Sunday, May 25, 2014

Life Reset: The First Day...

... of the rest of your life!

You've heard that saying. It came to mind yesterday when I realized it was April 26th, one year after we got the news that the Mississippi River was projected to rise to 65' in less than three weeks - 17' over flood stage and 7' over the highest ever stage. By the time I got the news, every storage facility within 100 miles was already booked. Within a week, seventy percent of the residents of our parish were moving at least a portion of their belongings to higher ground. By the time the river reached 60' the area was a ghost town.

Talk about a total disruption of our lives - the fear of losing everything, the financial distress of moving and living elsewhere, the loss of the creative flow of ideas. It took a few months to get the momentum going again once we moved home, and thank god we didn't get flooded like our neighbors to the north.

The last six months were spent dipping my toes into the self-publishing realm, and now, with the anniversary of that difficult time behind me, I'm ready to move forward

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Story is the Thing

I haven’t had much time for reading lately, but I try to dip my toe into the proverbial TBR pile once a week even if it means listening to an audible book or library CD to refresh my stale creativity.

This week between customers, I was listening to Nice
Girls Don’t Live Forever by Molly Harper. I have all of her books on Audible which is a fun way to read her.

Ms. Harper is the queen of double entendre. With her first person narrative you get a real sense of the heroine’s character. The never-ending stream of witty dialogue intrigued me as I discovered I didn’t grow tired of the book and put it down unfinished.

I started looking at it in depth to determine her secret. She is a former reporter so she has the journalism skills but in fiction, so many books that start out strong, especially ones that rely on humor, begin to limp before the halfway point. That’s when I find myself putting them down.

This book was different. What I discovered was that this writer is an exceptional plotter. I’ll use the word effortless because I can imagine being in a brainstorming session with her where she just runs non-stop with plot ideas.

I thought of my own issues when I get stalled in dialogue – not so much a matter of how characters will react but what has happened to cause the reaction. In Dead Girls Don’t Live Forever plot threads are no problem. Molly Harper has a seemingly endless supply of quirky events and family drama that keep the characters interacting, page after page, with no let-up.

So again, I return to my theory that “It’s the story, stupid.” Ms. Harper’s writing is top notch, but how often have you read a book where you had to know the ending even though the writing wasn’t that good? It keeps you going. I highly recommend her books.

But I’m wondering, what keeps you reading? Is it humor? Plot? Emotion? Lyrical description? Witty dialogue?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I remember when my favorite Navy guy said to me, "I'll bet your parents just set you in the front yard with one of those spin wheels and you were delirious." Privately I wondered 'what's wrong with that?' There are so many moments of intuitive communication, glimpses of nature's splendor, or heartwarming seconds in our day that fill me with gratitude and joy.
Like the song from the Sound of Music...My Favorite Things
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens;
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens;
Brown paper packages tied up with strings;
These are a few of my favorite things.
Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels;
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles;
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings;
These are a few of my favorite things.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes;
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes;
Silver-white winters that melt into springs;
These are a few of my favorite things.
I was struck by how much the simple pleasures influence us, our writing, our peace of mind. For me, the aforementioned snowflakes, the endless white of fresh snow, colorful balloons suspended over the Mississippi, memories of little Dusty when he was still sweet and cute, and of course, an unexpected call from FNG who is stationed in Norfolk.
What are the simple pleasures that make your day? your minute? How do they make their way into your writing?