al had the support of their family. It's a proud family, every member proud of the accomplishments of the others. Even when they fight, it's not big or long, and it leaves no unmended riffs.

Still, I've seen good families with the best intentions end up with kids who lose their way. Four out of four successes should be celebrated.  

Thank you, Barbara, for raising such a fine family.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Refreshing and rewarding!

I wrote my story into a corner last week, Peeps.

My characters are wading through the mire of secrets and lies, an election that could hinge on someone spilling the beans, and desperate people willing to do unsavory things to keep the lid on everything, at least until Mr. Popular gets elected.

The problem? For various selfish reasons, I want the story to be set in February, but with an election in November, that's a long lead time to be stalking/threatening/kidnapping people. I mean, if you're serious about getting this guy elected, you gotta pace yourself.

Yesterday, I stepped into my shower, and as I scrubbed my hair, I thought. Kind of like this:

And it dawned on me, slow and steady as the sunrise. Kind of like this:

What I need is a Special Election - in June! That would make February the filing time and make perfect sense for someone (no spoilers here) to want to protect a candidate. And instead of kidnapping a person - let's face it, four months is a long time to hold a person captive - what if it was a beloved pet? A sweet and loving pitbull named Moonie. 

And just like that, I knew what I needed. Kind of like this:

Oh, oh, never mind. Not like that at all. But I could scream with happiness. I know exactly how to wrap this thing up now.

Where do you get your best ideas?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Growing pains

I'm desperately trying to finish the fourth Peri Mystery and it's not going as fast as it needs to go. Sure, I'm down to the last third of the book, but it's like being in that dream where I'm running toward a door and it keeps getting further away. I was blaming a lot of things for the delay, from too much outside interference to illness. 

Then my friend Michael Steven Gregory wrote a blog post for the Southern California Writers Conference titled, "How Good is Good Enough?" You can read it here - http://writersconference.com/sd/sd-group-blog/how-good-is-good-enough-2/ but basically, Michael is asking the question all writers need to ask, and that's "why am I writing?" Depending on your answer, your final product ends up on the sliding scale of quick-read-entertaining vs word-as-art-beauty. 

I commented on the post as follows: 

This post makes me wonder where my goal is on this scale of "how good do you want to be." I realize my stories are what publishers call "midlist." To be honest, I'm more interested in my characters and in writing well. A part of me would love to write a literary tome, except I need my books to go somewhere and do something. In the meantime, I want people to enjoy my imaginary people and travel with them on their adventures, and I want to know that each book is better than the last.

And there's my problem: "...each book is better than the last." I want each book to be better, and that's good, except that being better means I must grow my writing skills. Growth is hard and it takes time and patience.

In the past, I moved from one scene to the next in my own very natural way. The good news is that my writing hand has a voice, one that people recognize. But now, I want the words to be more right, more lyrical without sounding like writing. I want to tell the story that makes people enjoy both the story and the telling of it.

I thought writing novels would get easier. Turns out, if I want to always improve, the work gets harder. Good thing growth requires persistence. 

I'm going to leave you with this interesting promo for a show I remember liking, even if it lasted barely a season. 

If you'll excuse me, I have to go persist.

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