"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

Thursday, August 11, 2016

She vexes me. Who vexes you?

Now that I have my own office, my writing den, my oasis of wordsmithing (yes, okay, I'm still in love with it), I have been writing A LOT. My pirate fantasy is humming along at over 68,000 words and it's nowhere near the finish line. What is surprising me the most is that I should be in the middle of the book, where I begin to slow down and take forever-effing-long to dig my way out and head for the third act. But this story is zipping along so fast, sometimes I feel like my fingers are in a hurry to catch up with it.

Until now.

My pirate Lisette is on a long journey, through many islands in the Caribbean. (Note: These are islands I have invented because, hey, fantasy here.) She has met many people, some who've been helpful and some who've been harmful. Some have been so harmful, she had to kill them. 

(Because, hey, pirate.)

She is currently on an island to hone her new powers (teaser alert!), to find a possibly hidden treasure, and to use said treasure and powers to exact revenge against the people who betrayed her. I know on this island, she will also encounter someone from her past. I'd say she has enough to do here.

And yet...there is a woman who keeps appearing in the first scene in the village. A tall, elegant woman, with white hair piled high. Regal in manners. Her name is Adelinde Marquez, and she owns the town brothel. I can picture her clearly, and probably saw her in a painting or a movie, but I don't remember where. In my mind, she has her back toward me and is turning. I see about a third of her face. Haughty and cunning. The closest I can get is a mashup of these two:

"Woman in White" by Alfred Henry Maurer

MyAnna Buring, aka Long Susan in RIPPER STREET

When she first appeared, she was going to try to steal Lisette's gold and trap her into working as one of her putas. But that scene didn't work--a lot of drama and action, but it only got in the way. 

I rewrote the scene and had her help Lisette secure lodging for the night. Nope. Too flat. No bueno.

Then I took Madame Marquez out of the story altogether. It left a big hole, big enough to sail any ship of the Jolly Roger through.

Clearly, she belongs here, but doing what? What am I supposed to do with her?

Journal. I must take time away from Lisette to write Adelinde's story, in Adelinde's voice. As much as I'd rather be working on pirates and dragons, I must first find Adelinde's past, her reasons for being a madam, where she wants to be going in her life. I don't know that she will last beyond this meeting on this island. I only know she is necessary.

And that she vexes me.

Any authors out there with vexing characters? Come on over and share them with me. We can cry in our wine together.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

New digs.

Hold on to your seats, Peeps, I did something wonderful this week.

I got myself an office. In the house.

For years, I have roamed like a nomad through our home. Mostly, I wrote in the family room, laptop on my lap and Turner Classic Movies on, for background noise. Sometimes I would move into the living room. When I was absolutely determined to finish a manuscript, I took it to the dining room or the kitchen, sat at the table, and pounded out 20,000 words in less than a week. 

At one point, I thought perhaps the dining room would make an okay office - we only use the table during the holidays, when we have friends over.

Our house has four bedrooms. One is our master suite. Although he lives in an apartment in Long Beach, Marcus still has a toehold in his old bedroom. I kind of like it when he comes over. The third bedroom is the guest room. I like guests, so I don't want to force them out of anything.

That leaves the fourth bedroom. When we first moved in, we made this our Computer Room. We had two desks with two computers. Marcus had his little Mac (remember those little, cube-ish numbers?), Dale had his computer, and we put my old daybed in there in case we had an overflow of guests. It worked.

Over the years, the computers became obsolete, more computers moved in (they also became obsolete), and the room became known (at least to me) as the Computer Graveyard. Old users manuals and the packaging of video games and learning DVDs stuffed the shelves. Towers were lined up under the desk, and old scanners and printers were atop it. At one point, I gathered up all the cables and hard drives and other kinds of unnamed hardware and put them into Rubbermaid tubs, which I stuffed into the corner.

When I mentioned that I'd like an office and maybe I could turn Marcus' room into one, Dale scowled and said, "Why can't you use the computer room?" (He swears he never said this, but it's what I heard.) Thinking about using the computer room sent me into convulsions. How could I possibly THINK in a room that looks like this?

To be fair, this was the room at its worst.

After cleaning, but I still can't take a picture of the desks - too much stuff!

One afternoon, I was in the garage, sweating my guts out in the summer heat, digging through cardboard boxes on shelves in the corner. I was looking for more copies of THE HOT MESS, and cursing that I had to drag everything out of the way just to get to my book stuff. 

That's when it hit me.

The book stuff, the things I'm always trying to find, are out in the garage and difficult to pull out. The computer room was filled with stuff nobody was ever looking for. 

Why not switch the two?

All clean, except for the FAX machine. Sometime we need to FAX things, oddly enough.

After two days of packing, schlepping, more schlepping, unpacking, more packing, and a wee bit of decorating, I have an office. It's organized, it's quiet, I love it. And it has paid me back in two meaningful ways, in the mere three days that I've had it.

Done! That's my folded laptop on the desk. All of it was Dino approved.

1) I'm more productive. Away from the family room and its distractions, I can put on a little music and write. I've written over 5000 words in two days. I feel more driven to work out a story problem than stop and "take a little break."

2) I'm more organized with my days. I used to have a problem getting any reading done. Writers need to read, in general, and I have friends with books - I'd like to honor them by reading their words. When I was in the family room, I felt like the words I wrote were dribbling from my fingers at a snail's pace. I had no time to read. Now, I can write like a fiend until 7 pm or so, then retire to the family room and open up my Kindle (or a physical book).

So, if you need me, I'll be at my desk. Don't worry - Dino will keep me company.

Anybody need boxes?

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