The magic coffee shop

Yesterday I met a female engineer who worked on the launch of Saturn V back in the 60s. I told her I’d love to be an astronaut.

I met a man who survived brain cancer. He gave me a copy of his book.

I met a medical examiner who is also a chef. She lived for decades in the Caribbean. She gave me a copy of her book, and offered me a job at the college where she works.

And I met a preschool teacher who gave me a set of miniature notecards with adorable pictures of kittens, for my mother-in-law.

My friend who sails with her husband in Malaysia stopped by. Her husband told us about their first sailing trip across the Pacific in 1997: the breeze, the peace, the storm, the 25-foot crests. He reported his wife declared she would NEVER do that again. Yet, she still sails.

Another friend told me all about her youngest daughter, a powerhouse  who recently survived Marine boot camp. I showed her pictures of my daughter’s wedding. This same friend plans to audition for a prime role in a local theater production–in a play that SHE WROTE.

All of these things occurred in a local coffee shop in the span of two hours. The coffee was incredible, too. The place is called The Coffee Shelf. Try it sometime.

 

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Offensive in a politically correct world

My next book, A GIRL IN THE BOYS’ SCHOOL (also known as Infinity Line by early readers), has an intentionally offensive beginning.

This introverted author (middle child, peacekeeper–call me what you like), who holds her opinions close because she holds them so strongly and can’t be bothered to defend them, (and who speaks of herself in the third person when perched on the awkward fence), has stepped across the line cloaked in the cracked invisibility shield we call fiction.

Certainly, all fiction needs not to be politically correct. I think of novels that changed my mind, not merely by changing my opinions, but altering my perspective and perception of the world, and I am thankful to have read them. But if I offend my readers in the first 60 pages, and they toss the book at the wall, has my intent been met?

It’s a big risk, and likely one reason potential literary agents haven’t gotten past the first few chapters. But, once again, I wrote a story I wanted to read.

This story and its feisty characters (mostly women, and one very old, very intelligent man) could help people to think about difficult and scary reality, to begin by being angry about it, but to acknowledge it with heads up from the sand. We cannot stay numb.

After we blame and point fingers and whine, we must help and learn and cooperate.

Writing A GIRL IN THE BOYS’ SCHOOL showed me that, behind all my cynicism and worry, I am hopeful. We will survive, but why can’t we think about the future and try to find a more logical and humane way to get there?

Someday, I hope you will read it and think.

 

 

Inside where the stories brew

Welcome to a tour of the inside of a storyteller’s mind. Keep your hands off the shiny things and stay with the group, please.

Over in this corner, we have the official WIP (work-in-progress). This is the story she’s supposed to be writing. It’s the one she talks about all the time. It’s the reason she can’t remember what you just said, or remember to eat, or sleep through the whole night.

Over on this shelf are the random ideas, possible short stories, lists of actors and directors she’ll call up when her book is made into a movie, and a pile of good intentions–blog post topics and other ideas, sorted haphazardly into “Must Get This Out” and others tagged “Write It But Keep It In a Drawer/Nobody Needs To See This“.

Don’t open that dark and dusty box. That’s where she keeps a pile of TO-DO things called marketing. These are the items she doesn’t really want to do, and probably never will. They’re the things that will sell more copies of her books. But when she looks at them, it hurts her eyes. When other authors do those things, it always smells a little rotten, like standing on a soap box and shouting about your own sweet-smelling feet. But all readers know a good book may not be crowned so by the writer. Once published, readers own the story and propel it to its fate. Only the reader may honestly “sell” a book to other readers. The writer may only watch and hope, and keep the dusty box over there, where she can’t see it too much.

She doesn’t get bored. Even when nothing is happening, on a long walk, on a 10-hour car ride, in a boring meeting where colleagues feverishly debate before voting about whether to vote on something, she is entertained by her mind. Her characters talk, to each other or to her or to themselves. Sometimes they yell for attention. Scenes slide by, uninvited. Halfway through drafting a novel, a new story knocks with more interesting characters than those old ones. She has a special skill where she appears to watch a whole football game but only her eyes are pointed the right way. She says, “Mhh hmmm,” frequently in response to voices that utter strings of words that turn up at the end like questions.

Yep, it’s like a circus in here. The writer’s task is to tame the lion and corral the monkeys. She must swing from the trapeze and juggle her ideas, often while working her “real” job to earn money so she can support her coffee addiction and need for carbohydrates.

So that’s it, just a quick look around. Don’t look too close. Tour’s over.

One year later, 11/11

Today is the first anniversary of the release date of my debut, Or Not to Be.

This year has been not quite what I expected. More than I ever expected.

I learned that I have NO marketing skills. I can give my book away, but it’s hard to ask for money. This story sells without my help. I’ve done all I can, just by spending nine years writing it.

This year, I revised my next book, Infinity Line. I paid an editor and a proofreader to help, shined it up like a new penny, and sent it out on the terrifying query train. Now I’m just doing the slow-motion backstroke with my swimmies on while I wait for responses. If you’ve got any extra luck lining your pockets, send it my way.

I’m working on the next, next book, tentatively titled Advice to the Novice Kidnapper. I tried to outline it. Tried to make the characters follow my lead. They laughed at me and took off. I tried to write it as a thriller, but it morphed into YA with a male voice—a coming-of-age story like none I’ve ever encountered.

Once again, I’ve found this to be true: writing a novel is as intriguing as reading one. It’s a journey with twists and turns. As the writer, I must buy the gas and I get to work the pedals, but I’m not allowed to touch the steering wheel. What a ride!

Back to the star of this party.

Eleven months after publication of Or Not to Be, I read the story of Anna and Eddie again. I sat strapped to the aisle seat on a plane to Colorado, on my way to see my beautiful grandbabies. Beside me sat a college student who had forgotten her book and didn’t want to do her crossword puzzle. She watched me write an organic chemistry exam, and then watched me read my own book, not knowing I was the author. We talked about her fiancée, how smart he is, and how funny he’d think it was that she sat beside a chemistry professor. Then, she asked about the book I was reading. After giving her a brief overview, I asked if she’d like to trade—she could read my book and I’d do her crossword puzzle. She took the offer. She read the pages rapidly. When the plane landed, she gave my baby back and said she’d have to buy it. I couldn’t concentrate on my crossword puzzle with my book being read right beside me.

To celebrate the return of Anna’s deathday on 11/11, the Kindle version of Or Not to Be is free again for a couple days. Go to HERE to get yours.

And, please, tell a friend.

Just Write

Write:

what you want to read

 when you have time

when you don’t have time

when you’re inspired

when you’re bored

with a cup of coffee

with a shot of rye

before sleeping

 instead of sleeping

before the sun comes up

in public

in a boring meeting

while watching football

with music

because you must

Just write.

If you don’t write, what will we read?

Never write what you are told to write.

Never write as fast as someone tells you to.

Your words are your art. They’ll pour forth from your fingers to the beat of your own pulse.

Write from your core.

From the base of your spine

From your ankles

From your beating heart

From your soul