Monday, April 30, 2012

Procrastination Ration

I kick myself sometimes because I am not writing the entire six hours that I'm conscious after I get home from work.  Let me be honest, sometimes I don't write in any of those hours.  And it gets worse than that.  A few days ago I downloaded two books on epublishing (I was still inclined to get hard copies, still more attracted to it when it comes to research but then I thought - this would be kind of weird, no?  If I'm going to commit, let me commit all the way) and I haven't been reading them.  I read the first thirty pages of Zoe Winter's book, "Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author " when I first downloaded it.  This book doesn't focus solely on epublishing and it's a pretty quick, easy read considering the amount of info it has and the different levels of publishing it covers.  She's funny too, which makes it pleasant to stick with but I haven't gone back to it.  The books lurk in the back of my head while I'm concluding my reading of JA Konrath's horror novel "Origin", which, frankly, as witty as Zoe Winters is, Konrath’s demon is just so riotously appalling it keeps kicking the idea of the homework books back - way, way back.

I'm not totally lazy.  I have been editing my novel "Existence" for the umpteenth time since I started writing it back in 2005.  My lead character is Erin Keane, an addict abruptly looking into the face of sobriety.  His character hasn't evolved much since I first began writing his journal portion of the book, in number 2 pencil between the tight lines of a college ruled composition book.  When I stopped drinking I started keeping a diary. (I've kept diaries throughout my life, but as my addiction progressed, the journaling became sporadic, and then the entries sporadic themselves, desperate sentences thrown together, or lonely attempts at poetry when I found myself compelled to write because I couldn't figure out how to express myself out loud anymore.  Out loud expression was one of the gifts of alcohol that lured me in the beginning.  Ironically, it eventually shut me up completely.)  Within that personal diary of mine, in which I was able to write clearly and then honestly for the first time in fifteen years, there was so much information I wanted to express, so many facets to sobriety and the journey through it, I had to start writing in someone else's voice as well, in a separate book.  That’s how Erin was born.

To quit doing something that has obsessed one's life for so long.  To finally be able to stop doing that which up to a point was utterly impossible to even dream stopping, and then suddenly find yourself not doing it anymore, and then eventually not even thinking about it anymore...  It's a crazy, bizarre trip, let me tell you.  It's fascinating.  If you don't know addiction and it has never touched your life, personally- physically or through a loved one, then it's hard to understand.  I know it's hard, I tried to explain it to my father and he was a pretty open minded person, (I think my sister might state otherwise) but I couldn't get him to understand the concept of  not being able to use my will-power to quit.  He couldn’t comprehend that I couldn't, no matter what I tried, stop, even though the more I drank, the more miserable I became.  And then, one day, I turn around and I don't do that anymore.  I can't go into how it stopped, if addiction is hard to explain, consider stopping the addiction impossible to explain.  I call it a miracle because really, there's no other way to describe it.  There are no details I can share.  It’s a very strange, awesome process that is experienced in the living.  I don't know if I was able to capture it in the book I’ve written.  I don’t know if that's what I wanted to do with it anyway.  I think all it started out being was a vehicle to express the runoff feelings that may not have seemed personal to me anymore.  At the same time, this is a very personal book.

So maybe all these times that I’ve gone into the book, diving, wading, fishing, maybe these visits have all been equally important to the book itself and to my process.  Erin is sober through me, and it's important for me to represent it correctly.  Getting clean and getting sober are very human processes; so much more human than addiction.  I know some would disagree, like that sarcastic little voice in my head saying – no it’s the other way around – but I’m not that person anymore, and I can ignore her.  It’s important for me to get the humanness of it right.  We never want to create a perfect character, the blemishes are the most important part, and I want to make sure I’ve filled him proportionately to fill in those nuances, that he’s an addict and that he is becoming sober.  The transformation is complicated but it’s also really subtle so it’s tricky.

The bottom line is that I'll get to it, the publishing.  I want it yesterday and with as little effort on my part as possible, except for the fun part, which is the actual writing, obviously.  I want it to fall from heaven without reading any extra books or writing a blog, or dipping my foot into the massiveness of the internet.  I don’t want you to know who I am for Pete's sake, almost as much as I do.  Almost.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Writer, Banker, Candle Stick Maker

I work on the 12th floor of one of the taller buildings in downtown Miami.  Yes, it is 70 degrees in the middle of January and when I look out the east side of the building I can see the cruise ships ready to leave from the port of Miami.  Don’t be jealous, I work in a bank.  I don’t like calling myself a banker. I really don’t consider myself one, but, I’d rather be a librarian and resemble that image than the image of the banker, unless your image of a banker is sexy, mine is decidedly not.  A banker is the antithesis of what I am.  I am an inventor of stories.  A novelist.  A writer.  But mostly in my heart I consider myself an artist, because an artist creates and that is what I do.  That is what I do when I am not here, at the bank. 

This is hard to admit, especially since some people that know me may read this, but if you really know me it won’t surprise you - I don’t have a traditional bank account.  I would need one of those if I were actually attempting to save money, but I do that through my retirement plan and I spend everything else.  That means - pay attention - that I don’t have any credit cards.  And yeah, that might impress some people, but I know the smarty pants that immediately think, “that also means she has no credit”.  Yes, that too.  But I guarantee you something right here and now, and I will wager my retirement fund on it, we all leave this pretty little existence with the same thing, don’t we? 

Yeah, I get to justify that by saying I am an artist, so I am entitled to not think logistically when it comes to money.  You know what the funny thing is?  Currently, I am the Rockefeller in my relationship which is… you can’t begin to imagine how ironic that is.  So, reason number 75 for trying to publish is to make a reasonable living at what comes naturally.  Oh, man, and it used to come so much more naturally before this responsibility thing started slowing me down.  Age is a nuisance.  I'm starting to realize, and it is becoming blatantly loud in my head, that I have maybe thirty years left, and I want to be able to afford tea and toast when I’m in my seventies, you know?  I don’t want to retire from banking, I mean, if I have to, so be it, but in the same way that we leave this existence with the same thing, it’s nice to approach the end knowing that you did everything you could to realize your dream.  Whatever that is for you depends on who you are.  Sometimes it’s simple, like knowing that the two daughters’ you raised are finally safe.  Sometimes it means letting everyone see who are, inside out, conquering the fear or at least raising the pen to it.  Sometimes it’s the nest egg for your children.  We are lucky, some would say blessed, to come to learn what it is for us individually.  Humans struggle.  Human’s struggle and suffer.  Those of us that have the chance to breathe and contemplate, well, we are so incredibly lucky.  To be a writer.  To look out the window and watch as the morning sun blanches the sidewalk blonde.

To work in a bank. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I've been reading some of Joe Konrath's novels for a few weeks now.  If you don't know, Konrath writes horror under the pseudonym Jack Kilborn and the books are outrageously violent and insanely gory.  I’m not sure why such a delicate flower as me is attracted to these novels, (if by attracted one means OBSESSED).   Anywhos, I noticed that he has a recurring element in his books, something that I find pretty intriguing.  He seems to favor the strong female protagonist, I mean Whitley from “Aliens” strong.  In Konrath’s novel Endurance there are a few strong females, but one is so bad-ass, she is missing her legs and she still kicks butt.  In Trapped, the female lead kicks butt while her baby is tucked into a shoulder harness.  I LIKE it, Joe, thank you. 

It got me thinking about my characters.  I imagine that Konrath is modeling his beautiful female warriors after someone very special in his life.  Maybe it isn’t just one person, maybe he was raised by Amazons - I don’t know him personally - but it's rooted in something because it keeps manifesting in his writing.  I never thought about how my relationships influence my characters.  Is this something that they teach in writing courses?  I guess it would be, because we develop the nuances of our people through observation and through experience, right?  But, if you are some hermit writer that doesn't get out much then you are sort of stuck deriving this information from your immediate family.  Hopefully your immediate family is really big, like the Walton's.   

Well, for me it's my dad.  He had 'the' influence on me and it is he that I am reflecting when I am writing my male leads, and mine are mostly male.  The females are usually my mom.  I wasn't hidden in the basement, but my upbringing wasn't rich in social flavor either.  I am an artist and I am one of the cool, loner types (he he he) that prefers observation to participation (wallflower extraordinaire).  My family was not as big as the Waltons', but hooooooey, they definitely packed the fixins when it came to Turkey dinner, if you know what I mean.  So, I don't know, mostly it's my dad and mom, and then rest is all of you.

Please pass the mash potatoes if you don't mind. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Editing madness or is it addiction?

Man, it's sort of overwhelming, isn't it?  Sure it is.  I mean, look, there are a lot, A LOT, of reasons that I am not published.  Maybe one of those reasons is that I am a terrible writer.  Sure, that's totally possible. but let me stick to the verifiable facts, because the truth is I don't think I'm a terrible writer.  (Considering I'm one of the total four human beings that have read my work, that would qualify as the most self aggrandizing thing I have ever stated, and I don't have the balls to say I'm good, just not terrible.)  How does one accumulate the amount of time necessary to attempt traditional publication?  Twenty years ago, (whoa, whoa, whoa, tell the truth) thirty years ago I got married and then I had two children, and then I got divorced and my mother passed away unexpectedly; I got my first grown up job to support my two children whilst simultaneously turning into an alcoholic, etcetera, etcetera.  What I'm getting at is that I had a lot of life happen and I've lived every inch of it.  Throughout it all I continued writing and they, the children I gave birth to and the characters I created, saved my sanity, but I did not have the time to attempt the process of becoming "oh are you published?" 'yes, I am'.  Not that all it takes is sand, that's the least of it.  Because in addition to existing just like everyone else, we can say (the royal we obviously) that we rarely gave ourselves the opportunity to be discovered, or to get involved in writing groups, or to give a flying Kung Fu kick about other aspiring writers.  It was mine mine mine all mine.  Insane, you say? The royal you, obviously.  because you said that you wanted everyone to read you and get to know you.  How can they do that if you are hiding the planet behind a really big moon?  Really big and painfully shy and contradictorily, self possessed and ego maniacal.  Who are you talking about? 

Yeah, now that I think about it, maybe I am crazy.  I found though, in these past few years of my assent into middle aged-ness, that my feelings aren't unique, pretty much about anything, especially about feeling unique.

I'm in the middle of reviewing these chapters.  There are 300 pages so far, double spaced with too many words that I need to cut back on because newbies shouldn't have that much to say (I hated when I read that, but it's the freaking truth.) This is my last time going in.  I've said that before, but I need to let go of her.  I need to set her free.  And with her, me too.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I was just getting ready to write, rubbing my hands together and warming up my fingers, when the alarm went off.  The butternut squash ravioli I'm addicted to is ready.  BRB.

Ok, now it's soaking in caramelized onion and red pepper sauce.  It's the store-bought kind, don't get excited. 

Hmm.  So, did you all start out this way?  Those of you that blog.  You BLOGGERS.  I resisted for as long as I could but, well, here I am, surrendering.  OUCH.

I've been writing for a long, long time. It's the kind of length in time that goes so far back it's hard (impossible) to see it when I turn around.  I want to say - and I did and am editing it now - that I started when I was ten years old, back around 1975-ish.  It was probably before that.  I wish I could remember specifically, and I wish I had hung on to those things, whatever those things were.  I think that at first it was poetry.  Simple little things that would make my older sister smile.  By the time I was twelve I was writing little novella's and I even wrote a Starsky and Hutch episode with my friend Lori.  Oh, and how I wish I had that, written on torn out sheets of notebook paper, scene after scene that included that red Torino and Huggy Bear.  Does Lori ever think about that?  It was my job to transpose that precious, sole yet perfect draft onto clean white sheets of luxurious onion paper, which I found so incredibly sexy and fancy at that age. I was the only 'privelged' one of my group of friends with an actual electric typewriter in the apartment.  I was never pushed academicly in my youth, but my eccentric, bohemian Cuban parents encouraged the artist in both me and my sister.  By the way, they probably wouldn't have labeled themsleves eccentric or bohemian, but for the record, my family is unique.  Maybe we all feel that way about our relatives.

"The Hunt" is my first novel.  I completed it, (if by completed one means finishing the first of 20 drafts) when I was seventeen years old.  It's a love story about the first week in the transformation process of a vampire.  She happens to fall in love with who will eventually become her first feed.  Please don't make me tell you how much better than all the Twilights put together it is.  :) 

Thirty years since and I have started and finished and edited and dreamed about and formulated and EXISTED IN so many stories with so many people and so many places, some that exist and some that don't, that sometimes it feels like I've lived 50 lives. "The Hunt". "Cowboys".  "The Tree".  "Stranger in the Miror".  "Circle of Ghosts". "The Magician." "The Ride". "Something." and "Existence".  Existence is what I am going to e-publish first.  When I write about Existence it chokes me up.  The Hunt used to do that to me.  These stories have a very big piece of me in them.  And they have my peace in them, and that's probably the part that makes me feel the same as I do when I look at my two kids.  The feeling is wonder, I think.   

I used to think that it didn't matter if I got published or not.  But, yes, it does.  I may sincerely not care about becoming a bestselling millionaire, but I do want you and everyone else on the planet to read what I've written.  I want you and everyone else on the planet to come to my world and hang out for a while and get to know these people I have given birth to.  From River Hawk and Camille de Bourney to Erin Keane and Lucy.  They are right here, as sure as I am here, and I am so very proud of them and yes, I will admit it, in love with each and every one.  So I am starting my journey, today, to self publish.  I want to chronicle it.  I have dreampt about making this all available, to you, in the same way that my inspiration, Mr. Stephen King has.  In 1980 I read The Stand, and when I saw those paragraphs in italics, the way he seems to talk to himself on the pages of his novels, oh my, oh my, I was forever hooked.  Writing probably saved my life, and one day I'll share about that.  For now, I get closer to my dream and you get closer to my planet.