Friday, December 21, 2012

My Wish List

It's that time of year again, where we give.  And get.  If I were a better person, I'd list here all the wonderful ways to give.  But I'm not a "better person."  I'm barely your average good person.  So instead, I've decided to post my wish list.  Just in case anyone's looking to please me. 

I won't bother putting the really big things I want for the world  (like no more war or roofs for everyone or easier air travel or the absence of abuse and violence, especially towards children).  No, this is my totally selfish list.  For me and me only.  And so here goes, in no particular order:

1.  A personal chef.   The gods had a good old laugh when it came to me and my talents.  It is utter cruelty that someone who loves to eat as much as I do has such difficulty making dinner.  Life would be good if I could just eat and leave the cooking to someone who can.

2.  For my children to go to bed without giving me a hard time.  That's it.  I'd just like to be able to read a story, give a kiss and know they will brush their teeth and get on pyjamas without acting like it's the apocalypse.

3.  To find white popcorn in Geneva.  Yellow's good.  But white popcorn is better.

4. For cellulite to be sexy.  (No comment.)

5.To be a flamenco dancer.  I look ridiculous in ruffles and polka dots.  So what?  I'd give anything to be able to dance this from the gut.  Next to writing, it's the only thing I'd ever want to do for a living.  

6. Three extra hours a day.  I'd be freaking superwoman if I had three extra hours to do what I'm not using the regular 24 for.  

7. Some exercise/computer/writing contraption that allows me to burn calories while sitting on my butt in front of the keyboard. Preferably one that works but doesn't make me sweat.

8. A waterbed.  I feel like I've been run over by a truck when I wake up in the morning. I had a waterbed when I was 19 and I miss it.   But I believe those things are illegal in apartments.  Crap.  Then I will need --

9. A house.  But only if it comes with a gardener and maid service.  Otherwise, it's not worth it just to hold my waterbed.

10. For my books to be best-sellers!  I'm hoping to get Untethered out there in March.  And I'm hoping to get the next one out not long after that.  This wish is something you can help me attempt.  Just buy my books when they come out and tell every single person you know to buy them, too.  Simple, right?  You will know in your heart what a good and wonderful person you are for giving me a hand.  Think of all the warm fuzzies you'll get from that.  Ahem.

Happy holidays.  I hope you get everything on your wish list.  And if you don't?  Oh, well.  There's always next year.  At least that's what I keep telling myself.




Friday, December 14, 2012

Page 150 Time Warp

Physics has never appealed to me.  Stuff like the greater universe or atom splitting or time travel only mildly piques my curiosity (probably because I can't even comprehend it).  But now suddenly I'm scouring the internet for articles on the space-time vortex and definitions of what exactly a time warp is.   Why?

This is why:   

I sit at my computer, open my current document and scroll down to the last page I wrote.  Page 150.  Huge sense of déjà vu.  Yeah, for a novelist this is normal, right?  All I do is sit on front of that document.  But the sense of déjà vu is there not because I've been working on the same novel for months on end. It's not even there from being in front of the computer.  No.  It's the page number that keeps repeating.  Page 150.  All the time.

 I SWEAR TO YOU IT NEVER CHANGES. 

The first time I noticed I was stuck on page 150 was back in May.  Yeah, way back then.  And, yeah, a lot happened this summer so I didn't progress like I intended to.  But I have written.  Practically every day since September.  And guess what?

I'M STILL ON FREAKING PAGE 150!

I write and I write and I write and all I see is page 150.  Will I never, ever finish this damn novel?

So, I figure there are two possible explanations:

 1.  My critiquing group would say this is the correct explanation : Writing first drafts is NOT my favorite part of the job.  What I really enjoy is rewriting.  It's so fun.  So gritty.  So...savagely satisfying.  Almost as soon as I've written something, I'm at it with a hacksaw, amputating its parts until it's nothing but a quivering, bloody mass that needs to be reassembled.  I write twelve pages, then slash away until I'm left with three.  I write ten more pages, then decide the head's on all wrong.  I throw everything out and try on new parts like I'm creating Frankenstein's monster.

That kind of writing is time-consuming.  And wasteful.  And messy. (But if you ever saw the state of my bedroom as a teenager, you'd know that's who I am.)  I do write outlines for my novels in order to keep on track and cut back on the waste -- problem is, I just can't seem to follow them.  Instead I end up trying to give life to my literary offspring at the same time I'm shooting them dead.  The pages then creep along all too slowly.

2. The other explanation is the one I'm going with: That I am in some sort of time warp.  That in fact, I've actually written the novel.  I'm on page 302, typing in THE END.  But this warp or vortex or whatever the hell it is just keeps folding over on itself and puts me again and again on page 150.  Every single day.

It is the same vortex that keeps me opening my closet thinking, "Time to clean this out" but then has me closing it again without ever doing anything.  Same vortex that has sucked down and spit out all my plans to organize and file our papers, print out my favorite photos, clean the oven, and learn how to speak German.   All of this must be due to some strange phenomenon.  Because theoretically, I have the time.  I know I do.  But it keeps turning to nothing in my hands, leaving me exactly where I started, like some bad dream on repeat.

Anyway, I will keep fighting the 150 page time warp.  I will battle every day, teeth clenched, fingers pounding on the keyboard, until I manage to set myself free.  One day soon.  One day I will cry, "VICTORY!"

And stumble on to page 151.


Friday, December 7, 2012

The Shortlist Cure-All


I've had the kind of week after which perfectly sane women pack their bags and hop on a plane.  You know, the kind where you're ready to leave everything, forever.  Because one more second spent living your particular life will short-circuit your wiring, causing an extremely toxic and messy meltdown.  Five hours ago, I was there.  Battery acid was dripping out of my veins and bubbling on the floor.

And then I checked my e-mail.

Congratulations!  You've been shortlisted for the Mslexia novel competition.

The message was brief.  To the point.  And unexpected.  I mean, I know I had gotten long listed, but still.  I never thought I'd be shortlisted.  That must mean like seventy-five of us are on the list, right?  Because the shortlist can't be that short.  Not with my luck.  Not with the week I've been having.

My friend Paula ordered me to pick up the phone. "Call them.  Ask.  So you know exactly what it means."

And when Paula talks, I listen.

So I called. 

"Uh.  Yes.  Hello.  I just got a message that my YA novel was shortlisted for the novel contest.  Ummm.  Could you tell me how many are on the shortlist?"

"Yes, of course."  The woman responding had a lilting accent.  Everything she said sounded joyous.  "Twelve of you.  That would be down from nine-hundred."

"Oh!  Uh. Wow!"  (I'm so freaking elegant when I have to be.)

"Yes." She chuckles.  "It's a big deal.  Congratulations.  Best of luck to you."

I hung up, checked my e-mail again (Yes, the message was still there.  No, I hadn't stumbled into someone else's inbox.  Yes, it was still there the next three times I opened it).  The message was real and it was meant for me.

And suddenly my week changed:

The little savage monster that had possessed my youngest daughter's body finally wore itself out and fell asleep without a violent fight for once.  Sleeping, the little monster was beautiful.

The epic silence that had stretched for days between my husband and I lost its hold.  We let our frustration down long enough to kiss each other good night and mean it.

My oldest daughter actually did her homework.  I only had to ask her seven times.

The cat stopped meowing. Usually she's at it constantly. Now suddenly she was sleeping quietly in the corner, not even a squeak.

I wasn't named best writer of the century or even of the day.  I didn't win the lottery.  And that sore throat and stomach bug that have been creeping up on me are still there.

But I'm not leaking battery acid anymore.  And I've unpacked my bags.

Because my novel got shortlisted.

And it made my day.