Friday, April 30, 2010

My writing process, aka Contolled CHAOS!

After a lot of requests from aspiring authors to divulge her writing process, my good buddy and agency sistah Tawna Fenske (whom you may remember from my interview here) came up with the idea to have some of us share ours as well, just to illustrate how different the processes can be.

So these fine writers--

Tawna Fenske (romantic comedy)
Sean Ferrell (literary fiction)
Cynthia Reese (southern romance/inspirational romance)
Nelsa Roberto (young adult)
Kiersten White (young adult)

--are also blogging today about the way they produce a book. Click on any of their names to check out how they weave their magic.

Take all of our methods for what they're worth...and then figure out what works best for you. :)

If I actually have anything organized enough to be called a "process," I suppose I would label it:

Controlled CHAOS!*

Because when creativity strikes, it
is a rather chaotic process for me. When an idea bubbles up** I chase it around my head for a while.

I purposefully do
not write it down, because I figure if the idea isn't compelling enough to stick with me in this embryonic phase, it's not worth the paper and ink. Or the hard drive space. (Yes, I have lost ideas this way. Would they have made good books? Huh. Guess I'll never know.)

If after a week or two the idea just won't go away, if characters appear, spinning micro-fantasies in my head at odd hours of the day and night, then I start to write.

At the beginning.

Chapter 1, page 1. Just as if I were reading instead of writing. In fact, that's how I like to think of my writing--as interactive reading. It's more fun that way.

And then I continue until I reach the end. Linear Linda, that's me.

See, I'm a "pantser." A writer who doesn't outline. Sure, I have a vague, big-picture idea of what's going to happen, but the details remain obscure until I reach them. I want them to surprise me.

(I tried to outline a book once. Very precise, very organized. As soon as I knew for sure what was going to happen, I got bored with it and quit.
Which was a pretty good indication the method wasn't for me.)

Of course, sometimes the surprises I run across with my process mean I have to go back and tweak the earlier chapters, but that's okay. Tweakage is fun.

Working this way also means it's tough for me to achieve a consistent output. My daily word count varies from -5000 (a personal best for hacking out stuff that just wasn't going to fit) to +3500 or so. Mostly it hovers between one and two thousand. Not blazing fast, but it'll get the job done.

Since I tweak as I go, as soon as I finish the "first" draft I'm pretty much ready to send it off to my fantastic critique partners and beta readers. They may have had a small taste of it along the way, but mostly I'd rather they read it whole, so they can give me an overall impression of the book as a complete entity before they start pouncing on what tends to be a prodigious number of typos. (Those beasties multiply in cyberspace, I swear.)

I take whatever they tell me to heart. They are that good. Now, I don't necessarily follow all their suggestions--for one thing, these amazingly brilliant women don't always *gasp* agree, so that would be impossible--but I give them all serious consideration.

After incorporating whatever changes I've decided will work, I do one last run to make sure no inconsistencies have been introduced. If they have, I fix 'em.

Voila! A book is born, and is ready to be kicked out of the nest into the hands of my totally wonderful agent, Michelle Wolfson. (Be sure to follow her on Twitter--@WolfsonLiterary--because her tweets are a hoot.)

That's it. Basically, writing a book is simple. But not easy.

Best of luck with yours. :)

*"Creativity Happening Again, Oh Snap!" (What? You thought I was going to use a different S-word, didn't you? Well, I can be polite. Sometimes. So there.)

**I actually get all my ideas from the Book Ideas-R-Us online division, but since I write paranormal mysteries I wanted to sound, mysterious.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Bunch of Blarney

I admit it. My language can be a, times, both in real life and in my fiction.

But it's not my fault. I blame the Irish.

I've talked a bit before about our experience with gunrunners in the ancient land of Eire. A harrowing experience, to be sure, but it was what came next that was really the bigger influence on me.

After our narrow escape from the dinner of overcooked mutton and undercooked peas, we met up with an Irishman named John.

(No, not the John Smythe from the gunrunner post. Another John. Hmm. John must be a common name in Ireland, which is weird, because you'd think they'd all be called "Sean.")

Anyway, I'm quite sure this John was the world's only native born Irishman who could not sing and did not drink. Yes, merry times indeed. Oh, and he couldn't tolerate "the veg," as he called anything that wasn't meat or potatoes. (Remember that. It'll be important later.)

TG and I, in an effort to connect, told him we couldn't stand Brussels sprouts. TG went so far as to relate the story of how his mother went on a Brussels sprouts kick when TG was a kid, and fed the whole family noxious, overcooked little cabbages several times a week for at least a year, because she heard they were good for you. Even though--get this--she couldn't stand them either.

Ha-ha! We all had a great laugh at my poor mother-in-law's expense, but the important thing was, we bonded.

Seriously, this John was a Very Nice Guy, a soldier on leave from the army who had just returned from an overseas UN peacekeeping mission. He thought it was high time he saw as much of his own country as he had the rest of the world, and was driving from youth hostel to youth hostel, playing tourist.

Long story short (ha! with a writer? you poor, naive thing...) John adopted TG and me, and drove us all over the country, liberating us from the train schedule.

He even took us home to his family farm, where we got to meet his lovely mother, his plucky younger sister, and his delightful 92-year-old grandfather (whose favorite show was Star Trek--he was watching the episode with the rock monster when we got there, and kept saying, "Will ye look at that, Johnny! The rock's alive!").

Yes, John quickly became our favorite person in the whole world!

Until his mother served us a home-cooked meal of mutton (much better than the gunrunner's), roasted potatoes (yummy!), and (you've probably guessed it) Brussels sprouts.

Now, TG and I tried frantically to signal John not to mention anything about our earlier conversation to his mother. But I guess he didn't speak "eyebrow," because he said, in his great booming voice, "MA! TG and Linda HATE Brussels sprouts!"

(Only, of course, he used TG's real, non-blog name.)

Well. TG and I could not have been more mortified if our clothes had suddenly evaporated. We stammered our way through apologies, and finally convinced the poor woman (who was about to throw out the whole bowl of Brussels sprouts--which would have pleased John no end--and cook us peas instead) that the kind of Brussels sprouts we hated were the nasty frozen ones, not the lovely green garden jewels she'd served us fresh.

But I fear I have digressed from the intent of this post.

John, the blabber-mouthed Irishman, continued to drive us around his fair country, and eventually we wound up where every tourist must: Blarney Castle. There to kiss the Blarney Stone, and thus receive the gift of gab. Very important to a writer.

John, ever the gentleman, insisted we go first. With much contortion (you have to lay on your back and hang off the edge of the castle to reach the stone) and a minimum of acrophobia, TG and I managed our turns.

After which John informed us there was nothing the locals liked better than getting drunk and taking a whiz on the stone.

Yes, the famous Blarney Stone was apparently a favorite outdoor restroom.

So, I ask you, is it any wonder I ended up with a potty mouth?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Come on baby light my fire...

Remember Snowpocalypse, which led to the Virginia Chainsaw Massacre?

Well, that led to us have a lot of cut up pieces of broken trees, mostly pine. Which we dutifully stacked in the woodpile. The thing about pinewood is, it's not good to burn in a fireplace. The high sap content makes it kind of dangerous, plus it coats the inside of your chimney & leads to costly maintenance.

Since the theater god and I are all about recycling (not to mention, cheap) we didn't want to pay to have someone else throw away all that nice, burnable wood. So TG ordered one of these:

And I just went to pick it up. But, alas, it came with those most frightening of words: "Some assembly required."

Okay, I don't do assembly.

The only kind of screwdriver I can safely hold involves orange juice and vodka. So unless I can give the firepit verbal directions, and make it assemble itself, that thing is staying in the box until TG is home to put it together. Sadly, that won't be this evening. Stupid show night.

Now I will have to wait to toast my marshmallows outside.

*heavy sigh*

And s'mores would've made such a fine dinner, too...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Stretch that attention span!

Dear Blog,

Just a quickie post, because I am taking a Reading Day.

I have a library book* due tomorrow, and I can't renew it. That's a good excuse, right? Well, I like it.

Besides, sometimes you just gotta read, you know? I mean something more than 140 characters at a pop. ;) Otherwise your attention span might shrink down to gnat-like proportions, and that would be sad.

Off to make a cuppa, and dive into fantastic realms.


*I would tell you which one, but I feel kind of bad that I didn't buy it. I saw it on the New Release shelf last time I was at the library, and snatched without thinking. I probably WILL buy it, because I always buy this author's books, but I figure I'll postpone that decision, in case I don't like the ending and decide to wait for the paperback.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Couch of Judgment

"That shirt makes her look pregnant. Do you think she's pregnant? Because she sure looks pregnant there," said the theater god.

"I dunnoh," I said. "I don't think so. Because she looks, you know, like she's at least fifty. And not a good fifty."

"Not a good pregnant, either," TG added, with a sad shake of his head.

Sound nasty? Oh, it is. But it's okay, because we were sitting on the Couch of Judgment, from whence we get to be as hypercritical as we like.

There's only one catch. We can only be hypercritical of the people we see on TV.

(Or sometimes of people we know but with whom we are feeling a wee bit disgruntled. Not our friends, of course. More like acquaintances. Really, really annoying acquaintances. But only if they are not here with us. Because while we may be overly judgmental on occasion, we are not, you know, stupid.)

The woman we were discussing was one of the anchors for a local news show. No, I won't say which one. Though I am, in fact, sitting on the COJ, its reach does not extend to the internet. What is snarked within these four walls stays within these four walls.

Anyhoo, I have no idea if the probably-not-pregnant anchor was discussing matters of great import. Didn't really care at the time. All I know is, she should not wear that blouse on TV ever again. Because, damn.

(I will forgive her rather haggard-looking face because she may have had a bad night, and besides, we all know what HDTV can do to anyone over fourteen.)

Who, you may be wondering, do we think we are? What gives us the right?

Valid questions, since our imperfections abound. Please, feel free to come on over and delineate them for us. Just make sure you're sitting on the COJ when you do. ;)

So, what's the point of this post, other than to let you know how petty the theater god and I can be at times?


Well, maybe that is the point. We're human. We sometimes have negative--okay, mean--thoughts. But neither of us cares much for hurting other people's feelings, especially not people we know and like. So the COJ is a kind of safety valve. Release a little of the snark in a safe place, and we're better able to hold it in at times when it might be considered *cough* inappropriate.

So, how about y'all? How do you deal with your inner snarkiness?

And watch out if you try to tell me you never have a mean thought. Because you know where I'm sitting...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Faking Fearless with The Funny

When I was little I used to pray not to be afraid.

All the people I admired were so brave. Fearless. (Or so it seemed to me.) I wanted to be just like them.

But you know what? If you are indeed fearless, I don't admire you anymore. Mostly I think you're an idiot, or else have some rare genetic mutation that doesn't allow you feel the things normal people feel.

The people I admire now are the ordinary schlubs who are scared to death to do so many things in life, and yet do them anyway.

It takes no courage at all to do something that doesn't scare you. Why would I give you a pat on the back for that? It would be like somebody congratulating me for eating chocolate.

Now, how you face your fears is a very personal choice. Prayer...iron willpower...whimpering in a corner until the bogeyman goes away. Whatever. Humor works for me. Somehow, laughter will un-paralyze me enough to function.

The first time I became consciously aware of this I was on television. I was in the fifth grade, and I had been chosen, along with two boys, to represent my elementary school on a local quiz show called "Who Knows the Answer?"

Quite an unexpected honor, since my classmate, Angela H*, was probably smarter. (Okay, more than likely smarter.) But Angela H was a nasty little beyotch, and frankly the teacher liked me better. Not that I was a smarmy little pet or anything, but at least I didn't throw tantrums in the lunchroom when they ran out of chocolate milk.

Honor or not, it was terrifying. Live TV will liquefy the bowels of people far braver than I, especially the 11-year-old version of me. And as much confidence as I had in my general knowledge of the fifth-grade curriculum, I just knew I would freeze up as soon as the cameras started rolling.

And I almost did.

My hands were sweating on the buzzer. My mouth was dry. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to push the words out, even if I knew the answer. But it would be SO embarrassing if I sat there like a dummy through the whole show and never even buzzed in. Humiliating, in fact. I couldn't risk it.

So I pressed that button on the very first question.

Which I hadn't really heard. Or at least hadn't processed.

As luck would have it, I was the first to buzz. When the emcee called my name, my heart started pounding. I knew if I didn't open my mouth fast I would just sit there for the whole show, like Bambi caught in a rifle sight. So (clever me!) I asked him to repeat the question. Stalling for time.

"Who was Priscilla Mullins talking to when she said, 'Why don't you speak for yourself, John?'"


I knew it. I knew I knew it. I SO knew that fucking Pilgrim's last name, I really did**. (Though I did not, in fact, know the word "fucking" at the time. That's just the adult me projecting backward.)

But it was...gone. *Poof* It had slithered back to some inaccessible part of my preadolescent brain.

So, I took a deep breath, plastered a half-confident, half-smartass smile on my face, and said in a voice both pure and untrembling, "JOHN." (What? I got partial credit.)

Thought the emcee was going to die. Took him a full minute to stop laughing, and the studio audience gave him plenty of backup. I should've been embarrassed, but instead I ate it up. Making people laugh was fun!

(Oh, and by the way, we won. Not by exactly as many points as my partial credit, but wouldn't that have been cool?)

The emcee came up to me after the show, shook my hand, and congratulated me for giving the most logical answer to a question he had heard in the whole time he'd been hosting the show.

That day I learned a valuable lesson about not being afraid to speak up, one I've since used over and over again: If you can't blind them with your brilliance, at least you can make them wet their pants a little. ;)

*Whom I sincerely hope never, ever finds this blog. But if she does, I want to assure her I mean the, um, other Angela H. Not her.

**Alden, if you're curious & can't remember. Personally, I will never forget it again.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Writer Swag--hooray!

Bria, a new Twitter buddy of mine, and her fellow YA (Young Adult) writer, MG, are having the best contest over at Romance Yardsale! The prize? Writer swag.

I LOVE writer swag. Go here to find out all about it, and then come right back, okay?

This is my pick (though it was hard to choose--there is so much cool stuff there!):

Isn't it the greatest thing ever? I WANT it. Bad.

I mean, it says it all, doesn't it? Writers are nosy. We eavesdrop all the time. And we get away with it because it's research. Heh-heh-heh. Perfect, yes?

In fact, if I don't win it, I'm going to have to go buy it myself. Along with as much other stuff as I can afford, just to support the FUNdraiser, because Bria and MG deserve to go to the RWA Nationals. :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's for my job. Really.

"Go ahead. Do it. You know you want to."


I should never listen to those words from the theater god. Especially after he's given me a martini.

Alas, when martinis pour in, "should nevers" fly out.

So I did it.

I uploaded this to Twitter:

Yes, my T-shirt* displays the word "kickass." (Which, you'll notice, contains the word "ass"--try to contain your snickering.)

Yes, I am holding a cigar. (A rather large cigar, though I'll admit to holding larger.)

And, no, my left boob is not really bigger than my right boob--that's just the camera angle.

Now, you may be wondering "But what will her family think?" Actually, I can pretty much tell you, even without consulting most of them.

Daughter: "Way to go, Mom!" (with a virtual high five)

Son: "Not again!" (with a real forehead slap)

Mother: "Wear a little make-up next time." (That one's easy--she always says that.)

Don't have to guess for the theater god, who was actually there, taking the picture: "Can you wear that shirt to bed tonight?"

But, gosh darn it, there's a reason I did this. Other than the martini, I mean. (Give me second. It'll come to me.)

Oh, yeah.

See, these days an author has to do more than just write books. A author is expected to establish an online presence. To build a brand. To become a recognizable name, so readers will be enticed into buying said author's books someday.

Especially a newbie author. And you don't get much newbier than me.

Though I'm still at the *cough* pre-published stage of my writing career, I'm nevertheless trying to treat my work like a real job. Which means between actually writing books, and revising them, and then revising them some more (what can I say? I tinker), I spend time here. And on Twitter. And on other people's blogs. Trying to get my name into the ether**, so that when my wonderful agent eventually sells one of my books, there just might already be a few people willing to buy it.

Now, doesn't that sound like a diligent, and, yes, even virtuous thing to do?

Way better than "Oops. I did it again." ;)

*A gift from one of my wonderful crit partners, Susan Adrian. She really knows how to inspire. :)

**I've had some indication this is already working. Someone on Facebook asked me if I was the "cigar lady" on Twitter. And somebody else asked, "Aren't you the one who drinks Mexican nail polish remover?" She must've read this blog entry. It's a start.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What kind of poem are you?

Just messing around a little this morning, trying to get my writing motor revved.

First I tried the classic "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?"

Easy. A birch. I'm paper white and my skin peels after a sunburn.

But frankly, that barely got my engine running, much less revved.

So I asked myself something a little more writerly: If you were a poem, what kind would you be?

Hmm. First thing that pops to my mind is, of course, a limerick:

There once was a woman so lewd
She liked to write books in the nude,
Much of her text
Was quite over-sexed,
And her mc was far from a prude!

Or, perhaps more apt:

There once was a lady named Grimes
Who tried to amuse with her rhymes.
Some thought them too tame,
And others, just lame,
So now she drinks gin with her limes.

How about a haiku:

I will make you laugh
Come hell or highest water
Here. Pull my finger.

, anyone?

Tender, bawdy
Drafting, revising, laughing
Always happy but never satisfied

And finally, a real challenge. A sonnet:

When in your face with seltzer or fruit pies
I alone decide your ultimate state.
Bother not with weeping or with sighs,
For that will not protect you from your fate.
Slapstick comedy not your cup of tea?
Alas for you, I cannot give a choice.
A subtler form of humor is not me;
I must give answer to a lower voice.
Take heart, and do not wallow in your pain,
Your suffering brings others pure delight,
Think long and hard; I need not be your bane--
Grab some food and join in the fight!
Suck it up, regret you not hereafter;
Sacrifice does wow the gods of Laughter.

How about you? What kind of poem are you? Bonus points if you write one in my comments. :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Carving out some revisions

Revisions are fun.

No, really. I'm not being sarcastic here. (Shocking, I know.)

As much as I love to write (and I do--it's the most shamelessly self-indulgent thing in my life, not counting chocolate), I like to revise even more. Revising means fiddling. And fiddling is fantastically fun! Tweaking and changing and deleting and replacing and altering and refining and changing back...and then doing it all over again. It appeals to my inner puzzle-solver.

Now, when I write a first draft I basically throw in anything that strikes my fancy, without a lot of restraint, or much thought of how it's going to fit into the "big picture." (This is how I wound up with an orangutan hanging off my mc in my current WIP, by the way.) If I want it, if I feel it, I include it. My id reigns in the first draft.

Go, ID!

But my inner editor only allows that for one draft. My subsequent drafts are carved into shape by my much stricter superego. Yes, Superego Editor really likes to crack the whip on my WIP.

Oooh. Gives me a little shiver just thinking about it. (Hmm. I may have an inner dominatrix, too.)

Anyway, this whole revision thing got me thinking about one of my favorite people of all time: Old Pap.

Old Pap was the theater god's grandfather (self-named after the birth of his his first grandchild, because his grandfather, whom he loved dearly, had been his Old Pap), and by the time I met him he was indeed old.

He was also smart and strong and sweet and ornery. He only had half a tongue (half had been removed due to cancer--don't smoke pipes!), so it could be a little difficult to make out his words sometimes. But you could always understand his sentiment.

One way he expressed himself was through his wood carving. He whittled stray chunks of wood in his spare time, and we are lucky enough to have wound up with some of his creations. Old Pap died a long time ago, but he's with us still, living in the wood shaped by his hands. My children are connected to him every time they pick up one of his carvings and hear the story about it.

My favorite is the hummingbird--delicately shaped, and balanced on a pliable wire, it bobs up and down at the slightest breeze or touch, evoking the real thing. The cat holding the mouse by the tail is also pretty cool.

Here are a few of his pieces:

TG's parents have a collection of larger birds Old Pap carved, more intricately worked and perhaps more beautiful. But the whimsy of these smaller pieces appeals to me.

When you tried to compliment him on his artistry, Old Pap always claimed it was easy. All you had to do was carve away the parts that didn't look like what you were trying to make.

Here are some of the knives he used to do the carving:

Notice how small some of the blades are? That's because he constantly sharpened them, keeping them in the best possible shape to pursue his craft.

I think there's a lesson there for writers, too. Keep your tools sharp, and when you revise, just try to carve away the parts that don't look like your book. :)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Adventures in Frugality, or How To Make a Living with a Vibrating Billy Club

Back in the early days of our marriage, when I was a lowly (and low-paid) grad student and the theater god had not yet been deified, we shall I put this?

Less than wealthy, maybe?

Fiscally challenged?

Rising stars among the "genteel poor" set?

Well, mostly we were flat broke, and stretching paychecks to the snapping point to make our mortgage and still manage to eat. (Can't believe someone actually gave us a mortgage. It's not like we qualified, but it was a private party deal. He was desperate to sell, seeing as how he had four kids, and his new wife had three. They had to get out of that tiny house.)

[Yes, I know I've previously claimed we were 12 when we got married. What can I say? We were precocious.]

We did various things to supplement TG's tech director pay and the pittance of a stipend I got for teaching composition to undergrads. (BTW, do kids still manage to get into to college without being able to write a complete sentence? Because...damn. I was appalled at what those kids didn't know. But I digress...)

My supplemental contributions to the family coffer were derived from relatively mundane pursuits, like tutoring on the side. One of my pupils was kind of interesting, though--a Kuwaiti prince who needed to improve his English so he could pass his college courses and stay in the country.

The prince was very nice and respectful (refused to call me by my first name only, always said "Mrs. Linda"), and stuttered to beat the band. It was frustrating for both of us, but boy, did it pay well. He also promised his father would give me a "n-n-n-ice b-b-b-b-onus" if he passed, but alas. He f-f-f-ailed.

Whereupon I inadvertently taught him a new word: F-f-f-uck!

TG's extra projects, whenever he could steal time from the theater, tended to be more fun. Like the time he built a vibrating billy club for the dancer from a male strip club called "La Bare" (I think these clubs are still in existence, but I *cough* couldn't really say for sure) whose schtick (you should pardon the expression) was being a policeman*.

This dancer would strut out in full uniform (though not for long!), extending his billy club and zapping the ladies seated closest to the stage. Apparently it gave his fans quite the tingly thrill, and he later told TG his tips went up considerably once he added the prop to his act. So, being of the entrepreneurial spirit, TG charged him more for the next one, after the first one was accidentally snapped in two by a woman who would Not. Let. Go.

Another time, TG and a buddy caught a ride out to Laredo on a puddle-jumper, flying low and following the highway the whole way. There they decorated a theater for a debutante ball, which was an ordinary enough job for them. The fun part was watching the debs get loaded into the backs of moving vans, because their dresses were too big to fit in passenger vehicles.

That was the trip where TG popped across the border into Mexico to pick up a bottle of my favorite liqueur: Amaretto di Saronno. Normally way too expensive for our budget, the di Saronno he found in a little Nuevo Laredo liquor store was too good a bargain to pass up -- $3 dollars for a huge bottle!

TG was so pleased to be able to present me with such a treat upon his return. The money he'd made was long-since earmarked for the next month's groceries, but at least we could celebrate his return with a sip of the good stuff.

Uh-huh. Right. The "good" stuff. It became apparent upon first taste that someone had replaced the real Amaretto with a cheap imitation, and had cleverly affixed a new seal across the cap. While amazingly similar in color, the liquid inside had the distinct flavor of something fresh from the still, with maybe a little sugar added.

Heck, it was so bad we almost couldn't drink it.

But we were poor, and had no other alcoholic libation on hand, so we persevered. By the way, did you know bootleg Amaretto is a mild hallucinogen? Neither did we, then.

Now, most sensible couples would have poured the rest of the bottle down the drain. We were poor, yadda-yadda, and the prospects of restocking our liquor cabinet in the foreseeable future were slim to none. Frugality demanded we save it for emergencies**.

*For the pruriently curious, he constructed it by carving the billy club, hollowing it out, and inserting a dildo. Oh, and he added a nice leather strap, so the dancer could swing it around. I'm sure TG was horribly embarrassed to purchase the dildo, but no way was I going to do it for him. I mean, heck, it wasn't even going to be for me--why should I?

**We threw it out when we had our first child. Thought better of having a substance like that in the house. We may have been young and mildly stupid, but we were not total idiots.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

God's Secret Plan to turn me into a Jewish mother

Phew! Busy week. But fun.

Cramming Passover and Easter together makes for hectic times. Whose idea was that, anyway?

Oh yeah. Right. God's. Never mind, God. Forget I asked. (It doesn't do to question God.)

See, I have an eclectic family. Most of us are of the Christian persuasion, but my darling daughter (DD for short...and she is. Ba-dum-bum. Sorry, honey, but it's true) is Jewish.

When DD was in high school she met a Very Nice young man who happened to be Jewish. Let's call him BANP* (which wasn't applicable at the time, but since I'm blog-naming him retrospectively I'm going with it). They dated. Went to two senior proms together (he was a year ahead of her, so they got to do both). Fell in deep and abiding puppy love.

In due course, BANP went off to the Naval Academy and DD went off to a small college to nurture her nerdly comp. sci. tendencies. All the parents involved waited for the inevitable drifting apart that happens in 99% of these high school romances.

Well. No drifting. Distance did nothing to thwart the young lovers. (Which was perfectly okay with the aforesaid parents, who had grown to love each other's children during this time.) Through the modern miracles of email, instant messaging, and cell phones, DD and BANP kept their love alive.

Now, DD is a dual-brained sort (left and right hemispheres equally active) so she had a double major: the Computer Science I mentioned, and Religion**. In the course of her religious studies she came to the conclusion that Judaism was a better fit for her. This, I have always suspected, had something to do with the fact that she was traumatized at a young age by the Santa scene in the movie A Christmas Story, but whatever. Since her dad and I had raised her to think for herself, we could hardly complain when she did. So, after a few years of studying with a rabbi, DD converted, with her parents' blessing.

[The three rabbis who grilled--I mean, questioned--her at the conversion ceremony looked at TG and me kind of funny. Apparently, not too many parents attend these, typically being a little upset about "losing" their child. TG and I didn't see it that way. Why wouldn't we want to be a part of such an important day in our daughter's life? See, to us, that was key. HER life, HER choice.]

Let me back up a little here and mention a rather selfish thought I had when DD and BANP first started getting serious. It *cough* may have entered my mind that since BANP was Jewish, if they ever got together on a permanent basis, at least we could always count on having them with us for Christmas, since his family obviously wouldn't care! Brilliant, huh?

Uh-huh. Until I found out that BANP was born on Christmas Day. Yes, my daughter married married a nice Jewish boy who was born on Christmas. (If he could walk on water, I'd be really nervous.)

Damn it, I thought when I found out. His parents probably want him to be with them on his birthday. Who wouldn't? Divine retribution for my selfish thought.

However, since God is merciful, it has turned out that we do (when the Navy permits) get DD and BANP for Christmas. The restaurant that was BANP's birthday tradition with his family closed, so they can all come to our annual Christmas Eve glögg-fest (glögg is a Swedish mulled wine served at Christmas time) instead. God works in mysterious ways. :)

In return, BANP's family has included us in their holiday celebrations, too. We just shared a wonderful Passover seder with them--we loved it! Did you know you have to drink four glasses of wine during Passover seder? Wow. Talk about the perfect holiday for me. And the food! *still drooling at the memory*

The best part of this whole set-up is, I figure I'm an honorary Jewish mother now. Mother of a Jew = Jewish mother, right?

I've always thought Jewish mothers have the best mothering gig evah, so pardon me if I get a little verklempt thinking about my good fortune.***

*Bad-Ass Navy Pilot

**I keep telling her she should start her own online religion--even offered to keep the books for her--but does she listen to her mother? Noooo...

***I've just realized how old this post makes me sound. A married kid? Me? Well, you should know that TG and I married and had kids very early. We were 12, if I recall correctly. At least mentally. And DD & BANP married early too--I believe they were 10. But mature for their age.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fanning the Fiction (and a contest link)

I've written about my "drawer novel," CATSPAW, before.

I like to pretend CATSPAW was the first novel I wrote, but technically it's not. Yesterday's post reminded me of my real first novel: TRIXIE BELDEN AND THE KENTUCKY DERBY MYSTERY.

Yes, I was a fan fiction writer before writing fan fiction was cool.

I blatantly stole characters and settings, and even dialogue tags, from my favorite series, and I did it with pride. I could mimic like a pro. In my head there was nothing to distinguish my lovingly crafted adventure from the real thing. Written out longhand, with painstaking attention to every grammatical rule I had thus far mastered, it was a labor of love. Not a bad effort for an eleven-year-old.

It had a pretty sophisticated plot, too, if I do say so myself: Trixie and all the other Bobwhites of the Glen go to Kentucky to visit Trixie's Uncle Carl and Aunt Carolyn (coincidentally, I had an Uncle Carl and Aunt Carolyn who lived in Kentucky) to see the Kentucky Derby. While there, the Bobwhites find out about an evil gang of horse-druggers, bent on drugging all the other horses so their horse will win the Run for the Roses. Even their horse is evil--it bites Honey's hand when all she's trying to do is feed it an apple.

Well. As you may imagine, this does not sit well with our intrepid group of mystery-solvers. They are forced to go undercover to catch the very bad, horrible horse-druggers. And Jim (my hero *swoons*) even has to beat one up! After which Trixie kisses him right on the mouth.

Apparently even then I was all about the sex and violence. I like to think I've grown as a novelist in the intervening years, but I guess some things never change.

[Before I sign off, let me link to Tawa Fenske's Contest. She's celebrating reaching over a hundred followers (in just two months of blogging!) by giving away a hand-carved wine bottle topper. And she assures me it doesn't have to be in the shape of a phallus, like hers is. In case you're worried.

If you don't want to enter the contest, that's okay with me. I get an extra entry just for blogging about it, and if you don't enter, there's a bigger chance I'll win. I don't have a penis-shaped wine bottle topper in my collection yet, and I'm thinking it would make a great conversation piece when the in-laws come to dinner.]