Tuesday, May 30, 2006

It's all about CHARACTER!

As I delve deeper into my new book, I'm plagued by nightmares of revisions - ya know, those horrible rewrites my first novel is still waiting for me to complete.

Granted, I knew NOTHING about writing when I spewed forth that 100,000 word mess, but the premise is still good, the characters are still good, and so I suppose someday I'll open it back up and frighten Shari by saying, "Ready for the revisions on this one?" Then she'll scream and run into the night - which is okay now that winter is over in Wisconsin.

As mentioned in a previous post, I have GMC by Deb Dixon and it really, truly is an amazing craft book. So you take the revisions of my first novel and the insight of GMC, and think: Hmm. If I do this right the FIRST time through, I won't have to face those scary, demonic revisions.

Sounds like a plan, eh?

I thought so too. I whip out GMC and start to go through it with this new book in mind. Kate wants ________ because _______ but ________. There ya go. First blank is her goal. Second is her motivation. Third is her conflict. I wrote that out, just like that, on a piece of notebook paper and proceeded to stare at it for thirty minutes.

It's such a simple little sentence, is it not? And yet at the same time, my brain cramped up and my eyes glazed over and for a short period of time, I lacked the ability to speak coherent sentences. My family worried for a bit, then relished the silence and figured not to mess with a good thing.

Through this painful process, I've discovered I cannot create character worksheets. I have to simply write and let the characters reveal themselves to me in whatever way THEY decide. I'm just the scribe, the slave to the keyboard as THEY tell their tales.

Even my characters are bitches. What's up with that?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

You Are My Sunshine

The day after I brought home the puppy, B got off shift and showed up with a tiny, tiny kitten.

There are two ways to get to our house from his work, and for some reason, he took the "longer" way home. As he came around the bend of the road, a huge vulture took off and B saw something moving, and stopped to see.

There were three tiny, tiny kittens. Two were dead. One wasn't. The vulture worked on making it so before B's interruption. Her eyes were really messed up - I'll spare you the details - and her front leg was broken. Our guess is that it broke when she was tossed out a window by whomever did this to them. They were VERY young kittens - maybe four weeks old.

You could feel her spine. She was starving and because of her eyes, she couldn't find food, she couldn't see to run and hide from the vulture, and of course, her leg would have made it near impossible anyway. We cleaned her up and fed her, and put her under a heat lamp. We named her Phoebe. Solid gray, long hair - gorgeous. And fit in the palm of my hand, with room to spare.

For the last seven days, we babied her when we could. Cleaned up her eyes and fed her several times a day and put her in the litter box. We know she could see some, probably just shadows, because she would follow the movement of our hands and try to hobble and follow us sometimes. She ate well most of the time. We truly felt she'd pull through.

She didn't eat well this morning, but that's normal. She went in spurts sometimes. I went to check on her this afternoon, and instead of being all balled up, she was stretched out. I picked her up to wipe her eyes and she felt cool to the touch.

I picked her up and tried to feed her more. I tried to get water into her too. It was hard - she fought it. She couldn't stand up. It didn't look good.

I took her outside to the backyard and in my black t-shirt, I held her in the Texas sunshine, letting her absorb my heat and the heat of the sun. And I stroked her back, I talked to her, I sang to her. She grew weaker.

Titan, my horse, came up and stood there. Just stood there. And then he'd kick at the fence til I finally took her to him. He kept his head down over the fence and he'd blow really warm air on her, so soft and gently. It was amazing. He knew.

For twenty minutes, Titan stood in silent vigil there at the fence. For twenty minutes. Not a sound. Just those huge brown eyes watching me, and if I walked her close to the fence, he'd blow that warm air out so softly against her. Over and over again, for such a long time.

At 4:41, Phoebe died in my arms.

Whomever did this to this little kitten, I hope with all my might that karma finds them. I continue to sit here and second guess myself. All the things I should have done. The things I could have done better. But I know with everything in my heart that kitten died knowing she was loved. She died being fed, and held, petted and sang to. She died against my chest, listening to my heartbeat, feeling my arms around her, hearing my voice and feeling my hand softly petting her.

I walked to Titan and nudged my head against his and whispered thank you. He walked away, his head still lowered.

As I grow older, I'm not sure what all I believe in. I do believe in higher power and in an afterlife. I watch John Edwards (psychic) and he just knows too much - he's amazing. He may be a fraud, I have no idea. I don't care. But watching him, he talks about validating those who have past, and he's mentioned animals too.

In 1995 my grandmother died. She was the keeper of the secrets, all of our best friend. I was there with Granny as she died, and the entire time, between begging for her to breathe, I'd sing "You are my Sunshine" - her and my oldest daughter's favorite song to sing together - over and over and over again until she took her last breath. I know it's stupid - I KNOW it's silly - but while I rocked the kitty Phoebe, I sang it to her - over and over and over again. And I told her all about Granny, and the kitten Granny had to leave behind when she left us, and that if Phoebe couldn't fight anymore, if she had to go, to go and find Granny, and that Granny would love her. Just like I loved her.

Just like I'll always love the little gray kitty that hobbled into my life one Friday morning.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Well this is neat - I think

While blog-hopping for a bit this morning, I saw posted on Gina's blog this link to Blog Explosion. Not exactly sure what it all involves, but I'm checking it out.

Update: I can't figure it out - granted, I didn't take a lot of time to try either. I was hoping someone could give me a clue and what kind of benefit there is from this. I'm assuming if you have a lot of time to invest into the "system", it'd have some kind of pay-off. I can only see this as really a good thing if you have a paid site or something, right, where you make money based on hits or ads. Ideas?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Moo to You Too

There's nothing like going out to the sunroom and looking out into the backyard and seeing a yard full of freakin' cows.

Apparently B left the gate of the backyard open this morning after feeding the chickens. The cows liked this idea, and decided to come and roam the tiny backyard - as opposed to the huge 10 acre field they have right behind the yard. Yup, makes sense.

Cows are surprisingly paranoid animals. I think I heard one whisper, "Carnivore!" I walk outside and they freeze. The few of them back there aren't babies, but they're not full-grown either. More like teenage cows. Teens without parental supervision who look up at me with expressions screaming of, "Crap - we're so busted!"

So I walk out there, and they start to slowly step back. There wasn't a lot of room to back up though - small yard - so their collective roast rumps hit the fence and their heads swung back and forth, huge eyes looking at each other like, "Oh man, now what??"

I, on the other hand, have Samson - MIGHTY DOG! I get the lead, put him on it, and ZOOOM, off he goes, jerking me along with him, herding those stray cows right back out the gate.

The cows stop once they got in the field and gave me a look like, "Was that all really necessary??" Samson looked back like, "Heck yeah, wanna play again?" The cows slunk off to the back pasture, the adventure over.

I called B: Honey, leave the gate open this morning?

B: No, why?

Yeah - right.

Meanwhile, I stand there wondering why I've suddenly started to create imaginary conversations amongst my animals. Not a good sign.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day, 2006

Normally, I'd have a lot to say ont his particular subject, given I have two mothers. Well, I have my Mom, and then I have the lady who birthed me. Thankfully I had the fabulous opportunity to meet her thanks to my ability to manipulate the chicks who work for the State of Texas, but alas, that's another story.

I called Mom and wished her a good Mother's Day.

I called my 96 yr old grandmother. She will forever be my ultimate heroine, considering she raised seven kids (six of which are boys!!). She asked about the kids, I said they were heathens and with only four compared to her forever-impressive seven, I had no idea how she'd done it without Xanax. She laughed and said, "It was a farm - I shoved 'em out the door and into the fields and made 'em pick their dinner or go hungry."

I love that woman.

To summarize my life as a mother, my almost 16 yr old captured it to perfection with a homemade card. It's sporting a rather beautiful painted flower, and then it reads as follows:

"If mothers were flowers, I'd smash you in a book."

Friday, May 12, 2006

Summer Preview from Hell

Yoe Day.

In Cameron, Texas, this is an official school holiday. It's true. I didn't make this up. To begin with, why WOULD I? The district has designated students from the schools go and put flowers at the grave of Mr. Yoe.

Yeah, well, I can't think of anything else to say about this. So we'll move on.

So Thursday was the Ever Delightful and Yet Oh So Odd Yoe School Holiday - no school. Today they didn't have school either - why? An unused weather day. This would make sense except that the kids had to go to school on Good Friday to make UP for a weather day. Huh. That's logical.

Now, take four kids home for a super-long weekend, and toss in a new puppy. Yes, a new puppy. This lady at Walmart was holding up a sign which read "FREE UGLY PUPPIES". How can you NOT stop and see in the box, yanno? So I did. And because it was Yoe Day, I had all four kids with me.

Can you see where this is going?

They weren't ugly - well, maybe a couple were a bit ... different looking. Weird. Odd. Yeah, okay, some where ugly. They're 1/2 black lab and 1/2 "some neighbor's ugly-ass dog". Oooooooh-kay. I picked up one, held him up face to face. He's all black except for this little white "soul patch" under his chin, and he had this look of "WTF, Mate?!" and I fell in love.

So I called B on the cell.


B: "What?!" he asked warily, knowing the tone meant trouble.

Me: Free ugly puppies!

B: NO!

Me: Please?

B: NOOOOOOOOOO!! We have enough animals.

Me: Yeah, yeah, you're right. I know you're right.

I hang up, and Cooper, holding one of the truly ugly ones looks up at the one I'm holding and says, "Samson would have a baby brother" - which sounds so way meltable cute from a four year old little boy who isn't quite understanding why his pleas of having his own baby brother will forever go unrealized.

I get out the cell.

B: NO!

Me: I haven't said anything yet!

B: What?

Me: Cooper says Samson would have a baby brother.

B: Cute, but no.

Me: Fine! (and I hang up.)

Now, my middle daughter, age 12, is just like me. Looks the most like me, people-person like me, runs at the mouth like me and drives me nuts on a regular basis in a way I'm sure I did my own parents on a regular basis. She's also twisting things to suit her own purpose as often as she can - like her father did. *blink*blink*

Carly: It could be your Mother's Day present since I know Dad didn't remember to get you one yet.

Shandie (ever so cynical 15 yr old): She's got ya there.

Me: ~evil grin~ Indeed.

We take it home. His name is Spencer, and compared to Samson, this puppy is TINY. And he's going to be THE fattest, useless thing ever to grace the planet because my younger three children refuse to put him down long enough to allow the dang dog to develop a single leg muscle.

Samson thinks Spencer is a chew toy.

The kids fight over who holds him, who feeds him, who takes him potty. Screaming, arguing, blah blah blah.

And only two weeks of school left until they're home ALL THE TIME. Thanks so much, Mr. Yoe, for giving me a glimpse of the summer to come - two weeks early.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

November & December

Well, at the demand of Peggy to update, here I am. I never know what to say. Right now I'm working on some craft books that I truly felt I needed to read. Thanks to G, I finally got GMC by Deb Dixon and omigod, what a fabulous, eye-opening book. Then I read Hero's Journey, which wasn't nearly as fun to read as Deb's. Now I'm on Bob Mayer's Writer's Toolkit, which I really like a lot. Maybe it's because I've met him and I've heard him speak so I can get the tone and infliction and it's really fun to read it. Dunno, but that's what I'm doing. And I'm taking notes on my characters while I do it, so I'm actually working on a novel. Amazing, I know.

Did I mention I don't know what to write on here anymore? Gah.

Anyway, about the title of this post. November & December. That's what my dear, dear friend Shari calls my poor little turkeys. Granted, they WERE little. And super cute when they were tiny. Now they're not so little anymore. They're downright big. And they're not even grown yet. Oy.

So, we moved the chickens (chicken is all inclusive meaning the turkeys and rooster as well) to the back field and not in the backyard anymore. We took the old chicken coup that was in the field and revamped it. It's way bigger than the one we'd made, and since all of them are getting big now, they were really crowding it up. It's a bit of a PITA to go out to the field to put them up at night, but technically, they now put themselves up at night, so no biggie, right?

Uh huh.

And this is where the story really begins (Jennifer Crusie would hate all that above "prologue to the story" I put up there - my bad).

I waited a bit that night to go out, so it was already dark. I have Samson (the I'm-only-4-months-old-but-now-weigh-50-lbs-Newfoundland-puppy-who-comes-to-Brenda's-hips) with me on his retractable leash. I'm doing the chicken head count - should be 13 in there. I count. 12. Hmm. Hey wait - one of my BIG GIANT bright-white-can't-miss-him-in-the-dark turkeys (probably November, since according to Shari, he'd die first) is missing. I have my flashlight in one hand, the leash in the other, walking in a small circle, seeing if I could find him. Both turkeys used to attempt to sleep on the fence at night, and I'd have to grab their fat turkey asses to put them in the coup, so I'm looking over there. No turkey.

Then, in the pitch-black of the field with only a barely-there flashlight to aid me and a psycho, heavy dog wanting to play with chickens and I'm trying to constrain him and look for the stupid turkey, I hear RUNNING, fast, hard RUNNING come right my way in the dark.

Scary as hell, let me tell ya.

It was Titan, the thoroughbred, running at me full force in the dark. I almost crapped my pants. Samson, being the stupid puppy he is, starts jumping up and down like "OH GOODIE! SOMEONE TO PLAY WITH!" Yeah, well, Titan didn't think so and jumped all four freakin' feet at Samson at once, who circles me and wraps me in the leash. I thought how fitting it would be, dying on this damn farm with these damn animals I had to have, being stomped by a nervous horse who just scared me spitless.

Titan backs off, I untangle and I look up at the sky, I guess in an imploring look toward God, wondering about my life and almost dying, and there above my head, pirched on a limb in the tree, is a big white turkey butt.

My damn turkey was in the tree. Argh. He'd jumped up on the coup then jumped from there to the limb. What the HECK? I could touch him, but not reach him enough to lift him up and put him away. So I shove him from the tree, and this swooshing sound of big wings is something I can't even begin to describe, but at the time I thought, "This is what the coming of Christ and angels would sound like, and it's frightening."

He lands on the coup. Out of reach. I start finding little twigs to chunk at him. He finally jumps down to the ground, walks from the back of the coup to the front and into the shed.

I closed the damn door, none to happy.

Titan blows out air and shakes his head at me, and I swear the look he gave me was, "And she's a higher life form than I am?"

Then I called Shari and cried.

She merely giggled uncontrollably. What a pal.