Nah, Nah, NaNo, Not This Year

I hate to bail out on anything I’ve committed to.  But you know what?  I’m just too tired to deal with the stress of worrying whether my word count is going to come out right on November 30th.

It’s kind of too bad, because I have a novel that I’ve been working on, and I put it in the deep freeze to age a little.  Then when I got it out again, I realized it wasn’t the novel I wanted at all.  I mean, the premise and the characters and the story arc are all meaningful, but the approach is all wrong.  So it needs to be re-written from scratch.

I’ve actually made a stab at it, thinking I’d do it for this year’s NaNoWriMo.  But I’m not up to it.  My liver hurts, courtesy of a Cytomegalovirus infection I contracted several years ago.  I’m getting a cold, thanks to self-imposed stress.  I’m whiney and all I want to do is crawl under the covers and sleep it off.

You know what?  That’s exactly what I’m going to do.  I’m going to be kind to myself for a change.  It’s a habit I’d like to cultivate.

See you next year, NaNo.  Maybe.


Oh, how I wish I was as excited about writing my NaNoWriMo novel as I am about every new blog post I write.

I have my characters.  I have my plot.  I have my story arc (I think).  So what’s the problem?

The problem is that I just don’t want to write this damn book.  OK, so don’t write it, you say.  Write a different book.  Don’t write this novel that takes five of the people you’ve known in your life who are all now dead, shake them up with real situations from your own life, and pour it into a dramatic tragedy that just never quits rolling.

Yes, it’s going to be a great book.  From moment one, dramatic scene after dramatic scene.  Emotion.  Action.  Mystery.  Tragedy.  Triumph over evil.

So what’s the problem?

Me.  I’m the problem.  The content of this book comes right out of my guts.  I’ve tried to write it before, and got pretty far along before I had to quit because my hands were shaking too hard to type.

I’m thinking I might use a dictation program this time.   I know that my “story voice” is very different when spoken than when written, but I’ve never tried it out on a long piece of fiction, so this might give me an opportunity.  And maybe it will give me that one degree of separation from the subject matter that will allow me to tell the story without freaking out in the middle of it.

Last year’s NaNoWriMo, I wrote something completely different, after trying to write this story the first two times.  Yes, I made it to 50,000 words, but that only got me my plot, character development, and story arc.  It’s going to take 80,000 words to tell this story right, I think.

I’d love to write it as a serial here, but I think that might be a problem for prospective publishers.

Ah well.  I guess I’d better start if I want to cross the finish line for the 4th year in a row.  Wish me luck.


Hello fellow Bloggies, happy Friday, Dia de los Muertos, and everything like that.

“It has come to my attention…” don’t you hate that phrase?  Me too, but it does apply here.  I noticed that there was an awful lot of spam in my Gmail account this morning, so I looked through it and HORROR OF HORRORS there were several personal emails in there, one or two of which were from YOU, my Bloggie Family.  Unfortunately, being before noon and without my caffeine quotient and (fill in your favorite excuse here), I tried to remove them from the spam folder and now I can’t find them anywhere.  Arrrgh!

So here’s what I’ve decided to do about that:

Even though I’ve asked people to contact me about specific issues at my normal, regular, public email, which is, I’m asking you to please change that to; so that hopefully your messages won’t get spammed and if they do I’ll be able to salvage them.

Tips for not getting spammed:  well, other than putting “YOU CAN HAVE A GIGANTIC ORGAN BY CHRISTMAS” in your subject line, I’ve noticed that messages with sender email addresses that consist of random numbers and/or letters like just go straight into the bin, because the server thinks they’re generated by ‘bots.  So I know this is sounding like some annoying “how to not end up in the spam bin” lecture, but you know what?  I really, really want to get your emails, because I know that if you are emailing me it’s about something very important and I don’t want to miss it, and I don’t want you to think I’m ignoring you.

All that said, can anyone please tell me how to embed a “click here to email me” button on my blog?  I looked through the widgets and didn’t see one.  That does not mean there isn’t one, just that I didn’t see it! 😀

OK, I’m getting off my high horse now and going for the coffee pot.  Who knows, I may do something radical like get dressed!

Love you all, have a great weekend, and to those of you to whom November 1st means more than Day of the Dead….you WriMos know who you are…fire up your engines and get that novel off to a running start!  Hyah! Hyah!  (sound of whips cracking)

Back on the Chain Gang

Ah, the blissful bubble of  NaNoWriMo is over.  Well, officially it’s over at midnight on November 30th, so I’ve got a day and then some to revel in typing my fingers off.  But let’s face it, I’ve got my 50,000 words and my Winner Certificate, so I guess I’m a Lame Duck WriMo.  And now, although I’m still banging away at it, I’ve come to a really difficult spot in my “novel.”  I’m hoping that putting it to bed for the night will help: let it incubate for a while, or perhaps compost, ferment, whatever gets it going again.


I decided to tackle some of the effects of entropy that have turned my living space into even more of a trash heap than it was before.  So I tackled something that just has to be done.  In case you don’t remember, I moved into my dad’s pottery studio.  He’s too sick to use it anymore, and I need a place to live.  It’s been quite an adventure, full of all kinds of challenges and roadblocks.  I’ll have to write a post devoted to the project and where it stands to date, complete with pictures of my electric toilet.  That’s right folks: I have an electric toilet, because this building is perched on the edge of a cliff and there’s no place for a septic tank.


Anyway.  Tonight I spent an hour putting my dad’s pottery tools away: you know, all those wonderful little tools he used to use to make his mind-blowing ceramic art.  A lot of them are found objects: a toothbrush handle, a cheese cutter, a rubber spatula.  I separated them according to function and size, and put them all in plastic bags and then into one of those Rubbermaid boxes I can’t live without.  I cried a lot.  I wanted to scream, but it would scare my little dog.  Times like this, I wish she had a temporary “off” switch so that I could just go ahead and scream without having to worry about somebody else’s feelings.


Tomorrow I have a busy day.  I won’t get to the next thing on my list, which is wiping the mold off of all my books and putting them in the bookcases, after wiping the mold off the bookcases first.  Yes, you read right:  mold.  The bane of the asthmatic: and I am an asthmatic.


You see, it is so humid here, on the cliff above the river, that while I was away for ten weeks resting in the bosom of Jerusalem, the humidity was at work making mold over all of my belongings.  Everything.  Furniture, clothes, even (and I am deeply offended at this) my banjo strap, that I made out of leather in 1974.  Arrrrgh!  One step forward, two steps back.


But on the other hand, I’m sitting here wheezing, listening to Queen on Pandora, my little doggie asleep tucked under my right elbow.  I spent the day with my old dad, who was lucid enough today to have a deep discussion about ceramic glaze chemistry.  We both love chemistry.  It’s just that most of the time, his brain refuses to cooperate, so we can’t discuss much and he goes to sleep.  But today was one of those increasingly rare days when relative clarity allowed us to have a rare and precious conversation about some pretty technical stuff.


I’d better go take a nebulizer treatment and take my handful of pills so I can get up in the morning and drive to Asheville to see the disability lawyer and my psychologist, now that I’m a certified Nutter.

NaNoWriMo Victory!

Gentle readers, I have done my WriMo duty for a second straight year.  I must shamelessly say that I am very proud of myself.  Even better, when I hit the 50.000 word winner mark, I couldn’t stop, but have kept write on (sic) all evening and am now standing at 51,327 delicious words.


It’s a bitter-sweet victory for me to be writing this book.  I’ve been trying to write it for 40 years, but have run into emotional snags like near-psychotic breaks triggered by the flashbacks that I inevitably get when I write the history of the lost and abused little girl I was.  Even now, I have written many words through streaming tears.


But this time is different, for some reason.  The words are flowing (as are my tears) and at the end of every writing session I feel liberated, lightened of the load I have carried these 40 years and more.


So hip-hip-hooray for me, and I am going to drink a toast now, to Dina Leah and her new life, freed from the bonds of the past.  Now it’s time to incorporate the discipline of NaNoWriMo into my every day writing life, and apply seat to chair for at least two hours a day, as I have for the past month.  And soon, soon (maybe tomorrow) I will restart Dina Leah’s blog, where her story will be available in serial form.  See you there!

NaNoWriMo Novel Excerpt

Feeling brave today?  Here’s a raw, unedited excerpt from my in-progress NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel,  A Runaway Life. Remember, it’s a “Really Shitty First Draft,” so don’t get your red pencils out (mine is twitching like a divining rod, but I’m not allowed to use it till December 1st)!  Comments on the concept welcome!

Background:  Year: 1970.  Dina, a brilliant but depressed 16-year-old, has run away from her East Coast home and ended up in California, where she thought she would find Nirvana.  Instead, she finds herself caught in a downward spiral of homelessness, hunger, and dependance on others for survival.  As of this writing she is living in a detached garage in a down-at-heels working class neighborhood in Santa Maria.  Her new friend Monica lives in the house with her mother; her father has recently left the family.  Here goes!


While she was musing over ancient Chinese poetry, she became aware of light footsteps approaching the garage door.


“Hi, Dina, are you there?  May I come in?”  It was Monica!  Dina ran to the door and wrenched it open.


“Oh, wow, hi!  Come on in,” bubbled Dina.  She had rarely been so glad to see anybody.


“Sure, well, do you want to come into the house?  My mom won’t be home for a couple of hours yet.  We can get something to eat and watch TV or something.”


Dina walked out into the sunshine, blinking.  She had no idea how long she had kept herself locked up in the garage, but she remembered that it had been cloudy then.  She was glad to see the sun, and had some misgivings about going into the house, but the idea of company and food prevailed.


They trooped into the dark kitchen and Monica turned on the light, revealing a white linoleum floor flecked with silver and a 1950’s vintage dinette set that obviously was not purchased as an antique, judging by the corroding chrome and chipped table top, and the split vinyl seat backs revealing their tired grey stuffing.


Dina’s heart sank when Monica got the pretzels out, thinking she was going to stop with that; but her spirits soon rose when she saw the Skippy Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Fluff and store-brand white bread come out.  She had always turned her nose up at “Fluffernutters,” as the sticky sweet peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches were called; but now, so many things were changing; and food was food.  So she thickly buttered a slice of bread with peanut butter, spread the sticky marshmallow “fluff,” which more correctly had the consistency of hide glue, on another, and slapped them together.  Biting into this confection was an experience in slipperiness and stickiness, sweetness and saltiness, held together with the gluey sponginess of the white bread.


It was one of two or three times in Dina’s life that she had eaten white bread.  At home, they always made their own, partially for economy’s sake, and partially out of mere snobbishness.


Eaten with pretzels, the fluffernutters were quite satisfying.  The pretzels added crunch and more saltiness, which Dina appreciated, since she really wasn’t much on sweets, especially not in sandwiches.  So alternating a salty pretzel every other bite worked out well.


“So Dina,” began Monica, after they had munched for a while in silence, “how did you end up out here?  How did you get out of school early?  How did you get your parents to agree?”


Those were already more questions than Dina was prepared to answer, or wanted to answer for that matter.  But she made a beginning, and Monica was an eager listener.  She seemed hungry for friendship, and Dina perceived in her a deep sadness that in some ways mirrored her own.  Monica would seem to drift into some far away place, then with an effort she would be back in the conversation.  Somehow, Dina felt, Monica’s cheerfulness seemed forced.


Monica changed the subject abruptly.


“You ballin’ yet?”

“Huh?” returned Dina, surprised.

“You know, ballin’.  Gettin’ it on.”  She looked at Dina suggestively, raising one eyebrow, leaning into the couch on one elbow.  “Bobby and I been ballin’ already for about a year.”


Dina took all of this in and said nothing.  Hmm, “ballin’,” she thought.  I guess that’s what Tracy and I did last night, huh?


Before they had time to delve further into the subject, the front door flew open and there was Monica’s mother.   She breezed into the room.


“Hello, girls, what are you up to?  Did you have a good day?”  And she swept into the hallway leaving a trail of perfume and cigarette smoke in her wake, without waiting for an answer,


“Whew,” whispered Monica, “glad she’s in a good mood.  You never can tell these days—“ CRASH!  The bedroom door slammed shut with such force that a mirror in the hallway fell off the wall and smashed on the floor.


“Quick!” squeaked Monica, grabbing Dina by the wrist, “out the back door!  She’s on a rampage!”  And they scrambled out of the house in a panic.


“What was that all about?” panted Dina once they were safely outside.


“Who knows?  Ever since Dad left, every minute is a crapshoot,” Monica mumbled.  “I never know from one minute to the next what’s going down.  It’s like living in a shooting range, and I’m the moving target.”

NaNoWriMo is strong medicine

This year I pledged to myself that I would take my fictionalized autobiography into a different direction on NaNoWriMo.  True, I’m painstakingly writing a different version of it on my “secret” blog.  I wanted to know what would happen if, instead of lingering, crafting each sentence, scene, scenario, if instead, I just launch into it as a form of automatic writing and just see what comes out.


In a word, it’s amazing.  NOT filtering has opened up hitherto locked and dusty rooms in my brain, and all this moldy old furniture comes tumbling out.  I’m very happy to be doing it, even though I write through tears a lot and my sleeves end up slimy with snot because I can’t stop to get more tissues.  The triggers come non-stop and I’m trembling most of the time; yet I keep moving through it.  It’s like watching a horror movie: horribly uncomfortable, yet riveting.


Blogging, especially my “secret blog,” is taking a back seat, to some degree.  But oddly enough, I’m having to take time out from NaNo-ing to write sketches of other things that have especially impacted my life.


I guess I’m doing NaNo-therapy!

“Half in love with easeful death….”

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time

I have been half in love with easeful Death,

Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,

To take into the air my quiet breath;  (Ode to a Nightingale, John Keats)

I’m doing this NaNoWriMo write-a-novel-in-thirty-days thing.  It’s quite an exercise, for a non-fiction writer like me to just throw my hat into a fictitious ring and say, “whatever comes out, comes out.”

Last night after Shabbos I went back into my manuscript frenzy and got over the 5000 word hump.  Then I noticed something odd:  every one of the characters in my novel is modeled after someone in my life who has died violently.  One of my protagonists is even an amalgam of two different men who committed suicide by shooting themselves.

The two children in the plot, I knew from their very beginnings.

The Pretzel Lady cadaver plays herself.  I hope she is now resting in a lot more peace than I gave her, poor thing.  She was my cadaver in medical school.

I wonder if other novelists resort to such macabre strategies, mining their lives for dead people to resurrect?  But surely most people don’t know so many dead people as I do.  Or do they?

I’m not talking about the “normal” kind of death that impacts everyone’s life sooner or later.  It is natural for grandparents, and then parents, to age and die.  It is also natural for people to have long terminal illnesses, and then die.

What I’m talking about is specifically suicide, homicide, and accidental death.  The kind of thing an emergency room doctor sees over and over again.  In fact, when you see these things on a daily basis, they begin to populate your thoughts and your dreams.  So why shouldn’t they populate a novel, should you chance to write one?

It is the most natural thing on earth, for me anyway.  If I need a life to put down on paper, I reach out into my catalog of lives that have been shucked off like overcoats no longer needed.  But I’m sensing that I need to put a stop to this thread, because my mind in its current state could easily begin to perseverate on ideas far more unhealthy than these that I’ve already trotted out.