Monday, April 23, 2012

Change of Address

Hello faithful followers and anonymous admirers. Here's your official notice that I'm moving my blog.
(Yes, again.)

If you have this site bookmarked, you will need to update it to www.karolynsherwood.com. This should make everything simpler for everyone in the long run, especially for me. My blog and my website will once again be at the same URL. Now—and I'm talking to you, Mom—you'll be able to read my blog posts and click through the rest of my online literary life all at the same site.

This is my final post on blogger, and hopefully it will be my final move.
(Yes, again.)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

How To Be An Optimist

There's a saying: We make plans; God laughs. Whether or not you believe in God, truth of the matter is that we're not in control of our lives. If you think you are, just wait. One day you'll see what I'm talking about. Certainly we have to make plans and decisions to tackle day-to-day life, but occasionally the gods/stars/planets/marshmallows fall out of line and all goes astray. Marshmallows? Ok, who knows what has to align, but how you respond to unfortunate situations is what really matters. It is possible that once or twice in mylifetime I might have been accused of being a pessimist. Only in the last few years (under the loving tutelage of my husband) have I learned how to turn limes into margaritas. In the past three years, we have spent about six months in Costa Rica. In the past few weeks, I have had several chances to whip up a pitcher of optimism. Let me offer you a taste test: 1) If you hate tarantulas, but happen to find a fine example of one in your bathroom when you are home alone, killing it with a broom handle will give you an enormous sense of accomplishment. 2) If you have trouble digesting gluten, you will find that a caveman's diet (meat and fruits and vegetables) is very healthy. Man lived like this for thousands of years--yes, without pizza or beer. 3) If you create anything (e.g., a novel) on a computer, and said computer gets stolen, you will learn the absolute necessity of backing up your work. 4) If said thieves steal ALL your electronics, but spare your life and limbs, you are one lucky sonofabitch. 5) Once said thieves have fractured your sense of goodness in the world, you will learn to be safer and smarter. In fact, you will learn to hire a security guard with a shotgun. 6) If you love, love, love to sit quietly in the morning, sipping amazingly delicious coffee while over looking the Pacific Ocean, but said security guard wants to tell you all about his life and his country-in Spanish--because he has spent the last 12 hours walking the perimeter of your villa while you watched David Letterman in subtitles and got eight refreshing hours of sleep, then you will learn that your guard might be the best Spanish teacher you will ever have. 7) If you wake up one morning to the smell of smoke from the wildfires approaching your villa, you will learn how the infrastructure of a country such as Costa Rica actually works: Do it yourself, and help your neighbors. What did you think the damn garden hoses were for anyway? And lastly, 8) If you think that The Good Life involves a villa, an ocean, tropical weather, and tequila, you will learn that there's no place like home. AND, all of the above can be excellent material for your next novel. Adios, Costa Rica.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Badly Do You Want It?

I want you. I want you so bad. I want you. I want you so bad, it's driving me mad, it's driving me mad.

That's how I feel right now about my WIP.

Friends, family, work, TV, the internet, eating, sleeping, reading, blogging, cleaning out your closets... On any given day it's easy to get distracted. Life holds not only Jungian hierarchies and obligations, but also the freedom to make poor choices, give in to poor time management skills, and a million other things that can get in the way of our goals.

Generally speaking, everyone has time for what's truly important to them, but some things are completely out of our control: Computer crashes, health problems, money problems, accidents, theft of one's laptop... If you read my last post then you know that two weeks ago when my husband and I were in Costa Rica, we were robbed. They took not only our electronics, ALL of them, but also my eyeglasses and Rx sunglasses, four pair of shoes, jewelry, clothes, and most importantly, they stole two weeks of my life. That's how long it has taken me to regroup, replace all my stuff (including my peace of mind), and get back to writing. The two most fortunate aspects of what we've been through are, one, we were not harmed physically, and, two, they did not steal my novel in progress.

My dear Twitter friend, Taylor Stevens—NYTBSA of The Informationist and The Innocent—and I agreed that a writer's list of priorities are: 1) Life, 2) Work in progress, 3) Everything else. Los hombres malos did not get my novel because I was wise enough to back it up each day. (Note to others: since I was traveling, I actually emailed my novel to myself each night so that no matter what happened to my electronics, my novel would be safe. Google Docs would also work.)

What would have happened if I lost all 200 pages and all my notes and outlines and research? Would I have had it in me to start over, rewrite the entire work from memory, re-interview my experts? As much as I want this novel to be published (that would be more than anything in the world other than good health for me and my loved ones), I'm not sure if I could have garnered the strength and energy to recreate it. I would have been a pile of mush, I know that much. I would have been devastated. I would have tried, but I'm not sure if I would have felt capable of bringing it back to life, or if I would just have moved on. I do know I would not have given up writing all together.

This I know for sure: I am a writer; I will always write.

Fortunately, I am safe and I am back. I want this SO badly I must keep writing. So without further ado, please excuse me while I go apologize to my characters for abandoning them for the past two weeks, and see if I can't write them in and out of a few more mini-dramas.

What about you? What's the most important goal of your life? How badly do you want it? What would it take for you to be defeated? What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goal? Sure helps determine your priorities, doesn't it?

Turns out orderly closets aren't so important after all.


Monday, February 20, 2012

The Most Important Thing of All

It's easy, fun, smart to post happy news, positive outlooks, positive outcomes. 
It's difficult to post bad news.


But sometimes, shit happens.


My husband and I just returned home after five weeks in Costa Rica, five out of our planned eleven weeks. Our home was robbed while we were there, asleep. A home invasion. 


We are safe, and we know that's the most important thing of all, but I can truly say we were shaken to the core. The bad guys, "los hombres malos," came into our bedroom and stole our iPads from our beside tables. Inches from our faces. 


I wrote about it. I had to. The feelings, emotions, fear, they haven't let go. Even now, almost a week later, as I type this, my throat tightens and my eyes well with tears because I realize how close I was to never coming home, never talking to my children again, never saying "I love you" again, to anyone. You may find this melodramatic, unless you've been violated or felt absolutely vulnerable to evil. Then you might remember how this feels.


Los Hombres Malos



Sound asleep, wake to a noise, the unmistakeable noise, of a person, an unknown person, 
a bad person, close.
“There’s someone in our kitchen.”
Try to wake up, stumble to the door, turn on a light, face to face with a masked man.
Shouting, anger, the fear and primal rage of two grown men—
one fueled to survive, the other to save his wife.
Protect ourselves; hide; find a weapon. 
Now wait. Let them leave.
Long enough? No, wait. Wait. Okay, ready? Ready.
Quiet preparation, caution, caution, exploration.
Are they gone? Gone?
Are we sure?
Grab shoes, phones, keys—now get out! Call the police. 
What? What’s that? Don’t you speak any English?
Anger, fear, frustration—unleashed.
Slowly, finally, help.
A foreign country, a foreign language, a foreign system.
A helpless, total realization of vulnerability.
Then the visions.
They were standing over us, over me, in the dark, while we slept.
Pillows, fluffy and white, and capable of death.
Or a knife, or a gloved hand against my throat.
Or worse.
All for an iPad, or two.
Then a guard, a man, another strange man, with a gun.
This one’s on our side. Right?
Try to sleep, in the dark, in the same bed.
A noise. A branch in the wind? A bird?
No more sleep.
Take an inventory, make a list. What’s missing?
This, that, those too.
Counting. Still counting. And more—how bizarre… soap?
But nothing rivals our peace of mind. It’s gone. All gone.
Moving on. Chopping vegetables while detectives roam the house, 
dusting for fingerprints, black dust.
Everywhere.
Okay. We’re okay. We can do this. We can replace it all.
All except a sense of peace.
We can stay. Limp along. Make changes.
No. Why?
We’re better than this. We don’t have to endure.
This isn’t normal. This wasn’t our fault. We did everything right.
We have options. We're in charge.
Not los hombres malos.
We are safe. We are smart. We are in charge.
We’re going home. We live in the United States. We’re okay.
But, what if?
What if panic, instinct, fear, surprise, madness took over?
What if “something went wrong”, “that wasn’t supposed to happen”?
Feel your neck.
Imagine someone else feeling your neck.
With their hands. With their knife.
Feel your heart.
Feel it stop.
Close your eyes.
Never open them.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Iguanas Are People, Too

Ever wonder what morning is like for an iguana? I hadn't either, until this guy (or gal?) popped up for a visit one morning. It's not so different from us humans.

video


(FYI: I an currently in Costa Rica hiding from the Iowa winter. 
I am (ostensibly) working on my new novel, A Reasonable Price,
 but this place does provide some unique distractions.)

P.S. While you watch this video, please sing "Here Comes The Sun," by the Beatles. Apparently the SEC, or the FAA, or the FBI, or some other nit-picky agency won't let me upload the video if I add that as my background music. Yeah... like I'm going to make money from this? Martin Scorsese I am not.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Names Have Been Changed

Costa Rica, Year 3, Day 1: It's like we never left, only more so. 

I've been reading The Best American Travel Stories 2011, edited by one of my favorite authors, Sloane Crosley. In her introduction essay, she states that she never wants to go back to the same place twice because the world is so big and wonderful. I used to agree with her, and in many ways I still do. In a previous life (about 15 years ago, I suppose) I spent 10 days on the island of Mustique. Mystical, to be sure. Ah, Basil and his friends (rock stars, clothing designers, European royalty, entrepreneurs and trust fund babies), what's not to like? The beaches, the views, the restaurants—ok, there was only one restaurant, but it was fabulous... a lively lobster once scampered across the dining room floor trying to escape his devilishly hot fate—heaven on earth for us humans. And here is where Ms. Crosley's point is valid: my return trip the following year had none of the awe and fascination. I went back hoping to repeat the wonderment. Alas, it was, "Oh, yeah, I remember this beach."

But this spot in Costa Rica where we (my hubby and I) have found... We love it more each year. We've met people here, found the best places to eat and buy good meat (organic beef and pork from Nicaragua), my Spanish has greatly improved, and I am over the culture shock that overwhelmed me on my first visit. But I post this post as a marker, taking my emotional temperature, if you will, so I can compare how I feel about it at the end of our trip. 

Here's my Costa Rican recap:

First trip to CR: 1 Week in Tamarindo: Fabulous. Me, hubby, 4 sons. Great time, great food, great town, great house though it didn't have an ocean view.

Second trip to CR: 1 month near Coco Beach: Not so fabulous. Hubby and I land after dark; by the time we got our rental car and found our house, I was depleted of all positive emotions. An afternoon wildfire had scorched the hilltop just below our house, but our host insisted they'd hosed everything down so we'd be fine. The house was in disrepair, though the ants and geckos didn't seem to mind. The tarantulas loved our pool, but they can't swim so it wasn't that scary to scoop them out in the mornings. But by Week 3, when 5 (grown) kids arrived, I had adjusted and relearned to sleep at night out of pure exhaustion from all the local adventures we mastered. This is how I felt about it at the time!

Then we moved to another house for 1 month: Ah, much better. Clean, airtight, no bugs inside. Wonderful. Enjoyment! A writer's dream. Lovely. Until our final night here. That night, sound asleep, pure bliss, and then BANG! Ouch! OMFingG! My husband was stung by a scorpion who had crawled into our bed! After we killed it, we wondered if it had a nest of friends nearby...

Year 2: Back to the Scorpion house. (yes, I agreed to this... hey, it wasn't me who got stung!). (We did have 10 scorpions in the house during our stay, but no stings. They were mostly dead due to perimeter fumigation by the time they snuck into middle of the rooms.) This year, no kids, no adventures, only peace, quiet, calm, happiness, and writing: 45,000 words on my "third" novel, The King of Liars. I also did a lot of blogging about our time here. Some of it's worth reading. Most of the last 20 or so entries relay our adventures. (Note: This link is to my "old" blog via Apple. I have since moved my blog to where you are reading now.)

Year 3: Now here I sit, in the Scorpion house again, in my "writing studio over looking the Pacific Ocean." I wonder what lies ahead for us over the next 11 weeks. We'll have most of our kids visiting for parts of 3 separate weeks. With any luck, our children will outnumber the scorpions, although that still leaves room for too many scorpions! This year, I'm working on a new novel—my "breakout" novel? Yes, this is the one!—A Reasonable Price. I'm at 35,000 words now (125 pages), but no telling how many of those I'll scrap in the next 11 weeks. My current friends—I mean, characters—have different names from last year, but my intensity persists.

So, friends, I hope to entertain and inform you in the coming months. I'd love questions or comments from you along the way so don't be shy. Take care and I'll write more soon! Hasta luega!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review: The Innocent by Taylor Stevens

Taylor Stevens is a master-storyteller. She deftly feeds the reader facts and clues and backstory as the characters race through the incredible city of Buenos Aires to save a little girl from a terrible life. The pace is rapid, and the plot of The Innocent is as straight as a bullet through this gripping novel.

(Vanessa) Michael Munroe, the literary world's newest superhero, infiltrates a cult as few people could describe as accurately as Stevens (if you haven't read the author's bio, do that here). This story is as horrific as it is exciting, and while I imagine some there has been some dramatic license taken, it is very believable knowing how Stevens was raised. 

But the best part of this book is that Stevens has created an anti-hero that we/I not only root for, but one that we care about. Yes, she kills people, but her subsequent nightmares create sympathy for her. "Michael" makes me feel smarter/stronger/faster. It's like the Holiday Inn commercial: I'm not a spy, but I have read Taylor Stevens' books. 

The Innocent is an excellent thriller, full of action, tension and mystery. 

I give it a strong 4 Stars.