30 November 2011

A Winner...in More Ways Than One (NaNoWriMo 2011, 61501 Words, 161 pages)

Yesterday morning as I sat in my writing space, sipping that ever present cup of morning coffee, I had a vision. For the past week, I've had a general idea of how this book 2 of 2 would end, but then, quite suddenly and quite surprisingly, there it was playing on the cinema of my mind, the final scene. 10 pages and 4,000 words later, I finally wrote it.

After the words were written, it was time to submit my novel for verification to the NaNoWriMo website so I could be declared a "winner." Throughout this process, I could feel a swell of emotions rise up within me and when the winner page came up and the video of staff members applauding me came up, I pretty much lost it.

Up until that moment, as the tears rose up from the depths and spilled out onto my cheeks, I had no idea just how much I'd truly and completely committed myself to this book and to these characters. It was a strange emotional state. It wasn't sadness. It wasn't happiness. It wasn't pride. It wasn't any single thing. Maybe it was all of those things, in equal, overwhelming measure.

I found my husband and said, "It's time for champagne." I got the glasses, he opened the bottle (thanks Lewis!) and together we raised our glasses and I felt so proud and so happy and so completely content.

I don't know where this novel will ever end up. There is no way of knowing if it will end up published. I know there is still a great deal of editing work that needs to be done before I even try. What I do know, is that I'm quite anxious to get to it.

But for today, I need to close the document, go for a walk, go to work, read, eat, step away. I should probably do that for a few more days too.

NaNoWriMo may be ending today, but in so many ways, I feel very much like this is just the beginning...

To be continued...

"If I told you things I did before, told you how I used to be, would you go along with someone like me? If you knew my story word for word, had all of my history, would you go along with someone like me?"
          from Young Folks by Peter Bjorn and John

29 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011, The Penultimate Day, 57328 Words

I am not nearly as obsessed with music as my character, Holden is. But the two of us both understand something. Music is a mood alterer and an agent of time traveling. There is a reason sports arenas play music. There is a reason movies have soundtracks. Just imagine what it would be like to watch one of your favorite films without music. Dialogue can only do so much (though sometimes, with the right words, can be intensely powerful all on its own). There are books and books that discuss the affects of music on the brain. Here's a handy link to an amusing article: 7 Insane Ways Music Affects the Body (According to Science).

I've had songs take me back to memories I'd long forgotten, make me remember people (boys) I don't think about anymore. It can make me melancholy. It can inspire. It can make me feel fantastic. Some songs, if they catch me unawares, can knock me flat on my back. I've never needed drugs as long as I've had music.

I remember a difficult time in college when I was really hurting and I would walk around campus with my headphones on or I'd go to the music building and find an open practice room with a piano and play. I was never very good, but just the act of creating music made me feel better.  It still does.

Sometimes when I have my music library on shuffle (with its tens of thousands of songs), it feels a bit like playing Russian Roulette. Which song is going to be the bullet that knocks me down? How many songs will pass by without any impact?

"Diamonds, roses, I need Moses to cross this sea of loneliness, part this red river of pain."
           from Moses by Patty Griffin

28 November 2011

Rounding the Last Corner, NaNoWriMo 2011 (Day 28, 56221 Words)

15 hours passed between the time I pulled out of the driveway this morning and the time I returned. Tonight I am grateful for the productive 4,000+ word day I had yesterday. I will reach 60,000 words in the next two days even if it means I don't sleep...but with less than 4,000 words to go for my personal best November, I'm really not that worried.

My characters are well on their way home, and soon everything will be resolved, one way or another. What's been fun is the few little details, barely mentioned in the beginning of the first book, reappearing as the story draws to a close. It's been cool to see how some things come full circle, nearly 400 pages later. (holy bleep! batman! i just realized I've written 400 pages!)

The following song was the first song that came up on shuffle when I sat down at the computer tonight. Seems appropriate for this day.

"I've seen the end of the day come too soon, like the prison dogs they set out after you. You owe nothing to the past but wasted time, to serve a sentence that was only in your mind."
           from End of the Day by Beck

Some people have skeletons in the closet, others keep them on their front porch.

27 November 2011

Nearing the End of Days: NaNoWriMo 2011 (Days 26-27, 52150 Words)

This morning, bathed in the glow of the lamplight, sipping on fresh coffee, watching the sky brighten from the all encompassing black into the defined shapes of fences, trees, rooftops and telephone poles, I find I am having a hard time believing there are only a few days left in November. This November has been so full...with so many different kinds of things happening, from concerts to sandy walks along the ocean's edge. I have listened to countless hours of music. I have written over 50,000 words that span 136 pages (so far). I have traveled (in my book) halfway across the country and nearly back. I have spent time with amazing friends who inspire and challenge me. I've crunched leaves with my feet. I've stomped through puddles. I've made a million small discoveries about myself, about my characters. I have laughed. I have cried. I have tried to learn how to play the ukulele (but due to the Great Ukulele Conspiracy of 2011, I have been unable to get my hands on an instrument (with effective strings)).

I am having a hard time imagining my mornings starting out any other way. Every morning I've had to call my own, I have gotten out of bed, eager for the writing time to begin. It's never been so easy for me. I've never felt so compelled.

If we are only counting words, I have already won this year's NaNoWriMo. Friday night I crossed over the 50K line, the word count needed to submit your novel and "win." My plot isn't quite wrapped up, my characters are stranded in South Dakota and need to find their way back and to their ending. I am optimistic that can do this in the next 8,000 words and have set my sights on crossing the 60K line before the calendar rolls over to Thursday and December is born. It's only 2,000 words a day, which is below my daily average. It will be a personal best.

More than ever (once some edits are worked out) I am looking forward to sharing this work with some of you. In the past year, these characters and their lives, have really taken a hold on my heart and my imagination. The other night, they even made a guest appearance in my dreams!

The sky is now bright and my characters are waiting for me.

"The most tender place in my heart is for strangers. I know it's unkind, but my own blood is much too dangerous."
          from Hold On, Hold On by Neko Case

Pier Park on the morning of Thanksgiving

25 November 2011

Controlled Chaos and Pepper Spray (NaNoWriMo 2011, Day 25, 48140 Words)

Controlled chaos. Those are the words I choose to use to describe this (work) day.

I read stories about the woman in a Wal-Mart last night who used pepper spray to clear people away from the areas she wanted to shop. 20 adults and CHILDREN were injured by her actions. Why? So she could buy a bunch of useless crap that won't mean anything in a month? A year? It completely baffles me that someone would do that to other human beings. All to get a "good" deal...which you can often find on other days, with less crowds. Black Friday has become more about the hype than the good deals.

I seem to recall living in a world where I felt safe at a big box retailer or on a college campus. I seem to recall growing up in a world where the only people who used pepper spray were either afraid of rapists or police officers being aggressively attacked.

Clearly I wasn't paying attention while the world around me changed.

This has been a year of personal reflection for me, a time of focusing on the things that are important. And by things, I do not mean material possessions. I mean time...time to read a good book, go for a walk in the world (where thus far, I have yet to encounter pepper spray), to listen to music (live and recorded), to eat a good meal with family and friends, to write this book that is near and very dear to my heart. Time to create new things...with yarn, with buttons, with food, with friends.

Life is too short not to do those things that are truly important to you and spend it with the people who are important to you.

This is why, for the past 24 hours, I've spent a minimal amount of time writing. I've less than 2,000 words to go to "win," and I can probably wrap up the plot in about 6,000 if I have to. I still have two full (non-holiday) days off out of the next 5. I can't wait to see what happens next.

"I was wanting you to love me, but your love it never came. All the other love around me was just wasting all away."
           from Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell by The Flaming Lips

What I can't wait to finish reading.

24 November 2011

Thankful (NaNoWriMo 2011, Day 24, 47003 Words)

Last night was the night that I just couldn't do it. I tried, I really did. I barely eeked out 600 some words and marginally progressed the plot forward. Some days are just like that. I guess I'm thankful that I've been fortunate to have had so few this month.

This is my annual Thanksgiving post. I do appreciate that Thanksgiving falls during NaNoWriMo because it guarantees that I'll be writing and I'll remember to do this.

What follows is a stream of consciousness rambling about the many, many things I have to be thankful for. It is not an all inclusive list because, seriously, who has time for that?

I am thankful for sunrises, sunsets, warm rain, trees, the sound of the ocean's roar, lanterns, lists, clouds, a good writing pen, a blank piece of paper, my laptop (and supporting lap desk), coffee/espresso, books (so so so many books), favorite new authors, long-standing favorite authors, Legos, a husband who loves and appreciates me, a dog who makes me smile and knows when I'm having a rough sort of day and sticks by my side to remind me everything will be okay, friends old, friends new, music...so much wonderful music and so many talented musicians, Rock Band, family (connected by blood or other means), cozy blankets, lazy afternoons, breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner (all the meals I get to enjoy when there are so many who don't), lovely alcohol enhanced beverages, a job that doesn't make me miserable (and that can often bring me joy), brilliant (and often inspiring) people I get to work with, tomorrow, yesterday, a night filled with inspiring dreams, road trips, forest hikes, phone calls from someone I miss more than they know, the sound of seagulls, snow days, slippers, fireplaces, hot showers, Smart Wool socks, Doctor Who, listening to a new album by an old favorite for the first time, hammocks, warm summer days, being able to turn the heat on when I want to, photographs, the internet, my iPhone, fences, sidewalks, swing sets, a reliable car, curtains, pillows, Ukuleles, NaNoWriMo!, walks in the park, a sky full of stars, and so many, many other things that it would be impossible to list them all and still enjoy this day of Thankfulness...

"Is it all in that pretty little head of yours? What goes on in that place in the dark? Well I used to know a girl and I would have sworn her name was Veronica."
          from Veronica by Elvis Costello

I'm thankful for a latte!

23 November 2011

A Strong Drink Cures All (NaNoWriMo 2011, Day 23, 46185 Words)

I really don't drink that much, especially these last few months. A drink here, a drink there, occasionally two (or three) drinks over yonder. But some days, there is nothing better than coming home, kicking off your shoes, and pouring yourself a glass of hard liquor. This day has been one of those days. Cod how.

Tonight I am thankful for no more driving. I spent 3 hours in my car today. That is quite enough, considering I barely escaped the city proper.

I debated if I should even attempt to sit down and write. (After all, three hours of sitting in a car is quite enough sitting!)  Last night I worked through the first draft of what will probably be the hardest scene I've ever had to write in my life and will probably also require the most editing. I know I didn't get it down right, down the way that I wanted to, but in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I am moving onward and will let it settle until I can come back to it. Hopefully with renewed energy and better perspective.

I also realized yesterday, after about 4 days of writing, what it was that was bothering me. There was a pebble in my shoe, or a thought I couldn't quite remember, something haunting me I couldn't quite figure out. I placed a significant event in my book too early and it's had an effect on everything that comes after. Once I realized my mistake, everything feels much, much better. Right. David Levithan said a writer can usually tell when they've veered off the right course and I have to say, in this case he was 100% correct. I'm just glad it's something I can easily fix without having to completely rewrite the last 20 pages.

I can hardly believe that in the past three weeks, I've already written 120 pages!

Wow. No wonder I'm feeling so tired. Those pages I wrote the first few days feel like they were written months ago, not days ago. I am so looking forward to the time and space to go back and see how my entire story plays out.

I cannot believe that we're down to the last week of 2011's NaNoWriMo. It's amazing to believe that tomorrow is already Thanksgiving.

"And I am a writer, writer of fictions. I am the heart that you call home. And I've written pages upon pages trying to rid you from my bones."
          from The Engine Driver by The Decemberists

From The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

21 November 2011

It's OK (NaNoWriMo 2011, 45053 Words)

It's been a rainy kind of exhausting day.

I just have a song to share and a picture because I'd like to get a bit more writing time in before sleep overtakes me. More interesting things in the days to come...

"I'm not afraid of the dark when the sun goes down and the dreams grow teeth and all the beasts come out, cast their long shadows. Every time that they start, I'll be right here with you. I'm not afraid of the dark."
          from Long Shadows by Josh Ritter

"Borrowed" from the internet. I'd cite, but I can't remember where...

Occupy NaNoWriMo 2011 (Day 21, 42339 Words)

This morning there is an aggressive wind whipping the trees and the wind chimes. Occasionally it picks up some rain and slaps it against the windows. I feel lucky to be inside, where it is warm and dry and I am wrapped in a blanket and surrounded by books and music. I have a hot cup of coffee and my stomach isn't hungry. I recognize how fortunate I am. I have much to be thankful for.

I read an article that Neil Gaiman had linked on twitter earlier this morning regarding the recent confrontation between the police and the students at UC Davis. (find it here) Regardless of where you stand on the Occupy Movement, it is a smart article that brings up some interesting points about how the protesters are being treated by the police and how this is different than what has worked for decades. I am left wondering what the hell is going on and why.

This has caused me to think a great deal about my book. I already have a pretty big social/political issue that has worked its way into this draft (and will have to be integrated into the first part from last year), but as I think about my characters, who they are, where they are, when they are, and how old they are...well, I am finding it harder and harder to imagine that they wouldn't at least be talking about what's going on in the world and on campuses nationwide.

I think about Matthew Norman's Domestic Violets (just buy it already) and how the economic crisis wasn't in the first draft. I think about how much it shaped the story, how different it would have been without it. The book would have been completely different and well, frankly, not as good.

There is much that comes out of the editing process (the ever lovely Maureen Johnson has a few words to say about this) and I am really looking forward to January, after some time away, to really sit down and see what comes of the next draft.

"One day I left my room, in the evening. It was freezing, the sidewalk shining. But it was okay. I wasn't lonely. I wasn't no one. I was just hoping for a bookstore like the one I prayed for and the music they play there would be Dinosaur Jr. and the people who worked there would be super skinny and super unfriendly and that would make me happy. That would make me happy."
          from Myopic Books by American Music Club

20 November 2011

Stepping Back (NaNoWriMo 2011, Days 19-20, 38322 Words)

I did not write yesterday. At all. No NaNoWriMo, no blog, I don't think I even typed an email (ok, I did one at work). I did this with purpose. Sometimes it's important to take a break, to step away. I'm at a critical, very emotionally challenging part of the story (and by the end of this day, I'll have made my way well past the 40,000 word mark). There are a lot of reasons why I chose to step away for that time.

I have a general idea for how the writing will go today, but I also know that it is going to be tough. Empathizing with the situation I have to face, will not be an easy task. Knowing that, I wanted to approach the work while I, myself, was completely rested and not physically and emotionally drained at the end of a very long work week. Also, I missed my husband.

So I traded an evening of writing for some take-out dinner and the time to curl up next to my husband on the couch to watch Easy A (his choice actually, not mine). I laughed. I relaxed. I got to spend the rest of the evening watching my husband sing and dance Pocket Full of Sunshine, which was highly entertaining. For those of you unfamiliar with the song, it is HIGHLY addictive and will remain rattling around in your head for days. You were warned.

Over the last 10 days of NaNoWriMo, I'll be periodically asking for some help from you. Holden, one of my main characters is an obsessive listener to music and is constantly making playlists of different themes. I'd love it if you'd take the time to answer a few music related questions I'll be posing.

First up? Can you share a song that breaks your heart, a song that hits that emotional place inside you? It may make you cry, and if it doesn't, it at least makes you want to. It would mean an awful lot, and as I mentioned (to those of you on Facebook at least) there will be prizes/rewards coming in early December.

Have I mentioned you look lovely today?

           "I got pocket, got a pocketful of sunshine
            I got a love and I know that it's all mine, oh, oh oh oh
            Do what you want but you're never gonna break me
            Sticks and stones are never gonna shake me, oh, oh oh oh
            From Natasha Bedingfield's Pocket Full of Sunshine

18 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011, Day 18, 36092 Words

One of the things I really enjoy about my job is that no two days are ever identical. I suppose that's true of most people's worlds...but when you have an open door that lets in the general public, it definitely enhances that reality.

Yesterday was a really special day. A few highlights include helping a customer who was coming in to pick up a DVD he'd special ordered. He gave me his name, "Blank*" and told me, when I couldn't find it on the shelf that it was spelled "B-L-A-N-K." It was not on the shelf. I asked if I could get the phone number he used on the order and he said, "NO. I didn't give one. But I got the email and I know it's here." Okay...let's try looking it up with the email. As he started to give me the email address I recognized the first name in the email as being the first name of the only DVD I did have on hold. "Oh," I said, "I do happen to have an order for that DVD under the last name 'Smith.'" "Yeah," he said, "that's one of my aliases."

Nice. Maybe next time we start with the alias that you're using to order your DVDs.

I suppose that's smarter than using your real name and address to special order a book about kidnapping and then attempt to kidnap Gert Boyle (of Columbia Sportswear). Another true story.

My other favorite story from yesterday was a return. The gentleman had been in the day before and purchased a novel he was really excited about. When he got up the next morning he found a note (which he brought for me) on the table with the book that said, "Take it back Doug." He said he figured his wife had already purchased the book as a Christmas gift. He'd already been instructed not to buy himself anything.

My point to all this? For me, writing is a lot like my day job, in that no two days are ever the same. And that makes me happy. Going back through words written days and weeks and years ago, sometimes it really does blow my mind to think that it was me who wrote those words. Even just by sitting down one hour versus another on the same day I know it will change the shape and content of my work. I love it. I love the thrill of staring down a blank page (or screen) and knowing that in an hour (or two...or three), something completely new and never before written, will appear. From my mind and into the world.

That's pretty darn cool.

"I said, 'Please try not to love me. Close your eyes, I'm turning on the light. You know I have no vacancy and it's awfully cold outside tonight."
          from She Says by Ani Difranco

Some days knock you harder than others.
*Name changed to protect the paranoid.

17 November 2011

Paddling Against the Current (NaNoWriMo 2011: Day 17, 34459 Words)

Yesterday was a long day, probably the longest I've had this entire NaNoWriMo. It wasn't bad long, just full long and by the time I finally reached home (after passing 3 bad accidents in less than 1 mile), I wasn't sure I had it in me.

But I figured it was worth a try.

The writing wasn't easy. It was slow to get started and the flow wasn't there. All the momentum I'd had the morning before had disappeared and I was struggling with how to get going again. Rather than being swept away by the swift current of my story, I felt like I was paddling up an angry river.

So I took a break. I procrastinated with an hour of television and internet and made my 2011 donation to NaNoWriMo. After a few false starts, I finally got a bit of a groove back and was able to get down some 1200 words or so before I found my eyes blinking just a little bit too long. A long stretch from my average day this month, but it's the 17th of November and I have yet to use one of those free day passes. Perhaps I never will.

Tonight is a quiet and rainy night. Just me, the animals, and some Magnetic Fields. I've mixed a drink and have settled into my writing chair and am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

I can't imagine wanting to do anything else.

"Let this be the epitaph for my heart. Cupid put too much poison in the dart. This is the the epitaph for my heart because it's gone, gone, gone. And life goes on and on and on. And death goes on, world, without end, and you're not my friend."
          from Epitaph for my Heart by The Magnetic Fields

The only thing missing is me.

16 November 2011

Interrupting (Moo!) Cows (NaNoWriMo 2011, 33010 Words)

Yesterday's writing session knocked me to the ground. Quite literally. It was an awesome morning of writing and progress and ideas and excitement and let's not forget yesterday's discussion of kissing. I was on such a roll and was very frustrated by the interruptions.

The first time my husband came in to say good morning I did my best not to be grumpy about it, realizing that it was likely the only real conversation we were going to have time for. I do still happen to enjoy his company and appreciate the time we have together so I set aside my writing for a little while. 

A little bit later my dad came over and suddenly, there I was, in an intense moment of writing, momentum carrying me onward and there were two people and a dog in my writing space talking about things that had absolutely nothing to do with me. I don't think there has ever (in my entire life!) been a time when I have more sincerely wanted to be left alone to write.

After a few more minutes the room was finally cleared and I was left with only 15 more minutes to write before it was time to leave for work. My fingers flew across the keyboard, chased by the words that were desperate to be written.

When I finally had to force myself to get up, I was quite surprised to learn that my entire right leg had fallen asleep. Really, I had no idea. None.

What happened next is hard to describe because it was so traumatic my brain has already blocked off a good portion of the transpiring events. What I do remember is that my leg collapsed in an unnatural way and the rest of my body desperately tried to compensate. The end result was me lying on my back, bloody and bruised.

Today I can still barely use my right wrist. My back hurts. My right knee is in pain. My left leg which already suffers from nerve damage is pissed off at me. In short, I am a painful mess.

Work was a disaster and so what writing I was going to do when I got home was exchanged for preparation for a presentation I have to give in three hours. What writing I was going to do this morning before said presentation, I am giving up to go in early to finalize presentation preparation. This blog is really just about procrastination.  Presentation preparation procrastination. Say that 10 times fast.

Today is donation day over at NaNoWriMo and I am looking forward to giving my own financial contribution to them later on. They really do great things and deserve all the support they can get. For anyone else who's interested, you may check them out at: https://store.lettersandlight.org/donations

With my husband working tonight, I'm hoping that this evening will be a productive time to pick up where I left off, without interruption.

Facebook, I'm looking at you.

"I knew you well, I know you best. Everybody owes something to everybody else. Gabrielle gave me some news to give to you: 'Never take him for granted, you've got nothing better to do.'"
          from Monkeys Uptown by Iron & Wine

15 November 2011

On Kissing, NaNoWriMo 2011 (Day 15, 32,415 Words)

I've spent the morning writing about first kisses and kissing in general. It's been fun to have the creative license to make up wonderful, sad, humorous and near tragic tales of first kisses. To imagine that moment again, in so many different and varied ways.

Remembering what it was like to anticipate my own first first kiss...

Then there are the kisses that come after your first first kiss, the first kiss you share with someone new you've been wanting and waiting to kiss for the first time. The best friend of one of my characters talks about PKMs (Perfect Kissing Moments) and I can't help but think about how those PKMs can both haunt and inspire us. Pleasant memories and missed opportunities, carried with us for the rest of our lives.

I can only remember one truly Perfect Kissing Moment that I didn't take advantage of. The reasons for that were a bit complicated, but thinking of it now, I can't help but wonder how things would have been different if I'd leaned in instead of pulling away. I don't live my life with regret, that's just not what I do. But sometimes, I'll confess, I wonder how my life would have been altered if I hadn't been quite so afraid.

Sometimes a kiss really can change everything. Friendships can be forever altered, for better, for worse.

"A kiss is not a contract, but it's very nice, it's very nice. Just because you've been exploring my mouth doesn't mean you get to take an expedition further south. A kiss is not a contract, but it's very nice, it's very, very nice. Just because we've been playing tonsil-hockey doesn't mean you get to score the goal that's in my jockeys."
             from A Kiss is Not a Contract by Flight of the Conchords

14 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 (Days 12-14, 29,610 Words)

I'm home again and back in the library, cozied up in my slippers (new, warm, wonderful) and a blanket. I've settled in for some writing time as the sunrise transforms the sky from black to a light, steady gray. I've got my music on and the shuffle is cooperating with my mood (or my mood is cooperating with my shuffle?). My coffee is warm, the heat just kicked on, and I have had an amazingly wonderful weekend.

Wonderful food was eaten, the beach was explored, waves flirted with, fresh air breathed in deeply, sleep was restful, and over 10,000! words were written. Saturday alone was nearly 5,000 words. It was a productive and wonderful weekend and I am going to enjoy this last day of vacation before returning to a very hectic work week. In fact, I'm going to do my best to not think about what's waiting for me upon my return.

My story continues to progress well, though I am probably 10-20 pages away from some of the most challenging writing of my life. There is an inevitable confrontation that is going to take place and I am still unsure how it's going to play out.

In general, during NaNoWriMo, I have avoided trying to write anything that involves doing much research/fact checking. But, while I was away at the coast, the story took off. On the road. And I was left with my Google Maps app and a 3G connection to try to get some basic facts right so I could proceed at least somewhat accurately. Let's just say I'm happy to be home again with my 27-inch portal to high-speed internet. And a printer. 

I have a much greater respect for people who write historical fiction, or any kind of fiction that involves accurate details in time and space. I just keep hearing this little nerdy voice in the my head that keeps saying things (while pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose) like, "You know, if they'd been driving for 6 hours, wouldn't they really be {insert name of town} instead of {insert other name of town}?"

I hate and love that voice. 

For now, for the sake of speed and time, I'm just plowing forward with the most basic of details and will wait to consult with my little nerdy voice when it comes time to edit and fact check. 

And for those of you who are curious about how the word count translates to pages, I've written 78 pages so far and the month has (not quite yet) reached the halfway point.

"Flew out of Amsterdam, put up one hand on the window to say goodbye. I'd been so lonely there, I'm so lonely everywhere, even though they'd been so nice."
                    from Amsterdam by McKinley


11 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 (11/11/11...19,418 Words)

My first TMBG concert, 16.5 years ago!
Now it's time to take NaNoWriMo on the road! We'll see how the updating goes. The hotel we're staying at does not have wifi, so my ability to update on a daily basis will be restricted, but I haven't ruled anything out yet...including drive-bys to free wifi hot spots.

Last night I went to see They Might Be Giants for the not sure how manyeth time. It was completely awesome and I had so much fun "dancing." It was hot, it was sweaty, it was loud, and I remembered going to see them for the first time, when I was just 19 years old.

Jezebel, one of my characters, just turned 19. Last night at the concert, thinking about my own experiences as a 19 year old, I couldn't help but wonder how things like technology (iPhones, Facebook, etc) have changed what it's like to be in high school and in college.

Neil Gaiman wrote a song that talks a bit about that very thought that begins, "I Google you..." The world is a very different place and I think we have yet to really understand how social media has changed what it's like to be a teenager. And I like to think and wonder about how other advances in technology have changed that as well. Once upon a time you didn't wait by the phone for someone to call (or text, or tweet, or update their status). Did you wait by the post? Wait to see them at school or at church?

10 November 2011

Keep Typing and Carry On! NaNoWriMo 2011 (Day 10, 18,182 Words)

It has been slow going this morning. I'm still unable to get much sleep. The downside, is I'm tired (or more accurately, exhausted). The upside is that I got to watch a beautiful sunrise while listening to My Morning Jacket.

Another obstacle I've found, when it comes to writing, is more physical. The less sleep I get, the more coffee I want to drink and the more coffee I drink...well, the more active my bladder becomes. This means I have to break my concentration, abandon my writing space, and go to the bathroom. It's annoying. Sometimes it takes ten or fifteen minutes to get back into the same rhythm I had found before the interruption.

This morning I've probably written some 500-600 words. I found myself being much more critical than I usually am at this stage in the game. I started telling myself that I needed to just keep moving forward. I created my own variation of the Britishism, Keep Calm and Carry On. (Because honestly, how can there ever be too many variations...)

Keep Typing and Carry On!

NaNoWriMo, for me, is about the freedom create without criticism, without the bother analyzing or questioning. It is what it is and what doesn't work can be edited out...in January, March, June, or September. November is all about letting the ideas, the words, flow freely and without that inner critic knocking you down.

Keep Typing and Carry On...

Today is another fun filled day of adventure and tonight will be filled with more music. The sun is shining, the sky is transforming from gray to blue, and I can't help myself from feeling happy.

"Bang, bang, on the door. You open not knowing for. If opportunity rears its head will you answer or stay home in bed."
               from The Day is Coming by My Morning Jacket

09 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Influences (Day 9, 15,222 Words)

Apparently it doesn't matter if I go to bed at 10pm or 1am, I can't sleep past The New 6am.

It's painful and it's going to make this an even longer day...though the possibility of a nap exists in my peripheral view...I just need to get some words out first and spend time with a good friend and her beautiful new daughter.

Yesterday was definitely one of those exceptional days, one of those days that don't come often. It is an evening, short of a mental disorder, that I will never, ever forget.

I'm not certain if I'm yet equipped with words to describe what made the night so exceptional, what made the morning such a brilliant prelude, but I feel the pull to at least attempt something.

There was one point I was standing in the Body Worlds exhibit, observing this library of our physicality, our humanity, and I literally read the writing on the wall. It was an explanation of some of the ways music affects the brain. This is something that has always fascinated me, having always been drawn so completely into the world of music.

Music has saved my life, my sanity, my hope, so many times and in so many ways. It assures and comforts me, knowing there is a scientific explanation for this, though I'm not certain why.

To say there was an unhappy period of my childhood, does not really do it justice. When I was young, to drown out the sounds of adults fighting, I would crawl under the covers with my Walkman and put on my headphones, turning the volume dial up until I could no longer hear the shouting.

Last night Amanda Palmer talked about Influences. It's a question musicians (and writers and other artists) get asked often during interviews. She talked about how she had recently realized there was someone she had left out of her list, Judy Blume. She sang us a song she had written about Judy Blume that sent shivers through my body and welled tears in my eyes.

I would not be the person, the writer I am today, without the influences of Madonna and Amy Grant. I know that those two don't often end up often listed together, but there it is. It's who I am.

I have been influenced as much by music as I have by books and it's always fascinating for me when one artist crosses over from one side to the other...like Josh Ritter writing a novel or Neil Gaiman singing (and writing) songs.

When I was a senior in college, I was approached by a student in a Music Composition class, asking if they could use a poem I had published in the Literary Arts magazine the year before. I said yes, feeling quite proud. When I went to the recital to hear it performed I was quite surprised to find there was another student who had also chosen the same poem to write music for. Having never possessed the ability to compose myself, I was fascinated to hear how two different people interpreted my words.

As a child, I always felt drawn to the piano keyboard, even though I played the violin and sang in choirs. By the time I reached high school, I had abandoned both the violin and singing, but I still felt drawn to the piano. It wasn't until college that I fully realized that the keyboard I was meant to play was a QWERTY one.

I adore the rhythm, the tapping of my fingers on the keys, as I attempt to write my own music. It feels like home.

"I want you and I want you to want me to want you. But I don't need you, don't need you to need me to need you. That's just me, so take me or leave me, but please don't need me, don't need me to need you to need me. 'Cause we're here one minute, the next we're dead, so love me and leave me, but try not to need me, enough said. I want you, but I don't need you."
                      from I Want You, But I Don't Need You, Amanda Palmer (cover of song by Momus)

Amanda Palmer and (a faceless) Neil Gaiman at The Aladdin, November 8th, 2011

08 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 (Day 7 and into Day 8, 14,465)

The writing has been going well. Really well. I can't believe how lucky I have been. Each day I sit down at the computer and open up my Word document and begin. Sometimes, it's very slow going at first and sometimes my fingers (and I'm a pretty decent typist) can barely keep up with the words springing forth.

I love, love, love how this story is slowly revealing itself to me. Each day, something new happens, something that I didn't plan, something I didn't know was coming. Sometimes it's a big something (I have a great deal of rewrites to do and integrate into the previous book!) and sometimes it's just a smaller insight into a character. I am enjoying it all so much that I don't even mind waking up at 6am (on vacation, no less!) so I can start my writing day.

Today is an exceptionally full (birth)day. In a few hours there will be breakfast with friends followed by a tour of the visiting Body Worlds exhibit and then later there is An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer at the Aladdin. I am so looking forward to these events and am curious to see how they inspire me in the coming days.

I am a lucky girl indeed.

Behind That Locked Door

Why are you still crying?
Your pain is now through
Please forget those teardrops
Let me take them from you

The love you are blessed with

This world's waiting for
So let out your heart, please, please
From behind that locked door

It's time we start smiling

What else should we do?
With only this short time
I'm gonna be here with you

And the tales you have taught me

From the things that you saw
Makes me want out your heart, please, please
From behind that locked door

And if ever my love goes

If I'm rich or I'm poor
Please let out my heart, please, please
From behind that locked door

From behind that locked door

-George Harrison

Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman

06 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 The Work That Goes In (Day 6, 12,000+)

I have had many conversations with customers, friends, enemies, dogs, etc., about books that we've enjoyed and how wonderful it would have been to be able to write something even close to that. I've had those moments myself, when I'm reading a particularly amazing sentence or turn of phrase and I wish desperately that I could have thought of it and I feel jealous that I haven't. I've heard myself think, "It's so unfair how easy it is for so and so to write like this!"
I recently stopped in on a book group that meets in our store and they were talking about Diane Setterfield's novel The Thirteenth Tale. They had previously read Matthew Norman's Domestic Violets, and not long before that had read Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. What do all three of these novelists and novels have in common? They are the author's only published work. 
Sometimes, I fear, there is the misconception out there that when an author, such as those mentioned, has only one book published, that it is their only work. Knowing what I know from my own writing experience, I've come to realize that this is highly unlikely. There are probably drawers/files/trash bins filled with abandoned projects, first drafts that knew better than to see the light of day, and (likely) years of work that went into the final draft (unless you're James Patterson).
Out of curiosity, I asked Matthew Norman recently what his experience was. Domestic Violets was published this past September (and I was so very, very fortunate to have an Advance Reading Copy come across my desk). Below is my question "Me", followed by his (MN) response:
 Me: Out of curiosity, was Domestic Violets: a) the first novel you ever wrote, b) the first novel you ever finished, c) the first novel you had published, or d) something else entirely.
MN: DV is my first published novel. I wrote a novel in graduate school for my MFA thesis that was never published. I believe it lives on a library shelf somewhere at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA though. So...if you're ever in the neighborhood.
Me: Thanks! I can't tell you how many conversations I have with people where they say something like, "I just can't believe this is {insert name of brilliant author here}'s first novel! It's so good!" In reality, there is usually a lot of hard work and abandoned projects or bad books that come before. But then, I suppose, there must be some assholes out there who just get it right (without any real effort) on the first go. It's good to know you're not one of them.
MN: Nope, not me. There are also 3 or 4 abandoned projects buried in the dark recesses of my computer. I call it "wrong direction writing." Sigh.  
I also recently learned that Erin Morgenstern's first published novel, The Night Circus, began in 2005 as part of her NaNoWriMo project. She continued working on it in both 2006 and 2007. It's a delightfully fun and interesting tale and I recommend it to people who like to read delightful, interesting, lovely, magical books. 
What's my point to all this? I guess that I have hope. Hope that what I'm doing isn't a lost cause. Hope that when I read some bad dialogue that I've written, hope that when I cringe at the language I've used, hope that when I get lost in my own plot, hope that when it's all said and done something great will come out of it all, something that I can be proud of.
"I don't know you, but I want you, all the more for that. Words fall through me, and always fool me, and I can't react."
                          from Falling Slowly by The Swell Season

Very much looking forward to this weekend...

05 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 (Day 5, Not Forgetting To Be Awesome, 10090 Words and Counting)

In fact, I think empathy is sort of the central character trait of the writer, along with, like, a weird mix of egotism and insecurity.
                                                                     John Green

There are so many reasons why I adore John Green, but one of them is for his wisdom and insightfulness. I came across this quote on the effyeahnerdfighters tumblr this morning and it really struck a chord. Without empathy, how can you effectively put yourself in so many other shoes? Without egotism, how can you believe that anyone else would care what it is that you write? Insecurity? I have never met a writer who hasn't been crippled by that villain, at least temporarily.

At work I have several employees who are reaching their 5 or 10 year anniversary dates. One of the things I started last year to honor them, was putting together a profile to display in the break room. They have to answer 5 (or 10) questions, one for every year they've been with us, and then I put it together into a newsletterish format. One of the questions is something about which writer, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with. While there are so many to choose from, if asked that question today, I would answer confidently and without regret, "John Green."

He inspires me in many, many ways. Through his books, through his NaNoWriMo Pep Talks, through his videos, and through his actions. I strive in my own writing, to be something close to him.

A girl can dream, right? What harm can it do to dream big?

If you're not familiar with John Green, he is the Printz Award Winning, Discover Great New Writers, young adult author of such brilliances as Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson. If you only read one of his books, I think you should start with Paper Towns.

After some morning writing (with very satisfying results) , I'm heading out of town to visit College Brother.  The debate right now is to laptop or not to laptop...

 "I never knew love could be like this.  I never knew love could be like this. I go around   thinking I'm a genius, but I never knew love...has it ever been love? Oh, I never knew love could be like this."
                           from Never Knew Love by They Might Be Giants

Remembering the 5th of November

04 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 (Day 4, 8,339 words)

I sat down tonight, after another exceptionally long (yet good) day, feeling like I had nothing to write. My plot was feeling stale, directionless, lost at sea. But the thing about NaNoWriMo is that I have to try, regardless of how I feel.

I always give myself a few free day passes to get through the month. Inevitably there are just those days where there aren't enough hours or enough energy. When I got home from the day's obligations and commitments, I was on the fence as to whether or not I was even going to try and write or if I'd let myself absorb some of the word count cushion I'd built up earlier in the week.

In the end, my laptop won out and I told myself that I would just spend an hour working and see what happened.

I've very grateful that I did.

After reading through the work I did yesterday (and after not cringing, grimacing, or breaking down in tears), I found the directions I needed to move forward.

And so the story progresses, even when I thought I wasn't ready, and that I had nothing in me to contribute.

Now that the ball is rolling again, I find that it's a good place to stop. It's actually one of my favorite ways to write, stopping while the momentum is brisk and the desire to get back to it is strong.

Still a day ahead of schedule and I'm officially on my NaNoWriMo vacation!

Godspeed indeed!

"I never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never loved somebody the way that I loved you."
                                         from I Never by Rilo Kiley

Seeing the forest for the trees? Or the trees for the forest?

03 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 (Day 3, 6092 words and ready to go!)

I can't believe that it's already after 8pm! What happened to this day?! This is the first chance I've really gotten to sit down at a (non-work) computer all day. This is just a mini-blog to stop by and say hello and let you know that I'm going to go write now. I want to crack 7,000 words before I go to bed....which really shouldn't be too late since I have to be at work by 6am....I really should talk to that person (me) who writes my schedules.  Then again, after tomorrow....vacation will be mine, so maybe she's not all that bad...

"You were always on my mind, you were always on my mind."
                    from Willie Nelson's Always On My Mind

Ever so hard to resist...

02 November 2011

NaNoWriMo (Day 2, 5022 words!)

Sometimes, the most beautiful thing in the world is a phone call. It can change everything, put everything right, put everything upside down, it can inspire, resolve, clarify, bewilder. It can do anything, filled with promise and potential. Today, I lost direction. I wasn't sure where this story was going to go next.

And then a (fictional) phone call interrupted. I have to go to work now, but I cannot wait to get home tonight to see what happens next...

"If I only had one match left, would I try to light a fire under you. If I could only say one thing would it be what I've been wanting to."
                         from One Match by Sarah Harmer

01 November 2011

NaNoWriMo (Day 1, 3,000+ Words and Counting!)

I woke up in the darkness with the feeling like it was Christmas morning, that feeling that excites you and keeps you from even dreaming of going back to sleep. I opened my eyes to see what time it was (6am) and heard the heat kick on (brr!) and after a few minutes couldn't stay still any longer.

It was finally time to start writing!

I started the coffee, toasted and peanut buttered a bagel, fed the dog, set up my writing chair, slipped on some headphones, and settled in to see what happens next.

Thousands (yes! thousands!) of words later, I'm coming up for air. I can't describe (well, of course I can...I am a writer after all, I'm just being vague and choosing not to) what it felt like to finally be able to pick these characters up again and run with them. Obviously, due to the sheer volume of what came out, there was a great deal that had built up and was waiting for me to let out.

I am quite certain that the best ideas come in the shower, at that moment when you're drifting off to sleep, and while driving. Really, any place/time that is the least convenient to write your ideas down. For me, most of these ideas drift away and are forgotten, only whispering hints of grandness lingering behind.

There is a piece, a very integral piece of this story and a major piece of Jezebel's history that I've struggled with. I have one version of the events that shaped her into the person she is now, but there are parts of it that never felt quite right. It's something I've been trying to work out in the background for the past year. While I was driving to work yesterday morning some ideas began to appear and the commute gave me time to work through them, to revise, edit, ask questions, and I think it's a better scenario than I had before. Am I being vague? Absolutely! I just don't want to ruin the intrigue for any of you that end up reading the finished version. Also, I still reserve the right to completely change the story again.

Ah, the power. The real reason I enjoy writing.

Day 1 is off to a fantastic start. I am so, so happy to be able to be working on this project. I also feel quite fortunate to have the time and the support to be able to do so. This morning, when I turned on the heat and felt it warming the air around me, I felt so grateful that I have a life that affords me the ability not to be cold. There are far too many who aren't so lucky.

"...and I fall in love every day and I feel like a fool and I have to face the truth that no one could ever look at me like you do, like I'm something worth holding on to."*
                                 from You Can Do Better Than Me by Death Cab for Cutie

*The working title of last year's NaNoWriMo project has been Holding On. But after being struck by this song on a random shuffle this morning, I think I may have to change it to Something Worth Holding On To. Also, to help give an insight into the variety of music that comes up on my shuffle, I am currently enjoying the 70's classic by C.W. McCall, Convoy.

Sunrise on a fog-filled morning