Interview with a Character

In writing classes I sometimes heard the suggestion to interview my characters.  I’d try but it often didn’t do much for me, the story, or the character.  Yesterday, however, I was in a bind.  I have to rewrite Release Point so that instead of intentionally taking steroids (thus being banned from baseball), Paul Dante had steroids slipped into his system (thus being banned from baseball; yes, I know a positive steroid test doesn’t result in actual banning from baseball, but when you’re 36, your contract is up, your 50-game suspension will carry you into the end of the season, and no team in their right mind would sign a guy with a rep for steroid use, you can pretty much kiss your career goodbye). 

Anyway, this change involved considerable plot revision, and I wasn’t sure how to make it work.  Much like Paul, I had no idea how the steroids made their way into his body in the first place.  When I got to my wits’ end, I started to hear him calling out to me to hash it out with him. 

It’s a little freaky, “talking” to someone who doesn’t really exist, but I sat in front of my laptop and thought of the first question I’d ask if he were sitting at the other side of the kitchen table.  And he answered.  In his voice.  I started typing out his answers even as my brain formed the next question.  We went on like this for two pages until it hit me like a 2×4 how the steroids got into his system without his knowledge.  I won’t give it away, but I had that same hands-shaking, heart-racing feeling at knowing, this could be the answer I was looking for.  As someone once said, “It’s so crazy it just might work!”   

I’ve never had to interview a character before but this worked out so well, and I had such a great time “meeting” him, that it’s one of the first things I plan to do next time my plot gets turned in a knot.

Quick shout-out:  Hi, Paul!  Say hi to Grace for me!  🙂

In Quotes

I’ve always loved a good quote.  As a kid my favorite part of Reader’s Digest was Quotable Quotes.  I compiled lists of my favorites and typed them up, and one year in high school I wrote them all over the blank pages of my yearbook where people were supposed to sign.  Leaving space for signatures, of course.  It was actually kind of original; people could pick a quote they liked and sign under it.

Yesterday I posted my favorite poem (a copy of which is on my desk so I can stop and read it once in a while and sigh).  Today I was making a cup of tea, and I love Celestial Seasonings tea boxes because they sprinkle quotes all over the place.  The one that stood out for me was by William James:

“I have often thought the best way to define a man’s character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it comes upon him, he felt himself most deeply and intensely active and alive.  At such moments there is a voice inside which speaks and says, ‘This is the real me!'”

This jumped out at me because that’s how I’m writing Paul in “Release Point”.  He felt that way about baseball until he met Grace, and being with her (and protecting her from her past) made him feel more real than anything else in his life.  I have those feelings too, once in a while but mostly when I’m pouring my heart into a story.  I don’t know why.  I was a typical kid; I played make-believe and I had friends and we rode bikes and played baseball.  Why is it that I feel the most real when I’m playing with events that never really happened?  Or maybe the question is more like, why doesn’t everyone?

I admire creative people.  I’d love to be able to listen to a dishwasher and hear the backbeat to a song, or look at the world around me and envision a painting.  I can’t do that to save my life.  I can barely eat out at a restaurant and discern which spices and flavorings made the food taste particularly good so that I can reproduce that experience at home.  (Half the time I’m lucky I don’t poison anyone.)  But sometimes I’ll hear something, see something, feel something, and it makes me think, “Hey, what if…?” and off I go.  Next thing you know, I’m writing notes on any scrap of paper I can lay my hands on, and I’m loving every blessed minute of it. 

Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”  He also said, “Half this game is 90% mental.”  I could read Yogi quotes all day long and never get tired of it.

Stopping By Blogs on a Chilly Evening

(my apologies to Robert Frost for bastardizing the title of his poem)

Just dropping in to make sure I write something tonight.  Been mega-busy these last two days, but I couldn’t let a weekday go by without at least a word.  And since I started with poetry, well, sort of, let me leave you with my favorite poem by W.B. Yeats.  I haven’t touched Gabriel’s Angel in weeks–and it’s been reminding me regularly–but this is the poem my next completed book will have been based on. 

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Zipping Right Along

Sorry this is late, and it’s not going to be substantial, either.  I’ve been neck-deep in rewrites but I think I’m making good changes to “Release Point”.  I’m already seeing a lot more emotion than I saw in the earlier drafts.  Just goes to show, even when you think it’s finished, it’s probably not finished. 

I’m also working on some knitting projects.  I forgot to bring my sewing bag with me to work on while I waited for the boys’ buses, and it was unbelievably frustrating.  I count on those few minutes in the afternoon with my KPOs in my hands to help me calm down and decompress.  Considering that The VFRW Sheila contest has been in full swing for the past 10 days, I could use some decompression.  But I think we’re seeing light at the end of that tunnel, and I’m hoping it’s not an oncoming train. 

Someone sent me one of those questionnaire emails this morning, and one of the questions was, “What do you do when you’re bored?”  I laughed.  My answer was, “I have a full time job, two kids, a house, a husband, 2 cats, an obsession for knitting and I write fiction in my spare time.  I’m never bored.”  Perhaps, but I’m usually amused.  It beats being annoyed.

One last thing to share, since I’m having a Seinfeld blog today.  Ryan came home ticked off that someone put an apple core in his jacket hood.  I asked what inspired them to do something like that, and he says he has no idea.  I’m pretty sure it’s another alpha-male clash again and Ryan’s attitude got him in trouble, but he’s convinced they do it for no reason whatsoever.  It reminded me of the word “idiopathic”, meaning of no known origin.  Ryan thought I said “idiotpathic”. 

<sigh>  Back to the grindstone.

Obsessions

I realize there is such a thing as unhealthy obsessions, and usually I know when not to cross the line.  Yesterday…uh…

The good thing is, I didn’t go to Michael’s like I’d planned.  I’d even hopped up off the couch (hopped up on caffeine as I was) and took a shower, fully intending to take Alex to the Michaels in KoP so I could take advantage of the sale on Bernat Satin Sport for a cute new scarf pattern I found on Friday night.  It’s a gift, so shhh.  Anyway, I was getting ready to go when it occurred to me, I have more than enough sport yarn in the basement; why go get more?  Ummm, because I want to?  Not a good enough reason.  So I told Ryan he could make cupcakes (check Flickr for the pics/video) and I went to check out my sport yarn collection in the basement.  Not quite what I had in mind.  Moda Dea Dream works well enough for this pattern–the fuzzies blur out the lacy-ness, but the incredible softness balances it out–but the rest of what I had in stock didn’t quite suit the purpose.  What’s a knitter to do?

I frogged the beginning of a crocheted baby afghan and started a new knit baby afghan.  I kind of feel guilty because the crocheted afghan didn’t do anything wrong, but lately I just don’t feel like crocheting.  Maybe it’s because they don’t make crochet hooks as nice as my Knit Picks Options circular knitting needles; if they did, I’d be crocheting up a storm, literally.  There is, of course, a problem:  there was a lot more of that skein in the afghan than was left in the skein, which meant I had a pile of yarn sitting on the couch, waiting to get put into something.  Fortunately there was a Syracuse/Villanova game at 1 and a NASCAR race at 5, so I had plenty of time to work on whittling that pile down to something reasonable before the cats found it and turned the living room into a big gold spider web.  (Lately Shadow has this thing about leaning his head on my WIP.  Normally it doesn’t bother me but if I’m working on it and I pick up the yarn and it has dander on it and then I rub my eyes, well, I’ll probably end up looking like Marty Feldman. )

The problem is that I’m obsessed.  I have 2 manuscripts in varying states of completion, and I even had the idea on how to fix one of them (I need to change POV on a major scene in the first quarter of the story), and what did I spend my day doing?  Knitting.  Obsessively.  Maybe I was trying to avoid that scene, or that MS, or even the concept of success; maybe I’m happier when I feel half-finished.  Come to think of it, if you saw the mess of half-finished yarn projects beside the couch, you’d agree wholeheartedly. 

But why?  Why is it I love to start something new and hate to finish it?  Which isn’t entirely true, either.  I finished the autism afghan and I think it looks great.  Or maybe it’s outlived its usefulness.  There’s nothing more I can do with it.  I finished “Listen to Your Heart” last March and I haven’t looked at it since.  It’s done.  There’s nothing more I can do to make it better (unless an editor looks at it and tells me where he/she thinks it needs improvement).  Somewhere I heard that the brain secretes a hormone when one is beginning a new project, and over time as the project goes on, the hormone fades out.  Much like the love hormones one secretes when meeting someone special for the first time, and after a few years, it’s pretty much run its course and you’re left with cold, hard reality.  Whatever that hormone is, methinks I’m addicted to it, or else I wouldn’t have spent the day working on an afghan that, at some point, I’m going to have to force myself to finish. 

That said, I’m damn well getting through this one scene in Release Point or I’m going to kill someone.  It’s been sitting for too long, and I really want to get this story finished so I can put it aside like Listen and move on to something new.  Uh oh…

R.I.P., Officer Pawlowski

http://cbs3.com/topstories/Officer.John.Pawlowski.2.939160.html

Something about this case just hits a nerve with me.  Maybe it’s the senselessness of it.  Maybe it’s the fact that the suspect has multiple prior convictions and yet the creep was still on the streets to take the life of a police officer.  Maybe it’s the fact that John Pawlowski was too young (25) and he has a baby on the way, and he’ll never get to meet that baby, and that baby will never know his/her father.   The widow he leaves behind won’t get to hold his hand as they grow old together.

Lee Lofland has a Friday segment called “Fallen Heroes”, and he mentioned Officer Pawlowski too:  http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/   I’ll have to ask what the radio sign was for off duty, but Officer Pawlowski can rest in peace now.  He’s off duty.  I hope the guy that killed him goes under the jail, not in it.

Oops

Sorry, it’s been a busy (but a good) day.  Contest, work, editing.  Still, I’m smiling.  The pendulum is swinging up.  🙂  I’ll try to have something a little more “crunchy” tomorrow.

Back in the Swing

Another day, another adventure.  I was late leaving the house this morning because Alex needed help with the homework he didn’t do last night, but in the grand scheme, I didn’t mind.  Seeing him figure out how to answer the questions on his own made it worthwhile.  That, and the proud smile on his face when I told him he had the right answer.  He still beats on himself when he gets the answers wrong, but I suspect he got that trait from me. 

Lots to do today.  More work on the Sheila contest (got judges?), and I want to consolidate my notes for my WIP, since I’ve been jotting notes all over creation.  There are some good ideas in there, I just need to remind myself where they are.  I also want to focus on fine-tuning Release Point in the blessed event I get a call from the GH committee.  Right now, if I got a request for a full, I’d be SOL because it’s really not ready.  I was kind of counting on Murphy’s Law to make that dream of a request a reality.  So far even Murphy’s dropped the ball.  It’s been odd, though.  I opened Release Point last night and edited the first 15 pages, which now make a lot more sense, but when I had some time to think this morning, my mind went back to the WIP (Gabriel’s Angel), not Release Point.  It’s like RP is totally out of my imagination, and I have to work on it on a surface level.  Of course, I did write it 2 years ago.

Then there’s that pesky little thing called a day job. 

So far 42’s not a bad thing.  I played slot machines ’til I was down $55 but then my luck turned–I think the computers remembered, “Hey, it’s her birthday and she’s old; be nice to her”–and I walked out with $13 more than I had when I walked in.  In my mind, that’s a win. 

And now, back to Disney.

Happy Birthday to Me

Go Carla, go Carla, it’s your birthday, it’s your birthday.  I’ve always wanted to sing that.  🙂  Today is my 13th annual 29th birthday, or #42 in normal terms.  It’s not a bad thing.  I dreaded turning 40 but now I’m used to it.  40 isn’t necessarily the new 30 but I’ve settled in with it.  I know more now than I did 10 years ago, and for that, I’m grateful. 

During the move, I found some old manuscripts I wrote 10 years ago, and I’m embarrassed to say how bad they were.  I like what I write now a whole lot more because I have 10 years more experience to put into them.  I also have better experiences than what I had then.  There used to be a time I was too afraid to spend any money or go anywhere.  I didn’t want to rock the boat or upset anyone.  Now, I’m even more afraid to spend money, but I know that the experiences that come with getting out and doing things are worth the cost.  Would I have ever had an agent if I hadn’t gone to Portland and run into the saleman who asked if I knew anything about this Chris Coste guy?  Would I even have this laptop if I hadn’t gone to Vegas and won at Caesar’s Palace?  Would I be able to say I know what it feels like to drive Paul Dante’s Mustang, instead of just guessing?  (Good Lord, I still drool when I see one pass by.)

I’ve put more experience under my belt in the last 10 years than I did in most of the 30 years that went before, so I can only imagine what great things are in store over the next 10 years. 

Starting today.

And Now, For Something Completely Different

I need to drop a note of congratulations here, along with a hefty word of gratitude.  Last night, being night 3 of my 5 days off, I stayed up past midnight—a feat rarely accomplished since I turned 40—to check on the incoming Sheila Contest entries.  Robin Kaye and I are the contest coordinators, and the deadline was last night at midnight.  For a while there, after the contest opened up in January, I thought, “No way in this economy are we going to get more than 100 entries.”  We got 116 entries last year but that was then, this is now.  Who’s got $30 to drop on the vague hope that they MIGHT get read by an editor?  (So says the woman who’s already entered The Marlene and the GH, and will be entering NJRW’s contest the moment they announce that it’s open.  Not quite Contest Slut material, but I’m working on it.) 

Anyway, I had hoped we’d top 116 entries but I didn’t expect to, so imagine my surprise when we’re 20 minutes from deadline and 4 entries short of 116.  Tick, tick, tick.  Flash-forward to 12:01 when our very last entry straggles in, and our new total is 118 entries!  A new record!  We can honestly say that even in spite of the current economy (or maybe because of it; people are “desperate”, I’ve been told, to get read by an editor), we outdid ourselves.

Major huzzah to Laura Graham-Booth, without whom this contest success would not be possible.  She came up with the idea of going electronic (save those trees!), which we took a step farther this year and went all-electronic.  She also put the VFRW website together and developed the entry process for the contest.  She is the goddess of the computer keyboard and one of my favorite knitters of all time. 

Also a thoroughly hearty round of applause for Robin.  Sure, she was buckling under deadlines, but she was always there when we had a “what do you think of this?” situation to present her with. 

Let us not forget Judi Fennell, cheering us on from the sidelines, (probably) all the while worrying, “What have I done?  I’ve put our chapter’s future in the hands of those two?  Yeesh!” 

And last but never least, our five category coordinators (Anna, Teresa, Andi, Leslie and Jen!) who will be picking up the baton and carrying it through the first round.  Whatever you need, ladies, I’m here.  Unless, of course, I’m not here, but I promise I’ll be back.  At some point.  Probably.  Yeah, definitely maybe. 

Anyone want to take bets on breaking 118 next year?  🙂