Archive for August, 2012

Gettin’ the Gumption

I lucked out with the first three books. Admittedly, I did a lot of research on all of them, but it was anonymously done from the internet.

I really wish I could do that with the fourth book that I’m currently writing, but as I go, it’s starting to look like I’m going to have to get professional consultation.

This is nothing new for writers, especially crime writers. Before the internet, virtually all mystery stories had at least a full page of acknowledgements to various professionals thanking them for providing facts, statistics and appropriate anecdotes to give the fictitious crime novel proper credibility.

I will probably be no exception, but it’s hard for me. I don’t do well with authority figures. They intimidate the hell out of me. I do OK with emails because I can sensor my words so I sound like a normal person, but on the phone my innate ability to make an ass of myself kicks in pretty quick. People don’t tend to take you seriously when you make an ass of yourself.

However, it has to be done. I have to talk to doctors, researchers, and yes law enforcement officials (SCARY) to get my facts straight and give my beloved characters a believable plot. Somehow my perfectionism is going to have to override my antisocial behavior…or I could let my well-honed procrastination trump them all. Can’t I just do it, you know, later?

The end of an era

I thought it was appropriate to point out that my grandfather’s barn burned down last week.

Let me clarify. My grandparents both passed away in the mid 1990’s. At that point the farm was sold off. So, technically the barn hasn’t belonged to my family for a while.

In my heart, however, it will always be Grandpa’s barn.

Several members of my family had spent lots of time in that barn at one point or another. We’ve all milked cows, gathered eggs, fed calves, kicked around straw, and moved copious piles of animal manure in that barn. Goats, geese, chickens, cats, and cows lived entire lives in that gambrel building with the rough-hew posts and beams and the corrugated tin roof.

It was a class B milking barn, which meant Grandpa’s milk was used for cheese. His cows of choice were Swiss because they yielded a high milk fat and had a decent temperament (most of the time). He had a couple of Holsteins, but I recall they were always a bit skiddish and were hard to get the milkers on.

The gutters were cement grooves in the floor. The cows never seemed to actually poop in them, so it was a crusade to pace behind the cows during milking to scrape the fresh piles away before the cows were let back outside. Usually they’d also poop on their way back out for good measure. Grandpa had one of those old fashioned poop cradles (that’s not a technical term, that’s just what it looked like to me) that ran the length of the barn on a track. A person would drag the cradle along and shovel poop into it and haul full loads out to the manure spreader at the end of the track. In the winter the tractor never seemed to want to start, so Grandpa would hook up his draft horses to the spreader to haul it out to the fields.

It was never an industrial operation, never more than fifty cows at the most. My Grandpa died of a heart attack at the kitchen table after cutting up a pig with a hacksaw. He left 20 milking cows in the barn at that time.

That barn will always be a symbol to me of an almost extinct way of life. Family farms are still around. All you have to do is attend a county fair to see that. But the farms that were self-sustaining with messes of kids and multi-colored cows set out to pasture are a good two generations gone. In my mind they’ll never be forgotten.


Finding my happy place

To say that writing is an internal process is a gross understatement. For me, it’s like observing a different universe in my head and writing down what is going on. I see facial expressions. I hear background noise. I sense tension or love or anger or humor. Actions are moving in real time in my head.

I used to joke that writing was like channeling my schizophrenia, but that doesn’t do justice to the people who are clinically diagnosed with such a debilitating disease. Still, if I ever was unable to tell the difference between the real outside and the alternate universe inside, I might have a slight notion as to what they are going through.

It’s usually the real outside that becomes the problem for me. Trying to write what I see as I see it in a cohesive manner with the proper description requires an uninterrupted rhythm. Usually, I can tune most of the extraneous stimuli out. Not always.

The first three books were written at my husband’s  shop. I had taken several different desks there, but kept having to move for various reasons: too cold, too noisy, getting in the husband’s way, etc. Eventually, I was given a desk on a completely different floor in an attic of sorts with no windows and few lights. Actually that worked quite well…most of the time. It was, however, still open at the end by the stairwell, and then the husband would get on the phone.

I love my husband. He’s good at lots of things. One thing he is not good at is volume control. The scenario would go like this:

-Writing this important plot line. The sentences are running through my head almost faster than I can type them out.

-Phone rings. Husband’s friend calls. Husband’s “friend” phone voice is about 10 decibels louder than his “client” voice.

-Getting to a crucial sentence. Have perfect word poised to go from my brain to my fingers.

-Friend makes snarky comment. Husband loudly gaffas, comments back.

-Sudden distraction pulverizes word before it makes it to fingers. Word is lost. Feverish typing stops. Frustrated burst of rage must be squelched.

After all, it’s really not the husband’s fault. It’s his office.

This is why we were both thrilled when the new house was big enough for me to have my own office.

If you remember, the office was originally suppose to be downstairs. Because of WiFi connections and other silly things, the office ended up being in the other large bedroom upstairs, sharing space with my clothes. The walls are not butter yellow. They are eggplant (or some color trying to be eggplant, and ending up being “bruise”). It’s not my favorite, but I don’t hate it enough to repaint. I just compliment it with purple accessories (of which I actually have a lot of for someone who is neither obviously girly nor a Vikings fan).

I got two banquet tables from the husband’s office for an L-shaped desk, and two of those IKEA rolling cart thingies back from the rental property to file my stuff in. I got my huge electric school clock up on the wall and my pictures and doodads lined up around a tiny stereo and my laptop (soon to be replaced with a nice tower and honking monitor).

Remember that comforting feeling I got when I bought my first house? I get that feeling in my office, so it must be right.

FYI I’m on page 8 (technically page 16, book size) of going through the 5 edited copies of Book 3. I already have two author events scheduled in October, so the pressure’s on. Unlike all my other spinning plates however, it’s pressure I feel passionate about. It’s my happy place.