Wednesday, June 30, 2010

S P E L L I N G . . .

I consider myself a pretty durn good speller. However, there are some words that trip me up every time, and with those words I have to play little games with myself. Some of those games have finally finally led me to the correct spelling without that tripping up. Most are my own made up games; however, one like the Principal/Principle I heard from somewhere or other so I know what to do when writing about the school principal versus the principle of the thing (the principal is my pal).

There’s separate—seems easy enough of a word, but I’d hesitate on it. Two a’s or one? Until I began saying to myself as I typed it: Sep – AR – Rate. Problem solved!

Shampaine, although I can’t imagine a time when I couldn’t spell champagne – oops! Ha! I just hesitated on the word until I thought in my head: sham – pag – nee. Haw!

What about obsess? – Hey! I just did it! Although I usually obsess over how many ssss’ss there are in obsess. Success—two c’s, two ss’s – this I know, but I suppose if I didn’t, I’d say in my head: Suck-Cess, teehee.

Accommodate: yup, two c's, two m's! Tomorrow Tomorrow I love ya Tomorrow - you have one M and two R's! These things I know. But sometimes the more simple the word, the more I second guess myself. Huhn.

Many of us may have words we stumble or hesitate over. Of course, if we’re writing in Word, our computer may fix it for us. But in twitter or facebook or commenting or . . . well, there just may be those times when we need to know how to spell something and spelling it correctly would be awfully nice.

What about you? What word(s) trip you up? How do you deal with it/remember to spell it right? Or, like me, are there some words you obsssesss about and can’t ever seem to remember to spell correctly?

(Be sure to visit Dr. Mahmutovic - he's on Blog Tour for his new release "Thinner than a Hair" and I am one of this stops *smiling*)
cartoon image

Update! hey - there's a place called "The Spelling Blog" - (see comments below) She gives tips and ideas for the whys and hows of spelling, et cetera

Monday, June 28, 2010

Guest Today & Books Give Away

Today my guest is Adnan Mahmutovic. He is on blog tour for his new release "Thinner than a Hair."

I first met Adnan years back when I worked as a senior editor at the Rose & Thorn, before Angie and I became co-publishing editors. He wrote, and I edited, a beautiful story, "Integration Under the Midnight Sun," that captured my imagination as well as my respect for his literary gifts in writing and poetry (and he now has made a short film). Adnan lives in Sweden, so we have never met face-to-face, but I consider him to be one of my most trusted and valued friends and colleagues. It's only a matter of time before he is discovered for the talented author/poet/filmmaker he is.

I should now call him Dr. Mahmutovic! I will have to get used to that!

A little more about Dr. Adnan Mahmutovic: Adnan Mahmutović (1974-) is a Bosnian Swede, a homely exile who teaches immigrant literature at Stockholm University in daytime, and works with people with mental disorders at night.

Adnan left Bosnia and settled in Sweden in 1993. He has worked with people with different kinds of disabilities for thirteen years. In May 2010, he took his PhD in English literature at Stockholm University where he teaches a course on Love and its discontents.

I invite you to get to know Adnan. Look around his website. Read his book: be forwarned--they are intense and pull no punches!

Today I'm giving away three books as a package: Adnan's new release Thinner than a Hair, and a bonus copy of his first collection "Refuge," and as well, I am giving away a copy of my book Secret Graces ---all three books together as one give away.

To win all three books, here is what you must be the First Person to do in the comments section -- in one comment tell me:

Go to Adnan's website and tell me what is the name of his other book of fiction (hint: there is a tab called "books" on his homepage) AND go to my website and tell me what "old mountain song" lyrics I have included as part of the excerpt from the SWEETIE novel (hint: there is a SWEETIE tab on my home page)

Good Luck! First person to give me the correct answers in one comment wins all three books!

UPDATE: Hi y'all - Marisa Birns is the winner of the books so CONGRATS Marisa!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Extended Day Off: Give away on Monday

I had such a good time Friday, I extended my day off through the weekend! So, I'll be back to work on Monday.

I want to stop in to let you all know that Adnan Mahmutovic's new book "Thinner Than a Hair" is released and he is on Blog Tour. So tomorrow, I am going to have some sort of Give Away. Adnan is a beautiful writer and a good friend. He's a "Bosnian turned Swede" and teaches at the University of Sweden.

Friday I jogged/ran 5 1/2 miles- my personal best! That set up the day for energy, and calorie deficits *laughing* Then GMR and I drove to Asheville where we ate lunch at Atlantic Bread Company - they have sandwiches with fresh "homemade" bread and with all its windows, it's a nice bright place to eat. After that, we tooled around here and there; I touched and oohed and ahhed over things and here and there purchased a little something or other. We then drove back to Haywood County and to Main Street Waynesville, where we walked around the sweet little main street; I had my Ketel One and tonic and something else to eat. We tottered around; I admired this/that. We then drove out of our way to the Dairy Queen because all those commercials about Blizzards had me wanting one - I ate an entire Strawberry Cheesequake Blizzard: it had chunks of strawberry and cheesecake in it! It was worth the "ohhhhh my gawd I'm gonna be sick" feeling *haw*

My day off sounds pretty durn boring, but it was just that "tootle around as we go, la la la tee dah" feeling that I needed.

I fiddle dee dee'd around yesterday, too. And today I'm going to la tee dah again today. I think this extended "day off" will refresh me for the work I need to do next week. Ahhh!

Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend. Adnan and I will see you tomorrow where I'll figure out what to do for the book give aways. I have a copy of Adnan's "Thinner" and I'm considering pairing it with another book or books.

Now, on to finish my coffee...ahhhh.

What are you doing this weekend? Relaxing or working?

(photo image - my brother Tommy's and my shadows)

Friday, June 25, 2010


Me: I'm thinking of taking a day off tomorrow.

The sky rips open and a light beams through . . .

GMR: Huh? . . . did you say . . . *trails off ... knows his wife has said this before*

Me: I have a craving for a Panini or some kind of good sandwich, and ice cream - or gelato!

GMR: I could prepare those for you! And I could go to the store and get ice cream! *he starts to make a list--GMR makes lists -- Kat does not make lists*

No no GMR, food on the street, food in restaurants or diners or little holes in the wall; food that comes from people we don't know, food that is ordered and served, where little tickets are handed out at the end and you pull out cash or credit cards to pay for it! - OUT THERE kind of food!

Me: Yes, yes you could make a list and check it twice . . . Orrrrrrrr . . . we could actually GO OUTSIDE!


GMR: You want to. . . ? You want to go outside . . . !

ME . . . . Go out in the world out there . . . you know, that big huge teeming round ball of LIFE! We could walk down mainstreet Waynesville, or go to Asheville, or both! We could eat out and then get ice cream! People are out there! Real Live People! What am I missing *kat looks out of the window* - what's out there? What's going on? Oh! oh! I'll leave all this sitting here-my laptop, my stories, my characters, my deadlines! SOMEWHERRRRRE OVER THE RAINBOW!...LA LA LAAAAA!

Clouds are parting, sun is shining, rainbows are somewhere . . . and somewhere over them is . . .

GMR: *blinks* . . . You want to do that! .... ? ....*he's still not sure it's going to happen*

Me: Yes! I'm realizing how much of a work-aholic I am! I never thought I was before, because every job I've ever had I H A T E D! Detested. Bored out of my mind. I've always been a hard worker, but never a Work-A-Holic! Wow! Huhn. So this is what a workaholic does--they never take a danged day off! They never stop working. They never stop THINKING ABOUT WORK....on and on and on and on it goes! *pant pant pant* I'm STRETCHED THIN! . . . *pant*

GMR: We could do *this and that and whatever else he says or maybe he didn't say anything and it's only my mind going we could do this and that I can't remember or else I am not really sure since my brain is weird* He puts away his list. But he is making lists in his head.

Me: Yes, I think I'm a little tired, need a day to do nuffin! I've been reading signs wrong you know.

GMR: Huhn?

Me: In front of that church we walk by at Lake J, I saw "Apartheid" and the word was really "Ampitheater" and driving down Soco Road, at the florist shop, I saw "Burgers" when the sign read "Flowers" and stuff like that - a's been happening A Lot!

GMR: *doesn't answer because he never knows how to answer stuff about my strange black hole weird brain besides, he's still making lists in his head*

ME: So...yeah...a day off. A good sandwich, maybe some fries! Some ice cream or gelato! Yeah. A day off! A day off . . . imagine that.

GMR & KAT walking off into the sunrise, sunset on A Day Off to see that ROUND BALL OF PEOPLE OUT THERE -real live people!. . . *cue music* . . .

BUT WAIT . . . who is that little shadowed figure to the left, above them! Oh dear . . . is it one of Kat's characters come to follow her? Can she really really take a day off? Can she? Oh oh can she....

(photos are my own photograhs - sky photos taken from airplane-shadows at oregon beach)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"A picture's worth a thousand words"

As writers, we create images that places pictures in a reader's mind. If we see an object, a person, a place, a thing, we can take our "thousand words" and create the scene(s) beyond the image, and as well, we create thought and character and mood and scene to attach to the images.

A rose is a rose is a rose in a photo, but: Who took the photo of the rose; who stands behind the camera, and why that rose? Who tended the garden of this rose, loved it, cared for it? Will a finger be pricked by its thorn and draw blood? Will the rose be plucked from the garden and given to someone, or put on a grave, or placed in a vase in someone's kitchen, or taken far away from its home. Will the rose grow older, begin to brown at its edges, and finally, all the petals all to the ground, gone. Will next spring and summer, the rose return--again and again--always without fail the rose returns. The rose is the most beautiful it has ever been and will never be again and it knows it, uses its beauty to its advantage. The rose is among so many other roses, how will it ever be noticed? The rose is; that is how it will be.

These images here today can speak for themselves or you can create the words, the story, behind them. I am now going to go work on SWEETIE. Deadline approaches fast for Melissa and Sweetie's story, which will be released this November (and for those of you who ask about The Graces Saga III - it is scheduled to be released next summer). Enjoy your day!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Who is your character? (How We Write.)

Here’s a secret: I don’t have a clue what Virginia Kate’s favorite flavor of ice cream is. If I thought about it, maybe I’d have her go into the ice cream parlor and she’d step up to the counter and she’d order a . . . *kat thinks* . . . chocolate dipped cone. There. She doesn’t like pistachio like I do. She’d eat strawberry, though, yeah; we both like strawberry with real chunks of strawberries in there.

Sometimes authors make detailed “character sketches.” They know their characters so well, up to the minutetednest detail—their favorite foods, their favorite movies, how they look from the top of their head to the souls of their feet—every detail about their physical appearance. They know every like and dislike, every nuance, every place the character has been or worked or gone to school, etc etc etc.

When I first began writing fiction, I thought there was This Way I was supposed to write and think and do and be, and if I wasn’t This Way, then I wasn’t a Real Writer. I might as well have put thick gloves on my hands and tried to write that way. For thinking “what we are supposed to do” versus “what is comfortable and real and instinctual” for us creates boundaries where there should be free space.

For me personally, when it comes to character, I learned I have to discover my character(s) as I write, and even in that discovering, just as it is with meeting real people, I never know every detail about them, and may never ever know every detail. Even now, with two Virginia Kate (Graces) books written, I am still discovering who Virginia Kate is. If I have an ice cream scene, that’s when I find out what flavor she chooses and likes (chocolate dipped cone or Strawberry! Now I know!). Maybe she’ll talk about her favorite movie and then again, maybe she doesn't have one or doesn't know herself or doesn't care. I know she loves books, and has a special place for her Black Stallion and Black Beauty books, but what does she read as an adult? Well, I don’t know yet. She hasn’t had time to read because she’s going through her families’ archives (their letters, journals, photos) and storytelling their lives.

Writers love to give advice—heck, that’s what I’m doing here. We do it because we want to tell you “it’s all okay; really!;” we want to support you and help you; we want to give you guidance; we want to perhaps make things a bit easier on you where we had to muddle our way through; and we want to talk about the craft, the language, because it is important to us and we love it so.

How you write; how the process is for you is an individual decision. If you like to discover your character as you go along, or if you like to write detailed character descriptions, or somewhere in between—who can tell you/us which is “right or wrong” because no way is “right or wrong.” If you read how a writer does his or her thing and then you try to duplicate that and in that trying to duplicate you hit wall after wall—your character becomes wooden, or doesn’t seem real to you, or something just isn’t right about this character dang it all!—then take off the gloves and feel the flexing of your own fingers, the feel of the keys, the freedom of ungloved hands.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ain't they sweet? Mini Me's and all...

This is my nephew's girlfriend, and my great neice and great nephew, and me . . . in Louisiana. Aren't the kids cute?

and what is this look on Norah Kathryn's face? Laughing!

Bed Head! This morning, GMR said "Now I know where Norah Kathryn gets her hair..." I said, Huhn? He laughed and said, "Your hair looks just like hers in that picture you showed me where she's in her stripped pj's . . ."

And upon inspection, it did *laugh*

The looks on Norah Kathryn's faces above -priceless!

I love love this photo of Norah Kathryn- it's like a mini-me!
Lil Boop! Just like her granny kat!


Friday, June 18, 2010

Staying our Hand (letting the unsaid words speak loud in our manuscripts)

There comes a time—maybe as you become older, or more settled—that you learn to, well, just Shut the Hell Up. When I was younger, I felt I had to say what I had to say and if I didn’t say it, I felt I’d just explode with all the unsaid words I needed to say. It was as if I’d eaten a HUGE meal and needed to vomit it out—the physical sensation of discomfort was real. Open mouth—Baalauuggghhh! I felt I needed to be Understood. And to be Understood, I needed to release lots of words.

But, as I grew older, I began to see the wisdom in holding back, waiting, weighing the words a little better and if they were heavy enough, and if I needed to release those weighted words, then I would, and all the superfluous or empty or light words would dissolve away. Or, as I found, sometimes even the heavy words needed pruning away. I would not explode if I didn’t get rid of all the words. I could sometimes not say anything at all and that said more than any words could. A simple action, a simple look, a simple walking away, a simple white space of time can say more than words can.

There is the considering, even in anger. I never regret this. If it’s important enough, it will find its way to be said, and if I do it smartly, then the importance of the message comes through better and more effective/affective than if I’d just spewed out all these words words words—the message mixed up in a bunch of blah blah blah blah blah blah blah me me me me you you you blah bleah blork bleep bloop.

The same kind of thing happens with writing. Sometimes I have to stay my hand. Luckily, in writing one can delete words -unlike in real life when words are out, they are out, and can't be taken back, can't be deleted. Lucky writers! We have the power to UnDo the doing!

If I don’t stay my hand in the first draft, I will go in and get rid of words. Sometimes lots of words. It becomes easier and easier to do this. It wasn’t always so, for just as I said above, I felt if I didn’t get out all those words words words, I’d explode. Oh sure, I’d heard “kill all your darlings,” and the like, but while the concept made sense, I found I wasn’t really doing that so much, not as much as I thought. I’d read my work and think, “But that HAS to stay in there;” or, “but if I take that out, the reader may not understand;” or maybe I just had fun saying it--whee! Look what I wrote! How fun! How cool is that? ooooo~!

Now I better understand. I better understand that if I look at something, and I mean really look at it, pause on it, skip on it, think about it, then it may be something I need to take out because I am NOTICING it. I better understand that I don’t have to give the reader every little thought or every little nuance. I better understand that sometimes the unsaid things are as effective/affective as the said things. Sometimes saying/writing something simply, or not saying/writing it at all, speaks louder.

Sometimes the staying of my hand comes with who is narrating the story. When I wrote the first Virginia Kate book, Tender Graces, it begins with VK as an adult and she slips back into time to storytell her life and her family’s life. When Virginia Kate is a young girl, I wanted to keep her voice in the age she was in and slowly let her grow up, and as she did, slowly let her voice/the language change to reflect her growing up. Many times I wanted to say something in one way (beause it was easier, or frankly and honestly, because it sounded lovely-oh the manipulation of language! *pant pant*!), and then I'd have to realize it was too sophisticated, too grown up, for a young girl to say and I'd have to remember who my character is --forget my ego and tell the truth of the character.
It meant sacrificing a little—staying my hand—creating a world of a young girl with “not so sophisticated language.” In Secret Graces, VK is older, and I felt freer with "grown up" language; although, VK has her own way of speaking and I'm not allowed to slip in my own way of speaking. It is her story, after all. She is the storyteller.

When we write, we have to let go of our ego, and sometimes that may be difficult, because we may not always be aware of our ego. But I believe the more we write, the more we understand ourselves and our style (and characters and their voices), the more practice we have, the more we mature as writers, the more we let our characters be who they are and not worry about how we are sounding as writers, then the better our books/stories will be--and this doesn't mean "perfectly written masterpieces" because we are human and we aren't perfect - this means TRUTHs. And everyone recognizes Truths.

That's all we can really do as writers: Be honest, and, forget our egos. Everything else is subjective.

Now, I’ve said too much.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Conversationus Interruptus . . .Living with this writer & her weirdness . . .

Picture it: Summer, 2010, a pleasant afternoon. A man and woman, husband and wife as it turns out to be, are sitting on the couch, watching television. The man watches the images. The woman seems to be doing so, but if one were to come closer . . . closer . . . one would see a glaze to the eyes, an inward glossiness, a far and away deepness. But, if not upon close inspection, there is simply a husband and wife watching television. And so it goes thusly:

During a commercial, GMR says: “. . . something something something . . .”

Me: Looking startled and slightly indignant, says, “Huhn…what? . . . What did you say . . .” and she is stretched tight in her brain, synapses ground to a faltering halt, and thinks, how RUDE of him to interrupt! But then she catches herself—interrupt? Wait . . . wait . . . the room rearranges, the synapses snap crackle pop, there is a click, a whir, the living comes into full focus. GMR is there, with that wiped clean expression.

GMR says, nonchalant, something to the effect of, “Never mind.”

I say, “No no, what did you say? What was it?”

“It was nothing.”

Me: *sigh* - “just tell me what you said; I’m listening” –I don’t add, “Now” because I wasn’t listening before. In fact, I know I heard a mumble mumble something something coming from a few feet away, but I was listening to another conversation. One that GMR could not hear or know about.

For you see, GMR sees two people in the room: Himself. Me.

I “see” more than two in the room and am following a conversation that goes on only in my pea-headed brain. It could be a couple characters talking something out. It could be I’m watching some bit of flash of action and then images slide by in a series of boom boom booms. It could be I’m standing among the characters as they blah blah blah didity boom de blah. Whatever is going on, only I can hear it and it is sometimes unordered and chaotic. Sometimes the images are wild and uncontrolled and other times it is an actual full-fledged conversation working out between two "people." And, it happens more times than GMR realizes, or for that matter, maybe other people I interact with realize.

GMR simply doesn’t see the others in the living room.

And while I’m listening to the characters or watching the images of those who are unreal (but sort of surreally-real to me), and GMR says something, it is as jarring as though I were standing in a room of people and we were conversing or I was listening to someone talking and GMR walked right up and tapped me on the shoulder and began yappity do dah daying! There is the flash of irritation, the moment of “how rude!” the startled feeling of having to tear one’s thoughts away from what has one’s attention and bring it round to something or someone else.

To explain how real these inner worlds can become at certain times would perhaps cause GMR hesitation, a pause, a looking askance at the being his wife is and think, “Who and just what is this person I married? She hears voices? She imagines people in the room?”
But his real question I think instead may be, “Where do I fit in with all of this? All of these, these . . . these people and places and things she has swirling in her brain? Where am I in all of this?”

And the answer to that question is startling. The answer to that question is . . .

. . . too complicated to answer.

Or is it? I must consult the Others. Ask them what they think . . . am I kidding? Ah, I’ll not tell! Haha! But, perhaps I do not want to admit the answer? Perhaps the answer picks at my innards with a pinch.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Story of Mr. Shitter's Skull (and how GMR lives with a life of weirdness)

While walking the dogs in the cove one day without GMR, I passed a pile of leaves with something white sticking out. I backtracked and kicked at the leaves, and there among them was—A Skull! Wow! Without hesitation (that hesitation is what normal people feel, I guess, in these situations), I picked up a stick and poked it through the eye holes and continued my walk. All the while, humming away, la tee dah. If anyone looked out of their window, they’d see a grinning wild-haired woman (because that woman never brushes her hair unless she has to leave the cove and go into "town") brandishing a skull on a stick, two dogs at her sides, and her pockets bulging with who knows what (rocks, feathers, bark, buckeye seed . . .)

Once at home, I call to GMR, “Come see! Come see! Look what I found!” Now, about this time, GMR is on alert. Oh oh. What has my wife found? Already inside the little log house are rocks, bark, a hornet’s nest, pieces of bark or wood that looked interesting to his wife, a jar filled with buckeye seeds with two big feathers sticking out of it, and various other “natural elements.” The porch has rocks, small stumps, a large piece of bark that looks like a prehistoric fish, and other thingamajigs found on walks in the cove and woods. "Hurry, come see!" I repeat.

GMR walks out the door, and I say, “Mr. Shitter’s Skull! Mr. Shitter’s Skull!” I’m holding the stick with the skull attached, grinning my fool head off.

GMR looks at the skull and says, “Wow!” Of course his “Wow!” isn’t as enthusiastic as mine, but he at least tries to pretend it's exciting. That his wild-haired fool-grinning skull brandishing wife isn't off the deep end, but just how she is.

I say, again, “It’s Mr. Shitter’s Skull!”

GMR says, “Well, okay! Yeah . . .” pause . . . he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I say, “There’s that scene in the Sweetie book were Sweetie talks about how she buries her cat and later finds the head, the skull, and so she hangs it over the door of her cabin. I just happened to be working on that scene the other day! What a coincidence that I’d find my own Mr. Shitter’s skull! It’s WEIRD! It’s PERFECT! It’s KISMET! It’s a strange coincidence!”

GMR nods, his face in neutral, “Yeah it sure is!” Then I wonder if he means ME being a strange coincidence. Huhn! I say, “We got to hang it up! Like Sweetie did!”

Now GMR still has that neutral look. I say, “Outside, though, since that’s what Sweetie did.” The relief in GMR’s eyes was kind of pitiful, you know? That the skull wouldn't be InSide.

So, he finds a spot, “Here?” I say, “Hmmm,” he tries another, “Here?” “Hmmm,” … “Here?” Yeah, that’ll do. I think that’s a good spot. I thought over the door like Sweetie, but this is okay…yeah.

Hammer hammering, and GMR soon has Mr. Shitter’s skull hung up on the logs of the little log house. I pass it every time I go down the steps, or up the steps, as you would if you were to come visit me in my little cove. You’d head up our stairs, and something white would catch your eye and you’d turn your head to the right and there it’d be—Mr. Shitter’s skull staring at you.

Just now, I paused in my typing, here in my “study” where I write, and in this room I see the eclectic mix of who GMR is, who I am, and then who we both are. There are things from New Orleans, there are lots of cd’s and LP's, there are many books on the shelves (including mine!), and there are rocks and pebbles and pieces of bark, and pictures of family, and leather chairs, and soft throw, gifts I’ve received from readers and friends that made their way in here.

And, looking at these things, and thinking about all the things I’ve “collected,” sometimes I imagine I die and GMR remarries and the woman comes up to the little log house and stares around in horror at all the “Natural” elements I have around, and especially she stares in horror at the hornet’s nest and even more at Mr. Shitter’s skull. And as GMR packs up his Kat’s rocks and bark and hornet’s nest and skull and tree stumps and et cetera, he knows his life will never be the same. There will be order and normal, a little less craziness, a little more boredom and regulardom. Yes, that’s what I think. Of course.

I think I will be missed.


Next up: when GMR thinks there are TWO people in the room, when there are actually Four or Five people in the room.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Wieners Experiment (& the weirdness that is my house)

I use cheap chicken wieners to train our dogs. For example, when out for a walk, I carry slices of wieners and when we pass other dogs, especially little dogs, I give Big Dog Jake a slice, unless he acts out and then he gets a No! Little Psycho Girl Maggie gets a slice, too, because she now expects it when we pass those dogs *laugh* Big Dog Jake gets all huffy if a little dog lunges at him and since he is HUGE and has BIG FAT TEETH and doesn’t realize his own strength and ferocity of those teeth, I am training him that when he acts polite, no matter how the other dog acts, he gets a wiener slice. These slices are kept wrapped in a paper towel that I keep in my pocket or hold in my hand.

So, one day I reached into a pocket of my jacket and found an at first unidentified hard dark colored thing. It took me a while to recognize it for what it was: a dried up wiener slice, and I identified it -- by smell! That made my mind to go whirr whirr whirr.

So, I stuck a wiener slice on the inside of the window sill. Later, that wiener slice was gone. I asked GMR, “Did you remove a wiener slice from the window sill?” (Yes, in my house, living with me, those kinds of questions are asked). He answered, “Um, yeah . . .” careful now, he is thinking, “I thought it had just kind of fell or jumped up there or something . . . um . . .” GMR’s looking confused now, thinking, Is this a trick? What's the Right Answer to this puzzle that is my wife? I said, “I put it there; I was doing an experiment.” GMR: “Oh . . . okay . . .” and because he is used to his wife’s craziness and weirdness he didn’t even ask, What experiment? or maybe unlike ME, he just doesn’t care or isn’t interested in the intricacies and mysteries and wonders of Life! And Wiener Slices! Annnywayyy . . .

I cut another wiener slice and put it on the sill, this time sure that GMR would leave it alone. Days passed. I forgot about it until I glanced up and saw my slice. It had turned darker, and more rubbier—but here is the thing! It still smelled the same! It still smelled like the same wiener slice it had smelled of when I took it out of the package.

Now, my friends, we all know that if you put a piece of meat, or egg, or spill some milk, or any protein like that on a windowsill, and it sits there in the heat and open elements, it is NOT going to smell like it smelled fresh from the fridge—it is going to stink to high-heaven. Not so with the wiener. That wiener still kept its bouquet of Wiener days after, and then, two days after that, as the wiener slice sat on the counter (GMR must have passed it soooo many times and dared not move it from the spot in case there was some existential reason his wife put it there, some mad writer thing that made her keep a wiener slice on the windowsill and then the counter . . .) and it still smells the same: like wiener!

Why would we eat such things? Such things that do not decompose? But instead stay near the same, but even worse, become harder and darker and rubbier even though they still SMELL like they were when fresh—that would be in our stomachs! Eyeww! Of course, even though I am a Flexitarian (you can ask if you don't know what this is), I now have the urge for a big honking hot dog with plenty of onions, mustard, and hot dog chili—huhn.

So, next time you eat a wiener, you can think of this post. Fourth of July is coming—so…yeah…remember remember remember - teeheehee.

PS – As I photographed my wiener, GMR asked in amazement, “Don’t tell me you’re going to blog about that dead wiener?” Um . . . Do you even KNOW me, GMR? Do you even KNOW me?

Next up in this Mad House--"Mr. Shitter's Head" . . .

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Turning your manuscript on its head and shaking it to see what falls out

If I were to place here the original Virginia Kate document, you would not recognize our girl. The words you read may be nice, and you may even say, “Hey, I like that woman.” But, it would not be Virginia Kate.

The very first paragraph of the original document is thus:

Beginnings and endings, sometimes the line between them is blurred. I am feeling lazy, lying in bed watching the wind blow the gauzy curtains in a languid waltz. I listen to the surf roar out my name, daring me to swim against its waves. The contradictions of my senses make me feel alive. Hoping for the profound hidden in the mundane, I want to set this day apart, just like I’ll do the one after this, and the next, for as long as it lasts.

The surf? Swim against its waves? What? How can there be surf and waves? Where is VK’s holler? And that’s not how VK talks. Who/where is that? Why's she in bed anyway? And if you read a bit further, you'd see the word: specialness --Oh Dear! Did I really write "specialness" -erk, bleah *blush* *laughing* And if I remember correctly, I think VK is dying in this version. Oh!

While I was writing the first draft of the VK novel, I liked what I was writing—most of the words, that is. VK was more contemporary, which isn’t a bad thing, but it wasn't VK. And the entire novel was written from an Adult Point of View, and not, as in Tender Graces (and to some degree in Secret Graces), letting VK’s voice “grow up." And sure, that was fine, but . . . something nagged at me; something wasn’t right . . . until I let VK began speak to me in her own voice, not the one I manufactured for her.

In hindsight I see how I was writing what I thought I was supposed to write and not what I wanted to write, what I was "called" to write for that character.

Sometimes if we are stuck or if something “just isn’t right” we have to do something drastic and bold—even if that means a whole lotta work to our manuscripts.

Once I found “the real voice of Virginia Kate” the changes and deleting and rewriting came quickly. I was excited, and happy, and I felt my VK was at last “home;” I felt the lightbulb blaze bright in a sudden clarity of light and “This is IT! Yes!”

Don’t be afraid to go in and rework your manuscript, even if it is unrecognizable with what you thought it would/should be. Would my first version have been published? Maybe, but I’m doubtful. Likely, my angst and stops and starts and puzzlement that things just didn’t feel “right” would continue to carry over into the work making it stilted and "just not quite there," so that probably would have stalled the query process and final outcome.

That moment of AHA! was the moment VK became Real and True. And if I’d have ignored that, or if I’d have thought, “But I can’t re-write all this—it’s so much WORK! I’ve written thousands and thousand of words (I had) Oh dear!,” then my Virginia Kate would not Be.

Listen listen listen to those urging voices. If you are having trouble with your manuscript, don’t be afraid to take your manuscript and turn it on its head and shake it out to maybe, just perhaps, find some other Truth to your character(s) and story and setting and voice and tone. It may very well be your AHA! moment. It may very well be the turning point for you.

Have you ever turned your manuscript/story on its head and shaken it to see what falls out?

(PS - I don't look for reviews and rarely read them; however, I saw this one from BOOKLOVE -a review of Secret Graces, and it is such a lovely review, insightful, that I thought I'd post the link: SG Review at Booklove )

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Zumba--in the Community of a Whole

GMR and I go to the gym twice a week—Waynesville Recreational Center. Those two days are our “long workout” days. Most times, we’ll walk the dogs first, and that could be anywhere up to forty minutes of walking. Then we head off to the gym where I’ll jump on the treadmill for a jog of 2 – 3 miles, then some light weights, and then some yoga. GMR does this thing in the weight room, treadmill, or whatever.

Then, we head off to Zumba class. It’s this low-impact class—the one we take is anyway. From a Zumba site they explain it as: “Is a fusion of Latin and International music that creates a dynamic, exciting, and effective fitness system.”

While zumba-ing, I sometimes watch the others. In this class, most of us are women, but there are a few men. And except for occasions, most of us are at least over forty, and I know one woman there is over eighty, as she’s said her age (and she looks in her sixties!). Another may be older than that.

The way we move says a lot about us. If we are shy and reserved, or bigger than life, or somewhere in between. Some women, when we are to shake our hips or do a sort of belly dance, will just get to going, hips swaying and wriggling all over the place; while others are more awkward and stiff. The men make me laugh sometimes, as they try to do the hip movements—women, especially those who’ve had child(ren) are looser in the hips, more fluid than the men’s stiffer hips. But, seeing those men with their concentrated faces as they try so hard, well, it just makes me grin, but as well, I’m proud of them for at least trying and not doing the “I’m too manly for this;” gotta love em! We have one woman who had to have been a dancer--every move she makes is grace personified. I love watching her--it's beautiful.

I watch rhythm too. Some of us have natural rhythm, swaying or kicking or stepping or Hava-nagila-ing with flair, moving in tune to the beat. And some, well, some are always off-beat, one note off, or two, their arms and legs flailing at times, and whether they care or not says a lot about them. Stand tall and find your own rhythm and beauty! And sometimes there is a guest who comes and just can’t get into the beat, can’t get the steps, can’t seem to fit in at all, and instead of coming back and trying again, we never see them again. Too bad.

There is a “very old woman” who Zumbas at the front of the class. I watch her from time to time. She can’t do the steps as exaggerated and energetic as most of us can, but she makes these very tiny little moves and I want to say "You go!" When she wasn’t in the class a few days, I asked after her—that’s the thing, you grow these attachments to people and worry when they aren’t there (she's on vacation, I found out). For example, there is one woman who was always so funny and lively and cracking jokes about when her husband came home from the oil rig (or wherever he was) she was going to be skinnier for him. Last I heard, her husband was going to be home in a few days and I haven’t seen her since. What happened? Did he come home and tell her to stop taking the class? Are they just spending the time he has home together? Did something happen to her?

One day the instructor said, “Everyone, keep your thoughts on so and so, she has just lost her father.” And everyone in the class, in whatever their way is, thought of this woman, and all those thoughts carried on the wind to her, at least I like to think so.

I like the idea of us wondering about each other. As we do here on the blogs. Someone disappears or is ill or is having a hard time, and everyone asks, “Where/how is so and so? Are they okay?” We are thought after with care and concern.

This comforts me—this sense of community. This Whole.

This Zumba class has brought me out of my cocoon, where I tend to hide and huddle as I write my books and stories. And, where we live isn't a neighborhood in the sense of regular neighborhoods--living in a mountain cove isn't like living in the burbs. And, even the act of running on the treadmill is solitary, as are my weights and yoga. But with Zumba, I laugh, I kick up my heels, I act silly, I jump around the room, I roll my hips. People say, “Good morning Kat!” and I say, “Morning!” “How are you?” “Great! You?” and connections are formed. One side of the room closer than the other side, as we have our little community neighborhood huddles.

It’s a good thing. Good for me. Good for my body, my bones and muscles and heart. Good for my insides, too.

And what about you? Do you have a “community” like this?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Behind the Wizard's Curtain

Cowardly Lion: I *do* believe in spooks, I *do* believe in spooks. I do, I do, I do, I *do* believe in spooks, I *do* believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do, I *do*!

Wicked Witch of the West: Ah! You'll believe in more than that before I'm finished with you.

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and Friends quake and quiver and stare in respectful awe at The Great Wizard. The curtain hasn’t yet been thrown back to show the little old man who hides behind a great fiery bravado.

Dorothy: It really was no miracle.

Once the man behind the curtain is revealed, the magic and mystery is gone. The man is exposed and thus isn’t viewed in awe, isn’t revered as The Great One was. He’s only a man with a few tricks up his sleeve that he’d used to his advantage. He must come out, show his true self (and all along his true self was wonderful indeed).

Sometimes it’s like this with writers. Or, maybe I should say it was like this for writers. Somewhere along the way the curtain was pulled back to reveal just who and what was behind all the fire and booming voice and bigger than life image projected. The little old man behind the curtain with all his levers and buttons and devices used to project the aura of magic at one time was hidden away—an enigma and a mystery.

Wizard of Oz: Step forward, Tin Man!
Tin Woodsman: Ohhhh!
Wizard of Oz: You DARE to come to me for a heart, do you? You clinking, clanking, clattering collection of kaligenous junk!

Now, with so much exposed, writers are pushed out into the world, blinking in the sunlight, their mouths in soft O’s of surprise, turning this way and that at all who stare at them and say, “Wait just a minute here—behind that curtain is just . . .you? What’s so special about . . . just you?” And like the wizard, the author must explain him/herself and then offer up gifts to show they really do have something more after all to give, and not just all the flash and thunder, but something more - what what? what they ask, what more? Our heart, Our brain, our courage . . .

With the internet, social networking blogs twitter Facebook, et cetera; the author can no longer easily hide behind the Wizard’s curtain. Most all is exposed. The awed revered respect authors may have once enjoyed has been torn asunder as the heavy curtain has been drawn back and people peer in at the levers and buttons and projected image paraphernalia.

Wizard of Oz: A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.

I don’t know what it felt like to be an author during the Wizard Times. My experiences have all been after the curtain was thrown back and the Wizard’s controls were set to “off” and the fiery veil died down to embers. I have been the little old man from the beginning—exposed.

Wizard of Oz: You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you're confusing courage with wisdom

Artists, actors, musicians, authors, athletes—all have had the Wizard’s curtain pulled back and exposed the little old man behind, leaving them vulnerable to speculation, observations, opinions in a way that is much more public and personal than ever before.

Dorothy: Toto, I’ve got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore

How many times have you heard someone speak about the “downfall” of a “celebrity” with a little too much glee in their voice? Or a sense of “huhn, they thought they were SO smart and SO important—now look at them, they’re only just a little old man and not a Great Wizard after all! How Pa-The-Tic!” What goes up must come down. The bigger they are the harder they fall—you’ve heard the clichés. There were those halcyon days before, when that writer/actor/singer/musician/athlete followed that yellow brick road looking for the wizard—some to unseat him, some to find out his magic to take for their own, some to find heart or courage or knowledge or home.
The stakes seem higher now, the road longer, the expectations bigger. What's a poor Wizard to do?

Scarecrow: Come along, Dorothy. You don't want any of *those* apples.
Apple Tree: Are you hinting my apples aren't what they ought to be?
Scarecrow: Oh, no. It's just that she doesn't like little green worms!

Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
Follow, follow, f
ollow, follow,
Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
Follow the Yellow Brick, Follow the Yellow Brick,
Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

We're off to see the Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
You'll find he is a whiz of a Wiz! If ever a Wiz! there was.
If ever oh ever a Wiz! there was The Wizard of Oz is one because,
Because, because, because, because, because.
Because of the wonderful things he does.
We're off to see the Wizard. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

There will be a new day in the land of Oz - old ways turn to new ways. Things cannot stay the same because the Land of Oz is changing.

Meanwhile, our Dorothy dons her ruby slippers and turns three times:
There's no place like home; there's no place like home; there's no place like home. . .

But even home has changed, for Dorothy herself has seen the other side, seen behind the Wizard's curtain.

Auntie Em! Auntie Em!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Writing Life: Making Choices One Step at a Time

I did a funny thing at some point in this writing life. I can’t go into details because, well, I just can’t. But, it seems that instead of going after something that may have meant “more prestige(in some people's eyes)” and “bragging rights” I instead chose the other thing.

I thought and thought on The Bigger Thing and the more I thought of it, the more strange I felt about it. But, when I would consider “the other thing” I felt an ease come over me. Well, there was my answer—except it isn’t as simple as that. For in choosing the other thing instead of The Bigger Thing, I will, or may, miss out on some larger outcomes—money for one.

But does it always have to be about money and More?

Sure, I’d like to make more money; I’d like to be financially independent. I have daydreams of making enough money to buy land around my mountain so no one can develop it ever as long as I live and own it. I have daydreams of helping family. I have daydreams of donating lots of books and money to libraries.

But, and there is that But again, I hesitated on a decision and in that hesitation there was an answer for me, or at least something I needed to consider more carefully.

This writing journey, this life journey, is full of moments of choice. The footprints we leave, and the footprints we follow, and the footprints we want to look back to see where we’ve gone.

I’ll never know if I’d have pursued The Big Thing aggressively if my life would have taken some bigger turn. I am not sure. However, I do know that choosing the other thing didn’t upset me, didn’t make me feel I was less than. I felt a peace with it.

I’ve done a lot of listening to published authors from all kinds of places and all kinds of situations. I’ve learned that more isn’t always better. I’ve learned that having what you thought you wanted isn’t always what you thought you would have. I’ve learned that this business is tough but it doesn’t mean I have to harden myself to it. I’ve learned “be careful what you wished for” really is a true and fitting cliché. I’ve learned that writers are never satisfied, that with each mile they/we walk up a mountain, they/we keep looking up to the top, and the top of that mountain is so very high with clouds and mists hiding what they/we can’t see, and there are many people below and above them/us on their/our way up—and after a while, it becomes about the striving to get to the top and not about how lovely the mountain is, how wonderful it feels to stretch the muscles, how clean the air smells, how nice it would be to talk to the people who the writer passes by or the people who pass by the writer.

So, I’ll keep doing my thing: writing my words, and the rest will work itself out. I’ll make my choices one step at a time and I won’t look back with regret. Looking back with regret is a waste of time and a dishonor to the life we live.

Sometimes it’s really about the journey and not where we end up, because—THERE IS NO END except death. Sometimes it’s just that walking walking walking and seeing what will happen next with a kind of wonder and joy and delight. Sometimes rushing headlong into the wind, or to the top, is a good great thing, and sometimes taking deliberate steps and looking all around and enjoying everything along the way is a good great thing. How we feel about it in our heart of hearts is our answer. How we sleep at night tells us so much.

What about you? Thoughts?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bustin' a Gut Laughing with friends & writing writing writing because I can

Lawd; how behind I am in visiting everyone. While at the beach, I only checked my email a few times here and there, and I may have "tweeted" once, and "Facebooked" once. The only real work I did was to read the printed out copy of the novella due to Bellebooks this month and mark areas that needed work.

Yeah, I'm nuts! *laughing* - Yes, I have the Sweetie novel due to the publishers this month, too. So why did I agree to write a novella, too? *shrug* because I was asked? because I can? because this is what I always dreamed of--writing writing writing? Because this is what I do? Because emptying my head leaves room for more? What is your passion? how do you manifest it; make dreams come true; do what you always wanted to do?

My two readers have finished reading SWEETIE and I have a good thumbs up. One of them cried at the ending, but it was happy poignant tears, she said, so that's good. Yayy! make em cry is always a good thing *laughing* Thing is, this novel may could cross between YA and Adult - so I don't know how Bellebooks will go at that. I wrote it for adults, but seems it can maybe go YA.

I snapped some evening photos at the beach. One day I'm going to buy a camera that takes really good night photos and distance photos -- one day!

Saturday I'll be at the Blue Ridge Book & Author Showcase with about fifty other authors. It's in Flat Rock, NC; so if you are going to be in the area, I'd love to meet you!

Friends at Beach stuff: I actually laughed so hard I thought I'd pee myself. Now, that's laughing hard. That's a rare thing--to laugh that hard! And if I were to tell you what we laughed so hard about, you'd give that polite laugh, that "Oh, that's funny!" and you'd mean it, but, you'd also be trying to laugh harder, because that's what I'd be doing as I retold it - I'd be trying to get out the situation, laughing in between, doubled over, haw haw haw and then this happ--haw--ened and then we --haww hawww---and that ha--haw---pp--haw--ened! Because, truly, sometimes you really do need to be there! *laughing*

When's the last time you laughed so hard you doubled over -- thought you'd "bust a gut" or "pee yourself" (yes, that's crude, but how else can I say it *laughing*)? Want to tell about it? Who were you with? What were you doing?

More later -- must get the Petey story novella and the Sweetie novel DONE. Time's a-wastin!

*muwah* -- thank you all for your support, your comments, your emails, your FB messages - everything!