Revision hell

It’s been a strange experience, taking an online course in revising one’s manuscript.  I had homework over the weekend but couldn’t get to it, so I worked on it last night while John was at bowling and Ryan was using the laptop to finish a class assignment.  My initial feeling was pure dread; I thought I finished this book over a year ago and the characters wouldn’t “speak” to me anymore.  Much to my surprise, they came back with a passion!  I found myself loving the wounded warrior hero even more than I did before, and now that I’m up to the heroine’s role again, I’m amazed at how much more I know about her this time than I did on the first go-round.  I really hope I can do her justice and give her that much more depth and personality.  I still can’t “see” her to save my life, but I can feel her like she’s sitting beside me, pointing me in the right direction.  I know her like I know my own child. 

On the other hand, I now have a teenager in the house, and every day I’m learning I don’t know him all that well. 

Think about your life, Pippin

I’m exhausted.  This was the weekend from hell and I knew it was coming, and we had a lot of fun.  It was just me and the boys at Sesame Place yesterday and at Autism Day Out at the Phila. Zoo today.  Both times Ryan went there complaining about having to go but came home with a smile.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that we stopped at the mall on the way home.

What scared me was the ride home.  A song came on the iPod that reminded me of bedtimes and being a kid and wondering what it was grown-ups did after us kids went to bed.  It sudddenly struck me that I’m the grown-up now, and after the boys get to bed, I do what it is grown-ups do.  Mostly I crochet, watch TV, or go to bed early to get ready for the next day.  Until that moment it never occurred to me that I’ve reached that point where I’m not the kid anymore, I’m the grown-up.  What’s the next stage?  No kids in the house.  No one to put to bed; no more goodnight kisses; no more yelling at someone who hasn’t taken a shower yet.  In other words, one step closer to death.

For that reason, if nothing else, I’m glad we were so busy this weekend.  I let the boys ride the Swan Boats at the zoo.  We’ve wanted to go on them for years, and looking at the boats, I knew it was going to cost some $ I didn’t have a lot of, but heck, the whole point of living is to do something.  I got some great pictures, and the boys have a memory they can take with them their entire lives, of the time Mom let them ride the Swan Boats.  (Last year it was the Balloon Ride, but the Balloon Ride was closed for today due to the weather conditions.)  We ate lunch on a park bench and fed french fries to one very persistent goose.  The boys watched the jugglers while I talked to a woman from Autism Speaks.  Alex met Pikachu twice.  (The first time he was so nervous that he practically ran away from the costumed character.)  Yesterday they froze their butts off at the water rides at Sesame Place, but they ran up and down those rides for 3 hours until Alex was borderline hypothermic.  They played games and shopped at the gift shops and we took pictures and had fun.  This weekend, we lived. 

I used to be jealous that John pretty much got the weekend off; I didn’t make him go with us to anything (he really didn’t want to go anyway; I gave his zoo ticket to a Phillies fan coming into the zoo).  I thought it might be fun to have the day off and do whatever, whenever.  Pure freedom.  Now I’m glad I got to share those experiences with the boys.  Like the song in Pippin goes, “If I’m never tied to anything, I’ll never be free.” 

Sleepless Days

Or should I say, The Muse strikes again?

I came home from work yesterday dead tired.  I spent a large portion of the day battling both internal customers and my son Ryan.  Take Our Children to Work day is always fun because it gives Ryan and I some one-on-one time, except this year it seems teenage attitude has taken over what was once a really sweet, open kid.  Yesterday I would’ve paid him money if he’d just SMILE.  He fought it tooth and nail, too.  He’s like the cruise commercial where the mother’s videotaping her daughter, talking about coming on vacation to find something elusive.  Then she says, “And there it is!” and she catches her daughter smiling while sitting astride a Jetski.  The difference with Ryan is, he just wouldn’t smile.  His lips quivered and his eyes twinkled, but he refused to let me see him smile.  Maybe it’s all that time I spend nagging him to brush his teeth, finally catching up with him.

Anyway, I got home, turned on the computer, grabbed the iPod and went to lay down for a few minutes, just to recharge the batteries.  I had every intention of exercising, but first I needed to unwind.  I set the Pod to shuffle and closed my eyes, and the first song that came on was something by Josh Groban.  I don’t even remember what it was, but it sounded so calm and soothing and yet intensely powerful that I heard that voice in the back of my head saying, “You need to write this down.”  “In a minute,” I told it and closed my eyes.  Less than a minute later I heard, “You need to write this.”  As if it was a package deal, I also found I couldn’t keep my eyes closed, and soon after I couldn’t relax anymore, so I ran to the computer–no idea what I was going to write–and found myself adding to this recycled plot I opened up the other day.  Before I knew it, John was home and I’d added 2K more words to the story.  Strangely enough, I wasn’t all that tired afterward, either. 

Gotta love that Muse.  She’s definitely more active when I exercise.  It must have something to do with blood flowing faster and more oxygen in the brain.  Whatever it is, I might hate to exercise but I’m doing it anyway, if only to make sure the Muse doesn’t go on an extended vacation any time soon.  I still need to edit “Lost Time” and rewrite “Release Point”, but now “One More Roll” is moving along and I’m a happy camper.  Yay!

Who IS this kid?

Today is Take Our Children to Work day.  Ryan’s been looking forward to this all year because he gets to raid the cafeteria for breakfast and they hand out cool goodies to the kids.  The year it’s an “acrobatic pen”; push a button and the pen pops out of two slides.  I have to admit, it writes pretty well, but I’m a sucker for a good pen.  (Odd when you consider my handwriting is horrendous and I can type faster than I can write.  Those steno classes in college never quite stuck.) 

It also gives us a little one-on-one time that we don’t often get because Alex usually gets in the way.  For a while this morning we could talk on a somewhat equal level, except I don’t have a book report due.  (I did have an invoice correction to get done.)  He has an interesting mind, though one thing I have noticed lately is that he seems to see the world as if he’s wearing magnifying glasses for eyewear.  Every little thing is SUCH a big deal that the world should stop turning.  The tiniest slight is a major insult and should result in a duel to the death.  I’ve tried to explain that part of going to school isn’t just learning facts and figures, it’s about learning how to deal with other people, and how society works.  The world isn’t going to hand you your heart’s desires; you have to work for it, and also navigate the rest of society in trying to get to it.  I think he can do it, but he has to get around his “everybody hates me” attitude first.  I remember thinking like that, a long long time ago.  Ah, the life of a teenager. 

Someone once told me that the art of maturity is knowing when not to care.  I may have perfected that.  🙂

The Next One

No, not Sidney Crosby.  (If you don’t know a little about hockey, you won’t get that.)  I wasn’t in the greatest mood yesterday but I managed to start fiddling with a new idea.  It’s actually a reincarnation of an old idea I started a few years ago, but now I’ve figured out what the protag’s motivation is (other than just being clinically depressed; who wants to read about that?).  In the mean time I had another revelation for creating a feasible conflict in “Release Point” and as usual, it happened in the shower when I had nothing around to write with.  I seriously need to invest in those bathtub crayons the boys used to have when they were little.  It might mean we run out of hot water before John can take his shower, but I hate when I get a great idea and I can’t get it down *somewhere*.  My mind is like a sieve, and I acknowledge and accept that fact.

Yesterday was interesting.  The final judges for the Sheila contest started sending their lists of who they chose as the winners, including one category where the final judge asked for full MSs from all 5 of the finalists.  I got the privilege of calling the finalists to let them know, “Our final judge has asked for a full MS.  Here’s her email address…”  One woman almost fainted.  Another asked if I could repeat what I’d said.  I’d been practicing talking slow for a while before I called her so I know that wasn’t it.  (Usually my speech patterns break the sound barrier.)

After I was done making the calls was when my “purple mood” thought process kicked back in.  It’s probably because I’m close to PMS season and my self-esteem has to be scraped off my shoe on a daily basis.  And really, I don’t have anything to complain about.  I was right about the “good news” thing on Monday, and in the mean time I still have Steve shopping “Listen”.  I think my problem is that I’ve become addicted to good news.  For a while there, every day I came back from lunch and checked my email, and there was something else to get excited about.  I haven’t heard anything exciting in a while, and last night I was giving other people reason to get excited.  That was fun to share, really.  I just wished there were some good news out there for me.  An old friend of mine, if he read this blog, would probably laugh and tell me, “Only you can take something like good news and turn it into a negative.”  🙂

Writers are a damned insecure bunch, aren’t we?  🙂  Of course, I should remind myself that my business cards came in yesterday and they look SO awesome!  Never mind the borders; picture this in nice, firm white paper with a glossy smooth finish.  (I don’t even remember asking for glossy but I got them anyway.)  Now I can go into restaurants and drop my card in the bowl for a free lunch once in a while. 

So for now, I’m working on The Next One and waiting on the next bit of good news.  I didn’t wake up feeling like there was any coming, which isn’t good, because the PowerBall drawing is tonight and I’d SO love to be able to call in “Screw you!” to work tomorrow morning. 

John Marzano

Going back to yesterday’s post, it turns out I was right.  When I got home from bowling, I found an email from my agent with some nice news.  Listen to those voices, people!!  (And here I thought my good news was having won the 50/50 raffle.  That’s 16 bucks I didn’t have before…and another $16 in our vacation fund.)  🙂

And speaking of voices (pardon the pun), my Daily Om today was about inner voices.  If I’m so in tune with the universe, could someone please tell me the PowerBall numbers for tomorrow night?

Anyway, going back to the subject at hand, former Red Sox catcher John Marzano died this past weekend .  To be honest, I thought he was something of an irritating know-it-all.  Watching him commenting on the Phillies post game shows or on Daily News Live, he made it sound like he was the only one on earth who knew anything about baseball.  I even put a character in “Release Point” based on him, as an antagonist for Paul.  He is the irritating sports media guy, Mike Martz, who asks Paul for a blurb on having been thrown out of MLB.  On the last rewrite I edited him out because I thought he wasn’t furthering the character but…

When I found out he died, it was a surprise because he was only 45, 4 years older than I am now.  Of course my mind went back to when Dale and Aunt Jeanne died, and I was suddenly so aware of my health and mortality that I went on a diet and exercise regimen and lost 50+ pounds.  (So shoot me, I’ve gained a few back since then.  Plateaus suck.)  I’m back on that mindset again, thanks to Johnny Marz. 

On Saturday night, Comcast showed a retrospective of some of his antics on their sports programming, and until then, I never really noticed what a great sense of humor he had.  They showed him “pumping” bricks behind Derek Gunn, or showing Sal Fasano (former Phillies catcher) around South Philly where JM still lived.  I watched him on DNL last Thursday, getting the Flyers crowd pumped up because he was a huge Philly sports fan himself.  I watched it and thought, “Geez, can’t you be serious for a change?  They’re making so much noise, nobody can get a word in edgewise.”   

The Phillies’ website had an article about JM with this quote:  “It’s not about money, it’s about giving back,” Marzano once said about running his namesake baseball academy. “I can’t tell how many people helped me get to the Majors, because they were people that gave back. It’s something I have to do. Too many times I saw guys make it big, and just turn their backs on who helped get them there. That’s not going to be me.”  Considering I have more than a few people to thank for the blessings I’m enjoying in my life right now, John really knew what he was talking about. 

I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate him more when he was alive.  (It occurrred to me that the know-it-all behavior I didn’t like in him is something I have to tame in myself.)  Needless to say, the Mike Martz character is going back in because, as it turns out, he does ramp up the conflict.  (Something I’m told the manuscript badly needs.)  And when KYW and/or Comcast says where donations to the John Marzano fund can be sent, I’ll be sending something to show my appreciation and respect to someone with a great heart and a terrific sense of humor, who really did know a little something about the game of baseball. 

Thanks, John.

Voices

Do you ever listen to those voices in your head?  I think as a society we’re trained not to trust our instincts like that, assuming those voices are “demons” that can get us into trouble.  Either that, or we’re afraid of mental illness and we assume those voices come from a part of us we don’t want to acknowledge.

This morning I heard a very clear voice telling me that I was going to get good news today.  Rather than get my hopes up, I filed that information away for later use and got myself ready to go to work.  When I came in, I found out the job interview that was scheduled for tomorrow got pushed up to today, and my manager told me he’s going to be out for the rest of the week.  I guess that’s good news.  Then my agent emailed me that one of my queries was turned down.  That’s not good news.  I’m still waiting for that nerve-rattling, cat-eating-canary-grinning, Holy Cr*p! good news to come along, because getting the interview out of the way and being self-regulated for 4 days doesn’t quite hit that mark. 

But like a good optimist, I’m still waiting.

It got me wondering about the concept of listening to one’s voices.  As a creative person, I talk to myself all the time, and in my head, I answer myself.  (My joke used to be that I was the only one who listened to me.)  But those voices also come from characters and stories.  I’ve lost track of the times I’ve been doing “something else” (dishes, laundry, driving, working) and heard a voice give me a clear line of dialogue or a tasty idea for a plot twist.  I have to write it down or it’ll make me insane.  For this purpose, I’m never more than three feet from a pen and a piece of paper. 

Those quiet, subliminal voices often have really great things to say if we let ourselves listen to them.  We just have to let ourselves trust them.