Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Peace of Morning

Only quiet sounds
The brush of sheets
The softest tap of
Bare toes
A sniff
A sigh
Invade the silence of

The stillness
Rests heavily
Over all
Too heavy
For anger
Fights and hate

Hearts beat
Steady and strong
Without the stress and pain
Of conflict

Oh, if we could hold onto
And see the world with such
And recognize
And halt
Our own words
When they shatter it into shards of sharp glass
And spread the blood of

I cannot stop others
But I can vow
To keep this silence
Not just for this morning hour
But all my life.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Almost Finished

I am minutes away from beginning to grout all of the backsplash tile... and once I'm done, and it's all wiped clean, and the dishes from the spur-of-the-moment party last night are all done, I'll post pics of the finished project.

Nothing is as rewarding to me as having something finished. And nothing more irritating than not finishing something, especially when I can't finish it. The "can't" is always one of two things:

1. I do not have the time in my schedule to work on it, or
2. I don't have a clue how to go about finishing it.

The latter reason is impeding my novel progress at the moment. I'd tell you that from now on I'll devote myself to this novel, but my son could still use two quilts on his bed to complete his room. And my TV trays could use some sanding, painting, and lacquering. And I have about 100 books still to rebind for the library. And that back hallway still to paint, when I paint the walls near the backsplashes, once the grouting is finished. And some books to peruse and take notes from before I take them back to the library in a week.

As usual, though, I'll fit that pesky novel in. I'll be taking off for Seattle soon, and I'll have a month without house projects to devote just to writing and reading. Though I'm sure I'll find plenty of other projects to tackle while I'm there, too.

Wish me luck on the grouting! I'll post again as soon as I take pictures. Who knows, I might just fill this week with pictures of my house, now that it's worth looking at.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Making Things Work

I'm fighting with my novel right now, and the fight is getting nasty. I know what I want to happen, what should happen, what needs to happen for all of it to come together:

1. Forgiveness, or at least grudging resentment instead of outright hatred. My main character, her father--no, her entire family--have to put behind the past and help those who condemned them.

2. People need to be physically saved from a rooftop, before the church they are sitting atop breaks from its foundations and floats away in moving flood waters.

3. The people on the roof have to accept the help of those trying to save them--one person almost refuses, one person almost drowns, but all end up in the boat, whether they want to or not.

4. All of this happens in five minutes tops. (Yes, I can slow time down, but one chapter max. is all I have.)

5. The rain is coming down in sheets, and everybody has to somehow communicate over the sound and see each other through the driving rain.

The rain and flood are the hard parts. I joked with the hubby I should just take those out, and it would be easier. Except that they are the whole point of the book. Without them, there is no book.

Darn. I guess I'll just keep fighting, until my right brain figures out how to get all of this to happen without the whole thing turning as implausible as Armageddon. I couldn't bear ending up with a book I was embarrassed to have written.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Too much time is lost
To boredom
The dull of vapid conversation
Well-meaning blather
Or silence
Stifling any emotional outburst
As too much
Too ugly
Too close to feeling

Drop the boring act now
Stop stuffing emotion down
Behind the rib cage
That's not where it belongs

Pull it out and wear it on your arm
Flaunting it to every friend
And stranger
Wallow in it until it sets your hair on fire
Press it to your dear one's face
Until they know how much it means
Until they know the real you
Until they, too, can pull out
The pain
The love
The giddiness of expectation
The hope
That hides within

Just feel
And you will see the world bloom
Into a passion
Never seen before.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Work Guilt

"Work," according to

exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplishsomething; labor; toil.
something on which exertion or labor is expended; a task or undertaking: The students finished their work in class.
productive or operative activity.

"Work," according to the hubby:

1. doing something when you'd rather be doing something else.

Just yesterday I realized that these definitions--the hubby's, in particular--were wrapping me up in "work guilt." You see, since I no longer teach part-time (or full-time, with part-time pay, which is what I'd been doing for the past 8 years), I have only four major "jobs," one of which I just acquired. I'm a mom, a writer, a Zumba instructor, and an interior craftsman.

The problem with that is I ADORE three out of four of those jobs... and I really like the last one, except for cutting tile (I hate that). Why does that lead to work guilt, you ask? Because "work" is supposed to mean "toil" or something one would rather not do. And I'd rather do all four of these things than do some of the fun stuff people yearn for. For instance, yesterday I spent about 10 hours "working." I wrote for 6 hours, mothered for... um... the whole day, practiced Zumba dances for 2 1/2 hours, and even worked on the house for a good 2. Wait, how many hours did I say I worked? I'm not a math major, so I won't guess. I also fit in a 1/2 hour of piano, something that is not work. But I feel like I played all day.

Am I doing something wrong? I got up at four this morning, and as soon as this blog post is done I'm back to working on my novel... and then more Zumba... and more mothering. And I'll love every minute of it.

The guilt will come. I know it will. It always does. I hope I ignore it and continue to do the "work" I love most.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


My sun rises
Before the sun itself

I shimmer
Through the house
Filled with hope
And dreams
And laughter

To work wonders
On the new world
Of today

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Don't like the way you look? Think your stomach is flabby? Don't like pinching yourself into your jeans every morning? Well, DO something about it. Eat right, exercise, and get yourself in shape. Or buy bigger jeans. Problem solved.

Don't like that your novel isn't finished? You know the answer to this one: WORK on it. It won't get done if you spend the day watching infomercials, sweeping, playing games, or whining to nine friends on Facebook that it isn't done yet. For God's sake, write!

When you don't like the way you smell, you take a shower. When you're hungry, you get something to eat. You pay bills on time, you wash the dishes when they fill the sink. You get the kids to bed when it's time. You do daily stuff like clockwork. You handle all sorts of crappy little chores beautifully, checking them off your list one by one almost as fast as you can write them. Sure, some of your problems may take a bit more work, but that's just it--they take WORK.

So quit your whining, self, and get out there and do the work. You have time. You got the whole day. And tomorrow--don't forget you have tomorrow, too. Get it done.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer Goals

Okay, so it's taken me a MONTH to post on what I want to get done this summer, and the kids go back to school early in August. So I'm behind... so what? I've already crossed off one of them--revising novel #1 so that it's ready for publication. I've sent it off to a few readers now, and hopefully I'll have it fully revised by August. But there is more to do.

Here's my list, ambitious as usual. Remember, too, that "revise" always stands for "shred," and "rewrite" means "start from scratch and retain very little from the first version":

1. Revise Mariah's Ark fully, so that it's ready to send off to agents.
2. Revise Ghostly Charley fully, so that it's ready to send off.
3. Repair all of the books from my kids' school's library (glue spines, fix pages, etc.).
4. Read the whole How to Train Your Dragon series and other books.
5. Research Caribbean sea life in prep for Mermaid book re-write.
6. Finish backsplash.
7. Finish painting house.
8. Make both comforters for my son's twin bed.
9. Make some cute tops for my daughter for when school starts.

So, there it is. It's a bit less overwhelmingly ambitious than the usual summer list. Still, it means I need to get to work.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bore Me

Go ahead
Bore me
Tell me for the eighteenth time
How you and the wife first met
Or what your third grade teacher once called you
When calling you that was okay
Before parents sued
Before teachers were fired for stuff like that

Tell me again where you got your watch
God knows I've needed one to add to my
Already extensive collection
And please tell me how kids should be raised
How tuna is best made into a salad
Why tomatoes aren't as tasty
As they used to be

Go over the chemical composition of
Latex paint
Or the effect of tornadoes
On Wal-Mart's consumers
Or how hair follicles go gray
And when
And why
And the day you first got
Your first gray hair
And what you did with it
Once you'd pulled it out

Go ahead
Blather about it all
With little fear
That I will copy all your wisdom

After all
I wouldn't want my novels
To become famous
For boring people
To death.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nocturnal Not-Sleepings

Before I was awake
I killed a bug that wasn't there
And brushed my leg
Along the sand
Rubbing dirt with outstretched hand
I heard the mower
Someone snoring--
No, more like a pig exploring--
Felt the poke
Of knees, cold toes
And coughing, snorting from a nose

I rubbed my eyes with gritty fists
Rubbed out the dreams
Unfogged the mists
And rose from bed a little sad
No dreams, no rest
The night I had
Was no more restful
Than a Zumba class
But my fatigues, like hours, shall pass.

Kudos to Darrell B. Nelson at Project Savior for unintentionally giving me the third line of the poem. I hope all of you slept better than I have lately. This waking up between 3 and 5 every morning is starting to wear on me. If only I can figure out why... or at least make myself get to bed by 9. I did finish my Zumba instruction training, though, and that means I am now a certified instructor... now to get my whole class routines together, and start teaching!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Not Getting Anywhere

My kids and I tell stories most nights before we get to bed. It's an exercise in off-the-cuff storytelling. The listeners are allowed to pick one item each (an animal, a straw, a pillow, a bar of soap, etc.), and then the storyteller creates a story with the items.

My kids do pretty well at using the items, yes, and we have a great time giggling. But as listeners, we often urge the storyteller to "get on with it." That's because the storyteller sometimes spends so much time on the mundane that the meaning of the story never happens.

I could claim my kids are just not cut out to be writers. But there's no way I'd say something so inane. This is not a fault of the young. We ALL do this. We tell a joke, but take so long with the detail that the punchline falls flat. We talk about our day, whining about all the little things people said or did, or the flat tire, so that by the time we're done our significant other is either asleep from boredom or his/her eyes are bleeding (sleep is preferable).

We don't want the story to lag, so just as we fill our speech with "uhs" and "ums" to fill in the pauses, we fill our writing with details that mean nothing, that add nothing, and that do nothing but distract us (as writers) from what is important.

I'm revising a novel now, and my number one job right now is to pare. If it doesn't add something to the characters, the drama, the point, the situation, it's going to get cut. I don't want the reader wondering when I'm really going to get to my point. I want it infiltrating the very first sentence of the novel, permeating every scene, every shred of dialogue, everything.

Be mean to your words. If they don't fit, they're out.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tiling Sort of Equals Writing

The tiles are up (though not grouted), and I am likely going to have to pick up the project in a few weeks, after my father-in-law flies back out of the state, but despite its woes, tiling has offered me some insight into my writing. (If you've never seen me metaphorize before, see previous blog entries on gardening.)

So here is a partial list, since my tiling work is partial:

1. Talking about tiling is far less work than doing the tiling, but talking about it accomplishes nothing. I've been telling friends and family my plans to tile for over a month, but actually doing the task involves cutting hundreds of tiles, measuring, splatting mortar on every tile, pressing hard, putting in spacers, etc. It takes hours. No, DAYS. And it hurts one's back and fills one's fingernails with mortar and often makes every inch of one ACHE. And one doesn't feel like talking about it anymore. One is too tired to talk, too tired from actually doing it. Same thing with writing. I can talk about it easily, but I need to do more than talk about it. I need to write. And write. And that is called work. It's not easy. It takes a lot of thought and daily dedication. I have to actually do the writing, not just talk about it.

2. Though more fun, talking accomplishes nothing. I spent a month talking, and not a tile was laid. I spend a week working hard on it, every day, and I have a backsplash up in the kitchen. Can I tell you how rewarding it feels to see the whole thing up? Same thing with writing. Talking about writing isn't nearly so wonderful as holding a completed manuscript in my hands, or watching a play (that I wrote) performed, or getting feedback from a reader about how "hilarious" something I finished is. Having a finished product beats out talking any day for me.

3. The more complex the design, the harder it's going to be to finish. Sure, I could have just selected the little bitty tile, cut absolutely nothing, and finished in 1/10th the time. But I didn't make that choice. Instead, I created a design that required I cut EVERY SINGLE TILE EXCEPT FOR 4 TILES!!!! ACK!!! Do I regret my decision? Nope. It's what I wanted, and now that it's up, it looks great. But it was a TON of work. Same thing with writing. Some projects are just harder than others, and the more complex your character and plot systems are, the harder you'll have to work on them to get them all right. The more complex the machinery, the more likely glitches will show up. But that doesn't mean you should stick to the simple ones, just because they are simple. Write what you want--but be prepared to put the work into it.

4. Tiling takes LOTS of prep. I had to measure everything, figure out how much I'd need of each kind of tile (overestimating, of course), teach myself how to use a wet saw (messy, messy, messy), make a template of my over-the-stove backsplash, where I would center the design, and plan everything out, before I ever cut a tile. And then I had to cut and cut and cut tiles. I had to lay things out dry before I started mortaring them in place. I had to buy the right supplies, and run back to get more when I ran out. None of these elements got the tiles up, but they were imperative if I was going to get the job done. Same with writing. NaNoWriMo is a fun exercise, but without planning, revision, and a ton more work, the novel that comes out of a writing frenzy like that one won't be worth publishing. Plan out the novel. Work out who the characters are. Build the world they live in. Write a plot outline--with an ending. Sure, none of this prep is actually writing on the novel, but it's necessary. It will make the novel writing easier. Even more importantly, it will make the novel itself better.

So there it is. I'm sure I'll come up with more kernels of tiling/writing wisdom when I grout everything, but I am grateful that I don't have to return to the project for a few weeks. Now I can get back to my writing! (This is why I'm a writer, and not a tiler.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Early Morning Rant

I'm still working on the backsplash. I designed it perfectly, so that I pretty much have to cut every single tile at least once. Brilliant. Several days' more work to go before I'm done, I fear.

Even worse, I woke at 3:30 a.m. with a horrid Christmas song running through my head, along with the steps from Zumba running through my legs. And calluses everywhere. Some from yard work, most from doing the %&#$! backsplash. I tried to go back to sleep. But no, it wasn't going to happen. So I got up, wrote a little, read a little, and tinkered.

I'm just starting to get tired again, as I hear little kids stirring in the bedrooms above me. This is going to be a very long day.

At least, at the end of it, the hubby will be home. For that, I am truly grateful.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mother Nature

Just when I think
I have it under control
My tasks
80 mile-per-hour winds
Blow through the world
And fill my yard
My pool
My life
With leaves

I sigh
Wait for the rain
To stop
Pick up my broom
And rake
And net
With heavy heart
And wonder what I did
To tick off
Mother Nature.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Other Work

I've been a pretty productive writer over the last few days, finishing one revision and then even tweaking a short play.

But now I have to get to work. And it's not writing. I have a father-in-law coming in a week, and the kitchen backsplash needs doing. Now. Right now. No more delaying.

I'll be back in a few days, I hope, once the tiling is done.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dealing with Death

I've heard it said that writers write to practice "the good ending," to go over what would make a satisfying conclusion to their own lives. And readers read the books/plays/poems/essays to practice their own endings, to define more clearly what they want their lives to be and how they wish them to finally turn out.

I'm not sure I'm convinced, but I do tend to rework elements in my life into novels and plays, trying to make sense of them or end them differently (resolving open issues or redoing mistakes or missed opportunities). Perhaps, though, I'm also practicing for my own death, not just my own life.

Death has been cropping up in my writing a lot lately. I'm revising (a.k.a. "rewriting," since that's what it always seems to end up being with me) a play about death. It's actually the second play about death I've written (or is it the fifth, now that I mentally go through my various plays?), but it differs from the previous one because no one in it is actually dead.

The death theme of this play, though, has turned ironic, and not in a good way. The premise is farcical, where a woman has to face an entire family that has decided she's close to death and might as well kick the bucket sometime soon. And until then, she needs to act like she's dying.

Morose, yes. Did I tell you it was a farce?

Strange, though, that my husband's grandmother died last weekend. And she was about the same age as my character. It was sudden, though not entirely unexpected, but we're all pretty devastated by it. Both of my children have been teary-eyed for the past few days, and my husband and I have kind of wandered around the house, uncertain what to do without her. She was a sweet lady, smart and funny and genuine. She gave love unconditionally. We'll all miss her.

But the guilt is awful. I feel as though I've been practicing her death.

Even worse, this same sweet grandmother is in one of my novels--the one I am slated to revise (a.k.a. "tear to shreds and nearly start over") once the play is revised. I had actually read a little of it before I found out about grandmother's death, and I realized that I'd changed her name from my previous 5-6 drafts of the novel. Right then I thought, no, I need her actual name in there, and changed it back. And then I found out she'd died.

Now I'm set even more on keeping her character in it. My husband thinks she'd like being in my novel. But her real death casts deeper shadows within the novel itself, and it will make revising more painful. It might help me work through my own regret and sadness, and help others work through the losses in their own lives, too.

I just hope Grandma Mae likes it once it's finished. She lived a good life, filled with love and family. And this novel might be the best way I can remember her, giving others a chance to know her when they read the book, even though they never met her.