Monday, March 26, 2012

Writer's Envy

I've found a few books recently I wish I'd written. My life has been in a stewpot of smelly mess recently (cleaned that one up, as the words that accurately describe what's been going on aren't used in decent society), and I've been striving to find time to read new authors for a contest I'm judging. A handful of these guys are gggoooodddd. Others are solid. All have talent. But good golly Miss Molly, how did some of them break out of the gate with such stellar debuts?

I re-read my debut novel, Morgan's Land, a Western published in the early eighties, and cringed at some of my rookie mistakes. On the flip side, I discovered pieces here and there that lit up the page, so it wasn't a lost cause. To cut myself some slack, I reminded myself that writing styles have changed a ton in the years since. But I had nowhere the level of sophistication of some of these new authors.

I am impressed. I want to write them fan letters. And I need to get back to my own writing before I forget all I've learned since that first novel was published eons ago.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Re-doing it

It's just been announced that Bruton Smith will resurface Bristol Speedway into the track's original confirmation and banking. Watching the Nascar race last weekend, it was more than obvious that the fans have had it with the "new" surface and its boring racing. I know we had. Haven't been to Bristol in four years now, I think, and it was once the hottest ticket on the Nascar circuit. Season tickets were family treasures. The empty stands proved that those season ticket holders have taken a hike. So Smith's re-do makes economic sense. If it kept on going the way it was, no one would be there to see a Sprint Cup race in a few years.

Speaking of re-dos, tomorrow my parents are being re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery. My dad was placed in the wrong grave last January, a fact I was able to prove because I had all his paperwork from 1952 showing the family plot and his place in it. Family plots are pretty rare at Arlington, but still, when there's a row of headstones all with one family name, why would you bury someone else in between two of them, someone who was no relation or even of a similar name?  It's been a long haul to figure out what to do, and a tree has had to be cut down to keep the family plots intact, but it was what my father wanted way back when this deal was set out and approved by the ANC superintendent.  This mistake was, I hope, a rare one. At least it's being rectified.

Even those with the best of intentions make mistakes. There's no shame in a re-do.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hell Week continues

I never imagined it would be so difficult to see my parents' possessions in the hands of strangers. Not just strangers, but dealers, people who are hauling away carloads of oriental rugs and Japanese prints to resell them to other people. It's almost ghoulish, and I'm not dealing well.

There's no way on God's green earth that my brother and I could absorb the accumulation of over sixty-five years. Nor are we inclined to become hoarders. I have, however, learned a valuable lesson. My children had better come and get what they want now, because I'm not hanging onto stuff. Just because it's been in this house for years doesn't mean it's staying here.

There's something liberating about choosing who gets what while we're still here to see them enjoy it. Houses should never have floored attics. They're evil. As soon as mine gets emptied, the flooring is history. I have learned this lesson well.

Meanwhile, I just have to survive the next week. It's going to be a long one. Ghosts of the past are everywhere, and I really prefer the present.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hell Week

Nope, not the final seven days for SEAL trainees. Not even final exams, which in no way equals Hell Week for SEALS. I'm talking about getting the contents of my parents' house ready for an estate sale.

I have polished silver until I'm ready to lobby for a ban on the stuff. Washing crystal without chipping it has to be insanity incarnate. And all those once-beautiful linens? Yikes. Getting out old coffee stains should qualify me for sainthood. BTW, they don't really come out. Mostly, I marvel at all the STUFF my parents accumulated in their many years of traveling all over the world. A ton of it ended up in the attic, where it did no one any good.

I have taken this lesson to heart. As soon as we get through this week, I am going to start "shaking down," as my grandmother used to say. Starting with my attic, something is going to leave our abode every day. Love it, use it, or lose it is my new mantra.

I mean it, too!

Friday, March 02, 2012


I'm usually pretty good at remembering what my characters look like, etc. Now and then I change an eye color or two, but my internal picture of who these people are is pretty much set before I start writing.  Not any more.

Once I lose that picture, I find it hard to get the characters back. Perhaps because I visualize each scene, (art history major here), once the setting and the people in it are confused, the story may as well jump off a cliff. Several early works have suffered that awful fate.  Recently, I picked up a WIP that needs revisions and had been resting in the corner of my mind, and I found I couldn't see the story anymore. The people had taken a hike.  I don't know if it's a result of an overload in my circuits (too much going on here to mention) or that they just decided to teach me a lesson.

If so, I have learned it.  From now on, I'm going to make detailed notes about the characters and every little characteristic. (Sorry if there's an overload of "character" in this post. Can't be helped.)  See if they can get away from me now!