help—part 1

Here’s the thing: when you need help, just ask. I know! Crazy simple.

Lately I have been doing that and let me tell you, I endorse it 100%. Why did it take me this long? Who knows, but don’t make my mistake. When someone says, “What can I do to help?” think of something.

Lately, my most consuming worry, the one that pushes its crummy little self to the front of the line, is HOW AM I GOING TO MARKET MY BOOK? I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO MARKET A BOOK! This one really loves 3:00AM. A lot. Also yelling.

When I know how to do something, I possess endless energy and almost too much exuberance and enthusiasm. (I do know other words that don’t begin with E but these just really seem to work well together.) Conversely, when I do not know how to do something, I freeze. Then worry. Then freeze. Worry. Freeze. Worry. A nice tidy loop of crazy.

But sometimes, my subconscious (who is really very thoughtful most of the time) steps in and solves the problem. I woke up the other morning with the thought, “Just ask for help.” So I did! I sent a simple email to some of my writer friends asking for their most effective marketing practices and they were happy to share. I now have some great ideas and—dare I say it?!—a marketing plan! “Plan” might be an optimistic word, but I have something close to it. I slept well last night. As did my subconscious (I’m assuming).

The great thing about asking for help is that is makes you more inclined to offer help, which seems counterintuitive if you are busy enough to need to ask for help in the first place, but somehow it all balances out. And you get the warm-and-fuzzies, which are very lovely. Also, it’s good karma. Who can’t use a little good karma?

This weekend Steve (not his real name) asked for help in getting the large parts to our new swing set from a truck into the backyard. Parts far too large for my feeble upper-body strength. My brother-in-law and a good friend helped. Also my sister. She’s a lot stronger than I am. But I watched as I ate my breakfast and told them where it should go.

swing_set
swing_set

Here is the swing set. It's not done yet. Or it's the worst swing set ever. But, really, it's not done yet.

Oh, speaking of karma, I have a nice story for you. When we decided to get a swing set, we checked out some of the swing set offerings on Criagslist to see if there was anything good before we just went out and bought new. You know, frugality and reusing, reducing, recycling. Anyhow, I found this great one in a town—that shall remain unnamed—an hour away from us. I spoke to the owner who was moving and needed it removed ASAP. I told her we would be by on Saturday and she said to call her then for the address where to mail the check. Deal! We drove there and she was gone (which we expected) and so was the swing set (which we did not). I texted her to inquire (with utmost hopefulness and faith in humanity) had the swing set been moved to a place where I could retrieve it? No. She sold it to someone else and forgot to call me. That is bad karma. I wanted to send her a nasty text but that would have been bad karma. I wanted to wish bad karma upon her. But that also would have been bad karma. Bad karma begets bad karma. Just like helping begets helping.

(See how I bring these things full circle?)

In the end, as you have most likely deduced, we did find another swing set and the guy managed not to sell it to someone else before we got there. He was even extremely nice AND helped Steve (not his real name) to dismantle and load the parts. I like to think we met this great fortune because we sow good karma. And see? More helping!

Are you wondering why is this “part 1”? Because you never know when you’re going to need to ask for help ... again.

FRIENDLY REMINDER! The Mosquito Hours will be released for your reading pleasure in 2 weeks! Mark your calendars now! (You’re welcome.)

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

i wanna be a duggar

I think I want to be a Duggar. I have been watching 19 Kids and Counting and the Duggars are so nice. I mean they are just ridiculously nice. (I'm a sucker for nice.) It is really easy to look at people who have 19 kids (or more—I’m not even sure how many they’re up to at this point) and get all judge-y and worry about overpopulation and limited resources (I’m all green myself so I get it), or wondering if it is possible to care for that many children well, or fill in your objection here. But these people really have it together—their life is so mindfully constructed. They’re ultra-conservative and I’m ultra-liberal, but politics aside, I admire their mindfulness. And they are just so nice. Their life is simple and sweet. And, yes, perhaps they do need 11 shopping carriages at the supermarket and wash and dry 180 loads of laundry a week (WHAT?! I do 6 and I am whiny all over the place), but I just might trade in my social media and my fears of tweeting and my DVR and iPhone for their kind of simplicity. It’s like a convenient version of Little House on the Prairie without the failed crops and deadly childhood diseases and bear attacks.

Let me be clear: if I become a Duggar, I want to be one of the kids—I do not want to be the mom. 19 kids (or however many they’re up to at this point) is way too many kids to take care of. I have 3 and I only meant to have 2 and I am maxed-out. What I want to be is a Duggar child. If I were a Duggar child, I could just get in the supper-making assembly line and sleep in a nice bunk amidst all the other Duggar children. It’s just so cozy to imagine. And nice. Really really nice. They might not even notice I’m there if I am quiet and keep myself busy with laundry and cooking. I would, however, retain my belief in dinosaurs; I’d keep it on the DL so as not to upset the family dynamic.

I am genuinely surprised by how much I like the Duggars. I was prepared to think they’re totally weird. They are, but only in a different way from anyone else. It’s a mostly good weird. (Like most of us.)

I have a totally valid reason why I started watching this show and it is research, which I encourage you to do. You can pretty much do anything under the umbrella reason of “research.” But this is bona fide research. I have an idea for a new novel that includes a large family. Maybe not Duggar-large, but larger than average. Maybe 12 kids. So, you see, I must watch the Duggars. It’s professional, people. And if I try to infiltrate their brood, then it’s called “deep research.”

As I watch 19 Kids and Counting, progress on my new website continues. I am very excited about it! I'm still working away and am getting close to finishing it. Or Steve (not his real name) is. Whatever you think.

Here is a picture of me bossing him in my striped bossing pants:

working_on_website

Yes, I have bossing pants. All good wives have bossing pants. Hel-lo. See how he’s just typing away. Well, not typing—clicking and saving and moving things around in ways I could never understand. But I tell him where it all goes which is the really important part. I cannot understand what-all is taking him so long. I am telling him what to do in a timely, rapid manner. I am being as efficient as I can possibly be, people.

If I were a Duggar, I’ll bet at least a few of those kids could put their heads together and figure out Squarespace. Not that I don’t have faith in Steve (not his real name), but he’s only one person. Maybe we should have had more kids ...

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

diy extravaganza!

i am building a new website (or my husband is—you decide)

My memèré steals Lorna Doone cookies for me from the nursing home. Package upon package that she hides in little white plastic bags (also supplied by the nursing home) which she then hands off to my mother to deliver to me. I receive them in the dark of night. This is my stash:

lorna_doone

Technically she is not stealing them—she is entitled to anything from the mobile snack cart any time it rolls by. I’m not sure this is what they intend, however, when they stock the Lorna Doones every morning. This pilfering began when I saw a package of them in her room and innocently mentioned how much I like them. (They are very satisfying with a cup of tea at the end of the day.) Even as much as I enjoy them, I do not encourage Mem in this little cookie mission. Although, neither do I encourage her to stop. Even if I tried, she cannot be stopped. A couple of years ago I asked her to save egg cartons for me so I could do a craft project with the kids. She got all her friends on it. Every old lady she knew in the city. It was a grassroots movement. A lot of eggs were consumed. Actually, no one really knows what happened to those eggs.

(I am still making crafts with egg cartons.)

Anyhow, I stay up and eat the Lorna Doones while trying to get everything done. They are very satisfying with trying to get everything done.

One of the things I have been trying to get done while I eat my Lorna Doones is build a new website. What I mean by build a new website is Steve (not his real name) is building me a new website and I am bossing him around. Also, it was my idea, which is really 99% of a thing anyhow. I would have done it myself, but even though the good people at Squarespace say it is ever-so easy to build a website with their product, for me it was not. It was ever-so baffling and brain-hurting. Which is not to say the good people at Squarespace are inaccurate in the assessment of their product, because Steve (not his real name) is doing just fine with it.

Here are some screenshots of the homepage so far:

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Screen_shot2.jpg

Pretty, right?

(Totally.)

I wanted to be able to do a little more than a blog is capable of which is why I built this, with help from Steve (not his real name) who contributed about 1% toward the project. (Please see my math-ing above for clarification of this equation. It’s 100% accurate and most likely equals 100. Which is what makes it accurate, I am pretty certain. I am neither good at website building nor most math-ing. But I am honest to a fault which is how you know these things about me.) On my new website, I will have my blog feed, a page for book groups (yes, I DO participate in Skype or FaceTime talks with book groups!) and a page for my freelance editing services (yes, I DO edit manuscripts—and at a very reasonable rate). Also, a page dedicated to The Mosquito Hours. And there is plenty of room to grow.

Stay tuned for the big move over to my new URL—www.melissacorlissdelorenzo.com! It will be happening very soon!

I am hopeful that my Wordpress followers will subscribe to my blog feed over at my new website. I’ll continue to remind you wonderful followers of my impending move so that you will be sure not to miss any posts or crucial news that you might should you neglect to follow me at my new website. (You’re welcome.)

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

diy extravaganza!

spaces & edits; also battleships

Oh, terrible blog post title. Maybe I will come up with something better. If I do, you’ll never know this happened. If you’re reading this, then that’s as good as it got. (Sorry if that’s how it turns out.) battleshipsI have to keep it short today—I am chin-deep in preparations for the homeschool history fair and things are wacko here. Our topic: the attack on Pearl Harbor. At first it was all of World War II—I said no. Then it was Martial Arts. Then my son said he never said that. (He totally did.) Then it was Tae Kwon Do, since he takes lessons. Perfect, right? No. Then it was back to all of World War II—I said no. Then it was 2 weeks before and I said we have to narrow this down! Hence, the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In addition to the normal homeschool agenda, the homeschool history fair, the substantial (and disheartening) demands of family life right now, laundry (that’s always its own crappy little category), feeding these people (Ohmygod they eat constantly ... well, not my son ... I have to constantly beg him to eat. Ergo, I am constantly involved in feeding these people one way or another. Or not feeding them. That is also exhausting.), blogging and fussing about everything, I am also on deadline for the final edits on The Mosquito Hours. Glad to be on the final round of edits, also terrified because this is the last chance to make sure it is just right. Also on my to-do list: find a place for my book launch party. Of course that wasn't freaking me out AT ALL.

(It was.)

Well, I am happy to say I found a really great place so that little job is out of the way! At first, when I started trying to determine the right locale, I was totally freaked out (I know! Can you believe it?) because it had to be PERFECT or EVERYTHING WOULD BE RUINED! (Yes, I was yelling about it. You would yell, too, if choosing the wrong locale for you book launch party would result in EVERYTHING BEING RUINED!) But then I stepped back and in a moment of clarity realized ... well, I really shouldn’t pretend like I have moments of clarity. I don’t want to lie to you good people. My moments of clarity are more like nanoseconds of clarity, but a nanosecond is indeed a measure of time in which great things are possible. Anyhow, in my nanosecond of clarity (which really does go by very quickly, but not without impact), I realized I should simply have fun with this. It’s all gonna be okay, people.

A good friend led me to a lovely little coffee shop down near the beaches and I must say it is fantastic. The ambiance, the warm-and-fuzzy of the people who work there, the espresso drinks (delish), the big windows and sunniness. They even stream my favorite radio station. It was serendipity! It has the same vibe as my favorite café in Boston, which is exactly what my sister said when she checked the place out! I got the best hot cocoa of my life there this past Saturday. My LIFE, people. The locale was a toss-up between this place and a coffee shop downtown. The places are about the same size but the downtown place has that cool urban feel. The bustling streets outside, the old buildings, the cobblestone. But it’s got a too-cool-for-school vibe. A lot of hipsters. I prefer warm and fuzzy. I am a lot of things but “cool” ain’t one of them.

I would love to share pics with you and there were some on my phone, but I seem to have deleted them in some moment of purging madness so I had to use stock photos to decorate this post. coffee_drinker (That's not even me.)

Oh. Well, look at that. This didn’t end up being all that short. You're welcome. ******************************************************************************

My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

60 days

We got more snow the other night. Not much. Just an inch or 2. We’re not even bothering to shovel at this point. Just kicking it out of the way. And to get it off the car, don’t bother standing around in the cold with that stupid brush you are so very tired of at this point—just blast the heat and let the snow and ice melt a bit then use the windshield wipers and copious amounts of washer fluid. Screw anything on the roof of the car. Seriously, just screw it. Pretend it’s not there. Yesterday when I went outside to drive to homeschool open gym, I actually felt hostile about just how cold it was. How DARE it be this cold? I keep thinking that in 60 days the weather will be spring-y! In 60 days I won’t be freezing and I might even be wearing flips-flops around the house rather than my super warm (totally dorky) slippers! In 60 days I will stow the winter crap in the basement and reinstall the beach gear in the trunk of the van!

TMH_cover And in 60 days, my novel will be released! That’s right—60 more days! See how much there is to look forward to?

You can’t wait, can you?

(You can’t.)

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

a box of notes

2014-02-03 22.03.18 Since high school, I have saved a cardboard box of notes. All are written on either spiral-bound notebook paper—with the frillies still attached on the left—or that pulpy newsprint on which they made us do math. (I never cease to get excited by the fact that I won’t ever have to do math for credit again. Or labor. Labor or math—never have to do either of those again. For the record, I was much better at labor.) I have carted these notes around for years. They were passed in class or in the hallways of my enormous high school. Many are from my sister. In every single one, she is A) talking about some boy, and B) starving. That poor kid was never not hungry. Or never not thinking about some boy.

At any rate, these notes live in this closet:

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This closet is that place in the house where crap is simply shoved and the door closed with no regard to tidiness or organization or anything but the idea of worrying about it later or when you need something that’s in there at which time it is very difficult to unearth the thing and you swear you are going to clean it up. (But you won’t.) The shelf contains (a generous use of that word) kind-of-folded-up spare curtains. That pink bag holds my wedding gown. Empty organizing containers and baskets of all kinds live in here as do the fans and a spare vacuum cleaner. And lots of other random crap. Here you will find the box of notes. I finally pitched the cardboard and upgraded to a plastic container.

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Why did I keep these? And why am I rambling about them? Alright, I’ll tell you.

First let me say that I am not a saver in general. I am more of a compulsive purger. One of my great loves in this sweet life is getting rid of crap we don’t need. I love it so much. Almost too much. Steve (not his real name) might just say I love it too much. He would be likely to say it especially when I force him to participate. Especially when it's his crap. I am not particularly sentimental about objects and I have no trouble parting with things and I mostly don’t save stuff “just in case.”

But I could never toss these notes. They are a way for me to look back at myself—at parts of me which I pretty much forget about until I read them again. And the language! It is the prose of a teenager. Of a teenager in the 80s. Vocabulary my brain cannot simply conjure now. They are sweet, smart, funny.

I could never let them go.

In The Mosquito Hours, there are 3 main characters: Vivian and her 22 year old twin daughters, Tania and Guin. Tania finds her mother’s old diaries—which contain Vivian’s musings as well as pasted-in notes from friends—and secretly begins to read them. So when I was thinking about material for Vivian’s diaries and notes, I remembered: the box! I cobbled together many of my favorite parts of those old notes as well as my own diary material (holy crap, some of that shizzle is embarrassing!) to create Vivian’s. Those real words and events and feelings add such a sweet authenticity to Vivian's fictitious diaries.

Even though I have been tempted over the years to pitch the notes in the recycling bin, I am glad something held me back. I am shredding those old diaries at some point, though ...

Okay, confession time: I did not finish the edits on that story I promised you for this week. I said there was only a 50-50 chance I would come good on my promise, so don’t say you weren’t warned. But I am serialing a short story called “Squash Pie” that was originally posted on Her Circle Ezine a while back. The main character is in one of my novels-in-progress, so the story gives a little glimpse into one of my future works, in which I am fooling around with female archetypes. So, look for that on Thursday!

proof!

Wanna see something? 2014-01-27 10.13.50

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This is my house. There is this joke I saw on Facebook and it goes like this. A husband comes home from work and the house is a complete disaster. Dirty dishes are piled up out of the sink, toys everywhere, floors grime-covered, baskets overflowing with laundry, kids’ paint splotched all over the floors and walls, no supper on the table, filthy kids running wild. The husband finds the wife upstairs lounging in bed. (If it were me, there would be books. And wine.) He says, “What happened?” She says, “You know how you’re always asking me what I do all day?” He says, “Yeah.” She replies, “Today I didn’t do it.”

Here are some close-ups of the disaster.

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I never realize how much cleaning up I do all day until I have a couple days of not doing it. I think I do the picking up and wiping down unconsciously, like a tick.

But believe me—I am not complaining this time. Because wanna see something else?

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My book! The proof copy came in the mail and I spent the weekend proofreading. And being totally amazed that I held my book in my hands. It was definitely worth the several days of cleaning I was sure to face afterwards.

Steve (not his real name) was a serious hero. He dealt with all the big issues: from Ponies to Nerfs to Minecraft to endless sharpening of colored pencils and even more endless requests for food. (You cannot imagine how often these people want to eat.) He even took the kids—and when I say that I mean ours and my sister’s—out for pizza and to the movies. He’s still twitching a little. So, in the spirit of transparency, this mess is worse than usual because it was committed by twice as many rotten kids. I choose the word “rotten” with utmost affection. And Steve (not his real name) is nothing like that guy in the joke. He never asks me why the house looks like a cyclone hit. He just cheerfully steps over the rubble. He’s one of the good ones, that Steve (not his real name). I do always feed him, though.

So, what is it like to read your own book? Pretty unbelievable. I hadn’t read this particular draft since July, so it has had a good long time to ripen. I started writing this novel in 2010 (I think ... ) and this is draft 8. Yeah—that many. And it will probably go through at least one more. Although, the heavy-lifting is done. Now it’s more of a gentle whittling. Tweaking. I could probably do this forever—every writer could. Obsess over a word here, consult the thesaurus over another word there. But at some point—when you know in your gut that it is tight and it has been edited professionally, I might add—you have to let it fly out into the world. But reading the novel now, I am so happy with it. It’s better than I remembered, to toot my own horn. Which makes it sound as though I thought it kind of sucked before now. But when you’re the writer, it can be difficult to focus on anything but the self-perceived flaws and worries about shortcomings. So this is a lovely, lovely thing—to read your book and feel excited and proud and ready to share it!

Believe it or not (if you’re a mom, you can), I am still cleaning. And I have several loads of laundry to fold. But toggling between proofreading my book and scrubbing the floor—my 2 vocations, homemaker/mom and writer—today I feel nothing but lucky!

The Mosquito Hours book cover reveal!

I have been blogging for a bunch of years now. First for The Writer’s Life on Her Circle Ezine, then for a site called Lifeables and now for my own blog. I have come up with 30 billion (almost) topics about which to write. At one point between the 3 sites, I was writing 5 or 6 posts a week. And yet I have been staring at this screen for HOURS (almost) trying to think of something to write. It appears that focus continues to elude me...

What is that thing they say about forming a habit? It takes blah blah number of days and something something else. Blah blah. I think that’s it. Something like that. (What? I could have simply looked it up? And provided you with valuable information? Using this very computer? Wow.)

Anyhow, evidently it takes a bit of life crisis, coupled with the Holidays, and generalized anxiety to undo a habit. It seems I have undone my blogging habit and I might need a little more time to get on track. So today in lieu of anything resembling coherent written thought, I am going to reveal The Mosquito Hours book cover!

TA-DA!

TMH_cover

This week I will be getting a proof copy in the mail and I will hold my book in my hands and see it in the flesh (so to speak). I do want to share more about this process—when I can once again string words together in a sense-ish manner. That skill is bound to return to me. I think. I am pretty sure that will happen.

I promise to write something brilliant for Thursday so please come back. It’s going to be fantastic. Might even change your life.

I mean it. Probably. Definitely most likely.

book cover inspiration

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These fences are put up to prevent beach erosion over the winter.

As some of you know, my novel The Mosquito Hours is being published in spring 2014 by Thorncraft Publishing, an amazing new small house that publishes literary fiction by women writers.

(Wow—it is really surreal and exciting to say that! My novel is being published! There—I said it again. Still surreal and exciting.)

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All the lifeguard chairs collected for their winter rest!

Last week my sister was visiting and we took all the kids out to the beach. It was one of the last really warm days of October (by “really warm” I mean maybe about 60 degrees). In spite of the relative warmth of the day, we still layered up for the beach, as the wind off the water never ceases blowing which it makes it feel a good deal colder.

It is really strange to visit the beach once summer has passed—it’s a vastly different vista. Still beautiful, definitely more wild. Beach-combing is a whole other world, too. We found giant conches, horseshoe crab shells, spiral shells, and more. Treasures you don’t normally find during the summer. So the kids had a wonderful time exploring this beach they know so well from a new perspective.

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Can you see my sister and my niece over there on the left?

My personal mission on this autumnal beach visit was somewhat less innocent. I needed to sneak all the way up the beach to the place where the shore is cut off by a jetty—the place where some of the old beach houses sit in the sand a mere 50 feet from the high tide line. Technically it’s private property up there. But this ain’t Malibu, people. Not many folks are hanging around the beach once the fall sets in. And I needed to send my publisher—who is in Tennessee, a very different landscape than ours here in Southern New England!—some photos of the area so we can brainstorm some book cover ideas. I wanted her to see the inspiration for the house in which my protagonists live. A house that has been in their family for several generations. A house that survived the Great Hurricane of ’38.

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We left the littler kids with my mom down the beach and my sister, niece and I sort of, well, trespassed. But we didn’t get caught and I think that makes it totally okay. I had an excuse prepared, as I am not quick with the lies under pressure. But as I suspected, no one was around anyhow.

There is so much more to do to turn the manuscript of The Mosquito Hours into a real book. I had NO IDEA how much there would be to do until I received the publication schedule. But I look forward to every step in this adventure. And I can’t wait to hold the book in my hands!

what’s ordinary about ordinary?

2013-05-27 21.43.57 An update on my novel’s latest adventure! The Mosquito Hours has been with an editor for the last month and now has returned to me, full of fresh, new ideas. It is invigorated and excited (so to speak) and so am I! I had a terrific Skype meeting with my editor last evening. (How much do I love saying my editor?? A LOT!) I have some work do to, but I am getting very close to the final edit. Which means you (yes, lucky you!) are getting close to being able to read it!

I remember how I felt when this manuscript was in the early, dreamy time of the creation process—when the story is beginning to take shape, although very loosely. When characters are emerging as if from a steamy room into clear air. It’s a point when I don’t want to know too much, just enough to begin. Then I allow the momentum to carry me along, because the story knows best where it’s going.   One thing I am always pretty sure about is the likelihood that my characters will be ordinary people to whom pretty ordinary things will happen.   Does that seem dull?

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Well, here it is: I am almost never interested in writing about the big things—horrific atrocities, murders, jilted brides, war, abducted children. I prefer to write the small, familiar ruptures, hurts and joys. I write about everyday people and everyday life. I can write pages and pages about the way a character thinks and feels about and reacts to ordinary life.

(The trick? I try to create characters people care about.)

Even when I choose a book to read, I shy away from those brimming and expansive plots and gravitate to the quiet stories.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to write the big stuff...

But whose life—even the most ordinary—is lacking in trajectory and meaning? I feel safe in saying these is no life with such lack.   I think there is an importance in moving focus to the lives of the people who seem commonplace, one of the masses, contributors to the stereotypes. Individuals, whose lives symbolize a wider significance in our history and can rise out of anonymity in being given a name and a place in the collective consciousness. The people I want to write about are the people who, in real life, would probably be ignored, but in the creation of whom readers will be able to connect with the everyday-ness of their stories. Find something of their own stories within.   I suppose I am much more interested in the “nothing” that happens. I am eager to witness what is revealed in the everyday. I believe authenticity surfaces from the details. Right now, everything that is ordinary is, well, ordinary. But as time passes, a picture is created. A history collects.   A curious thing happens when I set out to write the ordinary: anything but emerges. Vivian, Tania and Guin (the protagonists of The Mosquito Hours) are not ordinary whatsoever. And yet nothing particularly out of the ordinary comprises their lives. What happens are the things that do not possess the scope of power to reveal themselves as immediately life-altering, but with time prove out to be just that.   And so I wonder: is anything really ordinary?

Parts of this post originally appeared in a somewhat different incarnation on Her Circle Ezine.

holy crap i almost bought a $50 trash bin

Holy crap I almost bought a $50 trash bin. fancy_trash_bin

It never made it out of the van.

I woke one day and decided our white plastic Rubbermaid flip-open trash bin was too ugly to reside in my kitchen any longer. (That’s how it happens—I wake one day and certain things are no longer tolerable. Could happen to almost anything around here. I do suggest Steve watch himself. I mean, I can’t ditch the kids—you can’t just run around being a bad mother. No, I have to keep them. But bad wife really doesn’t carry the same stigma.)

(Steve knows I’m totally kidding. Or am I?)

I considered decoupaging the trash bin—even found instructions on Pinterest and bought a jar of Modge Podge. But then I thought that project might be too crazy even for me. At any rate, that ugly trash bin had to be relegated to some other, less visually obvious duty—such as laundry lint collection—and a new bin would have to be procured. But those stinkin’ fancy stainless trash bins are expensive. And their purpose is to collect trash—I am not immune to that irony, people.

Typically, I try to find fun, frugal ways to solve dilemmas such as suddenly hating a trash bin I’ve lived amongst for several years in perfect but suddenly defunct harmony. I am hesitant to declare that I’m cheap, but I’m kinda cheap. I like bargains, I like consignment shops, I like finding discarded items on the neighbors’ lawns. But that ugly white trash bin had to go and I happened to possess an expired Bed Bath and Beyond coupon! Pretty frugal right there! I called them up and Chantal, who answered the phone, promised to honor the expired coupon and I set off to peruse their glorious inventory of beautiful—not ugly—trash bins. Shiny and sleek, they seduced me, they beckoned with their come-hither loveliness and I chose a stainless beauty with rails to be secured inside the cabinet. That glorious trash bin would swoosh in and out and I could almost pretend there was no trash bin! (Except when I had trash to dump in it.) The measurements were perfect. Clearly, this was fate. I carried it to the counter, lovingly held it close, presented my expired coupon (which the good people at Bed Bath and Beyond did indeed honor) and $54.99 plus tax later, I placed my pretty trash bin in the back of my van and as I pulled away from the store, I suddenly thought Holy crap I just spent $54.99 plus tax on a freakin’ trash bin. Luckily, Target is in the same shopping plaza and I went right in there and bought a white plastic trash bin whose dimensions could be accommodated under the sink (that part of the idea was still good) for $4.97 plus tax (a lot less tax) and returned the shiny one the next day lest I seem nuts having just bought it. I prefer to exhibit my brand of crazy in more subtle, less conscious ways.

floor_of_van

Look how gross the floor of my van is. Popcorn, anyone? It's covered in dirt and filth and dead bugs. Yum! Kids just have a knack of knowing how to enhance everything.

This trash bin triumph leads me to relay a less victorious moment. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had entered my novel, The Mosquito Hours, into a writing contest—big prize, publication with Amazon, waves of accolades. The book made it through the first round, 2000 entrants down to 400—not too shabby.

But that was as far as I got.

I spent about a half hour telling myself it was all over, maybe I was simply no good, I should give up all aspirations and hopes. It was a pitiful 30 minutes.

Then I readjusted.

And that’s what I want to tell you, good people. There is no failure—there is only readjustment. I don’t intend to get all sickly sweet here on you, but one of the things I keep reading and thinking about in all my homeschooling learning and experiences is that there is no failure in homeschool. In homeschool, when you don’t yet know how to read at the age of 7 like you’re “supposed to,” there is not failure in it. There is no comparison. There is only tomorrow and tomorrow to keep on doing. Doing the things that will lead to the reading. There is doing, observing the outcome, doing more.

yoda_book

Do or do not. There is no try.

Where there are no expected outcomes, there can be no failure.

Failure is merely another word for fear. Master Yoda also said, Named must your fear be before banish it you can.

This writing life of mine—this life—is an adventure of doing. I cannot fail. I can make plans, execute them and observe the outcome. I can make adjustments. There is not one singular, right, exact way to do this. There is no try. There is do. I am doing! Look for The Mosquito Hours for your summer beach reading pleasure! It’s happening, people! Fear of failure, hereby banish you do I!

cheap_trash_bin

I don’t need the shiny bin, the flashy prize. All I need is to do, readjust, observe and do some more. Place trust in the power of doing.

And never, ever spend $50 on a trash bin.

Seriously.

food is innocent, people—even evil piles of oiled spaghetti

Wanna hear my latest pet peeve? (You do.)

Mean cooking shows. What the hell is wrong with this country?

I don’t watch a lot of shows besides Downton Abbey, Girls, New Girl, Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix (where has that show been my whole life?), One Tree Hill on Netflix (TOTAL crap, but I can’t stop), Louie and (best show ever) Felicity which I only watch on DVD since Netflix uses the wrong songs in some places and it ruins entire episodes. Don’t mess around with my Felicity. You’ve been warned. There may be some shows I am forgetting to remember... Oh! Nashville. So gloriously trashy! So aside from all of those, I don’t watch a lot of shows. I forgot Shameless.

But I totally love cooking shows. They are like delicious white noise. Almost anything on the Cooking Channel or the Food Network—LOVE it. I usually watch a little of The Chew (how much do I LOVE that show?) while I eat my lunch and lately ABC has been advertising a new show called The Taste and it is just all mean. There are other mean cooking shows, too. And they all suck. Not that I’ve watched them. I refuse on principle.

Can we just allow some things to be nice? It’s food, not the giant trash heap in the Pacific. Or global warming. Or malaria. Or the wrong songs in some places on Felicity ruining entire episodes.

(Okay, I’m done with that.)

So, you can anticipate only one blog post from me this week. (Take a moment if you need to. Alright... you okay now? Good.) I am into heavy edits on The Mosquito Hours and very busy scrutinizing every word and examining every theme. And—because what would my life be without freaking out about pretty much everything (I’m exaggerating—it’s only almost everything)—I find myself concerned that not every single thread and theme and thought and metaphor and motif and other literary devices I don’t remember from AP English are not fully realized.

This is a 101,826 word document. Do you know what it that is like?

I can’t even explain it.

(I’m a writer—I should try.)

It’s like an enormous and evil pile of oiled spaghetti—you prop up one area to have a look and the rest droops and slides away. You prop up some other area to have a look and the rest droops and slides away. You prop up some other area to have a look and the rest droops and slides away.

(I think you get it.)

writing_as-Collaboration

My workspace. Totally overwhelming pile of notes and one of my favorite pens. Yes, that is One Tree Hill on the screen.

You have to try to remember every way you did everything for the sake of consistency, make sure the story doesn’t get bogged down anywhere, too speedy anywhere, make sure the prose is interesting yet clear and the story lines are believable, find and fix all typos (totally impossible), insert/adjust the excellent ideas and feedback from your friends who have graciously read the 101,826 word document.

(Aren’t you freaked out now, too?)

But then I remembered that writing is truly a collaboration with the reader. My readers are smart—I have to allow them space to find the themes and the connections. Find the meaning and metaphor. And that might be somewhat different for each reader. And that will mean the book itself will be essentially different. Each reader brings his or her own perspective and that will shape their experience with my words. And that is really pretty amazing. So, thank you ahead of time, as I know you will find wonders in my book of which I had not even conceived.

It’s gonna be great.

In the meantime while you wait to read The Mosquito Hours, do not watch mean cooking shows. Or Felicity on Netflix. Seriously.

is anyone else totally confused about what day of the week it is?

I have no idea. Could be Wednesday; could be Sunday. Actually, I know it must be a weekday from what’s on NPR. Further than that, I really have no idea. Happy New Year! How are you? I’m confused. And a bit untethered.

Newton's First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. Resisting motion if at rest or resisting changing speed if in motion is called inertia. (I totally lifted this from the Internet—I could never spew this on my own.)

I never took Physics—and math-y concepts typically elude me—but I think this might apply to me.

slippers

This is the long view down my legs to my fanciful slippers. I am firmly ensconced on the couch with my Kindle. I can’t lie to you—I never want to get up again. I mean it. Not for any reason. Oh, but then what about wine? FINE. But that’s my only concession.

I shut down in December and now I can’t seem to get back on track. From Thanksgiving week until now, there was only time for the holidays and doing Christmas-y and Solstice-y things with my kids, and all the stuff that goes along with those occasions, so I just told myself everything could wait until after Christmas and then I would return to real life. Which I think means work. Which I think really means I dropped the stuff I wasn’t sure how to figure out and now I have to pick all of it up again.

Frankly, I do not want to pick all of it up again.

When and how to publish, how to figure out a work schedule that works for both my husband (who is now working from home) and me, what the hell I am going to do for paying work, a homeschooling plan (or not?) for the kids. Blogging. Oh, and my LinkedIn page is a disaster. And I should be more active on Twitter, which is to say I should be on Twitter.

messy_living_roomAlso, the mess keeps growing. The living room looks very, very bad. Very, very bad. I keep thinking from my perch on the couch, someone has GOT to clean that up. But, unfortunately, I think it’s gonna be me. I really don’t want to inform myself, as I think I will be pretty bummed when I figure it out.

I decided to simply chill after Christmas which for me means reading a lot and not worrying so very much at all about picking up or cooking meals that make nutritional sense. Or showering. And, you know, I sort of like this. A lot. I don’t want to get back into real life. Sometimes in real life, I feel like that poor dude who follows circus elephants around with a bucket and shovel—that poop dude. You might not know this, but there is an endless amount of poop. Metaphorically, I mean. Also literally.

But then again, here and there, I feel the new year excitement creeping in. A purposefulness and hopefulness and energy. I find myself slowly moving back into the work. Reorganizing, writing up lists of household projects and upcoming blog posts. Homeschooling ideas. I bought fabric to sew up some new kitchen curtains. Also I am moving furniture around. I opened a new document today—draft 5 of The Mosquito Hours! I am going back in and these will hopefully be the final edits.

kitchen_curtain_fabric

Look at my curtain fabric! Feisty!

I wish you a very happy beginning to 2013. I hope you are exuberant and energized and hopeful. I hope you are excited about your work.

And I hope we can all figure out what day of the week it is. That will definitely happen.

(Right?)