Yesterday was my birthday so I didn’t submit my F word so I’m doing it today. Actually, The F Word was a word I was contemplating discussing for this letter, but…
F is for follow-through, which is not my strong suit. I was tempted to not do this anymore, to cease and desist this nonsense. But I decided to persist so I am writing this short post to declare my commitment to this self-imposed project.
Some people aren’t great at beginning things, but go strong once begun. I’m pretty good at starting new projects, but not completing them. Sometimes. I have 10 years of NaNoWriMo projects and three published novels that say otherwise. I also have clean dishes to put away and clean laundry to fold. Is housework the same thing? I’m going to say no.
I’ making this short so I can go contemplate what word I will be using tomorrow for G.
The kind you go on with a special someone. Not the fruit.
The only other D word I considered was dogs and I’ve only had 2 of them and I just did cats.
The first date my husband and I went on was to a Lebanese restaurant in Waterville, Maine. It was across the street from his apartment. It was pretty popular but I always thought it was a bit out of place in Maine, but what did I know? I forget what we had. After that we had to go to something for our job (where we met.) I remember we held pinkies during the speaker.
I didn’t go on a lot of dates. Being a fat girl even then, I guess I didn’t generate much interest. I responded to a couple of ads in the Maine Times paper and met the guys. But meh–on both ends.
So, to liven things up, we’ll accompany Lily and Charlie on a date in their early relationship to the opening night of the Phoenix Film Festival. Which coincidentally opens here tomorrow night. (From Another Place on the Planet, Ch. 6)
My heart jumped into my throat when I looked out the peephole and saw Charlie waiting. “Calm. Down.” I whispered. It was only yesterday that I’d last seen him.
“Hey, Charlie,” I said warmly as I opened my door. My heart flipped at the sight of him in suit and tie.
“Lily Mayfield,” he crowed. “Good glory, girl. Let me look at you!”
Heat rose to my face, as I twirled once. He looked me over from top to bottom and back to the top. “Wow. That’s one lucky dress.”
His hands on my shoulders sent a shiver through me I knew he felt. Embarrassed by my uncontrolled reaction, I looked down.
“You’re stunning, Lily. Absolutely breathtaking,” he said gently.
“Thank you again,” I murmured.
“I’m sure you don’t hear that nearly enough. I have a little gift for you.” He pulled a jeweler’s box from his interior jacket pocket.
Caught completely off guard, I gasped. “That was entirely unnecessary.”
“It’s been a long time since I had a beautiful woman to give gifts to.”
The box held a slim circle bracelet shaped like a vine and studded with some small light colored gemstones. I slipped it on my wrist.
“Charlie, it’s lovely! Thank you!” Impulsively, I threw my arms around his neck. His response was to hold me to himself for a few seconds and kiss my cheek. Not much, but his breath in my ear was enough to cause the underutilized private places of my body to spring to life.
He pulled away abruptly and said with a husky voice, “Well, let’s get going, shall we?”
“Oh! A new car,” I said in the parking lot. “What kind is it?”
He opened the door and held my hand as I lowered myself into the seat. The supple gray leather caressed my body with luxurious comfort. “I think I’m finding this Maserati sexier than your Ferrari if that’s even possible.”
He laughed as we roared through the parking lot of my apartment complex.
“You look very nice, by the way,” I said. “Damn delicious, actually.” I slapped my hands over my mouth, shocked at my boldness.
He looked over at me, his smile soft in the spring sunset light. “Guys like to be appreciated, too, you know.”
“You’re very easy to appreciate. God, I’m sorry. I’ll stop now.”
He chuckled, caught my hand and raised it to his lips, thrilling goosebumps to glorious life. I hugged myself and turned to the window.
“You okay over there?” he asked.
“Sure, just keeping my mouth shut to stay out of trouble.” I recrossed my legs and pretended I was the cool, sophisticated woman I wanted to be.
He laughed again, and I got the impression it was something in his natural God-ordained personality he would do a lot if the hard things of life left him alone for a while.
“Congratulations on your award, by the way,” I said. “Thanks for letting me know.”
“Oops!” he said with a chuckle. “It’s nothing. I didn’t do anything to deserve it.”
“Well, the Phoenix Film Foundation believes you’ve contributed to the community.”
“I’m on the board of directors and have a recognizable name.”
“That’s a result of your hard work and integrity. Why did you get involved here?”
He rubbed his jaw before he responded. “When I was building my house and thinking we’d be living here, I jumped into a few things but dropped out of everything but this. Maybe I’ll start a production company here one day.”
People pointed at the Maserati as we drove through the shopping center parking lot to the theater. With his hand on my back, we mingled with film buffs of all stripes. His charm enchanted everyone, and I was arm candy—which amazed me. All I did was grin like an idiot, standing with his arm around my waist. Often he would look down at me with appreciation, that seldom-seen expression. If I didn’t force myself to focus on the conversation, my thoughts raced to the future and all the possibilities, including how this could end and how much it would hurt, even if we spent no more time together.
Charlie received his Visionary Award from the film foundation’s president and gave a short speech. I stood with the rest of the audience for a resounding ovation. He remained onstage for a photo, then motioned for me to join him. “This is Lily Mayfield,” he told the press. “One day in the not too distant future, she’ll be making her own films.”
“Any plans, Ms. Mayfield?” someone asked.
“Nothing definite,” I said with a slight laugh.
“Your first encounter with the paparazzi,” Charlie said as we walked away.
Critter. This orange tabby came strutting across the busy road in front of our house. His whiskers had been cut off and he was young semi-feral. He pooped in my dad’s car, in his work hat no less. The second time he didn’t have the good sense to leave the car and rode along with my dad to work. Dad heaved him over the fence into the lumber yard next to the freight truck yard where he worked. We kids thought he just ran away until we were told the truth a year later. We laughed and laughed, knowing Critter would survive because he had been an expert rodent catcher.
Daisy. A money cat kitten I was able to keep as a consolation prize for having to relocate with my family as soon as I graduated high school. She ate something bad and died under the car.
Meatball. Another yellow tabby, Daisy’s brother. I’m not sure of his fate after I left for college.
The Barn Cat. A black and white feral kitty who took shelter in the barn ell of the house my parents rented in Maine.
Harrison Henry Blackwell. Harry for short. He sat atop the kitchen cabinets next to a black cat shaped teapot.
Something Arabella Graymore. Both she and Henry came with the house my parents bought. She disappeared into the woods to die, we think. she had developed a hole in a facial that constantly drained onto her pretty kitty face.
Clytemnestra. A black female with cattitude. Named after the wife of Agamemnon from Greek mythology. She was my first cat completely on my own until she refused to move when I did.
Gorad. Black and white. The cat who refused to be named. My roommate’s boyfriend’s friend gave him that name. The same dopes who left the apartment door open. The same weekend the neighbors got a car for the first time. Gorad climbed into the engine. You know the rest. Right after I spent precious money (I was a senior in college) to have him fixed. It cost as much to euthanize him. He liked to sleep on my face. One of those.
Gandalf. A little white kitten who followed me on walks. One day he didn’t make it home. He was a sweetie.
Schuster. He came from friends who had a sibling, Simon. Yeah, like the publishers. My friends were readers (and dopeheads). Another blackie. He moved out to the woods with me and as far as I know he’s still there. He wouldn’t move to town with me. But that was a very long time ago.
& 12. Unicorn and Guinness. Brother and Sister, gray tabbies. They knocked down the Christmas tree I’d just set up with my fiance. Guinness ran away. My roommate adopted Unicorn when I moved out and got married.
Bridget. I don’t quite remember her name. Another black and white. She lived at the place where we were house parents for a few months. I helped her birth her kittens. One had to be pulled out.
Peachbottom. Adopted from my brother. We had to take her to a shelter because we were all getting bronchitis (2 kids by this time) and we thought we were allergic to her. Then we realized it was probably mold from the dirt floor basement of the house we were renting.
Schtuki Putz. Another cat who defied naming. A friend said she thought it meant cabbage head, but I don’t know about that. She was a tortoiseshell calico with a bad personality. She hated my daughter who wanted a cat from her friend’s litter. Schtuk like my husband and son best. She was a huge cat who made the journey west with us, yowling across the country. In February of 2013, she got out of the house and never came back. She was very old and emaciated and wanted to die on her own terms. I knew she was near the end when she started liking me.
Smoke. The softest gray kitty. He was fun and sat on my lap when I did school work. He got sick and died. We think he might have swallowed a rubber band that twisted up his innards. He was a sweetie.
Twitch. Came with Smoke. A blackie as well, the fourth. He tells me when he thinks I should go to bed then waits patiently while I get settled then lays against my legs. His tail is funky, broken somewhere along the way. I adopted him and Smoke from a family whose kids were allergic. He’s outlived Schtuki, Smoke, and Tippy.
Tippy. She spent her early life in a shelter and never really gained social skills. I think my mom felt sorry for her. It was years until she finally warmed up to Mom–after a move. She kind of warmed up to me until I had to take her when mom got sick and never like me again. She became ours shortly after Schtuk left. She was blind toward the end. You can see the cataracts in this picture.
Yeah, so I’ve known a few cats. I’ve been cleaning cat boxes for 40 years.
Welcome back to mt 2019 a to Z Blog challenge, day 2. Obviously.
Other possible B topics for today included birthday (mine is on Saturday!) bullsh!t, babies, beds, bathtubs and binge watching. I’m going with baseball. Obviously.
Note: If my posts are funky-looking, blame WordPress. They haven’t been allowing me to see previews lately. And I’m still figuring out this new block editor.
I used to watch the Phillies on TV with my dad, circa late 1960s to early ’70s. I found it easier to understand than football. Since I was a girl, the closest I could get to being a player was being a players wife. I figured my husband would be gone a lot and I could be independent but spend lots of the money he made. The closest I got to that is that my real husband, an ace pitcher in high school, was scouted by the pros, and got a baseball scholarship to Marrietta College. But in his senior year, he was in a major car accident (before I knew him). His recovery, while miraculous, wasn’t complete enough to allow him to be competitive.
As a kid, late elementary, early middle school, I sent away for the Phillie’s yearbook because I didn’t get to the stadium until after high school even though we were less than 2 hours away. I copied pictures of the players in action. Once when pitcher Steve Carlton was having a bad run, I sent him a letter of encouragement. For my efforts, I received an authographed photo, seen here. For some reason I kept it all these years.
I used to get really caught up in games and playoffs and championships. I was highly emotional, cussing, crying, all that. It wasn’t until I was an adult I realized the value of turning all that off. Wins and losses of my favorite teams didn’t affect my life at all. I never got one nickel if my team won the World Series. But now, as an Arizona Diamondbacks fan, I get great pleasure from detesting the Dodgers.
I even add baseball to my fiction writing. (Actually, there is a subgenre of Romance about baseball players. Here’s a scene from one of my published novels.
Another Place on the Planet, the start of Chapter 5, Snickerdoodles
Charlie continued to brood as we ambled around central Phoenix, my hand warmly in his. It seemed more like a habit than an intentional sign of affection. Not that I minded. I liked being seen like that.
“I wonder,” I said
absently as we walked past Chase Field on Jefferson Street, “if the
Diamondbacks open the season at home this year.”
“You like baseball?” he
asked with the first smile I’d seen in a while.
“I do. I’ve been hoping
to meet someone to go to games with.”
“If I go to some games
here with you, you’ll have to go to Dodgers games with me in L.A.,” he said.
“Yikes!” I cried with
mock—mostly—fear. “Going to L.A. to see the Dodgers? That might be a little
more trauma than you’re worth.”
“What do you have
against the Dodgers?” he asked, his step lightening a little.
“Everything. It’s a Phoenix thing. Like hating the Braves is a Philly thing.”
“A beautiful woman who loves baseball and understands its rivalries. I’m in heaven.” He kissed my cheek as we waited for the light to change. His mood seemed to lift a bit. Mine did.
Later in the book, there’s a poignant scene at a Diamondbacks game.
So, that’s a very brief history of my affection for baseball. Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment about how baseball has impacted your life. Or any other kind of comment. As long it’s friendly.
Welcome to day 1 of my Blogging A-Z 2019 event. This is the first year for me. Many posts will be short because I have other things to do. As, my Dear Readers, do you.
Among possible topics beginning with A, I considered: assholes (the jerky person, not the anatomical one), anger, angels, aardvarks, and April (my birthday month!). I decided to go with Arizona, my state of residence to show off things here I haven’t experienced in the three other states I lived in: Pennsylvania, Maine, and Vermont.
Pictured are a very small sample. Every plant around here wants to hurt you. You don’t even have to touch some of them.
Glorious Skies a
This chocolate cake!
So, some of my favorite Arizona things. Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon!
P.S. All of the photos except the chocolate sauerkraut cake are mine. And I’m not a great photographer, so…
I made a new book, now vunst. That’s how my family messed around with Pennsylvania Dutch. My siblings and I were always told we were part PA Dutch, although I don’t remember being told about a distinct relation. And we never knew any of the language. But some of the food made it onto our table. Chow chow (pickled veggies). Scrapple (what the devil eats). Red beet eggs. Yum. My nana used to say, “You’re Dutch.” A playful term of endearment.
But I’m not sure how much that influenced my book. One morning I woke up with the picture of the first house my husband and I lived in when we moved to Lancaster County from Maine. We had the first-floor apartment. It was located in an area known locally as Zook’s Corner. It’s not a real town or anything. The Amish and Old Order Mennonites have names for places that never make on Englischer maps.
So I had to write a story set there. And in November 2014, I sat down and started to do just that. And that’s how Angie and Ty and Scotty and Anna and Samuel and others came to be in my head and now on pages. It’s a story about strength, facing the past and making a way into the future. Also about redemption, forgiveness, and love, including the romantic kind.
Like my other main characters in my published and unpublished books, Angie is an artist and introvert. Much like me. I’ll save all that for another blog post on another day.
I had help from my faithful critique partners brought to me by the Women’s Fiction Writers Association who read through the entire story 10 to 12 pages at a time and showed me what didn’t make sense, what belonged, what didn’t. Also, my brilliant sister Lori edited it for me finding bunches of stubborn commas and spelling errors. Then it was back to me to format for Kindle, paperback, and Smashwords. Lots and lots of work. Definitely, a labor of love because so far, money hasn’t resulted from my writing career.
I shopped this book around to real literary agents and had a couple of requests to read the full manuscript which is a big deal. But I had many more flat out “no thanks.” I did receive some encouraging comments so at least I came away believing my writing does not suck entirely.
I guess what’s left of this journey is just to finish revising the paperback format, the never-ending promotion, and praying for reviews to hopefully fuel sales. I hope you’ll give it a look. You might like it.
Here’s a review from book blogger Jinger Ertle at Book Nerd Problems. She has a range of reviews on her new site.
It could also be known as I’ll Never Be a Grandmother Day.
Both my kids have decided not to spawn. It took some getting used to.
At first, all I could think of was I was a bad mother. I readily admit I had many, many less than stellar mom moments. They all flashed before my eyes whenever someone complimented my husband and me on one or both of our amazing children.
One of the first things Kid #1 did when they achieved independence was to procure a therapist. Not that I blame them. I completely understand. Even though I like to think not all of their issues were about me. Hopefully, their therapist isn’t a Freudian. I mean, we have a great relationship today. (Uh, call your mother.)
There are so many experiences they’ll never have being childfree:
Cold, lovingly prepared breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. (true story)
Being told “You’re the best mommy I ever had,” at the end of a long hard day. (true story)
Hearing them tell the woman at the vision center that “Mommy broke her glasses when she threw them when she got mad. (true story)
Bursting with pride when they perform in front of a group. (true story)
Hearing at 9 PM on a school night, “Mom, I need poster board for a school project that’s due tomorrow.” (true story)
When their hard work pays off with improved grades or buying their own car. (true story)
Spending an entire weekend in cold rain or blistering sun at a sports tournament. (true story)
Suffering with them when their team doesn’t win a game all season. (true story)
Denying yourself coffee and alcohol for the entire duration of pregnancy and breastfeeding. (true story)
Just seeing your child for the first time. (true story)
Seeing them smile for the first time, or their first steps. (true story)
Of course, there are the really bad moments, the highly emotional fights where I wished I would have handled my side better, maybe trouble with the law, bad breakups, no boy/girlfriend, car accidents, scars, words that can’t be taken back. Everyone can do without those. But we have them and we find a way to do.
I was surprised when I found myself going through a mourning, of sorts, when I realized I would never be a grandmother. All my friends who are grandparents swear it’s the best thing ever, even better than being a parent. I’ll never know.
I was also surprised when I started getting sick of seeing everybody’s grandkids on Facebook. Fine. Your grandkid is the sweetest, smartest, cutest kid in the universe. To you. Until the next one comes along. And you’re lucky they’ll never face competition from mine!
And who do I crochet things for when I watch TV? I live in the desert so I don’t need hats and scarves and afghans. How many coats do my grandpups need? I guess I can inundate my childfree offspring and their significant others with the ill-fitting sweaters and bedspreads and throws and more dog coats until my fingers gnarl from arthritis.
But at the same time, I’m not overly optimistic about the state of the world. If the human race has some kind of dystopian future ahead of us as writers predict (as they did many things that exist in the present) I wouldn’t want loved ones to suffer through it. I mean, look at who our president is.
I’m glad our kids are confident to make choices their parents may not like. We have accepted that. I’ve had to learn not to throw innuendos or opinions on the topic into our conversations.
So, all you purposely childfree people, enjoy yourselves. Remember who gave up second honeymoons while you’re on your second or third or fourth. Remember who ate the burned toast so you could have the pretty toast and cooked your food after a day at work while you were running around the neighborhood with your friends. Remember who taught you how to do laundry while you’re buying “Dry Clean Only” with the money you could be spending on my non-existent grandchildren.
(Maybe I’m a touch bitter. Maybe that’s a little consolation.)
(I was going to find some graphics to post, but as someone who actually sacrificed a few things for her kids because she loved them, I started to get pissed off looking at them so I’ll just stop here.)
Many thanks to my online writing friends (which the vast majority of my writing friends are) for the topics for the NaNoWriMo series.
This week, a few of my writing buds sad they haven’t found “the zone,” or that their muse wasn’t showing up when they tried to write and they got nothing done on their NaNo novel.
What creative person hasn’t been there? Creativity is the most fun when every part of me is singing along to the same song–in 4 part harmony, even. I see the path ahead leading to a place I’ve never been before. If writing, I know where the scene will go, the theme, the end, the deep thoughts of the characters, the witty repartee, the biting sarcasm. If drawing, I see the lines on the paper before I make them, my mind sees the entire picture before my hand is laying out before it is complete. If singing, my voice has the next notes ready and my musically challenged brain doesn’t have to search for it as the sound leaves my throat. (This only happens in the car though. Alone.)
But what if your muse takes the day off of to climb Mt. Everest? Or your zone isn’t about writing, but thinking about how you maybe should go back to Facebook and delete that post about your dumb co-worker, although you never used her name. Or even that you should get up and go clean out the cat box.
A muse is a romantic notion and usually involves an unreliable fictitious entity.
Since NaNo is all about the word count, you don’t have time for your muse to come off Everest (if she ever does–that hill is littered with bodies, much like peaceful small towns where TV sheriffs and mystery writers live). You can’t wait for your zone to move to your writing place. You have to put down words. Dec. 1 waits for no one, my friends.
It’s time for #buttinchair.
Sit. Turn off the internet. Block out sound. Close the door. Start typing.
Don’t wait for the perfect sentence. Don’t search around the vocabulary junk drawer for just the right word.
Just write. #buttinchair #amwriting
“She walked into the room. It was dark. She didn’t like dark rooms because when she was small her brother scared her in one so bad she pees her pants and he joked about it until the zombies got him.”
There, 40 words. Pretend they’re related to your story. Do that again and again and again and pretty soon you have 250 words. When I get stuck, I make myself write 250 words about what could happen next in my story. By the time I get to 250, an idea has usually sparked. Maybe the light shines on my Zone and my Muse is ready to talk to me again. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll keep the words in revisions, maybe not. But they’re words. They count. And most importantly, I forged ahead and made progress.
Sometimes, lots of times, really, writing is like your job. You don’t feel like flipping that damn burger, but you do. You don’t feel like cutting into that skull to relieve intracranial pressure, but you do. You don’t feel like changing yet another wet diaper. But you do. Some hungry person gets their food, some patient’s headache gets better, and your baby won’t get diaper rash. It wasn’t fun, but it was done. Progress was made.
The Muse, the Zone, are romantic ideas, and when they show up, they’re fun to be with. But they’re fickle and you can’t depend on them to write your novel.
Michael Fassbender: A possible muse.
Another possibility: Oscar Isaac
So, here I am, #buttinchair, writing words. No, blog posts don’t count for NaNo. While I’m writing, maybe my muse for mopping the kitchen floor will show up. He’s been quite elusive this year and I can’t mop the floor without him.
The first draft of anything is shit–Ernest Hemingway.
The Ernest Hemingway said this and his shit (revised and edited) is so good we’re forced to read it in school. (I preferred Steinbeck to Hemingway. I’m sure Steinbeck’s first drafts were shit, too.)
This is true. If you, oh novice writer, expect to dazzle the world, or even yourself, by what comes through the tips of your fingers and onto your screen, or paper, or whatever the first time, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Failure, I tell you.
You may be a literary genius waiting to be discovered. Your mind may be gestating the next Lord of the Rings, but with aliens and zombies, just what the world and Hollywood are dying to get their hands on. You may have imagined it in scintillating detail while bored in class, at work, with your friends when they’re talking about reality TV and sports. You’re there, staring off into space, creating the perfect battle, the perfect sex scene, crafting the perfect snappy comeback. Maybe you lose sleep over it at night.
And then you go to write it down. The words flow like wine at an ancient Roman feast. Many, many words. You get goosebumps from the elation of creation or the emotion of the scene. You are in the zone, living those orgasmic moments every writer dreams of.
Then you lose your steam because it can’t be maintained forever. You go back and read. Maybe the words are really good words in a great order and you say out loud so your cat looks at you, “Wow! These are really good words. I like–no–I bloody love these words. What happens next?” Your cat asks, “Meow?” And your mind goes blank. For days. Weeks. Lifetimes.
Or the words really suck. They’re stupid words, rudimentary and awkward, not coming close to what you imagined. It’s like you’re back in 3rd grade. “Hi! My name is Theresa and I’m going to tell you about zombies and aliens.” And you think, “And I have a degree in __________________?” So you give up, pour a glass of wine and remember The Bachelorette is on TV. Your cat yawns and stays put.
Or the words don’t come. Like sitting on the toilet. You know there is shit in you, but it’s stuck. You stare at the white screen and think too hard. You don’t know how to begin because you know whatever you write, it will be, well, shit. So you don’t write. You don’t push. You don’t want hemorrhoids in your brain. Your cat is nowhere to be seen. Besides, The Bachelorette is on.
Here are some things to know:
Every writer has been there, some are there now, even experienced bestsellers. Even the ghostwriters for some of those bestsellers.
Everyone who has written a novel was a beginner once.
Every novelist writes shit, but goes back and fixes it.
The more you write and study the craft of writing, the easier it will be to write less shit and easier to recognize and fix it during revisions.
Your novel will NEVER be as great as you want it to be. Eventually, it may come close with lots and lots more work (known as revising.)
You have to write the shit. You have to write when you don’t feel like it. You know how crappy you feel when you’re constipated? That’s how you’ll start to feel. And you’ll be grouchy. And the people you have to see will think you’re weirder than usual. And people who know you will know you’re constipated and give you prunes. And your writer people will tell you, “Just sit down and write the shit.”
Writing a novel is a long, huge process, and you’re doing it alone. But you’re doing it! Don’t give up on your story because it’s not behaving like you want it to. You didn’t listen to your parents all the time, and they still fed you, right?
Remember, shit happens. It has to happen. It’s called the first draft.