Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chaos is Taking Over. . .

Life has really kicked my butt this past week.  While I did get some books from the library on the history of  Baltimore County and Perry Hall, I got absolutely zero--zip, zilch, nada--writing accomplished.  I've been so busy with life, I haven't been able to get up early to get my writing in.

I know I wanted to keep this blog strictly about writing, but seeing as how I've none of that in the past week, I thought I'd share my chaos with you, my readers.

This week alone has been like a dry sponge soaking up time like it was a pool of water.  Monday was a no-school day in celebration of Presidents' Day.  Tuesday I woke up to a road-kill deer in my front yard, and the trash men never took our trash--presumably because of the deer?  Wednesday was go, go, go from the time I got up.

I was up at 6am, packing Bug's bags to be gone for the entire morning.  He was up on his own at about 6:45, and a bit fussy for the lack of sleep.  We had a very informative meeting with a teacher at 7:45 am--always an adventure with a 2 year-old in tow.   After the meeting we did our regular Wednesday routine, coming home with Burger King for lunch.  Burger King is Bug's weekly treat.  He loves getting "diet Coke, and french fries, and chicken nuggets."  (For the record, he gets chocolate milk, not diet Coke.)  

But our day didn't end there, as it usually does.  We went to see and feed the chickens after lunch, but a visit to the chickens requires a visit to Mr. Bob and Ms. Joan.  A visit to Mr. Bob and Ms. Joan calls for a raid of their cookie stash, and a peek at the rifle in the case on the couch.  Then, of course, a little jiggling of the computer mouse to reveal the guns on the wallpaper and a trip under the end table to dig into the pistachio tin.  Once he bored with wreaking havoc, he made a bee-line for the door and was laughing on the front porch before I could get through the foyer.

We had to go see the horse in the field, too--no carrots, but Mommy has her coffee cup.  (Can you see my eyes rolling?)  Then he saw the slides and played with Ms. Kim and Catie.

This morning we will be visiting a preschool.  This is simultaneously exciting and terrifying, as I'm sure those of you who are parents can attest to.  I'm looking for academics in a 3 year-old program.  We'll see what we get.

Have great weekend.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Here's another excerpt from Church Hill (working title).  I posted another part of this story earlier, and it can be found here.  This portion is approximately 800 words, and requires some backstory.  I also feel the need to use a disclaimer:  This is some older work, and probably needs some revision.  I have posted it here without any.  Revisions will come later.  

It's early spring, and the main character has been out shopping.  A familiar scent grabbed her attention as she strolled along the street and led her to the door of a used book store.  This is where we come into the story.

Excerpt from Church Hill. . .

            I rushed to the door and pushed it open.  As I entered, the musky smell of the old books flooded my senses.  Mingling with that smell was my luring scent.  The man had entered this store.  

It was perfect.  If I had been following the man from my past, he would have entered this shop.  He wouldn’t have been able to resist the words written so long ago.  They would have pulled him in here with the mysterious power they had always held over him.

But it was impossible that I could be following that particular man.  I was in central Pennsylvania, and he was in California.  Well, that was the last place I knew him to be.  (Although that was more than fifteen years ago.)

I began to browse the shelves.  I enjoyed reading, so I thought I might buy myself an old classic while I was in here.  As I drifted through the upper levels of the four-story shop, my original motivation for coming here escaped me.  Eventually I came to the Attic, as a sign designated the fourth floor.  

This was where the really old books were.  Most of the books on the shelves were falling apart.  A sign posted at the door read:  please do not handle the books unless you are a serious buyer.  
A strange sensation overcame me in this room.  It was an anxious feeling, yet I felt totally at ease at the same time.  Objects with history always seem to have this sort of effect on me.  But it wasn’t just the books.  I could sense someone else in the room.  Then, as I milled through the shelves, I smelled him.

The scent I had followed down the street and into this store was now here with me.  My senses heightened, and I slowly crept past the rows of book-covered shelves toward the back of the room.  I stopped at the second to last row and entered, feigning interest in the books.  

The man with the familiar aroma was on the other side of the shelf.  I could smell him as I stood there taking in the perfumed air deeply through my nose.  I allowed the scent to take me back to a time when life wasn’t so complicated.  

I could see his handsome face with the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea in the background.  I closed my eyes as I fell deeper into the memory.  The warmth engulfed me.  

I don’t know how long I stood there like that, but a sharpening of the man’s scent brought me back.  I opened my eyes to find him standing there gazing down at me with sea-green eyes.  His thick brown hair was wind-blown, his skin sun-kissed.  

I couldn’t look away from that beautiful face.  I had dreamt about this man.  He haunted me in my sleep.

My jaw must have dropped, though I can’t be sure.  My entire body went numb, and I couldn’t speak. 

A slow smile spread across his face.  My God, he was beautiful when he smiled.  Then again, he was beautiful before he smiled, too.  His eyes gleamed in the sunlight slanting through the windows.  It was like looking into the depths of the sea, and I was drowning without ever jumping in.

“Lord Byron,” he said, indicating the book I held.  “I like his style.  But you seem more like a Poe fan than Byron.”

His deep voice flooded my system, almost sending me into overload.  I practically melted at the sensual tone resonating from his beautiful mouth.  My mouth started to water as I gazed up at him.

He chuckled at my paralysis, sending me further into my stupefied state.

“Hey.  You okay?”

I didn’t respond.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t move.  I was not okay.

He asked again, this time gently grabbing my upper left arm with his warm, masculine strength.  His eyes held genuine concern.

And it was that tender touch that broke the spell, had me dropping everything I held and throwing my arms around his neck.  I lost myself in his wonderfully strong and gentle embrace.  Burying my face against his neck I inhaled deeply and allowed his essence to flood my system once again.  Tears filled my eyes, and I held him tighter as he lifted me off my feet and squeezed his soul into me.

“Oh, Ella, I’ve missed you so much,” he breathed in my ear.

“I missed you, too,” I whispered.

We held each other for a short eternity, and when he set me on my feet again, I wasn’t sure I could stand.  I took a small step to steady myself.  “What are you doing in Summerville?” I asked, my voice shaking slightly with emotion.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Curiosity Begets Inspiration. . .

An old match book tumbled to the basement floor as our home's original ducts were ripped out.  The thin cardboard was barely holding together at the fold.  On one side read "C. H. GREEN & SONS". . . "KINGSVILLE MD." , and "CHEVROLET for '51". . . "AMERICA'S LARGEST AND FINEST LOW-PRICED CAR" on the other.  The color seemed in fantastic condition, perhaps for lack of exposure to sunlight.  

It got me to wondering about "C. H. Green & Sons."  Where was it located?  I mean, obviously it was in good-ole K-town, but where in Kingsville?  What is the building now?  Is it even still standing?

The internet revealed nothing.  Not one bit of useful information.  (Well, I did get one hit that seemed pertinent, but all it told me was that it was a dealership.  I already knew that.)

So I tried typing "Kingsville, MD" into the search engine.  The information that came up was abundant and extremely varied.  Too varied.  I narrowed my search to the history of Kingsville, and wham!, I got great hits.  While none of them were for the Chevy dealership, I started learning a lot about the Kingsville area and how it started.  Even before it started.

I got so into reading what I could find, that I wanted to dig deeper.  But the internet is very limited in its "knowledge" on the subject.  Figuring the best place to start would be the library, I asked the staff there.  They were very helpful and gave me a list of books I could start with.  (Most of them are reference books, though, which means I can't check them out.)

Last Thursday, Bug and I stopped at the Jerusalem Mill.  We were lucky enough that one of the volunteers was there, and I picked his brain.  He taught me a lot about the Mill in our short visit, but that is only on small part of the Kingsville area.  He did give me some free literature on the Mill.  Perhaps the most useful information I got from him, however, was the idea of going to the Historical Society of Baltimore and Harford Counties.

I visited both websites and found that I need quite a chunk of time to get what I need.  I also need a bit of cash flow because they charge for the use of their facilities.  My plan is to gather the archival information for what I need so as to shorten my time and cost in the libraries.

So here is my idea:  I want to write a book about the history of the Kingsville, MD area.  It would include the smaller townships of Bradshaw, Upper Falls, Jericho, Jerusalem Mill, Fork, and part of the larger area of Joppa.  

I have my work cut out for me, but so far I'm enjoying doing the research at times when I need a break from other projects.  

Please leave comments, and tell me what you think of my idea.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Query Lessons. . .

I love when lessons contain a level of humor that not only teaches, but really makes you laugh.  I'm not talking about laughing so hard your stomach aches, eyes water and you pee your pants here.  Query Shark does this very well.

I have Query Shark listed in the links on my sidebar, but I'll be honest with you. . .I never really got into reading it.  I gave it a shot initially, but when weeks went by without a new post--or maybe there were new posts, but in different areas of the blog so you had to search for them--I kind of gave up.  However, the Book Ends, LLC blog started what they call "Workshop Wednesday." This weekly post takes query letters volunteered by authors and dissects them, telling what is right and wrong in each part.  And, in the beginning of each of these posts they mention Query Shark.

So, since I was reading these "Workshop Wednesday" posts and learning about query letters, I decided to check Query Shark on my feed again.  Low and behold, there were new entries!  I scrolled through and read the new ones, learning a lot in a short amount of time.  

And, oh, are these amusing lessons.  For example, here is an excerpt from one of her latest chompings:
Chapters and a synopsis are available at your request.  of course they are.  So are kidneys, first born sons, and bottles of whisky.  It goes without saying. Thus, you don't need to include it.
The first sentence is from the query.  And, yes, this is an obvious statement that would probably be a waste of precious seconds for an agent or editor.  I love how Query Shark responds.  It may seem a bit over-the-top to some people, but she sure gets her point across.

In another query disassembled--by Query Shark or Jessica Faust, of Book Ends LLC, I'm not sure which--the term "fiction novel" was used.  The reaction to this phrase?  Immediate rejection because the letter writer says that book doesn't exist simply by calling it a "fiction novel."  This made me laugh out loud.  I can see both sides of the phrase, but the agent's reaction to it will definitely keep me from putting it in any of my queries.  (I wish I could find it again, but I can't.)

Now here I must tell you that the Query Shark, herself, advises to start at the beginning of her blog--with the earliest posts--and read through to the latest posts.  She says it's a chronological lesson plan, so to speak.  Each new post teaches lessons built on lessons given in previous posts.

I just don't have the patience for all that.  There are hundreds of posts.  I don't have that kind of time.  So, I've been reading the new posts and taking the lessons to heart.

By the way, I put a poll on the side bar.  Please take a minute to answer, and note that you can choose more than one.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Frustrations. . .

Words are not coming easily so far this week.  To make matters worse, the small amount I accomplished Tuesday morning went missing Wednesday morning.  I'm not sure how this happened.  Everything is autosaved constantly--even when I leave documents open as I close Pages or turn of the computer.  Even if I didn't save the work manually, it still should have saved.

While I'm thankful it was only a small amount, it was still a lot of hard work to wade through the pictures and scenes in my head without words to describe them.  Thank you writer's block, for throwing a wrench in my new schedule.  It's hard enough to keep to my new routine without the hardships you add to the mix.

It's also hard to get everyone in the house up and going while trying to get some work done.  The alarm goes off every nine minutes for my husband, who doesn't wake up to the obnoxious beeping echoing through the room.  While the oldest can get up and ready for school himself, once he sees me shuffling about the kitchen for coffee he just can't seem to keep quiet.  The little one used to sleep until 7:30, but since I've started getting up early, he has too.  The already short hour I carved out gets eaten up quickly.  More time is needed, but jumping another hour seems extreme.  I'm going to have to work up to that.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Just Write, Already. . .

This weekend was fairly productive.  I had Bug stay with my parents Friday night, and although I didn't write that night, I was able to get up early Saturday and get some good time in.  I worked on completing the story for my next assignment and one of my longer stories.  

I'm hoping to get the longer one to novel length.  Right now it's around 18,000 words, and going well.  Unfortunately, the tale unfolds in my mind much faster than I can get it down "on paper."  This leaves me feeling like I'm backtracking sometimes.  I have to reread exactly what I have to continue on the correct path.  Well, that's not entirely true, since I have a pretty good idea where I leave off each time, but it emphasizes the frustration with the slow pace.

So this is one of my biggest problems when I write.  I edit and change the story as I go.  Sometimes I even go back to a particular point that doesn't seem to fit "where" I put it, or "when" I put it.  I'm constantly making sure the continuity of the story as a whole isn't compromised.  That there are no inconsistencies.  (Inconsistencies bug me.)  Small details that don't mesh will slow my writing to a stop until I can smooth out the wrinkles.

So, I need to work on that.  Just write.  Wait to edit and refine when the story is complete.  Maybe I'll actually be able to get the longer ones finished then.

By the way, an excerpt from the wanna-be novel was posted previously.  You can read it here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Carving Time. . .

I had the good intention of waking up early to carve out some writing time this morning.  But, when the alarm went off I was dreaming.  That made it harder to wake up, though I put up a valiant fight.  And, no, I wasn't "kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream."  It was just one of my normal wacky dreams, but that still made it hard to wake up.  

By the time I climbed out of bed, it was 45 minutes later.  There went my extra writing time.  Still, I thought I'd be able to get a little personal time in before the Bug woke up.  So, after putting the cloth diapers in a final rinse and getting a cup of coffee, I headed upstairs to put in some time.  

Fifteen minutes later, the Bug woke up.  He wanted to go downstairs instead of staying in my room to watch some TV.  There went my personal time.  

It's not a total loss, however.  I was able to get an email out to my instructor about an uncertainty in my last assignment--which I sent in yesterday.  And now I'm getting a blog post done.  

My little man is pretty good at letting me do the things I need to get done, so maybe he'll allow me to write a bit later on.  Like after breakfast or lunch.  (We have discovered that afternoon play time upstairs is good for both of us.  He gets a change of scenery, and I get to work in my little nook.)

Hope everyone has a great Super Bowl weekend.