Don’t you just hate those freezing cold nights when you wear your warmest flannel pajamas and thickest socks and hurry into bed but are still surprised by the smack of cold that comes off the sheets, so you pull the blankets up to your chin, even that one at the foot of the bed—you yank that up too and tuck the blankets really close to the outline of your body like your grandmother used to do when she tucked you in as a kid and you lie really still and hope this little cocoon you’ve created will somehow become a terrarium by way of your body heat radiating off you while being trapped within the confines of your blanket cocoon and you’re sure you’re gonna be toasty warm real soon, but that doesn’t happen—you’re freezing your ass off and you can’t sleep to save your soul and you think about your furnace and the heat, like where the hell is it? and how is it possible that the thermostat (set by you—to the same temperature every night) does not produce the same amount of heat every night and why tonight it is nose-nipping cold, but you have no answer for this, and somehow by the grace of God you finally fall asleep probably because your body is so exhausted by having worked itself up in a frenzy trying to keep warm that you pass out—and you sleep for a while but don’t know for how long, all you do know is that when you wake it’s the middle of the night and you are in a panic because you’re practically drowning in a sea of your own sweat since it’s so Goddamn sweltering hot in your bedroom that you can’t strip your flannels off fast enough, and thank goodness the fifty pounds of blankets have been dumped in a mountain to the floor along with the bottoms of your flannels, and now you’re so desperate to get the wool socks off but you’re loathe to move too much at this point because you have a history of waking in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back to sleep so you promise yourself you will remove the socks without fully waking, and in order to do this you stay very still, or as still as you can, and you use the big toe of your left foot to remove the sock on your right foot and this goes pretty well which makes you happy, but you’re careful to not get too excited because this might wake you up entirely so you keep the celebrating to a minimum while you now use the big toe of your right foot to remove the sock on your left foot but as your right leg is in a chicken wing formation you get a Charley horse in your toe—if that’s even possible—and then another one in the back of the thigh of the chicken winged leg—which hurts like hell, but you can’t give in to it because half of your body is still asleep and you must keep it that way, so you try to handle the pain as best you can without making too much of a fuss, so you sort of rock the bent knee of that leg up and down, a bobbing action really, and you clench your teeth and breath heavily through your clamped bite which creates a “chee, chee” sound—this helps with the pain and is quiet enough not to wake the other half of you and then out of the dark night you hear, “What the heck are you doing?” It’s your husband. You can’t believe he would brazenly speak out in the night like that, jeopardizing you’re attempt to stay in a partial slumber. To this you reply, “Shh! Stop talking, you’re gonna wake the other half of me that’s still asleep!” Silence. Phew, that was close. Then your husband says, “Well, if that’s the case, I hope it’s the sane half.”
Are you the kind of reader who gets so attached to the characters in a book that you miss them when it’s over? This is for you!
Continue reading Writer Separation Anxiety here:
Originally posted on change it up editing:
Caroline Thompson doesn’t engage in the pettiness that fuels the gossipmonger moms of affluent Farhaven. She pays no mind to their latest pastime: Googling everyone in town to dig up dirt for their lively Bunco babble. When Caroline’s told that her name appears only three times, she’s actually relieved. Then a pang of insecurity prods Caroline to Google her maiden name—a name none of them know. The hits cascade like a tsunami. But there’s a problem. What she reads can’t possibly be true. Every mention is shocking, horrifying even. Worse yet, they contradict everything she remembers. Divulging this to anyone could be disastrous. Caroline is hurled into a state of paranoia—upending her happy family life—as she seeks to prove the allegations false before someone discovers them.
Be careful what you search for.*****
Today I’m thrilled to be guest blogging on changeitupediting.com – home of Candace Johnson, the fiercest comma-wielding copyeditor west of the Atlantic. Check out her blog where you’ll find a steady stream of writing tips and industry news. My post today is for anyone who is eager to make real change this year, whether it’s in their writing life or beyond that. Don’t wait for the right time to do it. Do it now!
Originally posted on change it up editing:
I love editing, and I’m lucky enough to work with some very talented writers. Since the fall of 2013 I’ve had the pleasure of editing several wonderful novels, and I am excited to share them with you when the time is right. The authors are busy reviewing and revising now in anticipation of publishing their novels, but I want to whet your appetite with this guest post by Eva Natiello, whose novel The Memory Box had me dreaming about her characters—now that’s writing to get under your readers’ skin! If you don’t know Eva, you simply must go to her website at evanatiello.com and sign up for updates—you’re going to want to read The Memory Box the day it’s released, trust me!
Not only is Eva a wonderful storyteller, but she’s funny to boot. If you missed her previous guest post, “Stormy with a Chance of Writing,” be sure to check it out. And now, take it away, Eva!
While this isn’t your classic New Year’s resolution, if truth be known, lofty goals scare the ambition right out of me. I’m a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race kinda gal. I believe in making realistic goals, initiating a routine, and putting one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door! (Did I just plagiarize a song from Santa Claus in Coming to Town? Sorry.)
I was recently reminded of this strategy when a member of my writers’ group lamented the fact that her four kids were so busy, she felt like she spent her life in the car. And at the basketball court. Girl Scout meetings. Gymnastics. Etcetera. It left her scant time to write. Or even reflect.
I know this feeling too well. I know also that while I feel overstretched most of the time, I’m desperate to “create” even in a small way every day in order to balance the scales of my life. I started writing my first novel when I had the least amount of time to devote to it. I didn’t know it then, but it was perfect. The less time I have to do something, the more I get done. If I have hoards of time, I waste most of it.
This is what I told my friend−something I tell myself on a regular basis: think small and make use of what’s available to you. I’m not saying, “You have to make time for it.” I hate hearing that. (Especially as it relates to exercise.) Instead, take advantage of and be productive with whatever you have. There’s no point in waiting for the perfect time to start writing or editing a novel. No such thing exists.
Do you have six minutes in the car waiting for your son to come out of basketball practice−a kid who is a rather speedy guy on the court but takes forever to walk across the parking lot to the car? Do you have eight minutes waiting on the grocery line for the slowest cashier in the free world to ring up and bag the groceries for the guy in front of you who is too lame to help bag his own groceries? How about the hour you’ll spend waiting for your daughter to finish play rehearsal? Half of my first novel was written on junk-mail envelopes, the backs of grocery store receipts, flyers from the dry cleaner, and the Chinese food menus routinely left on my windshield. The other half was written in a notebook I carry around with me everywhere I go.
Some of my best ideas come when I’m held hostage by life’s tedious tasks. A great time to think small is in the car. Ponder a great line of dialogue, or someone’s physical description, or a setting or perhaps the name of a character. What would your protagonist do if she were in her car panicking because she thought someone was following her? Are you stopped at a red light? Great! Write your thoughts down. No time like the present! Okay, maybe you’d prefer to pull over to the curb. Fine. All I’m saying is that huge vats of uninterrupted writing time may not be available to you until you’re ninety. If you can train yourself to be productive with seventeen minutes, think of what you’ll churn out when you have more!
For instance, imagine that you’re lucky enough to be responsible for a carpool of five little kids who you have to get to soccer practice while giving them a snack. That’s a perfect time to listen to how they talk, watch how they eat, and observe their varied mannerisms.
This brings me to my second thought.
Use what’s available to you. If you spend wads of time at the grocery store and the playground, realize that all that time is making you an expert. Certainly the CEO of IBM won’t be able to write a scene about toddlers chasing each other through the mud at the park while trying to catch the tale of a goose—like you will. (That did not end well, by the way.)
Once, I found myself at the grocery store for the fourth day in a row, and realizing I’d never noticed the produce guy before, nor did I ever speak to him, I thought about my protagonist and how she might interact with him, and I was so inspired that when I got to the car I wrote an entire scene before pulling out of the parking lot. [Editor's note: That's one of my favorite scenes in The Memory Box.]
So, here’s the recap. Think small, use what’s available to you, and you are an expert of something. Just remember, no one ever wrote an entire novel in one sitting. And even if they did, they probably never got a chance to wrestle a goose.
Image courtesy of sattva / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A friend of mine came over for a glass a wine the other night and while she took her coat off at the front door, I noticed a creepy looking bug on the ceiling. She volunteered to “remove the bug” if I got her a step stool.
Our ceilings are kind of tall and even on the third step of the stool you have to reach on your tippy-toes to stand a chance at the ceiling.
“I hate heights,” my friend muttered under her breath. She was all pleats, like a paper dragon, hesitating to extend and a little wobbly to boot.
“Why didn’t you say that before, forget the bug!” I wanted to yank her down off the stool, but things were precarious already. Any sudden movements seemed ill-advised. “I didn’t know you were afraid of heights. What do you do when you go skiing?”
“I scream a lot.” She confessed.
“That reminds me of a trip I took to Vail a hundred years ago,” I said to my friend. It was a New Year’s Eve trip I took with my husband when we were engaged. “That was a crazy trip. Did I ever tell you that story? Hmm, I should blog about that story.”
As she backed her way down to solid ground, like it was the last steps off Mount Kilimanjaro, she perked up rather quickly and asked, “How can you possibly blog about something that happened a hundred years ago? You remember the details?”
“Oh yeah. Of course I remember the details.”
I proceeded to tell her the story and she agreed it was a blog must. That skiing story to Vail prompted three unrelated flashbacks, which fractured into a handful of side anecdotes that fueld a bunch of digressions and a half dozen non-sequiturs, interrupted only by wide-open mouthed frantic silent uncontrollable howling convulsions.
The next morning, at my computer, I clicked onto my blog to write a new post−the story that I told my friend the night before. I lightly drummed the keyboard while the words would come to me−not really engaging any of the keys, as much as it was a little finger exercise to get the oxygen flowing from my hands to my brain and vice-versa.
Hmmm…I lifted my head to stretch my neck and to ponder what it was exactly I was going to blog about.
What the hell was it? What was the story? I crunched my brain cells and condensed my memory and strained for clarity. What was so funny, the thing we howled over, that story that I remembered all the details to? I racked my brains. I thought about how we sat in the kitchen talking about food and eating, and over-eating. Then we sat on the couch and talked about movies, what to see and who might win at the Oscars. Then we talked about work and art and what we wanted to be when we grew up. Hmm. Nothing. I couldn’t remember “the story.”
I texted my friend. “What was that story? The one I was going to blog about? The one I remembered all the details to?”
“Geez. Umm. I don’t know.” She texted. “Was it about the kids? Like when they were young? I think it was about the kids when they were young. But, that’s all I got.”
Yes! It was about the kids. I always blog about them. They are very funny people. And even funnier when they were young. Hmm…what was it about them?
Maybe I could nudge my friend’s memory. I texted her back.
“We laughed. Remember? A lot. No-sound laughs. Remember? Remember the story now? We thought we were going to pee from laughing so hard, remember?”
“Yeah! No. I don’t remember.”
Darn. Then all of a sudden I remembered a post I wrote months ago on remembering stuff. The post was titled: Memory Retention for DIYers. It gave 19 tips on how to improve memory retention naturally. One of the tips was to retrace your steps. Literally. Like say you were walking through your house and halfway through the living room you thought about taking something out of the freezer to defrost for dinner but by the time you got to the kitchen you couldn’t remember what you wanted to do there. According to this tip, you should go back to the living room and retrace your steps.
What did I have to lose? Nothing. So I got up from my computer and I walked to my front door and opened it. Then I closed it and said, “Hi, don’t you look fabulous! I’ll hang up your coat.” As I waited for my invisible, imaginary friend to take her coat off, I looked up at the ceiling. Don’t ask me why I did. I don’t know. But as soon as I looked at the ceiling I remembered the bug, the step stool, my quivering scared-chicken of a friend cowering on the third step, her purported fear of heights, a question about skiing, her confession about screaming and, and my Vail trip!
About which I remember all the details.
But that’s another story.