Just to Make It Official

July 2013

July 2013

Two for One: Blog Post and Novel Excerpt

I am very happy to announce that I met my 50,000 word goal in Camp NaNoWriMo!  And how did I meet such a lofty goal, you ask.  Why, by frequently combining blog posts with my novel writing, such as I did here and here.

And here I go again!  This post is rather long, but if you’ve read my and John Howell’s latest Top Ten List on losing weight, then you should be able to breeze through it.

I have to admit that editing this third book in my series will be very interesting since it contains a book review, a guest blog, a revised fairy tale, and now this riff on our Ten Top List.  Hope you enjoy 😉

Fat Cat Sleeping

Fat Cat Sleeping

An excerpt from The Widow’s Club:  Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Maggie took a sip of her hot chocolate and turned on her laptop.  She wasted no time in heading to her favorite blog, Fiction Favorites by John Howell.  She loved his blog and now his Monday morning post of “top ten things not to do” list.  It was a collaboration with some other blogger, but she hadn’t bothered to visit the other blog.  She was plenty satisfied with Fiction Favorites.

She needed a laugh, she needed some distraction from Mary’s anxiety, Melissa’s disappearance, and Randy’s unknown whereabouts.  Their lives were becoming more like a poorly written soap opera.  She clicked her way to Fiction Favorites and almost shot hot chocolate through her nose when she saw the title:  “Top Ten List of Things Not to do When Trying to Lose Weight.”  Maggie had been fighting with her weight all her life.  She had never been obese, just overweight enough to be self-conscious about her figure, particularly the waxing and waning of her waistline.  This should be good, she thought, as she hunched over the laptop.

She read the first item in the list:  “When trying to lose weight, do not go on a 24-hour fast and then a Chinese buffet binge just because fasting is the new “in” diet.  The rapid transition from empty stomach to a stomach brimming with hot and sour soup, General Tso’s Chicken, spring rolls, crab rangoon, snow peas in garlic sauce, fried rice, and chocolate pudding can be explosive.”  She stifled a giggle.  She had actually done that once, and only once.  She had been so starving when she got to the Chinese buffet that she filled up her plate at least four times.  Nothing “explosive” happened, but she did wind up feeling like a beached whale all that night. Her husband Bobby had teased her about it for days afterward.

The next item was: “When trying to lose weight, do not mistake the South Beach diet for endless daiquiris and tapas at Miami’s South Beach.  You’ll never get into that sleek little bathing suit if you do.”  She smiled and glanced over at Mary, who was sitting on the couch and fiddling with her cell phone.  Mary had been to South Beach with Christopher a long time ago.  She wanted to ask her what tapas were, but Mary looked too distracted.  Probably just a typo, Maggie thought.

She read on:  “When trying to lose weight, do not sign up for your very first triathlon if your only familiarity with exercise is being able to juggle multiple remotes for your TV, DVD player and sound system.  You want to lose weight, not your life, which you will likely forfeit in the first five minutes of the competition.”  She snorted, but this time without getting hot chocolate up her nose.  She used to tease Bobby about his dexterity in juggling all their various remotes.  He could have turned it into an Olympic sport.

When trying to lose weight, by all means, purchase a scale for weighing your food so you can be sure of the size of your portions.  Just don’t bring it with you to restaurants and weigh the food served to you.  At best, your friends will find the activity of watching you trying to weigh a dollop of mashed potatoes rather boring.  At worst, your food will be in an unappetizing state after the weighing.”  Maggie cocked her head while she read this item.  Who would bring a food scale to a restaurant?  Who would even think of it?  Maggie guessed that this list, or at least this item, was written by the other blogger, someone with a rather tenuous grasp on humor.

She sat up straight and her face flushed when she read the next item on the list:  “When trying to lose weight, do not buy spandex for casual wear EVER!  No explanation is necessary.”  Oh, really, she thought.  No spandex ever?  Why, she was wearing spandex at that very moment and it was very comfortable and not unattractive.  Of course, they were leggings, black leggings, and she had a long black rayon skirt over them, so …. She moved on down the list.

When trying to lose weight, do not try to curb your appetite with bottomless cups of coffee, bottles of diet pills, or any other substance.  These have less to do with suppressing appetite and much more to do with making you so hyper that you never sleep, which, ironically, gives you more hours in which to eat.”  Well, Maggie thought, this is more true than funny.  She had tried diet pills herself when she was in high school.  Talk about being hyper.  She couldn’t stop talking.  She would talk right over Mary until Mary finally lost her temper and yelled at her to “Shut the fuck up!”  And they were in church at the time.  During Mass for a friend’s wedding.

Maggie sunk down in her chair and peered at Mary over the laptop.  Her cousin was gazing out the window, seemingly lost in thought.  Probably worrying about Melissa or Randy or both, she thought.  The memory of Mary’s outburst, in the church of all places, made Maggie feel reticent about sharing this list with her.  Any other time she would read Howell’s list out loud to her, or his haikus.  But this list was strangely unfunny.  The list was pushing all the wrong buttons.

Still, she continued to read:  “When trying to lose weight, do not take any diet pills that promise to block your absorption of fat (e.g., Alli).  Yes, they do work, but they work at all the wrong moments–in the middle of a business meeting, during a long commute, or while you’re sitting in the window seat of an airplane with Chris Christie next to you.”  She covered her mouth as she smiled at this item.  The image of being stuck on a plane between the window and Chris Christie was too much for her.  Never mind the idea that you have an urgent need to go to the bathroom.  She remembered Bobby once telling her about a meeting he was in at the bank, when one of the loan officers suddenly jumped up from her chair and ran out of the room.  They found out later that she had been taking Alli and made the mistake of eating potato chips with her lunch.  She barely got to the bathroom in time.  Ordinarily, he wouldn’t laugh at someone’s expense like that, but he said the look on her face was so funny, like someone had just poked her in the butt.

The memory of Bobby’s laughter made Maggie’s smile grow bigger, but her chin quivered as well.  They were both quiet types, introverts, but he had had a wonderful sense of humor.  His humor was much like John Howell’s and she thought that was probably why she liked his blog so much.

When trying to lose weight, do not hire a trainer that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s poor cousin and whose sales pitch is “I want to pump you up!”  What you might get “pumped up” with may not be legal.”  Oh, Bobby would love this one, she thought, as she bit her tongue to keep from laughing out loud.  Whoever wrote this item had to be thinking of those characters on Saturday Night Live.  She thought Dana Carvey was one of them.  Bobby had loved those characters.  John probably wrote this item.

Maggie scrolled further down the list.  Just two more.  She wrinkled her nose at the next one:  “When trying to lose weight, do not take up colon cleansing.  As with most of the items on this list, the result of too much of a good thing can result in frequent and expensive calls to your plumber.”  The other blogger must have written this list, she thought.  Really, John wouldn’t be so juvenile in his humor.  Of course, part of dieting does involve changes to one’s input and output, as Bobby had liked to describe those particular bodily functions.  But, really, she thought, the other blogger is just running out of ideas.

Finally, the last item.  She almost sighed with relief:  “Finally, when trying to lose weight, take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself which is more important:  fitting into those skinny jeans you wore in high school or feeling strong, healthy, and happy, even if you are a little soft around the edges.”

Maggie sat back in her chair.  Well, she thought, that is kind of a nice way to end the list, given how difficult it is to lose weight.  And being healthy is more important.  But the last item was anti-climatic.  The whole list reminded Maggie of her own struggle to lose weight–just 10 or 15 pounds.  All the diets she tried.  All the times that Bobby would tell her not to fret about her weight so much.  He loved her curves.  He loved her.  But she did finally lose that 15 pounds plus another 10.  After Bobby’s death.  She had lost interest in eating then and for a long time, she only ate if food was put before her.  She’d gladly put all that weight back on if she could just have Bobby back.

Maggie closed the laptop and looked over at her cousin.  Mary returned her gaze and gave her a weak smile.  “It’s Monday,” Mary said.  “Any good lists on Fiction Favorites?  I could use a laugh right now.”

A Different Kind of Book Review: The Night I Walked Off of Boot Hill by Briana Vedsted

I’m currently participating in Camp NaNoWriMo but have been negligent with working on my novel.  I also owe a number of book reviews.  So I thought, why not try to do both?  Work on my novel and a book review at the same time.  Granted, this is not the kind of book review I would post to Amazon or Goodreads.  I’ll have to snip away the dialogue and narrative for that, but those reviews will be posted.  Many thanks to Briana Vedsted for her patience and her talent in storytelling.

An excerpt from WIP:  The Widow’s Club:  Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Melissa sought to distract Tupper by telling him about a novella she had read.  It was The Night I Walked Off of Boot Hill by Briana Vedsted.  She had noticed a stack of worn paperback books in the cabin, at the foot of the cot, most with pictures of cowboys on horses.  She could make out the names Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour.  She smiled at the thought of this young mountain man being taken with horses and life out on the plains.  The landscapes of Grey and L’Amour probably seemed like foreign countries, even distant planets, to Tupper.

She rested her fingers on the top of the stack, noting how well-thumbed the books looked.  “Have you ever read anything by Briana Vedsted?”  Her voice was low, wanting to get his attention, but not wanting to startle him since they had been quiet for so long now.

He turned toward her.  When he saw that she was looking at his books, his face lit up.  “No.  Does she write stories like those?  I’ve read those books over and over.  They belong to the library, you know.”  His cheeks turned pale rose as he admitted to having overdue books.

“She doesn’t have a book in the library … yet.”  Melissa realized that he may not understand electronic books and the Internet and she didn’t have the energy to explain all that to him.  Better to just gloss over that part, she thought.  “I have a copy of a novella she wrote, called The Night I Walked Off of Boot Hill.  I can … read it to you someday.”  She wasn’t sure about showing him her Kobo Reader, either.  What would he make of something like that?  And if she offered to read it to him, maybe he’ll consider helping her get down the mountain and back home.

“Can you tell me about it?”  He sat on the floor in front of her, as she sat cross-legged on the cot.  He was so big, she thought.  He had to be at least 6 feet tall, if not more, and no less than 200 pounds.  She couldn’t quite tell because he was fully dressed, but she suspected that he was all muscle.  Living on the mountain, all that hard labor just to find food.  She smiled at him as he looked up at her, eager for a story.

“Sure, it’s a ghost story, but a nice one, not a scary one.  It starts with a man waking up in a cemetery on Boot Hill.  It takes a while for him to remember his name, Barbados Tom, and to gather his last memories before waking up on the hill.  The thing is, he doesn’t know if he is dead or alive.”  Tupper’s eyes grew wide and the smile faded from his face.  Melissa marveled at the thought that he could be scared by a story when for years he had been living alone in this isolated cabin on the mountain among bears and other predators.  Yet, that didn’t seem to scare him.

“The whole story is about Barbados Tom remembering who he is and what he did and where he needs to go.  The reader is taken along on this journey, learning about him just as he learns about himself.  Along the way he meets up with a young man, Jim McDougall, who also seems lost and alone.  They have adventures along the way.”  Melissa glanced over at the stack of paperbacks. “Lots of horse riding and meeting up with Indians and traveling through lonely ghost towns.  Tom wonders if they are both dead.  And yet they feel hunger and the cold, they need sleep, they feel pain.  Tom can’t figure it out.  He was supposed to be hanged.  He remembers that he was an outlaw and that he had been captured and sentenced to death.  And, yet, here he is on a journey.  He knows where he needs to go, but he doesn’t know why.”

“So he was a bad man?”

“Well?” Melissa paused. She didn’t want Tupper to think that it was okay to be a bad person, to hurt people and maybe get away with it.  “The thing is he had done bad things and he had to be punished.  But he also had a heart, a good heart, and he was trying to make things right again.  He started to think of Jim in a fatherly way, watching after him and planning for his future.”

“How does it all end?”  Tupper sat up a little straighter, eager to know how anyone could make right the bad things they had done.  How could someone be condemned to death, and yet be worthy of life.

“I can’t tell you that.  It would be giving away the whole story.”  Melissa felt a little anxious, wondering if teasing Tupper with only part of the story would backfire.  “It’s a very good story, and it has a happy ending.  But I can’t tell it right.  I need to read it to you.”

Tupper looked down at his hands and frowned.  Melissa’s heart started beating hard and she felt a chill down her back.  So far he had treated her well, but she still didn’t know if she could trust him.

“Does he ever figure out if he’s a ghost?”  He looked up at Melissa, a child-like plea in his eyes.  “Does he get any peace?”

Melissa smiled, relieved that he seemed only concerned about the story, about Barbados Tom.

“We never know if he’s a ghost or not, but that’s okay, because in the end, he’s happy.  Everyone is happy.”

___________________________________________________________________________________

This review is based on my own purchased copy of The Night I Walked Off of Boot Hill by Briana Vedsted.  You can buy your own copy at Amazon.  It is available in book e-book at 99 cents and in paperback currently for $5.94!

July Camp NaNoWriMo

2013-Participant-Facebook-Cover

Hello, my fellow bloggers and blogettes! As many of you know, I am again throwing caution to the wind and entering another Camp NaNoWriMo writing challenge! I did one in April and was successful. That is, I reached my goal of 50 thousand words and actually had a beginning, middle, and end to the novel I was working on. Whether the novel is successful (i.e., readable) is another issue.

Because I’ve made this commitment (and I know a number of you probably think I should be committed), my presence in the blogosphere will be spotty over the next 30 days. Not only have I challenged myself with another 50 thousand words, but I have cabin mates this time. My dear friend, Patti Hall over at 1WritePlace, is a cabin mate. She and a few other mates are already ahead of me in word count and it’s only been one effing day! (Of course, Patti’s snoring kept me up most of the night. I’ll either have to sleep outside or put a pillow over her head.)

Anyway, I digress (as usual … and that’s my secret to winning NaNoWriMos … I digress a lot). I won’t be going totally off the radar, but just wanted to give everyone notice in case you miss me. (And you ask, “how can I miss you if you won’t go away” …. one of my favorite songs from Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks).

The Great Big Blue

On the trail at Chimney Rock, Point Reyes National Seashore Park, California July 2012

On the trail at Chimney Rock, Point Reyes National Seashore Park, California
July 2012

It’s been a week since I submitted my final word count to Camp NaNoWriMo and my brain still feels as empty as this great expanse of sky. I’ve written little since: mostly comments, an attempt at poetry during a downturn in my mood, and the ubiquitous note-keeping I do at my day job. I had thought of planning to edit one or both of the novels I’ve written in the past 6 months. Remember, they are both first drafts so editing will open the opportunity (and challenge) of rewriting. But … always there is a but … my physical environment is suffering from neglect and my other projects are demanding their due.

For one, I’m engaged in The Knitting Guild Association’s (TKGA’s) Master Hand Knitting Program, Level 1. For those of you interested in such endeavors, here’s a link: http://www.tkga.com/?page=AboutTKGAMasters

I actually had completed Level 1 almost 20 years ago, started Level 2 and then just quit. I am an avid knitter and have been knitting for over 40 years. I can also sew and crochet, but knitting has always defined me. I’ve made everything from baby blankets to cardigans to socks to shawls to scarves to pullovers. As the years go by, my knitting has become simpler, except for the socks and a venture into Entralec.

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In recent years, I’ve resisted patterns like cardigans that require lots of finishing. Even with socks, I prefer to knit toe-up two-at-a-time because that method requires the least amount of planning and finishing. So why am I enrolled in the Level 1 Master program again? (Beside the fact that after 20 years, the association has updated its standards and requirements.) In truth, because I thought if I ever attempt to sell my knitting, it might be helpful if I could be “certified” as a Master Knitter and for that, you need to complete all three levels of the Master program. But knitting is labor-intensive and selling would only work if I was willing to do it for free. And, once knitting becomes a job, the joy goes out of it for me.

My writing is much like my knitting: I love the process (the knitting, the writing). I love the end product (the sweater, the novel), but I don’t like everything I have to do to get there (the sewing of seams, the editing). And, as with knitting, once the “fun” goes out of writing, so goes the writing.

After all these years of writing and knitting, I feel like I’m still discovering myself as a writer and a knitter. And I’m starting to let go of that urgency to “Be” something or someone, to define myself by someone else’s precepts. I’m a contrary student: I love to learn but I hate instructions. I love to find out something new, but I hate being told what to do.

Yet I intend to finish Level 1 of the Master program, even if I have to write a two-page, single-spaced report on blocking (really, is there that much to be said on blocking?). Level 2 will depend on how much of Level 1 I might be asked to re-do. And with my writing, it will be easier to simply create anew rather than rework what I already have. We’ll see. For now, I have some knitting to finish.

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Camp Award

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Had to wait until the end of my work day, but am so happy to be posting my award!

Hecho … Fini … Gemacht … Finito … Kufanyika … Done!

I am so done with Camp NaNoWriMo!  Roughly 50,349 words completed as of last night 😉  I say roughly because I used the opportunity to finish a previous novel so I had to add those words to the word count for my current novel which means I had to use a calculator because I’m a bit dyslexic with numbers and so the important thing is I made it to 50,000!  And I actually have an ending with this novel. Yup, a beginning, middle and an end.  That’s no small feat for me since endings are something I have always struggled with.

Now that I am thoroughly exhausted with banging at my keyboard, I have callouses on my fingertips, my fingernails are totally ruined and my butt is in the shape of a chair seat (tonight’s yoga class will take care of that, I hope), now I have to go to my day job and stare at a computer for a minimum of 8 hours.  Frankly, not something I’m really in the mood for, but now at least I won’t be distracted by trying to squeeze in a few words every time I run a query that takes more than 5 minutes to process 🙂

I want to thank the support of all my fellow bloggers and campers out there who have urged me on.  I plan to take the next month to reacquaint myself with the wonders of WordPress and add more pages to my blog, catch up with the adventures of my fellow bloggers, and not do any writing (other than blogging).  I need a break and I have so many other projects that need my attention.  More on those things later.

For now, many thanks to all!

Yoga

Over Forty

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Yea, I’ve made it past 40 thousand words (41,227, to be exact)! Now I can barely keep my eyes open and my throat is sore from begging my cats to just let me write a little bit more and then I will feed you! OK, maybe I wasn’t begging so much as yelling at them to leave me alone for just a few more minutes!

But I’m done for the night, and I hope this post makes sense because my brain is really fried. I admit, it will be so good to get this month behind me, and to take a break. I have to remind myself that most writers, published and otherwise, don’t try to write a novel in one month. I think it’s safe to say that most of them take more time than that 🙂 But I know that at this point in my writing life, unless I have a deadline hanging over my head, it’s much too easy to put it off or to talk myself out of writing because, you know, that story idea really sucks anyway. I am my own worst critic, and the beauty of NaNoWriMo is that it does force me to write without thinking too hard.

I am thinking of posting my writing eventually, not just the novels I’ve been working on, but also my short stories. I actually consider myself to be more of a short story writer. Novel writing intimidates me. Perhaps that can be my break from NaNoWriMo, setting up pages within my blog for writing. We’ll see.

Anyway, a big thanks to all my followers and fellow bloggers who are participating in Camp NaNoWriMo (or not) and who continue to inspire and encourage me.

Peace to every one of you. Namaste.

30K+ and still writing

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This is my cat Junior. He looks very innocent, doesn’t he? Very sweet, very “who me?” But right now he’s ramping up his piercingly plaintive cry for food (what else) and the other two (Maxine and Luisa) are pacing and chirping (yes, cats can make little noises that sound like chirps) because they also want … wait for it … food.

And why are they so restless? Gee, it’s been a whole five hours since they were last fed. And why is that?

Because I’ve typing my bleeding fingers off! Yep, in the past five hours, I’ve managed to type roughly 5,600 words. And my projected finish date has greatly improved to May 2. Of course, I had to write so much today because I had little time to write this week. I actually had writer’s block for a few days until I was inspired by Spilled Ink to take the time to finish a novel I had started in November, a novel which includes many of the same characters in the one I’m writing for Camp NaNoWriMo. I suppose it might make sense to write about what I’m writing about but not right now. I’m nearly brain-dead, my fingers are going spastic and the cats are circling. Hey, all three of them had been feral before we took them in so I wouldn’t put it past them to starting thinking of ways to take me down. Except I think that they much prefer Fancy Feast.

Twenty Thousand Words and Beyond

2013-Participant-Facebook-Cover

I am so happy to say that I’ve written over 20,000 words as of this posting.  I’m still behind, but the goal of making 50,000 by end of this April seems a bit more feasible.  I’m looking forward to returning to writing, that is, really writing, for my blog when Camp is over.  This time around I seem to be struggling more with the idea of myself as a novelist.  I’m not really plot-driven in my own writing, although I do love to read plot-driven novels.  It’s the characters I fall for when I’m writing.  I just want them to take over and they don’t even have to do anything.  They can just sit at a kitchen table with a cup of tea and think out loud, and I’m happy with that.  I just don’t know that readers would be happy with that.  This would be only the third novel I’ve written in my life (and I’ve had a fairly long life now), and the first two still beg to be reread and revised.

If anyone wants to (has time to) share their own novel writing experience, I’d be very interested to know, at least, how you sustain your own interest in what you are writing.  The beauty of a short story is that you can finish it before you start getting bored with the story line.  With a novel, I have to at least keep myself interested in the story.  At this point, I’m not even worried about readers.  Sigh.  That will probably be painfully obvious once I’ve met my goal 🙂

Namaste.

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