Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy to Cry

Sunday, I was over at my pal Sally's house and we were doing our tandem-writing thing on her screened-in porch. I needed to write a particular scene in which my favorite character discovers the body of one of her grown children. I couldn't bring myself to do it, at first. I got up out of my chair and paced around. Sat back down, still couldn't write it. Walked around some more, feeling awful for her. I just felt so bad for her, probably in large part because I have a grown son of my own. I felt as if the longer I put it off, the longer she could go without knowing it. Finally, I confessed to Sally what was going on, and I burst into tears! Can you believe that, over a fictional character?! I've only cried over a character once before (over Ray Raintree in The Whole Truth), and I have to tell you that strictly from a writer's point of view, it is sweet sorrow.

Join me in the comments for coffee or tea?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mimosa Monday

Okay, *now* she's really retired, because this is her first Monday in mumble, mumble years that she doesn't have to go in to work at the library.

Cheers to Ms. Katiebird and to all of you who are already retired and all who only dream of it.

And if you think orange juice ruins a good glass of champagne, you may have yours straight. Or vice versa, except there's no vice in that. :)


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Berries for Sunday breakfast

These are from the garden of a friend who lives in Berkeley. Cream and sugar?

Friday, June 27, 2008

The first Saturday of the rest of your life (Kb!)

Time to gambol. At play in the fields of the Sniff and the Giddy. Photo by andif.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Friday Fantasy

Photo by Andif. Title: "Retirement. For katiebird."

I've never felt like a "Nancy." If I could change my name, I'd be Elizabeth. Even now, sitting here at this computer, that feels like my real name. I'm not sure who this other Nancy person is. She slipped in here somehow and stole my identity. This name thing has been true for me since I was a child. My choice has always been Elizabeth. And I wouldn't go by Liz, or any other shortening, because I don't "feel like" any of those nicknames, perfectly fine though they are for other people. It would be Elizabeth, or nothing. I wonder if it's because "Elephant Walk," starring E. Taylor, was the first movie I ever saw.

Do you "feel like" your name? If you're not really who your parents named you, who are you?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The dark before the light

One of Andif's finest, in my opinion.
Click photo to enlarge it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Coffee Shop Day

Wednesday. . .

I'm waiting to hear from my computer guy. Are you waiting for something today?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Crazy Little Writer

The frustrating thing about the way my creative process works is that it's absolutely absurd from a practical make-a-living standpoint, but dammit, it actually does work creatively. My writer friends have learned to accept my weird way of working, and even my editor and publisher are patient, but I don't know if I will ever be able to quit fighting it.

Yesterday, (Monday) was a prime example.

As you know, I haven't been feeling great. Mid-morning I dragged over to a coffee shop to see if a mocha latte might scrape the skim off my brain, and sure enough, I got some writing done, using the idea the washing machine gave me. (See post below). But then I was out of ideas, possibly because there wasn't a washing machine at Starbucks. So, for the rest of the damned day I did nothing but surf the web, because once again, nothing was moving on the book. And yet, I had a familiar internal feeling that things were perking (to continue the coffee theme), and that they might even brew something before the end of the day.

All I had to do was wait. I am an effing waiting master. As somebody said, "The secret to successful waiting is finding something to do in the meantime." Well, yes.

So I surfed. I e'ed. I cooked supper. I planted and watered fleurs. Then, about 6:45, as I was scrubbing a pan at the kitchen sink, I got the epiphany I was waiting for, and it is a doozy. I love it, and it turns my next chapter, which I was worried about, into something much more edgy and interesting.

Yay. But sometimes that process takes weeks or months.

This is no way to earn a living, but it seems to be one writers' way to write a novel. When experienced writers tell you that you should write "any way that works for you," they (we) mean it. There is no "way" to write. There's only you and the words and they come fast for some people and slow for others and all you can do, if you want to be true to your own well of creativity, is catch them when they bubble up, if they bubble up. You do have to be ready with a bucket, and you need to know how to use said bucket, which requires some skill. I used to be able to force words to the surface--or at least force something up--and if you can do that, then good for you, truly!--but that has been mostly impossible for me to do for years. You can believe that, or not, but I'm telling you, speaking as somebody who had years of experience in successfully "forcing" it, when you can't any longer do that, you can't. You just fucking can't.

I don't like this way of working. I really don't. I'd much rather be able to crank it out. But until and unless my process changes again, this is the only way I have to work. Personally, I think it sucks, but what do I know? It's also true that our whole deadline society is insane, so really all I'm doing is trying to fit creativity--which has no time lines--into boxes where it can't fit and won't go.

I need a Renaissance patron. We all need one. Our patron can pay our rent and publish our masterpieces whenever we deign to hand him one, and we will then be free to let the creativity wells bubble at their own maddening, irrepressible, unpredictable pace. Yep, that's the ticket. Who's with me?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Where do you get your ideas, Nancy?

Saturday night, I stopped at a filling station and stupidly managed to spurt gasoline all over my jeans. I hurried home to toss them in the washer. The smell didn't come out. I tossed them in for a second wash. Sunday morning, I pulled them out again, and this time I spied something that wasn't supposed to be in the wash with them: at the bottom of the machine was my. . .cell phone.
I had neglected to check a pocket.

"Oh, noes!" a non-writer might say.

So might a writer. So did this writer, along with saying other words that started with the letters eff and ess. But then I said, "Eureka!" because as I stared into the depths of my washing machine I got an important idea for a chapter I'd been fighting. It came to me that the mother in that chapter will find something in her son's blue jeans before she washes them. Yes! Spare the cell phone, spoil the book.

And that, children, is where I get my ideas--at the bottoms of washing machines and other unlikely places.

Sometimes my imagination refuses to cough up an idea hairball. Then the universe applies a hard whack to get things moving. That's when I get an equation that may look like Saturday night: not feeling good, so head is fuzzy + get gas = accident +washing machine + fuzzy head + hurry = another accident. Accident + Accident = Idea.

I guess it's the saving grace of being a writer that every event can be exchanged for words at the Writer Redemption Counter, but to tell you the truth, sometimes I'd rather get frequent flyer miles.

p.s. I got a new and better cell phone for $18 from T-Mobile and they only extended my contract for two years. hah.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Red River Trail

Photo by Andif, from her recent hiking trip with Jim.
DO enlarge by clicking the photo. You'll be glad you did.
Happy Sunday Trails to everybody.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Billy Collins for Breakfast

Have a former U.S. poet laureate with your coffee on Saturday:

The History Teacher

Trying to protect his students' innocence
he told them the Ice Age was really just
the Chilly Age, a period of a million years
when everyone had to wear sweaters.

And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age,
named after the long driveways of the time.

The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
than an outbreak of questions such as
"How far is it from here to Madrid?"
"What do you call the matador's hat?"

The War of the Roses took place in a garden,
and the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom
on Japan.

The children would leave his classroom
for the playground to torment the weak
and the smart,
mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses,

while he gathered up his notes and walked home
past flower beds and white picket fences,
wondering if they would believe that soldiers
in the Boer War told long, rambling stories
designed to make the enemy nod off.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pretty in purple

Andif's pretty purple printemps
(Click photo to enlarge)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Office pool

Gorgeous photo by andif (click on photo to enlarge)

I'm early in putting up this post for Wednesday, because I seem to have dived under the weather tonight. Sometimes sinus is a minus. Carry on, kids.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Music to Tame the Savage Writer

Some writing blather. . .

I was at a writer's retreat recently where somebody, and I wish I could remember who, gave me an idea for finding theme music for each main character, just as there is for movies and tv shows. Kind of a cool idea, doncha think?

I'm not doing that, exactly, but lately I am using music to write by.

The novel I'm working on is set in two time periods. I wish I could include CD's with the book, so people could listen to the song track from "Out of Africa" for the part set in 1986, and then listen to the Boz Scaggs album, "Some Change," for the chapters set in 2008. "Out of Africa" evokes a feeling of piercing poignancy that I need for the chapters about pain and loss; "Some Change" has a (variously) sexy, bluesy/up-tempo/down and dirty/ country/western feel that puts me in the right mood for the chapters set in a small town and a ranch in Kansas in 2008.

Yesterday, I listened to Bob Seger to heighten a certain mood.. For melancholy or lyrical moods, I turn to Nora Jones or Enya. Oddly, I've never found any classical music that works for me. And even stranger, if it's the right music, lyrics don't bother me.

A fabulous additional benefit of this technique is that the minute the music comes on, I start writing. Honestly, it works as well as a hypnosis tape I used successfully to get over a block and finish a book years ago. (When I'm not writing, I don't let myself listen to the music I'm using for the book. I want my brain to associate it with writing and only writing. )

So. . .this is a serious question: Can you think of any music you'd recommend to evoke specific writing moods? Got any good ones for "argument," or "spooky"? How about for "thunderstorm"?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Retiree Cat … is surfin while U workin.

Here is katiebird's self-portrait of herself on the day after her retirement in LESS THAN TWO WEEKS! We's gonna purrrarty! She is, by the way, a very young retiree. Excellent planning there, kb.
Captions, anybody?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Andif's Blue Fleurs

Andif has gone hiking with Jim, but she left us a bouquet for Monday.
I'm going to ease back into this blogging thing, so for now I"ll just say hi to old buddies and welcome to new ones.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Interview With the Author

Q. Hey, NP, welcome back!
A. Thank you, NP.

Q. So, you finished your book?
A. No.

Q. Want to say more about that?
A. No.

Q. Aw, come on, give us a progress report?
A. Made progress. Progress made.

Q. When do you think you’ll be finished with it?
A. How long was the Pleistocene Age?

Q. I thought you had to have it in around the first of June.
A. Shut up.

Q. You know, some writers--one thinks of Kelly, for instance, or, well, just about anybody here except you--actually meet deadlines and sometimes even write more than one book a year.
A. I’m very happy for them.

Q. Really?
A. What? You can’t understand me through gritted teeth?

Q. So how’s the rest of your life?
A. My car engine exploded and caught fire.

Q. Whoa. Really? When?
A. Couple of weeks ago.

Q. So you’ve seen fire. Have you seen rain?
A. Well, not like Iowa. Poor Iowa.

Q. There, see? Things could be worse.
A. Shut up.

Q. I’m sure everybody will love having you back, what with this delightful mood you’re in.
A. I am going to practice not taking it out on other people.

Q. A grateful blog appreciates that.
A. That wasn’t a question.

Q. I didn’t want to get my head bitten off.
A. You’re smarter than you look.

Q. Did anything good happen in your absence?
A. My homeboy David Cook won American Idol, and my favorite KU player of all time, Paul Pierce, is going to lead the Celtics to the NBA championship tonight. Woot.

Q. Anything else?
A. Got to meet Andif and Jim, and meet up again with Kimberly and Beth. That was big time nice. Had coffee a couple of times with Katiebird, and that's always nice.

Q. See? Life is not all slow books and bombed cars.
A. Shut up.

Q. Can we open the Comments now?
A. Yes.

Q. Anything you want to say to your blog friends?
A. Hey, guys. I missed you. T’sup?