Forward….

At mass last night, Father Sheridan stated this is a good time to make resolutions for the coming year. [Father said he makes the same one every year, ‘to clean out his refrigerator’, yep, a good laugh for the congregation]  Well.  Maybe.  Liturgically we’ve already started our year. In some cultures the new year began in spring, which makes a lot of sense. I guess we can thank the Gregorian Calendar, and Julius Caesar, for straightening the way we pay attention to how our small ‘blue marble’ goes around our star, Sol.

I think if we could vote, I’d vote for new year in spring. First off, it would be warmer for all the parades. You would not have to wear your entire closet in order to go outside. I’d like that. Okay, I admit it. Cold is not my friend, especially these fifteen and twenty degree temps we are seeing even in NC. A temperature of at least 60? All right, today I’d take 50 degrees.

But here’s the thing, cold does not inspire me to run out and work at anything. I’d be happy to be warm, under a lovely blanket, next to a nice fire, with a brandy or maybe a whiskey, yeah, even a hot chocolate! This is hibernation time. This is bundle up time.

Still. Not a bad time to move forward. I’ve been reading a lot. I picked up Hallie Ephron’s book at the suggestion of a beta reader. And I’m glad I did. It’s not new stuff. I’ve seen it before. I belong to Sisters in Crime. A wonderful organization for the fan as well as for the writer. And through my local chapter of Murder We Write I have had the honor and privilege of knowing Chris Roerden. Actually, one of my stories is cited in this version.

Besides reading about writing a great mystery, I’ve been reading a number of mysteries, just to see how they go through the mystery.  As an aside, I use the North Carolina Digital Library and I use Book Bub to get books for the kindle. One that I recently read was interesting. The mystery was thought out, the settings were realistic, the dialogue was good when it worked. This was an independently published book, the author is Canadian and this matters. Why? Because while the initial setting is in Ottawa and the Canadian aspect of character development is good, [this was published in 2014] there were inconsistencies that took me out of the story. Additionally, the book needed serious editing. One whole chapter was repeated in the first book. The same phrase for emotion was used for three characters, and there were whole sections of the story that gave it length, but added nothing to advance the mystery, the thrill or the suspense. For something written in 2014 there was no use of a cell phone [do they not have them in Canada :)?]

You can learn from the good and the not so good. I already have comments from one beta reader and awaiting from the second. Yay, revision! Good times!

 

Fragile

It has been a different and traumatic new year than the one I envisioned in the most recent post. While it looked pretty ordinary it has turned into something extraordinary.

Tom’s neck trauma has changed our life. I am now proposing only one car, building ramps, engaging home help, buying new beds, and remodeling our bathroom. Some of this was already on my list, most definitely some was not.  Admittedly I am not the best person to be a caregiver; I am impatient. And while I will be Tom’s primary caregiver, I am also his other half, he is my better half.  The impatience is not a result of the speed of our times, this is me, just ask the girls. While I do understand pain, I don’t understand how you don’t just plow through it. Sigh. Yes, I know there are pains you can not plow through.

This makes me think about my writing, the fragility of  emotions,  values and wants of a character. Many of us of, ahem! a certain age do not understand letting feeling rule. For me it is about reason, order, making the best of a situation and always trying to be the best. It is not about what my flaws and failings are, god knows [small g, of course] that they are legion! Yep. I am pretty sure I know them all, and probably a few no one even had an inkling about.

But what about my character? Feelings are important. Yes. But sometimes I feel like I am in a stage drama when I read a story where the wants and needs of the character are insistently on display. Yes, I find it annoying. I get it, but still it is annoying.  A recent quote in the WSJ on Theater states that theater is the act of pretending. True, this article is more about the ‘theater’ of political discourse,  linguist, John McWhorter states, “Nobody is hurt in that immediate, lasting and intolerable way by some words that a person stands up and addresses…to an audience at a microphone.” 

Writing a novel about a character is also an act of pretending. So why do we allow our feelings and that of our characters to be so fragile. Feelings are not hurt by a punch in the stomach, the stomach is. Feelings are not impacted by a fall, nope, it is the bones or in Tom’s case the neck and the spinal cord. We humans are fragile. We can not be pounded, beaten, shot, fall without some damage and that increases as we get older. Yet our feelings probably should not be so fragile if we want to exist in this world, make this whole thing work, this civilization~ laws, government, discourse. We must allow our characters to be themselves, some may emote like a Sarah Bernhardt, and some may be stoic like a, hmmm, this is hard, who recently is stoic?

So, where am I going with this? Hmm. I think I want to be somewhere in-between, with a character that has both feelings and is willing to keep them in, not on display and not emoting.

I think in someways that is Emily Pouverain Delaqua in Becoming the Only. Raised by a grandmother because her mother died when she was three, she is content with being reasonable and rational until her grandmother suddenly dies and her father is arrested for the murder. She is able to keep her emotions in check because she is able to confide in a journal and an imaginary friend, Star Ann. And with those emotions in check she can concentrate on saving her inheritance and finding the real murderer.

Ah, but will it sell.

New Year

On Sunday we enter a new liturgical year. For me this is a better time than the calendar new year to sit and contemplate my goals and objectives, my faith and fortune, my needs and wants. Not really resolution time, more like assessment time.  Assessments are evaluations. Assessments work to estimate the quality, quantity, nature, ability of the something.  So this is more than just my writing. It is my everything.

For purposes of this blog, we will still with the ‘what I do’ not ‘how I live my life’ assessment. It is a common statement ‘do what you love and you will never work a day in your life’. And I was privileged and loved and cherished so that in essence that is how I have spent most of my life. That’s not to say that there was not turmoil~ there was. Or that it was all smooth sailing~ it wasn’t. Or that every second of every day it was butterflies and roses~no!

What is means is that I was always given the option to find my own path, and while I am grateful, I’m not exactly sure if that was a reflection of my early boomer status~ there were few in front of us, or my own personality~ I was really a ‘what me worry?’, or that I was actually that accomplished and aware.  LOL, accomplished maybe, unawareness was a sort of hallmark trait.

So. assessment.

I’m doing more to advance my own writing than ever before. Spending time on it. Attending webinars, programs, conferences. I’m using beta readers to get a sense of how my story is perceived outside of my critique group. And lastly, I am not rushing off to submit. I get that I have submitted too early [although in my defense, it ‘yea, it felt’ right].

It’s hard for me, not to rush in.  I do it well. I solve problems. I am a command person But #amthinking is where I am right now. And as I think forward to 2018, that is a great assessment.

THANK YOU!

We are a day  out from the great and uniquely American holiday, Thanksgiving. We have traditionally gathered. These days it’s one daughter who does the family thing, being the place we all migrate for limited conversations~ because who can discuss politics or just about anything~ complain about the fact that Christmas decorations are in the stores and  truly just enjoy the small ones!

Thanksgiving originated as a harvest festival. It  has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, after Congress requested a proclamation by George Washington. Now it is the fourth Thursday of the month when we gather around a huge roasted bird with side dishes ranging from from dressing-or stuffing, if you prefer, cranberry sauce [jelled or full of whole cranberries] potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes! candied please. Yep. a very unique, great, stressed-filled one of a kind holiday. My favorite has always been cranberries with candied sweet potatoes coming in a very, very close second.

But no. What I want to talk about is ‘giving thanks’. Do you give thanks? ‘Thank you’ when someone holds the door for you? Or  ‘thank you’ when you are handed change? Or thank you when you are waved through a four-way stop? I do. It’s not a reflex. I mean it.

But do I get, ‘you’re welcome’ back? Usually, no. I don’t. What I get is ‘no problem.’ What exactly does that mean? It wasn’t a problem for you to hold the door? It wasn’t a problem for you to hand me my change? Lordy, it was your job! Maybe the person says ‘no problem’ when waving me through a four way stop.

The proper phrase is you are welcome. The no problem response seems sort of lost in translation. A bit casual. An off the cuff response. An over a shoulder comment that is more perfunctory than real.  It is more like I have not inconvenienced the person I thanked.  Again, for the most part it’s their job! 

Okay, a bit more cranky than I should. Time for the grateful list. T

  • Tom, while his health is good, he is facing challenges. I’m grateful that during the time he worked he made sure we were financially secure.
  • Meghan, Greg and, of course, Emmeline.
  • Bayley, Dan and, of course Mia.
    • Who would not be grateful for their children, their children marrying well and for their grand children. Seriously?  I mean. Look at them.

 

 

 

What else?

I am grateful daily for the peace, grace and prayers that help me make it through my day. 

 

What you know….

When I started writing, it was ‘write what you know’.  This has always been a trick question for me~ exactly what do I know? How to tie my shoes? How to get across LA at seven in the morning? [well, maybe not anymore] How to make great gravy?  How to buy Christmas gifts? I know a lot of things. I can be, if warranted, my own trivia course. Sometimes I am even amazed at what I remember, aka ‘know.’

Then it was ‘no stretch yourself’ what about what you would want to explore, about what you would like to do, where you would like to go. And I thought that was wonderful. And it seemed to me at that time we started to see a lot of, well, more and more world building. Whole universes designed to the greater good of what was essentially the same story–either boy loves girl, gets girl, girl becomes powerful, gets boy [lol] or man is ascendent to a throne but nobody, everybody wants to stop him. It didn’t matter if it was a love story, a thriller, an adventure, a mystery or a combination of all of them. Go ahead, stretch yourself!

Now if feels as if we are back to write what you know, with the added caveat of ‘how dare you!’ if you write outside what you know, and that means color and culture. A recent blog I visited spoke of all the white gatekeepers in publishing stoping the needed diversity. I was moderate, stating there are not new gatekeepers in the pipeline who are of a diverse background, i.e., people of color, marginalized voices, to take the place of those in position. I thought that maybe education, the opening of the mind, the possibility that there was a career in being a scrivener, that this is a hard slog for anyone wanting to publish.

First off I was told the author had a Ph.D., I am still unsure what that means, I have a masters. So? I was told it wasn’t education, because that was just another code word for system. And the system limits your interactions and holds you back from finding positions in an all white world.

I was told that I needed to ‘ponder’ the idea that marginalized voices are being held back purposefully by white gatekeepers, and I wonder at the self righteous anger, the victimization of their writing and the need to hold others accountable.

I wonder if these people know the editors and agents I do, the ones who continually go to conferences, SCBWI of course, who go through slush piles, who find those marginalized voices, hire sensitivity readers, and work to put out to the world stories that are important and necessary to everyone. I wonder if they ever saw Chimamanda Adichie in her ted talk on The Danger of A Single Story.

I come from the generation, while not me personally, walked the streets for equality, were chastised by fire hoses, jail, killings, and who were told “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  and “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

I believed him. My dad preached the same message to us, not in front of a huge crowd, just at the dinner table. I too thought we were all created equal, that is what I read in my Baltimore Catechism! there was no caveat for color or ethnicity. Not made, not kept, but created. I thought that it didn’t matter what color your skin, were you honest, generous, giving, truthful.  I believed. Yeah, this little white girl from the San Fernando Valley in Southern California with freckles across her nose and dark red hair. And so did my parents, a lovely white couple from Scranton Pennsylvania, of Irish heritage who understood what discrimination meant~ they were not that far removed from the time of ‘no Irish need apply’ and “no catholics hired’.

And, I thought we had made progress.  Here, I’ll say this true, true for me, because each person’s truth lies in their values, morals and ethics.  I don’t believe Donald Trump made us more racist. And I believe that  Mr. Obama, not made,  just took advantage.

I am pretty positive that when, under what ever administration it was, we moved from being a melting pot of immigrants who came to this country to be a part of the ‘the great American experiment,’ agreed, nay took an oath, to follow the laws,  learn the language, participate in the civil, cultural and political life of this country and leave behind what was their native culture moving to the reality that this was now their home, in the physical, political and, yeah, even metaphysical sense and they accepted this home as it was, bringing the richness of their former lives to enhance ours we lost. When we became a ‘salad bowl‘ with millions in our country without the benefit of that oath, that commitment, that willingness to be a part, well, we, Americans and America,  lost big time.

We have places that no longer follow our, yes OUR laws, who no longer believe that we were, are, that place where freedom rings. Still brings a swell to my heart to hear that. We are no longer that melting pot. We no longer believe in that truth~if you listen to the blogs, pundits, news, cable, even TV shows~ sigh and how they disappoint in presenting one side of a political discussion. It is a discussion, you know. A discussion we have had since the first words were penned on the US Constitution.

I think, believe that if those of you canting about equality and justice truly understood the meaning of the words, that we are created equal then perhaps you would not be so angry and so quick in seeking to blame others.

To paraphrase Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, memory is tyrannical~~ This is what I know. This is what I write.