Me Being Me

A Truly Relaxing Vacation

I spent a week at the lake. The cabin has been in my hubby’s family since the 1950s and inspired Summer’s cabin in North Star, the one in Spark. This is the lake where Hugo and Kevin fall in love again, years after drifting apart. It was fantastic to spend a week in this place where Kevin and Hugo’s story was literally spun as I floated on the waves. Scenes came so vividly to me here on the water. I often couldn’t get to shore fast enough to type them into my laptop. It’s been a special place where many stories have been either conceived, written, or polished.

IMG_2939There is very limited access to the internet at the lake due to cellular service just not getting through. I can send out images on Instagram if I leave my phone alone for 15 mins in the exact right spot, but email won’t load, I can’t access social media to read, and forget about news sites. Heck, I can’t even get weather radar unless I stand in the driveway, balance on one foot, stick a spit-slicked finger in the air, and sing Zippideedoodah while I wrinkle up my nose.

So it’s the perfect getaway from a too-connected life. Characters talk to me up there. I truly relax. I let my mind go to places I simply can’t back at home. And I laugh like a loon with my family.

When we arrived, the whole clan was at the cabin. That was eighteen people in a 2 bedroom cabin. There are 2 hide-a-beds in the living room too, but we needed more beds. Thankfully there was a hotel across the highway for some, and we made use of our tent, which we have only used once since we bought it a few years ago.

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I LOVED hanging out in the tent. I edited out there, wrote a little, and was lulled to sleep by the waves for the first few nights. I think I might set it up in the backyard this summer, just for a little escape from my office. But I’m not going to lie, getting a bed in the cabin after a few nights on the ground was lovely, and eventually, it was only John, Poppy, and me at the cabin.

On Friday, I had to send a formatted epub file to an editing client, so we went into town and ate a restaurant where I could access a reliable internet connection. After my work was done, we laughed so hard about ridiculous inside jokes, I was crying. That’s exactly what I needed after months of working 12 hour days, rarely taking weekends off, and always working toward a deadline. It’s also a great place to reboot and rediscover what’s important because work and politics and social media are not always butting in to demand attention. Instead, I get to swim with my kid, sift for treasures in the sand with my husband, and bike on beautiful trails. And I get to talk with the most important people in my life about anything we want.

As I floated, I tried to get into Charlie’s head. Charlie is a character from Naked Organics, and his book, Fresh Earth, was supposed to be written last year. He’s not been talking to me. Despite that, I have nearly 20,000 words written. Some of that is good and will be kept, but very little moves me. I’m not driven enough yet.

I’m one of those writers who often struggles to keep up with super chatty characters, essentially dictating what they tell me in my head. Yeah, I know that makes me sound crazy, but what can I do about that? Charlie has been quite mute, so instead, I’ve examined his motivations, stakes, desires, upbringing, past, fears, and anything else I can. That’s gotten me where I am today, but it’s not enough.

I want Fresh Earth to be released sometime in October, but at this rate, it’s not happening. I needed this week at the lake to really let go of whatever is holding me back. I know some of that is me taking editing jobs, which help pay the bills. I need those so I don’t freak out that my writing will never help me pay for my kid’s braces or my medical bills. Once the car is paid off in October, life will get easier financially. I bet you anything that Charlie will suddenly start getting chatty then. Haha! I swear financial worries tie up my writing brain.

IMG_2855.jpgSo sitting on the dock and staring at scenes like this are essential. The water always moves, even when it seems glass smooth. It reminds me that, even if I don’t see word counts going up on Fresh Earth, the sands underneath are shifting. I’m getting to know Charlie every day, and soon, he will demand his story be told. He might be like a clam in the middle of the lake right now, but eventually he’ll drift toward shore.

Or so I’ve told myself. 😉

Just in case he didn’t, I read Farm Fresh and Picked Fresh this week to get a feel of who Charlie is again. He’s more flippant that I was trying to write him, so that knowledge might help me get back into his head. He’s sorta cocky like me, using humor to deflect and derail when things get too serious.

So after what felt like a perfect week where I got some work done, played with my family, and finally rode my bike outside in the fresh air rather than on my indoor bike trainer, we headed home. We stayed until the last possible minute, and because of our crappy internet, we didn’t check the weather before leaving.

And a few miles south of the lake, we encountered this:

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John freaked out a bit, especially because it was attached to a Tornado Watch. But we headed south and thought we’d outrun the beast. We actually outran most of it until we got about an hour from home. Accuweather was telling us to expect damaging hail in 3 minutes when I pulled off the highway and searched for shelter. The last thing I wanted was to be driving at 65 MPH with large hail coming at my windshield.

We took shelter under a bank drive-thru awning, and despite the Nexus* Ribbon of Thundersquall trying to kill us for miles, we were protected. So haha, WTForecast, we barely got sprinkled on because we hid and waited this monster out and then drove slowly through a break in the storm until we got home.

The thunder was the loudest I’ve ever heard. That’s saying something considering I’m used to Southern Minnesota thunderstorms, which can be wicked. This practically made my heart stutter, it was that strong. I’m also grateful we didn’t stop at my BIL’s house on the way home because that’s where the tornado was spotted. All are well, but it was scary!

Despite the booming finish, I’d still say I had a pefect week off. My bed felt amazing last night. My desktop computer is the most beautiful thing in the world to me this morning. And internet, oh, I have missed thee! But I don’t want to fall into the trap of always needing to be connected to news and social media. I need my mind to drift like I did on those waves.

This was likely the last full week I get to spend at the lake. My husband’s family is having to make the tough choice of letting the beloved cabin go. Maybe we can work out a way to keep it in the family, but having a place on Green Lake to call home may very well be a thing of the past.

I’m glad we got to spend a fantastic week there. I’m grateful my daughter got to spend summers on the water, living the lake life. It truly is a way of life up here in Minnesota. It’s a whole cultural shift, and I’m lucky to have been invited to live it with my husband.

*Kudos to those of you who got the Star Trek reference.

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Me Being Me

Halloween Memory Lane

HippieI’m married to a Halloween fanatic. It’s his absolute favorite holiday, and he likes to have fun on this day.

For years we had a Halloween costume party. This started in the 1990s as a last minute decision one year and grew into this elaborate affair that people talked about the second they folded September away. One year we had a superhero theme and another it was television characters. People stuck to the theme and got very creative, like when Generic Man showed up in all his white-with-a-black-striped glory. Some years there was no theme at all.

It has been awhile since we’ve had our party. Life got busier in the last years, but I miss dressing up and being allowed to play. It was harder to have a party when our Halloween night now demanded trick-or-treating because of our daughter.

Poppy is eleven. She is going to dress as Rose Tyler from Doctor Who. I’m not sure if my husband will be The Doctor when they go door to door this evening or if he will keep his Edgar Allan Poe get up on that he wore to work this morning.

Maybe I’ll hunt down then vintage dress I wore one year when I was a 50s housewife. Lord knows I’ll never fit back into my favorite hippie costume I wore ages ago, but I could wear the daisy pin.

I’d love to hear about your favorite costumes. Did you ever wear a box as a costume? I was Jan in a Pan one year and wore a box and an aluminum pan. Uncomfortable. For all you MST3K fans out there, you probably know who that is, for those who haven’t a clue, here’s an image.

So tell me this…

  • Favorite costume you ever wore
  • Most uncomfortable costume you wore
  • Most creative costume you’ve seen
  • Which candy did hope was in your bag once you got home?

And to answer the last one for myself, a full size Hershey bar.

For the North Star readers out there, Hugo and Kevin go trick or treating with Brooke and Finn in the upcoming Fusion. There are boxes involved in their costumes. Poor kids.

Thoughts, Writing Process

Can You Say Trust Issues?

Maybe it’s just me, but I wonder if other authors experience this conundrum.

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When experiencing the labor pains of getting a new story sorted before I can even begin writing, I do a few things. I write characters sketches, take a lot of random notes, and write about the setting, or anything else that is rolling around in my head. Sometimes I let that all marinate for days/weeks/months, and other times I just start writing.

For those moments I need to give the flavors time to soak in, I often find I benefit from talking about the story with another person.

But it’s terrifying to share your unwritten story with someone.

What if they steal it?

What if they take parts and make them better than you ever could?

What if they look at you after you’re done talking and tell you it sounds like the biggest steaming pile of poo they’ve ever heard?

So I often keep my thoughts to myself. I don’t work out problems with writer friends or ask them if they think a plot point is too far out there, until I’m completely done with a draft of my manuscript.

Can you say trust issues?

All of North Star was discussed with a friend as we walked around the lake and many times after that over several bottles of wine. Last night I talked to my husband about the latest story poking at my brain. The working title is Cherry Circle. Who knows what it will end up being considering how often I change titles lately.

But I wonder if I’m alone in this paranoia. Do other writers worry about sharing their ideas? If you do share them, who do you share them with? Is it another writer? A reader? A friend? I’d truly like to know, because my brain works best by talking, talking, talking. And then I can write!

Me Being Me, Thoughts

Writing Because of Tears

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The last time I absolutely had to write or else my brain would explode was in June. I’d watched something and I truly needed to write about it in order to process it. Let me put it this way, someone died in a horrific way. I watched this show on a Sunday night, and then all day Monday, I took my mom to many doctor appointments. We ended up at the hospital for her final appointment. We’d taken the shuttle over and had some time to kill, and she was excited to look around the gift shop.

See, her husband was in the intensive care unit there after his bile duct cancer, and despite him having a very good prognosis, he had given up. Eventually he was flown home, admitted to a nursing home, and died there, but before that, he spent months in that hospital. And so did my mom, often taking breaks in the courtyard filled with beautiful flowers and shopping in the hospital gift shop. It truly is a great gift shop, and they carry amazing things.

That hospital is also the place where my daughter “lived” for much of her first year, and so did my husband and I. It was our home away from home. I knew which days they were going to serve Chicken and Wild Rice soup in the cafeteria, and I knew the best waiting rooms to escape to when I needed a break. Luckily, after many operations, my daughter is doing well and thriving and growing, but we didn’t know the outcome back then, so the hospital is not a super place for me.

After watching that horrific death on my large screen television and reeling from it the night before (I bawled and stared at my screen as if it would suddenly show me a different image), I was then thrown into a situation where my mom’s health and the risks of her upcoming surgery, were being talked about. In a hospital that holds a lot of memories.

There’s a lot of green marble and warm wood in those hallways. The lighting is odd—dark but light somehow. There’s a courtyard that has a beautiful fountain bubbling and mounds and mounds of tulips bloomed. There was plenty of construction at the time as well. That bothered me. For over a year, that was my second home. I knew how to get out to the fountain so I could sit next to it and be calmed by the lull of the splashing, and I knew exactly how to get to the beautiful stained glass windows in the chapel. In June, it was all different and much of it was closed off to the public.

And the image of that dying girl from the television kept popping back into my head.

In the gift shop, my mom and daughter looked at every little thing on each shelf with such interest that it took them forever. After all, we were killing time until the next appointment. What I noticed were the Lindt truffles my husband used to buy for me as a diversion while we waited for my daughter to be returned from another day under doctors’ knives. And I saw toothbrushes. People often need to buy a toothbrush at the hospital, because so much of the time, you don’t know your loved one is going to be there. Sweaters for chilly waiting rooms. Robes. Decks of Cards. Shower caps. Who uses shower caps anymore?

I had to leave the gift shop because as I stood looking at a shelf filled with games and inspirational magnets, that dying girl was back behind my eyes. When I shut them, the image was even more vivid. I could actually hear the noises she made as she died on my television the night before.

I went out and stood in that green marble hallway and looked out toward the burbling fountain. I assumed it was burbling, but I couldn’t hear it. I could see the yellow and pink and peach tulips though. And I cried.

I tried very hard not to, but my throat closed up, my vision blurred, and tears streamed down my face. Nurses and nuns and patients walked by me. Some paid attention to me, but other’s looked away. I’m sure they assumed someone I loved was ill or injured or had maybe even died. Instead, I was crying over a stranger, a fictional character that I had initially hated when she was introduced on the show.

My daughter came out to find me, asking to show me something, so I did my best to pull myself together. Nana, my mom, bought it for her, of course. Even in the store the tears started again. I went back to the hall, running my hand across the warm wood, hoping it would comfort me better than the cold marble. Then my mom and daughter were ready to go.

No one ever asked me what was going on with me that day. I think it was because I was crying a lot that week because I was under a great deal of stress. When not sad, I was very grouchy.

Yet the image of that girl taking her last breath refused to leave me, and as soon as I got home, I sat down in front of the computer and wrote a very short scene. The girl was replaced; I wrote about a man, and I wrote about his lover who had to walk in and see that man take his last breath. As soon as I wrote, the intense emotionality left me. It was like I was able to type it out of me.

But that is the last time I felt compelled to write. I want to write like that again, but without all the drama, please.

I added on to that little scene, but it still needs a lot of work. I thought that would be my next big project, but I don’t think it can be. It makes me feel stuck. But yesterday I had a crazy, light-hearted story come into my head. That’s been bouncing around all day, and I even took time to play around on baby naming sites. My other character naming tool is my daughter, and she had a fun time coming up with secondary character names today.

Many times, I think writers wait for those moments of what feels like “divine intervention” or their muse “talking” to them before they will write. I certainly find more joy during those moments. For months now, I’ve been editing and reworking and doing all the not fun parts of writing. I miss it. I miss writing so much that I ache when I think of that day in June when I poured my soul into a keyboard.

I think it is time to write again.