BE NICE…Advice from Roadhouse

Happy New Year!

Christmas 2014 was the best Christmas for our little family in a while. Finally, the chaos of the last few years receded noticeably, washing us up on happier shores. Mother nature graced us with a white Christmas. Things were glittery, fragrant, comforting. We smiled a lot. Held hands. Toasted one another in restaurants. Shopped, read, played games. fireworks 2A delightful holiday buzz permeated the house and, when the time finally came, I didn’t want to take the tree down, put away the ornaments, or turn out the lights.

In honor of our wonderful festive week I decided to make a SINGLE New Year’s resolution and that is: Be Nice. Be nice to myself.

The moment Be Nice wriggled to the surface of my brain, Patrick Swayze’s speech in the best B-movie ever, Roadhouse, lit up my synapses. RoadhouseWho knew a cooler’s advice to his bouncers  made such an impression on me? I revisited his classic lesson on the following blog: How Do You Handle Angry Customers? Patrick Swayze Style! This link contains great advice about dealing with anger and providing good customer service. However,  it also works on a personal level when doing battle with powerful insecurities about writing or anything else.

So, here it is – tailored for the individual:

Picture yourself in a rowdy bar filled with your personal demons. No, you can’t party with them because while some of them may be attractive, they are not your friends.  (Actually, this isn’t a bad premise for a story…)

Patrick, RIP, is your very own mental bouncer, and he tells you how to kick these monsters to the curb…

  • Never underestimate your opponent; always expect the unexpected. (Your thoughts can manifest themselves in any form so be ready to deal with negative emotions and accept them without judgement. Ask for help if you need to.)
  • Never start anything inside the bar. (Don’t let your insecurities take over your thoughts. Take a break and step away. Ask for help. Your friends will help and encourage you.)
  • Be Nice. (To yourself.)

He continues on in graphic detail, of course, but you get the idea. Being nice is better…usually.

So,  what are you doing this year to be nice to yourself?

 

Thanks, BS, for the inspiration for this blog.

(Warning: Rating on Roadhouse is R.)

 

 

 

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Armed star-gazer in Elkland

2014-10-12 07.54.36Last Friday was a big birthday so we took a couple of days off and visited Estes Park, Colorado…just up the hill from our town. When you make your home in a tourist destination state it’s easy to let everyday life distract you, so it was fun being part of a tourist weekend. People were everywhere, visiting Rocky Mountain National Park and watching the last of the aspen leaves swirl from the trees. From a polite distance, crowds observed the yearly mating dance of the elk who reclaim their grazing rights among the buildings, parks, and golf courses of Estes Park. It’s a wonderful live-and-let-love tradition in town. I’ve enclosed a few photos.  To the left is the royal male himself, munching on grass in the Safeway parking lot.

To the right the former King of Elkland reclines in the sun by the soccer nets.2014-10-11 15.51.53 The cows grazed around aimlessly but, occasionally, I swear I saw one of the gals wink enticingly at the young King.

In any case, we had a good time, ate too much and went  off the grid.

During the day we also scouted out places to star gaze  in RMNP.  I wanted to see the Milky Way in its glory, but even though the weather didn’t co-operate, my husband was ready. At the beginning of our trip, as I searched through the center console of his pickup  for my camera, the unmistakable glint of a twenty-two winked up at me.

He grinned and shrugged. “Can’t go up in the hills at night without protection. Just think of me as your armed star-gazer.”

I whipped out my spiral notebook. “Do you mind if  I use that for the title of my next novel?”

He just smiled.

Where do the titles of your stories, blogs, or novels come from?

My Word Men

I love my men – my written men.

Folks who know me but haven’t read my novel would be surprised at the amazing the guys who inhabit my word worlds.

So, where do these fictional men come from?

stars-thAs a romantic teenager scribbling furiously on notebook paper, a #2 pencil clutched in my fist, my written men, like the devil, assumed pleasing forms. The Disney princes come to mind. Broad shouldered and iron jawed, they appeared in scrawls of graphite, ready to save my narrow ass from the living hell of teenage metamorphosis. My first alien darling was a classic Disney derivative. He stayed in perfect stasis for decades, preserved in my imagination like Snow White, until I resurrected him with a key stroke six years ago.disney_cartoon_characters_series_snow_white_2_3330

I found my unearthly fantasy all grown up, a struggling and battered man, who, in spite of slavery and torment, prevailed and flourished in my first novel. Of course, he had not lost his glamour but he had gained intelligence and developed something critically important in a man – a sense of irony and humor.

In the same novel he was joined by a human, a driven man of questionable morals. Filled with ambition and recklessness, this character was selfish and unpredictable. He broke hearts without a thought and threw his trusting protégée in harm’s way to save his own skin. But, somehow I made it impossible for the reader to hold that against him for long.

Only a writer can manipulate life this way!

And now, my written men have changed again. They aren’t always gorgeous loving men or even sassy bad boys. gentaSome of them are scary, glowering killers. Their behavior isn’t always decent or conventional. They vacillate from assassin to philosopher, from murderer to rescuer. But, it works.

Over the years, I’ve learned that, testosterone or estrogen aside, the brains of men and women are surprisingly similar. I can describe the world from a man’s point of view because, as humans (or humanoids :)) we have the same needs and desires. We have the same willingness to test the deep water and the same fear of getting wet.

But, that being said, I still have a lot to learn. I’m sure my husband would agree.

 

Who are your written men and women? How did they evolve in your storytelling?

Warrior: Foter

Snow White and her prince: Freepix

 

 

First Draft Finale

fireworks 2Update: July 20th, 2014

As I emerge from off the radar isolation, I have good news! Finally, my first draft is complete. Revision here I come. And, this time, I have plenty of room to expand the plot, build the world, and lavish love on my characters.

Also, while taking a break, I (with the patient help of my niece) opened Dropbox my PC, and now all of my writing is available on each of my devices. Not exciting to those of you who have used Dropbox for years, but for me it’s a reassuring new treasure.

Oh, and I started a new book. While my sister, niece and I were playing tourist in Nederland, CO, I gravitated to the local and regional book section in Nature’s Own. House of Rain – Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest by Craig Childs levitated off the shelf into my hands. Its subject will serve as invaluable inspiration during revision, but its writing has already given me an unobtainable but wonderful goal to strive for. Mr. Childs’ prose is so beautiful and lyrical, I was riveted from the first paragraph. It’s not often a book really impresses me, but I’m recommending it twenty pages in.

My off the radar time has been productive, to say the least. Maybe I should do it more often.

How about you? If you have some time off, what do you plan to do with it?

Photo: Foter

Going Off the Radar

Yep, I’m going off the blog radar…temporarily. A week, maybe two.

1048553049Company is coming from Florida. My sister and my niece arrive tomorrow, and it will be up to me to show them the beauty that is Colorado. When you live in a gorgeous location like this, playing tour guide is no small task!

I’m sneaking up on the last two chapters of first-draft. Yes, I know I’ve said that for almost a year, but this time I really mean it. I’m tired of waiting around for my muse, so I’m completing this draft without him. Today I’m working an important scene in which two adversarial female characters unite for the first time as they discuss another main character, a man…of course! This scene answers questions,  presents others, and proves things are not always what they seem. Then it’s on to the final chapter. 1048553031

This is recharge time for me, probably waaaay overdue. The Manhattan Bar sounds awful good right now.

So, tell me, loyal readers, what would it take for you to go off the radar? 

Photos by me.

 

Deep Word-Love

I’m happy to report I’m  near the end of my second novel’s first draft, so I have a few thoughts to share. Very few. This draft has eaten my brain.

Could this brain deadness be the fault of summer?  Perhaps the magnificent canopy of trees cocooning our house, the sprawl of emerald-green grass surrounding us, and the flowers –  Impatiens, valerian, clementis, petunias, lettuce – have lured me away. Nah. I just can’t concentrate.

Like other writers, I’m yearning for the early days when I began writing. What the hell happened to the intense focus, enthusiasm, and reckless confidence pouring through me with my first novel? It certainly wasn’t the best novel ever written, but it was my baby. It was like falling in love. Caribbean 2That deep Caribbean aqua word-love during which you cannot think of anything but the evolution of your characters and their world. The glow of their existence bathes you like a warm ocean on a brilliant day. Wow. There is nothing like it.

Then the second novel arrives. Premature and squalling, it struggles from birth. Where did all that languorous “I could spend my life with you, beautiful words” go?

The reasons writing flounders are as myriad as the stars, but my specific one is: time taken to write a first draft.

Stephen King says:

“Get the first draft done quickly. I believe the first draft of a book – even a long one – should take no more than three months…Any longer and – for me at least – the story begins to take on an odd foreign feel, like a dispatch from the Romanian Department of Public Affairs, or something broadcast on high-band shortwave during a period of severe sunspot activity.”radio distortion

Exactly what happened to me. I took too long with first draft and I lost focus. Period.

After you experience the deep aqua kind of love in your writing, you anticipate it the second time. But, in my experience, true love doesn’t work that way. The real thing takes work, just as the best writing you can do takes planning and discipline, serious plodding – even when the thrill is temporarily gone.

There are moments when I see my POV character and her lover waving to me from the bridge of their starship as they float away into the cosmos. I yell, “Wait, I’m not done with you yet,” to which they reply,” Tough, sh*t. We can’t wait around here forever.”

How long does your first draft take or does it matter?

 

 

Photo credit: Nick Kenrick . / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: Topyti / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) 

 

Road to Perfection

prepare to be annoyedOk. I admit it.

I am annoyed with my first draft because I am a perfectionist. Probably caught the disease from my dad. Those of you who know me well know I am the most imperfect of creatures, but still I expect wondrous talent from my first draft. Obviously, I missed the part where Dad counseled his students that the road to perfection requires practice, practice, practice.

I keep forgetting. First Draft is practice – bones before flesh – priming the canvas – ect.

Good news is, while wrangling with my perfection addiction, I’ve discovered how to give my charming yet reticent main character more steel and sparkle. She’s surrounded with fantastic characters who pretty much write themselves, so I’m grabbing a bit of their mighty mojo for her!

Do you suffer from perfectionism? How do you deal with it?

Update: I’m still chugging away with about 40,000 words so far.

 

Photo: Flkr.com