Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Stop the Affair!

Okay, this is what Dear Abby is talking about when she says MYOB. Help me, Abby, to keep my mouth shut.

Here I sit, in a Starbucks, working on my WIP, minding my own business, trying to avoid all distractions, when this handsome doctor sits down only a few tables away. Moments later, an attractive blonde joins him, all friendly-like. They're both wearing wedding rings, but it's obvious they're not married to each other.

I try to ignore them, but her batting eyelashes are as loud as 747 on take-off. Each time he touches her hand I want to scream, "Stop! Stop this now!", but she just giggles.

One of my life's mottos is: Live and let live. But I do have limits. Like terrorism, serial murder, and extramarital affairs. They're just wrong.

Think of the pain that is sure to follow this skinny-latte tryst. His wife? Her husband? Their separate but equal children who, I'm sure, do not want step-siblings? Stop! Before it's too late. Please, men and women of Starbucks, unite and help me tell them to see the light. I guess I would need strength in numbers to right this wrong, like a flash-mob kind of strength.

I'm no purist, and certainly I've made mistakes. And this isn't about religion for me, either. I just hate lying. Hate it. If their marriages aren't working, they should fix them first, not after oceans of tears, hours of screams, and millions of dollars of therapy.

Alas, the best I can do is to use them for character studies. Probably I'll have a character in one of my books who will have an affair, and perhaps he'll be an egotistical doctor with a pandering friend.

Meanwhile, I'll turn to face the (very loud) father who just arrived who is making up (very loud) stories for his two giggling children. My faith in humanity is saved.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What Have I Done For You Lately?

My last post (below) was about losing friends and being okay with it. My primary point was that as we grow, change, move on, it's only natural that we'll lose touch with some friends. I mentioned the theory about how people enter our lives, perhaps teach us one of life's lesson, or at least are there when we need someone, and then it's likely that, in time, we'll go our separate ways. But, I must admit, I was thinking about the people from my past who had faded away and what they had done for me.

How narrow-minded! What about all times when I/you have touched someone else's life? If you look back and think of a lost friend, wondering why you connected with her, why for a brief moment in time she was important to you, perhaps it is you who taught her something. Sometimes we are The Giver instead of The Taker.

I am repeatedly fascinated by listening to others' memories (especially when they involve me)(it's a little like looking at group photos and focusing mostly on myself). What's most shocking is what moments stick out in their memories, and how that differs from what sticks out in my mind. Sometimes a friend/parent/spouse/child will tell a story about an event that I cannot for the life of me recall.

People remember moments that strike them the hardest emotionally. That's my theory about memory; I've never heard this from any experts, but it seems logical. We rarely remember random Tuesdays, unless something dramatic happened. We remember highs and lows.

As a writer, it's important to realize that readers will remember your stories if there are extreme emotions—good or bad—e.g. The Joy Luck Club, A Prayer For Owen Meany, Sophie's Choice, Anna Karenina, Hoosiers, The Color Purple, and on and on and on. Those moments in your story should not be rushed or minimized. You must make them memorable!

Funny thing is, you don't always know what moments or words will strike other people, or when that moment is because of you. Go forth, friends, cautiously. You don't want to be anyone's bad memory!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Power of Losing Friends and Being Okay With It

Quick, how many friends do you have? Not Facebook friends, or Twitter followers, not even People-who-will-come-to-your-funeral friends... but 'It's- 3 AM-and-I-need-to-talk-to-someone' friends. Whoops, bet that number dropped a bit. Yes?

We all know a lot of people, but from my perch in life, I realize that true friends are rare. Yet sometimes good friends slip away. But we don't have to feel badly about that—not necessarily.

People change and grow. WE ARE SUPPOSED TO! (Did I make myself clear there, with both CAPS and the exclamation point?)

My first marriage ended when I realized I had changed and my husband apparently didn't want to accept that. (He might see it differently.) At first I felt badly about that, guilty even. Then I realized, how sad it would be if we were the same person at 31, 41, 51, 61 that we were at 21 (the age we got married). How sad if we never opened our eyes to new thoughts, dreams, goals, and wisdom. Or careers, or political parties, or sexual orientation.

It was difficult for me when I lost a set of good friends (at least I thought at the time they were) when I got divorced. But what was more difficult for me was, years later, when I realized I had good friends who had just kind of faded away. For a long time I wondered why I don't talk to certain people anymore, whether I might have offended them, or what happened. Now I see that, perhaps, life happened, and that's all. 

I believe the theory that people come into your life at a certain time for a certain reason. We can learn from others, thank goodness. That being said, there are some good friends who fade away, possibly because we've learned our lesson from them, or because we grow one way and they grow another. Still, I grow nostalgic when I think of certain friends whom I rarely talk to anymore. Alas, life is busy.

People change, grow, evolve, like The Tree of Life. (Ooh, great segue into the new movie starring Brad Pitt that my (second & final) husband and I are going to see tomorrow.) This is a good thing. This is why Character Arc is so necessary and vital to the success of a novel. (Had to get the literary link in there somehow.)

Then again, sometimes friends have a falling out... But that's a subject for another day.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Joys of Summer

From My Perch 2: Across the street from where I live, there is a daycare center. As I type this, the kids are outside at recess. Today, they are swimming in inflatable pools and diving down those slippery slide plastic runners. They're screaming and laughing and having a great time. While this might annoy some people, it makes me happy.

I had a great childhood, full of exploring nature, eating sand, running around barefoot, reading books, and going to the swimming pool. My life today is the same only different. I explore human nature. I eat seafood. I wear slippers (remember, I write at home). I write books. And I go to the swimming pool, but only when we're in Costa Rica, and then only after the sun begins to fade. Most similarly, though, is my schedule. As a writer, I set my own schedule, like when I was a kid during the summer.

Growing up, which you already know about if you've read my bio, I lived in Lawrence, Kansas and my mother worked at KU. It was truly an idyllic time and place. My best friend and I rode bikes, jumped on trampolines, and made Lucy's Lemon Squares. We didn't have the Internet (eegads, how old is she?)(48), video games, or crazy, programmed schedules.

The important take-away here (she says for the ten-thousandth time) is to be happy. Do what makes you happy. If you hate Monday mornings, change your life.

Life has good moments (that can last a long time), and it has tough moments (that can last a long time), but the BIG PICTURE is what matters. Are you on the right path? Do you have something or do something that makes you smile everyday? I hope so.

This weekend, kick off your shoes and read a good book. And think of happy childhood memories. After all, it's summer!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'm Off To See... Chicago

Tomorrow (during my regular blogging hours), I'll be driving to Chicago to visit my son. Six hours, in a car, alone, and back again on Thursday... Almost heaven.

I actually like driving long distances alone. The obvious reasons: I get to listen AND sing out loud to whatever music I want; I can chat on the phone when I choose, not worried about waking fellow passengers; but, mostly, I get to think! Driving alone is great for my WIP. In the past, I've jotted down dozens of ideas while (carefully) driving 70mph down lonesome highways. Hopefully this trip will be just as productive.

This trip to see my son is long overdue. The highlight will be dinner for just the two of us-in a big family, alone time is hard to come by- good food, good wine, and good conversation with a great kid... er, young man.

The fact that he lives in one of the greatest shopping cities in the country is just a bonus.

Talk to you all on Friday.

Monday, June 13, 2011

People From My Perch

Lighthouse keeper
Air traffic controller

People in high buildings who watch other people!

I live on the 5th floor in a condominium—high enough for a good view, low enough to see the people who walk and drive by. We live in downtown Des Moines, which may sound like a joke to some of you, but actually it's quite nice. (In another post, I'll brag about this great city.) Today I'd like to talk about People.

How strange we are! For the most part, we all have two legs, two arms, a torso, and a head. Our faces have two eyes, one nose... oh, you know the rest. But how is it that humans, even babies and pets, can distinguish one human from another so accurately? We're not THAT different. A centimeter here, a millimeter there, different colored eyes, and PRESTO: You're a super model! Or a serial killer!

Ok, so maybe that's not very profound to say, but the more you think about it, it is. Billions of us have been on this earth, and occasionally someone will say, "You look like so and so," but never exactly. One would think there'd be less difference especially as our races intermix.

They say natural blondes will eventually be extinct, and it makes sense to think that skin color will moved towards cappuccino, so have you ever thought about what people will look like in 50 or 100 years? Now add in global warming and imagine how our clothing might evolve into more of a uniform to protect us from the elements. New Presto: Automatons!

That sounds horrible, doesn't it? I don't think anyone today would like that, but it may be such a gradual change that the people of the future won't notice the difference, they may even embrace the new clothes—Silver Armani Jumpsuits, anyone?

For now, I'm glad that I don't look like anyone else, although... I would love to have skin the color of Halle Berry's.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I Used To Be Funny

It's difficult to keep up with me, I know, but I take full blame. You are busy. You are involved with highly technical and weighty issues every day. Me? I sit home and read and write most days (the days I'm not getting pedicures), and I haven't been blogging regularly.

I am lucky to be married to a wonderful man who hates winter. Further adding to your reasons to hate me, he's retired and takes us to Costa Rica for the worst months of Iowa cold—all of them. We came back this year on April 1st. Since then, I've noticed, my blog frequency and quality has slipped into the doldrums. For this I apologize.

I have excuses, but I hate excuses, almost as much as my husband hates winter. All I know is that in reviewing my posts that were written in Costa Rica, I noticed they were really funny. (At least I thought so.) Since then? Not so much.

The good news is that I've been very productive in my writing career since I've gotten home but in different ways from my productivity levels in Costa Rica. In the 10 weeks we were there this winter, I wrote 45,000 words on my novel, developed a Twitter habit, created a Facebook Fan page, and so much more. My production since I've been home has been more "big picture" stuff, albeit of less blog-able interest. I've also recently found the erudite blog by Kristen Lamb about social networking. She has promised me fame and fortune if I blog more! (Just kidding, kind of.)

And so, dear friends and family, all 10 million of you, give or take, I will once again attempt to blog more often—three times a week from now on. Oh, the pressure! BUT, Ms. Lamb insists that I shall not bore you all with blog posts on writing... anything else is acceptable, but my deepest passion (other than my husband) is off limits. I cannot tell you about how lightning has struck me and I am closer than ever to success. You'll just have to trust me, and I'll just have to produce that novel I've been talking about, the one that caused my meltdown 10 days ago, the one I blogged about not working... well, people, it's working. And THAT is why I haven't been blogging as much.

Oh, the irony.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I'm Married to the Wrong One!

(HOOK) Yesterday I had a meltdown. Not the check-me-into-a-hospital kind of meltdown, just a rant-on-Twitter, lock-myself-in-a-room, go-through-a-box-of-Kleenex kind of meltdown. I realized I was married to the wrong idea!

(BACKSTORY) Before I get too far, let me make it perfectly clear that I am happily married to a wonderful man ~ the RIGHT man. It's my work in progress—or rather, my work-that's-not progressing—that's got me down. 

(SITUATION) A couple years ago, we went to visit two of my sons in New York City. The four of us and one of their friends went to a quaint Italian restaurant in Tribeca. The three "boys" (all in their 20s) sat across from my husband and me. My son Ryan's friend, Ariel, looks amazingly like my son except he has blue eyes. The phrase "the blue-eyed twin" innocently swam through my head. No big deal, that's all. Except that phrase wouldn't leave me alone. I wrote it down and tried to forget about it. But it has haunted me for almost two years! 

(GOAL) Not only has it haunted me, it turned itself into an entire novel, The Blue-Eyed Twin. Characters were born, conflicts arose, plots thickened, a twist and an ending presented itself! Aha, my next book! Hurray! Bells and whistles, secretly planned book tours and signings... all I had to do was get my brilliant work on paper.

(CONFLICT) But who's point-of-view was this story? Was, in fact, the blue-eyed twin my protagonist? No, he is no hero. So, his brother then? No, not him either. This is not YA; I didn't want to write a novel about teenage boys. The mother? The father? Omniscient? None of them fit with my hero/situation/goal/conflict/resolution. Like a child who develops talents a mother never imagined possible, my story idea had outgrown the title. 

(RESOLUTION) The last Kleenex in the box held the answer: Choose a new title and the whole thing works. 

(HERO) Me! I am the author, I hold the lock, and I hold the key. If something's not working, change it! 
(THEME) We all hold the keys to our own happiness. Some changes are easy, some are painfully difficult. I've lived through both in my lifetime and expect I'll have more before I die. Life is short and precious. If you're not happy, make changes. 

(ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS) I could not have gotten where I am today if it weren't for two special Twitter friends. Kimberly Nichols and Taylor Stevens, both responded to my Twitter rants. Taylor, author of the thrilling book The Informationist and currently working on her next book, took time out of her busy day to reassure me I was not alone and this too shall pass. Thanks to both of you.