29 October 2006

On to the next story!

Well, I sent Symphonians off to my buddy Kat for a critique, and now I'm like, "You know, it's time to move on for a bit." So I've started working on Leavetaking, which is *my raccoon story.*

Ha ha! That always clears the room!

Yeah, it's anthopomorphic animals. You want to take this outside? But I'm an outdoorsy kind of gal, volunteered with the Missouri Department of Conservation for years and years, and worked outdoors for years and years, so I mix in plenty of natural history. Try to stay true to the facts about how raccoons act, except for the teensy fact that they don't live in large communal groups and that they do not talk, generally, or not in the way I have them talking.

But I'm so frustrated by the fact that I hardly ever see raccoons any more. In St. Joseph, they live in the sewers, and sometimes at night I would see them come out of one sewer and cross over into another one. In the small town I live now, we don't have those kinds of sewers, so I haven't seen a single one. The nearest wildlife rehabilitation station is in Kansas City, a long way to drive. But why would I want to drive clear out to KC to observe wildlife when I know I'm surrounded by raccoons here?

There are some at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha -- long way to drive, but a worthwhile trip.

But anyway, my dandy critique group just got finished critiquing the beginning of the book, and so I've started putting their thoughts into action. I'm going to have to tear out big chunks of text and write lots of new stuff. So it goes.

But the other thing I was going to do was use the Writing the Breakout Novel workbook and go through the story and really get it going. I can use all the help I can get.

25 October 2006

The Last 30 Pages.

I love this job right now because things are really slow right now and I've been able to work on Symphonians daily! And get paid! Of course the payback will come in a few months, when it sounds like I'll have to sleep at my desk and proofread in my sleep. So I'll take what I can get.

Discovered that I have 30 pages left to mark up, and then I'll type in corrections. yay! Except ... I'm getting discontented by everything I've written, and I mean everything. I'm going, why do all the changes have to be imposed on Kay from outside? Except for that winter camping trip that she takes to get away from Carter; what the hell was she thinking? And what does this trip do for the novel's structure and Kay's conflict overall? The final confrontation sucks of course. And is there enough motivation for Carter to suddenly go off the deep end and try to drag her to Omaha? And on and on.

I'm going, stop already, let's just write the damn thing first before we go tearing it up. But my brain has some kind of Action Agenda of its own, and apparently "nitpicking" is at the top of the page.

I'm hoping breathing exercises and B.B. King will help. Also slouching in my chair with my chin on my folded hands, my face in a frowny pout, seems to help. Or that's how I usually find myself when I get thinky.

18 October 2006

Finished! (Kinda.)

Oh fraboujous day, callouh, callay, and she chortled in her glee. Today I worked on the last chapter of Symphonians and finally straightened out the LAST SCENE in the book, and it was great to get that done. A resolution! And everything fit! And some thematic stuff from earlier popped up in there just to be nice! Which doesn't usually happen, not to me anyway.

I'm going to work on that last chapter some more tomorrow (it's been really slow at work -- today I just did a few corrections and that was it) and then I'll print it out. Then I'm going to mark it up, along with the last 60 pages. But I'm starting to feel a lot better, mainly because I've been whining about revising the second part of the novel since May. Geez Louise, that's been five months! But I'm still going to send it out to two critique buddies to get some comments. I'm hoping to get this novel finished off and sent back to FSG by December, because in January my workload's going to pick up big time and it sounds like I'm going to be unavailable for two months because of overtime and other fun stuff. So that's my goal. Let's see if I can reach it.

13 October 2006

Damn these music memes.

Blame Melissa for this one.


1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...

I did move some of the scenes around for the sake of continuity. And then I gave up and went with the flow instead of trying to be so anal. And I cut several scenes, like the "Waking Up" scene, because everybody knows those scenes are boring.

Opening Credits:
"Man on the Moon" -- REM
Okay, so the movie's out there, or it's about Andy what's-his-name.

First Day At School:
"A Riverboat's Gone/Bumblebee in a Jig" -- April Verch
It's taken a folksy turn with a fiddle. Country girl going to school, tra la!

Falling In Love:
"The Tide is High" -- Blondie
Ha ha! And now she sees a hot man at her school and she's going to chase him all over town! And then she gets her hands on him. Hey handsome, the tide is high. So let's go to the prom. And he says okay, of course.

"Nobody" -- Sylvia. That old country song about a gal whose husband is cheating on her. Let's try a different one.
"No One Like You" -- Scorpions. Okay, an 80's prom and they're playing the metal ballads. I can dig. Except he spikes her punch and they end up in a hotel room. And when she wakes up, she's so pissed.

Breaking Up:
"I'm Still Crazy" -- Vern Gosdin
OMG, this is so appropriate! "Well, I woke up one mornin with a note up on my chest. Said I'm gone for good, you're no longer the best. Never dreamed there'd be another man for you, so I just went crazy. There was nothing left to do." That'll teach him to spike her punch. Note: she affixed the note to his chest hairs with duct tape.

Mental Breakdown:
"Dancing in the Street" -- The Mamas and the Papas.
Well, "Dancing on the Ceiling" would have been more appropriate, esp. if the MC had been partaking of the magic mushrooms to get over her breakup.

Life is Good:
"Bubble Toes" -- Jack Johnson
Apparently the mushrooms have kicked in and she's now remembering when she was three years old. Wait, is that a flashback? Well, she's taken the hallucininatory drugs, she's entitled to at least two. Which brings us to the next scene:

"That Ain't Love" -- REO Speedwagon.
And it's the mid-80's, and our MC has gotten over the magic mushrooms, and she's kicking the ass of the man she was chasing at the beginning of this flick down the school hallway. Ah, memories.

Fight Song:
(as she's kicking his ass nine ways to Sunday)
"The Way It Is" -- Mark Strand
Hell of a fight, this is actually a poem, and a deathly depressing one at that. "He cannot be heard as he moves behind trees and hedges, always at the frayed edges of town, pulling a gun on someone like me. I crouch under the kitchen table, telling myself, I am a dog. Who would kill a dog?" Let's try a song.
"Rock of Ages" -- Def Leppard
That's more like it! "It's better to burn out than fade away!"

Getting Back Together:
"Roll With the Changes" -- REO again
But what a hell of a set of changes she's rolling with. Why has she stopped kicking this man's ass? Because he's going to be here when she's ready to roll with the changes. Oh, okay, handsome. So let's get married. Okay!

"Cymbeline" -- Loreena McKinnitt
And then he dies.

Paying the Dues:
"Mamma Mia" -- ABBA
"Just one look and I can hear the bells ring. One more look and I forget everything." So I guess she's fallen in love with another guy. Which means she's going to pay and pay.

The Night Before The War:
"Hold On Loosely" -- .38 Special
This story's gone all to hell now. Let's try another song.
"Candle in the Wind" -- Elton John (the Live in Australia one you'd hear in the late '80's.)
That's more like it. General musing on mortality and looking at soldiers' pictures here.

Final Battle:
"Circle in the Sand" -- Belinda Carlisle
Can't we get something a little more, I don't know, monumental?
"On the Shoreline" -- Genesis
"Well, there's a place where two world collide, something something against the pull of the tide. You can stay with your feet on the ground. Or step into the water, leave the dry behind on the shoreline. Where you can only swim if you try!" So she's grappling with the bad guy at the ocean's edge for offing her man at her own wedding!

Moment of Triumph:
"White Lightning" -- George Jones
Which is a song about drinking moonshine. Try again!
"Oh Death" -- Ralph Stanley
So they all get killed, including the MC. The moonshine still at the ocean's edge apparently blew up. And death triumphs once again!

Death Scene:
Um ... Already handled that.

Funeral Song:
"Hells Bells" -- AC/DC
OMG! I swear to God that's what came up!

End Credits:
"Delia's Gone" -- Johnny Cash
"Delia, oh Delia, Delia all my life. If I hadn't shot poor Deila, I'd a-had her for my wife. Delia's gone, one more round, Delia's gone."

Well, that movie went all to hell!

This 'n that.

My work day was done, technically, and I was putting on my coat and about to race out the door when one of the artists said, stick around a minute, I'm printing out some corrections. So here I am, writing a few lines in the blog while I wait for him to get them to me. Well, at least they'll be done. Though I'm sure I'll see these pages again on Monday with totally new corrections to make.

The other day I actually had some time to write at work, and boy, what a relief it was. (They'll let you do whatever you like if there's no work sitting on your desk -- real nice workplace I got here.) Like I've been saying (or complaining), with Symphonians it's one step forward and two steps back. I had been working on the second-to-last scene, but then I ended up jumping back 40 pages from the end to fix up Kay's attitude. Carter had just attempted suicide -- a cry for help? A bid for attention? A way to trap her? -- and her actions directly afterward were bothering me. A guy takes pills in front of you -- that's going to detonate a depth charge in your soul. But at the same time it really drives home the realization that she's got to get out of the relationship. So I was able to work on Kay's turning point, and now I feel a little better. I'm not totally satisfied with it, but I'll just keep working on it.

Remind me to tell you about that Anthony Gomes concert we went to last weekend, it was a blast.

06 October 2006

Ninety years ago next week....

It was about this time, ninety years ago, that my great-grandparents eloped. I never knew they eloped until one of their friends' daughters told me the story. They lived in Holt County; I found their marriage certificate two counties to the south. Her brother didn't know, their son didn't know, nobody knew they did this!

What was really interesting was that my great-grandfather, who was a good Christian and really walked the line, said on the sheet that he was 21 years old. Actually he was 16 and Grandma was 17.

I ended up writing part of a story about it, and I'll post a bit of it here.

October 1916

Rose walked out of the hot kitchen of the boarding house for a moment, rubbing flour off her fingers, shaking it out of her hubbard. It was a misty, drizzly day. The mist caused the wood smoke smell to hang low over the small river town. Down the street, clanging like a distant bell came from the blacksmith’s, then stopped. So quiet out. An old yellow tom, his winter coat thick as an old coon’s, meowed as he stepped toward her. A slight cool breeze touched her face, but it wasn’t cold enough to freeze the rain or turn her breath into vapor.

A loud cardinal at the top of a walnut tree ran through all its songs. Sourdough bread scent leaked out of the screen door behind her. Though rainy Saturday afternoons are dreary, written in a minor key, it’s still beautiful, despite the yellow October grass and skeletal back trees and white sky. A steam train bellowed several miles away, probably at Marti’s crossing. That meant it was about 11:45. Back to work, Jonas is on his way. She smiled.

Inside the kitchen, lit by oil lamps, Grandma was placing some wood on the fire, arranging the logs to keep the heat as even as possible around the oven, where the bread was baking. Noodles in red sauce bubbled on top of the stove. Grandma shut the fire door and wiped her face with a man’s handkerchief.

Grandma had run the boarding house for several years, ever since Grandpa had died of a stroke out in the fields. Rose had been helping for the last year, receiving a measly payment for her efforts. “About time you got back in here,” Grandma said, stirring the red noodles, scraping the bottom of the pot to keep the noodles from burning. “Now get those dishes washed.”

Rose got the tin dishpan, put it in the sink under the small pump, and began pumping. Freezing well water splashed down. Rose sighed. The whole world outside was so beautiful, but she had to stay in this cramped, hot kitchen and listen to Grandma’s complaints. She could not understand how her mother could stay so patient with Grandma. Mother had faith in God and the sweetest temperament she’d ever seen. But Rose wanted to lash out against Grandma – indeed, against this small world that kept her locked in. She didn’t want to plod along like Ma did, like cattle in harness.

At least there was Jonas, and their secret.

Jonas rode up on his sorrel horse with the white face. Her heart fluttered to see him. He was a stocky young man with curly blonde hair, and wore droopy work overalls as all the men did. He slid off the horse and tied it up as the horse tugged at the rope with short jerks of his head. His sorrel was one that, if he didn’t like what he was tied to, would look around and take off.

Rose smiled, giddy, and brought the hot rolls to the table just as Jonas walked in, hanging his hat on the hooks by the door. Several other men from the fields or the businesses around town were also coming in. Jonas’s cool blue eyes met her and he gave her a secret smile. She blushed, smiled in return, then, abashed, hurried into the kitchen as the men, talking in their loud voices, began to seat themselves at table.

End! (for the moment)

02 October 2006

Symphonians part 3!

"What are you writing?"

I awoke to the real world to find Noel looking with curiosity at the Symphonians’ notebook.

"Oh, this and that," I stammered, trying to sound nonchalant as I quickly covered the scene with my arm. "I don't know. Sometimes I write any old thing in here. It's nice." I clutched my skull. I'm smart! Yet I talk like a cheerleader!

"You know, Kathy, I see you with that notebook, and more and more I think you ought to try out for Brain Bowl. I’m graduating next month, so I won’t be able to play any more. But you'd be perfect for the team. You obviously know how to concentrate, and you’re always hanging out in the library, so you’re not afraid of a little knowledge." Noel, holding his black fedora by its crown, lifted it a few inches and dropped it, lifted it and dropped it.

I squawked, "Really?" I cleared my throat. "I don’t know. It's obvious I can't talk."
"You're talking now."

"Yeah ... but talking's hard." Wow, did that ever sound dumb!

Noel put both arms on the table and leaned toward me, and I caught a whiff of spearmint gum. He chopped the table with the side of his hand as he spoke. "You have to learn some things to make talking easier. It's not easy for everyone. I learned because I had to." He leaned back in his chair. "Kathy, when I moved down here from Parnell in junior high, I didn't know anyone. So I made myself stand out from the crowd. I spoke to everybody, I remembered names, I complimented people. They paid attention. Now I'm beginning to reap the dividends. It was tough, though. I can't believe how cliquish these people are."

I nodded. "You got that right."

"Personally, I think you'd do well in Brain Bowl because you like research and you're smart. You've always got a book or a bass clarinet. Anyone who plays bass has got to have brains." There was a little wink in his voice.

I shrugged, though I was flattered. It would never be possible, though. It was too easy to look like an idiot in front of everybody. "Oh, I don't know," I said, being polite. "I'm doing all kinds of music stuff...." I glanced up and found his brown eyes full on mine, saw the little crinkles at their edges where he smiled. An electric current ran through me. Confused, I pushed up the sleeves of my cardigan. The library was warm as a strange tide rose in my chest, turbulent, wonderful, frightening. “I’m pretty busy,” I stammered, looking at my green notebook like some doofus.

“Have it your way,” Noel said, friendly.

He went back to his test. His brows lowered in thought as he frowned at his paper, his dark face intense, unguarded. Could he see how defenseless, how alone I am?

Yeah, maybe he'll pick you up and carry you away.

At once my imagination kicked into overdrive: Noel carried me out of burning houses, through war zones, rescued me from the mall during Christmas season.

The bell jangled: my lunch break was over. Reluctantly, I stood. Noel gave my arm a gentle squeeze, and I felt the warmth of his dark hand.

"See you later." Noel smiled at me. I longed to put my arms around him and AIEE don't think about that! And with one last confused smile in return I fled. I ran down the hall to Chorus, dodging students, my heart pounding, propelled by a giddy sense of doom. This is going to kill me! But I love it!

Yet I wanted to run down the hall with my arms open singing “Musetta’s Waltz” in a ringing operatic soprano, though my pipes would not have cooperated.

"It's just an infatuation," I told myself, knocking over students too slow to get out of my way, as my thoughts spun around Noel like a whirlpool. "Ignore it." Because my other infatuations had faded out after a year or two. This one would too. Simple as that.

Another part of me rebelled. Look, why are you so scared? Why can’t you be like a normal girl and go out with normal guys?

I didn’t have a good answer. So I squashed the voice like a bug. “That’s just the way I am,” I muttered, heading up the stairs back into the bandroom where the other Chorus students were gathering. “Deal with it.”

That’s not a valid reason any more, said the other voice, crawling out from under my metaphorical shoe. Why not change? Why not act like the rest of the world?

Shut up. I dropped a two-ton boulder on it and got out my choir music. I can't even take a hug, though I'd love a hug. They felt like an intrusion.

But that kind of love – sex – scared me even more. It wasn’t like I was going to have sex before I got married, anyway. Well, okay, not that I was even interested in getting married, either! So I’d be a virgin. I was curious, of course, and I mean really curious, but still, there’s nobody out there that I’d show myself naked to. Someone would see me with nothing on! Oh, God, that would be awful!

Besides, Noel’s a senior, and he’s going to graduate next month, so why bother? He has plenty of girlfriends to pick from. And I'm not good enough for him anyway.

That, I figured, was that.

Except I suddenly had an image of Jeremy, one of my Symphonians, tearing down the ice after the hockey puck, his blonde hair streaming out from under his helmet like Jagr’s. His blue eyes shone with the thrill of the chase. With a single slap shot – goal! And he did a double axle to celebrate.

Jeremy wasn’t afraid. So why was I?

(End chapter one.)