Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NaNoWriMo Winner Right Here

[Letter From NaNoWroMo's Winners' Page]

You Won!
So it's official.

Our word-counting robots have analyzed your November novel, and they've delivered their final, binding assessment: Winner.

You did it! You did it! You did it!

This was, without a doubt, one of the hardest years on record for NaNoWriMo participants. At some point in the literary marathon, most of your fellow writers fell by the wayside. They lost their books to work, to family, to school, and to the hundreds of other distractions and interruptions that tend to shutter creative undertakings like NaNoWriMo.

But not you. Not this year.

This November, you set out with the ridiculously ambitious goal of bringing an entire world into existence in just 30 days. When the going got tough, you got writing. Now you're one of the few souls who can look back on 2007 as the year you were brave enough to enter the world's largest writing contest, and disciplined enough to emerge a winner.

We salute your imagination and perseverance. The question we ask you now is this: If you were able to write a not-horrible novel in 30 days, what else can you do? The book you wrote this month is just the beginning.

From here on out, the sky's the limit.

We wish you well on your many upcoming adventures, and hope to see you for Script Frenzy in April, and again for NaNoWriMo next November.

On behalf of everyone here at NaNoWriMo headquarters, I offer you my congratulations.

Warm regards,
Chris BatyProgram Director, NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Writers, Dave salutes you all!
Read more!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ghost Writer

I know I am supposed to be writing my own story and not reading someone else's, but you can't literally write every second of the day. Unless, of course, you are Earnest Hemingway. So while I ride my broken exercycle, or wait for the water to boil, or try to fall asleep, I read Neil Peart's autobiography, "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road."

Peart is the drummer for the band Rush. He is arguably the best living rock drummer there is. All I know is he is far better than me. There is a video of him playing on my MySpace. Judge for yourself.

He also writes. He now has several books, but this one in particular is very moving because it deals with great personal tragedy he experienced in the late 90's. In the span of one year, he lost his 19 year-old daughter, Selena, and his wife of 22 years, Jackie. This book is his journal of survival, if not recovery (I don't know--I'm not that far into it, yet.)

Early in the book I came across a passage that struck me deeply. I re-read it several times, and finally decided to post it here. If it means nothing to you, that's fine. All I can say is that it said a whole lot to me. And that's the beauty of this blog: It's all about me.

Click the prompt for the passage.

“For some reason, as part of that grief work it also seemed necessary for me to replay every single incident of my own life, and once when I was awake in the middle of the night in a motel, stewing over these things, I tried to write it down.

Notice in these ‘watches of the night,’ or while riding (or anytime), pattern of torment (tormente, Spanish for storm). Not only have to relive and examine every episode of life with Jackie and Selena, but every single episode of my own life. Every embarrassment, act of foolishness, wrong-headedness, error, idiocy, etc. going back to childhood and all the way forward to now.
I physically flinch, say ‘ow’ out loud, or ‘fuck,’ as the case may be, and can hardly bear it. Such stupid things sometimes, but it seems my confidence, or belief in myself, or
something, is so shaken, so undermined, so tenuous, that I have no tolerance, no understanding, no forgiveness: for myself or anyone else.
No forgiveness…

Without knowing it, I had identified a subtle but important part of the healing process. There would be no peace for me, no life for me, until I learned to forgive life for what it had done to me, forgive others for still being alive, and eventually, forgive myself for being alive.”

“Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road,” by Neil Peart

Read more!

Through the wringer

I wasn't sure I could find an illustration that fully captured how it feels to write about the loss of a loved one, but I think I have succeeded.

I didn't start with that subject when I sat down, but I don't always dictate where my writing will take me. Thankfully, I take Kleenex with me on all my journeys.

I was so steamrollered after spitting out 2000+ words that it was all I could do to take the dogs out in the front yard for a second, then crawl into bed. Given that it was only 8 p.m., I woke up fully awake around 2 a.m.

Of course, a truly devoted writer would have gotten up and kept writing. Being only half-devoted, I merely stared at the ceiling for a few hours and thought about writing.

It could have been worse: The urge to hit up the Ben & Jerry's in the freezer downstairs was overwhelming. I didn't do that until after lunch today.

Only 3828 words to go to hit the November goal for NaNoWriMo, but it's going to take a lot more ice cream before all is said and done with Below Sea Level.

Cocoa Bean -- 1993-2003
Read more!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Purging Novelist Disorder

Only six days left to write. Sort of. It's actually a life sentence, but for the purposes of National Novel Writing Month, the deadline looms. I have been making progress in a very uneven fashion: I write 3000 words late one night, then nothing for two days, then another lump of words will come out of nowhere, and so on and so forth.

I love metaphors--good or bad--and this one just came to me when reporting on my progress to my mom. (No, I wasn't procrastinating--just warming up for tonight's session.) This novel I have been working on is like someone moving every item I own (and some I don't) into my house in a completely random manner. There's a sofa upside-down in the attic, a saddle in the downstairs bathroom, a stereo in the refrigerator, and CDs scattered from the dryer in the living room to the baby's crib in the garage. On December 1 (or a little later--I will need to seek some treatment for Purging Novelist Disorder when this is all over) I will walk back into my house and have to find everything again and decide where it should really be. That's when I officially get to untie the Editor who has been bound and gagged in the crawl space under my porch since November 1. She's going to be cold, hungry, and eternally pissed when she sees what I've done while she was gone. And she'll have her work cut out for her!

I am writing. Go find something useful to do.
Read more!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Two normal people and a madwoman

My sister Sarah, Robbie Merrill (left-handed bassist for Godsmack and Another Animal), and some crazy woman who was too busy rattling on about how "awesome" Robbie's bands are to smile in time for the picture.

I always know how to make a lasting impression.
Read more!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

This weekend was Another Animal

[Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge, Nov 16]

If one were to experience a near-perfect weekend, how would it go? How 'bout something like this:

Head to an Alter Bridge show at Madison's Barrymore Theatre, a venue so small it seats only ten or so. Find out just seconds before the opening band Another Animal comes on that it is a side-project from three of the four members of Godsmack; Shannon Larkin (drummer extraordinaire), guitarist Tony Rombola, and bassist Robbie Merrill. The other guitar player is Lee Richards, an original member of Godsmack. The lead singer is Whitfield Crane, former lead singer of Ugly Kid Joe (where he played with Shannon Larkin until they broke up in 1997).

[L to R: Lee, Tony, Robbie, Shannon, and Whit]

The stage is so small and Another Animal is set up in front of Alter Bridge's equipment, so I am only twenty feet or so in front of drummer Shannon Larkin's set.

I feel faint. [Shannon of Another Animal and Godsmack]

Their set is amazing, and I am thrilled knowing I will be seeing them again in Milwaukee the next night.

Alter Bridge comes on and does not disappoint, despite the lead singer, Myles Kennedy, being sick. The audience--all ten of us--scream our brains out. My sister Sarah spills a very sticky wine cooler all over me. I forgive her.

[Myles in front of Brian]

Afterwards, it is Sarah's goal to meet Myles. It is clear her very life depends upon this encounter. (And it has absolutely nothing to do with how Myles looks in these jeans...) Acting on a tip from Mark Tremonte's guitar tech before the show, we head to the closest bar and wait for a bit. Soon we see Lee Richards and Robbie Merrill from Another Animal stop in. No sign of Alter Bridge.

Heading back to the buses, we find out that Myles is so sick he ran for the bus as soon as he ended the show. Sarah is crushed. We hang out just long enough for me to make a drum joke to Brian Marshall, Alter Bridge's bass player, who takes my idiocy in stride. I am tempted to make a bass comment to drummer Flip when he comes out, but I resist. One of Sarah's friends forces Brian to take Sarah's Riverside passes from 2005 inside the bus for Myles to sign. He is gone for so long we are sure that he has either forgotten us or is busy trying to imitate Myle's signature. Eventually he returns, and we promise to harrass him in Milwaukee.

At the Rave the next night, I am ready for Another Animal. I put one of their new shirts over my Foo Fighter shirt. (Dave would understand.) We stake out a place on the balcony, just a healthy spit down to the stage. Another small venue. I don't know how I'll ever go back to stadium shows. (Only for you, Dave.)

Another Animal comes out and during one of the first songs, lead singer Whit points to me in the balcony and says "Nice shirt." $25 bucks very well spent. At least twice during the show, bassist Robbie points up and nods, either at the shirt or from seeing us at the bar the night before. Or he could have been stretching. Shannon is fucking incredible, as usual, and I am mesmerized by his sticks. My hands throb from drumming on the metal rail in front of us.

The highlight from their set is their cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire," during which seven roadies come out and split themselves between two mics to sing the chorus. It was hilarious, and more fun than I've had since Cornell and Seattle.

Alter Bridge comes on and rocks the room. Myles is still not well, but makes a great effort to keep the show going. I try to bring the balcony down with my dancing, but fail. Sarah and Jeff skip out before the encore ends to try and catch Myles when he runs for the bus, but I decide to stay. As soon as they leave, bassist Brian, whom I called the drummer the night before, points up and smiles big at me. He must have a good mind for idiots he's met before. I'm thrilled to be remembered for any reason at all.

[Brian and Mark, Alter Bridge]

When I meet up with Sarah and Jeff after the show, she is crushed again. Sure enough, Myles literally ran from the stage door to the bus after the lights went down. She called out his name and he never even looked over. He jumped on the bus, killed the lights, and that was it. It was pretty clear that if he had stopped for her, he would have been mobbed by the number of fans already milling around outside the venue. No doubt going from the full sweat of the show to 32 degree snow and sleet and stopping to sign several autographs would have sent the poor guy into pneumonia. I did think for a moment that Sarah was going to lie down on the pavement in front of his bus, but she stayed strong.

As we mourned her situation, Robbie Merrill walked right by us. Some big dude stopped him to shake his hand and I jumped right in.

"You can't just sneak past us, Robbie," I told him. "It won't work." Jeff asked if he had time for a picture with Sarah and me, and we were wrapped around him in record time.

"Just a quick one," he said. As opposed to a sloooow photo? Wait, let me just set up my tripod...

I then set a personal record by using the word "awesome" three times in one sentence. It's not something I'm proud of. It went something like this: "Thanks, Robbie! You were awesome tonight and last night; the band is awesome; and of course Godsmack is completely awesome!" Yeah, sometimes I can't hide the writer in me.

Apparently Robbie likes the word awesome, though, because he broke out in smiles and said to me, "So you heard us playing and said, 'Fuck, yeah!" Well, something like that, Robbie. Flattery works even on veteran rockers, it would appear. Good information to know!

I have spent a lot of time thinking about the thrill I get from live music (and musicians--let's be honest) and I haven't figured it out completely yet. I believe it has something to do with their ability, as total strangers, to melt my granite walls completely with their music. For as long as the amps are pounding, I feel entirely free, at peace, and indescribably exhilarated. After much thought, I could think of only one other situation where I experience this feeling: when galloping my horses.

Accordingly, I went to the barn today to see Julian, who was more wired than hard-partying Shannon before a show. It took 45 minutes of longing to get on his back (Julian's, not Shannon's) and then, we ran. And there it was again.

A lot of smiles for one weekend. My subconscious still managed to throw in a nightmare (Same one: I was still married and had to convince him again I wanted out) but it may have been because we used to see Alter Bridge together. Just working the memories out. If I see them enough on my own, they become mine, not ours. Making friends with the band(s) most certainly helps!

See you boys in Rockford on December 7! [Madison, Nov. 16]
Read more!

Friday, November 16, 2007

If at first you can't decide...

[Dave Grohl]
Anyone who knows me knows I have trouble making decisions. I can spend an hour in the frozen food section of the grocery store trying to figure out which Ben & Jerry's to buy. Most recently I was tested when I had to choose between the first five Foo Fighters concerts scheduled to start in January. None of my choices are within a stone's throw from Madison, so I was relying on the free airline ticket I won at work. My choices were Dallas, Nashville, Worcester, Detroit and Philadelphia.

Tickets for general admission (read: mosh pit) went on sale this morning, and I still hadn't decided between Dallas (Jan 23) and Detroit (Feb 24). So I did what any waffler would do--bought a ticket for both. Now that wasn't so hard, was it?

Tonight's activity is an easy choice: Alter Bridge is playing at the Barrymore in Madison. If you haven't heard them yet, go take a listen.

I suppose you're wondering about The Book. No, I haven't given up yet. Word count is 28,192.

Read more!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's About Time

I said it couldn't be done. I said you'd never get me to leave my house and enter a roomful of strangers. And I am certain I said I would never enjoy myself, if I did.

I was wrong.

Tonight at the James Street Dining Co. in downtown Columbus, there was a premiere showing of Discover Wisconsin's episode about our own fair city. I was fortunate enough to be invited by new friend Kim Bates from the Columbus Main Street committee, whom I had never met except through e-mail, even though the West James Gallery where she works is only three blocks from my house. (I told you, I don't get out much.)

By the end of the evening, I had consumed several plates full of sumptious hors d'oeurves, watched a who's who travel episode that elicited laughs and applause as various members of the audience were recognized, and was drawn into a lengthy, Capital Brewery-fueled discussion of the First Annual Columbus Time Fest, a parade of time machines assembled from all over the world to go through our very own Time Portal (How's that coming, Kathy?) on 10/10/10.

Well, it made sense at the time...

Just don't be surprised if you walk by Todd and Cheryl Frey's Colonial Carriage Works showroom one of these days and see a giant time machine sitting in the middle of the room. It may look like a school bus but oh, the places (and times) it will take you!

Is it an antique sleigh, or is it a time machine?!

Read more!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Blame it on Mel Brooks

If Mel Brooks hadn't produced Blazing Saddles, I would have gotten a lot more written tonight. Who can compete with Mel? Sure, it was a DVD. Sure, I could have watched it anytime. But how often do you see a world-class comedy with a cameo by Count Basie? Exactly.

I still had time to write after the movie--and the 30th anniversary DVD bonuses--but then Dave Grohl butted in.

Dave e-mailed me during the movie (I just can't shake this guy--it's like he's stalking me!) to tell me that Foo Fighters tickets go on sale this Friday for five shows in Jan and Feb: Dallas, Nashville, Worcester, Philadelphia and Detroit. So now I have to decide which one to go to with my Golden Ticket. How can anyone be expected to write with such a weighty decision on her mind?
But, honestly...

So I ask myself tonight: What would Dave do?

Are you kidding? He'd have watched Blazing Saddles.

Read more!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

21,443 Words

Read more!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Need A Doctor

Word count: 20,696.

I haven't run out of words; I've run out of willingness to think them. Thinking them is re-living them. Whose idea was this, anyway? Moron.

Great nightmare last night. I woke up sweating, shaking, terrified. Had to tell myself out loud that I was alone and safe. He is not here anymore. You know the dogs hate it when I wake them like that in the middle of the night. They need their sleep.

I've been so tired lately, I thought I could sleep without a sleeping pill last night. I forgot there is more than one reason for the sleeping pill. The nightmares. I remembered them as "vivid dreams" and thought they might be good for my writing.

They are not "vivid" and they are not good for writing. Spending one's night embroiled in old terror does nothing at all for one's literary prowess. What it does give you is a blasting headache and nausea for the following 12-24 hours.

So why don't I just stop? Well, if "stopping" is not working on the book today, then I stopped. But I can't stop altogether, because then he wins--or the nightmares win. I'm too proud for that. But I am also too wigged out to peer through the Looking Glass for a few hours. Last night, I was scared of him--now I am scared of nightmares where I am scared of him. Sounds stupid spelled out like that. But you weren't there last night.

End of post.

I really wish you would listen when I tell you that you've reached the end of a post.

If you're ever too scared to write or sleep, I highly recommend spending several hours watching back-to-back episodes of House. Hugh Laurie is always entertaining and though the writing is over the top, there is much to learn from it.
Read more!

Friday, November 9, 2007

This is a Bear

I have decided I was either a bear in my last life, or I carry a disproportionate amount of bear genes at the present. This is not about weight issues (hmm, maybe a little) but rather about the fact that I have no desire for any activity except sleep. This almost includes eating.

I can definitely say that the urge to sleep is several stories higher than my desire to work on this book. At the same time, the moment I turn off the lights I am flooded with memories, ideas and notes. So I turn the lights back on and scribble some notes on a pad by my bed, and start the process all over again. To someone standing on my sidewalk outside, it must look as though I have a short circuit in my house.

I think we all know where the short circuit is...
My poor brain. Read more!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Taking on a life of its own

Still November, still writing...

Days in: 8
Word count: 17,326.
Am I supposed to be learning things about myself? Was that in the contract? Is non sequitur one word, or two?

Someone needs to walk the dogs. I can't see straight, and my neck is a Gordian knot. Where's Alexander the Great when I need him? On second thought, remembering how he loosened it, perhaps I should find another way.

Nothing more to see here.

Yet you couldn't keep yourself from looking...
Read more!

A Free Ride!

Well, I'll be a son of a bitch. I just won a contest at work I didn't even realize was running. They just let me know I won a $500 airfare certificate!

It won't get here in time for me to join my friends at the Chris Cornell concert in Vegas in two weeks, but it might come in handy when Dave gets back to the States and starts touring again.

Sorry, Dave--your #1 stalker just got a free pass to fly!

Read more!

Monday, November 5, 2007

All Hail the November Sun

[Yes, I have a Dave picture for every situation...]

The sun is shining, the wind is gusting up to 45mph, and it is hailing BB-sized hail.

When one of my NY clients called, I asked what this might mean.

"Oh, that is bad. Something very bad is going to happen."

"Something worse than hail?"

"I'm afraid so. Bibical proportions bad."

Then he placed his order. Right to the point, those New Yorkers.

Good thing I placed four more criticially-placed storm windows yesterday. I guess it's also a good thing I got some good riding in this weekend. Today the city is laying the final layer of asphalt on my street. They don't appear to be smiling from here.
Read more!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

More research needed...

Words are piling up in my head with no end in sight. Who knows, eventually I might type them into my computer.

But for now, it is clear that more equine research is needed. Back to the barn.

At least I didn't sleep all morning. Laundry, bug killing, milk spilling, cat chasing, dog caretaking, storm window installation--all within the span of a few short hours.

Looks like I write better in the dark. Er, after dark. Which, starting today, will be here before we know it.
Read more!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

10.6K down, 39.4K to go

My muses, SodaPop and Ginger Ale, under the table by my computer.

90,000 mad-dog novelists have finally succeeded in crashing the NaNoWriMo site. Frankly, I'm a little disappointed it took three days for us to do it. We obviously weren't trying hard enough.

Since I can't post my word count there tonight, I will post it here. 10,693. That's about 4,000 words ahead of schedule. Don't worry, I'm already having shades of a nervous breakdown and we haven't even hit one week. I'll be crossing the finish line writing my closing lines on a mirror using lipstick at the local prison, I guarantee it.

Come to think of it, I had better buy some lipstick.

I'm not kidding. This shit is messing with my head. I woke today at 8, got up, fed the dogs, ate breakfast, walked the dogs, walked into my office, walked out of my office and into my bedroom, and got back into bed.

It wasn't all sleep--there was a lot of pep-talking going on. It just wasn't helping. (And no, it wasn't from the dogs.) I spent hours Friday night reliving a couple of very bad days--I mean creating fresh fiction from off the top of my head--and it was only normal to expect I might have a small hangover the next day.

At lunchtime I got up to walk the dogs again. Then I came back in and sat on the edge of my bed. Both dogs immediately jumped up and curled up for another nap. That's what got me up--the fact that even my dogs had lost complete faith in my ability to keep going. Soda's gaze was especially hard to bear as she was a main character--I mean, basis for a completely fictional character--last night, and she seemed to be faring just fine, thank you.

Now I was up, but I still couldn't go into my office. I needed another option. I threw on some riding clothes and drove to Sun Prairie. Research, I told myself. There will definitely be horses in this book at some point. So Julian and I took another healthy gallop around the empty corn fields. Julian must have been battling some demons himself, because he ran hell bent for leather a few times. During one sprint I had to just ride him out until he was too tired to keep going. I tested the reins mid-way, thinking he was overdoing it, and there was nobody home. Julian channeling John Henry, another old sprinter.

I don't know why, but the more he runs like that, the more I want to get on a thoroughbred. We always want more, don't we? I love my Percheron racehorse. And this time, I made sure to give him something to help with sore muscles before I left. We'll see who's limping worse tomorrow.
Read more!

Funny Business

Check out Inkygirl: Daily Diversions For Writers and Will Write For Chocolate for more of Debbie's comics for writers.
And here is the rest of it. Read more!

Friday, November 2, 2007

I want to break things

Wow, this is fun. 3000 words into my novel and I am homicidal. I think that should now be the first question asked of murder suspects in custody.

"Sir/Madam, have you recently attempted to write a novel?"

I guarantee a full confession will follow immediately. So far I have resisted the urge to dispatch my pit bull, who barks just as the right word is about to fall into my consciousness, permanently jettisoning it out of my reach forever; the neighbor's teenage daughter who, for a semi-professional ice skater, plays a helluva lot of basketball during skating season; and the cat, whose future has never looked more bleak.

Even my references are laughing at me. While struggling to come up with a last name for one of my main characters, a non-evil fellow who nonetheless caused me a good deal of grief, I turned to the local phone book. First name I come to, I said, will be his surname. First draw: Wisconsin. Ha-ha, very funny.

Second draw: Wisdom. Oh, that's very cute. I shook the pages a bit by the binder, just to re-mix the names, and tried again.

Third draw: Christian. Dear God, someone is fucking with me.

Not one to be undone by the Yellow Pages, I try again.

Fourth draw: Cambria. I will let you in on this simply because it is even more clever than all the previous ones combined. The character I am trying to name is loosely based on a man who was once convinced that I was having an affair with a man who now lives in Cambria, (state to remain anonymous). One I wanted an affair with more than either man ever would have suspected.

Fifth draw, this one just for shits and giggles: Drinkwine.

I am telling you, I can't make this shit up.

There is no more. I set the phone book on fire and threw it at the cat.
Read more!