Monday, May 24, 2010

An Old Soul

I'm wondering if the sun will ever shine in North Carolina again. Dreary days are good once in a while. They're good for curling up, reading a good book, and making soup. But a long string of them are depressing! It might as well be Ohio! Augh!

I'm finding myself deep in research at the moment. Pouring over old maps, specifically a 1958 map of North Carolina, books on wolves, interviewing those who lived and worked in the towns of the late 50s that I'm writing about, gathering photographs, absorbing a real feel of place and time. I am taking a few liberties, but for the most part, I want it believable to my readers.

It's not as easy to write about history as you might think.

I think it's easier to write about a world where sleek, thin computers rule, cell phones ring, and IPads rest in the hands of those lucky enough to afford them. It's the world we know, right now, as it's happening. Times have changed so drastically from the 1950s. Fortunately, I'm old enough to remember a lot of the early 60s. At least from a writing standpoint. Or maybe it's just that I'm an old soul.

I'm not necessarily into nostalgia. "The good ole' days." They were not good for a lot of folks. But they were rich in story and that's the heart of my interest. Rich fertile dirt, stuff I can plow up and harvest. Don't get me wrong, every once in a while, I find myself wanting to watch a high-tech movie, or read about the here and now. It's a nice diversion for me.

But within my own writer's mind ... I can get into a 1945 Ford pickup and let it take me where it wants to go.

I guess I am truly an old soul. I think of my stories in sepia tones, dusty, and cracked with age. And I suppose someday my body will be there as well. Knowing who you are as a writer is half the battle.

But in the meantime, my cell phone is ringing, and a light is blinking on my monitor. I have an email. This old soul may just have to dig out her turquoise princess rotary telephone someday ... and hook it up.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Resting On Our Laurels

I'm reading a book by a well-known author. One who pumps out a novel every year or so. The reviews on the back are stellar. The Boston Herald, Baltimore Sun, Washington Post Book World shout the author's praises, calling him/her gifted, as the author has won many publishing honors. I would have to agree the stories hold my interest and I'm always satisfied once I'm finished reading.

But here's what bothers me. As a writer, there are things you just don't do. For me, the stakes are even higher, because I have no laurels to rest on. For the sake of not embarrasing this author, I'm not naming him/her. It is not my intention to do that. There is nothing to be gained by it. My question is this: Do editors just skim the work of popular writers? Are popular authors so pressured to finish their next book, that they depend too much on editors?

In the book it reads: She pushes the hair off her face and tucks it behind her ear.

Then, on the same page, about three paragraphs down, it reads: Her hair falls across her face again, and she tucks it behind her ear.

It's not a huge mistake, and most readers would not even recognize it as one. But to me, as a writer, I would find another way to say tuck it behind her ear. Or write something else, entirely.

Lord knows, when I read my earlier published work, I cringe at the mistakes I find. I'm not beyond making them and all writers do. But I would like to think we all get better with practice, and that someday, if I am ever blessed with the kind of critical acclaim this writer is blessed with, that I will continue to pour over my manuscript as I do today. And before it's published, I trust my editor will do the same.

I have become anal to a fault. Maybe it's a good thing, and maybe it's not. But this I know for sure--should I ever have any laurels, I'll never rest on them.

I don't know who said it, but I once heard we are only as good as our last book. I have to agree.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Perfume and Pot Roast

I sold more copies of Southern Fried Women this weekend, at two Mother's Day events. It's always good to stand in front of a bunch of women and talk about my stories and my world that moves my imagination. The people I know who cause me to want to write about them. The places I've been that leap into my head when I'm plotting a story. The stuff I make up, but feels real. Very real.

At the moment, I'm up to my armpits in story. I'm in the process of writing The Sanctum. The zone, as many writers call it. I'm writing ten hours a day. The scenes are coming at me as if some major league pitcher is throwing me a bunch of fast balls. I'm afraid I can't get them written quick enough and I'll end up forgetting words and pieces as they fly in and out of my head. When I'm like this, nothing gets done around the house. Meals get missed, dirty clothes pile up, and dust -- well -- who sees it anyhow?

That's NOT a good thing. I've got something going on this Saturday that demands I clean my house. So I'm torn! I need to get on my hands and knees and clean the kitchen floor. Damn it. When all I want to do is sit at the computer and hit a home run! It's awful. Every waking minute, I'm consumed with this story. I feel like if I could just stay in my office, have Michael throw me a sandwich every once in a while, I'd be in heaven. All I want to do is write! I don't want to waste a second when I know my protagonist is hanging off a cliff!

Life is like perfume and pot roast that way, isn't it? They both smell good, separate and in their own way. But mix the two and it's nauseating. That's where I'm at right now. My life smells like perfume and pot roast. I'm overwhelmed with it. I can't write a long blog today. Chanel No. 5 is wafting around my computer and I've got a pot roast in the oven.

But I'm loving every minute of it.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, May 03, 2010

A Howling In Boone

We met our dear friends, Bill and Margie, this past weekend in Boone. If you've never been to Boone, NC, make it a destination. Set in the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains, the town is filled with things to do, great shopping and restaurants, and lots of history. Also, Appalachian State University is located in Boone, and its football team beat Michigan a few years ago! Yay! As I am a total Ohio State fan, that little game between App State and Michigan thrilled me to no end! Anyway, the four of us relaxed and had a great time. Great wine, great food, great friends.

On Saturday, we wound our way around a few mountains and headed to Bakersville and the site of The Wolf Sanctum. A place for me to complete some research on my new novel, The Sanctum. I needed to get a feel of the place, the smells, the wolves' reaction to me--all the little details I could get about them. The fact that each wolf eats 50 pounds of raw chicken a week, that they will live on this sanctuary the rest of their days, and that they still howl at the moon. All these fascinating little facts are important.

The Wolf Sanctum is run by a 62 year old woman, Liz Mahaffey. She takes in wolves who were bred in captivity by people who didn't know what to do with them when they started acting like ... wolves. She's an amazing woman; her strong, tan arms are scared and scratched to pieces. Well, after all, she does interact with these wonderous creatures. But her man-like arms fascinated me. A fact that will definitely make it into the story. I had to see for myself how one would come to love an animal like this to put ones own life aside and care for them. They are indeed, beautiful. Their eyes haunt you for hours afterward. They're definitely spiritual. You can feel it.

I hope to have pictures to post here or on my Facebook pages in the near future. These animals weigh up to 120 pounds, some of them. Their huge, knobby feet are twice the size of any dog alive. They're extremely intelligent and powerful - and yet, you can see they are tolerant of those who stare at them through their large cages. The Sanctum gives them protection on a beautiful mountain, on 150 acres, where they can live 10 - 14 years vs. 7 years in the wild.

The word wolf means family in some cultures. It's fiercely protective its pack and territory, but only fights when necessary. In Native American myth, the wolf is the teacher. It was not until the advent of keeping domestic livestock that the wolf took on a sinister aura, by the Christian world.

I stood in awe of these wolves, and came away with a more clear picture in my head of their part in my novel.

Please put Boone on your list of places to visit, and add The Wolf Sanctum in nearby Bakersville as a must-see.

Blessings to you and yours.